From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Amidst the hue and cry over the zoning of the 2023 presidency, a former Governor of Rivers State, Sir Celestine Omehia, has said that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will make its position known in no distant time.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, Omehia declared that the chances of the PDP displacing the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2023 is realizable.
Amongst other issues, Omehia opened up on the rumoured planned defection of former President Goodluck Jonathan to the APC, the insecurity bedeviling the country, his relationship with his successor and current Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike. Excerpt:
In 2007, you tried to become governor of Rivers State, you got in and after few months, court scuttled your efforts for Rotimi Amaechi. Those issues that made you to vie for governor, have they been addressed by Amaechi and Governor Nyesom Wike?
Issues in administration of governance depend on the leadership of the government. They could be issues conceived before vying for the position or issues arising from the circumstance of the administration and also issues that your team members are meant to implement or determine. Before I was elected as governor, I had conceived ideas for the urgent and very important needs of the people of Rivers State. This was because of my close relationship with my predecessor and mentor, Dr. Peter Odili. Therefore, when I was elected to succeed him, I had to put the ideas and issues into the administration and hit the ground running. In a similar way, the current administration of Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is implementing his good plans for the development and growth of Rivers State, particularly for the economic and political wellbeing of the people of the state. I must unequivocally say that Nyesom Wike is an excellent administrator and a politician who implements the needs of the people of Rivers State as a whole.
Do you have any regret not completing your tenure as governor of Rivers State?
No, no, no, I do not have any regrets for not completing my tenure because God Almighty who is all-knowing has reasons for pulling me out at the time he did. Though, I had good ideas and plans for the development of the state encapsulated in my five-point agenda with the acronym “SHIRE” contract. This simply means: Social Contract; Human development and Quality of Life Agenda; Infrastructural Development Agenda; Rural and Agricultural Development Agenda; and Economic Empowerment and Poverty Reduction Agenda. All these would have made a whole lot of difference, but no regrets. The administration of Chief Nyesom Wike has done better and greater things for the people of Rivers State. I have said I have no regrets on how my tenure ended and I am eternally grateful to God and the good people of Rivers State who gave me that opportunity to serve. I have received countless awards for that short period of service and would rather prefer to continue to thank God for that opportunity.
What is your relationship with Amaechi and Wike?
Oh yes, I have a perfect relationship with Governor Nyesom Wike as a person and an excellent relationship with the administration which he heads. We relate as friends, brothers and political associates. In all honesty, I have learnt a lot of political ideas from him and vice versa. Nyesom is a born politician. Rotimi Amaechi is my younger brother and we relate as brothers in our family, but obviously we disagree politically and have different political ideology.
How would you compare the eight years of Amaechi and the over six years of Wike in Rivers State?
I was not in Rivers State during the administration of Rotimi Amaechi, so I cannot perfectly talk of his administration. But I can say that the present administration of Nyesom Wike is excellent in all ramifications and Dr. Peter Odili has said that “Nyesom has done better.”
We understand that you are the one frustrating reconciliation with Amaechi. Is it true?
No, no, no, you are not correct. Amaechi and I have only met once in the past 15 years. This was during the burial of our elder brother, Charles in Ubima in 2020. I believe that there is time for everything. It is not yet Uhuru.
The politics of Rivers State: PDP has been able to hold sway because of the political stature of Wike even when the state was a battle ground during the 2015 and 2019 elections. Now that Wike is leaving, do you think Rivers State will not fall to other parties, particularly the APC?
