Ibibia Opuene O’Walters is the Secretary of the new executive of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview, he explains why the Rivers PDP chose to support Jonah Jang as the winner of the controversial election of the Nigerian’s Governors Forum (NGF) alleging that Ashisana Okauru, the Director General of the NGF who announced Governor Rotimi Amaechi as winner of the recently concluded election is a tenant of the Rivers State House; excerpts:
What is your reaction to Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi’s suspension by the National Working Committee, NWC, of the PDP?
They acted on our petition, so what do you want me to say? We are watching the events as they develop so, that we will know the next step to take.
But Amaechi said he was not given the chance of fair hearing?
I really don’t want to get annoyed, I want to go along with you as your questions come, otherwise, I would have asked, was the Obio/Akpor Chairman given the chance the governor was given? What is good for the goose should be good for the gander.
But they read the petition suspending the Obio Akpor executive on the floor of the house?
Now let me tell you, Amaechi was privy of his offence. He was privy of the charges for which he has been punished.
Was there a letter to that effect?
I want to say that our executive invited him. You were there at the press conference where we gave him a directive and an ultimatum. We gave him 48 hours; we said the Rivers State Government and the Rivers State House of Assembly had 48 hours to respond. Did you not hear that one?
What was his reaction to the letter?
Scornful quietness or you can call it scornful quietude.
Let’s talk briefly about the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF election. Why have you chosen to support Governor Jonah Jang that scored 16 votes as against Governor Amaechi’s 19 votes?
Briefly speaking, 35 governors participated, 18 are alive saying they did not vote for him (Amaechi). We are not talking of tens of millions of votes. Only 35, 18 are alive, on the tube, in the print media, on the airwaves saying they did not vote for him. And the Asishana Okauru man, the Director General of the NGF sleeps in the Government House 24 hours.
Which government house are you referring to?
The Government House, in Port Harcourt, of course! That’s where he lives. He is the one that said he monitored the election. Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State has said they averted physical combat. Is Amaeachi of higher integrity than Mimiko? Is Amaechi better trained than Mimiko. Is Amaechi more intellectually sophisticated than Jonah Jang or Mimiko? So I get upset when I see people parade and bask themselves in intellectual parochialism. They think that what they think is the best. They think others are not thinking. Amaechi said he is fighting for his right. I do not have right to fight for my right; my state chairman does not have the right to fight; the NWC do not have their own right. It is only my governor. So interesting, it is only the governor that has right to fight and he is the only one people are fighting. He doesn’t fight people. God is always only on his side. God will never support others. It’s all hype and that is not the way human beings should think. What is good for Obio/Akpor chairman is also good for Rotimi Amaechi, what is good for Obio/Akpor councilors as small as their positions are, should also be good for Amaechi. The least councilor at Obio/Akpor has a wife and his wife loves him as Amaechi’s wife loves him, so none of them will forego one for another. Will your wife prefer you to die for Amaechi? Why do we begin to do things as though what we think is the best; the way we work is the best way to work, the way we talk is the best way to talk, some other people’s thought are inferior to ours even though you do not have any standard test for it.
Don’t you think the prolongation of this crisis will eventually be detrimental to chances of the party in the 2015 election?
It is not a crisis, it is a shake up. We are determining ourselves. It will just shape up and PDP will win. Whoever leaves the party or whoever is expelled from the party does not matter. The party is like a forklift and the present drivers are more energetic. The present drivers of the PDP are never intellectually inferior to any executive before in Rivers state and the present drivers of PDP are the people who the grassroots listen to. The present drivers of PDP in the state are listened to by the grassroots.
The concern now is that the crisis or what you call shaping up is beginning to heat up the polity?
Politics is undergoing the process of crystalisation and re-crystalisation. Someone called it a wind of change but I call it crystalisation and re-crystalisation. The process will select the grains from the shaft. The process is a mechanical process that will sift the grains from the shaft.
Are you not concerned that the process might be hijacked by hoodlums and create insecurity in the state?
But the signs are beginning to emerge like with the recent protest by ex-militants.
You call them ex-militants? Are the women ex-militants, too? Those young women and men of about 18 years were ex-militants? I saw a woman that is more than 80 years old, is she also an ex-militant? If women did not come out am sure you would have seen up to 700 women. Are they ex-militants? Did you watch the protest? You just got the story, where did you meet the protest, Isaac Boro Park or Government House? Estimate the number of people that came. My brother, leave that story. Who is an ex-militant? In time of voting you will call them to come and vote for you, and now that you are performing you call them militants. You are performing and when he doesn’t like your performance, he is an ex-militant. So, what about the time that he came out to vote for you? Are the women ex-militants, too? Do you know that in Rivers State we have some form of apartheid? Your brain is now turned towards a better propagandist with a sugarcoated mouth and tongue. You have built consciousness to the point where you think what they are telling you is the correct thing. But the truth will prevail at the end of the day.
What safety measures has the party put in place to forestall breakdown of law and order?
Our safety valves remain the courts. Rivers state is civilised. Anything that is not good you go to court. You know the interesting thing about the law, am not a lawyer but I can see a woman holding a scale of balance with a sharp knife, to just cut it. There must be a reason why the person is a woman. Women are better deciders, and then, they tied the face. Not because they don’t want the woman to know the truth. I suppose it could be that she should not look sideways and so you cut the balance. She will weigh both sides and then cut the balance. That is why the knife is there, I think so, am not a lawyer. So we have decided that the way to pursue our activities and our administration will be based on justice, fairness, decorum and even expediency. We want to resolve our matters intellectually not physically. We won’t resort to physical resolution of our matters so we will not resort to violence.
What can you suggest as the fastest and cheapest way of resolving this matter?
Initially when we came on board, if Amaechi and those that are congratulating us at night and singing his praises in day time, which I will soon expose, had embraced the party we may not have gotten to this point. You know we came on the 19th to take over, to occupy our secretariat and start our work. 19th was a Friday, 20th Saturday, 21st was Sunday. On the 22nd, they struck, and Obio/Akpor council was dissolved.
Are you not worried that this crisis may usher in an opposition party in 2015?
I’ve told you that PDP will win Rivers State anytime elections are called.
You are sure?
Yes. It will not affect our electoral fortune.
Even if the Governor Amaechi decides to defect?
I am telling you the PDP will win Rivers State even if Governor Amaechi defects to another party. Governor Amaechi will lose his ward if he defects. He will even lose his polling unit!
What if tomorrow the governor says okay, am tired of all these, lets settle, lets resolve this issue. What conditions will the party give him?
He is free to return, it is his party. He is very free, no conditions will be attached. This is his party. Sometimes we expect him in his usual manner to drive into the secretariat.