Kingsley Wenenda Wali is the Convener of the Rivers Unity House (RUH), an advocacy group within the All Progressives Congress (APC). He spoke with some journalists on issues concerning the 2019 general elections. ANAYO ONUKWUGHA was there for LEADERSHIP.
Doing a little projection about 2019 general elections, considering the violence associated with previous polls, especially in Rivers State, do you have any fear about next year’s elections?
There are fears of possible violence, because our society is still having issues reconciling with the fact that there are civilised ways of resolving issues. In the last few months, I have experienced, first hand, how friends and brothers can actually turn against you, because you hold strong views contrary to theirs. I always prefer working with or supporting people with capacity to deliver, devoid of ethnicity, tribalism or nepotism.
The minds of most people are already poisoned, but I am believing that if we sustain the conversations that will prick their conscience, it is possible for change to be effected. All we have been doing in Rivers Unity House is to remind the youths that on election day, most likely on Saturday, but guns will be given to them on Thursday to shoot or kill people during the poll.
The results will likely be announced on Sunday or Monday and they will still ask the youths to hold the guns on Tuesday, in order to calm down anybody who dares to ask questions about the election.
By the following weekend, the big man who gave guns to the youths to kill the electorate, in order to win the election, may not come back to the youths. I do enjoy the look I see on the faces of the young men, whenever I say that. If we are able to sustain the argument and the elders, chiefs and big men who do not like violence, begin to preach against it, there will be positive changes.
If somebody gives AK-47 rifle of about N500,000 to a youth to kill during election, that same big man, if he actually cares, can easily buy products worth N250,000 for the young man to start a business, if he cannot give the entire N500,000 to him, the youth will positively contribute to societal development, rather than being a burden or threat to the society. If the big man does that for ten youths, four of them will excel.
No youth can ever make anything out of violence. Violence has its tenure and when it expires, the youth will become useless to himself and the society. A heavy thug at 25 years will become a thug at 30, elderly thug at 35 and at 40, the person is done.
Right=thinking members of the society would have forgotten everything about the person who decided to opt for thuggery. A youth can never indicate on his Curriculum Vitae/Resume that he used to be a former thug or he will be paid pension for being a thug.
In 2019, one of my fears is that we are going to have a situation where many people are going to be hungry for power, such that they will do anything and everything to hold onto power. It is up to Rivers people and other Nigerians to get it right, because at the end of the day, we will ask ourselves if the whole fight is about our egos or about the people. If it is actually about governance and the people, nobody will carry gun and kill people to win election.
The big man who bought guns for the youths to kill to win election, must first recoup his money/investment on assumption of office. We will get to 2019 and go beyond it. The elections will definitely hold, but we must bear in mind that violence has become an enterprise in Nigeria and some people are benefitting from it.
As a bonafide member of the APC, I am a Buharist. I believe that Nigerians stand a chance with President Muhammadu Buhari. If Buhari becomes a second-tenure President, we are going to have a National Assembly that APC will be APC and PDP will be PDP. If we have that, there will be no problem with the second tenure of President Buhari, because we will have APC members of the National Assembly who will respect their political party’s position on issues, thereby restoring sanity and ensuring discipline.
The problem of the APC in the 8th Senate and the House of Representatives started the day the party’s leadership opted for particular persons as Senate President and Speaker respectively, while some persons kicked against the choices of their party and they had their way as rebels, with their network of friends across party lines. If APC’s position was respected in June 2015, I do not think things would have been this bad.
Things are this bad in Nigeria, because some people who felt sidelined by the seizure of corruption incorporated, which they used to enjoy, decided to revolt. For things to get better in this country, we need a National Assembly and judiciary that are responsible.\
I can assure you that President Buhari will win the 2019 election very well without stress, because of his integrity and he is not looting Nigeria’s money. There will be no serious challenge to his emerging victorious at the poll next year.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state, members of the National and State Assemblies who defected from the APC to other political parties, I am very sorry for them. All the Senators and members of the House of Representatives who recently defected from the APC, they have said bye-bye to the National Assembly.
As the leader of Rivers Unity House, what is the group about and why have you been moving round the 23 local government areas of Rivers State?
You work in Rivers State and you have lived in Rivers state for a while. If you have been in Rivers state for more than five years, you will easily agree with me that the language of political conversation in Rivers state has become venomous. We felt that it was not doing our state any good, because children and the younger ones were beginning to feel that it was okay for them to hold conversations based on insolence.
You cannot discuss with somebody rationally. People are unable to develop rational arguments from your statements. All they do is to insult people. I sit back and get very hurt, seeing people who are supposed to be elderly watch this kind of sad situation fester.
For example, you are in a group conversation on the social media, especially Facebook, you will see 21 year-old person telling an elderly person to shut up, calling the person an idiot. Meanwhile, there will be another elderly person, in the course of the conversation, who because he has issues with the person being insulted, he will not call the young person to order. It is beginning to become the norm.
Abnormal has become the normal in Rivers State in every way. Discussions should be devoid of threats of violence and real violence. What we have in Rivers State is war, war, war. Rivers State is about the only state in Nigeria now that runs politics from May 29, 2015 to date.
