A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Rivers State and presidential aspirant on the platform of the party in 2023, Wenenda Kingsley Wali, has aired his views on the current security challenges, threatening the state. In this interview with Blessing Okorite, he also spoke on other national issues, positing that it is left for the Igbo to decide whether they want the presidency in 2023.
How would you describe politics in Rivers State?
To a large extent, as a people, we have not come to terms with the basic essence of politics, which is people coming together to be able to render real service to the greater number and good people of the state. If you ask me, the first thing a politician should be worried about is how to serve the people. There are some in the course of serving the people they equally improve on their responsibility. But unfortunately, it looks to me that service plays a second role in people determining their political decisions. So, it is basically, a situation where people see politics as an opportunity for self-fulfillment at the detriment of the society. How many people are ready to make sacrifice? What is going on here in Rivers State is power struggle and not politics; struggle for acquisition of power and not for the sake of opportunity to render services.
Do you think the call for inclusive government by Governor Nyesom Wike is in good faith? Has his recent action since his inauguration proved this call?
I am not in the position to get into the heads of politicians, but I am somebody who has interest in political actors and how they want to govern me. His Excellency, the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, said after his election that he wanted to have all inclusive government. Well, wonderful gesture but it is not for me to judge if he meant it. It is for every Nigerian doing business and residing in the state to ask themselves if that call is a sincere and a peaceful call. Just few days ago, one of the major politicians in his camp, said he would resign because he was not included in the governance. So, even in his party, they are not included. Then how do we associate that with those who are not in his camp. This aggrieved member was the director of logistics and strategy of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, during his campaign. That does not mean that he is right. What I mean is that even within his household, there is cry of exclusion. I don’t see anything that has been done so far; maybe it will be done tomorrow. But so far nothing has been done to give credence to that statement by the governor. Maybe after all the tribunal processes have been sorted out, that is when the inclusive process will take place. But for now, I have not seen it.
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As a citizen and resident, how would you rate the security situation in the state?
The insecurity in Rivers State is as thick as you can slice it. The thickness is like a piece of meat; so thick that you can slice through it and feel it. Nobody goes around this town now freely. That is what I see. What is important that can solve our security situation here is the active and definite actions of those in the position to do something about it. And unfortunately, we have patronised these men across the divide. So much so like, you cannot use somebody and dump him and expect them to clap for you. What is happening now is that the boys they empowered by the so call political class, they want to do away with them and they are telling them no. They are only using what they have to get what want at the detriment of the innocent people, because those people who engaged them all have police and other security men guarding them. So the innocent people had to face the consequence of the irresponsibility of those power mongers. That is where we are.
There is no security in Rivers State. I am not sure if the governor himself is secured. That is the truth for we must tell ourselves the truth. I say it every day and stand to be corrected. If you go and conduct a census on every aircraft leaving Port Harcourt International Airport, you will probably have minimum of two people inside going (and) not to come back. Actions must be taken and seen to be taken for peace and security in Rivers. You know the way we used to pick mangoes and other fruits in the neighbourhood when we were very young, that is how they now pick up people in the streets of Port Harcourt. You don’t see too many fine cars in Port Harcourt because the boys are no longer planning for anybody, they go on fishing. Once they see anybody, especially women driving fine cars, they suspect the husband is rich and go after her for kidnap. When the society gets to the level of Columbia where guns now determine how people behave, then that society is lost. But unfortunately, they are shouting that the Federal Government is not doing anything. We need to help ourselves first. The language of conversation has to change. That is a big problem because our leaders don’t speak in a way or manner that encourages peace.
What do you think the government should do to restore security in the state? Don’t you think the state needs presidential action on the present security situation?
If somebody commits crime, you look for the appropriate law of the land that addresses that and deal with that person on the basis of the offence committed, not to politicise it and make it fashionable. The society itself has not even accepted the problem the way it is.
