Mr. Kingsley Wenenda Wali is the Leader of Rivers Unity House, an advocacy group with the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State. In this interview with ANAYO ONUKWUGHA, he spoke on rise in politics of bitterness in the state.
Sir, what led to the formation of Rivers Unity House?
Let me put it this way, they say when good men keep quiet in the face of evil, the evil-minded people triumph. Silence is the biggest weapon the oppressor uses. And apart from the definitive oppressor-type this, there is this other type of when bad things are happening and you keep quiet as if it is not your business. It gets to a point when it becomes your business when everything goes bad.
To relate that to the union which I am part of, we got to a point when we felt that the way our people were going, if nothing was done, the abnormal will become normal. People will begin to see things as the way we do it. In fact, we have gotten to that point where somebody will tell you don’t worry, that is the way we do it and all of that. We felt at some point that we should at least make our own contribution by telling our story, our perspective and how we see what is happening on our country, particularly in Rivers State.
Let me tell you something, you find out that we are a very proud people and that incidentally is what people who do not understand the true story of Rivers people, say Rivers people are lazy, no. It has much to do that we try as much as possible not to get into people’s faces and get into people’s own territorial area, just okay with you as long as you are happy with that.
Now, it got to a situation where it became a normal thing to become aggressive, we could no longer hold civilised conversations. Everything was brutal, everything was more like fight, we couldn’t hold an opinion and people respected the opinion, you have to be attacked for having the temerity to hold an opinion so long that the opinion is not the opinion the other person is favourable with. More of less like, so long I think differently from you, then I am a bad person and I must be brought down and destroyed. So, we felt that we should try and put a stop to that.
If you have noticed, this is one state that plays politics from May 29 Inauguration to another May 29 Inauguration. Well, politics is something people get involved in; some out of passion, and some believe that it is a vehicle for rendering service. But, you ask yourself, this level of viciousness that has become part of our politics, it makes you question the motive. Because if politics is about service to people, you don’t need to kill the people to serve them. When you finish killing them, who will you serve then?
We have changed the entire value system in place. You see a young man and you ask him what are do you do? He will tell you I am in APC, I am in PDP. PDP, SDP, APC or whatever has now become a vocation. You see that the sense of entitlement when you get involved in that. It is that fear of loosing that entitlement that is making a lot of people get very vicious with their conversations.
How do you intend to convince people to be less aggressive in their conversations?
So, what we are trying to say is that we can play politics, but let’s play politics in a civilized way where you respect my opinion and I will respect yours. And it is so bad that it is no longer inter-party, the level of vicious politics is even worse intraparty, which is why you see the high turnover of people who jump from one party to the other. Within the party, you see the level of aggression: when you get to social media, you see what is happening there. Then you ask yourself, is it really about the people?
So, we sat down and agreed that we should try as much ax possible to see if we can influence the type of conversation that it decent, that is issues-based and not vicious and personal. Mind you, if you have noticed, I have been very repetitive of the word, vicious because that is what it is. When you say something to destroy that person, you are not saying it to prove his is wrong, you are not saying it to correct him, you want to destroy him. You on your own create scenarios and stories that never existed just to make that person look horrible.
We are saying no; you can be part of politics and be part of public discourse, but you don’t need to destroy other people. For example, it is my democratic right to be a member of the APC. It doesn’t mean that I should be enemy to somebody who is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It is wrong, it is s wrong approach to politics. There are certain issues that you must agree on. For example, look at our state today, there has been this talk about who started a road and who completed it. That shouldn’t be the language of conversation. It is about governance.
By the way, who says that governance is about road construction and why should we spend the whole four years debating who constructed roads and who did not construct roads? It means that we are not even asking the right questions. For example, I say it anywhere I go; when last did you hear about ruling plan, development plan whereby the state does something? They are more bothered about developing a master plan. And then, one governor comes, rules four years or eight years and another person comes in. There is something to work with, the basis for which anybody can ask questions. Not when you just come and you rule the state by instinct. You are spontaneous about anything that concerns ruling the state and not governance. What we have in most states especially Rivers State is rule and not governance. I don’t know when last you heard about Rivers State budget.
