WE ARE AT THE THRESHOLD OF A NEW DAWN
In writing this letter, I know that you may never see or read it. I know that your supporters and aides who read this letter may never find the courage to bring it to your attention. And even if they do, Your Excellencies may wave it aside.
I hope however, that both of you will see and read this letter and that the content will appeal to you.
In any case, this letter speaks to Rivers people too. It awakens their expectations of both of you and where you fail, it inspires them to take their common destiny in their own hands.
Your Excellencies, I am able to write to both of you at once because you share a lot in common and because your political actions and inactions are of serious consequences for Rivers State.
One thing both of you share in common that places an obligation on you, is the incontrovertible fact that you are the biggest beneficiaries of the current democratic dispensation in the state.
Another thing that you have in common, which has tremendous potential to determine the future of Rivers State, is the fact that you are the leaders of the two dominant parties, the APC and the PDP.
Both of you had barely began life, so to speak, when the 1999 elections gave you the opportunities to become Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly and Chairman of Obio-Akpor LGA respectively. Since then and 22 years after and still counting, you have both become Governors of Rivers State and Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The political, social and economic privileges that you enjoy in a state of over five million people are legendary. You are under obligation therefore, to show gratitude to the people of Rivers State that have taken care of all your needs and wants for almost a quarter of a century.
I write this open letter to you, believing that you will be moved to reciprocate the uncommon benefits that our state has bestowed on both of you.
Your Excellencies, there is no gainsaying that our country, Nigeria has been plagued by poor political leadership at the national and subnational levels since independence with only one notable exception.
Unfortunately, Rivers State is not the exception because the lot of our people has nosedived uncontrollably for the worst.
Poor governance has created mass poverty and bred insecurity. A vast majority of Rivers people, especially our youths wake up each day into emptiness and helplessness, having nothing to do. Violent crime is now the order of the day. The strong terrorize the weak. The apparatuses of state are used to protect the strong.
Your Excellencies, this sad reality may be lost on both of you due to the deafening sound of praise singers who will be quick to say to you that you are the best things that have happened to Rivers State. No you are not and I do not blame you wholly for your not-too-good performances. You are products of a grossly defective political system.
The good news is that both of you are at the threshold of making indelible history if you align yourselves with the current wave of change and correct the evil system that has enslaved Rivers people and subjected them to scorn, pain and penury.
By the way, both you did better than your predecessor, Dr. Peter Odili, who as the first governor of Rivers State in the fourth republic, had all the opportunities to lay a proper foundation for good governance but failed woefully. For this, Odili has paled into political insignificance, kept afloat only by the magnanimity of Governor Wike.
Change, they say is the only permanent thing in life. After twenty-two years of the reign of impunity and dictatorship, Nigeria is at threshold of change. The country is reforming its electoral processes in order to cede more powers to the people. This is evident in the adoption of the electronic transfer of election results and the mandatory direct primaries.
In Rivers State, the people are fed up and angry with the political class that has taken them for a ride for too long. There is revolt in the air. The pent up anger is palpable and it is gaining expression. 2023 will be a decisive year whether both of you like it or not.
However, as leaders of the two major political parties, you are in the best position to facilitate this change with easier efforts and without violence and bloodshed.
I therefore call upon you to take on the challenge and engrave your names in gold.
If you heed this clarion call, you will go down in history as persons who read the signs of the time. You will be remembered by posterity as persons who led their angry compatriots from political slavery to emancipation, even though you largely contributed to their woes.
But if for any reason, you decide to stand against the strong wave of change; if you decide to throw away this golden opportunity, the change will still happen in spite of you.
Then you be remembered forever as persons who held sway in the years of impunity, wastage and brigandage, in the era when vagabonds, mercenaries and hoodlums ruled and pillaged Rivers State.
Before I forget, this is a second chance for you my friend Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi. Second chance because providence has given you another opportunity only as leader of APC in the state. You had the opportunities as governor to lay a solid foundation for democracy and good governance but like Odili, you failed.
Firstly, I call on Your Excellencies to drop your opposition to the Mandatory Direct Primaries provision as passed by the National Assembly. In making this call, I understand how you both feel about the prospect of direct primaries.
You love the current system where nobody in Rivers State gets into elective or appointive political position without your approval. You consider this as a way to assert your authority as governor and/or as the leader of your political party.
You confiscate the powers of your party men and women, denying them the right to aspire into elective offices. You deny them the right to nominate candidates too.
I have carefully looked at the reasons you proffered against mandatory direct primaries and have come to the conclusion that the reasons you gave amount to nothing when compared to the benefits.
Dear Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, you postulate that direct primaries will be too expensive to run. But your party, the APC recently conducted ward congresses all over the country which are as expansive as direct primaries.
To cut cost, I suggest that the political parties should run all the primaries (House of Assembly, Governorship, House of Representatives, Senate and President) on a single day or two. They should run multiple ballots at a time. No need to run them separately. There are countries where the electorates are asked to vote on other issues side-by-side elections. They provide several ballots on Election Day.
Dear Governor Nyesom Wike, you argue that mandatory direct primaries infringe on the rights of the political parties to conduct their internal affairs. You threatened to go to court if the electoral law is amended with a provision for mandatory direct primaries.
