By Willy Eya
Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) in Rivers State, Felix Obuah believes that only one party exists in the oil-rich state. For him, the PDP is the only party that has a structure that connects to the grassroots. He speaks on various issues with journalists.
What is the state of the PDP in Rivers State?
The PDP is on ground and very strong. It is the leading party in the state and there is no doubt that our choice of Nyesom Wike as governor is a good one. He is God-sent to liberate the people of Rivers State from the grip of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and so far, he has done very well. He is making things easier for the PDP in Rivers State because when you elect someone who keeps to his promises to the electorate, it is as good as keeping hope alive. So, the PDP is very much on ground in Rivers State and I can tell you that we have never had it better like we have at the moment.
Do you think Rivers PDP has recovered from the crisis it had following the exit of former Governor Rotimi Amaechi and his supporters from the party?
Using the word ‘recovered’ is an understatement because we were in bondage during Amaechi’s tenure as governor. We have nothing to showcase for Amaechi’s eight years in power. The people of Rivers State suffered severe hardship during Amaechi’s reign and there were no development anywhere. But in less than two years of Wike’s administration, the state is wearing a new look. Virtually all the parties in the state are singing the same tune except the APC. We have about 31 political parties in Rivers State and 30 are working together. Members of the other political parties have been given appointments by Governor Wike and we are working as one indivisible body. We have never witnessed the kind of cooperation that we have today. So, we don’t regret losing Amaechi to the APC; it was good that he left us.
You sounded as if Rivers PDP is insulated from the leadership crisis, which seems to have torn the party apart at the national level. Is the crisis not affecting the party in the state?
As far as I am concerned, there is no problem in the PDP. We had a convention in Port Harcourt, where we appointed a caretaker committee and the committee is doing well. Virtually all the elections that have been held since that convention had candidates sponsored by the committee. So, whoever is parading himself as PDP national chairman like Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, is an agent of destruction planted by the APC, but we are not bothered. We are marching on and they will never have their way in Rivers State or any other place in Nigeria.
You accuse the APC of planting Sheriff to destroy PDP, but it is clear that PDP chieftains including your governor, invited him to lead the party. How do you reconcile that?
Our governor has said it time without number that he never knew Sheriff from the onset. Because he believed in transparency and team play, there was no way that he would have said no when his colleagues introduced Sheriff to the leadership of the PDP. He has never been a lone ranger, so he worked with others with the hope that it was in the interest of the party. When his colleagues introduced Sheriff as a good man, he said okay, but it was not long before Sheriff showed his true character.
His plan during the convention was to perpetuate himself in office. He wanted to be a life-time chairman of the PDP. He fixed the convention, but little did we know that he went back to connive with some members of the party to perpetuate himself in office. That was the first signal. So, we said the man is not truthful and we cannot work with someone who is not truthful. That was the beginning of our resolve to look for someone, who we can trust. If we say that we don’t want you as chairman, why must you kill yourself? Yes, he has created some kind of confusion but God will vindicate us. Anyone using him to destabilise the PDP will not succeed. We don’t want Sheriff’s issue to distract us in Rivers State because the governor is focused on fulfilling his campaign promises.
Are you satisfied with the outcome of the recent legislative rerun elections in Rivers State?
I am not satisfied because everyone saw what happened. It wasn’t an election but a war. A situation where security agents connived with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deny the people their right is really unfortunate. In Rivers West senatorial district, where I come from, we won the election but it was not an easy victory. In Akuku-Toru and Asari-Toru, they held everybody hostage. It was because the people said their votes must count that we won the election. In Ogoni land, they never allowed election to hold. They carted away all election materials because they were desperate to return Magnus Abe to the Senate. You cannot force anyone on the people and we have said it that we will challenge the outcome of that election. Rivers State is PDP and PDP is Rivers State, and we have continually preached peace so that the people will choose their leaders.
What informed your belief that the APC was desperate to return Magnus Abe to the Senate, and is your party going to challenge his victory?
Magnus Abe never won the election and the records are there. The people are crying foul because INEC connived with security agents to deny us of our hard-earned victory. Senator Olaka Nwogu is the peoples’ choice and was duly elected, so they should allow him to represent his people because that is the essence of democracy.
But the PDP was accused of doing the same thing you have accused APC of when it was in power; that it didn’t allow elections to hold in Rivers State…
What did the PDP do? You cannot because you want to be popular be feeding the President with wrong information. In the rerun elections that we held, Amaechi lost in his polling booth and ward. He can never win election in his village – Ubima. The people of Rivers State believe so much in PDP because we have a transparent leadership. We carry everybody along in whatever we are doing; from the leadership to the least person because leadership is a collective thing and not about individuals.
Why are elections in the state always characterised by violence?
Developments in Rivers State are usually blown out of proportion. Rivers State is peaceful and not the way some people have painted. Once there is election, you hear noise all over the place, but after the election, everything goes down. If the state is bad as they paint it, we won’t have investors coming down here. We have major construction companies working in various parts of the state and we have not heard about any disruption. Our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is increasing. It is only during elections that you hear all sorts of tales about Rivers State to create the impression that there is insecurity in the state, so that they can muster enough security to aid them rig the polls. But, time has come when the people will say that no matter the number of security that you mobilse, you cannot have your way.
Don’t you think that such resolve would be setting the stage for more violence in the 2019 general elections?
I said that time has come when the people will take their destiny in their hands because we are in a democracy and the people should be allowed to choose their leaders in free, fair and credible elections. No one should be imposed on the people. Amaechi is a desperate politician and his likes are the ones fuelling crises in the state.
Are you not afraid that the APC may take over Rivers State in 2019 given the outcome of the recent legislative rerun elections?
We are not afraid of anything. Despite the challenges and the use of security agents by the APC, we still came out victorious. They know that none of their candidates can win election in Rivers State and that was why they wrote results and declared Magnus Abe winner of Rivers South East senatorial seat. APC members in Rivers State are defecting in their numbers to the PDP because they have seen the transparent leadership of Governor Wike. There’s nobody who will not appreciate good thing. What the governor has done so far is not for political gains; he has touched every part of the state. The roads, hospitals and schools that he is building are for the people of Rivers State irrespective of political leaning. The level of insecurity in the state was high during Amaechi’s government because of his desperation but you can see that normalcy has returned since Governor Wike assumed office. It is only Amaechi and his cohorts that are blowing the issue of security in the state out of proportion. Rivers State is calm and friendly.
The police have said that it will investigate the violence that led to the killing of its personnel during the rerun elections. What is your position on that?
It is clear to everyone that the APC is desperate to bring down the PDP government in Rivers State. They never imagined that the PDP would still emerge victorious after all they did in the state. But, they have failed to realise that God’s power prevails every other power; that we are there today is ordained by God and no human being can pull us down. Nobody can pull down Governor Wike’s government no matter how highly placed. The government is built on a solid foundation and God is behind it.