Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, speaks with Punch’s Olusola Fabiyi on national issues, his grouse with the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government and the crisis in the PDP:
In specific terms, what have you achieved in the last two years?
One area is security. When we came into power, people were saying that Rivers State was not safe. Despite Federal Government’s lack of support, today, Rivers State is one of the most peaceful states in the country. In fact, the Federal Government made sure that the state was unsafe so that they could declare a state of emergency. The All Progressives Congress considered this in their meetings. But look at it; today, they are the ones with insecurity issues in their states.
Is Rivers not one of the richest states in Nigeria?
How will it be the richest when there is no employment and investment? The internally generated revenue is going down and oil price has crashed. So, where would the money come from? You can be rich only when the economy is booming. Do you get rich when the economy is in recession? How we survive, we cannot explain it. But we are surviving and we are making an impact. When we award contracts, we don’t inflate them. A contract of N700m is given out for over N4bn in some places. Look at the modern school they gave out (built) at over N4bn; we are building such at N1.1bn. You can see the difference. The road they built for more than N7bn, we are building it at a little over N1bn now. It means something was wrong. Our (Rivers’) recurrent (expenditure) was N1.8bn before we came into power. Today, it is a little over N600m. You must make sacrifices. You must love your state; you must be committed. Every policy of the Federal Government is against this state. I don’t benefit from this government in any way.
Some states got money for stabilisation funds. Nobody has given me a kobo. They give states ecological funds, nobody has given me anything. If the Federal Government says it’s bringing about a change, is this the change it promised? Where is the change? What is the essence of the change? What we have now is deceit, intimidation, and blackmail. If one talks, they (Federal Government) will say one is corrupt. The moment they say one is corrupt, they run to the media. I’m not even happy with the media. The media has not done well for this country. Part of the crisis (in the country) is caused by the media. Jonathan wanted to do partial removal of oil subsidy but you people came up with ‘Occupy Nigeria’. Now, this government came up with total removal of subsidy but nobody protested.
You are even justifying it. That is the media for you. When you have the media, everything is fine. The media owns this country; the media owns our people. Let them know and hear the truth. They say they are fighting corruption; are they really serious about it?
Some people say the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is doing a good job. What do you think?
So, what have they done? I’m not here for the EFCC. The EFCC is not government. What have they done by intimidating judges and justices? A judge has N2m; you break into his house at night to intimidate him. What about ministers, special advisers, and (business)? Who is fooling who?
What about the mountain of dollars found in the home of a former Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation chief?
For Christ’s sake, I have been a victim of EFCC intimidation. They accused me of something that never existed. I had not even gone to the EFCC when they leaked a lie to the media that more than N4bn was found in my account. As of that time, what was there was N624,000; that bank account was opened in 1999. In 2008 that I went to the EFCC, N200m had not passed through the account. The present acting chairman of the commission, Ibrahim Magu, was one of those investigating me then. That you even found the money with the NNPC man does not mean it is stolen money.
He earned it?
I didn’t say that, but that does not mean it was stolen. We are doing what is called press prosecution; just like it happened to the judges. It has never happened before. You have condemned them before the public. The judges have been blackmailed. Nobody can do what is right. No more independence. If they found money in their houses, they would use it to blackmail them. Telling them they would be sued and all that. Even though the government is aware that it will lose the case, it will give the judges psychological trauma. They have achieved what they want. That is unfortunate. Some are saying that the National Judicial Council does not need to recommend; that the governor can choose whom he wants as Chief Justice. My wife is a judge. If I had supported that — which means as a governor, I can unilaterally pick her as the Chief Justice of Rivers State and nothing will happen — what type of country are we in? They are playing into the hands of politicians. They use the media to blackmail people. A judge is found with one million dollars. So what?
Aren’t they supposed to be above board with the kind of job they do?
Above board, did you say? You want them to be above board? In Rivers State, we have a pension law that says if I leave office today, I’m entitled to have a house in Abuja, a house in Port Harcourt, have overseas medical treatment and so on. The person who is going to do the trials, the judges, where do they live? What will be their pension? These are the judges who will preside over high-profile cases. As the governor, I have everything free.
So, they should find a way to enrich themselves?
No, the point I am making is that, when you want to fight corruption, the judges must also be provided with the tools. The judges must be protected as well. We must strengthen institutions. Have you been to the houses of those who dispense justice? Do they have access to electricity and all that? I’m not saying that they are corrupt or should be corrupt. But we must not come on a position of strength to fight those who are weak. What the government has done is to weaken the justices so that it would have its way. They flash papers before them to say, ‘We have your dossiers, you daughter has this amount in her account’ and the judge would shiver. They send the document to the media and you publish it. Then, the government comes to the judge asking him to withdraw from a case.
You think the judges are now intimidated?
Of course, yes. Are we not in Nigeria? They have been intimidated. They feel threatened. They don’t have confidence to work again.
