‘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
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.