Hon. Dakuku Peterside
Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Hon. Dakuku Peterside, from Rivers State, speaks on the crisis rocking the state’s chapter of Peoples Democratic Party and the travails of Governor Rotimi Amaechi, in this interview with some journalists. Onwuka Nzeshi was there and serves the excerpts:
What has been your experience in the Seventh House of Representatives?
Eventful. A lot of lessons to learn. I am suddenly exposed to dealing with conflicting interests, 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 sorts.
How many bills and motions have you proposed and what impact do you think they have made in society?
I have so far, 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 authorize security agencies have access to oral and written phone communication, in event of crime amongst others. The impact of these bills cannot be assessed now till they are signed into law and come into effect. I have also sponsored a number of motions dealing with different issues. At every point in time the interest of Nigeria and my constituents is the driving force.
On the whole my overall assessment is that the entire legislative business in Nigeria is at a learning curve. You know we have other democracies where you have had the institution of parliament in existence for centuries. Ours is still a young democracy but we shall get there some day.
How would you assess the performance of the Governor and Government of your home state, Rivers?
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 symbolize transparency and accountability. Performance-wise Governor Amaechi is a gold fish. This simply justifies the support he is enjoying from Rivers people and Nigerians.
If he has done this well as you want us to believe, how come he is having crisis in the Governors Forum that he leads, in PDP Rivers State and with Mr. President?
I am not aware that he is having any problems with the President of the country. 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 destabilize a registered association that has helped stabilize 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 how that has become a crime. 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 criminalize ambition, if any, is the root cause of the perceived problem in NGF. This so called ambition runs contrary to the expectations of some of the President’s associates who are pushing that he (Jonathan) 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.
There are speculations that certain forces in the Presidency are responsible for the crisis in Rivers State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party; do you share this view?
Is there any crisis in PDP Rivers State? There is absolutely no crisis. What has happened is simple to understand unless one choses to ignore or twist the facts and continue in self delusion or one is 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 Chairman of PDP, Rivers State. The same Felix Obuah has gone about making inflammatory remarks. If history teaches any lesson, it is that these ones 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 tried helplessly to defend the indefensible on television 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 the Abuja High Court on Rivers State PDP congress was 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 recognized 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 leadership of the PDP in Rivers State, recently issued a statement suspending elected members of the State House of Assembly and threatened to work towards impeachment of Governor Chibuike Amaechi. What is your take on the situation?
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 or 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 are reports that the Rivers State Police Command under instruction of the Inspector General of Police has occupied Obio-Akpor LGA and have chased out the council officials without any legal authority. Is this true?
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 the 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 State Governor? This is clearly the height of lawlessness we are each day moving closer to anarchy. It is unfortunate.
There are speculations that some politicians in Rivers State have aligned with federal forces to destabilize your state. Do you share this opinion?
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 destabilize the State will definitely end up in a disgraceful manner.
All those who appear on television 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 biting 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 that shall they reap.
Are these forces also responsible for grounding of the Rivers State Government plane?
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 complimentary to the crisis in the Nigerian 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 GovernorAmaechi’s plane, lets wait and see the outcome.
Is it true that all these crisis are part of a grand plot by the Presidency to install a puppet as Governor of Rivers State after Amaechi’s tenure expires?
I do not know and there is no way I will know. I work in the National Assembly and report to my constituents who I owe my primary allegiance. I have heard like other Nigerians, I have read in the newspapers like other Nigerians that the First Lady is determined to install a Governor in Rivers State. I do not think it is true. But I do not see how her single vote in Bayelsa State will achieve that in Rivers State so I dismiss it as a joke. If you talk about manipulation of Rivers State politics for her husband, again I don’t think that it is true as what is going on in Rivers State will rather work against her husband’s interest to run in 2015 if he has any such interest. I don’t want to believe that any woman will contribute in creating the image of hopelessly frustrated and desperate power monger for her husband so the insinuations do not add up. I do not see how anybody will sacrifice the votes of Rivers State in Presidential Poll calculations in Nigeria.
Does the travails of Governor Amaechi have any bearing on the 2015 aspirations of President Goodluck Jonathan?
Whether the President will run in 2015 appears to be the most closely guarded secret in the land today. Though to ordinary Nigerians on the street, as far as they are concerned it is no secret. The politicians believe it is fait accompli that the President will run. The President has denied any intention to seek re-election for now but the vibes from his aides and associates gives out a completely different signal. It is no issue to say that the associates of the President are behind the trouble in Nigeria Governors Forum. That people who sit in cabinet with him and who work for him are the tools used in causing confusion in PDP Rivers State like in many other states perceived to be manned by Governors who may not support his 2015 agenda. These signals point to a Presidency who will have more than a passing interest in the events of 2015 transition. I am worried that this misguided associates do not wish the President well
The danger however can be clearly seen in the destruction of PDP just to prove a point, and the consequences of vaulting ambition on democracy and unity of Nigeria. As a South-South person it is my prayer that the President do not fall to the tricks of those who do not wish him well while they are pursuing their personal agenda.
Is it true that Members of National Assembly from Rivers State advised Governor Amaechi against following this route?
What route? To defend the land of Rivers State? To defend the oil wells of Rivers State? To ensure nobody takes projects originally designated for Rivers State to other states? To use Rivers State money to fuel corruption in the name of petroleum subsidy? To save Rivers money in the name of sovereign wealth fund without the consent of Rivers State or foist strange leadership on the people of Rivers State? What route? What route are we talking about? For the avoidance of doubt, the entire Rivers State and the elected representatives of the people at both State and National Assembly are solidly behind Governor Amaechi. We know he is being persecuted by a tiny clique in the Presidency for fighting Rivers State cause, for standing up for the truth and speaking truth to power. Nobody has any doubt that God is with him, he will surely triumph. All men of conscience in Nigeria are speaking out against the evil going on in the land in the name of fighting Amaechi.
But there are some persons in the National Assembly and State Assembly who are not with him?
Perhaps one person in the House of Representatives who chose to sell his conscience for whatever reason. It is often said that conscience is an open wound only the truth can heal it. All three Senators from Rivers State are solidly with Governor Amaechi, of course if any of them do not believe in the cause the Governor is championing or his style he would have said so long long. All Members of the House of Assembly save four are with the Governor. The implication of all these is that Rivers people appreciate the fact that Governor is not only performing in his primary duty but represents truth and justice. They understand that the current political nuisance will also vanish soon. They know that the opportunistic Abuja politicians with vested interest in controlling the purse of Rivers State do not wish the State well. They know that those urging the President do not mean well for the South-South geopolitical zone.