Wike’s appointment of 200,000 aides to buy votes–Rivers APC spokesman

Darlington Nwauju

The Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress in Rivers State, Darlington Nwauju, shares his thoughts with DENNIS NAKU on the nullification of the party’s primaries in the state among and other issues

How prepared is the Rivers All Progressives Congress for the 2023 general elections and does the party have what it takes to win?

Let me without equivocation tell you that the APC in Rivers State is working very hard across the 319 polling wards in the state. We are working hard to win. We are not contesting the 2023 elections for the sake of participating in the polls. We are working hard to take the trophy and by the special grace of God, we will. The past seven years of the outgoing administration has convinced the people of Rivers State that the Peoples Democratic Party has nothing more to offer other than the daily soap operas that we have been treated to. In our beloved Rivers State, non-accountability has become the order of the day; contracts are awarded impulsively so much so that humongous projects are awarded without recourse to the Procurement Act or due process; in the past seven years, unemployment level in the state has been rising and this has earned us the second on the unemployment index published by the National Bureau of Statistics.

In Rivers State today, promises were made of employment of whether 10,000 or 5,000 people, but mysteriously, less than four months to the next elections, the state government flies a purely political kite by purporting to appoint 200,000 special assistants in order to hoodwink Rivers people and buy their votes. Seriously, The Rivers APC has been armed with more than enough campaign materials. I say to you again, we are contesting to win.

But presently, there is a court judgment which nullified APC primaries and sacked all its candidates…

With due respect to the judgment of Justice Emmanuel Obile’s court, our party cannot be stopped from contesting and winning the 2023 elections in Rivers State. All attempts at stopping all other political parties except the PDP are geared towards having an open goalpost to score against the run of play, and these shall fall flat. A popular government or political party will not resort to deploying state resources to stop other parties from contesting against her. Why are they afraid of a contest? But to answer your question directly, the cases brought against the Rivers State APC were matters pertaining to our (APC) internal affairs and the Supreme Court had in March 2021 in a case between Dele Moses, four others and the APC declared that political parties were like clubs and that no court had the jurisdiction to protect the rights and privileges of members of a club.

So, the APC in Rivers State is not afraid of the courts as we have implicit faith and belief in the judiciary in Nigeria not to yield itself to the shenanigans of lazy politicians to deny Rivers people the opportunity for a genuine alternative. We believe that even though our matters get to the Supreme Court, Nigerians shall see that with a dispassionate consideration of our matters, justice shall come to us because we know that those who took us to court do not have their names in the membership register of our great party. Justice shall surely come because the civil servants in Rivers State deserve to be motivated with promotions. Pensioners deserve to be paid, scholarships have to be reintroduced and permanent solutions must be found to the perennial flooding challenge in the Orashi region.

Again, security must be ensured for business owners and more investments need to be attracted to the state to increase our internally generated revenue; and primary health centres must be resuscitated across the 23 local government areas. I can go on and on. A cosmopolitan state like Rivers deserves better and cannot continue to be held down by the intimidation and exclusivity that we see today in the governance of our state.

Will the former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi be leading the Rivers APC campaigns?

The leader of our party in Rivers State is a dedicated party man and shall attend party functions as occasions and time demand. You must know he is never afraid to lead from the front.

Why has he (Amaechi) been quiet over developments in the state APC and issues concerning the state?

This is a funny question because when he talks, people say he should have kept quiet and when he chooses to stay calm, people keep asking this question you just asked. Our leader is a man of great wisdom; he will talk when necessary and you will hear him.

The state governor recently increased the number of his special advisers from 100,000 to 200,000. What is your reaction to that?

On the appointment of 200,000 special advisers by the state governor and his PDP administration, let me say that it is purely a political move to buy votes ahead of the elections, four months to the 2023 general elections. Are you aware that appointment to the office of a special assistant require that such a fellow should have to make public his/her assets through the Code of Conduct Bureau? Have you heard of any of these persons approaching the CCB office in Port Harcourt? Again, these appointments are reserved just for members of the PDP. Like I have said before, it is purely targeted at vote-buying, ballot snatching and intimidation of political opponents at the polling units. The list of SAs is peopled by known roughnecks and certified cultists. The question we want to ask the outgoing governor and his court jesters is how sustainable these appointments are.

Where in the state’s budget is the appropriation for this outlandish appointment? Factually and legally, is it right for the governor of a state who has powers under Section 206 to make appointments of his personal staff to overstretch the obligations of the state just to massage his political ego? If the state were so rich to cater conveniently for this latest obligation, how come the state still owes teachers of the state owned demonstration secondary schools? How come the state still owes, for close to five years, the salaries of Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency staff?

How about the stipends of volunteers of the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps which the Wike administration set up? How about payment of bursary for students in tertiary institutions which was a norm under the past administrations? How about the Rivers State Road Traffic Management Authority? How about the Songhai Farms and all those engaged in that agriculture project? How come the state cannot afford to maintain street lights in the city of Port Harcourt? The list is endless and Rivers people know that this (appointment of 200,000 aides) is a Greek gift conjured to cover up for the issues bordering on joblessness or youth unemployment.

The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, recently donated buses to the PDP in Benue and Cross River states. Do you think such will affect the Rivers State purse in any way?

