Youths from various groups in the riverine area of Rivers State recently paid a solidarity visit to the residence of a foremost leader in the Niger Delta region, Marvin Kofi Thompson. During the visit at Bakana, in Degema Local Government Area, the youths called on the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, to support the clamour for a riverine governor, come 2023.
In this exclusive interview with EDITH CHUKU, the youth leader who was among those saddled with the responsibility of bringing ‘Kpofire’ activities around the riverine Degema L.G.A to a halt, spoke on several issues, ranging from the effect of illegal refining of crude oil, the need for Wike’s successor to come from the Riverine, the 5,000 youth employment, among others.
You were at the forefront in the fight against the regime of illegal refining in your area. How badly affected is Bakana community by ‘Kpofire’ activities?
Illegal activities didn’t create any value to Niger Delta people. It didn’t also do any good to the riverine dwellers. As a Kalabari man, illegal refining has never been a source of livelihood, it has never impacted us in any positive way. We know the truth but for those who choose to ignore the truth, we’re here to make them embrace it for the sake of our children and people at large.
Now, in the area of development, illegal refining didn’t bring about any form of development. It didn’t also impact our lives positively. Like it is known, whatever is illegal is illegal, whatever is harmful to my heart is also not good for the Niger Delta people. It didn’t add any value to the Bakana people, we were robbed of our source of livelihood and that is why I accepted the call to join in the move to end it, it has destroyed a lot, so we say please, take your business somewhere else, it is hurting my people.
Some persons believe illegal refining activity was instrumental in bringing criminality; kidnapping, arm robbery to a minimal. To them, these boys deserted the roads and went into the creek and that, they believe made Rivers State a safe haven at a time, what is your take on this?
I know that you are a journalist, but also a resident, or even a native of the state. So let me ask you, did ‘Kpofire’ do us any good in Rivers State? Did people not lose their lives, businesses, sources of livelihood, family members, properties to fire outbreak, as a result of explosions from kpofire? How many explosions, fire outbreak have we recorded since these measures were put in place to end illegal refining?
People were sleeping in their houses, 2am, 12am, 4am, a vehicle carrying this illegal crude collapsed, immediately there was fire, they were trapped and burnt to ashes, even those involved, some have died in the process. It is illegal, illegal is illegal.
Are you comfortable that these boys are back on the streets? Don’t you think government should provide alternative sources, like employment…
(cuts in) First, let’s not give excuses for our wrong doings, it’s about the choices we make. You decide to steal, rob, do illegal things, it’s your choice, not because you couldn’t also decide to do otherwise.
Illegal refining is not helping anybody, not helping our nation. When I was a kid, I used to go pick periwinkle. We used to catch fish. For some of our parents, it was an occupation, others, a source of livelihood, and they survived with it. We used to catch so many sea foods, name them, but now, water run away my eyes when I see where we are today. How many persons are even making good money from illegal refining, is it enough to keep you healthy? That is to tell you that nothing is enough, but it is more satisfying when you get them the right way. This thing has destroyed our river, it has killed so many, our health is affected, our lives are endangered. So, they have to stop.
Wike is almost seven years in office as governor of the state, yet, no employment, does this worry you?
I feel so bad but, we can help ourselves, by creating employment opportunities. The governor has done his own to add value to some persons, to me, Marvin Kofi Thompson, to Bakana people, to the Riverine people, he is the best governor I have ever seen but he can’t do everything, even God couldn’t please us all. You and I conspired and killed him, how much more Wike, he can only do within his power, he can’t do more than that. Now, when it comes to employment, he said stop illegal activities, stopping that will cause us to benefit a lot, first, the threat to our health, talking about black soot will end, my grass will grow, our aquatic, source of livelihood will be sustained, our river will be safe, as well as our sea foods. Whoever is interested in refining should do it legally, acquire the license.
You said Wike added value to the Bakana people, while others are wailing over marginalization, what area did he add value to your people?
Wike has done a lot of things, mostly in the cities, which we are all benefitting from, he has eight years, Wike can’t do everything, anywhere he stops, the next governor should continue from there. Wike has done good roads, standard roads, and we expect our leaders, brothers from the Niger Delta Region to do same, bring development home.
On Wike’s successor, where do you stand, are you also clamouring for a Riverine governor come 2023?
I say this with all due respect, Governor Wike knows that he has to give it to the riverine people, because we have to make use of the tourist centre, because what you see on the land is small compared to the one in the sea. So he has to give us that power for riverine people, for Kalabari people to add value to Rivers State, to Nigeria, to Niger Delta people, and to the waterway. Riverine will succeed Wike as the next governor of Rivers State, governor Wike knows that his successor will come from the riverine.
And who will that be?
(laughs) for now, as a leader, I have learnt that power comes from God. Only God knows, I can’t say it’s this person or the other person, but let the will of the Almighty God be done, let the will of the Almighty God bring someone that can do his best within his own power.
I agree that there is will of God, but as a person, you know your brothers, you have had dealings with almost all of them, you communicate with them, imagine it is in your power to appoint, elect or choose the next governor, Wike’s successor, who will that be?
As a person, I just want God to bring His will, a God fearing person, no matter the party, place, all we need is riverine governor, and I believe governor Wike mean good for the riverine people, so we expect that he will support the call for a riverine governor come 2023.