On Wednesday, April 25, Senator Magnus Abe broke the ice on his ambition to govern Rivers State. same day, TNN met the Sampson Ngerebara, the man on the driving seat at the Free Rivers Development Initiative, the group believed to have been set up by the minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi to spearhead campaigns for the APC, ahead of the 2019 elections. Ngerebara, a former commissioner in the state, spoke on Abe's ambition, Amaechi's stance on the zoning of the governorship seat, as well as the way the state governor is running the state.
He promised that in no distant time, a dossier of Wike will be made public, on how he is mismanaging the state's resources.
The APC had vowed not to take part in the LG elections planned to hold in Rivers State in June. From your relationship with the leader of the APC, Rotimi Amaechi, have you people changed your mind?
No. We can't be seen not to be law abiding. There are pending cases in the high court and the Supreme Court, against the arbitrary removal of those who were duly elected into the councils in 2015. Those cases are still pending in the Supreme Court and Appeal Court and until the cases are resolved, there is nobody that can do anything in that respect. So, we believe that whatever Nyesom Wike and RSIEC wants to do, they are all efforts in futility at the end of the day. So we are still believing that the courts will protect our rights and that the courts will give us justice.
Why do you say it is an exercise in futility?
Because both the Rivers State government and RSIEC are part of the case in court and they cannot feign ignorance of the case in court and go ahead to conduct an election.
What if the court rules against those who were sacked?
Until the court rules, you cannot preampt the court, except you are saying that they have people in the court , they have judges who have told them what is likely to be the outcome. What of if the court rules against the government? That is why we have to wait patiently to see what the court will say. Law abiding citizens will wait because it could go either way, just like the pendulum. But the most appropriate thing to do is to wait until the court gives its judgement and that is exactly what we are doing.
Senator Magnus Abe has declared his intention to contest the gubernatorial election today and I do know that he has not been in terms with the leader of the party because of this his ambition. How is the party going to manage this?
I am not aware that Magnus has declared his intention to run today. I am aware that he wanted to open his office. But assuming, without conceding, that he has declared today, there is nothing wrong with it. We, in the party before now, had canvassed the need to build a formidable party platform for anybody who wants to contest and grow his ambition. And that much we have achieved, using the Free Rivers Development Initiative. So, everybody is free now, to canvass for support. There is nothing wrong with that.
Again, each time I have the opportunity to talk to the public, I try to address this wrong impression created by the media, that there is a friction between Magnus and our leader, Amaechi. I don't see any friction. If difference in opinion, difference in choice is what you call friction, then we will be using the word. There are different levels of politicking. We have internal and external politicking. So, what those of you outside see as friction is what those of us inside call internal politicking. I have heard Amaechi express an opinion, maybe on what is not in tandem with what Magnus intends to do and Amaechi as a human being has a right of choice. So, if expressing his own personal opinion, which may be contrary to what Magnus expects of him is what the people call friction, that is not true.
Again, we have a process of producing candidates for elections. We call it primaries and the party in due time will conduct primaries. Indeed, the congresses which is a build up to the congresses will start on the 2nd of May and everybody is free to canvass for support. After the congresses, then the primaries will start and everybody will be given equal opportunities. So, I don't see any fiction at all. That is speaking from the insider point of view.
Is the APC still thinking that the next governor of Rivers State should come from the riverine part of the state?
That is the popular opinion. APC as a party has not taken that decision in a well constituted setting. By that I mean, the SEC or the enlarged state Exco has not taken that decision in a well constituted setting but most of us in the party are of the opinion that power should rotate. When we are talking about power rotation, we are saying that power should move from one ethnic group to another, unlike what happened recently, where power at the level of the governor has been moving within the Ikwerre ethnic group. Amaechi had been governor of this state for eight years and some of us thought that it would have been wise for it to move to another ethnic group, but unfortunately a political error brought in Nyesom Wike as governor. That is the cardinal point of the Free Rivers Development Initiative. We believe the seat of government should move among the ethnic groups in Rivers State. We want power to move from Ikwerre to any other ethnic group. Majority of the people are saying it should go to the riverine. It is not a party position. It is an opinion expressed by majority of the people in the party.
But Amaechi has, in various fora, said that power has to move from the upland to the riverine part of the state.
That is his own opinion.
So, with what Magnus has done, don't you think there is a clash with what Amaechi believes?
It is a matter of choice. That is Amaechi's opinion. You cannot stifle a man of his opinion, especially in a democratic setting like this. So, if Amaechi has his opinion, Magnus has his own. There are other people in the party who may be sharing Magnus' opinion. There are a lot of us too, who may be sharing Amaechi's opinion. All these opinions will be tested in the primaries. But the central opinion is that power should move from this ethnic group to another ethnic group.
But do you think it will be very easy for power for power to leave Nyesom Wike, considering what people believe he has done?
