Monday, March 28, 2016 3:26 pm
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers on Monday morning spoke with panelists of Channels television in the state Government House concerning the recently conducted election rerun in the state as well as the level of insecurity in the build-up to the exercise and the exercise itself. He also spoke suggested an autopsy be carried out on the member of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, saying this would establish the kind of bullet that killed him and further help to stall future occurrence. EROMOSELE EBHOMELE transcribed excerpts of the question and answer session
How did the rerun exercise play out?
Before that date, we had heard some information concerning INEC and how they were collaborating with the APC to employ ad-hoc staff that would help INEC to conduct and win the election. I got that information and as the Chief Security Officer of the state, knowing fully well those are the kinds of issues that could lead to crisis, sometime in February, I wrote a letter to the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission alerting him of this information and that we feel it would not be proper if that happens. And I did indicated in the letter that since the all the state would participate, they could go to another state and pick ad-hoc staff and the chairman hadn’t even replied; I called his phone and said: “I had expected a reply and didn’t get any reply. I did say that the integrity of the commission must be maintained and that nobody will compromise. Then sometime in March again, I got another information that they had gone to the University of Port Harcourt and have picked lecturers and staff of the university who are members of the party (he mentioned two of such members of the APC with one as a one-time Organising Secretary of the APC). I also indicated a former caretaker committee chairman who is from my local government is also a collation officer. I attached that. They ignored that. The day the DIG of Police came to Port Harcourt to meet with stakeholders, our Senator, George Sekibo, also presented that before the DIG. It will not be proper for the ad-hoc staff of INEC to be members of the APC. The REC in Rivers state denied it saying he does not believe that. For a governor to write a letter attesting that these persons from my community, I know him too well and you are saying that I was not saying the truth.
What percentage would you say the APC members was in INEC?
It is not an issue of percentage now. The issue has to do with trying to avoid crisis. Like the person who was at Ikwerre Local Government Area is even from my local government and related to the House of Representatives candidate in my local government. He went to Ikwerre Local Government as a collation officer. Now, when he had collated all the ward results and was left with declaring the result that PDP had won the election, he ran away. That is what could cause crisis in that local government. In Port Harcourt Local Government, particularly in Ward 10 where the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Austin Opara, comes from, the candidate of the APC for the House of Representatives also come from that particular ward…
From the way you spoke about APC members being ad-hoc staff to INEC, it would seem as if the entire list was filled with APC members.
Those are the ones I can identify about because we know them. About 300 (ad-hoc staff) and you are talking about 100. We identified them. This is not right. Even if you want to give any support, it should not be so brazen that people will know. In that ward 10, if not for my intervention, I know what would have happened there. A collation officer, on Saturday night, was being looked for to present the result of a particular ward. The presiding officers from the various units were at the collation centres to submit their results, this collation officer was nowhere to be found, not knowing that she is a friend to the candidate of the APC in that local government and that she had already prepared result in that local government. So while people were looking for her, they didn’t get her. When the information came that this woman had been seen and was in the Mile 1 Police Station, everybody moved there to know what was happening. “Why are you in the police station? People are looking for you to join others to collate the result.” She said while she was at the INEC office, somebody gave her a ride. How could somebody give you a ride when you have been provided with a Coaster bus to carry all the collation officers. And who is this person that gave you the ride? She didn’t know. So what happened thereafter? She said her phones were off.
How did you know she had prepared a result to be declared?
Because we saw it. And that was what made me to go to the police station. I called the AIG and asked him what was happening. I told him to come to the Mile 1 police station. Before going to the police station, I was in my house, I had not woken up. Someone called my wife and told her there was crisis. And my had to wake me up that this lady had called her and there is a crisis and that the army had taken over the police station, not knowing that they wanted to take this woman away in order for their result to be declared. So if I had not come, that would have been the end.
Did you get into the police station?
I did and that was how I called the AIG who was in charge of the election.
The DG of NIMASA (Dakuku Peterside) told us in an earlier interview that the car the woman entered belongs to the AIG.
First of all, look at the cap that the woman was wearing. That was the same cap the chairman of the APC in the state wore. What is the relationship? It is so amazing.
Does the list you mentioned earlier confirm your allegation?
It was quite clear that this could cause political crisis and it was necessary to stop it.
It would seem that you did not have confidence in the process.
In election process, some people believe that if a government is strong at the federal level, that government could have some influence as far as INEC is concerned. But we thought that INEC should also come and say: “there are things we can do and certain things we cannot do. We must conduct this election.” What gave us confidence in this election was that we were quite on ground.
When you got to the police station, did you have any altercation with the police?
How could I have done that? If you watch it, you would see that I just stayed away and asked the AIG to come and the next thing I saw was the DG of NIMASA with a lot of military men. Thereafter, the former governor came with over 80 military men. I just folded my hands and was watching. I never had a single army officer, not one.
