Amidst speculations that he would run for the governorship of Rivers State, Minister of State for Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, spoke to journalists in Port Harcourt, the state capital and declared that no politician can beat him if decides to contest the election next year. Ernest Chinwo presents excerpts of the interview
There have been calls for you to contest the 2015 governorship election but you’re yet to respond. Is it that you are afraid to declare?
Well, like you said, there have been calls for me to run for the election, based on what they considered as me being the appropriate person that the cap fits. Having said that, you also must make a wide consultation; you don’t say because people have called on you to run and then you jump in. You have to know how the situation is – you discuss with people; you discuss with family and you discuss with friends. And, at the end of the day, you weigh them and see whether the options tilt in your favour. If that happens, then you can come up for an election.
So, it is not just about people calling on you to run; people have been calling on President Goodluck Jonathan and a lot of other people to run. But as a good politician, you have to look at what is going on; you have to know whether you are really grounded before coming up. Of course, for me, the issue of being afraid – take it away. It is not in my dictionary to be afraid of anything. I mean this life is just once. At the appropriate time, you don’t have to worry, you will hear from me.
It is important that one must say what he has in mind. I also know that, up till now, I am a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, if I want to heed the call of the people, it automatically means I have to resign from the Federal Executive Council. For now, I am consulting but I must thank those who have made several calls because they found something in me that can make me work very effectively and efficiently. So, it does not call for alarm. At the appropriate time, everybody will know what we have in mind.
What informed the recent speculation that you had resigned from the cabinet?
Why should that bother you? Why is it that everybody is interested in this man; that he resigned or that he has done this or that? Who is planting all these stories? That tells you that is the man everybody should watch; that tells you that is the man the other parties are afraid of. Some people will say, ‘please resign, please don’t resign’. But I have not resigned; I am still working. I was on the ground the other day when I received this girl, Malala. So what tells you that I have resigned?
Some people said they have told me not to run. When is the primary? Who has collected form? Have they brought all the political programmes before anybody will say run or don’t run? But let me say one thing: assuming I want to run, why would someone tell me not to run? What kind of politics is that? Why should somebody be afraid and say don’t run? Why is it that such a person does not want to face me? All I hear in politics is, ‘please, tell him not to run’ and not that you will defeat him. I expected people to say, ‘run but we will defeat you’. Of course, you know that nobody will defeat me if, at the end of the day, I decided to run.
But I have not resigned. Somebody called me from the Nigerian Tribune and said is it true I have problem with the president and I said why? People should understand politics. I am still a minister; I have not been removed and I am still the Minister of State for Education. If you are a good politician, you should know what is going on.
You journalists should also be politicians. The fact that you are journalists does not mean you are not politicians in your own little way. So, why is everybody worried? What is the problem? Assuming that I want to run, won’t I resign? Don’t worry; there are so many people in the Federal Executive Council who want to run. At the appropriate time, they will also resign. So, I am not worried.
What if the party leadership asks you to please…? (cuts in)
Who are those that would ask? Why would the national leadership of the party say so? There must be a parameter. How many people at the national told me not to run for election? The point is this, in any of the states, mention one person that the PDP national leadership has told not to run for election. Part of the beauty of democracy is that the national leadership would want everybody to come onboard and test their popularity.
There is one thing that people must understand; I read a lot of things where some people say, ‘it is our turn to produce the governor or whatever’. Assuming that what you are saying is correct, does that stop another person from coming out? What it means is that you should face the person at the elections. That is the important thing. Most of them who say the governorship has been zoned to them – can they win in their local government area? I can tell you that if I declare today that I want to run, none of all those that are claiming it is their turn would win me in their various wards. So, if you cannot win me in your ward, which person’s vote are you going to use to win me in the election?
Let’s take, for example, the Ogonis, we have Tai, Eleme, Gokana and Khana- four local government areas. Those who want to run there, under PDP, which of them can win me? Come to the riverine area in Andoni, who wants to run there? I heard of a retired Major. Come to Opobo, who wants to run? Come to Bonny, who wants to run? Come to Akuku Toro; I read it yesterday (Sunday) that Dagogo-Jack said he wants to run. There is also Walson-Jack, Lulu-Briggs. But which of them will beat me in their various wards if I want to run?
And what gives you such confidence?
This is my game. I have been chairman (local government) since 1999. There is nobody I don’t know in the various wards across the state. You know I headed the campaign committee of (Governor Chibuike) Amaechi in 2011, is there any ward or any local government area that I cannot call the politician? In each of the wards, I am not even talking about the local government now, I know who matters; I know those that will decide what will happen. It is not by internet postings; it is not for you to just post something on the internet.
As I tell you now, if I decide today that I want to run for election, check these local governments, why should everybody be depending on endorsement? You don’t want to go to your various wards and local governments to build the party and for the people to have confidence in you and then make you to win elections. Each time, you leave Port Harcourt and fly to Abuja, looking for endorsement. When you have been endorsed, who will make you to win the general election? Mention any of them and I can tell you who their ward chairman is. As I sit here, from my Ward 1 to Ward 17, I know the entire ward chairmen; I know all the party chairmen in the 23 local government areas; I know the state executive committee.
I challenge you, who are the members of the state executive committee? Who are the members of the party in the 23 local government areas? How do their wards function? It is not by going to all the newspapers to take adverts to say ‘it is our turn’. The issue is, how far have you gone to make PDP strong for that their turn to be realised? At the appropriate time, we will see.
But what I am trying to let you know is that no amount of blackmail, no amount of intimidation, if I decide to do something, nobody can stop me from doing it. You know this is far from it. And I know where all this is coming from. You are aware that when the All Progressives Congress (APC) said that if PDP brings me, it will be better for them. Instead of them to thank God that He has buttered their bread, now it is a problem. Yes, I am a minister in Abuja but every week, I am at home.
