In this interview with select journalists including Olaoluwakitan Babatunde, Dumo Lulu-Briggs, the governorship candidate of the Accord Party in Rivers State talks .about securing the state and finding a solution to the concerns of rising unemployment
You have been in Rivers State politics since 1992, what is the fastest route to lasting peace in Rivers?
Education is still the most powerful weapon for achieving peace. I don’t mean only class room learning. I mean continuous investment in skill development programmes for the over two million Riverians who do not have jobs. Our greatest challenge is to make Rivers safe again. Making Rivers safer is not more security, it is more secured jobs. If the State is to flourish, capital must be invested in enterprise.
What motivates you to want to be the next Governor of Rivers State?
First, a government that cannot create jobs does not deserve to keep its job. Secondly, there is no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to helping others without expecting anything in return. Finally, Riverians need less Government but more Governance So, I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for Riverians.
How do you intend to honour this pledge?
I will honor this pledge because I am a crusader for the forgotten man. This is what I have been doing for over three decades. I have a simple proposition that nobody is going to starve in this State. No child will be allowed to go to bed hungry. This is doable, but the first step is to more effectively manage our scarce resource. Just consider than in the last three years, the present government collected N380 billion from the federation account. Within the same period, Osun State collected only N40 billion. The tragedy is that despite collecting almost ten times more money than Osun State, the poverty rate in Rivers is higher.
What specific plans do you have to reduce poverty in Rivers?
Any government that does not know the real cause of poverty cannot reduce it. Poverty is not caused by the lack of money; it is caused by the lack of opportunities to make money. So, my goal is to create new opportunities for Riverians. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) report for Rivers State reveals that only three out of 46 economic sectors in Rivers accounts for sixty percent of state’s Five trillion naira economy. It means that most economic sectors in the State are underdeveloped. I will create opportunities for all sectors to thrive. Emphasis will be on business growth and entrepreneurship opportunities in seven sectors – Education, telecommunication, entertainment /recreation , motion pictures, textile / footwear, fisheries and road transport.
How do you intend to increase women participation in Governance in Rivers?
I will lead a state that will become the largest hand-craft business hub in West Africa. This is a women centric initiative. Everywhere I go, I tell people that these politicians that do not believe that a woman should have the same opportunity as a man, were born from women.
The public score the current Rivers State administration high on project development. How would you rate the growth and development programs of this government?
In the words of Winston Churchill, “If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.” I am focused on ensuring that we do not lose our future. It seems that the only focus of the current government is roads. The government is so busy working on roads that they have not realised that the potholes in the careers of young Riverians has not been fixed. Rivers State is the unemployment capital of Nigeria. Official records reveal that the highest number of unemployed and underemployed youths in Nigeria live in Rivers. Of what use is a minimum wage policy to a man who has no job? Road projects are fine, but the people of Rivers no longer want to walk on roads; they want to walk to their office. That is why I have created the most ambitious jobs program in the over five decade’s history of our State.
Are you saying that the current government has made no progress in the last four years?
It depends on how you want to measure progress. If the official statistics says that Rivers State is the most difficult place to get a job in Nigeria. It means we are making backward progress. Progress should be measured by how the Government looks up to its citizens and not how the citizens look up to Government. Progress as defined by this current Government is adding to the abundance of those who have much. The progress I will make is to provide enough for those who have too little.
Will your economic policy focus only on job creation?
“You ask”, what is my policy? I will say; it is to wage war on unemployment. To use all weapons created by man to as fast as possible end the war on peace that is sweeping the Streets. The solution is to kidnap unemployment. My economic policy is to light the Olympic torch of prosperity in Rivers State.
What new legislation or development policies will you introduce?
(Cuts in) If you have over 3,000 different policies like in Rivers, you destroy all respect for the law. Rivers State does not lack policy, we lack great governance. So, the development policy of the Accord party is to promote peace and unity within and among all twenty three local Government areas. Or can there be development without peace?
What has been your biggest achievement in life?
My most brilliant achievement was to convince God to create me (laughs). Frankly, it has taken me years to be an over-night success.
Do you have the popularity and acceptance to pose a challenge to the incumbent?
It always seems impossible until it’s done. My concern is really not whether the people are on my side. My priority is to be on the side of the people. The people want jobs, a safer state and affordable health care. Riverians want to fulfill their potential.
What will you do if you lose?
Nelson Mandela and I share a common philosophy. I never lose. I either win or learn. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.
The final report from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) reveals that more than three million individuals have registered to vote in Rivers. What are you doing to guarantee peace filled elections?
Allow me to use this medium to tell all voters, not just in Rivers, but across all states. The only weapon you need is your permanent voters card (PVC). There is no road to peace. There is only peace. May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.