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Attempting to  steal the people's mandate is a serious crime ~Governor Wike     


Nigerians are now at home  with the superlative  performance of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike in terms of infrastructural  development,  security  and human capital  development.  As a result,  several  associations are now hosting their National and International  Events in Rivers State.  One of such groups is the Nigerian Guild of Editors.  The Leadership of the Guild met with  the  governor  for a pre-national conference  breakfast meeting. 

In this interactive session with the standing committee members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike talks about his projects, the rerun elections, foreign scholarships and  and security  issues in the state. 

Excerpts :
Why we are open to host national and international events..

Let me thank the Nigerian Guild of Editors for bringing  their Annual General Conference to Rivers State.  One important benefit of this conference  is that it will let the public  know  that Port Harcourt is safe , Rivers State is safe.  To let you  know  that several  international and national conferences  have taken place  here in the last one month.  In the course of the last one month, we have  had the AMAA here, we have also had the Magistrates Association of Nigeria National Conference.  We will be hosting  the Annual  Conference  of the Nigerian Bar Association , the Federal High Court Judges Legal Year, the Conference  of Chartered Arbitrators and the PDP National Convention.  That shows that all the rumours  you may be hearing  are not true. Apart from  that, these national conferences  will boost our economy.  We have  several  hotel  bookings,  local transport and feeding as well as other benefits  that will accrue to residents of the state. The state government  will also make revenue in terms of taxation. 

The importance of the media. ..
When they say we have three arms of government,  I don’t agree. I believe  the the Media is the fourth arm of  government.  Why do I say so. Everybody  depends  on  the  information  from the  media. Information is key. Information  is  the raw material  for decision  making . It is  important that you  always publish information  that will  promote  democracy. Part of  the  reason the coup failed in Turkey was because  of  the  publicity  from the  media. 

The media  should  help this country  to let the world know what Nigeria  is facing. 

For me as a governor,  this is an opportunity and not a right. When you have this privilege,  you use it for the benefit of the people.  We know what we passed through  to get to this point. 

My struggles as a governor. ..
Nobody  has had the type of legal tussle  we have  had. Mine started before my inauguration.  Of course, attempts were made to make sure that I was not inaugurated.  To tell you  how bad it was, I was not allowed  to  use the police  ceremonial vehicle for my inauguration.  We had to borrow  from Ondo State. We thank God  that has passed but I have to give you  the background. 

Thereafter, the legal  tussle  continued  until  January 27, 2016 when we were free to move forward.  If you  compare from June,  May 29 was on Friday  and work started on Monday. From that time to January  27, 2016, it was one problem or the other. From the Tribunal  to the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court .  When you have such problems, you hardly  can be focused.  But I thank  God  that we were focused and we did not  allow that to distract us. 

Initial Challenges resolved. ..
When we came on board,  we inherited four  months salary  arrears and six months  pension  arrears.  We give God the glory that we have  been able to pay  all. The then Sharks of Port Harcourt, Dolphin and Rivers Angels were owed for eight months. We were able to clear that. And we said , with the economy,  it would  be  difficult  for  us to maintain  three  clubs. For Sharks and Dolphin , we had to merge them to form Rivers United. The club  is doing well  and it is contesting  for the league. 

On foreign scholarships. ..
Some people  may say that there are children who are on oversees scholarships whom they claim the state has abandoned.  That is not true. We must tell ourselves  the simple  truth. Yes before, the state under the previous administration  was getting  N20billion,  but now we get N3billion to N4billion  monthly. You have to prioritize and tell the people  the reality . I am not against  giving out scholarships when you have the resources. At the time we came, the state was owing  about N4billion on these foreign scholarships.  If you  pay the N4billion debt,  that is not the end. You have to pay for those at different  levels  of  study. Scholarship is good to encourage  our people.  But there are certain  courses you don’t send people abroad to study because our universities  offer  such programmes.  Why would I send students  abroad  to study English Language, Social Studies or Political Science?  But we are ready to offer scholarships to students  to study peculiar  courses in medicine and engineering.

We said look, it is not possible  for the state as it is now to fund scholarships in courses that are offered here in Nigeria. We agreed to pay off for those writing  their final  year  examinations  which amounted to N1.8 billion. Those of them studying English, Political Science  and  Accountancy,  we said that we will still give you scholarships,  but it will be in Nigerian universities.  We expect them to return  to  take this offer. To say that they would  remain  on the state’s account is not possible.  Some of them, their parents are rich and they are not from poor background.  Yes, there are few from poor background.  Some scholarships are for children  who are not from Rivers State.  In some instances,  they were political  scholarships.  As it is today, we don’t have the funds to continue  with such scholarships. 

