From Tony John, Port Harcourt
The Rivers State governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, recently fielded questions from journalists in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
And the governor reacted to a recent interview by former governor of Niger State, Dr Babangida Aliyu, saying that some of the allegations made by the ex-Niger governor were directed at him. Excerpt from the encounter.
In his recent interview, a former governor of Niger State, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, said that you are the cause of the crisis in PDP because you want to be a godfather, or a dictator. Are you a dictator?
There is no political dictator in Rivers State as far as PDP is concerned. That is why if there is any part of the country that PDP is sure of winning, should there be election today or tomorrow, that state is Rivers. That is not the case of Niger State. Babangida Aliyu is a political liability to PDP. He is not an asset. This is a man who came out to the public to say that he worked against the PDP in 2015. He went ahead to say ‘we Northern governors worked against President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015’. But people like Jonah Jang of Plateau State and Sule Lamido of Jigawa State came to say it is a lie, we never worked with you against our party. Babangida is what they call a chronic liar, a serial betrayal. So, I am not aware of any problem in my state. If there is, it would be reported and the state leadership will take it up. The same Aliyu Babangida in 2017 was one of those who opposed Uche Secondus to be chairman of the party. Aliyu has no job. Can you see what we are doing here working very hard to see that we do not allow APC in Rivers State. Ask Aliyu Babangida whether he can do the same in Niger State? Today, if they hold election in Niger State, can he make PDP to win in the state? As I talk with you now, no state congress of PDP has been done in Niger State. Niger State is one of the states that have not held congress of the party. Why? It is because of the dictatorial tendencies of Aliyu. The people that the masses want he does not want them. This is the character that you compare with me. All he does is to seek for committee meetings to attend. He has no job. He said he is a PhD holder. What he should have done is to offer himself to a university and say take me I want to contribute to the development of education. But, he will not do that. He has come to become the Spokesman of NWC. A man who betrayed his party. Now he is saying the party should suspend me, I will be happy. It is not to bulge out eyes, what does he have in stock to offer the party? If Aliyu Babangida leaves PDP today, nobody will even bother. But, if I decide to leave the party today, you know its consequences. Upon the PhD he claims he has, he cannot understand English. I did not say all NWC, I said some members of the NWC are acting as tax collectors. Ordinarily, I don’t even have time to talk about Aliyu. When Aliyu was the governor of Niger State, many of you have been to Niger, let him show you one concrete thing he did. All he knows when I invite people to come and commission projects in my state he gets angry that I don’t invite him. Why should I invite him when he does not merit it? In 2015, he was governor, PDP lost woefully. In 2019, PDP lost woefully in the same state, no House of Assembly, no senator, no council chairman, no House of Representatives. What is the impact of such a person to the party? In 2019, even with the federal might against us, we were able to deliver all the assembly seats, all the Senate candidates. So, who is more useful to the party? Is it the person who cannot win his immediate constituency? It is unfortunate. People are working to ensure that PDP takes power in 2023, he is here talking. People like Aliyu Babangida are the moles we have in PDP. He is a mole in PDP. These are people who get information and ignore the vital part of the information. If I say something today against PDP, of course, you know the consequences of that. What I am saying is that he is a political liability to PDP. If I leave PDP, I will win election in any party I join today.
Is there a problem between you and the National Chairman of your party, Uche Secondus?
We must always disagree. Is that what people see as crisis? When we got to the local government, we said look we can’t continue to be this way; there is need to go the other way in order to carry everybody along. You may agree, you may also disagree. If I have a problem with you, you and I know that I will not hide my feelings, I will tell you. If there is anything tomorrow that Secondus is not doing well I will tell him. Is he God? Everybody who knows me knows that I don’t need to use another person to fight anybody. Just like I am telling you that Aliyu Babangida is a liability and a mole in the PDP. Then I will go and use some other person to say so? There is no one born of a woman that I cannot say that before him. So, you don’t need to insinuate, you know me very well. I am not in the category of Aliyu Babangida; he knows that very well. If he is telling me that I have problem with Secondus, well Secondus has not come to the state to tell us that we have problem. If we have problem, we say, yes.
Do you think that the National Working Committee of PDP is actually playing the roles expected of a party in opposition?
Many people have said that it is very clear that it is easy for the PDP to take over in 2023. We have heard it. We said look, our party is not playing the real opposition role they are supposed to play. I don’t need to wait for this Federal Government to do something before we start criticizing, I don’t need to wait. I am not speaking for the party. I speak as somebody who is in opposition. It is left for the party to say whether our national working committee is doing well. You are the public. Assuming I come out to say they are not doing well, you will say because I have interest somewhere. It is left for you, the observers, to say whether we are doing well or not as opposition party. It’s you! If I say we are not doing well, it is easy to say he is not in tune with them. It is you what will judge. You will judge where PDP is doing well as opposition. I cannot set examination for myself as well mark it.