Oh, very easy. You see, our society is a little bit gullible, we easily forget yesterday. Two, the general public don't do what I call precise analysis. For you to take a position on an issue, you have to have all the facts. If you know how much Rivers State has generated and how much Wike has generated within the period and you juxtapose it with the so-called projects, they won't give him that title, Mr Projects. I won't eulogise Amaechi now. But you will agree with me that the first four years when Amaechi was in government, he built so many health centres, schools across the state. He constructed so many roads. If you call Wike Mr Projects, what will you call Amaechi? Father of Projects? It is a matter of semantics. Politicians like to play on the intelligence of the masses because a lot of us are non challant.
Most of the people in society are mostly concerned about their stomach. When you tell me a governor has constructed a road, it makes no meaning to me until I ask you, how many kilometres? It is only when you quantify it in terms of measurable indices, that it can make meaning to me.
If you tell me a governor has spent N2billion to construct a road, I won't clap for him. I will like to see the length and size of the road. In proper competitive market, how much would that have cost? When I put the cost of the road, vis-a-vis the size of the road, then I will clap for you. We don't do that kind of analysis in a society like Rivers State that is so impoverished. Wike has so impoverished us, to the extent that even though you give somebody a cup of tea in the morning, he will clap for you because he has been hungry for one week. It is a pitiable situation.
If you have been in Rivers State for long, you will agree with me that Rivers State was almost at par with Lagos before now. But today, Rivers State is a fishing pot, compared to Lagos. To explain this to the understanding of the people, go to the airport on a Monday morning, you will see the traffic of people coming into Port Harcourt to come and work. And when you get back to the airport on Friday evening, you will see them oozing out of Rivers State. There is nothing like investment.
Look at the state secretariat, it is stinking. All the ministries have their own I- pass- my- neighbour generator. When I was commissioner for works and transport, we were powering the entire secretariat from Abana Street. We had five giant generators. All the lifts were functioning. Now, the sanitary condition of the place is horrible; and that is just two minutes walk from Government House. It is as bad as that. Instead of Wike to think of opening up the state and attracting investors, he is busy providing money to arm young men. He wants them to become armed bandits.
How can you prove this?
You saw the neighbourhood bill which he has signed into law. In that law, it is provided that the youths will be armed. And a whooping N22billion is being earmarked to drive that process. You know that N22 billion, invested properly, can provide jobs for up to 60,000 youths in the state. And you know what that would have done to the economy of this state. So, as far as I am concerned, this is a kindergarten government. It is unfortunate that most of us are not concerned about governance. Assuming we are showing concern, Wike by now would have known his position. That is a plus to those of us in APC. Time is coming when we will bring out this fact and put them in a graphic form so that even the blind will see and then we will be able to expose the nakedness of this government.
It is actually surprising because people believe that Wike has done so well. Well, what you are saying is expected because you are in the opposition.
Nooooo. That is not true. I speak from an informed position . I have access to the internal revenue of this state. I have access to the revenue accruing to the state from VAT. I also have access to the so called projects that Wike claims to have done. That is why I am speaking the way I am speaking.
Give us an idea of the facts you are talking about.
For instance, if you go to Aba Road, that is a federal government road. Just the stretch under Rumuola there, when Wike became governor, the very first two weeks, he awarded an omnibus contract to Julius Berger to go and patch roads. That flyover had been patched many times and billions of naira expended. Today, if you go there, the same place has been re-awarded to Julius Berger to redo it. If it is your father's property, will you treat it that way?
When I come up with the figures that Julius Berger put as invoice for that first phase and I now show you the new award letter given to Julius Berge and the amount, you will go mad. I will show you with documents. Sometimes, I tell people that ignorance is good because it is good that you don't know certain things because if you know such things, you will even carry knife and kill people. That is what Wike is exploiting because majority of the people are docile. They are not interested n what happens. Very soon, we will confront the public with facts and figures and I can tell you, you will be shocked.
At what point did Amaechi and Magnus fall apart?
That question would have been appropriate for either Magnus or Amaechi
But you are close to two of them
They were friends before I even got to know them. I think they are in a better position to tell you, if actually they have fallen apart.
But Amaechi is still holding on to the position that the next governor must come from the riverine part of the state. Magnus is from the upland. So, how possible will it be for him to have Amaechi's support?
That question has an answer on its own. If Amaechi wants the governor to come from the riverine and Magnus is not from the riverine, then your guess is as good as mine.
You tell me, I like to hear from you
You have said that Amaechi does not want a governor from the upland. You have said that Magnus is from the upland. That means Amaechi and Magnus are on a parallel line in that area. But as a party man, if Magnus eventually gets the party's ticket, at the primaries, he will not have any option than to support him.
How will he get the ticket when the leader of the party has already taken a position?
Remember I told you that the decision about the next governor coming from the riverine is not the party's position because we have organs of the party that take decisions for the party. Those organs have not spoken yet. What you are hearing are individual opinions.
Amaechi has one vote during the primaries. Do you think Magnus will get that vote?
At the primaries, if there are riverine aspirants, Amaechi will ordinarily back up what he said, according to you o. And that may not be in tandem with what Magnus wants. But if eventually Magnus gets the ticket, Amaechi is a party man. I believe he will support him.