By Egufe Yafugborhi
Governor Nyesom Wike, in this interview on the state of Rivers politics, speaks on his former Commissioner for Chieftaincy and Community Affairs, Dr. John Bazia, and his Transport counterpart, Ibinabo Michael West, who both recently left the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the All Progressives Congress, APC, because he did not reappoint them into his cabinet.
On the consequences of losing two former commissioners, Ibinabo Michael West and John Bazia, to the APC
When we talk about defection, who and who defected? What are the qualities of those who defected? The two people who defected, who knew them in my cabinet? Have you ever seen them speak on behalf of the party one day? Have you heard them speak about my administration? There are people who defect and it will worry the government because these are internal members of the cabinet.
Not everybody who is a commissioner is a commissioner. Chidi Lloyd defected to PDP, we knew who he was in APC. Who are these people who defected from the PDP? Ask the man who said he was Commissioner for Transport. He contested governorship with me, he had three votes in the primaries.
He said Olumba Olumba told him he would be Governor. He got three votes. Just for the politics of carrying people along, we said okay, he spent some money contesting, so bring him in, to let him have a sense of belonging. So, he was commissioner of Transport. Ask him, what was his contribution?
It is widely felt you don’t allow commissioners to function. That you think and act for them, and run a one-man show…
Okay, I agree. So, I was holding his head. I don’t allow you think. I am doing the thinking. Is that not enough for me to remove you, when you are supposed to help me in thinking? If I am the one thinking, why are you there as commissioner? I appointed you commissioner and you refused to think. Should I also refuse to think?
One day, a friend sent me text. He asked if I were in Calabar. I said no. He said there are some Rivers luxury buses, 13 of them somewhere in Calabar. He felt I came to Calabar for an occasion, to have such number of state buses. I asked him to snap pictures of those buses. He did and sent to me. I then called the Commissioner for Transport. I asked, where are you? In Calabar, he said.
READ ALSO: Wike approves N2bn for 2021 LGA polls
What are you doing in Calabar? He said he went to see the father. Whose father? He said Olumba Olumba. I said you took our 13 luxury buses to Calabar without permission? To see Olumba Olumba, why do you need to carry 13 luxury buses? I would have sacked him that day. People prevailed on me, saying just manage the situation.
We set a task force to remove trucks from road. The money (penalty) they were collecting was being paid to his private account. In Exco meeting, I called and asked him, why pay government money into your private account? He said he was trying to monitor the fund. I said monitor what, into a private account? I was prevailed upon. We were heading for election. So I managed the situation till after elections.
Now, do you expect me to bring such persons back to my cabinet? Why did he not defect when he was commissioner? Even after the election he was following me around, thinking he would be reappointed. I said he cannot be reappointed. What was the reasons he gave, for his resignation, that he was not given his ward’s Exco.
There is nobody I am working with that I don’t have a tab on. We’ve been monitoring him. So how could we have given party Exco to somebody we know was leaving the party? He will decamp then and say he left with the party Exco. He thinks he’s smart. These are loafers in politics.
Case of John Bazia
Take the case of the one who says he was commissioner for Chieftaincy and Community Affairs (John Bazia). You know it’s so embarrassing when people cannot tell simple truth. Embarrassments were received from him on things I shouldn’t even say.
Let me tell you what happened. In politics there are campaigns. Last time a presidential candidate (Goodluck Jonathan) came. And when you want to see traditional rulers, you must present kola.
So, the candidate came to see traditional rulers and then the clergy. He presented kola. I took it. You know in some places you can present kola by money. In some other places you can present real kola and wedge it with money. We now gave it (money) to him to hold. You won’t believe it. I went back to campaign office. The Chairman of Rivers State Traditional Rulers Council called me, asking where is our kola? I responded which kola, has it not been sent to you?
He said no, that the chiefs were waiting with him. I called my then Commissioner of Information (Emma Okah) who was Chairman of that sub-committee. He said he called Dr Bazia. You know what he (Bazia) did? He took 80 per cent of the kola and brought 20 per cent. For the first time, the Commissioner for Information got angry and slapped him. He said no, he gave it to his PA (Personal Assistant) so it was his PA that did something to it
Everybody got angry and said you must go and get back the money. We were there when he brought back the kola. What an embarrassment? That is the man who’s talking.