Are you in support of the vote of confidence passed in the NWC by the party’s Board of Trustee (BoT)?
Now, that is what you see when people don’t even know anything. What does the constitution of PDP provide for? That was an emergency meeting. Where is vote of confidence coming from? A vote of confidence you have to send motion to people and then it will appear on agenda of the meeting. You don’t call for an emergency meeting, probably to pass a budget, for example, and you begin to pass vote of confidence. It is the handiwork of the same Aliyu Babangida, who will always come to meeting first to sit in the front. If the meeting is at 4:00p.m, he will come at 2:00p.m, so that he will sit in front to bulge out his eyes. If I was in that meeting and there was such an application, I would have said don’t do this, what is the vote of confidence for? That people made allegation, so what. Who are those that made this allegation? Call them, why are you making such allegations? Don’t you know you are embarrassing our party? You don’t rush things. When something happens, there is panic in you, let us do this, and that is why we will continue to make mistakes.
Do you think Aliyu has the capacity to boast that the PDP would reclaim Ebonyi and Cross River states?
Now, he is talking about PDP will recover Ebonyi and Cross Rivers states. What will be his contribution? What is the strategy for them to recover it? A man, who even in his place cannot provide votes is telling you that PDP will recover; recover your own first. Show the capacity first. You will first of all recover your own first. I can say so, because people have seen it. I don’t think if in his own state federal might had come the way it came here that he would even get two votes; he would have run away. But, I stood there. Nigerians saw everything that happened. I can say, Cross Rivers State and Ebonyi are PDP states, PDP will take them back. Why will I say so because I know what is on ground. He does not know what is on ground. It is not to talk for people to hear you talking. Go and conduct congress in your state. In 2019, what happened to him? He insisted that his boy would be the governor and PDP lost. Who is then a dictator? Up till now, the state congress cannot take place because they want to dictate who becomes chairman of the party. You can now imagine a pot calling kettle black. Look at me I am the governor of Rivers State. If tomorrow I say I want to leave the party, for instance, I am not like any other people you think of, no. I am not a sycophant. I will tell you how I feel about it. The day I say I want to fight anybody in PDP, I will come out and fight the person. I am not going to hide. I will come out. I don’t hide under any umbrella. For what?
Don’t you think there is a need for an appraisal of your party’s NWC instead of calling for its removal?
Aliyu should be man enough to say that this person is calling for the removal of the NWC. Who did that person call? Was he one of those persons that was called? If I say, for example, that an officer is not doing well, or you are corrupt. Is that his interpretation of saying they should get rid of NWC? For grace sake, if anybody says NWC should be removed, the person should give reason, why it should be so. And there is nothing wrong if somebody holds such opinion and we can begin to justify that opinion. That is what they call democracy. He is not man enough. It is not to wear ‘agbada’ that makes you a man. What makes a man is coming out to speak your mind before anybody in the morning, afternoon and in the night. What you say in the morning, should be what you say in the afternoon and night. Not when you say this in the morning, tomorrow you wear another ‘agbada’ and change your position. In the night you wear jeans, you change. That is the kind of character Aliyu Babangida is. In everything you do you examine and re-examine. Even as a government, you do appraisal. Where have we not done well, where have we done well. That helps you to move on. As I am speaking today, we have given timetable of the activities we are to do. We will give account of stewardship at the end of the day. Having given that stewardship, we will have to reappraise ourselves. In education, are there things we did not do that we ought to do. In health, have we done well compared to where we were. In infrastructure, where are we today, where were we yesterday. If anybody calls for reappraisal of the NWC today, it does not mean that the person does not want the party to move forward. In fact, the person, who says let’s have appraisal of what they have done, should be given credit. Aliyu Babangida is doing that because he thinks that the NWC will give him the chairmanship of the party at the state level, which he cannot win. So, he has to do anything to manoeuvre. To be sychophantic is not to be a servant. You said he is a servant? If he has been using that to deceive people, go to Niger State and see the level of development under Aliyu Babangida. Remember that in 2015, the same Aliyu Babangida was one of those going round to bring down PDP and, of course, he was happy he did that. Today, look at the consequences. That is the kind of man that has the temerity, the audacity to talk to a governor, whose state produced the highest vote for the party in 2015; 1.5 million votes. The ruling party never had 25 per cent in Rivers State. In 2019, the same state provided the highest vote for PDP, and the APC did not get 25 per cent. Ask Aliyu Babangida, the man that failed, whether we got 25 per cent in Niger State. Look at us making PDP proud everyday. That the PDP is surviving in this country is because of us, the governors. So, what makes your party to win is by providing the dividends of democracy. You see, he is now in Abuja. He cannot even go home. I challenge him, let him go and do congress in his state. He only attends every NEC meeting. When the meeting is by 3:00p.m he comes by 1:00p.m. He doesn’t like staying at the back, he stays in front. They call him Aliyu Babangida, PhD, then he is talking like a small boy.
