Kingsley Wenenda Wali is the leader of Rivers Unity House (RUH), a good governance advocacy group within the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with ANAYO ONUKWUGHA, he speaks on a number of issues concerning good governance in the country.
Don’t you think that the rivalry between Senator Magnus Abe and Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi may affect the chances of APC in Rivers State in 2019?
If you were in 2014 and 2015, you would recall the PDP crisis that erupted when Nyesom Wike became the governorship candidate of the party. People went to Abuja to protest and some were even beaten. At the end of the day, they faced the election and ‘won’. That is what is going to happen in APC.
All of this will come and they will go away and the party will go into the election. I dare predict that this coming election of 2019, Rotimi Amaechi, Senator Magnus Abe, Dakuku Peterside, Tonye Cole will be on the same platform campaigning for APC.
Sir, are you not worried about the number of persons that picked gubernatorial forms in APC in Rivers State?
That is democracy, it can never be a problem. In Osun State, over 40 people contested in the governorship election. It has never been an issue. What is the issue is how we conduct ourselves. Politics is a competition; the political process is a competition, contending interests. Nobody will tell you that he is in politics because he wants to run a Father Christmas thing.
Yes, they want to serve the people but they want to serve themselves too. If you find yourself within the political sphere, there are two things; you want to serve the people as well as promote yourself. But the most fundamental thing there is that in doing that, don’t try to endanger the space with this kind of mindset of its either me or nobody. If I don’t get it, I will destroy the whole place and nobody gets it. If you have many candidates running for a particular position in the party, it helps to create vibrancy in the party in the long run. It is in the ultimate interest of the party.
What led to the formation of Rivers Unity House?
Like every idea, it comes like snap of the finger and what is important is if you are able to connect with that idea that moment when it flashed and you hold into it, it is up to you to develop it to a project that can survive all kinds of processes. The Rivers Unity House started more like whenever I am around, my younger friends come to visit me. Some other of my guests come around just to have breakfast together on Saturday mornings. You know because there was no agenda, there was some bonding and in the course of eating and discussing, a couple of ideas will come up and people will discuss issues that are bugging them. Then, I try to explain; try to get people to understand my side of it. I equally try to understand what was bugging them and the perspective they are seeing things.
Of course, with age on my side, I am able to relate a couple of things that happened in my childhood that some of them are not privy to. We arrived at a point where everybody thought that things were fundamentally not right with issues concerning our society. Of course, we all agreed too that there was a need to begin to do something about it.
We were never under any dilution that we had the capacity to change things in one stroke but we believed that in small measures, we can change things. We never knew that things will just happened. That is how we started and we began to add a bit of numbers and people started coming more and all of that. It became like something we were expect every Saturday.
The bonding began; like I said earlier on, it wasn’t driven by any kind of consideration. Nobody came to say we are coming out to run for an election or go and influence contracts or business. It was just a group of people; my younger friends who were not in competition with me. So it was easy for me to relate with them. We share this mutual respect and likeness.
It was an idea that started with bonding especially and common concerns. It got to a point where we began to discuss strongly on issues that affect Rivers State. Of course, the energy in them drove sons of them to a point of, look, let’s try to put this in a structure and stop talking to ourselves. Let’s go out there and start talking to people and try to get people to buy into our line of conversation because we all agree to the fact that the biggest challenge we have in Rivers State quite frankly is the language of conversation.
Everybody has the right to belong to whatever political tendency they want to but the challenge was the language of conversation. We are not saying thing in a civilised manner. We are not disagreeing in a way that is acceptable.
Politics or governance or even social engagements, you have issues, you discuss them. I disagree or agree differently with you doesn’t make you an idiot. It simply means that I am not seeing it from your own perspective. It is your responsibility to try to make me see things rationally. But if you begin by insulting me and calling me an idiot, you have completely dropped me off because I am not going to listen to you against because you have insulted me. Most of the young men in Rivers Unity House turned out to be members of my political tendency. So, it was a little bit easier for us to think along that line and identified somebody in the process, that the guy best addresses our fears. That if we support this person, then, we will have an opportunity live those ideas that we have and the vision that we share. So, that was how we got to a point where we said we are going to market somebody irrespective of what the political class felt. We decided to put him out there, to encourage him. We agreed that even if he has fears, let’s make him know that Rivers people are asking him to run for governor. We did our bit and started telling Rivers people about the story of Tonye Cole.
