He was a Senator of repute elected under Late General Sani Abacha’s regime, a former member of the Constituent Assembly and one that was elected to represent the Rivers South-East Senatorial District. In this interview with the man who was duly elected and have his return certificate after defeating all his opponents at the tribunal, Senator Noble Chukumati barred his mind on some of the political developments in Rivers State, particularly on the issue of zoning.
Chukumati told Blaise Elumezie in the course of the interview that Chief Barr. Nyesom Wike suits the strategy for wrestling power from the All Progressives Congress, APC, amongst others. Excerpts:
AS A FORMER SENATOR AND STAKEHOLDER IN RIVERS STATE, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN THE STATE, ESPECIALLY THE CALL FOR THE DISQUALIFICATION OF BARR. NYESOM WIKE BY 16 PDP GUBER ASPIRANTS?
Well, it is most unfortunate, it is most unfortunate that there is a union that I would like to say is spinless; it is fundamentally wrong and unconstitutional for anybody to aggregate or say that Nyesom Wike should be disqualified. I am saying so on my integrity because there has never been zoning before and it is not right to zone out any person or a particular person because it has not been done before and I don’t believe in it. I don’t believe that because an Ikwerre man has ruled or is ruling and for that, it should go round.
We have nothing to go round, but what we are after is competence and courage to lead Rivers people to the right direction and anybody from any corner of the state that wants to rule the state, that has the competence and courage, the masses should vote for him and that is what democracy is all about.
If you feel that you are competent, if you feel that you are courageous enough that people should vote for you, then you go to the poll and if they vote you, you rule them and give them what they want.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE PROTEST BY 16 PDP GUBER ASPIRANTS IN THE STATE FOR THE CANCELLATION OF THE JUST CONCLUDED STATE CONGRESSES?
Protest about congress? It is most unfortunate, I mean, if you boycott a congress what are you protesting about again? You didn’t participate in the congress and so you can’t say what happened there, because you were not there. Take part in the congress and if there are anomalies in the congress, then you can now petition the panel set-up for the political parties and then you have a case.
But to boycott a congress, just for one man who is working assiduously to wrest power legitimately and democratically. I mean it is unheard of anywhere in the world. If you talk about justice or fair play, there can’t be any other system than a democratic process which the party congress provides for all aspirants.
That is why I am advocating that the most competent person, the most courageous that will be tested at the ballot box on the day we are going to cast our votes, should emerge and not by gang ups and all that. We have out grown that stage in our democracy. I just cited an example of America, even, let me come back to Nigeria. For instance, in Benue State, Tivs have been ruling for over 35 years and yet the Idomas and the Igalas have not. This as it were, is not because of the dominance of the Tivs over the other ethnic groups but rather because of their resilience and competence in administering their home state.
An Idoma man today is the president of the senate. He is competent and nobody has raised an eyebrow, he has managed the senate very well, regardless of the facts that they have not ruled in their state. He has managed the leadership of the senate in the last four years and Nigerians are happy about it. So, this zoning thing is making Rivers people to look retrogressive in the march towards advanced democratic choice of who governs or represents them.
THE ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS, APC, HAS ZONED IT’S GOVERNORSHIP SLOT TO THE SOUTH-EAST SENATORIAL ZONE OF THE STATE, AS A RESULT OF GOV. AMAECHI’S DECISION THAT IT WILL AMOUNT TO GREED FOR ANOTHER IKWERRE MAN TO SUCCEED HIM, WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THAT?
I would rather describe his contribution as governed by primordial sentiment, primordial in the sense that he is not current with the democratic developments all over the world. Can he cite an example in the world outside what is happening in Rivers State. Let me also give you an example of what has been happening in Kwara State, where the Sarakis have remained dominant representatives of their people. The people are happy with them because they deliver the goods. These political successes in Kwara or Benue States are certainly not based on ethnic, political sharing or zoning, but rather are based auspiciously on competence and the propensity to deliver the dividends of democracy.
