Nyesome Wike: There’s no Reconciliation with Sheriff

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Governor Nyesom Wike is one of the last men standing in the Peoples Democratic Party. Not a man that will retreat in the heat of attacks, he is firing on all cylinders. He described the loss by Makarfi at the Court of Appeal to Alli Modu Sheriff, whom he tagged a mole as a temporary setback. In this interview with Ahamefula Ogbu, he insists the media deceived Nigerians and literally foisted the All Progressives Congress and President Muhammadu Buhari on the country; and that the media should tender a public apology to the nation. To him, the crisis in Rivers State was occasioned by politicians who could not adjust to losing control of power in the state
With the Appeal Court ruling giving Ali Modu Sheriff the chairmanship of PDP, it seems to have complicated the crisis in PDP rather than resolve it. What is the way forward?
As far as I am concerned, you may say it is complicated but I will rather say it is a temporary setback because I don’t like commenting on all these judgments but I know that this is not the final bus stop; the final bus stop is the Supreme Court. Obviously, we reject the judgment. Sheriff is a mole in the party and so if it were a situation you know it is someone who has the interest of the party talking, then you begin to see how you can move from there. Having identified that the mole has been working for APC, it will be difficult for any right-thinking politician to say oh, let us allow him, it will be very, very difficult. We are going on appeal; we will take a major decision after the final appellate court that is, the Supreme Court has given its verdict, so I am not worried. I know that in politics this is the way it goes, you don’t expect things to be smooth all the time. Sometimes it is rough; it will threaten you and sometimes it enables you to know that this is the type of human beings you are working with so you can know the kind of characters they are made of. Luckily, it was not a unanimous judgment, it was a split decision of two to one; you can appreciate the fact that there is still hope as we go to the Supreme Court
Is Sheriff making moves to reconcile with the stakeholders?
There is nothing to reconcile because everybody has seen his actions so you don’t need anybody to tell you that he is a mole; even those who are parading him, you can see the characters, you can see how they romance with the ruling party. He is not going to work for the party; rather he wants to see that the party is decimated before 2019. There are so many people who see this as a business, I can say with authority that those people around him are people with questionable characters and it is difficult even to believe until they come around you and you see the stuff they are made of. So the issue of reconciliation does not arise since he is not quarrelling with anybody, all we are saying is that we cannot allow a wolf to be the chairman of our party.
There have been alleged threats after the appeal court judgment that they will push you out of the party, why that?
That also tells you he is just talking; he is not the one speaking. He is saying what people told him to say and they believe that if the threat is issued, it could amount to anything. He does not have what it takes to push me out of the party. Anyway, that is unthinkable but that tells you his mindset. If he pushes me out of the party and a state like Rivers is not in PDP what happens? So that tells you where the man is coming from.
The recent rerun has generated a lot of acrimony, accusations and counter accusations especially the issue of trying to compromise INEC officials. Can you tell us what happened because the police seem to believe that they have evidence that you tried to compromise INEC officials?
Ordinarily, I would not have reacted to this but because you have asked; we are already in court, I took the IG to court. Before now, I had said severally that the security agencies particularly the police had a predetermined mind on how to rig the election and throughout my political career, I have not seen where instead of members of the party directly rigging, you see security agencies directly rigging by themselves.  So it is not a question of aiding, and of course, do you expect the police to say that they came to rig elections? It is very unfortunate. It was even on television how the police were brutalising electoral officers. They denied that they were the Nigerian Police, it tells you where we are heading to, so the issue of whether INEC said I compromised or not is laughable. I can tell you how they plotted everything but since they said they have evidence, let them take it to court and show the people how the money was kept in one place, who said he came to me and I gave them the money. All I can say is that their so-called report is laughable and at the end of the day, we shall meet in court. We are not afraid, that is why we say we should allow the institutions to work.
When we were preparing for that election, we did not know that we were not only contesting with another political party, we were also running against the police.
But even the DSS is also giving the same impression as the police on the election…
I am not a man anybody can cow or intimidate to talk good about the government when you know there is nothing good that comes out of the government, I am not going to do that. That the DSS and the Police are trying to portray me to the public as if there is nothing good that comes from me is unfortunate. Let them compare developments in APC states with what I am doing in my state and see whether the difference is not clear. I have refused to be distracted. I remain focused, not bothered about those laughable allegations by the DSS. Don’t you see when people demonstrate in their favour in Abuja, they don’t say  anything but when somebody demonstrates against them they say oh, they are trying to cause a crisis. So these  are the types of fake things you see them come up with; I don’t have sleepless nights about their so-called trumped up charges.
The Vice President was recently in your state and appeared to have been impressed and even called you Mr. Projects; coming from. How does that make you feel?