Will it be right to say that you knew Tonye would be Amaechi’s choice long ago and decided to set up Rivers Unity House?
Incidentally, I have heard stories where people said that the leader of APC in the state, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, confided in me about his preferred choice, Tonye Cole. It is some kind of mixed feeling. Mixed feeling in the sense that it is not fair. What they are saying is that whatever we did was not because we were imaginative, neither were we creative.
You know it is politics; people like to discredit you and do not give you credit for what you have done or what you were able to achieve. But on the other hand, I want to say, why don’t we claim it and say, yes he told us? There might have been some coincidence along the line.
We are not unmindful of the fact that nobody plays politics with the people they are uncomfortable with.
If I said I didn’t know that Tonye Cole has some form of relationship with the leader, I will be lying to you. That is some open secret so to speak. Remember, there was a rumour in 2012 or 2013 that Amaechi had chosen Tonye Cole as his successor. Also remember, there was a fact in 2011 that Tonye Cole was nominated as a minister.
So, it is not like a stupid gambling. We were being realistic; we looked around all the possibilities and said this best serves our purpose. We will run with this and we ran with it with all that we could muster. So, if anybody thinks that we were given an expo, two things like I said earlier, you are trying to discredit us and not giving us credit for the little we were able to achieve because we took time from oblivion in terns of political knowledge of him and even the ordinary man on the street doesn’t know him.
They knew him more internationally than even they know him in Nigeria. What we did was to bring down that knowledge from the international circle, bring it down to Rivers State. Look at the thing you have and you are playing with it; don’t play with it. This is a lifetime opportunity.
Somebody that the international community respects; somebody that the whole world is begging to come and do business with theme. Why shouldn’t we lash unto that and leg him come and do for his state, what he had been doing for other countries. Rivers State needs him more than ever before. I have heard people saying he is not a politician; that is a very lazy commentary.
What is your reaction to the allegation by Governor Wike that Amaechi endorsed Tonye Cole because he is the minister’s business partner?
Without mincing words, I think that was a misguided comment from the governor because he is not a member of the APC. It is not his business how APC chooses its governorship candidate. Let the governor be patient and wait for him at the general election. Then, he can tell the world what he knows about Tonye Cole.
It bothers on some level of busybody for His Excellency to bother about who the APC is fielding. At that point, Tonye Cole is not even the candidate yet. He is an aspirant. Is he saying Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi does not have the right to endorse someone.
Assuming but not conceding that he us Amaechi’s business partner, what is wrong with supporting that has the capacity? You need to know somebody before you begin to understand the person’s capacity. You just go and bring a stranger to come and run the business that you know. Don’t forget that the business of the state is a very serious business.
People who are running the state truly do not understand the word, governance. That’s a fact. I am sorry, I need to get a little bit blunt here. If they realise that governance is about the people; it is about what you put down for long term benefit of the people. We must get out of this personal attack by politicians. It is not the issue.
The issue is what are you doing as my governor? What are you doing as senator in the Red Chamber? I don’t expect a Senator, a House of Representatives member or a House of Assembly member to give me contract but I expect them to say this is what I achieved as a lawmaker to make the society a better place.
Every member of the Rivers State House of Assembly should be ashamed of themselves. You live in this state, when last did you see the Rivers State budget? That is about four years ago. So what are they doing in the House? The governor will even respect you more when you do your job. So, these are the issues.
Let’s say the State Houses of Assembly are a bit of fair side-kicks of the executive arm of the state. it is like that in most of the states. But the the difference is that this current Rivers State House of Assembly does not sit; they don’t go to work. You see them at different hotels.
I think (Martins) Mannah, the guy who decamped from PDP to APC a while a go, said that he can’t remember the Assembly members going for any kind of workshop or seminar. What they do is what they stay and somebody will say, Oga said we should do this.
Hate Saraki or love him; hate Dogara or love him, they have been able to prove to the world that if the legislative arm decides to do their job, they have something to offer. The executive arm of government cannot railroad all of us. They may not have done it in the interest of the nation, but they have shown the the National Assembly can make the executive sit up just like the State House of Assembly can make the state executive to sit up.
If you ask 100 Rivers people, they don’t even know who the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly is. During the eight years of former Governor Odili, there is no Rivers man that didn’t know Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as the Speaker then, or Tonye Harry, who was his deputy.
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