By Gbenga Oke
Recently, former Minister of Transport, Dr Abiye Sekibo, formally declared for the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in his village, Okrika. After the declaration, he fielded questions from journalists on the reason he left the PDP.
He also debunked the claim that he and his former boss, Dr. Peter Odili, have parted ways even as he criticised the Amaechi-led government in Rivers State, arguing that his government has shown high-handedness and arbitrariness.
You just defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and one begins to wonder what made you leave the party you started with as a foundation member?
Well, a time comes in a man’s life when you want to reflect on the direction you are going and ask yourself whether that direction will lead you to your dream and, no matter how late in the day, if you find that the direction will not lead you to your expected destination, you must have the courage and the conviction to change direction. Like you said, we are members of the PDP, we helped to build the PDP in Rivers State and, of course, we expected the party to grow from strength to strength. But along the line, some of us noticed some trait that does not augur well for the party itself and does not augur well for the nation, so we felt that there should be certain basic changes. Our fellow citizens lost their lives in having to entrench democracy in this country, when they see with time that this democracy is being threatened, those people sacrificed their lives to ensure that the right thing is done and that essentially led us to start the reform forum.
Now, we exhaustively look at issues that we are threatening democracy in this country and we came to the conclusion that no human being can give what he doesn’t have, so also no institution can give what it does not have. So we in the political parties do not have internal democracy, we cannot defend democracy for the generality of Nigerians. So, we felt there must be internal democracy within the PDP and the beginning of that internal democracy is to be sure who your members are and, to determine that, you must have an authentic membership register.
Every party leadership needs wisdom to institute internal democracy within the party. After they have promised that what we stood up for was right and they were going to implement it and they also went to the point where the president himself started the process of registration as an authentic member of the party, but for whatever reason, this was threatened and the whole country witnessed what happened, to give people who are in government an advantage over others, that is not democracy.
So when I reflected on all these, I said no, the PDP has been taken over by people whom I think are anti-democracy because if you cannot give a level playing ground for all your members to equally aspire to serve both the party and the nation, then you cannot be said to be democratic. So after a long time reflection on all these issues with my friends and colleagues who felt the same way as I felt especially those of us from Rivers State, we took a decision to go in another direction and that was how we joined ACN which you saw me formally declared for and across the entire state up till this morning, people are registering en-masse for ACN and infact I can say ACN has never had it this good in Rivers.
Your camp while you were still in the PDP tried to establish a factional office in Rivers State which the state government violently rejected. I want to find out if some of you that are tagged the Abuja politicians including Dr Peter Odili, Hon Austin Opara, Sir Celestine Omehia, are they with you in ACN?
In principle, we had discussed this over and over again and we agreed that it must be an individual decision. We realised that in political calculation, everybody wants to take a decision that will most further the dreams that the person has. But having said that, you have to look for people with common dreams, I have taken a decision now because I feel it is time to move and all those who believe in me have taken their decisions, I am also aware our faction of the PDP has taken a firm decision that they should move out, almost all of them are moving and I do expect that Celestine Omehia and Austin Opara had sometime to take a decision but, as at today, they have taken a decision I have taken.
You are a highly respected citizen of Rivers and you are running for governorship in 2011. Do you think ACN has the structure that can give you the desired result or do you think you have the capacity to muscle the government in place especially the PDP?
Well, winning election has nothing to do with muscling people or government, that is what we are talking about in democracy. First of all, let us look at the PDP as a party, what PDP is today is because of the people that are in the party, so if the people were to move out of it, PDP becomes an empty shell. So, it is not important what you call it, it is the human being that gives direction and I can say that many of us who moving have been at core of PDP’s victory in Rivers State, we have been the movers and the spirit behind that name PDP in Rivers state. So, as far as we are concerned, we have moved to another platform.
By implication, are you saying Governor Amaechi has no structure in Rivers State?
There are two things. There are those whose relevance is purely because of the office they hold and there are those whose relevance is because, who they are, those of us that are leaving PDP for ACN are not in this state for who we are, not for the offices we hold, interestingly almost all of us don’’t hold any prominent office, so my people are following us just because of who we are not because we have something to share, not because we are holding office or have contracts to give and that says a lot for the kind of people that are following us.
They could have followed government and get contracts and get money, but they feel this is where the truth is and they stand by it. So, muscling or no muscling, it is he who has power that wants to use the power to muscle and we know that in a democracy, it is wrong to use governmental power that belongs to all of us to muscle your political opponent, we know it is wrong and we also know that those in government always do that and, with the presidents assurance that he will ensure that we have a free and fair election, one man vote, we have nothing to fear about, we will confront whatever situation we meet in the field but the truth is that we stand for democracy in its true form.
In all fairness, as a major stakeholder in Rivers State, in your recent interview, you gave reasons why you will never recognise Amaechi as your governor. But by the pronouncement of the Supreme court, he is still the governor of the state and he is three years in office and they are celebrating it.
How will you review or access this state in three years?
I must say that I feel sad for what has happened to Rivers State in the last three years under Amaechi. My position first is that he was not elected by the Rivers people, no matter what the Supreme Court says. Amaechi was not on the ballot for election in April 2007, he was not in the country and, when I think of it, I ask myself whether it is possible for somebody to take over, it is just the same thing that we have been seeing where people who lost election actually assumed office. Just take a look at what happened in Ekiti State, somebody who did not win elections and who people did not vote for should preside over the affairs of the state, it is worse than a coup, then three years after you say the person was not supposed to be there, then what has happened to the resources of that state during the period that the person they did not elect was presiding over the affairs of the state?
It is like robbing the people, the same thing in the case of Amaechi, infact much worse. The Supreme Court says the person who was not on the ballot, the person who was only a candidate of his own political party but was not presented to the electorates for an election should be sworn in as governor and then you say it is in the eye of the law, it is baffling, then you didn’t think of the eye of God, you didn’t think of the eye of the people who trooped out there to vote, But, for me, I am a law abiding citizen and what can I do?