Mr. Ogbonna Nwuke, was Commissioner of Information and Communications and later Commissioner for Commerce and Industry when Mr. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi was governor of Rivers State. He also represented Etche/Omuma federal constituency in the House of Representatives. In this interview, Ogbonna speaks extensively on the state of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state. Excerpts:
By Jimitota Onoyume
THERE is reported tension in the APC in the state. In your local government area, you emerged protem leader of the party’s caucus. What is the state of things now?
I was only protem chairman to address a vacuum. Now, we have a substantive chairman for the caucus. All we wanted then was a change in leadership, now Mr. Reginald Okwuoma is the new leader. Politics is driven by interest. Sometimes in pursuit of the interest, we create the impression that something is amiss. But I have a different opinion in my party.
I believe what we see is the expression coming from the people, voices are saying we want to be part of the decision, we must participate, voices are embracing the primary kernel that drives the APC which is change; we are saying we should conduct things in the right manner. Politics is driven by interest and those interest come with its own conflict. We are progressives, not conservatives. What you are seeing now is expected. We are gradually moving to a phase of political development, so people are offering themselves for leadership. There is also some followership within the system.
There is this allegation that the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Amaechi is forcing down his opinion on everyone in the party and some say it is responsible for the tension in the system. Is this true?
No. What the Minister of Transportation is trying to force down the line is order, that we need to rebuild and rebrand our party, that the pursuit of leadership interest could create problem for the system, divert attention from the major things we need to do. After the elections, we sat down to say we need to look at the party machine, look at how we conducted ourselves in the last few years. To place the interest of the party above every other interest. People are getting it wrong. Politics can be played. If you have ambition you mask it until the right time. To be aggressive in the pursuit of interest can be unwholesome. What is going on in my party is all about strengthening the party. I believe the changes in the party are the changes we need.
Is it true that governorship ticket for 2019, is tearing your party apart?
People say the journey of one thousand miles begins with one step. No member of the party has said in the open that he or she is running for governorship. When there is inactivity among politicians they create one, people are talking, moving but it does not suggest there is crisis in the party. In political parties, there should be order. I think what the minister is doing is to ensure that the ambition of a few of us does not truncate the prime purpose of the party which is to grab power. I do not imagine that there is anything wrong in the party.
The changes you see in the party is part of the collective decision to reengineer the party, give room for younger ones to be active in the party. If you see the changes that have taken place, it brought in younger persons. This is the time to give youths room to be active.
Governor Nyesom Wike has accused former commissioners in that government of being forced to pay money monthly to Amaechi’s wife. Did you do such?
It is false. I did not do it, nobody asked me to do it. Maybe Nyesom, when he was Chief of Staff collected such money and pretended to have given it to the governor or his wife.
But let me say nobody ever asked me to give money to the wife of the former governor. It is not true, it is not founded and it is not verifiable. I speak the truth the best way I can. Nobody ever requested money from me for the wife of the governor
Pet projects are definable. If you make contributions to a pet project you see what it is used for. And it is voluntary. If you don’t have, nobody forces you. It is wrong for somebody to come on air as governor to tell lies to score political points. Like I said I am not aware anybody made monthly donations to the wife of the former governor. Amaechi that I know, is a stickler for transparency. He was concerned about development of the state. Rivers state was work in progress during his time. I am amazed with what Wike said. For him, maybe he is playing politics. And that is the best way he plays politics.
I do know that there were people who came up with belly infrastructure. The man in government today was one of them. Amaechi came from a humble background and felt he should provide qualitative education. He declared education emergency in the state, built schools, sent students abroad. He created a new generation of qualified youths. We created Rives state sustainable development agencies to get a Rivers state beyond oil, we saw the Songhai farm, the growth in the agricultural sector under Amaechi.
Government should be a continuum. In two years, tell me that iconic project that the government of Rivers state has done. When Amaechi was in government he would say who started a project and he completed them Wike wants people to believe that projects started by Amaechi were his project just because he completed them. It shows a man who does not know the line between decency and selfishness.
Is there anything wrong when another government completes abandoned projects?
For me that is why I said government is a continuum. No one government can finish everything it started. So I don’t see anything wrong with that. What I see is that you don’t give credit to the man who started them. Give credit to whom it is due.
Wike has said he will not revisit the monorail project started by Amaechi, how do you react?
Amaechi’s government was futuristic with that project. Let us look at the roads, the expansion of roads was to open the city and reduce traffic. Everywhere in the world, you must diversify your transportation sector. The monorail project was to be the beginning of an internal rail network for faster transportation system. Like you see in the United kingdom, you don’t have need to drive because of the efficient transport system. If the governor, in his wisdom, thinks the project is not necessary so be it for him. But I think I have heard many said what Amaechi started was the way to the future. All governments should have been doing is adding to it and maybe in the next fifty years we would have had a proper and thorough rail system.