Whose soldiers did you meet at the police station?
When I got there, I asked them who sent them. They said they got a call that there was a problem. A problem in the police station and the police cannot handle it and requires the army to come to the station? Then something must be fishy somewhere. They were to smuggle out the woman and the boys resisted it and so, they brought the army. I was there when the Transport Minister and the DG of NIMASA came. If you watch the clip you would see that I just stood with the former Deputy Speaker and watched things.
So you had no altercations?
No, we didn’t talk.
So how did the papers get their headlines as ‘Amaechi, Wike in shouting match’?
That’s again to tell you the interest. The AIG didn’t even come to speak to me. I was the one who invited the AIG, he came and didn’t even say where’s the governor. So we stood by and were watching the scenario and when they finished, we moved into the car and left. When I got there, the candidate of the APC was there. The chairman of the party came in with the DG of NIMASA with the Sole Administrator of the NDDC. And when the former governor came, he came with Magnus Abe and the rest of them. We didn’t talk to them. They finished and we laughed. Luckily at the end of the day, the PDP won.
In an earlier interview, the DG of NIMASA said they came to the police station because they heard that you were there and thought you came there to bully…
It is very funny. Assuming that was what happened, were they coming to fight the governor in a police station? Obviously, knowing that they had lost the election, they would do everything possible to see that the election was cancelled in one way or the other. In fact, it was surprising to me when I heard in their statement that the entire election should be cancelled, which is their usual pattern when they lose election. Meanwhile, in Opobo constituency, they declared the APC the winner. It was clear from day one that we are to vie for free and fair election. We knew that this rerun was a second opportunity for the world to know who actually won that election. Rivers people were really prepared.
The former governor is quoted as saying in the past the state did not conduct elections? Do you agree with him?
If he says in the past we never conducted elections, so how did he become a governor? So there was no election and he went in there as a governor and accepted that? It is very funny. It means that he benefitted from fraud. That is not correct.
You have said one cannot rig if one is not popular. Do you say that he was popular and his party was popular and so it was fine?
PDP is popular in Rivers state and has won all the elections in Rivers since 1999. So if yoy compare it with the popularity of the candidate, it makes it easy for the candidate to win.
But the PDP is a house divided against itself...
Which house? In this state? How? So many factors were involved. The former governor was not running for election, but presented himself as if he was the one running for the election. He had had his own challenges as governor of the state and people were not happy. As a candidate then, it was difficult for APC to beat us in that election. It was very difficult and you would have seen it play out loud. We are not in control of security or INEC, yet the party that is in control of the agencies are now calling for cancellation. You were complaining when we were at the centre. Now you are at the centre and you are still complaining.
What is the popularity of PDP in Rivers state?
The popularity of PDP in Rivers is too overwhelming. Go along the streets and you would see why we will continue to win.
Prior to the election, we saw the killings in Rivers state making newspapers term your state ‘Rivers of blood’. How does that come to you?
In Benue state, we hear, whether correct or wrong, that over 300 people died in one action. In that kind of situation, what would you term Benue state? Just that because some people may have died here, you have termed it ‘Rivers of blood’. Whose interest? There’s no particular state where you can say you done have crisis. Go back to Lagos state where armed robbers attacked severally. If it were Rivers state, it would attract a different headline. It pains me that somebody has to be killed in a state, it pains me as a governor and human being. I can’t see somebody being slaughtered for no cause. Even if there be any cause, it would be through the law court. Now, we have had this issue of cultists overtime carrying out reprisal attacks. This is since 1999.
Some people believe that the mode of campaign between both parties for the election partly fuelled the violence, like you asked that some people write their will…
When you say I said if you are coming here, write your will, if you are coming to deny the people, the people will resist. So don’t come here and play any funny game. That has kept them on their toes.
If the INEC official that you claim was at the police station had been killed, how would you have felt?
If you are killed at committing crime, how would I feel? The point we must understand in this country is this: election rigging is one of the most criminal cases because it has to do with subverting the will of the people.
You don’t think the court is sufficient to address those kinds of ills?
That is not the point. The point is that I shouldn’t be pushed into it. You are rigging election, it causes crisis, people die, what happens? I think we should talk about stopping the crisis and not the effect of the crisis.
Talking about the clashes, they have said it is the PDP members killing the APC members.
Let me state it clearly. We have the security agencies and they have their reports. What are the reports of these security agencies? Did they say party A member killed party B member? And why is it that when anybody dies, the person automatically becomes an APC member? This particular local government where we have had this particular problem, I wish to say that it did not start today. It has been there and we have been working on it. The security agencies have sat down with me. In this last rerun, the report from the security shows that this local government was the most peaceful during the re-run. Then ask yourself the question: is it not the same place where they alleged political killings?