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Open Letter To Rivers Peoples

By DumBari Tsaro Deezua
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Dear Rivers people and Nigerians at large:
A developing democracy is understandably expected to swing in a delicate balance between lofty ideals and human fallibility. A struggle to improve on many imperfections at the building stages of that democracy is not unusual and not out-of-the-ordinary. What is exceptionally unusual however, is a country in which the trustees of society (the political functionaries) operate as a criminal cartel whose sole purpose of existence is to grab and steal as much valuables as possible. A brief rearview tour of our Nigerian democracy paints a pathetic and unrivalled picture of peculiarity at the apex of misdeeds and mischaracterization of what a democracy is expected to represent. Our political leaders not only force their way into positions of authority for the purpose of looting our money, they also turn our communities into killing fields of horrors whenever election seasons come around.

Rivers state these days seem to be the epicenter of electoral malpractice in Nigeria. The bastardly oil-rich state is 48 years old as a political unit of Nigeria. The budget for the year 2015 has been approved to the tone of three-hundred and eighty-five billion naira (N385B) on a benchmark of forty dollars per barrel of crude oil to accommodate any eventual shortfall on account of recent fluctuations in the oil market. Three hundred and eighty-five billion is a drastic thirty-three percent reduction from 2014's budget of four-hundred and eighty-five billion naira. Those hundreds of billions do not include other hundreds of billions of supplementary budget add-ons that are always applied. And those hundreds of billions do not account for the windfall in billions earned from excesses accrued from above budget estimates in oil prices.

By-the-way, for purposes of fairness to our political leaders, it is pertinent to note that we might not have always received four-hundred billion dollars as budgets for every fiscal year in our 48-year history. However, when we factor-in the impact of our ever increasing rate of inflation and devaluation of our currency, and factor-in the impact of population growth, we would have always received budgets in amounts that were not as much as four-hundred billion naira in figures, but were still comparable or even valued as much on accounts of what may well be the parity in the purchasing power of a few naira in decades past and our gazillion of figures in today's naira.

By and large, my point is that our budgets for each fiscal year since the last forty-eight years might not have been proportionate in figure but, definitely have not been too disproportionate in purchasing power.

Only within a short period of 2007 to 2014, we have received revenues of roughly three trillion naira for our roughly five million people in a land area of only 4, 277 sq mile.

The point is: the land area is small enough for so much money—to allow for a speedy infrastructural development. Yet, to mention the obvious, we still do not have a reliable supply of electricity and do not have roads for transportation.

The simplest of many questions to be asked of our political leaders in Rivers state is: Where is the money? Where is our money? Our money is wasted in the futility of corruption propelled by the vanity of self-aggrandizement that is perpetually nurtured and bolstered by the vicious and caustic invasion of our government by successive gaggles of misguided, mis-educated and sometimes out-and-out uneducated thugs without the slightest understanding that governance in a democracy is stewardship and accountability.

One of the great Greek philosophers, Plato, who walked the earth way back in 427-347 BC once said, “a government fulfilling the highest ideals of human society can be achieved, but only if the right people are put in charge.” I am somewhat skeptical of the sophistication of our human intelligence in modern-day Nigeria if a man who walked the earth way back in the late 340 BC understands the philosophical basis of governance better than we do in 2015.

Rivers people: It is time to put another crop of politicians in charge of our government—and, by extension, in charge of our lives and our futures. One of humanity's recent thinkers, Charles De Gaulle, told all of humanity that politics is too important to be left in the hands of politicians. That call to the soul of humanity could not be better made in any region of our world than in sub-Saharan Africa where we are located—where the worst of politics provokes the worst of economic savagery. That call is now made in Rivers State where we belong. Our politicians are at it again. They are, again, as knee-deep into Machiavellianism as they have always been. The doctrine for the most moderate of them is to rather appear virtuous than to actually be virtuous. The more drastic of them simply bulldoze their way to the leadership of our government, irrespective of what we think or how many of our lives are made collaterals for the inordinate ambition to get into a public office for the sole purpose of looting public money. They are conscientized to tell us what we want to hear, exploit our economically barren backgrounds, and inspire fear in ways that if they don't win support by bribing the top echelon, they win support by repressing all of us. These political copycats of the notorious Italian Niccolo Machiavelli are threading the memory lane of that cynical dictator whose political belief rested in a spiteful philosophy in the dark A.D. ages of cannibalism when he remarked; “a leader ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he Avoids hatred.”