Mr. Governor, what does internal party affairs really mean? Does direct primaries confer advantage or disadvantage on anyone? Who is afraid of direct primaries? Why would the parties conduct their affairs in breach of the people’s will? Can anyone claim the right to do wrong?
Why did Mr. Governor support the electronic transmission of results with so much vehemence only to oppose direct primaries? Is it to transmit the election results of persons you handpicked for elections? How does that promote democracy?
Your Excellencies, no matter how hard you try to disguise your real motives for opposing mandatory direct primaries, you can’t fool the public. They know that your intentions are not altruistic. I therefore call on you to be the men that you really are. Real men support change. Real men change.
Secondly, I call on you to uphold democracy within the APC and the PDP. Promote reconciliation in your parties and ensure a level playing field for all. This is the hallmark of progressive leadership.
You are both likely to be offended by this advice because you still want to impose candidates for the 2023 elections. You still want to prove that you are in-charge. But the future of politics in Nigeria, has no room for imposition.
Have you pondered over the sad endings and regrets that have become the lot of all governors that imposed their successors?
Even now, the members of the National Assembly that passed the mandatory direct primaries that Mr. Governor is against, were all imposed by him. He cannot now remove them.
Imposition of candidates amounts to election rigging. It is like coup plotting and armed robbery. It is treason. It is evil to the extent that the imposed persons practically run away with public treasury. They have no obligation to the people.
Imagine what will happen if both of you decide to support a level playing field and allow the majority of the men and women in your parties to choose candidates for the 2023 elections.
Such a monumental decision by you will, undoubtedly, cause offence to a handful of your cronies, who for being ‘loyal’ to you lay claims to some air of entitlement.
But your patriotic decision will bring joy to the hearts of millions of Rivers people and set the state on the path of political stability and the attendant sociopolitical benefits. The Rivers State House of Assembly will automatically be filled by persons that are answerable to the people and not to the governor.
Thirdly and related to the second above, I call on Your Excellencies, to remove your knees on the necks of persons in the APC and PDP who want to contest the 2023 elections.
Elections are fifteen months away yet those nursing the ambition to run for elective offices have not started the slightest exploratory moves. They are afraid of running fowl of the leaders of their parties.
But groups and individuals are calling on both of you to run for the presidential tickets of your respective parties. – A time tested ritual that precedes formal declaration of interest. It is obvious that you are testing the political waters and weighing your chances.
On the contrary stories about those who want to run for elective offices in Rivers State are in the realms of speculations. No Rivers politician in APC or PDP has had the courage to declare his/her interest for fear of being blacklisted by you.
Remove your knees on the necks of Rivers State politicians and let them breathe God’s free air.
Your Excellencies, Rivers people are tired of a political system that throws up candidates at the eleventh hour every four years. Only for such candidates to rush through campaigns, get ‘elected’ and implement whatever programmes that meet their fancies.
Rivers people are fed up with having in the Brick House, persons they did not choose. They can no more endure a government that operates without a master plan because the cost of planlessness is enormous. Hundreds of billions of naira have gone down the drain on account of governors that didn’t have plans before seeking office.
Our people can no more afford a governor that will sell critical state assets without talking with people; a governor that will breakdown a large and functional General Hospital without replacement; a governor that will embark on white elephant projects like the abandoned monorail and the Karibi Whyte Specialist Hospital, including the failed relocation of Rivers State University.
Rivers people can no longer afford a governor that will spend his first tenure in office (when he had more money) doing almost nothing only to engage, in his second term (with lesser funds) in selective urban renewals and the construction of multiple flyovers on a single road without expert advice.
IN THE NEW DAWN
Governance shall not be left at the discretion of governors any longer.
Rivers State must have its own Constitution that will spell out our rules of engagement. This shall include industrialization, revenue allocation and power rotation. Nigeria is a federation and Rivers State must be run like a small country within the larger Nigerian nation. We are asserting the right to collect VAT. Let’s also assert the right to have a state Constitution.
Rivers State must have a long term infrastructure development plan that shall be backed by law and from which no governor can deviate. A masterplan that will integrate the entire state. The success of any government shall be judged by the efficiency it brings to bear in the implementation of the development plan.
Rivers State must be self-sufficient in food production, independent in energy, become the preferred destination for cultural, medical and educational tourism.
Local Government Council administration must be made to cater effectively for the grassroots and ensure special protection for the most vulnerable.
Your Excellencies, the task ahead is enormous and we need time to find who can lead Rivers State into the New Dawn.
You both have very significant roles to play as leaders of the parties that are most likely to produce the next governor of the state.
If you heed this clarion call, you will both gain in stature and go down in history as fathers of modern Rivers State who retrieved the state from the brink of disaster.
If you don’t, Rivers people will have no option than take their destiny in their own hands.
Some handful of highly placed persons in your kitchen cabinets may say to you that you will lose face if you do these things. But be rest assured that you won’t lose face, rather you will gain in statesmanship and you will be loved because of the peace and progress that your actions will bring to Rivers people.
Your Excellencies, as you prepare yourselves for the onerous task ahead, please be assured of my highest regards.