How power can shift in Rivers in 2023 —Nemieboka

As the succession battle for the governorship seat in Rivers State gradually becomes intense, the convener of the United Rivers Alliance (URA), Dason Nemieboka, talks on power shift in 2023 and the unending muscle-flexing in the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). ONYEMA GODWIN brings the excerpts.


We are three years away from the next elections, don’t you think it is a bit early to talk about who becomes the next governor of Rivers State?

No, good preparations precede good performance and, if you flip it, poor preparations precede poor performance. The moment you return from the Olympics, you begin preparations for the next. So, because we want good or better performance, we have started.


But, don’t you think that it will distract from governance?

No, it depends on who is involved and what he or she is doing. For instance, an elected executive or legislator should begin to think about what he would show or say to his constituents after four years. That will propel him to always consider the interest of his people. On the other hand, the electorate should start observing or assessing the elected, with the mind-set of mandate renewal or withdrawal, depending. However, for organisations or individuals that seek to promote principles and interests for the generality, work should be on. Those elected to lead should remain focused; what we want to achieve is to prepare templates for engagements. When the time is ripe, they can come and play.


But your reported call on politicians of the riverine extraction is capable of heating up the polity…

I disagree. It rather has a calming effect. What has made some people in the state uncomfortable with the riverine is the perception that they are prone to violence, because their traditional social systems are war-conscious in their structures. Others erroneously believe that the riverine people had been cheated and so it might be spoiling for war. So, they will prefer to continue to cheat us and so increase tension. Therefore, the URA is out to correct the misconceptions, increase interactions and enlightenment and other pre-election engagements.


How does your group intend to carry out these objectives? 

We have started, and as you can deduce, we are asking for a paradigm shift. We are telling the riverine people to discard the feeling of ‘it is our turn just like that.’ The mentality can cripple you. Just prepare and do your best and you will get it. Yes, we ought to be governor after Governor Nyesom Wike but to do it, we must change our strategy; might is weaker than the brain.  We must work on our weaknesses and show that a governor of riverine extraction would satisfy all Rivers people.


Are you, therefore, abandoning the call for a governor from the riverine area in 2023? 

We are abandoning the strategy of ‘feed me’ and adopting the very strategy that Governor Wike adopted in 2015. He saw an opportunity and grabbed it. He was calculative and focused.


What is your take on the new wave of crisis in the Rivers APC?

Well, it is unfortunate but no problem is wished away. The APC in Rivers has become the proverbial insensitive sheep. It is clear that the leadership of the party is living in self-deceit and so all will continue to suffer.


Are you by any means justifying Honourable Igo Aguma’s actions?

There are hundreds of APC rank and file who feel the same way. Some are held back by their concept of loyalty; others the hope for sustenance and yet others by the desire to move up the ladder, otherwise, you won’t see a hundred people behind the leader. I was the head of a special APC unit, Rivers Conscience, before the last election. We were gauging the mood and I can tell you that the morale was very low. What Honourable Igo Aguma is saying is not personal but a reflection of the sentiments in the APC. When a leader makes mistakes and feels that followers would adopt the errors as the new ground rules, then the system is doomed. You see, those abusing and castigating Aguma in the open will privately tell you worse things. I don’t know why the Minister of Transportation, Honourable Rotimi Amaechi, can’t see what is so obvious.


But it is alleged that Aguma is sponsored…

To create confusion and make it easy for Governor Wike to move in, right? We are playing Nigerian politics; anybody can join any party anytime he or she wants. Those who are afraid of you will try to stop you (as we saw in Edo State) but if you put your acts together, the party will accept you. I won’t be sentimental about Governor Wike joining the APC, if he so wishes. First, it will be in the interest of the APC; then, it will be good for Rivers people and the electoral system.


How will Governor Wike’s move to the APC benefit the people?

You must know that we had much tension, deaths and waste in 2015 and 2019 because the blocks were desperate. In one party, the dynamics will be less confrontational and so we shall have peace. Again, if the state governor is in the same party with the Federal Government, we shall not suffer as much neglect as we are suffering now. So, for me, if Governor Wike wants to move to the APC, let the national organ receive him and let the party recognise him.