One of the major contenders for the governorship seat in Rivers State under the platform of the APC, Dumo Lulu-Briggs has underscored the need for all Rivers people to vote for power shift to the riverine part of Rivers State.
He said the incumbent, Nyesom Wike cannot continue to be in office from 2019 because it would further compound the injustice meted to the riverine communities of the state, who have not been allowed to produce a governor since 1999.
Briggs who spoke with TNN over the telephone on Sunday night also said the best option for the APC to adopt in its choice of governorship candidate was the direct primary, to enable all members of the party take part in the processes of choosing the flagbearer, in view of the pending court cases over leadership of the party in the state.
The aspirant who has since returned his expression of interest and nomination forms said although the four aspirants in the APC-Tonye Cole, himself, Dawari George and Magnus Abe-were duly qualified to govern the state, he was better placed to pick the party's ticket.
He said: “It is clear that once you have bought the form, you have a bright chance. It depends on how the press will view the chances. Magnus is there feeling very comfortable. I am very comfortable, two persons were brought out by the minister (of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi), that is Tonye Cole and Dawari George; how they are going to manage that, I do not know. I do not know how he intends to navigate that.
“There are two schools of thought, whether we should do indirect or direct primaries. Indirect primaries is election by delegates. But the national is more disposed to direct primaries and Magnus is disposed to that as well. I think that it makes a lot of sense right now to go for direct primaries because of the pending court cases.
“You don't know what faction the court will hold eventually as the authentic faction, even though there has been a court ruling in Abuja, basically granting injunction against all factions and kind of in favour of the Ojukaye Flag Amachree led state exco. But you know there is another matter in Port Harcourt that is pending and two of them are at the federal high court and appeal court level.
“So, the safer option for the national is to rule in favour of direct primary option so that every card carrying member can vote, so that no matter how the court matters turn out eventually, nobody would have been disenfranchised.
“It is still not cast in stone what options are available in Rivers State. But I think we are going to do direct primaries. I have a very close affinity with the rank and file in the party and so it is fairly obvious to everybody and across the LGAs and party members, I am quite popular; if it comes to that, I stand a very close chance of winning the primaries.”
He also spoke on the recent comment by Abe, to the effect that as a Rivers son, he was also qualified to be called a riverine aspirant. He dismissed the comments as a comic relief.
“Nothing in life is static so the definition of concepts can be expanded(laughs) to accommodate aspirations. One thing from that statement is that there is no upland or riverine, and everybody is from rivernine. So, you can stretch that and see if it makes sense. If it does not make sense, then you can just conclude that the statement was made to arouse our comical sensibilities.
“Maybe what he was saying was that because of the way the name sounds, so everybody from Rivers is rivernine. But when you go to the second layer, you will find out that there are rivernine and there are upland communities. He is a gentleman, he is a great guy.
“Sometimes, you need to introduce these things into our discussions so that we don't forget that no matter what happens, we don't forget that all of us are from Rivers State. I think that is the point he is making.”
Briggs said it was almost a consensus in the state that power must move to the riverine part of the state from 2019. “Frankly, it is not only the rivernine people that are saying so. The minister (Amaechi) is not riverine. He is Ikwerre and he has said that the thing should go to the riverine communities.
“And his argument is that from 1999, recognising those sentiments, that it is not fair for the upland part of the state to have retained power for 20 years, he is saying that in 2019, it is time for the upland communities to also occupy the seat.
“Even the Ogoni people are in support that the thing should go to the riverine. So, I think that it is an argument that has gained a lot of merit and made a lot of sense to a lot of Rivers people.”
Apart from the Amaechi faction of the party, other contenders are of the view that the direct primary option should be adopted in the choice of candidates for the gubernatorial election.
Abe, in a recent statement justified this position when he appeared on a national television.
He said "Rivers State is one of those states where we cannot have indirect primaries. The entire structure of the party in the state is embroiled in legal controversy with about four or five court cases. So if you want to do indirect primaries, which particular list of delegates are you going to use and which particular congress?"
"They say where you stand on an issue depends on where you sit. What you call indirect primaries is a situation where known party members meet in a place to elect candidates”.
"These known party members are invariably part of a structure that is already organized. So when people have control of such structure, the entire exercise is predetermined because they already know who they are going to elect”.
"You have to understand that life is dynamic and part of what we promised Nigerians is that we were going to bring change into the country and make it better. Part of the challenge people have with indirect primaries, is like I said, the outcome is predetermined”.
"Secondly, it is very vulnerable to financial inducement because the delegates are known and you can't target a particular number of people as those that you need to service in order to get your nomination”.
"So, this has led over the years to a vast increase in corruption in terms of financial inducement for delegates. In bringing our message for change in Nigeria, there is, therefore, every need for us to look at these things and improve the processes as the country grows older and our democracy matures”.
"No matter the argument one may have or may not have, I believe that as far as Nigerian democracy is concerned, the days of indirect primaries are fast drawing to a close."