Infrastructural development. ..
We decided  to  commence  our infrastructural  development  from the State Capital because  that is where the first time visitor lands. When you get a bad impression about the state capital, this impression is likely  to  force you out of the state. If you see bad roads in the state capital,  you are likely to have negative  impression of the state. We took  a decision  to fix the roads and other infrastructural needs  of  Port Harcourt City. They were really bad at the time we assumed office. We also resolved to use reputable  construction  companies  to carry out  the works. We engaged Julius Berger,  CCECC,  CGC, Setraco. In fact, the whole of the city has been handled by Julius Berger and CCECC. That is why  you see quality  roads with no potholes in the state capital. You can see within the Government House, Julius Berger is restoring the old Brick House, the former  administrative  office of the state. They are also building  a chapel  of  worship. 

I had a policy that even though we did not start some of  the  roads, when we feel that they are relevant we will complete them. Why do you abandon relevant  projects  where public  funds have been  committed. When we took that decision,  some criticised us, saying  start your own. The problem  we have in this country  is leaders insisting  on starting  their own projects. All projects that had bearing with the needs of the people  have been  completed.  That is why  today, you will  hardly  find abandoned projects in the state. Look at the law faculty at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology.  Since Okilo ,  nobody  wanted to complete  it. But we have completed  it and it is the best in the country, with electronic  and traditional  libraries and other state-of-the-art facilities. See our roads.  The whole of Diobu ,  the whole of Borikiri have had their roads reconstructed. If you are a Port Harcourt person,  you will  appreciate  the massive  development  that is taking place. For the past ten years, we have  never had Street lights. We made it a policy to fix Street lights on all the major streets in Port Harcourt.  Since you are in town, take off time in the night and drive through Ikwerre road, Aba road and other major streets to appreciate the transformation  taking place. This  has also enhanced security. 

Security in the state 
As regards to security, I have always maintained  that nobody  should politicise security.  Because when you begin to politicize  security, the society will be in trouble.  I think I am the only state governor  who has had more than four Commissioners of Police since I became governor.  Each time, they change  a Commissioner  of Police when an election is approaching.  When the election is over ,  they bring another one. That is how they change the Director  of  the  DSS. This is not helping  anyone. When a Commissioner  of Police  is settling down to plan with  the  state government  on how to improve  security,  they transfer  him, bring another person  and the process starts all over. I ask myself what is the benefit of these frequent changes. There are people  who  believe  that  there should be crisis in this state. Who will it benefit if there is crisis?  When we had cases of kidnappings, instead of others to sit down with the state to resolve  the challenge,  they started making unreasonable  remarks. So I ran to God to pray. God now helped and the problem has been  transferred to  other states.  Now, we have  kidnapping  everywhere  in Nigeria.  In some  states,  they kidnap diplomats and traditional rulers .Kidnapping  is almost  gone here. It is  not  by my power , it is by God’s grace. When they said they will declare State of  Emergency here,  I said God save me and He saved me by pushing insecurity  to other states. Kidnapping  is  now a national  crime.

On pipeline vandalism 
This is the only state that you have not seen oil pipeline  vandalism. I believe  in the unity of this country. I believe  that if the economy  collapses, the state will  collapse. We are doing everything  to make  sure we don’t have that kind of crisis here.  What the Federal Government  should  do is to give us support to consolidate our security  measures. 

Rivers State is for PDP. ..
There are states that traditionally belong to a political party.  Even in the United States , you have states that are for Democrats and those that are for Republicans.  You also have swing states. In Nigeria,  there are states that are traditional to some political  parties.  Rivers State  is  one of such states. It belongs  to  the  PDP.  When you use force to attempt to collect it, you cause crisis. People  will resist.  When you want to steal the mandate  of the people,  it is more heinous  than other crimes. Stealing the mandate of  the  people is a serious crime and it is worse than armed robbery. The difference  is that while the ordinary  armed robber uses arms to steal money, this political  armed robbers use arms to steal votes. When you are armed to snatch ballot boxes, is it not armed robbery? It is even worse . If you  have in mind to commit election  robbery,  the people  will resist it.

That was what happened  during  the  March 19 rerun elections. They came to rig us, so that they will have the number  in the Assembly  to impeach me. You know they cancelled over 90percent of the Assembly seats and everything  for the National Assembly.  So they came to rig the elections.  I told them to have a rethink  because  it would not be easy  to do that in Rivers State.  

