Dakuku Peterside is the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream). A member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State, he speaks with Wilcox Branson on the crisis between Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State and President Goodluck Jonathan, the drama in the state PDP and the seizure of the governor’s plane.
What has your experience in the Seventh House of Representatives been like?
Eventful. A lot of lessons to learn. I am suddenly exposed to dealing with conflicting interest, examining bills that are supposed to serve public interest and socio-political engineering through the instrumentality of law making. In summary, it has been a school of sort.
How many bills and motions have you proposed and what impact has those bills made in society?
I have proposed five bills dealing with a wide range of issues including tightening the law on small arms and light weapons, establishment of medical laboratory post graduate college, an act to authorise security agencies have access to oral and written phone communications, in event of crime, among others. The impact of these bills cannot be known now till they are signed into law and come into effect. I have also sponsored a number of motions dealing with various issues. At every point in time, the interest of Nigeria and my constituents is the driving force.
How will you assess the performance of Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State?
Impressive and spectacular. Governor Amaechi has done very well in most areas of governance. Very few Nigerians will disagree with me that he is among the top three gold standards of this set of governors. He is outstanding in security, education and health, he has done well in roads and power but above all, has come to symbolise transparency and accountability. Performance-wise, Governor Amaechi is a gold fish. This simply justifies the support he is enjoying from Rivers people and Nigerians.
So, what is the cause of the crisis between him and President Goodluck Jonathan?
I am not aware that he is having problems with the President. You see, in this clime, being honest, bold and courageous could lead you into trouble. Permit me to take the issues one after the other. On Nigeria Governors Forum, there is absolutely no trouble. Certain characters allowed themselves to be used for selfish reasons to destabilise a registered association that has helped stabilise the polity. Governor Amaechi’s only crime is that he puts a face to decisions made by his colleagues, very often for the interest of democracy and federalism. Some persons also claim that he is too forthright and I don’t know what crime that is called. However, the biggest unsaid problem is the perception by certain persons in the Presidency that Governor Amaechi has ambition to aspire to higher office. The attempt to criminalise ambition, if any, is the root cause of the perceived problem in NGF. This contradicts with the expectation of some of the President’s associates who are pushing that he should go for a second term.
The second strand is speaking truth to power as can be seen in Governor Amaechi’s comments on Sovereign wealth Fund, Excess Crude Account, Rivers-Bayelsa oil well issue, fuel subsidy, East-West Road, Adamawa PDP case, amongst others.
Are these forces in the Presidency you alluded to responsible for the crisis in PDP Rivers State?
Is there any crisis in PDP Rivers State? There is absolutely no crisis. What has happened is simple to understand unless you choose to ignore or thwart the facts and continue in self delusion or you are outrightly ignorant of how federal might can be manipulated against perceived political opponents in Nigeria.
A party congress was conducted peacefully in March, 2012. Nobody raised issues until December, 2012 when the interest of certain elements in the Presidency converged with certain elements in Rivers State who are incurably ungrateful and who do not fear God. Then, some characters in the judiciary gave themselves to be used and a controversial judgement surfaced. An Abuja High Court gave judgement in an issue it has no business with. One Felix Obuah, who never participated in any of the party congress processes, started parading himself as PDP Rivers Chairman. The same Felix Obuah has gone about making inflammatory remarks. If history teaches any lesson, it is that this one too will be consigned to the dust bin of history very soon. I have watched how a certain colleague of mine from Rivers State sold his conscience and tries helplessly to defend the indefensible on TV camera to prove that the INEC monitored single PDP congress in Rivers State produced any other person other than Chief G. U. Ake as state Chairman of the party. All members of PDP in Rivers State know who their leaders are and know who the charlatans are. Rivers people are more intelligent than the ignorance been displayed by the characters parading themselves as officials of PDP in the state. Rivers people know them and know their history.
Are you suggesting that the judgement of Abuja High Court on Rivers PDP matter is faulty?