But Rivers people: even if you are an apolitical Judean Christian or whatever your beliefs may be, politics is simply too important to be left in the hands of these politicians again, especially these ruggedly mindless politicians we have in our country. What is happening in our Rivers State, and in Nigeria at large, are not just political matters; they are issues of faltering humanity and morality. They are issues of indifference to values and ethics. We our shaping our culture—our way of life, our whole civilization, in a regrettable enchantment with some stone-age behavior that will never augur well for posterity or our progeny. Let us not continue to allow these heartless muggers to perpetually impose themselves on our democracy and our society. Even Jesus Christ himself had a political philosophy when in the New Testament he said “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's.” That was nothing short of an early call for the separation of State and Church. So, let not any of us, let not our Pentecostal religious leaders, let not our native authorities, pledge apathy or unresponsiveness in the guise of noninvolvement in political matters. Let the native authorities encourage their constituents to go out en masse and vote their minds and voices in Rivers state on Saturday April 11. Let our religious leaders and pastors tell their congregations to go out and vote their minds. Our politics and our situation cannot change until the people get involved. The day we stop our politicians from forcing themselves into positions of leadership is the day our society and government begin to change.

I am somewhat relieved to believe that there is now a glimmer of hope on the horizon. The just concluded national elections might not have been completely free of hitches here and there, but it was overwhelmingly fair. Nigerians from all regions of the country have just spoken. They have just told the world that they are tired of unattended corruption at all nooks and cranny of the country. They have just told a retired army general to come back to power to do as their President what he once did as a Head of State with the then Chief of Army Staff, Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon of blessed memory, as the Protagonist. The outgoing President on his part has left an impressive mark to be emulated in our democracy by conceding defeat and congratulating the President-elect. Hopefully, we could carry on our democracy from here in that spirit.

But, as important as it is to continually improve on our democracy, the worst of our problems in Nigeria is unabated cooperate corruption in terms of looting public money.

The President-elect, Mohammadu Buhari, cannot fight corruption by himself alone. He had to be supported by other political authorities in the country. Chief among those other political authorities are the State Governors. If our governors are egregiously corrupt as we know most of them have always been, Buhari's anti-corruption agenda will be difficult to undertake.

With apologies to President Obama, I must say that “We cannot be doing the same things over and over again and expect a different result.” We cannot expect a break from the anti-people and anti-development agendas we see of our leaders as long as we continue to allow politicians to force themselves on us. We cannot expect any governor that comes into power by corrupt means; by rigging election or suppressing votes to support Buhari in the fight against corruption. The manifestation of a corrupt process is always a corruptive outcome. Any governor that is not elected by the people would always hold allegiance to the entity, the constituency, or the authority by which he or she assumed power.

Therefore, I am humbly making this clarion call to all Rivers people; I summon your courage and consciences before the humanity in all of us, that we will re-evaluate our apathy and deliberate indifference to the sufferings that our political leaders have always brought upon our people from one political dispensation to the other. We must not remain in the pessimist political culture of lining up behind a politician because he bribed some of us, instill fear in some of us, intimidate some of us to believe that he must win with or without our votes, repress the rest of us and, some of us simply fall in line because he has enough thugs behind him that we are chickened out to believe that he must win election by all means. That sort of a dependent political culture is not only destructive of our society; it is bondage of the mind that manifests the perpetual political and socio-economic rust and bewilderment in which we, in the African region, have remained the only shame of contemporary human civilization. These politicians are able to still our money to the treasonable tone of billions because we have been conscientized to believe that it is normal for politicians to steal our votes and loot public money.

That is not only pathetic, it is simply despicable. And we must know that the politicians will never stop on their own volition. It has to be a 'Citizens' Movement' to put a stop to these shameful practice. We must do something to make our lives better in the treasure base called Rivers State that the infinite wisdom and design of God had placed us. That 'something' had to start by truly electing our political leaders.