Unnecessary deployment of armed forces for the rerun elections. ..

I have never seen the kind of security I saw during the March  rerun elections .  Even if Obama  comes, there would not be that kind of security.  I thought  even  the President  has never  had that kind of security.  It was unbelievable.  I make a state broadcast as an incumbent  state governor,  some other person  would go and make a broadcast.  The Federal Government behaved as if nothing  was happening.  I knew it would  be difficult because  when you  push a people to the wall, they react. We resisted them. The same people who said there was no election,  are now the persons at the Tribunal  saying  that they won. When they claimed  there was no elections,  now they are saying they should  declare them winners. I have never seen such a thing in my  life. People came out in Press Conferences  that there were no elections, but today they are saying they won. 

Rivers State is peaceful. ..
They say Rivers State is not  peaceful  and I say that Rivers State is very peaceful.  Since there were no elections,  have you  been  hearing  of killings?  That tells you  that the reports of insecurity were only sponsored  for political  gains. When they come now  to say we should make peace, I agreed because  I am a peace maker. Even though  it was a set up because  nobody  told me  that  I  was invited  for a peaceful meeting.  I was invited to go and see the DG of the DSS without  knowing  that something was going on.  If you look at the pictures,  I was alone. I didn’t go with anybody thinking that I was going to see the DG. Reaching there I saw the other people.  I am not against  peace, but what I am discovering  now,  calls for vigilance.  Nigeria  is to big for you to think that you will plan and nobody  will know. Nobody  will take me by surprise.  You told me to make peace and I  am making peace. But what I am seeing now shows that there is a game going on. As I speak  to you,  they have transferred  all key senior policemen and they are bringing  people they think  will do their bid. The one that is shocking is the police officer who caused serious  crisis during the March 19 rerun elections. He was queried and transferred out of Rivers State,  now they have brought him back. The same security  people  who said we should make peace are doing a different thing. Tomorrow,  you will  say there is no peace in Rivers State.  Do we need to deceive ourselves?  Rivers State is a critical state as far as Nigeria  is concerned. You can’t take our mandate by force. As I speak  with you, there is nothing I can’t  do for Rivers State. I can lay down my life for the state. If you  like , bring American marines,  the worst that will happen  is that they will kill all of us. If that is the sacrifice, so be it. I don’t when we agree on something,  you start doing a different  thing,  it is not  the best. 

My information to INEC : 
I wrote to INEC use your  staff for the rerun  elections.  Leave these university  people. Why? You don’t know where their loyalty  will be. I schooled at the University of Port Harcourt,   so I know all the  lecturers. I know who is a supporter of PDP and I know who is a supporter of APC.  Rivers  State  is  the only  state  holding  elections,  so go and  take all your staff ,  bring them here, let them conduct free and fair  elections.  Because  they appointed  the Vice Chancellor of the university, they made him compile names of their loyalists as returning officers,  took same to INEC  and  INEC  approved. There was no problem.  But the problem  started when they saw the results  from the field. When they  noticed that the APC  was not winning,  they ran away. There was nobody  to collate the  results. Then the elections became  inconclusive.  I just can’t  understand.  Even if it is your father’s  younger brother,  bring him. Results will come from the field and he must collate the results.  When results come from the field, you won’t see the returning  officer, he has  taken off and they say it is inconclusive. And they   reschedule.  

Failing Propaganda. ..
They intensified  propaganda that once you  land in Rivers State, kidnappers will abduct you at the airport.  But you have  been here for days and you have experienced  the security.  Lies are easy to sell,  but they don’t last. They have a terminal  period. When the terminal  period comes the truth takes over.  This Port Harcourt you have come will expose you to the truth. I will  give  INEC  all the  support  to conduct  free and fair elections.  This is only one state. What happens  in 2019 when they conduct  elections  for the whole country. I have told my people  to be prepared.  If you  are sleeping,  don’t sleep again. This peace we are making,  I suspect  they want to come without us knowing.  Let’s be prepared.  I don’t trust these people.  INEC can announce  election  any day.  They did it in Abuja.  When they fixed elections  on a working  day. Nobody is travelling.

PDP  will continue to win in Rivers State. . .

Do the elections  200 times, it will be the same results. They are only postponing  the day of reckoning. They are trying  to  cover the political  inadequacies  of one man. They say they don’t want him to be embarrassed.  But there is no embarrassment. It is the voice of the people that matter. Elections  are the prerogative  of the people.  It has nothing  to  do  with  the  political  image  of  anyone.


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