Allow the constitution to take its course. Look at what they are doing in my state. People are being killed, the police won’t do anything and the Department of State Services won’t act. Selective justice and fight against corruption are what they are doing. They go to PDP states to intimidate the governors and the governors would go to them to pledge loyalty: ‘I’m sorry sir. I won’t be talking again’. I won’t do that.
Is that why you won’t go to Abuja?
I don’t need to. To do what? My life is important to my people. Rivers people voted for me; Abuja didn’t vote for me. So, what am I going to do (there)?
To greet President Muhammadu Buhari since he returned from his medial trip.
Nobody has been allowed to see him. No governor has been allowed (to see him) from what I heard.
Why don’t you make an attempt?
Remember, he once said that governors should stay in their states and that there was no need for any visit. You want me to violate his order? The governors who go there, what do they go there for? To see the security agencies and plead with them: ‘We are your boys. Please don’t focus on our states.’
But the Nigerian Governors’ Forum meets regularly.
Which forum? Forum for what? I’m not happy with what is happening in Nigeria. I will remain in my state. I will not step out anywhere until I finish up with my people.
The headquarters of your party, Peoples Democratic Party, is in Abuja and the party is in crisis.
Which crisis? Caused by whom?
You have a national chairman who is not recognised by organs of the party.
Of course, that tells you that he is not the chairman. Let me tell you how Nigeria works. When we won at the Federal High Court, even before then, the security agencies said they would obey the judgment. They said they would open the national secretariat for anyone that wins. We won but they said we couldn’t go in; they said Ali Modu Sheriff had appealed. As soon as he won the appeal, we went to the Supreme Court. But they opened Wadata House for him. What kind of a country is that? I can’t stand people who think that they are more intelligent than others when they are not. Instead, let me leave the world. You can now see the hands of those behind it (PDP crisis). When the appeal court judgment was delivered, I was in Lagos and a minister said, ‘Let us see how Wike will run his government and get elected again.’
Are they planning to stop your second term bid?
I don’t understand them. No wonder they too compiled the list of electoral officers for the rerun election from some states in agreement with the Independent National Electoral Commission. We are not worried anyway. They will have to kill everybody in the state to succeed.
But they said you gave millions of naira as bribe to the Independent National Electoral Commission officials during the rerun poll?
A lot of APC governors came to campaign in your state during the rerun election?
Who are those that came? For example, the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, was asking my people to vote for APC. A man who can’t pay salaries and doesn’t carry out projects; how will Rivers people listen to such a governor? The one in Plateau State is worse. I can go to another state to say they should vote for the PDP and I will line up my projects and they will listen. But not governors who cannot protect their people; who can’t pay salaries; who can’t take care of their people; and whose people are slaughtered like chickens then they have the audacity to come to my state that produced what you have to tell them who to vote for – that is the highest insult to our people. Who are the so-called governors and the ministers that came? Nigeria will not know peace until the Federal Government comes to say ‘we are sorry for killing your people; that we tried to impose people on you and that led to the death of innocent souls.’ If they don’t do that, you will see that the crisis that would be in several states, the Federal Government won’t be able to curtail it. God has a way he protects his own people.
You are particularly angry with the governor of Benue State.
Not only him; but how could such a governor come to Rivers to insult us? Including those of Bauchi, Plateau, and Kano? Who are they? Where do they live that we would be able to identify them? You can’t come to a state and open your mouth and say they are thieves. Who are you? They think that they come from a region where whatever they do, they can’t be challenged. You come to a state governed by an elected person and you open your mouth and insult them because you think you come from somewhere? You can go free today but you can’t go free tomorrow. Power is temporary.
You recently praised the Senate for amending the Electoral Act.
I’m withdrawing it because when they said card reader, I didn’t know that the Senate had taken back with one hand something they gave with another hand. They provided that if the card reader doesn’t work, then you can use manual method. That is stealing.
What would you have preferred?
If the card reader doesn’t work, you come back and do the election the following day.
You have your members in the Senate, why didn’t you talk to them before the amendment?
We are in the minority, what could we do?
But your party installed the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, and he has been doing your bidding?
You have a new commissioner of police.
Yes, and he told me he is going to do a professional work and I told him, ‘You, a professional work?’ You can’t be independent and can’t do a professional work. The inspector general of police has given him instructions on what to do. The inspector general has told him he must cage the Rivers State governor. He shouldn’t come and tell me he wants to do any professional work. Who is he to say that?
He can’t have his own mind?
Which mind? Before he was posted here, he was told what to do. They don’t post people based on competence but loyalty; someone who will do their bidding. Do you know that we are the only state that has had about nine commissioners of police in just two years?
Did he agree with you?
Would he say yes? But I told him and he knew I was telling the truth. When he was going to be sent, there were about three of them that were called, and interviewed. They said they were going to kill me. They took this one who said he would be diplomatic about it. We know. This police commissioner has an agenda; I can’t be deceived. I’m not saying he should go; let him stay. He has been given an assignment to kill me. No problem. No man dies two times.
