Dr. Dakuku Peterside, director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA and was the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC in the 2015 governorship election in Rivers State. Dr. Peterside has been repeatedly mentioned in political permutations as a candidate for the same office in the 2019 election. At a session with newsmen in Lagos, Dr. Peterside spoke on political projections in his native Rivers State alongside his achievements as head of NIMASA. Excerpts:
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
How would you assess governance in Rivers State in the last three years under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration?
I don’t think that Rivers politics has been put in proper perspective both in terms of the performance of the current government in Rivers State and what can be. I don’t know how many persons can still remember the highlights of the Chibuike Amaechi administration.
Anybody can deny the Amaechi administration of anything but not performance. In healthcare, aside from building the first 105 model health centres that can pass as hospitals anywhere in the world, including the United States, all of us also know what he did in the education sector. He built brand new secondary schools that can pass as universities; nobody can deny that. He also built up to 500 model primary schools with 12 classroom blocks and ICT centres.
He set out to build a new university even though he didn’t complete it.
In sports, he built a new magnificent stadium in the New Port Harcourt area. That is the stadium everybody is using until today. In agriculture, he established the Songhai farm, fish farm settlements that employed about 500 persons. In industry, the strategy of his government was to encourage private investors and not to invest directly in industries. In roads, he dualised almost all the roads in Port Harcourt. As commissioner for works then, I am in a position to know. When in 2007, he said we were going to dualise Rumuola Road, I sat down in my house and said ‘something must be wrong with the man!’
The greatest highlight of the Wike administration is roads. I don’t think anyone can point at what he has done in the education sector. I also don’t know if anybody can say that he has done anything in the health sector. But, the way the media is hyping him, I ask: What is going on? The media has hyped the Wike administration so much, and I don’t think that is the true situation in Rivers State.
So, my position is that the Wike’s government achievement has been blown out of proportion and does not represent what is on the ground in the state. Even the roads he said that he is doing, I don’t know of anyone he has done outside Port Harcourt. I was commissioner for works, so I know the state very well. And if you match what Wike has accomplished with the financial inflow of the state, there is a total mismatch.
Rivers State is number three in federally allocated revenue; in 13 percent derivation, the state is number two; in terms of Value Added Tax, we collect next to Lagos; in terms of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), we are either number two or three. Last year, the state got over N160 billion from IGR. If you match these with what is on the ground, obviously you cannot account for the resources
Governance is assessed in terms of transparency and accountability. Wike has never advertised any project since he became governor and I ask: How does he hire contractors at a time there is emphasis on accountability and due process? No project has been advertised except for projects, which he is trying to assess the World Bank loan, which the Amaechi government had secured before it left.
How many people have seen Rivers State budget? Nobody! So, in terms of transparency, it is zero. The current law insulates the Board of Internal Revenue from the governor and tampering, but Wike dissolves the board any time he likes and appoints people whenever he wants. He doesn’t care about following due process in governance. I don’t know if the government is all about rolling out the drums to celebrate the commissioning of a one-kilometer road. In terms of human capacity development, I don’t think the current administration in Rivers State has done well.
But the administration claims to have turned around the fortune of Rivers people…
You can make your finding; Rivers State is the number one in terms of unemployment in Nigeria today. That is according to statistics by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). And the question is: Why is the state the number one? It is because industries are leaving in droves and families are relocating because government’s main responsibility is to provide a conducive environment for businesses to thrive.
But, Rivers State is not conducive because of insecurity and multiple taxations and because of government not providing the right policy framework. If you want to acquire land today in Rivers State, you can be sure that every Tom, Dick, and Harry will come to harass you.
So, by my assessment, the Wike government has not done well at all. I am frank and honest, don’t know of any area that the government will say that it has done well. Yes, Wike has done some roads and completed those started by the Amaechi administration, but completion of roads and commission of projects started by another administration is not bad, but you must give credit to who deserves it.
Governor Wike claims to have revived the state judiciary, which according to him was moribund before he came to power?
Yes, he renovated the Court of Appeal, he didn’t build a new one. But that is not his primary responsibility. That is the responsibility of the Federal Government. Rivers State has issues begging for attention, and he is investing in the federal judiciary; that means there must be some vested interest. The personnel of our local judiciary doesn’t have quarters; they are not exposed to best training they can get; that means there must be a reason why he is investing in the federal judiciary, which is not his primary responsibility.
Former Governor Amaechi can say that there is no community in Rivers State that didn’t benefit from either a school or health centre built by his administration, but Wike cannot say that. In terms of human capacity development, Amaechi gave over 2,000 Rivers State indigenes scholarships and sent them abroad to study various courses, but when Wike came on board, he brought them back. The fund to sustain that was about N1 billion, but recently he contributed N500 million to a private university. He provides for about N2 or N3 billion in his budgets as donation to churches, but how does that help us as a people to build human capacity.
Are you running for the governorship of the state again in 2019?
Soon, there will be transition; whether I am going to run for governorship in 2019 or not, I have not made up my mind. I am still consulting, and that decision will be made any moment from now.
Some people believe that it will take a madman to govern Rivers State. Are you overwhelmed by the madness in the state?
My answer is straight. I am not overwhelmed because somebody will make order out of that madness, and somebody must offer himself to restore order out of that madness. I agree that there is some level of madness going on, but somebody must restore order and defend the aspirations of the people of Rivers State.
How can violence be averted in Rivers State during the forthcoming General Election?
You know that it is very easy to form a culture, but it very difficult to nip it in the bud. What happened is that the 2015 general elections led to the blossom of a new culture of violence in Rivers State.
It has been there, but it got to a crescendo in the 2015 elections. If we must stem the culture of violence during elections, we must not reward those who benefit from it. A majority of those who are in the state House of Assembly right now benefited from the electoral violence of 2015. So, it became an incentive that if you engage in violence, you can get elected and if you don’t engage in violence, you stand the risk of not being elected.
The fact that people succeeded with electoral violence in 2015; it became an incentive. And for those who were not involved and didn’t get elected, it was a disincentive. So, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), military, police, political actors and in fact, all Nigerians have a role to play to stop this. Until we sit down and tell ourselves the truth, we won’t go forward.