Sir B.M. WIFA, OFR, SAN, DSSRS, KJW, is a distinguished lawyer and legal icon in Nigeria and as an eminent Nigerian, he has contributed greatly to the development of his home state (Rivers) and to the country at large.
In this interview with JAMES FEBEBEBO, Sir B.M. WIFA says that justice has prevailed in the governorship election in Rivers State. He believes that Governor Nyesom Wike deserves his victory. He also speaks on other issues relating to the election and Rivers State in general.
Sir, what is your reaction to the announcement of results of the Rivers State governorship election by INEC considering that this happened after all the suspense?
I'm very happy. I'm very excited and I want to take this opportunity to first congratulate the governor for his well-deserved victory and I think all right-thinking human beings expected that he would emerge victorious not because he's an angel but because of the antecedent facts and circumstances. The APC had no candidate and the other ones including the AAC man were relatively unknown, so, I think where human beings exist, reason prevails and I think what has happened is not a surprise to anybody, so I thank Almighty God that INEC listened to some advice from some of us and I also want to say that it would appear that they allowed it to be independent as INEC and they've done their work in an atmosphere of peace and we must again thank the “security agencies” for the role they played. Apparently, they kept away the military from the collation centre and I also want to commend the maturity of the people who participate in the collation – the parties. So, we've come to what I believe should be the end of contestation.
Some persons had believed that the results of the Rivers State governorship election would not be announced and feared that federal might would be used to delay the process until May 29, so that there would be some kind of constitutional crisis?
I don't know what's in their mind but I think that reason prevailed (because) if you were the President and things had happened (and) everybody condemned the violence, condemned the clear involvement of the military (and) the military lived in denial but it was quite clear that there was interference by the military particularly at the collation centre, so, I'm sure that they would have said 'No, No, No, No, No, enough of this rubbish, let INEC do its work', so those other scenarios about making sure that the state became ungovernable so that they would declare a state of emergency did not arise.
Governor Nyesom Wike dedicated his victory to God and to those who lost their lives in the elections?
He's entitled to do that. I think all right-thinking people would dedicate the victory to God. In all things, we should give thanks to God, so, he's entitled to do that. I think all reasonable people should condemn the needless killing of people during the elections and particularly those who lost their lives in this particular election and I remember the senior lecturer of Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic was, I can safely say, murdered in the process of this election. I knew him personally and I feel sorry. I want to extend my condolences to the family. All the people that were killed in other places, I also send my condolences to their family.
One of the key supporters of African Action Congress (AAC), has said that they will go to tribunal to contest the result of the governorship election, but Sir, will you say that will be necessary and is it going to be good for the image of Rivers State and for the peace and development of the state?
It's their constitutional right (to go to the tribunal) (but) whether it's a wise thing or not, I don't know but it's their right to contest it but, you see, at the end of the day, there ought to be an end to needless litigation and I think I want to align myself with the appeal of the governor that everybody should come on board and let us build the state together.
Sir, what will be your advice to Governor Nyesom Wike at this time?
He should go and drink his champagne and then reflect on what has happened. Every situation imposes on us some imperatives. He will go and examine why the state is what it has been characterized to be and then he will take a cool look at it and then kneel down and say God give me the wisdom to carry on to govern this state for the benefit of the people.
Governor Wike has been highly commended by most persons for his performance in office, but Sir, do you think that he could do better in his second term?
Talking about commendation, I think he ought to be (commended). I think his party owes a lot to him. I think but for his singular effort, the party particularly in Rivers State wouldn't have been. His party probably would have ceased to exist in Rivers State but for his singular effort and some people even say that it would have impacted negatively on his party nationally.
When people talk about two gladiators, I don't think it's a correct interpretation of the situation. Somebody who benefited from a party, became Speaker (for) two terms (and became) governor (and in his first tenure) then decided that for purely selfish reasons he was going to dump the party. Not merely dump the party but now try to convert everybody else in the state to his new-found love but for Wike's dogged determination and effort, PDP would have died in the state. So, I commend him. I think his party owes him a lot of accolades.
But in terms of his agenda for the State, what would you say that he needs to do in his second term?
I think it's to consolidate on what he has done so far and see how he can reach out to (other areas). There are other areas beyond infrastructural development. I think he can look critically at two sectors: health and education to see how he can improve on most of those. He can't do all at the same time but he must impact positively on the lives of people and I think basically where people are suffering in education and in health, so, how far he can go beyond what he has done so far will make him have a legacy to leave for the people of the state.
Looking at politics in Rivers State, it seems as though no other party can get to power except the People's Democratic Party?
I don't know and I'm not a soothsayer. Well, it's just like in Delta where you come from. The PDP has been there. They tried this time around to get out Okowa and they couldn't. These are some of the historical facts of our existence. You cannot root out APC from Katsina State, so you cannot root out PDP from the Southern States. These are social facts (and) since 1999, it's been PDP and rightly so.
What will be your advice to members of the African Action Congress, as one of the party's chief supporters has said that they will go to tribunal to contest the result of the governorship election in Rivers State?
I don't want to go into some of these arguments or contestations or contentions. You cannot claim that you won an election in one breath and in another breath you say that the election was marred by violence and all of that. It's either that because violence overshadowed the election, no election was held or that in spite of the instances of violence and so on, you won the election. You cannot claim both. You cannot talk from both sides of your mouth. So, it's either you say elections were marred (by violence) and therefore no credible results came out of the electoral process or that in spite of the issues that arose during the process, elections held and that you won.
Ok Sir, what more would you want to say?
I want to thank the people of Rivers State for their calmness and as I did advise that justice will prevail in the end, and justice has prevailed. So, I don't agree with those who say that there ought to be unanimity of views. We have to have divergent views, but I think they should allow what has transpired and what is transparent and what has come out to be the will of the people of Rivers State to prevail and that is that for now and for next four years, Governor Nyesom Wike should be allowed to govern the state and he can now try another thing come 2023.