You need to define what you mean by presidential action. If you are talking about the Federal Government helping to improve security in states like Kastina, Lagos, Zamfara, Borno and even Bauchi, then the Rivers State government must show its sincerity that it needs intervention of the Federal Government on the issue. Most importantly, I saw Kastina State governor on a visit to the President on the security situation in his state; the same thing with Zamfara and Bauchi, who are all Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governors. I don’t know if our governor has gone to see the President over the security challenge in the state. If you have a problem and needs help, accept you do have a problem first, not to politicise everything. Our state, our harmony is under serious threat. So, we need to accept the fact of our problem, not to apportion blames and start speaking in language that will not interest people who will want to help.
Talking about federal government’s help, we have had a couple of commissioners of police in the last few months in this state. They come, they go. Our state has become one of juicy position that security officers from other parts of the country want to come and see and feel the goodness of the state. For example, what did the immediate past Police Commissioner, Usman Belel, achieve in bringing down crime rate in the state before he was redeployed? We have degenerated to a level where some people now see vigilante as an option for security in the state, things that have never happened in the state before. No society grows the way we are growing. We are going backward, and we are burning like candle. To save the state from destruction, we must change our language of conversation, accept that we have security challenge, then we can all march to Abuja for assistance.
Do you think the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammad Buharu, Garba Shehu was correct when he allegedly stated that the Federal Government has gazetted lands in the 36 states in the country for Ruga settlement?
That was a big lie that was told by the Vanguard. I challenge anybody to bring on record the statement by Garuba Shehu, where he said the Federal Government has gazetted lands in the 36 states for Ruga settlements. First and foremost, only an illiterate will form that opinion because the land does not belong to the federal government. No federal government can come to anywhere and cease land belonging to the state. It is an idea that said any state that is interested should provide land and they will have federal government support to create those Rugs settlements. But you see, everything in this country is politicized. We do not look at the final details of the issue or problem. What we have in the public domain is the bastardized interpretation of whatever the Ruga thing is. The noise is so much that you don’t even know what the truth is.
Let we give you practical example, the South and Middle Belt Elders Forum released a statement earlier in the week where they warned that the federal government is about to repeal the Land Use Act in order to be able to cease lands for Ruga. That is the most stupid thing, the most ignorant and the most silly thing that any group or individual who claimed to be leaders can say. The federal government cannot repeal any law. The federal government cannot repeal the land Use Act. Only the National Assembly can. How can the federal government gazette a land that it does not have? So, I think that the elders out there are confusing the people and unfortunately, our society is mob driven. It is not the fact that people want, but what is fashionable. My understanding of Ruga is clearly different. It is a creation of somewhere, where people can farm cattle, goat or any other animals. And there is no law that says it must be only Fulani that will rear cows, except it is part of Islamisation or attempt by the Fulani to takeover everywhere. What we should do as a state is to ensure that the state involves and encourages people to go and equally have their own cows in the Ruga. The problem is that the federal government is a bit lazy when you come to such conversation. I think that the federal government has to be more reasonable and responsible in their response to this whole issue by getting the people to understand the thing.
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How do you react to the clamour for Igbo Presidency 2023?
In civilised communities, nobody gives you power. If you want power, you go and get power. The positions that you take in the course of seeking for power are what will determine what you will get from the political space. The South-east politicians really need to ask themselves if they want to be president of Nigeria. You can’t be talking of Biafra and Nigeria at the same time. Best, decide what you want. They need to tell us what they want. The kind of decision they have taken in the past will not help their case. Can the south east produce the president of Nigeria by threatening people, by insulting and rejecting people from other parts of the country? Let them wait till PDP decides to give presidential slot to them because they can’t get it in APC. When you go to APC convention, there is statutory delegate. Now, the party does not exist in your area; you do not have governor, no commissioners and no Assembly members. That is why the Yoruba want to be President again after Obasanjo being President for eight years and Osinbajo, Vice President for eight years. They (Yoruba) still want to rule more. It is politics, they have the numbers. Look at the whole of the south east, only two senators in the senate on the platform of APC. The kind of language the south east people use is such that APC members there are treated like lepers, saboteurs, who want to sell their birthright to the Fulani. They need to organise in such a way that a strategic explosion within the political class in the zone will engage the right conversation.