Before I dabble into the familiar Nigerian idiosyncrasy of overt ethnic sensibilities in politics, I must say that I am very mindful of the pitfalls of ethnic politics in a democracy, and I am also not unmindful of what general understanding will consider a not-so-democratic insinuations when I suppose or suggest ethnic sensitivity in a democratic experiment as ours in Nigeria.

However, I am particularly focused on Rivers people who live in a peculiar circumstance and with a peculiar reality that gives rise to a peculiar rendition of democracy. That reality is the heterogeneous ethnic complexion of the state and people's allegiance to ethnic cleavages before party politics or even the general interest of the state. On that note, I must point out that there is an obviously dangerous trend that is now developing in our state, a trend that threatens the conduit of affinity and togetherness that had existed between the various ethnic communities in our multi-ethnic Rivers State for the last 48 years. There is an unwritten rule that is currently being challenged—the rule that our co-existing ethnic communities must live together with respect for the rights and dignity of other communities. There is never an expectation in Rivers State that a particular ethnic community governs our state in successive administrations. To the unfathomable, inexplicable, mindboggling and outright do-or-die ambition and machination of one man, that cohesion that has kept our Rivers communities together over the years now hangs in the balance.

Nyesom Wike has decided to throw a daring challenge with his daring impulsion to disregard, disrespect, and overlook the politicians of other ethnic nationalities in the state. The outgoing two-term governor of our State, Gov. Chibuike Amaechi, is Ikwere. Amachi's Predecessor, Governor Omahia, is Ikwere. It simply defies the norm, defies common understanding, and defies all expectations that another Ikwere man could be so daring and so insolent and so dismissive of other ethnic nationalities in Rivers State that he could adamantly choose to impose himself on the PDP and singlehandedly gave himself the party's ticket to the governorship race because he somehow has a stranglehold on the state party leaders. In the process, he is breaking down the ages-long bridge that has linked the Ikwere and other communities, particularly the Ogoni people, who had hoped and believed that it was only equitable that they produce the next governor after Chibuike Amaechi.

In the limbo and lingo of the magical Nigerian polity, I must say Kudos to Wike for the grit and high-handedness by which he earned the loyalty of other party faithfuls, secured his politically rightful domination and ensured the capitulation of other aspirants to the extent that many of his opponents are now his background singers. Politically speaking though, I must admit that Wike has a right to his own machinations in the PDP.

The problem however, is that Wike showcased what his leadership approach will look-like if elected governor of Rivers state. He led the PDP during the just concluded general elections to the sham and shame of incivility and a disgraceful characterization of our state as the epicenter of electoral thuggery in an election that was generally free, fair and peaceful in other parts of the country. Hopefully, the Buhari's administration will revitalize our judicial system and bring the Rivers state parade of shame in the guise of elections to rigorous independent legal recourse that punishes culprits to the full extent of the law, as well as recommend a special national assembly elections in Rivers state to correct the electoral sham exhibited by Nysom Wike and his gaggle of thugs and compromised police accomplices.

That is the same Wike who is so dismissive of other ethnic nationalities in the state that he angrily dismissed the idea of urbanizing Bori when the idea was brought to him by Ogoni representatives in the Rivers state house of Assembly while Nyesom Wike was the Chief of Staff to Governor Amaechi. The idea was to decongest Port Harcourt by urbanizing Bori, thereby correcting the unfortunate situation of having Rivers State as a one-city state since 48 years of existence. In response, Wike angrily stated: “we are not spending a dime in that place. What are they doing there?” Wike added, “the Ogoni people refused oil exploration in their area, where is the money going to come from?” That is the same Nyesom Wike who said “there is not a single Ogoni man that could contest with him in the PDP and gets more than one vote.”

The obvious exhibition of brute force and disregard to the sensibilities of the other ethnic nationalities in the state so far demonstrated by Wike is enough red flag for the Rivers people to know that they should not risk having Wike in the seat of authority in our State.

We do not want a god-like sense of ultimate power in the Governor of our state. That is what Wike embodies and that is what he represents and displays at any opportunity. We must not have that sort of a governor.

We want a free and fair election in Rivers state on Saturday April 11, 2015. We call on the APC and the President-elect to focus their monitoring and observing apparatus on Rivers state. We want to have a governor that is elected by the people, not a governor that is ram down our throats by thugs and cabals who are only interested in looting our money to be wasted in dormant bank accounts in oversea countries while our people die in financial wretchedness.

