The national President of Ijaw Progressive Agenda, Comrade Richard Akinakah is sure Nigerians have become more politically conscious and would want them to take it a notch higher by eschewing religious and ethnic sentiments in choosing leaders in the 2015 polls. He wants people to vote based on their assessment of performance, especially between President Goodluck Jonathan of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He also spoke of plans to hold political appointees from Ijaw nation accountable and sanction non performing ones. In this chat with Ahamefula Ogbu he spoke on the threat by Ijaw PDP Elders to PDP to drop Nyesom Wike, performance of Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, Prophesy that Jonathan won’t win 2015 polls by Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka, allegations of corruption against Jonathan’s regime and what he called deception by managers of the nation’s economy as well as dangers of not funding the amnesty programme properly
The Presidential elections just less than a month away arguably is the most topical issue in the country now. While some have waxed philosophical, others are appealing to ethnic, religious sentiment and still some are churning out message that bother on near lies and blackmail to sway voters but in all the cacophony, Akinakah feels Nigeria had come to a cross road to live above that and go for who would be a better instead of appealing to the kinsman oppressor principle. He feels that those who think it was better to have their brothers of religious affiliates in positions even when they lacked the capacity to perform was wrong.
Asked how he thinks people should vote on the Presidential elections he said “I think Buhari and Jonathan are two statesmen. I have a strong feeling about Buhari’s eligibility to contest a democratic election because he once overthrew a democratically elected government but considering the times, the phase of this country when that incident took place; it was in the phase of military incursions into governance. I see him not as an only perpetrator of that crimes, but I have come to realise that the phase in our development of the country and I seem not to count it against him. But my concern is the ability of a particular leader to perform and to me this is beauty for democracy as we now have basis to assess a true candidate from the two major parties. As at 2011 when Goodluck contested with Buhari, there was no basis to compare them because Goodluck had just spent a few months in office; now there is a basis for that comparison. Buhari capability has been assessed as he ruled this country though without legislative control and constraint for close to two years and he has his records for everybody to see. Goodluck has ruled this country for almost six years now; so there is basis for comparison and it is now left for Nigerians; we should take ethnicity and religion out of this, there is a basis for comparison now, it is a time for us to sit down and compare. What did Buhari do when he was head of state for two years or thereabout? Did he do things that hold promise for this country? Was he able to hold the country together economically, security-wise? Goodluck has been President for the past six years, he has done certain things, he has performed to certain level; looking at his performance as President now, comparing what Buhari did as head of state without legislative bottleneck to wear him down, so let’s look at them based on performance what they hold for this country, any of them that holds better promise for us, lets vote for the person for Nigeria to move forward. If you think Buhari based on his performance as past head of state and his personal character holds a better future for this country, vote for him. We should look beyond ethnic and religious lines”.
He argued that due to some considerations and permutations, the best materials for such positions were still shying away from the contest but would want Nigerians to wisely choose between the two. His contention however is that people should hold their leaders and representatives accountable, even with threats of sanctions to make them hold power in trust of the people in a way that would positively rob off on them, a reason he floated the Ijaw Progressive Agenda which he said was a regional group made up progressive persons within the Ijaw ethnic nationalities to re-appraise how they have fared as the remaining four years, 2015 to 2019 held a lot for their people.
“It is not about an individual but the collective interest of Ijaws as a people and how we are faring among other ethnic nationalities are we at peace? For instance, there was an EPZ project that was supposed to be commissioned in Delta State and because of ethnic conflicts, the project was not commissioned. The aim of Ijaw Progressive Agenda is to create a platform to appraise us as a people and work out how we can live in harmony with other people without rancour. We are not a political group. Have we made progress and what is the next phase? We know that the era of militancy is over and nobody wants to go back to the creeks to carry guns anymore.
“We will obviously come against those who did not touch the lives of the people, we have such people, ministers whose villages have no primary schools, people who when their people visit them in their offices, they will round them up and lock them in police stations because they have the contacts. The time has come to hold them accountable. It will come to a point that when such people will die and we will reject their corpses but we don’t want it to get to that, that is why we formed this forum to wake them up so they can reach out to their people”, he said.
