‘We’ll re­solve is­sue of first lady’s sup­port to Wike’ Nimi Wal­son-Jack is for­mer na­tional sec­re­tary of the Nigeria Bar As­so­ci­a­tion (NBA). He is one of those as­pir­ing to take over from Amaechi as gover­nor of Rivers State. He gives rea­sons in this in­ter­view

Daily Trust - - INSIDE POLITICS - From Vic­tor Edozie, Port Har­court

What is the unique thing you are bring­ing into gov­er­nance?

There some ba­sic pro­cesses that make govern­ment sys­tem­atic, for ex­am­ple, so­cial ser­vices, those are not cam­paign is­sues. You don’t have to cam­paign that you are go­ing to main­tain roads or hos­pi­tals or wa­ter, these are nor­mal. These are not cam­paign is­sues, those are so­cial con­tracts. I am say­ing that gov­er­nance is much sim­pler than we have pre­sented the is­sues to be and so we want to work to­wards get­ting ev­ery­body in­volved in gov­er­nance. Democ­racy is a mar­ket place of ideas. Ev­ery­body has some­thing to con­trib­ute and if we go that way, if we run an in­clu­sive govern­ment we are likely to come up with a bet­ter govern­ment that de­liv­ers ser­vice prop­erly to the people.


The is­sue of Up­land/ River­ine Di­chotomy in Rivers pol­i­tics ap­pears to be a fac­tor in shar­ing po­lit­i­cal po­si­tions in the State but re­cently some are say­ing that up­land/River­ine di­chotomy is no longer in vogue, what is your take on this ?

For the record, my cam­paign is be­ing run on qual­i­fi­ca­tion, com­pe­tence and ex­pe­ri­ence. I be­lieve that the people are en­ti­tled to a govern­ment that is on merit. The late Mar­garet Thatcher said ‘democ­racy has a moral con­tent.’ It is that same moral con­tent that makes many of us op­pose the Hausa/ Fu­lani hege­mony in Nigeria. And it is that same moral con­tent that our found­ing fa­thers, who in­her­ited Rivers State saw and used the nat­u­ral bound­aries of the rivers to talk about de­vel­op­ment based on an Up­land/River­ine di­chotomy. So in Rivers State, we have lived with it from cre­ation and ev­ery­thing we’ve done have been based on that. We are sen­si­tive to it. So it is not a ques­tion of choice, it is nat­u­ral, we are born into it and so that moral con­tent of democ­racy then means that one eth­nic group or one in­ter­est group should not dom­i­nate oth­ers. So even if you come to the river­ine ar­eas, it means that one eth­nic group in the river­ine should not dom­i­nate oth­ers, not to talk of oth­ers in the up­land and that is the idea be­hind what you will now call the re­ac­ti­va­tion or the re­minder of who we use to be in Rivers State.

Will this help the pol­i­tics of Rivers and its people?

Def­i­nitely, don’t for­get the way the pol­i­tics of Nigeria has been helped by a mi­nor­ity. It is the same way the pol­i­tics of Rivers State would be help when ev­ery sec­tion of this state: whether on the up­land or the river­ine has an op­por­tu­nity to gov­ern. But don’t for­get the un­der­lin­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tion, the un­der­lin­ing is­sue is that in ev­ery­thing you do, you can still not com­pro­mise merit. Merit is para­mount, but for you to say that one eth­nic group should rule, you are say­ing that the oth­ers don’t have people even on merit, which is not cor­rect.

How will you tackle the pre­vail­ing poverty in Rivers?

The prob­lem has been iden­ti­fied. It is wor­ri­some be­cause for the amount of money we get in Rivers State on a monthly ba­sis is the equiv­a­lent of what three, four coun­tries on the West coast put to­gether get. So even in the mad­ness of our gen­eral so­ci­ety, it is still pos­si­ble to make a dif­fer­ence.I have trav­eled to some other states in Nigeria and I am not talk­ing of the South South states and it is clear in some states they don’t even have N10 bil­lion in a month yet they have four lane high­ways, with flow­ers and street lights. Be­tween Ondo and Ille­sha, there are about five high in­sti­tu­tions, both govern­ment owned and pri­vate, so the fact that we have this type of money means that we can do bet­ter, so we think it is time to look at how we use our re­sources.