Today, I was in three local government areas in Khana, trying to talk to people to have confidence and move on. I am happy that people are at home, talking about running elections in PDP today. When Amaechi left, which of them will say they will run elections in PDP if we did not come to see that the party remains strong? Amaechi wrote us and gave us quit notice in the PDP state secretariat but we said we cannot quit because it is our property.
We have had not less than 45 cases in court. How many of them brought a dime to sustain the battle? We have had members of the state House of Assembly who are not participating in Government House legislative businesses. They are not earning salaries. How many of them have asked, ‘what is happening to you (the lawmakers)? How many of them have gone to their wards to say, ‘how do we mobilise our people?
Just today, I have seen people write on the pages of the newspapers, saying, ‘my sole aim is to make Jonathan to win election’. How will Jonathan win when you don’t go to your various wards to mobilise the people? All their people and relations have defected to APC; what influence do they have on them?
I am from Obio/Akpor Local Government Area; the two members of the state legislature cannot go to APC; the National Assembly person cannot go to APC. That shows you are on the ground and that you have influence in your area. You are well aware that my local government chairman never moved to anywhere. So, it is not all talking about ‘it is my family’s turn to produce this or it is my mother’s womb to produce this’. You should be able to show how you can.
You heard Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (Emir of Kano) when he was the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). He said he preferred to be the Emir and he had planned how to achieve this. He did not do this in just one day; he was never sleeping and saying, ‘I am from the royal home and therefore when it comes, it will come to me’. He knows that it is not done that way. So those who say they are supporting Jonathan now, I thank them but what have done to ensure that he wins election.
They were all going to the Government House, dining and wining. Some of them came to me and said, ‘look, you are taking a big risk, you cannot challenge a sitting governor. He will run you out of the place’. Today, they are all saying they want to run on the platform of PDP. That shows you the amount of work we have done. How many of them will want to run in APC? I am happy; in fact, I want more people to come and indicate their interest. But at the appropriate time, we would be there.
Some PDP members allege lack of internal democracy and attribute this to your overbearing influence in the party?
What is called internal democracy? You people should help me in order to have a better understanding. First of all, I am not the party chairman. Do I need to stop you from going to the party to say ‘what are your problems? I want to assist to build the party’. Do you need to come to me? The party chairman is there and the office is there; they have his phone numbers. They can ask, ‘chairman, how are you people surviving or how do you handle your workers?
You don’t have a government; how do you pay their allowances?’ Do you need to meet me? In your ward, you cannot go to your chairman and ask, ‘chairman, what is happening? How do we call for a meeting? How do we help in one way or the other?’ Do you need to meet me? You don’t know the name of your local government party chairman; you cannot call him to ask, ‘how are you doing in terms of mobilisation?’
It is not all about funding. They also claimed you have hijacked the party?
Hijacked from whom? Some of these questions they asked, you people you should help me to answer them. I hijacked the structure from whom? Somebody must be having it and I went to hijack it. Where were they when somebody was hijacking it? Let me tell you, they were here when this young man (Rivers PDP chairman) went to court to challenge that he was robbed of victory. How many of them went to challenge it? Assuming Amaechi is in PDP, how many of them can even bring up their heads and say they want to run for elections? You and I know.
This young man went to court that he was robbed.
Why did they not file an action to say they are interested party? And this man said, ‘look at the result sheet, as signed by the electoral panel. These are the people who won the election’. The court upheld it. So where is the hijacking coming from? I have heard people say I went to court to get judgment. It is funny. The simple truth is that I never went to any court. Some people went to the Court of Appeal, challenging the decision of the FCT High Court, led by Justice Bello.
In doing that, they also said Felix Obuah is not the chairman but the chairman of a faction of the party. Knowing the implications of that, that APC will cause crisis in PDP, what they did was to say, ‘court, we are afraid of what was going on. By the judgment of Justice Bello, this is what is supposed to be. Therefore, the court maintained that all the electoral processes that are supposed to take place in the state, if they are to do elections by venue, it is the executive committee of the party here that will say this is where the venue will be. The register of the party is as determined by the executive committee.’
What those people were trying to say is that they have the membership register. So all they will do, in order to bring crisis to PDP, is to say, ‘look, we have held our own congress and primaries and the other faction has held its own’. And what do you think will happen in that case? As it happened in Anambra State where Andy Uba and others had their primary in another, there would be litigation.
We should not be here and allow what happened in Anambra to happen. Therefore, we must determine what will happen. When they filed to join in the matter, they told the court that they have already got an appeal and as such, cannot determine the case and the court said you are right and that they will wait for the outcome of the appeal before the judgment would be given.
Behold, the Court of Appeal gave judgment and it struck out the appeal. Based on this, the lower court now said these are the authentic people and therefore everything that has to do with the electoral process of PDP must be as determined by them. That is to say where election is to take place, the venue must be determined by the committee; the membership register must be the one determined by the committee and they went ahead to say that INEC must be restrained not to go to any other venue to supervise any election other than the one that the committee has identified. That was what happened and not less than five Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) were involved in this matter. But some people go back to say I have bought judgment.
The truth of the matter is that if you want to be a politician, you don’t just go to the house and begin to check how many barrels of oil wells your father has produced. You don’t say, ‘I am in Abuja working with the president to check the electricity tariffs’. It is not enough to say, ‘oh, I am related to one governor in the Niger Delta or I am related to those who are close to the president.’ You must be related to the grassroots; if not, no amount of sentiments will save you.
Have you ever seen any election where somebody will tell you, ‘let some people not run, let us only run? Disqualify him’. People who know me very well, if I want to contest election, do I look like somebody that people will say go and disqualify? In my chairmanship election, the history is there. I was the first person who went to the Supreme Court.