On the allegations of corruption leveled against the Jonathan administration by two former Heads of State, Ibrahim Babangida and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, with IBB saying the corruption in the present regime made what happened in his regime look like acts of a saint, he replied, “I don’t know on what basis IBB is making his comment, but clearly, it was an open knowledge that IBB’s regime was involved in open corruption, the Gulf windfall and the rest of it, but as an elder statesman if he has come to make such statement, I think it puts a lot of moral burden on this administration. These are former heads of States that served this country and if they are coming to say such grievous things about this administration, I think the onus lies with this administration to clear such things. I am not in any capacity to understand the nature of corruption they are talking about but these comments coming from statesmen are not to be treated with levity and it is time the government of the day should come out and clear its name. We know issues of interest are at stake and that is why the government should clear its name. Some of us are worried with the fall in oil prices and if these allegations are true, then it gives us cause to worry and as a responsible government, it should make Nigerians understand that these things are not true and if they are true, they should take responsibility. These statesmen cannot just wake up and level these allegations. Politically I feel IBB is supporting the President, so I don’t see him as someone who will come and make a vexed statement because he wants to come and make it. It lies with the government of the day to use concrete evidence to debunk it.
“We learnt of the missing $20 billion as alleged by former Governor of the Central Bank and all that and people are still asking questions, the government should clear the air. I think it lies with the national Assembly although like in the power probe, they were probing and before you know it, they were involved and today we are no longer talking about it. I learnt there was an audit report and we are yet to hear more about it. I am personally concerned the way the Sure-P funds is being handled; people like us applying without any result and yet they say they are giving people loans and jobs and we are not seeing them. The concern is that some private companies, like me, I have over 50 employees but we have been applying without any result. I don’t think the present Minister of Finance is helping this administration. What she is telling Nigerians is not what we are feeling, there is a big gap between what she claims is happening to the economy from what Nigerians are seeing. The President should look deeply into what is happening and correct any wrong, nobody is indispensable or has monopoly of knowledge. She should stop telling us lies because we are the people bearing the brunt of what she is saying”.
Asked to substantiate the allegations of lies against the minister, Akinakah said, “When she says our GDP is growing and that she has provided millions of jobs, is that not what we see only on TV? It is not to gather people in a hall and say you are giving them facilities; where are their businesses on ground let us see them? Every day we see people on TV saying this and that, if they are employing people where are there, let us see them on ground. Those things are deceits, you can’t see them”.
Although he does not like joining issues with “men of God”, he opted to digress a bit to comment on the prophesy by Reverend Father Mbaka in Enugu State that President Jonathan would not win 2015 election shortly after he had predicted he would win when the first lady visited him.
“To me, he was campaigning for Buhari and APC. He has the right to hold his own opinion but because of the office he occupies as a prophet, he has different means of passing a message; to me, that was an open campaign. Well that is the irony of politicians, the day the first lady went there they told her what she wanted to hear and he used the same visit she visited him against her by saying he released pigeons and one didn’t fly and that the one that did not fly was President Jonathan, that is the problem. As a “man of God”, I expected he would exercise restraint, especially in the content of the message he wanted to pass.”, he regretted.
On the threat by Ijaw elders that it would move against PDP in Rivers if it did not substitute Wike with a riverine guber candidate, he accused the elders of playing God and fumed, “Where were there when Wike was playing his politics? In politics nothing is given, everything is taken. Before the primaries, Wike had toured all the Local government areas in the State, some of the aspirants did not; were they expecting the President to hand over the ticket to one of them? In democracy, parties are supreme. There are three interests that rule in political circles, national interest, party interest and personal interest but unfortunately in Nigeria, personal interest appears to override other interests whereas national interest has to come first. I don’t care where a governor or President comes from, all I care is who will develop and put food on peoples’ tables. Today if my brother is contesting with someone who has better abilities to rule this country or state, I will tell my brother that I don’t think he can rule the state. We should get to a point that we should stop playing ethnic cards. If those candidates are popular, they should join another party and become their candidates like Labaran Maku did in Nassarawa State. I support him as a PDP man with all at my disposal. He consulted and moved round.
He dismissed Governor Seriake Dickson as a poor performer who was not prepared for power when he was drafted to rule the state, pointing out that, “he was not prepared to be a governor, he was supposed to be a House of Representatives member representing Sagbama federal constituency. Political exigencies played out and he became a governor so what. Bayelsa State is wealthy enough to sustain itself but there is hunger in the air. How can you withhold peoples salary in a festive period and decide to pay salary on the 24th. How can you build a flyover and tipper cannot drive under it? It is not for me to decide, it is for Bayelsa people to decide but in my opinion, he won’t get a second term
On the lull encountered by the amnesty programme, Akinakah explained that the training was not about giving them N65,000 stipends, but about giving the people a form of livelihood, adding, “We are worried,. In every government there are priority projects that must be considered. The stipend is supposed to stop once the training and equipment of the boys was done but because it has not been done, the stipend payment has continued, that is not the way it should be. I hope 2015 will be better. When the programme started, every weekend, they were being mobilised for training. I raised this with Kinsgley Kuku and he complained about funding, that they receive funds on monthly basis instead of quarterly and after paying stipends what is left is not enough to carry out new projects like training; that sometimes the monthly allocations does not even come complete”