Nseobong Okon-Ekong dialogues with the director of strategic communications for Tonye Cole Campaign, Mr. Tonye Princewill who insists that only a fresh start of the electoral process for governorship and state house of assembly candidates in Rivers State can redeem the integrity of the Independent National Electoral Commission
INEC is going ahead with its plan to resume collation of governorship and house of assembly elections results in Rivers State, is your party excited about this?
I would not use that word excited. Not when it comes to INEC. Especially when it comes to their conduct in Rivers state. They are a federal institution, appointed by a federal government, yet not only have they not been used by the federal, they have been used against the ruling party. Why can’t they just be neutral? Yet, I hear some uninformed people with loud opinions saying Amaechi is using federal might against Wike. In an election, who is mightier than INEC? And what makes them think that Rivers state is all about Amaechi and Wike? Amaechi as an individual is content, he has directed a campaign and put in place a President, a record two times. If he does nothing else, his political career is secure. The fight in Rivers state is bigger than Amaechi. It’s Wike versus the rest of us. And it’s a fight Wike can’t win. So we are not excited about INEC, but we look forward to whatever game they will bring. All of their efforts will come to naught.
A spanner was thrown in the works of your working relationship with the AAC when the party’s deputy governorship candidate jumped ship and accused the APC of not only being overbearing but also working towards a predetermined end, how has this affected your strategy?
I wouldn’t call it a spanner. It was more like a toothpick. A non-event, a minor irritation that has already been overtaken by other news. Maybe because I have a good knowledge of the character of men in politics in Rivers state, I can tell you it’s not the party that makes the man, it’s the man that makes the party. So many men can be bought and made to read what someone else wrote. Rather than tell us about the Deputy whose name escapes me now, it tells us more about the AAC’s candidate Awara. It’s not many who can resist Wike. His bag of victims are there to be viewed. From INEC officials to security personnel to several politicians, some of repute, then on to sitting senators, media personalities to legal minds. He would gladly pay any of us in APC to look the other way. But we won’t. That tells you about the quality of people too in APC. Do you think Amaechi pays for this? He can’t. We follow him because we know his type. Blunt, yes. Arrogant, no. Uncompromising, I agree, but he loves his state, hates injustice and worries about the common people. If he stays put in Abuja, they will never forgive him. It will be like a Buhari staying in Abuja and forgetting the North-east. Rivers people and its economy are dying. We have more important issues to address than an escaping deputy.
Does your party still insist on a fresh start of the entire electoral process in Rivers State?
Yes. Wike has been demystified. Only God knows how much he has spent so far. As compared to us that have literally used our bare hands, he has been using our common wealth. We have continued to point out flaws where we see them. INEC has continued to ignore us. No result they announce now will be credible. Even if they declared our candidate as winner. Behind INEC closed doors, we know what is happening. In this process, transparency is your only currency. So far, INEC, on this matter, is in a recession. We are aware of the moves that have been made. INEC’s stakeholder meeting was confirmation of our earlier suspicions. So we are several steps ahead of them, but we will continue to remain vigilant. If Wike is sure of himself, he should not be troubled by a meticulously managed fresh election. How many soldiers and police were in Rivers state on March 9? Not enough, if you ask me. Yet nobody died. Soldiers cannot win elections. It’s people backed by popularity. Wike is not popular. He just pays. The good thing about that is you can’t pay everybody.
What if the collation, in the end, favours your party, would you accept it?
Of course I will. But that doesn’t mean others will accept it and it doesn’t mean that the collation will be upheld if it is put under further scrutiny like it most certainly will. What use is a win that doesn’t last? Some of us entered politics to make a difference. Not to make a name. Those with that kind of mentality build castles on sand. We are more likely to take our time in building the right foundation. What we are going through is evidence of a President that doesn’t interfere on one hand and evidence of a Governor that does on the other. Even though it is not working in our favour today, we appreciate that this is the kind of President we have and we recognise that that is the kind of Governor we need to have as well. One who is not ready to sacrifice his people on the altar of his ambition.