Do you have a presidential ambition or do you want to be a vice president?
When somebody has an ambition, you must see him going from one place to another. Have you ever seen me? I have challenged all of them, if I want to run for presidency nobody can stop me. Nobody. They are so timid. They are so intimidated. Sometimes you hear that he is running for vice president, does anybody run for vice president? Sometimes, they query themselves, this his performance why is he doing it? This is his second tenure. If it is not for presidency why must he be performing like this? Is performance only for the first tenure? What kind of a country are we? Was I elected only for first tenure? I have not told anybody I want to be president. Like I hear Aliyu that does not have strength that I want to be a godfather. Godfather to whom? Aliyu was bold to say that he worked against President Goodluck Jonathan and you still allow such a character to be in your highest decision-making body. It is unfortunate.
With all these attacks from some leaders of your party, are you still committed to rebuilding the PDP?
If I am a member of the party, to show that I am one, commitment must be there. Just like when Benue and Bauchi states had some crises, as a man, who loves the party, I said, look we can’t be here and allow the crises because that will affect the chances of the party. I came out and said to them, gentlemen, we will resolve the problem. But, Aliyu from the North Central, never called the governor of Benue to see how that matter would be resolved with the governor of Bauchi. That is why I said when these things happen, it makes them happy because they are moles in the party. If they truly believe in PDP, why will they not continue to work for the party? So, why am I in the party? If I am not in the party, then, I will not work. But, if I am in the party, I will work.
How do you react to Aliyu’s statement that you are trying to control the party by throwing money around because your state has the money?
That is to tell you his level of stupidity, with all due respect. I did know him as an auditor. He is so empty. You try to support the party he said you have money to buy the party. I am not the first governor of Rivers State under PDP. But he should also know that when PDP was nearly killed, he was running around Sheriff and the rest of them. That has been his lifestyle. What is the money? Have I gone to him one day to offer him money to do this for me. Okay, we have agreed, since he doesn’t have money, let him run the party and let us see where the party will go to. I cannot be in a political party and I cannot support the party. If I am in PDP, I will continue to support PDP. But people like Aliyu for Christ’s sake, what does he have to offer the party? Is it to come and show how big your eyes are. Will that make PDP to win election? What is his strategy for PDP in Niger State and Nigeria to win election? Let him come and I will challenge him to a debate on how PDP can win election. If I call him tomorrow now to come and commission project in the state, will he not come? I will send him global express now he will run down. But, I will not invite him because he did not do anything in Niger State. He does not qualify as somebody I should invite to commission projects because he never had any project. With due respect I invite those who offer something to their states. How did he come to be governor? A civil servant. Who didn’t know how he became governor of Niger State. Some people should stop thinking that because they have some privileges that they are special people. What special people are they? Who is Aliyu Babangida, who is he? In the politics of this country, who is he?
Aliyu also suggested that you want Secondus out of the way to enable you produce your successor?
Oh, my God! Can Secondus produce my successor? What kind of talk is that? Is Secondus trying to produce my own successor? Am I going to produce his own successor? So, that is what they have been planning. So, Secondus told him that I want him out, so that I will produce my successor. So, if Secondus is there, I cannot produce my successor, how will he do it? I think he should not put PDP into trouble. They want to sit down in Abuja and produce my successor. Where will they come and campaign? They will campaign in Abuja. Which venue in Rivers State will they campaign? The Wike you know, just tell me the truth, how will they survive it? How many of them have been to a political war before? Is it to stay in Abuja and talk? What I will give you, you will run. They will be in the hospital because their BP (Blood Pressure) will be very high. How can you talk about successor? I have said I will not impose anybody on Rivers people. I have said that. If I say I will not do that which national chairman will do that, who is the person? How can anybody dream of that? I don’t think Secondus told him that; I don’t think so. Is it me that is an asset to PDP. Compare me and Aliyu, who will PDP take? They should try it and see whether they will not lose 60 per cent. So, don’t talk about Aliyu saying this. He is a noise-maker. He is a perpetual blackmailer, that is how he survives. No work for him now. He should better take his PhD to go and lecture students and be happy.
What do you make of the Saraki’s reconciliation committee?
Aliyu Babangida is an empty head. Bukola Saraki and Shema, former governor of Bauchi State, came to see me on Friday and they left on Saturday and a liability is talking that the NWC should have suspended me. Such characters are they the ones that can help PDP? Okay, I have now surrendered myself; so, tell NWC now, ask police to come. If they do it, I will be very happy that some of the burdens are now out. I have confidence not like that liability in Niger State causing unnecessary distractions.
What is your take on the issue of zoning?
I can’t air my views now. If I do, what will I say when I go to the meeting? I will not air my view now. I don’t owe anybody. I will speak my mind anyday, anytime. I am not slave to anybody. So, I speak my mind that is who I am. There is nothing this government has not done to me. So, who am I going to be afraid of?