I was not surprised, when you see an experienced intellectual, exposed and at that level, what did you expect? There are people that do not play politics with everything. With all sincerity, that was my first time of being close to the vice president and he gave us a good impression that this is the type of person Nigerians should talk about. He saw the reality, he saw what was on the ground and of course said, you are doing well but if it was some of them, because they are always playing politics, they would see white and would want to turn it into black. No  rational person that will come to Rivers State today and say that there is nothing  going on unless it is somebody  that is blind, somebody who sees nothing good.  The fact is that they are shocked at all we are doing. Despite all the harassments, this government can still sit down and think of everything we are doing to improve the lives of our people. You can see that we are really encouraged by the words of the vice president who didn’t come to play politics even though they did everything to stop him from staying the night and not to visit the project sites. He is a very decent person, very decent; he talks like a professor, an intellectual. I am quite impressed, I must tell you.
You were talking about conspiracy between the DSS and the police in the alleged role they are playing to rope you in and they constitute the security ring around you, how safe do you feel with them?
They do not constitute my security, it is God and my people that give me security. I am not doing anything that is hidden but I can’t talk about certain things so that I won’t let the cat out of the bag about how I handle my personal security. The truth of the matter is that I don’t have trust in them and they know that.
Do you now support the creation of State Police?
Certainly, with what is happening why won’t I support the creation of state police? You can see what is going on. You can be going out at night and they withdraw your aides and you can’t go out so at that point, it is no longer you. If the security aides of a governor could be withdrawn at any time without letting him know, then it means the governor can be kidnapped, can be assassinated and the plot was to assassinate me. I have said it severally that the IG’s mandate was to make sure that I am assassinated and that was why when he was in Kano in 2015, a REC was burnt together with his family and up till today, nobody has set up a panel to find out what happened to that REC and the family that were all burnt to death; what has happened? So there are people they have decided that they want to eliminate, because they believe if they don’t do that, it will be a problem for them in 2019. So all they are doing is to make sure I am assassinated whatever it takes and that is why they could withdraw my security aides anytime.
How is that affecting security in the state?
Obviously, the security agencies through the IG have frustrated every security arrangement we put in place to checkmate crime, so you can see what is going on. In fact, mine is the only state that has had about eight or nine commissioners of police within 21 months. When this commissioner comes, he stays five months and you move him. Another one comes, stays six months and he’s removed. How can you have security architecture in the state? It is orchestrated by them to make sure you have a security crisis. But for God, we don’t know where we would have been today. I can tell you that everything we have done with security is being sabotaged intentionally by the IG and the DSS.
You embarked on disarmament of militants recently, how did that turn out?
I can tell you by the grace of God, we might not have achieved total peace as we wanted, but I think that the amnesty programme to a large extent provided succour for the people.  It brought about peace, that is why today you can go about your normal business in the state. Like I said, it was tough for us, even the police was not cooperating. The credit should go to the Nigerian military, the soldiers did very well in that amnesty programme. Police sabotaged it and they were given directives by the high command not to be part of the amnesty programme but the military worked hard. The report I am getting now show they are hell-bent on making sure that lasting peace does not return to the state but they can tell you on the pages of newspaper that it is not true. That is why when they post a commissioner of police, they post a confrontational one so that he does not work with us to bring about peace in the state.
What has become of the recovered weapons?
I think they have been destroyed. They were handed over to the military.
The Ogoni clean-up is one of the biggest federal interventions in the state; at what stage is it now?
All I know is that they say there is a clean-up, they don’t involve the state. They only involve the state when they are coming for one occasion or the other or when they need logistics. In order not to seem as if you are not interested, you just allow them to do whatever they want to do. As I speak to you, we are not directly involved; they say they can achieve it without the involvement of the state government, so it is part of the gimmick they are playing, using it politically to say that oh, the APC government is doing something to clean up Ogoniland but since it was launched, all we are hearing is that they are launching this one and that one. We are praying, I would like Ogoniland and other areas to be cleaned up because they have suffered for years. I can tell you the truth that I don’t know how they are going to achieve that without the state being directly involved.
Kidnapping has become a national security issue, what is your state doing about it?
Truly speaking, I think I was one state governor that raised the alarm when kidnapping started but the federal government never came to my aid, the IG never came to my aid. I worked with the security we had and to some extent kidnap cases reduced though it is trying to rear its ugly head again. We are addressing it. Luckily, it had gone round the entire country, so it is no longer peculiar to Rivers State.
In terms of legislation, what is the penalty?
Life imprisonment and you also have to forfeit the property you acquired through this kidnapping and whatever money you have in the account would be forfeited to the state.
Federal government is talking about refunding money that states expended on federal projects,  especially roads, is Rivers State included in this scheme?