I am not suggesting that but the facts are clear. Prof. Itse Sagay, the respectable legal luminary, said that single judgement delivered by Justice Ishaq Bello has the capacity of derailing our democracy. He clearly said it has no basis in law and portends danger to our democracy. Prof. Wole Soyinka expressed concern that the debasement and manipulation of the judiciary by politicians as exemplified by the judgement of Justice Ishaq Bello can lead to anarchy. He acknowledged the effort of the current Chief Justice of Nigeria to reform the judiciary but recognised the fact that there are dark areas and that this dark area is responsible for the seeming crisis in Rivers State. These are voices of reason. What has happened is an attempt to sacrifice the entire democratic project to get to one man who is perceived to be a political opponent. How do you explain a situation where there is a dispute among two persons who live in Rivers State over an event that occurred in Rivers State, yet a resolution was reached by an FCT High Court? How do you explain a situation where the congress in dispute took place in March last year and only became a subject of litigation one year after? What does the law say about the law courts entertaining purely intra-party matter? These are questions begging for answers. I am optimistic the Court of Appeal will cure this malaise, restore sanity in the system and save our democracy from self destruction by a few desperate folks. The judgement has done a serious damage to our democracy
The new or factional party officers in Rivers State, as you admitted, have issued statements suspending elected members of the House of Assembly and threatening to work towards impeachment of Amaechi. What is your take on that?
It is laughable. It simply shows the degree of ignorance of the characters parading themselves as party officials in Rivers State. They are displaying ignorance of lack of knowledge of the powers of state party officers. Even if we admit that they can suspend elected officials and by extension party leaders, by our law they do not lose their seat in the legislature. So, I do not know what they stand to benefit by that rascality.
There is also news filtering out that Rivers State Police Command under instruction of the Inspector General of Police has occupied Obio-Akpor LGA, driving out the appointed council officials there without any legal authority or the consent of the governor.
I suspect it is true. The use of brute force outside constitutional intendment is a childish display of poor sense of judgement and flawed articulation of application of federal might. This is clearly another blunder. This action makes it difficult for the Presidency to deny that they have no hand in the unfolding drama in Rivers State. How also do you explain the take over or occupation of a local government secretariat by the police without information or consent of the governor? This is clearly the height of lawlessness we are each day moving closer to anarchy. It is unfortunate.
It is a foolish thing to forget your root. A popular preacher said when you forget your root, you forfeit your future and destiny. Many persons in the political space easily lose sight of where they are coming from. The reason many people do not last long in a position of prosperity is because they forget their history. All the Rivers sons in Abuja joining the enemies of Rivers State to destabilise the state will definitely end up in a disgraceful manner. All those who appear on television screen to lie against the state and against God will pay dearly. When you betray those who helped you yesterday, those you are dealing with today will not trust you and God will block the chance of anyone helping you tomorrow. The sole objective of all these persons who are bitting the finger that fed them is to have access to the purse of Rivers State in 2015. Whether “Oga or Madam at the very top” or the persons who gave themselves to be used, the purpose is to have access to the purse of Rivers State in 2015. As a Christian I can tell you the truth, God and Rivers State know them very well, they will fail. We have seen these kind of characters in the past and their end is always not enviable. Whatever seed they sow, they shall reap.
Are these forces responsible for grounding the Governor’s plane too?
No comment. Nigerians know the truth. Every person who has lived in this country can distinguish between political persecution and doing the right thing. If NCAA and NAMA were doing their jobs the way they should, Nigeria Aviation industry will not be what it is. How many public officials in Nigeria are thorough? They only become thorough when they are motivated either by corruption or other extraneous reasons. Nobody can completely wish away public perception. The public perceives the grounding of Rivers State plane as complementary to the crisis in Governors Forum and Rivers State PDP. If that is the view of the vigilant public, it shows there is desperation amongst certain persons to bring Rivers State and her courageous governor down at all cost. In any case, the House of Representatives recently resolved to investigate extensively the justification and circumstances surrounding the grounding of Governor Amaechi’s plane, lets wait and see the outcome.