The inspector general of police couldn’t have ordered a police officer to kill someone, especially a governor.
This inspector general of police said so.
That the commissioner of police in your state should kill you?
Yes, I’m telling you (the truth). The inspector general of police, who removed my security details without letting me know until when I was going out and realised that I had no security personnel. What is the implication of that? When a supposed chief security officer of a state wakes up in the morning and realises that he has no security personnel attached to him, what do you expect? What’s the implication? Danger!
Maybe to ensure fairness; so that you didn’t have undue advantage during the election?
Undue advantage over whom?
Am I running for an election?
Your party was.
So? I would go with security operatives to everywhere in the whole state? What kind of rubbish is this, in my country? When the President was running for an election, would you have withdrawn his security details so that there would be fairness? Tell me more. It is unfortunate that this is the only country where a chief security officer has been marked for elimination without anyone saying anything. And you, media, would keep mum because you are working with them. You withdraw security officers from a governor, suddenly. I have been on the danger list of the government and I have been saying it. Nobody is saying anything. I have been marked out for assassination. It is not hidden. People know. This government says it will use me as example for people to learn.
If I’m not a threat, why is the government killing my people? For ordinary legislative rerun election, the government posted 28,000 policemen to kill our people. At the end of the day, what did they say? That the governor of Rivers State paid bribes. I have challenged them, but they won’t talk. They have intimidated all the people and they say they can kill him and nothing will happen. Yes, they can kill me today and nothing will happen, but something will happen tomorrow. That’s why I don’t go out. I only go out to see projects, anyway. Why did they remove my security details?
Have you asked the police chief?
(I have done that) several times. There is an agenda. The only thing I know is that I have refused to allow them conquer the state. I have not committed any offence.
To resolve your frosty relationship with the Federal Government, will you defect to the APC?
I will never. Why should I do that? You should know that some of us are men of character. There is no amount of intimidation that would make me do something against my conscience.
Why don’t you report to the President?
I have written several letters to him.
Did you get a response?
Assuming they don’t let the letters get to the President, what do you do? Didn’t you hear what Governor Nasir el-Rufai said about (a) cabal in the villa (Presidency)? Was I the one that said so? Did he deny it? The man has told you what happens in the villa and you are asking me, an opposition man, when el-Rufai was one of those who installed the government and he is complaining about the cabal not allowing them to do the right thing. How do I get access?
Let’s talk about the crisis in your party.
It is a crisis sponsored by the APC, engineered by security agencies – DSS and the police. They have a hand in it. That’s why I don’t believe in the so-called political solution. To allow the APC conduct convention?
If the same man wins at the Supreme Court, what happens?
I have choices. The PDP is not the only political party in Nigeria. Let me tell you that if there’s room for independent candidates, we would win. If there is none, there are other mushroom parties that we could use to win election in Rivers State. I don’t need any national party to win an election in Rivers State.
Is there no way Ali Modu Sheriff can lead the PDP?
It won’t work. We are not like any other state. We are very firm. I think they are inaugurating a state party executive, let them come and do that in this state.
They did it in Abuja, a day before the rerun poll.
Is Rivers State Abuja? Where are the people they inaugurated? Yes, they can kill us, but they won’t lead us.
Some will say you had a hand in bringing Ali Modu Sheriff to lead the party.
That’s the mistake you people make. What hand? How? Okay, assuming without conceding that I brought Sheriff and I now saw that the man is terrible and I raised the alarm, is that why you should crucify me? If you go to a meeting with your colleagues and had arguments and at the end of the day, a decision is taken, do you go about saying the decision was suggested by someone? The governor of Bayelsa State then had a candidate, and almost all of them had. Are we kids? Prince Uche Secondus was the acting national chairman and they came with their plan that the North-East should complete its term. As of that time, we had just six months to go into convention. I asked them what anybody would achieve in six months. See what that has cost us now. Did they not betray the PDP during the election? These are the people who could not win in their wards. Why didn’t they go to their states to rebuild the party? After all, politics is local.
Why do you think APC is interested in your state?
Ask them. That was why the National Chairman of the APC (John Odigie-Oyegun) wept when they lost at the Supreme Court. Then he came here to campaign during the rerun election with fighter jets. They came with chemical weapons; they came with everything but God said no. As I speak with you, I will soon leak their strategies to win 2019 elections at all cost. They don’t care about people’s blood. What is in Rivers State that they want to kill people to capture the state? Must they win everywhere? ‘Make sure he is killed; the police would do their investigations.’ That’s the assignment given to the new commissioner of police to carry out.
You believe in such conjecture?
What’s conjecture there? You didn’t see or hear what happened during the rerun election – how they used the Special Anti-Riot Squad?
You don’t believe in DSS, army and the police. Who do you rely on for your security now?
God. We don’t rely on any other person apart from Him. Our people have made up their minds to make sacrifices; freedom requires sacrifice. If I die today because I want to protect the interest of my people, so be it. But to think that I would chicken out, never; I prefer to die for the interest of my people.