That is the hope but they may not pay because of Rivers State. It is such a funny situation we see in this country. They make up their minds against a state and it doesn’t matter whether the state is even involved in that; it doesn’t matter whether the state is entitled to it; they may even play politics that they are starting with some states just to make sure that the states they don’t want do not benefit, so we are hoping they pay us.
How much do they owe Rivers State?
From the last calculation, they owe Rivers State between N60 and N80 billion.
Has your state received the Paris club debt refund?
We are supposed to get 25 per cent, they did not pay us  25 per cent, particularly states like Rivers, Delta, Akwa Ibom  and the rest. They paid others 25 per cent of the 50 per cent Mr. President approved. We got about N14 billion which was not only for us, local governments money was about N1 billion and we gave them their money. All the other money. We put it into projects that can be seen. That is why when they are talking about investigating it and all that, in any case, what are they investigating? We are running a federal system; I’m not accountable to you. You see, the problem we have in this country, we go and share money that belongs to all of us, you take your own, I take mine and you tell me you want to set up a panel to come and check what I have done with my own money; you are not my  supervisor, the law is clear and that is why the state government had to go to court to say, you have no power  except the state house of assembly says,  look we want to look at what you are doing and we have found out this or that and therefore we have to invite any financial crimes commission. But it is as if we are running a military government where somebody will say, set up a panel to investigate this government, where somebody will say, set up a panel to go and investigate this state – to ask how they are using their money.
You said you were no longer going to Abuja which you described as a city of lies. How do you now relate with the federal government?
You relate by communicating, if there is anything I have to do, I write to them. What are you going to Abuja to do? By going to Abuja, you are further alienating yourself from your people who elected you. I want to connect with my people. What are you going to do in Abuja, to go and lie? I should go to Abuja when there is a need; when there is security council meeting, NEC meeting; when there is appointment on security issues. Why should I leave my home, my state and start going to Abuja, to go and do what? To go from one office to another to let them know that I support them or what? No, I am not going to do that. It is wasting of taxpayers’ money.
The state forfeited the two armoured helicopters because it could not pay about N5 billion duties on them and you said the state didn’t really need them. Why were they acquired in the first place?
Again, that tells you the priority of people; I was not the one that purchased them. I learnt about them when Aero, which was operating one of our helicopters, started having problem. There is one helicopter we have which was bought by Dr. Peter Odili’s administration, not armoured, it is being used by Aero. So Calverton because of the crisis Aero had, wanted to take it over and I said no, it will be wrong because we have a contract with Aero and the crisis did not affect the wingless. It was from there  they told me that our state imported two armoured helicopters and that they can help us clear them. That was how we came to know about the aircraft. So there was no formal records to show the state bought armoured helicopters. It was in the course of that we now wrote and was told to pay about N5 billion as duty and we said how could any state government do this? Why should I spend that amount to pay duty on armoured helicopter which is not commercial? In any case, am I going to use it? The intention was to hand them over to security agencies if we got them. So I personally met with Mr. President and brought it to his notice. He told me that I should put it in writing which I did, that was sometime between August and September 2015 and then I started writing; I wrote to the Chief of Staff, I wrote to the National Security Adviser that you can now take it over from there and they wrote the state government acknowledging it and copied Customs, so I was so shocked when they turned around to say oh, they don’t know who imported the helicopter. What type of country are we in? Must we play politics with everything? When they know it was their minister who imported it, they know when it was imported. They have the documents. How can I import an amoured helicopter, are we in a war zone? If you imported an armoured helicopter, that also shows that there was serious security challenge in the state and even closer to Boko Haram activities. Even in the fight against Boko Haram, the Nigerian Army never used armoured helicopter. They spent over $20 million, which is about N10 billion today. I can tell you with that money, I can execute so many projects. Do you know what it can do in communities?
The elections have been won and lost; can’t APC and PDP work together for the development of the state instead of pulling in different directions?
No, no, no; it is not a matter of Rivers people. You see, the problem is that Rivers State government invested so much money in the election of APC in 2015 so they believe that they owe the minister of transportation,  whatever he wants because of the funding; was the funding from his father’s account? It is from Rivers State money, we saw it, even when you write EFCC or Police, they will not do anything, In fact, we don’t even want to go there because it will be a waste of time and energy. The point is that election has been won, there is a government; all they are doing is to make sure that the government does not perform and that will be an excuse to say look, you cannot allow this government to stay again because there is no performance but unfortunately for them, the government is moving so it is greed. Someone believes that look; you mean I am not the one in charge again? I am not the one controlling who is there? That is the problem.  They would have made the House of Reps to take over the functions of the assembly and then I wouldn’t have had my budget. All kinds of things happening, including maybe, a declaration of a state of emergency in Rivers.