I got another text from one Lesi Maoh, from Gokana, that he was going to arrest my commissioner. He said he borrowed money from him. He said 40,000 Euros. I asked, for what? I was going for Exco meeting that day. So I called the complainant at the waiting room, called the commissioner, to meet me in my office. I asked what happened He (Lesi Maoh) said Bazia borrowed money from him to give his wife overseas.
I asked, is his wife overseas, doing what? He said he just want them to stay there. I said stay there, how? How do you fund them? I asked, did you borrow money from him? He said well, it’s not up to what he’s claiming. It’s about thirty-something thousand Euros. The Lesi Maoh said no, you borrowed 40,000 Euros from me. I felt so embarrassed. I said what did you do with the money. He said this and that, so embarrassing. I had to look for money to pay.
I pleaded with Lesi Maoh, please take, I don’t want this embarrassment. This is an embarrassment. That is the same man talking. I was to sack him but because we were in election period, they said calm down, leave him. The same man collects money from oil companies, they put him in hotels, anything they tell him to sign he would sign.
After the election, he was coming around me. The day he knew he won’t be reappointed was the day somebody was announced. So they started moving the other way. He never had good relationship with the Minister of Transport when they were in the House of Assembly. Never. The minister (Rotimi Amaechi) called him all kinds of names when he was the Speaker. Ask him. Why did he not join the minister then? Why didn’t he resign when he was commissioner? Because I didn’t not bring him back, he left. How can I bring such a character back as a cabinet member?
Governor’s alleged failure to develop their areas, and some other localities
I did 16 km Sakpenwa-Bori Road. That is where? In the first place, what is his worth in Tai politics? I did Seme. This man is from Tai. Ask him, Seme-Nowan Road, has it been completed? This was a job awarded by previous administration, no contractor went there. I have done that road. He’s from there. He talks of Bori. Does he go home? He stays in Port Harcourt, and his family overseas.
West, the man from Asari Toru, if I have done nothing and you are going into APC, mention one project APC has done in Asari Toru since leading federal government for nearly six years. Now, I have sand filled Abalama in Asari Toru, and you know the importance of land in that area? I am rebuilding Kalabari National College in Asari Toru. We are doing several school projects in that axis, General Hospital in Degema. What are they talking about?
And he then mentioned my in-laws’ place, Ahoada. Do they know anything about Ahoada. Do they know Ahoada? These two people don’t go home. They are talking about concentrated projects in Port Harcourt and Obio Akpor. This twin local government areas have 60 per cent of the population of the state. All of them, their houses are in these two localities. It’s like saying federal government should not develop Abuja, a capital city everybody would come, and determine how Nigeria looks like.
People are talking about seven flyovers, I will do 10 before I leave. In terms of voting, in terms of economic activities, these are the nerve centers of the state. All the oil companies, security agencies are here. And someone says I should not develop Port Harcourt and Obio Akpor. Universities are here. They only go home to enjoy Christmas. Everybody is in the city. Your children school here and you open your mouth to say we are developing the city.
Nonetheless, I challenge anybody, there is no local government area in all the 23 we have not executed a project. I tell my people we should not listen to these detractors. If my Secretary To State Government decamps now, I will feel it. I know he has something to contribute in Akuku Toru LGA. If Senator Barry Mpigi, Senator Sekibo defect now, we will have problem. Not that we won’t win, but these are people you know have something to contribute in their domain. How could you be worried about somebody you rejected as commissioner?
Asphyxiating talking down on commissioners
They tele-guide them to go talk on the media that I don’t allow commissioners space to operate. Did they vote for me as governor? So you want to be signing contracts and paying money into private accounts. Ask him, I awarded him contract for Bille Jetty. Because we didn’t trust him, I supervised him to the last. I said money must be paid to the contractor. I called the contractor, if I hear any story, you are gone.
That’s why he says I don’t allow commissioners. I don’t award contracts, council approves. It’s not within my power to approve. Who executes? Who pays? I am the Governor. I don’t want my government to fail. I can’t depend on somebody who said he doesn’t think, only thinking about Olumba Olumba. Is that what will make my government grow?
New expectations for Rivers people
Development never ends. Go to all the schools, they were all abandoned. No medical college since creation of Rivers. Today we have medical college approved by the National Universities Commission. We have converted Braithwaite Memorial Hospital to Teaching Hospital. See the Mother and Child Hospital and many more. Most of the schools that were dead, we are rebuilding and reviving.
These two men have nothing to offer. They don’t even know what was happening in government.