Ahead of the forthcoming legislative elections in Rivers State, former governor of the State, Sir Celestine Omehia has urged the stakeholders, irrespective of their political inclinations, to close ranks and allow the elections to hold peacefully.
Omehia who spoke in Abuja, said as a result of the non-representation of the state in the National Assembly, the state has recorded several of losses. He spoke to AIDOGHIE PAULINUS.
You recently wrote the stakeholders in Rivers on the need for unity of purpose in the state. What necessitated the letter?
The letter is a necessity because there is every need to rally round the government of the day and see that we all contribute toward the development and progress of the state. And most importantly, is the fact that there is a lot of acrimony, misunderstanding and hatred in the state and I feel that there is the need now to bring every person together irrespective of their political affiliation, irrespective of their calling. There is the need to call everybody together to work as a team for the development of the state.
Rivers State being one of the best states in Nigeria in terms of economic development, in terms of international recognition, infrastructural development, is experiecing a downturn because some people want to believe that unless they handle the affairs of the state, the state will not have rest. But then, we must come to say that not every person has the right to be a leader. So, we need to work together even if you are not leading at the moment.
How did Rivers State arrive at the present political situation?
It is all politics. Some people who believe that it is their birthright to rule. Some people believe that they have been cheated in politics; some other people believe that they have not been fairly treated by whoever. To them, the fight must continue irrespective of the losses on the state. In spite of the enormous losses of the state, the fight is that we must have the benefit of ruling the state or continue to run the state. That is why we are here today.
Specifically, what are the losses you refer to?
We have lost a lot. The state has lost in terms of recognition, in terms of manpower, in terms of development, in terms of the national recognition and imputs.Things that are naturally our rights are not accruable to us because Rivers state being one of the first three oil producing states, ought to be at the forefront of the sharing of the cake. It is not there at the moment. I can tell you that Rivers state has no representatives at the National Assembly. A whole of three seats at the National Assembly. We don’t have any senator at the moment. Out of the 13 House of Representatives seats, we have only four out of 13 constituencies. Even in the State House of Assembly, it is not also complete. There are elections to be held to complete all these things. The delay has been as a result of bickering, acrimony, showmanship, egoism and those who think it is their rights to rule.
Of course, it is natural to aspire. It is natural to think that you should be noticed and be remembered. It should also be natural to realise that you cannot keep winning every day and once you lose, you give glory to God for making an attempt in the first instance. Or, for supporting somebody, you have made an attempt. The state’s interest should be paramount to all of us and not your personal interest overruling, overriding, over -recognised above the state’s common interest.
So, we are losing everything. I can tell you that the unity is no more there, the hegemony that we used to enjoy and the issue of security is setting in now. The present administration is doing a lot to bring security into the system, to talk to the people of Rivers State not to take up arms or go further into violence. You can see that in the whole of the South-South region, oil wells are being blown up here and there. Rivers State has been the only state yet to be touched. That is because of the work of the governor of Rivers State. He has done well in terms of security; he has done well in the area of infrastructural development. Therefore, we need to support him further to achieve more. And after this time, if any other person is interested in contesting an election, why not? It is your natural right to contest. So, anybody can come out again to contest an election. But where you lose, you give glory to God.
In 2007, the Supreme Court of Nigeria, all of you are aware, said they had the right to be wrong and deliberately removed me from office. There was no headache. And what I did was that I thanked God for the opportunity that was given to me. And then, I have served the people of Rivers state; I have made my own mark and to me, Rivers State must continue to exist. I won’t bring Rivers State down, I won’t fight beyond that level, and I did not go to court after the Supreme Court’s decision. This is how it should be. If you aspire for anything and you don’t get it, go ahead and do some other things other than bringing the state down.
The last legislative election in the state was crisis-ridden. Are you confident that the forthcoming election slated for December 10, 2016 will be different?
For the interest of the state, I think it should be different. We have learnt our lessons. We have seen the consequences of not allowing elections to be held. We should know now that the National Assembly has no extension of period. So, if we don’t put our acts together now and allow election to hold, then, we will lose permanently. That means that on record, Rivers state would be the only state in Nigeria that would not have representatives at the National Assembly, especially in the Senate.
Also, I think Rivers people are intelligent enough to know that this is the time to sheathe their swords. Whoever is being egoistic should know that the state’s interest is paramount than individual interests. I would also say that the Federal Government should not proliferate the election period with the Army or forces that have nothing to do with the election. That infuriates the whole system. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) also should know that this election is the final for them. So, they must conduct it with due diligence and caution so that Rivers State would have representatives at all levels. If INEC decides to act in one way or the other against the popular interest of the people, it will also not result well. What I am saying is that our people in Rivers State, irrespective of political divide, should know that we are all stakeholders and that the representation of the state at the National Assembly is important to us.
How do you see the attitude of Rivers elders towards the crisis?
I know 70 to 80 per cent of the political elders, most of them, have held positions in the state and those who are still holding positions and those who can determine the movement of political activities in one way or the other, are in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). They are interested that peace sets in, they are interested that there should be an election and they are interested that every person should sheath his sword no matter the other percentage remaining anywhere. But then, the common interest of the state is what the elders of the state are preaching. I join them in preaching that sermon of peace, sermon for unity and the growth and development of the state. I think that if the Federal Government, in her wisdom, through her agencies, should listen to the elders, then they should also be aware that the unity, the growth of the people is what we are looking for.
You’re part of Rivers problems, APC tackles Omehia
From: TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
The All Progressives Congress (APC), Rivers State, has challenged former governor Celestine Omehia to name the politicians, whose ambitions have truncated democratic process in the State, rather than generalize the issue.
State Publicity Secretary of the party, Chris Finebone, who spoke in Port Harcourt, accused the Governor Nyesom Wike-led government of being responsible for political violence witnessed in the State.
“It is important for Celestine Omehia to name those sit tight politicians. The statement is pretty typical of him – errant statements that make little or no sense”, Finebone stated.
According to him, the festering political crisis in the State, is a fallout of “daredevil ambition” of the people in government.