PDP has always held sway in Rivers State since its inception. The administration of Rivers State has always been in the portfolio of PDP. I must say without fear of contradiction that PDP has always delivered the dividends of democracy in Rivers State. The people of Rivers State have always resisted the intrusion by other parties even when soldiers and other military personnel were deployed to thwart the people’s mandate in 2019. This is always so because PDP has always presented the best candidate and the candidates have always performed in their social contract with the people of the state. As a former governor and experienced politician, I can testify that the Nyesom Wike administration has done excellently well. His performance will definitely be an edge and an added advantage in the favour of PDP in the next election of 2023. His records in infrastructural development, security, urban and rural development, human resources development, including his political prowess, is an advantage which no other party can afford. This will be only for the benefit of PDP in Rivers State. In any case, there is no serious party in Rivers State that can rival PDP. APC is at the verge of extinction in Rivers State since all her members have willingly and joyfully joined PDP. We are waiting to receive the two major leaders of the two factions in Rivers State. Therefore, 2023 election will see PDP as the winning party in Rivers.
The tussle in the PDP regarding the presidency and the chairmanship of the party which we have seen where it is going; people have said the presidency should go to the South, particularly, the Southeast and now, we are seeing the North showing interest. What is your opinion? And what is the position of PDP on zoning?
Talking about zoning in PDP, it is a constitutional matter. We also know that a zoning committee was set up and a zoning arrangement was concluded except the presidency or the offices of the legislative houses. The zoning of the National Working Committee was successfully concluded and the National Executive Committee of the party has accepted the report and the zones are already implementing the NEC directive. We shall soon take a decision on the zoning of the presidency. These are the internal affairs of the party. It is a gradual process and we are progressing. The steps taken so far are further uniting the party and breeding peace and understanding within PDP. As usual, PDP leads the way in political arrangements and others follow.
The ability of the PDP coming to the centre again after losing power to APC in 2015, is it something that is realizable?
Of course, yes. I must say absolute yes. Nigerians have realized the falsehood with which APC used in getting their votes. Democracy cannot triumph on falsehood. Therefore, APC has lost the confidence of reasonable Nigerians. PDP is the only hope of Nigerians for the return of democracy and the benefit therein. The implosion of APC is another factor that will keep the party permanently disunited. Selfish and egoistic interest will not allow unity in APC. So, both internally and externally, APC can no longer stand as a party. God is with us in PDP, which is why you can see the bad eggs who could not withstand the political strength of the good people in the party have left to join their colleagues in APC. “Birds of same plumage flock together.” I can say here and now that PDP will lead Nigeria and Nigerians to political, economic and democratic freedom in 2023.
There are rumours that former President Goodluck Jonathan will likely go to the APC to contest for the presidency. Will this not jeopardise the chances of PDP?
About former President Goodluck Jonathan joining APC remains a rumour. He has not come out to tell the world that he is leaving PDP. My last check, the former president is still a bonafide member of PDP. He must be accorded his due respect. We should credit him with the intelligence that he will not destroy the reputation and the international image he has built in the years past as a leader and mentor in PDP. As a General in the Army, he cannot pick his gun and fire against the soldiers he is leading to war.
Insecurity is escalating every day across the country. Are you not bothered that this can hamper elections in 2023?
Yes, insecurity is the bane in Nigeria today. It looks like Nigeria is in a state of war; from East to the West, from North to the South, nowhere is secure. This is the result of maladministration in Nigeria. I believe that these people will put down their arms of war during the election in 2023 to push out APC who is their major enemy in government.
What method did you deploy to tackle insecurity during your stint in Rivers State that you think the Federal Government can emulate?
You mean the method we applied as government of Rivers State? We applied the “carrot and stick” method where we set up a Peace and Rehabilitation Committee who talked with the cult groups and made them appreciate the need to embrace peace and unite with the people of Rivers State. This method snowballed into the establishment of the Presidential Peace and Conflict Resolution Committee for the Niger Delta, a mirror version of the State Committee under the chairmanship of the late Senator David Brigidi. This committee later concluded its work and was replaced with the Presidential Amnesty Programme under the Office the Vice President with Senator Heineken Lokpobiri as secretary. This method brought in the needed peace and economic growth in Rivers State, Niger Delta and Nigeria as a whole. My conclusion is that, there should be a peaceful approach in every warring situation for Nigeria to have all other benefits.
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