‘The Real Owners of Rivers State are in Tears’

Tonye Princewill

Nseobong Okon-Ekong dialogues with Tonye Prince will, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress in Rivers State, who argues that following the return of Governor Nyesom Wine as winner of the 2019 governorship election,  his party and its allies avoided bloodshed by refusing to take matters into their hands

The process of the Rivers State governorship election has finally been concluded and Governor Nyesom Wike has emerged winner. What do you say about that?

What has happened so far teaches me a lot of things. One. Some Nigerians do not care enough about corruption. At least, not enough to call a spade a spade when they see it. We all know what transpired, even if we don’t know the details. Yet, we put it down to how things are, in Nigeria, in Rivers state, even when we don’t really know how things are in Rivers state. Second. Many Nigerians do not care how you win, as long as you win. You can kill and maim your way to power and it won’t matter to them, they will gladly shake the blood stained hands of the winner and bow down in loyalty. Let the politicians sort themselves out. ‘After all they are all the same.’ Our moral compass have so ossified to the point where winning is more important than how you win. The outrage of what led to INEC’s declaration is shared by many, but not enough. Some of us have elected to do something about it. All it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing isn’t a cliche for us. While INEC was telling everyone the election was suspended, the certificates of return for PDP candidates were already written and dated. When we raised the alarm, INEC denied it. Look at the certificates issued. Date is March 14. Our point has been proved. Sheer arrogance. This is the kind of motivation we need.

Your party, the APC did not participate but it adopted the AAC candidate. The result shows Wike winning the combined forces of the APC and AAC with over 700,000 votes. What does that say about the people making a choice?

There is no correlation between that result and Rivers people. Unless it is in the minds of the ignorant or the complicit. If like some, you believe that the end justifies the means, it is convenient to disregard how that result was arrived at. But those who know better aren’t fooled. You say 700,000 votes, yet you ignore that one LGA, Wike’s own LGA, accounted for over 300,000 votes unchallenged. All these happened after Wike stormed its collation centre where a soldier was shot, yet another was critically injured with a machete and AAC agents taken hostage while electoral materials where carted away. An LGA where such occurred really had no business being accepted by INEC. But it was. Hook, line and with 300,000 votes. The list of high crimes by INEC and PDP continued across the other LGAs, but the APC government let it be. If we the people had then taken matters into our own hands, people would have died and the neutral observer would have said we in Rivers state are savages. But they forget that you can only push a man so far. I don’t blame Wike, it’s his nature. I blame his accomplices. Wike already has what is coming to him, but they too must answer for this show of shame. They cannot escape it. Never. The INEC Chairman and Wike go back to when the governor was Minister of Education and it showed. How did they get result sheets to announce results for LGAs where they had already publicly announced? How come certificates of return were prepared before collation was complete? What happened to the rogue collation officers whose photographs we paraded before the nation? Do their results still stand? All these questions and more still remain.

This election was held on March 9, it took 24 days to fully collate and announce the result. Is that normal, what happened?

It isn’t normal. And yet some expect a normal result to emerge from such an abnormal process? INEC suspended a whole election in an entire state against the provisions of an electoral act and it stood. Our cries were dismissed and our voices ignored. Nobody listened. Amaechi is one man. If PDP and internal saboteurs cannot forgive him, should the entire state be made to suffer? Do our elders and youths have to be subjected to a Wike administration for another four years because of your hate for Amaechi? What did he do to you? Did he tell you he wants to run for President in 2023? What did we do to you? Every life in Rivers state is valuable and so we will not rest until they are given the opportunity to realize their full potential. Some of the people lining up to stab Amaechi today were the beneficiaries of his good heart yesterday. In some cases, he even saved their lives!! Disagree, even deny him any advantage if you like, but don’t forget tomorrow, even if you have forgotten yesterday. Why demonize him constantly even when he is silent. What use is it to you to and why take out your pound of flesh from the back of innocent Rivers people? Amaechi will forgive you. But Rivers people won’t.

You raise several objections like that the result should have been announced within 21 days, that INEC kept result sheets in its custody rather than with the CBN. What difference does this make?

The simple answer to your question is our objections made no difference because they interrupted the agenda that was in play. There is a reason why elections are covered by guidelines and transparency is the currency which INEC has to protect. In the Rivers state matter, they exhibited an arrogance of the highest order and made no concession in our favour. None. The blatant disregard they showed is why we cannot let this matter rest. In a very short statement I issued after they declared Wike, I said they have murdered sleep and asked us to go to hell. We have heard them. They too will hear us soon.

You issued a statement after the return of Wike by INEC saying the election will not stand the test of time, what will you do?

We have several options before us and each option will be scrutinized to the full. If this isn’t countered, it will become the norm. By our traditionally low standards, 2019 in Rivers state was a very new low. Therefore there must be consequences. You can ignore a small party and maybe get away with it, but not the APC.  Rivers state deserves better than such an organized oppression. We are way too big for that. From day one to declaration, we saw a conspiracy that included judges, security agencies and INEC all lined up to deny a whole party their democratic privilege and a whole state, their proper choice. We will soon see who is more determined.

You have at different times accused Senator Magnus Abe, who is of your party and who was factional governorship candidate of APC of fraternizing with Wike. How did he do that?

Let me quickly correct you. Abe was an aspirant, not a candidate. And the APC only gave recognition to Tonye Cole as its candidate. So the use of the term factional candidate is like calling someone a factional parent. It won’t fly. I’m not going to discuss Abe at length except to say that when the baby is not your own, it’s death does not affect you. We saw it in the Bible when Solomon confronted the two women over the ownership of a child. We know those who are happy about this hollow victory and we know those who avoided bloodshed to allow it pass. The real owners of Rivers state are in tears. The real friends of Rivers state are sad. The real lovers of Rivers state are in mourning, while those without a stake or conscience are either indifferent or at peace. Let every man take his position. The time to be held accountable will definitely come.

Any message for Rivers people?

To all of you at home and away, I say that the night is darkest just before the dawn. Be hopeful. Wike is a cancer that has to be removed. We know how he got there and we know what has become of our state since he did. Rather than touch our people and develop our state, he has touched the media and developed a skill in propaganda just to remain as governor. Far fewer people died in 2019 than in 2015 by a ratio of over 50 to 1, but looking at many media reports, you won’t see this. Just hold on to your faith. Our God is not sleeping. What we need is peace, based on justice. I am ready to fight for that. And I know I am not alone.