In the midst of recession you are commissioning projects, where are you getting the money from?
That is why we are running the Jesus economy because where hope is in God, you won’t have problems. You may trivialise it but it is very key, key in the sense that sometimes I won’t know where the money is coming from but all I know is that we have money. But again, what is most important is being prudent. We have money from allocations. If we have N6 to N7 billion, we try to pay salaries and pensioners; then you have internally generated revenue, so I divide it. I say every month, give Julius Berger this, pay RCC this, every month pay this company this, so work is moving on. Again, a project of N1 billion, the previous administration will put it at about N4 billion. Take a case in point of Sakpenwa – Bori Road, the bill of quantity designed for that road was to be done with laterite,  a 16-kilometer road, their budget was N16 billion. Now I came and said I want to use sharp sand which is more expensive, do you know that the money we are using to do the road is N9 billion? So if at their own time they were to use sharp sand, it would have been over N28 billion – that was fraud. Some of the abandoned projects were because of the high rate of inflated costs and  you come and tell us, you know the terrain of building roads in the Niger Delta is expensive, that is right but not to that extent.
The rerun polls is slated for today, what is your message to Rivers youths?
Well, I have told you that nobody wants to conduct any rerun poll. They want to say they want to conduct the election and kill Rivers people again and say that the place is violent , to create a situation whereby they will say it is a violent state. This rerun, what are you doing it for? The PDP man is already leading with 10,000 votes, he ought to have been declared winner; they have already done that with an APC man. To send these security men to start killing people again? They should allow elections to be free and fair. As I speak to you, I will sleep and PDP will win but from what we have heard, the IG is planning to make sure that our people are slaughtered again, to make sure they bring in the result that has already been written again and which our people will resist and in resisting, they kill our people, then they will come out to set up a panel on how the violence happened. Ordinarily, they know they cannot win that  election but they are coming with force so that they will say we said it that if there is security we will win, just mark what I am  telling you. They are not coming for the poll, they are coming to announce that APC won. They are coming to begin to arrest our people. That is the instruction from the IG.
What is your view of INEC in of all these?
Is INEC independent? INEC has released the report of the panel that they set up on the last rerun election and indicted the security agencies. SARS commander who I had written several complaints against to the IG was indicted in that report. But the IG ignored me. In advanced climes, those people indicted will not stay a day longer in office. But here in Nigeria nobody cares because they feel they can get away with anything. INEC’s own report has revealed its unpreparedness for the election. It has vindicated all that I was saying. I really don’t have any confidence in INEC which should hide its head in shame and that is why I said there will be no election in 2019. With all authority, there will be no election, don’t deceive yourself. These people have so made up their minds that they don’t care whether Nigeria collapses or not; they are only shouting change, which change? They are only using it to deceive Nigerians.
PDP handed over in 2015 and within a few months the economy is in a into recession. As a participant in the process, tell us, did Nigerians make a mistake in rejecting your party at that poll?
Mistake is an understatement. It is the media and their associates that sold the dummy to the entire country. As of the time Jonathan was there, what was the exchange rate? 175 to the dollar but today we are at N510 to the dollar and by next month, who knows, it may get to N600? People just come with excuses, oh, it was corruption, oh, it was this and that. When you said it was corruption, some of those who are ministers today, were they not governors in the last administration? What rubbish are they talking about? Would there be recession by only the activities of the federal government? When people say that PDP did not perform in 16 years, I just cringe. Who among them that was not a PDP member? Is it Wammako? Is it Aliero, or is it Kwankwaso? So, the point I am making is that Nigerians were misled; the press sold lies to Nigerians. Take for example, when Jonathan wanted a partial removal of subsidy, they brought the issue of Occupy Nigeria, that the whole country would be brought down; now the new administration came and removed the entire subsidy, what happened?  What did the media say? The media kept quiet and even hailed the government. So the media is the problem as far as this country is concerned because they could not tell Nigerians the truth. Just because they wanted Jonathan to get out of power.  And you know that these guys control the media houses; they used that to their advantage and were able to do what they did. Where are the so-called activists who joined the APC to spread lies? Now, see where we are; before you can correct anything, it will take another eight to ten years. This APC damage has taken the country backwards. Some of us said, allow them, soon Nigerians will know they have dug their own graves. You came and told Nigerians that if they voted for you, you would do this and do that but now you are saying it was the previous government that caused all the problems. You are saying you didn’t tell Nigerians that you would solve the problems in two years, whereas you said then that if you were voted into office, one naira would exchange for one dollar.
For me, the media should tell Nigerians:  “Sorry that we misled you so that they can be forgiven.’