There is now hope that the country is already moving in the right direction. They fairly elected a new President and the outgoing President supported that effort with a huge show of statesmanship and interest in the political development of Nigeria by conceding defeat and congratulating the President-elect.

Let us not make our River state the remaining political log in the eyes of our country. Let us freely and fairly elect our governor on Saturday April 11, 2015.

As for my many critics who are always there to make me better in my ideas and suppositions, I must quickly say that I admit the incidence of assumptions and preemptions in my belief that Buhari will confront corruption head-on in Nigeria. That assumption however, is rooted in the fact that Buhari once was on the move with Idiagbon to restore sanity in our country with his “War Against Indiscipline” before the personal ambition for power and riches propelled Babangida to a coup d'état. So, my hopes for Buhari are not unfounded.

In Rivers state, I am obviously supposing that a free and fair election will produce a more people-oriented and development-inspired government. The reason for my faith may not need further explanation to the audience I expect to reach and engage in my hope and belief that Rivers state and our country, Nigeria, may take a turn for the better.

For those who are, of course, justifiably skeptical of any Rivers state politician, I will say that of our two candidates for governor in Rivers state, I definitely believe that one is more thuggish than the other, one is more narcissistic than the other, one is more arrogant than the other, one will be more of a dictator than the other, one have already orchestrated the worst electoral malpractice we have ever had in our state in the just concluded presidential election. We have to choose the better of two evils.

Nyesom Wike may have a right to contest for governor, but he does not have a right to disrespect our people that much as to have our mothers and fathers out to polling stations for elections that will not hold because election materials have been redirected to secret locations where all votes must be cast for a particular party or candidates of Nyesom Wike's chosen. We do not want a thug in charge of our government. We want a governor that will govern us with respect to our yearnings and aspirations.

For purpose of full disclosure on where my interest lies, I am in the people's business, not party politics. Dakuku Peterside had not dreamt of becoming a political figure in Rivers state the last time I met with him or spoke with him. So, I am not in any contact with Peterside and do not expect anything from him, but everything I see and all the conducts so far exhibited points to a better, more inclusive, more listening, and more performing governor with much more democratic values in Peterside than in his opponent who obviously believes that governorship of Rivers state is presently a birthright of the Ikwere ethnic nationality. To govern Rivers state fairly, a governor must have respect for the ethnic complexion of our state. Wike has no respect for other ethnic nationalities in the state. He cannot be fair to a people he does not respect.

Dakuku Peterside had always been a humble listener since his days in Ogoni where his roots remain, where his mother still lives, where he calls home outside of Opobo. He has appeals in both upland and river-rine regions of our geographically and ethnically diverse Rivers state. He proved himself when he was commissioner of works, when he undertook road construction projects across the state. He did not see a distinction between upland Ogoni and river-rine Opobo. He constructed roads the best he could with the resources at his disposal across the state. With bigger power and a larger pool of resources, Dakuku Peterside will do more across the state.

He will not disconnect our state from Abuja as his opponent will obviously do. We have so many projects lined up. The UNEP report and state creation proposals are on the line. We cannot afford to get alienated from the center of power in the country. Wike will obviously be an estranged Governor while Dakuku peterside will be in the inner kitchen cabinet conversations and be in the pivotal tête-à-tête during the ninth-hole break walk from the gulf course to the club house—especially with a very possible Amaechi's Chief of Staff authority in Aso Rock.

Let us vote our state into the center of power on Saturday April 11th. A vote for Dakuku Peterside will do that for us.

Go and vote Dakuku Peterside on Saturday. He is simply the right choice for our state. Don't listen to lies and rumors from peripheral sycophants who are supporting his opponent because they think he (Wike) has thugs and guns with which to steal our votes and make himself governor.

Dakuku Peterside is simply the right choice. Politically right for both the upland and the river-rine parts of the state, developmentally right for our state with a proven record of performance, and he will be connected with the center of power in our country and bring the dividends of the Buhari's administration home to us in Rivers state through a very possible chief of staff in the person of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. The choice is a no-brainer!

Long live Rivers state,
Long live democracy in Nigeria,
DumBari Tsaro Deezua.