So, if Amaechi says it is not just, it is not fair-play or is a cheating to the other ethnic group. I challenge him to tell Nigerians where governance is shared between ethnic groups. In Britain you have the Scottish, you have the Irish, you have the English people, whether they have ever zoned their prime minister-ship to the Scottish people and say that all the English people should not go to contest the election.
These are basic issues. In Belguim, Wallonies, (the French speaking), the Flemish (the Dutch speaking) and the Germans, their Prime Ministers emerge from any of this groups, depending on the political fall outs of elections, not based on political ethnic sharing or zoning.
In Nigeria, our democracy is blossoming, even as we started again fifteen years ago. We can liken our democratic development to the growth of an insect. They grow from stage to stage (metamorphosis). Where we are today in our democratic development, we have outgrown zoning in whatever guise.
Proficient people; in the area of governance and in the area of meeting the needs of the people is what we require at this point in time. Governance is all about meeting the needs of the people in terms of welfare and security, amongst others. Any man or woman, who is able to do it most competently and proficiently, should be elected. That is what democracy is all about.
In other words, if the governor is raising an issue on an Ikwerre man succeeding him in office, he is making no constructive contribution to Nigerian democratic development.
THE APC HAS ZONED IT’S GOVERNORSHIP POSITION TO THE SOUTH-EAST ZONE OF THE STATE, WHAT IS YOUR VIEW ON THAT?
From the point of view I am expressing to you, I don’t believe in this zoning, ethnically based or senatorial based. We are getting to a level or pedestal of efficiency and proficiency and these are the reasons why we are looking for who will deliver the goods and not on senatorial district or ethnic nationality. There is nothing to share, share it to the people and they will say yes indeed this government has done well for us. Whether you are an Ogoni man, Ikwerre man, Kalabari man, Andoni man, Abua man, Etche man, Ogba man or Ekpeye man; so long as you can deliver the dividends of democracy to the people that, they will in turn be happy about.
We want to see people who will deliver the goods to us, so APC zoning is primitive. We have outgrown that process of democratic zoning. They are not progressives. Their zoning to the South-East is irrelevant in this process and we have towered above that.
SOME PERSONS IN THE STATE HAVE ACCUSED CHIEF BARR. NYESOM WIKE OF BEEN A CULTIST, GREED AND SOMEONE WHOSE ADMINISTRATION MAY WITNESS BRUTALITY, AMONGST OTHERS, WHEN GIVING THE OPPORTUNITY. DON’T YOU THINK THAT THESE ALLEGATIONS MAY MAR HIS GOVERNORSHIP AMBITION, COME 2015?
When you are in this process of seeking the mandate of your people and you seem to tower above your competitors, people will like to call you all sorts of names, cultist, secret cult member, this and that, but can they substantiate it? Like I keep saying, Nyesom Wike of PDP suits the political strategy to wrest power from the APC. I mean, he suits the strategy for wrestling power from APC. And for every election, you go with a courageous man, courageous man that we need to liberate the people from the shackles of a bad government.s So when they call him names, those names are meant to discourage people, but they will not succeed, Nyesom is the man. I am saying it unequivocally and let all the peddlers of innuendos remember that Chief Barr. Nyesom Wike until recently was a member of the Federal Executive Council.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR PERSONAL ASSESSMENT OF FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, BARR. NYESOM WIKE AND THE PRESENT CHIEF OF STAFF, SIR HON. TONY OKOCHA WHO ARE SONS OF APARA KINGDOM, IN TERMS OF HUMAN AND INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT IN THE AREA?
Let me say that the duo are our sons, just like you said. But what you have to bear in mind is that one has finished and went to a higher pedestal and one is still serving. It is not time to begin to assess and compare performances. When Hon. Tony Okocha has finished, we will put him on a scale and examine him. Governors and people of Nigeria have always found Apara Kingdom people as very reliable and serviceable and I want to commend the people that have always seen us as such. I will thank them because it is the grace of God. I will not be comparing both performances per say, but what you have to bear in mind is that one finished and went on higher pedestal and from there he thinks he can still serve the people more and that is my take on that.