You see, because the whole atmosphere is fouled with the wrong conversation, people are not asking the proper questions. How can you be in charge of the commonwealth of a state, people don’t know how you come about some of the projects you are embarking on, they don’t know how you execute them. You just come and tell them that you did so so roads and it cost so so amount of money. For crying out loud, there is something called budget and that is what people should relate with and say, okay, what is provided for this project in the budget. If it is N10 million, there are people who would ask, how could you have done this with N10 million? But it is just a function of everybody is left in the dark. Nobody seems to know whatever anybody is doing.
We just feel that the time is now for us to be able to let people know that they should be part of the discussion. So that you can ask the right questions and create the enabling environment for the right questions to be asked. Asking questions like, yes you are doing this, what is the nexus between this thing you started to do and getting a society that is welfare-driven, a society that is people oriented and most importantly, for example, what are you doing to create commerce?
Do you think the social media will help?
Let me quickly point out something to you; if you notice on Facebook, which is a popular social media space, you realise that if you are in support of Wike, the only way can make any point is to insult Amaechi. If you are in support of Amaechi, the only way you think you can make a point is to insult Wike. If you keep insulting them it gets to a point that they will not even get worried about it. So, even when you are saying the right thing, they will just dismiss it.
You will see a little boy of about 17 years or 18 years or 19 years that has phone and has data, he will be saying the governor is an idiot; oh, the governor is a thief. That shouldn’t be heard. Unfortunately, you find senior citizens so to speak, the elderly ones, the older ones who are on the same communication medium and they won’t say, stop that, don’t do it again. People easily forget that you are likely to make sense when you talk about issues and not about the person. We thought that it is possible to hold this conversation by not insulting anybody.
How come Rivers Unity House is advocating for the emergence of Tonye Dele Cole as next governor?
We have gotten to the point where we say, fine, our state has been so politicised. What do we do? It is one thing to say something is wrong, it is another thing to provide the vehicle to correct that thing. And that was the point when some of us sat down and said this is the time to look for Rivers men and women who cab best offer service without thinking about self. We looked at those who had accomplished in what they had been able to do for themselves. People that started something and completed it. For example, if you have never created employment for two people, you can create for 20 people.
So, at that point, our ambition of creating a Rivers State that is run on civilised reflexes led us into a campaign or advocacy for one of us.
When I say one of us, I mean a Rivers son, who is accomplished to come and see how he can best translate that thing which he had done for himself into helping the society grow. That is how we got to campaigning and advocating for Tonye Cole to run for the governorship of Rivers State under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Sir, is this particular personality the only accomplished person in Rivers State?
It is like saying you want to get to the airport to fly. A lot of thing affect your decision when you want yo fly. Either the way the cabin crew treat their customers of the way the aircrafts are able to weather the turbulence in the air or how the ground staff are able to manage the timing and all that. That helps you to make up your mind. Somebody may make up his mind to fly only Nigerian Airways. So there is a thousand and one Rivers people who will possibly do as Tonye Cole will do as he runs and wins as governor of Rivers State.
But again, we took a lot of things into consideration. One was his backgroup; his capacity to develop from scratch. Then, his network of friends. Who is that person who is there, who is qualified, does not have baggages and has a network of friends that won’t make him running around the whole places looking for investors. We thought that he is one of the few we could easily identify considering the fact that he has been part of politics. Because he won’t get out of his spare of knowledge and start looking for people to come and tell him be part of the process.
You hear about governors running round the whole world looking for investors, but we thought that we have a man whose name alone will attract investors.
Is membership of Rivers Unity House drawn from the APC alone or are members of other political parties allowed?
Our membership is within the APC because one of the reasons why we formed the Rivers Unity House was because we wanted to provide a vehicle for people who are tired aggressive politics, people who are looking for opportunity to ventilate without people shouting them down or trying to oppress them for holding an opinion. We were tired of all the we against them type of politics.
APC in Rivers State has gone through a lot of kinds of intrigues and so on. People have taken this whole thing too personal. That instead of this person, I will destroy the house. We are a movement that operate as the middle of both the left and the right.
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