By Egufe Yafugborhi
Dr. Dakuku Peterside, the 2015 governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Rivers State is a very close associate of the Transportation minister, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi who is generally dubbed as the leader of the party in the state.
The party in the state has lately been thrown into hysteria following the judicial ban on the party from fielding candidates for state level elections. In this interview in Port-Harcourt at the weekend, Dr. Peterside, who is also the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, expresses confidence in the party overturning the judicial ban even as he addresses questions on the culpability of the major actors in the affair. Excerpts:
What is your reaction to the complete disqualification of all candidates of your party from all state level elections in Rivers State?
Politics is a process, it is not an event. It involves a number of activities and usually there will be an outcome. What is going on in the Rivers State APC is unfortunate, but it is part of the political evolution process. I am pained that it even happened in the first place, but I know that it is not the end in itself.
What has happened in Rivers APC is some sort of temporary setback. I am optimistic that APC’s candidates will be on the ballot. I am very, very optimistic. I know that the judiciary is an important component of the political process. You cannot talk about politics, without talking about the judiciary and the roles of the judiciary, but my confidence is that ultimately, this issue will be resolved and APC’s candidates will be on the ballot, they will run the elections and Rivers people will have options. They will choose the candidates of APC above the other political parties.
The other political party (People’s Democratic Party) has disappointed Rivers people on all fronts. What the party (PDP) has done in the past three years and some months is to make more and more people lose confidence in the institution of government of Rivers State. They have embarked on outright lies, concocted stories and half truths. Rivers people are indeed tired of the mess. They cannot wait to get rid of the current government of Nyesom Wike. APC provides Rivers people the alternative, but unfortunately, we are going through our own challenges.
Let me take advantage of this opportunity to plead with all members of APC to remain calm, confident, loyal and keep trusting the Almighty God. The end of this tortuous journey will come and it will be to God’s glory. All hope is not lost. Indeed, no hope is lost. One thing I am pretty sure of is that at the end of the tunnel, there is light and it will be to God’s own glory.
We have embarked on series of engagements to get all the sides of the party and to get different interests in the party to understand that it is in our own interest to work together, that it is in our own interest to pursue the path of peace, unity and of course, working for a common purpose. You cannot have a team if you are not working for a common purpose. If you have persons working together at cross purposes, they will never achieve result.
The only way to achieve result is when you work towards a common purpose. That actually makes you a team. We are a team of patriotic and progressive citizens of Rivers State, who want the best for Rivers State, as against our opponents in the other party (PDP), who are self-serving and usually pursuing their own narrow opportunistic interests.
You are said to be close to Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, who is the leader of APC in Rivers State. But do you subscribe to the claims that he is responsible for the crisis and that he should be blamed for the confusion. What is your reaction?
It is not true that the Hon. Minister is responsible for the crisis. I do not believe that this is the time for blame game. A lot of things happened and blame game will not help us in any way. So, even as the leader of the party, it is wrong for me to join in the blame game.
Depending on where you are standing, people accuse different individuals of being responsible. Some persons would say some persons are over ambitious outright and that because of their ambition, we are where we are. Some said some persons were uncouth in their language. Some accused the young people in the party of not handling their emotions with maturity.
People have right to hold their opinions. You cannot hold it against anybody for holding an opinion. One thing that all of us have built consensus around and we are unanimous about is that there is a time for war and there is a time for peace. This is the time to ceasefire, engage with one another and to allow the common interest to prevail, over our narrow parochial interests.
No man’s ambition should be superior to the collective interest of the party (APC) and Rivers people. Not mine, not anybody’s own. Nobody’s interest should be superior to the interest of the collective.
So, I do not believe in the blame game. I do not support it. I will not embark on it. Rather, it is for all of us to begin to engage with people. Let them see reason why we must all come to the table and agree on the best way forward and indeed, work out a way forward, so that we will go and take over Government House, Port Harcourt from May 29, 2019 and begin to change the narratives in Rivers State.
Senator Magnus Abe has said that for peace to reign in the party, Tonye Cole should step down for him as the governorship candidate. Is that an option for you given your difficult position?
It is not true. I have had cause to engage with Senator Magnus Abe and he could not have taken that position. I can say it on good authority that his minimum condition cannot be that Tonye Cole should step down for him to become the governorship candidate of APC in Rivers State. He has never said so. He realises the need for all of us to work together and I believe that reason will prevail at the appropriate time.
Are there plans to settle out of court?
All options are on the table. There is nothing anybody can rule out. What matters to all of us is the victory of APC in the elections and whatever needs to be done and whatever should be done will be done to ensure that we all operate on the same frequency, to deliver the party (APC) in the elections.
National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) elections are four weeks away, while the state’s elections are six weeks away. That is a lot of time in politics. It is actually time to consolidate and get the buying-in of the people of Rivers State, get their support, coast home to victory and sing the victory song for the good of the people of Rivers State.
Would members of Rivers APC have done things differently to get different result from the current situation?
In all cases, there is always room to do things differently, even for the best of the best. There is no case where you have only one way of achieving result. So, it is possible that things could have been done differently and we would have got different outcome, but I do not think that is the issue now. We have gone past that stage.
The issue is that there is critical need for all of us to come together to work towards a common purpose. There is the need for all of us to lay aside our different interests and the different weights that thus far oppress us.
I want to reassure members of APC and indeed, all Rivers people that the APC will be on the ballot; there is need for all of us to be calm, there is need for all of us to work together and there is need for us to remain confident of the judicial process, that it will turn out for our good ultimately. Most importantly, beneath all of this is the need for unity and the need for us to work as a team. No one person can do it alone.
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, accused Transportation Minister (Amaechi) of being behind the trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, with the intention to remove him for not supporting the APC and its candidates. Is it true?
Nothing can be more spurious, laughable and childish than that statement by the governor of Rivers State. I am not taken aback at all, because the governor is known to promote lies as truth; he has also acquired the status of a pathological liar. Wike is a man who concocts stories, distorts facts and presents half-truths as the truth.
In this specific instance, there is no iota of truth in it. Rt. Hon. Amaechi has absolutely no hand in the matter. He is not a judicial officer, he is not an intelligence officer and he does not work for any of the intelligence agencies. I cannot understand the connection between the work of the intelligence agencies, the anti-graft agencies and the judiciary. There is absolutely no iota of truth in it.
Wike claimed that Transportation minister had conversation with somebody that he (Amaechi) was behind CJN’s travails. There is no truth in it. It is the trademark of Rivers governor to concoct stories. Rivers people and other Nigerians know Wike for who he is. So, I do not believe that anybody will take him seriously.
Is it true that Accord candidate, Dumo Lulu-Briggs is a Plan B for you in APC given he was an aspirant in the APC until long ago?
Wike is not a member of APC. Wike is not a member of our political family and he cannot be a member of our political family. When Rivers governor embarks on these kind of wild lies and baseless allegations, they ridicule him. There is no truth in having Plan-B or working with Dumo Lulu-Briggs.