HOW WOULD YOU RATE AMAECHI’S ADMINISTRATION FROM ITS INCEPTION TILL DATE?
I think that Amaechi has done well in his first tenure, but in doing well, one should not allow the accolade to get into his or her head. Amaechi began to derail when he began to look at the president of this country as equal.
Yes, we are all equal before God, but a president is the president of Nigeria and he (Amaechi) is the governor of the state. The president of a nation, be it in America or Russia has enormous powers. You don’t challenge unnecessarily. Even as a party, they are using you to oppose the president as chairman of the governors’ forum, you have to mellow down in some of your utterances and persistently he kept on that part.
People keep telling him, Governor back pedal a bit, this is our president and from then I began to fault him. This is sanctimonious, nobody is saying that it is wrong to say something or air your opinion, but when something is over flogged, when you carry it to another level that seems too personal, people begin to query.
I am in the group that is saying that our governor has not done so well in his relationship with the president of the country and that reminds me of what Governor Rochas Okorocha has to say last week, even Adams Oshiomhole.
The president is president of a country, you don’t insult him any how and our son is in the fore front of insulting the president of a country and that I take exception to. I have said it that during the first tenure he did well, but this last four years has been shrouded with what I would like to call, I don’t care attitude.
He is not protecting the interest of the people. Government can stifle you; remember that Ibori was the one that said he didn’t see the president. The president looked at him and said this man you have over stepped your boundary and what happened to Ibori today? So, sometimes when we are in power, we should know that we were ordinary before and will come to our level again if we don’t take time.
So, my word of caution to our governor is that he should be mindful of how he goes about talking undiplomatically, he should apply fairness in his language and he should also consider the consequences of his utterances on the people he is leading and they are the Rivers People.
It is not enough to say that I have been starved of funds, projects, this and that. What were the reasons for starving you of those things, if they are real? Because a government can say, because of so and so, we can take some policies against this or that and these are the bad effects of some of his posture towards the federal government and he should desist from it. Apart from that, he did well in his first tenure and that is what I want to say.
PARTISAN POLITICS HAS BECOME THE ORDER OF THE DAY IN RIVERS STATE, PARTICULARLY IN RUMUIGBO, YOUR COMMUNITY, WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUR PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY NOW THAT ELECTION IS FAST APPROACHING?
Every democratic setting has it processes and the people of Rumuigbo have the right to vote for whoever they want to vote for. But what is abhorred to me and other well meaning people in the society is that politics should not paver or rather interfere with things that are cultural or customary. We must leave our culture and customs out of politics and again people should understand in my community that power is ephemeral.
Today it is with me, tomorrow it is with somebody else, what is important is that we are from Rumuigbo and we should live in unity. In this democracy, I would want us to exercise our franchise well by making sure that we are registered and should come out on the day of election to make a choice. The people should accept it, and not to carry enmity or animosity to their kitchens. I have forgotten a man and woman in the US, who are both advisers to their respective political parties in America. One is a Republican one is a Democrat and they are husband and wife in the house.
And so, we should live convivially; discuss issues in our community as Rumuigbo people or any other people, not to become pugnacious or combative in the process. That does not show the people who have seen light in politics. I consider myself having seen the light in politics, because since secondary school, overseas, back home in the main stream politics, I keep no malice with anybody. It does not debar me from expressing my feelings. Your vision may differ but it should not affect our interpersonal or communal relationship, eternally, or externally. Let us see ourselves as one people, democratically or otherwise, that is my word for our people. Nobody will say that Noble cannot come to his house in this community, because I see myself, I see politics as something that you are in, to enhance the well-being of your people and if you are doing so, it should not be segmented, it should be for everybody and that is how I see politics.