Are you not threat­ened by the sup­port Dame Pa­tience is said to be giv­ing Nye­som Wike?

Thir­teen months ago I com­menced a con­sul­ta­tion process, reach­ing out to dif­fer­ent seg­ments of the so­ci­ety to tell them that I want to be the next gover­nor of Rivers State. If you have done an opin­ion poll or if you had done a dis­cus­sion about those likely to be gov­er­nors of Rivers State 13 months ago, you will never have men­tioned Nimi Wal­son-Jack but to­day, you can­not hold a dis­cus­sion about the po­ten­tial gov­er­nors of Rivers State with­out a men­tion of Nimi Wal­son-Jack. That sup­port was not bought by news­pa­per ad­verts. It wasn’t bought by a rented crowd. It was brought by talk­ing to the people. I am not an un­re­al­is­tic per­son to tell you that if elec­tion is held to­day 99 per cent of Rivers people will vote for me, that is not me. But the point is that I have come a long way from the day I said I wanted to run and I still have six months to go to the pri­maries. I am sure that will tell you where I stand. Un­til some days ago, I was the only one who had de­clared that I want to be gover­nor, do you know of any other per­son? I am the only one who had set up an of­fice that is co­or­di­nat­ing my ef­fort.

I will be in Abuja, we will be vis­it­ing people and we know what we will be talk­ing and then once in awhile do cer­tain things. I am work­ing for a proper elec­tion and nom­i­na­tion.

So the is­sue of en­dorse­ments, it is not just the First Lady, so many things have been done. I keep on telling my sup­port­ers an elec­tion in which a Nimi Wal­son-Jack is the only as­pi­rant can­not be a demo­cratic elec­tion. I have con­fi­dence in the demo­cratic process and that is why I am in­vest­ing, time, money and en­ergy into it.

Would you con­sider dump­ing the PDP if the sit­u­a­tion is not favourable to your am­bi­tion?

The Rivers State po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion has been tur­bu­lent. This is the first time we are hav­ing the rul­ing party be­com­ing an op­po­si­tion party. And so I am not go­ing to guess that it can be easy. We still have the duty of shep­herd­ing the re­main­ing mem­bers who have not left the party and that are not a small task. On our part, we have, over time, helped in our lit­tle ways to ap­peal to mem­bers not to de­fect and to those who are still in the party not to be dis­il­lu­sioned. The re­al­ity of the day is that, if you are a stu­dent of pol­i­tics and his­tory, you will know that what is go­ing on is not strange, it is not new. We will over­come them. As to leav­ing the party, that does not arise, I am bonded to the PDP. I be­lieve in fight­ing from within in ev­ery­thing, it is eas­ier than fight­ing from out­side.

What would be your model for the de­vel­op­ment of Rivers State?

The de­vel­op­ment of the state is city cen­tered. We are not get­ting it right. All our neigh­bors, in­clud­ing the newly cre­ated Bayelsa now have be­yond one city. I have an at­tach­ment with Bori, I grew up there and I tell people. We drank pipe borne wa­ter not bore­hole. We have 12 hours of elec­tric­ity. The hospi­tal was func­tion­ing, my life was saved by just reg­u­lar doc­tors sit­ting in the Gen­eral Hospi­tal Bori, to­day, you see many of those build­ings, and even the Gen­eral Hospi­tal is gone, why? Be­cause if you look at the budget, we spend so much on Port Har­court City and Obio Ak­por, to the detri­ment of the rest of them. The people of Cross River, Akwa Ibom have taught us a les­son, we should also learn from them. Ev­ery min­istry in the Head­quar­ters had a branch in the lo­cal govern­ment head­quar­ters. And that is why to­day in Akwa Ibom, you can talk of Uyo, Ikot Ekpene, Eti­nan, Ikot Abasi, Oron, they are there. If you go to Cross River the same thing: Cal­abar, Ogoja, Ugep and the rest of them. If you go to Delta, they have the same con­cept. They have even taken that far­ther; they have Govern­ment House, As­aba, and have an­other one in Warri.

Nimi Wal­son-Jack

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