– Lolo Ibieneye, PDP chieftain, River State
What is your position when it comes to zoning of the governorship slot in Rivers State?
My position is simple. There is rotation, there is zoning properly entrenched in the party constitution, recognised in the national constitution under federal character. Two things are fundamental: The position in PDP is not against what the federal government is doing, which is the federal character in every establishment. In Rivers State, from the time of self-governance, we have had a situation where if the head is from the riverine, the second in command is from the upland. If the head is from the upland, the second in command is from the riverine. Therefore, we are saying, for Christ’s sake, we have had the upland. Dr Peter Odili, Celestine Omehia, Rotimi Amaechi, incidentally, were all elected on the platform of the PDP. It is just a case of a woman leaving her father’s house to get married and she now answers Alice Mbene, and she is no longer answering her father’s name does not mean she has no home. She has a father! So, if Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has gone to become an APC member does not mean he got the seat he is sitting on as an APC member. As a matter of fact, as at the time of election there was nothing called APC. He was not an ACN member, he was not an ANPP member, he was a PDP member, properly elected on that platform.
It is obvious there is division in your party. Do you foresee yourself leaving PDP for another party where justice will be done?
Let’s look at it. The truth about it is that in 2011, when a part of PDP decided to go and fight for the governorship in ACN, incidentally all of us and those we met in ACN, we brought all of us back into PDP because when we went in there, they saw how we operated and did things and felt they were wasting their time in ACN and all of them came over to PDP with us. We did that. The same issue of let us have space, let everybody express himself, at the end of the day, a party structure in which the leadership has decided this is the person. Take a look today; in PDP we have about 23 or 24 guber aspirants. Almost all of them have picked their forms, throwing in N11 plus million, and you want to say someone has already been chosen. For the love of mine, the truth is, it is a challenge to the national leadership of the PDP – a challenge, a big challenge!
Does this mean the leadership of PDP in Rivers State has already picked a standard-bearer for the 2015 governorship election?
It is a truism.
Who is the person in question?
That is the former minister of state for education. It is on record; he said it openly. If I had known I would have brought the tape for you, where Felix Obuah said the party ticket has already been given out to Nyesom Wike. Their own appointed party leaders in the LGAs signed a communiqué saying the choice is Wike, and that is long before today. We have been crying about this and we won’t stop crying.
Do you have someone you are supporting as the governorship candidate?
No! Look, Rivers Mainstream Coalition has Ogoni candidates, Andoni candidates, Kalabari candidates. In all of these, we are trying to say PDP as a leadership in which everybody is confident of getting what he wants in a very fair contest. It is fairness we want. The only two ethnic groups that we will say it should not be are Ndoni in the Rivers West Senatorial District, where Peter Odili is from, where I come from; and Ikwerre, where the current governor is from, where Wike is from. But for greed – I call it greed – the desire to establish ethnic hegemony in Rivers State. Take a look, eight years of a governor in Rivers State and another eight years from the same ethnic nationality. The truth is, the difference will be so clear that it will be difficult for another ethnic nationality to fight for governorship in Rivers State.
A second issue that should be considered very seriously: the national integration committee that PDP set up where they appointed prominent, very highly placed individuals. In Rivers State, four persons were chosen because of the positions they have held in the state, and all the four persons were from the upland part of Rivers State – Odili as governor, Omehia as former governor, Chibudon Nwuche as former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Austin Okpara as former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives. The Ogoni had no place, the Ijaw had no place. It is not because the national leadership was biased in the choice; they were based on their offices. And you have not allowed these ethnic nationalities to occupy these places. How then can we talk about justice and equity? How can we talk about fair play? How representative is that? So, until an Ijaw or Ogoni becomes governor or a governor who is there to assist somebody to become deputy speaker, we cannot be there.
What is your solution and advice for PDP leadership?
What the PDP leadership has to do and do fast is to level the ground. That is, there should be a caretaker committee of the party that will be immediately asked to open registration. Within 48 hours, if you belong to PDP, go to your ward and register in the open. And with that register, we can immediately elect delegates for the primaries. At the end of that, whoever emerges is acceptable. Two, the party must be bold enough to enforce that position in the party’s constitution that power must rotate from one group to the other. Even the just concluded National Conference clearly indicated the presidency, the governorship and the local government chairmanship must rotate, must move from one area to the other, to make everybody feel a sense of belonging. PDP entrenched it voluntarily in its constitution… Anybody of Ikwerre and Ndoni extraction should be stopped from contesting this election. Then PDP will have all our people in Rivers State come out to participate with happiness and joy.
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