At the last count, the state has lost N2.4bn and counting to needless charities. Are you not shocked that up till now, no state government has made one kobo donation to Rivers State Government over the flood disaster that sacked people from more than four local government areas of the state? Have you asked why? Don’t the state chief executives of other states have eyes as to see that a section of Rivers State was cut off by flood and our people in those areas have suffered untold economic hardship, including sicknesses and deaths? Why have they not come to visit our state or make donations? It may be because we have painted a picture of a state not knowing what to do with our resources. Let those who think we have assessed such needless donations unfairly come and tell us the benefits of such donations to our dear state. None, I can bet.

The state House of Assembly recently derecognised Sir Celestine Omehia as a former governor. What is your take on that?

In the first place, we all know it was legally inappropriate for the Rivers State House of Assembly, an arm of the government that is supposed to be independent, to have yielded itself to be used to make a mockery of the rule of law. A House of Assembly that legislated over the judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the famous Amaechi Vs Omehia case on October 25, 2007; how it took this same  state House of Assembly 88 months to realise that what they did was rationally and legally absurd, rattles my thinking faculty. A House of Assembly that robes and derobes for political expediency does not deserve plaudits from Rivers people. We think that they should have first apologised to our people and ensure that they themselves who committed this legislative harakiri take the responsibility of refunding the millions of naira wasted on Sir Celestine Omehia.

What is your reaction to the revocation of the Certificate of Occupancy of the land allotted to Senator Lee Maeba by the state government?

Even though the governor has powers to issue and revoke Certificates of Occupancy under his jurisdiction, exercising such powers should be in the overall public interest and not to humiliate any man from Rivers State who disagrees with him politically. One of the sad realities of power is that no matter how long or powerful we think we can wield it, someday, somehow, it will leave us or we leave it. Is it not an irony of fate for a political party that keeps lying to people in the media that it has swallowed up all other political parties in the state to be struggling to keep its house in order?

This is the same governor, who has consistently boasted about the invincibility of his party in Rivers State and how he has the votes of Rivers people in his pocket. Can a house divided against itself stand?  The PDP in the state now has two parallel divides. It is near impossible to reconcile most of these deep differences. So, the PDP in Rivers State will certainly self-destruct. We wish them luck as they have started reaping from the seeds of division they sowed in the APC prior to the 2019 elections; sponsoring court cases against our party, using proxies and moles. The APC stands a better chance in the power matrix in Rivers State and the coming days and weeks will justify my claims.

There were claims by some members of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council in the state that some people attacked them while they were pasting posters of the presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar. Can you react to that?

Well, I had spoken extensively on this issue before today and charged the newly posted Commissioner of Police, Effiong Okon, to see this as a test case of the readiness of the state Command to battle incidences of political violence in the state. Let me also put it on record that the local government area where this incident occurred happens to be where I come from and I am aware that we have recorded such despicable and unprovoked attacks in that area in the past five years to the knowledge of the police in that division, without any decisive action taken. In fact, shamefully, the police in that division have shown every form of helplessness.

As of today, there is another case of an attack which took place on September 23, this year, which has not been resolved. In that particular attack, valuables were stolen, the windshield of a Sport Utility Vehicle was completely shattered and it was a case of an attempted murder with evidences reported to the police. In March 2021, a similar attack took place when the leader of our party, the APC, visited Omuma and people sustained varying degrees of injury and property worth millions of naira got destroyed. Security agencies – the police, Department of State Services, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps – in that local government area lack the capacity to respond to organised gangs that have become outlaws and have continually terrorised the area.

You have a governorship candidate who has been silent even before the court judgment that nullified the primaries of your political party. Why is it so?

How do you mean silent? Is the preferred candidate of the outgoing governor more vibrant than that of the APC? Our candidate was busy reaching out to voters at the polling unit level, consulting with different interest groups and stakeholders. Generally, as a party, we adopted the bottom-to-top approach to mobilise support for our candidates. So, how has the candidate been silent?

The APC in Rivers State has continued to criticise the state governor, alleging non-performance, but the President, major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) recently conferred on him a national award related to excellence in service to the people. How do you reconcile that with you party’s position on Wike?

You do not have to confuse an award presented to the outgoing governor based on the recommendation of a committee to the performance assessment from his home state. Do not forget that this is a man who characteristically doles out state resources just to get media attention, does everything possible to hug the headlines. Besides, in the category for which he was recognised, other governors also enjoyed same investiture without noise.

Have you bothered to ask yourself if any of the governor’s trumpeted projects passed through the litmus of a tenders board? Can the state government provide evidence of a certificate of no objection as required by the Procurement Act? The party (APC in Rivers State) is an opposition party and the duty of the opposition is to make sure that the state does not descend into absolutism. Imagine if we did not have an opposition party in Rivers State with the avalanche of reckless executive orders churned out in the name of regulating political activities in this state. The reign of impunity grows by the day in Governor Wike’s Rivers State as everything is being done, including foul means, just to decimate the opposition.

There is this claim in some quarters that Rotimi Amaechi’s leadership style should be blamed for the defection of key members of the APC in the state. How will you react to this?

Those who are telling you this do not understand the leadership style of the former Transport minister or they have chosen to be mischievous. Those who stayed put while enjoying appointments never saw anything wrong with his style until now. Why now if I may ask? The reason is that a reason must have to be conjured in order to move over to someone most of them maligned terribly, because they need to survive economically. Our leader and the former governor of Rivers State enjoys intelligent engagements. He is an analytical mind who also listens to his followers. I say so because I know so. Therefore, that impression that is aimed at shifting blames to the leader of the party is skewed.

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