If we continue to allow this type of conversation, when are we going to have conversation that is development-based?
We felt we should remind Rivers people that governance should not just be about battles, but providing services. Not just you sitting back and blaming government, you must put yourself where you enjoy the moral high ground.
In Rivers State, you will go to a political meeting at 9am and the venue is full with young men. That is not normal. That is not popularity. It is a statement of the fact that the state is failing, because if it is a society where people are working or going to school, you will not have people between the vibrant years of 19 and 35 attending political meetings at 9am on Monday morning. We must find a way to tell and remind society that we are destroying the future of our country.
Unfortunately, there is something that is striking here, which I always try to remind people. My generation has messed up Nigeria and especially Rivers State. In those days, elections would be held in Rivers state, houses would not be burnt, nobody would be injured and nobody would die, but nowadays, even town union or Community Development Committee meetings, people get killed.
Rivers Unity House is saying that people who access power must be people who have the capacity to communicate to the people in a way that they can return the communication and everybody is on the same page.
Beyond campaigning for votes for my party, the All Progressives Congress, we equally owe the society a duty to sensitise the people on the need to vote on a rational basis.
It is sad to find a young man who has just left school and he says he is a member of the APC. Membership of a political party is not employment. Politics should not be a profession. When some people describe themselves as professional politicians, that’s another way of saying they are jobless.
A young man who did not study Political Science, but bragging to be a professional politician is simply wasting his time, but it suits the big politicians, because the right questions will not be asked, as the right discussions are not taking place.
Principally, members of Rivers Unity House are trying to educate the people. We can be described as the National Orientation Agency arm of APC. We are starting small in Rivers State, because we have been the biggest victims of negative politics.
When you said Rivers Unity House could be described as the NOA arm of APC, is the group a formal structure within the APC?
Nobody sent us. We sat back and we felt that we had to educate Rivers people. Fortunately, nobody had told us to stop. We are encouraged by the fact that we are having the right conversations. Our primary target is the youths of Rivers State.
What has the feedback been?
Let me put the feedback this way. I was holding a conversation with somebody and he asked how we were able to record the noteworthy achievements, presuming that we must have spent so much money, since we are also advocating that Tonye Cole should run for Rivers State governorship in 2019 and that Tonye Cole must have given us so much money, but I told him that Tonye has not bought for me a teaspoon full of water in my life, never.
I am encouraged by the fact that we move from one local government area to another, in Rivers State with 23 LGAs, without spending a dime. We have not met any negative response. In all the LGAs we earlier visited, we were received very well, people asked many questions and we responded appropriately.
When we went to Abonnema, a man in the second half of his life asked us for money to help us spread the message of peace and encourage the people, but we let him know that the encouragement that we have are the words that we are spreading, just like evangelism, without the need to pay people money. The reception has been very wonderful and quite encouraging, especially from the younger persons.
While you were responding to the last question, you mentioned Tonye Cole, who has been accused of not being a grassroots politician and he was overseas in 2015 during the campaigns and general elections, but now wants to be the governor of Rivers State in 2019. Won’t the decision lead to crisis in the hitherto volatile Rivers State in the Niger Delta?
There will be no crisis. We have looked round, thereby coming to the conclusion that the biggest problem we have in Rivers State is too much politics, with so many people who have nothing else they do, besides politics. We felt that it was time we considered somebody who had something doing and would see the governorship opportunity as a challenge to prove to the whole world that he could do it for Rivers State, as he is doing for himself.
When people refer to some politicians as belonging to the grassroots, while others are not of the grassroots, but the question I always ask them is that: all the grassroots politicians we had in the past, where did they take us? We are yet to see commensurate development in the rural areas.
Why not consider somebody with proven capacity? We must always go for the best in Rivers state, especially somebody who can deliver and who has a sense of shame. Most of our political leaders lack character, they are shameless and mindless, especially stealing what they do not need. That is why we are advocating for Tonye Cole. We are tired of too much politics. We want Rivers State to move forward.
Imagine traditional politicians who do nothing, but simply divert the people’s commonwealth.
Tonye Cole is a private businessman. The Sahara Energy, which he heads, is worth $1.7 billion. I am not sure if the asset of Rivers state is worth $1 billion. Tonye Cole cannot be misappropriating Rivers State’s funds, upon becoming governor, when he has a business that is making more money for him and it will not die if he becomes Rivers state governor, because of the solid foundation and structures put in place.
The President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, in all his theatrics, will not be after USA’s money, because he is a successful businessman, just like Tonye Cole.
When Nigerian governors travel overseas, they will say they are looking for foreign investors, but Tonye Cole is a foreign investor, because many people internationally have dealt with him.
So, he does not need to go to them, for them to know the kind of person they want to do business with. If you want to invest in my community and you hear that my king is a pick-pocket or a street fighter, you will not come, because your investment will not be protected.
We should put somebody in power, who will send the right signal, that Rivers state is ready to do business. Trust me, it is not difficult.
For Rivers State to grow, we need to grow commerce. If we do not grow commerce, we cannot make progress in Rivers state. It is absolutely impossible. It is a no brainer.
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