- My issues with Rotimi Amaechi
HIGH Chief Ateke Tom was a ‘General’ in the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and leader of the Niger Delta Vigilante Force. He spoke to Saturday Sun in his country home, Okrika, Rivers State, where he cleared the air on what could be termed, his ‘real position’ on Biafra agitation and its agitators. He also spoke on the politics of Rivers State, for instance, how he would have led a protest to earnestly beg Governor Nyesom Wike to re-contest, if the Supreme Court had annulled his election, among other issues. He spoke with CHRIS ANUCHA and TONY JOHN. Excerpts:
There was a report in which you warned Biafra agitators to leave Rivers State, though, you had since backpedalled. Now, what’s is your real position on Biafra and the agitators?
Biafra agitation concerns the Federal Government, it doesn’t concern Ateke at all. Ateke is not the federal government; after all, the federal government and Biafra agitators are already in court. After the legal battle, we will know the winner. But, we don’t want any problem in this country, we don’t want war. And people should stop using my name for something that does not concern me. I never said anything li ke, Biafra agitators leaving Riv ers State because , I am not the federal government.
As a former agitator, are you saying the issue of Biafra does not concern you in one way or the other?
The issue of Biafra does not concern me. It is Nigeria’s matter. We are all one Nigeria, that’s all I know.
How do you see Rivers State, under Governor Nyesom Wike?
Everybody in Rivers State knows that Governor Wike is a good governor, he is the one everybody wants, he is a good governor; at least, people have seen what he is doing in the state, you can see his achievements, without stress or being noisy about them. He is winning. Looking at his achievements, you will understand that he is the one Rivers people want, he is the person we want, and God has answered our prayers. Then, I want to use this medium to thank President Muhammadu Buhari for identifying with Rivers people, he is actually helping the state, by giving Rivers indigenes federal appointments. He appointed our brother, the former governor, Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation; we are very happy because he is Rivers man. It did didn’t end there; he made our brother again, Dakuku Peterside, the Director General, NIMASA. We thank him too, for that. Before we knew it, he appointed Mrs. Ibim Semenitari the Acting Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). We also thank him for that gesture. These are the kind of thing s we want in Rivers State. We don’t want any problem. So, they should bring good things to us in Rivers State. We congratulate Amaechi too, for his appointment. Now, they should bring development to Rivers State. We do not want violence, definitely, we don’t want violence in Rivers State.
But you and Amaechi seem to be sworn enemies, why are you happy over his appointment as Minister of Transportation?
I am not his enemy, he is the one who takes me as his enemy. I am not his enemy! It is only God that has been guiding me in everything I do . It is not for me to return abuses to him each time he rains abuses on me . I will not do that. If he does good thing, I will praise him. If he does bad thing, that is his business, but I will always commend the good things they do, and the development we want in Rivers State, as Rivers people. When you do good things, we will commend and hail you, and not violence .
If you see Rotimi Amaechi today, face-to-face, how will you react? Are you going to hug or embrace him for instance?
I will greet him the way people are greeted, like, ‘oga, how now’? If he like, let him respond to the greeting, if he doesn’t like, that is not my business.
Is that the way you will greet the former governor of your state and Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
Yes. Since he was our former governor, I will greet him, ‘Your Excellency, you are welcome’. I will greet him, if he wants to hug me, I will hug him too. No shaking, it doesn’t remove anything from me, we want peace in Rivers State .
The legislative rerun election in Rivers State was declared inconclusive by INEC. What is your advice to the Commission, considering the peace you are now preaching ?
INEC should do what is right, what it is supposed to do. It should not be biased because we don’t want problem in Rivers State. As I earlier said. We want everybody to do things with clean mind, so that this Rivers problem will end; so that we can have a rest of mind . Anybody that wants to be governor should wait till next time. Let the state have some peace for once .
If someone is coming into your estate, he is confronted with a banner with inscriptions, advising people to shun kidnapping and other crimes. But, kidnapping and other crimes are still on the increase. What is going on ?
That I said people should stop kidnapping, does not mean it will stop completely. I am not God, I am not the government. But in my own little way, I am contributing my own quota . I am giving kidnappers tough time. I fight and arrest them. So, I condemn kidnapping. They are in the newspapers, kidnappings and killings are not good. If you check very well, most of the killings are politically-motivated. I condemn these killings in the state too. If you check very well, the way they are killing now, that was not the way they were killing before. They are too brutal now. You must have heard that Okrika is very peaceful; it is the most peaceful place because, I am on ground. So, if everybody could take charge of his area, the way I am doing here, peace will reign in the state.
Still on the need for peace in Rivers State, what is your advice to Governor Wike and Amaechi, on the ways of achieving this much talked about peace?
They should make peace. There is need for them to make peace because what is happening in Rivers State as a result of the problem between the two of them, is also affecting us Rivers people. So, there is the need for them to make peace.
You earlier said the governor is doing well, which area(s) do you think he is doing well?
The man is trying. They have not allowed him to sit properly, or relax on the executive chair he was elected to occupy, to pilot the affairs of Rivers State , to check the things that are happening in the state, to know what to do for the people. Everybody saw the problem on ground, unemployment, he cleared the arrears of salaries owed to workers, just like that. If he balances well on the executive seat, what do you think would happen?
No, I want him to balance well.
But it appears he has balanced well now?
No, no (Laughs) He has not balanced well, it has been work, work, work . Now , God will help him to balance well , and we will know that he has balanced and the work will begin to flow, and he will achieve more for the people of Rivers State .Imagine the level of work he would do, if he is to relax on the executive chair. After now, you will see many changes, more achievements.
How did you react to the Supreme Court judgment which upheld the victory of Governor Wike?
Are you on Facebook? Go to Google now, Google it and see the way I danced, rejoicing . I am very happy that Wike won. I then thought that the problem in Rivers State were over; but before we knew it, the problem started again. But God will still take care of it.
How would you have reacted, if he had lost at the Supreme Court ?
God would still have taken care of the situation, the way He is taking care of things now . I know that if he did n ot win at the Supreme Court, he would have won in the re-run governorship election. Wike would have won ! We knew he would still win, if th ere was re-run!
But the governor said during a thanksgiving service in Port Harcourt, that he wouldn’t have re-contested, if the Supreme Court had nullified his election. According to him, he wanted to avert more bloodshed in the state. Now, what would people like you, his supporters have done, if the Supreme Court judgment was not in his favour, and he decided not to re-contest?
People will even die while protesting, insisting that he re-contest because, they believe he will give them good governance. I know Wike as a man
who does not promise and fail. I know he could still jettison his governorship ambition, to prevent killings because he cares for his people.
At that point, would you have still gone ahead to prevail on him to re-contest?
Yes. His supporters will say, ‘please, come and re-contest’, we would beg him earnestly to re-contest to see if God could change his mind. They, his supporters would cry profusely, begging him to re-contest. Do you know why he made that statement; some persons had vowed that unless they won, people would die. Look at what happened recently. Then, do you think Wike was wrong, when he said he wouldn’t have re-contested, if he lost at the Supreme Court? He knew people would have died, that was why he made the statement.
I would have begged him to contest again. I would have told him, Wike, please, contest because we need you. He might say no; I would have personally begged him to re-contest. But if he insisted, I would only sigh, enter into my house, to at least, avoid problem.
Chief, what is your relationship with Dakuku Peterside?
He is my brother, my Ijaw brother.
Why didn’t you want your brother to be governor of the state?
Who told you I didn’t want him to be governor ? It is Rivers people that didn’t want him, don’t say I didn’t want him to be governor, any person can win in an election, you are free to vote for any party of your choice. Everybody has a party of his choice.