The All Progressives Grand Alliance governorship candidate in Rivers State, Ugo Beke in this interview with SODIQ OJUROUNGBE speaks on how he intends to take over Brick House, the seat of power in Rivers State, among many other issues. Excerpts;
Many people believe Wike is performing, do you see any party defeating PDP with what he is doing in terms of performance?
Let me draw an analogy here; a lot of Nigerian degree certificates today are not accepted globally. They are not really reckoned with because the standard has fallen. Before UI was almost competing with Imperial College and some schools. At least, it has been among Nigerian universities that are rated among the best 1000 universities in the world. So, for us here, we are performing, but globally, we are not there.
If you say Rivers State is performing, we are still below in terms of infrastructural development we are still below 3 percent out of 100 percent. So, how are we performing? For you to perform, we have 23 local governments of Rivers state, everything is dead; there is no economy in Rivers state.
There is nothing happening; Michelin and Waterglass Boatyard have left. The poverty rate in Rivers state is over 95 percent, so, what are we talking about? Even the infrastructure we are talking about is below 3 percent; from one side of Aba road to the other side, that is what we are talking about. That’s just below 3 percent of the entire state; the entire state with a voting strength of 3.7 million people.
When people say the unemployment rate is 45%, I don’t agree with that because I think our own unemployment rate is 80 percent; nothing is really happening in Rivers state. Go to Rivers state if you want to see it; that is why you see that there are more political jobbers, there are more people doing kidnappings and crimes, it is because there are no jobs.
No man was born a criminal; it is the performance of the government that turns people to become criminals. So, if Rivers state was really working, we cannot have that level of poverty in Rivers state. Flood just happened in Rivers state, you should go there and see the health hazard. You should go and see life expectancy in Rivers state is below 45 years old; one of the reasons is the environmental pollution occasioned by the breaking of pipes and soots. If the state was working, will you have that level of criminals wanting to go and do something that is unlawful?
When you talk about leadership and governance, show me your signature projects, show me your policies; can you domestic your policies? We need to domesticate policies; we need to get the people involved. The poor masses are only doing what the leadership is controlling them to do. Why should I call out four million march on the street? Of people that have not eaten; people that are hungry; people that we have all criminalized? We call them out and yet, our campaign council was constituted of the same people who have caused damage to the people for the past 15 years.
Our education system is dead, that’s why I said I have the policies to make Rivers state compete with Dubai; I have what it takes to do it. I have talked about building a marine city on top of the water for my riverine brothers; I will start it, and I will end it.
People believe Wike must have locked down that state for any other party, how do you think is possible to infiltrate?
Let me say this, you can’t compare what happened in the past 23 years with what will happen; every Nigerian believes that whatever things took place between 1999 to 2023 was a mere contraction of democracy. It was a semblance but not real democracy; people were writing results and people were announcing results.
Even in strong areas where opposition parties were preponderance in terms of votes, they were usually shortchanged. I will give you an example, in 2011, Omehia vs Ameachi, it was publicly believed that Omehia under APGA won that election, but it was stolen and PDP stole it. And I was part of that system of PDP then because by 1999 when PDP was founded in Rivers state, all these people’s names you were mentioning were not in PDP, they came to PDP later. They weren’t there during the formation; myself and the late Waziri Muhammad were the two youngest persons in Nigeria that participated in the formation of PDP.
Peter Odili was in ANPP; all the heavyweights, apart from Francis Ellah, Aguma, and Alabo Douglas were people that were in PDP when we formed PDP. We know the hills of PDP and we continue with it. But Nigerians have agreed today that enough is enough and that we are tired of results writing. That we don’t believe in the incumbency because it’s all fake. The power of incumbency has always surrounded results writing, bribery and corruption.
God is about to do something new in this country come 2023; all old things will pass away, the power of incumbency, PDP being in charge, PDP having stolen money and throwing it around. The people will vote with their conscience come 2023.
Recently, Governor Wike appointed 200,000 special assistants and it was gathered that these people are expected to bring at least one person, have you factored that into your calculation?
My quickest answer to question one is that we have about 3.1 million votes. Even if he is taking 800,000 votes, we still have over two million votes. There is not even the assurance that all the 800,000 people will not deceive them. If that’s enough for them to have 800,0000 votes, let me secure two million votes, and let’s see whether they will announce the person with 800,000 votes or the person with the highest votes.
How formidable is APGA structure in 23 LGs of Rivers state to give you results?
Like I said, this is not the first time APGA is coming out. The truth of the matter is that even when we were doing PDP, APC was not the opposition party, APGA was the opposition party in Rivers state. The demographic in Rivers state has always been that Ikwerre people form almost 60 percent of the voting strength, and the next largest voters you can find are the Igbos who live in the state; they have over 20 percent of the voting strength.
So, APGA is perceived to be an Igbo party. Omehia when he contested in 2007, was perceived to be an Ikwerre son who has just been unjustly treated. That is why I said Omehia was believed to have won the election. Now, Omehia had votes from his Ikwerre extraction out of the 60 percent and also had almost 90 percent of the Igbos’ votes in Rivers state, yet, the result was written against him.
Let’s say out of the 22 percent of the Igbos, even if I draw five percent, I am coasting home and there is no way Ikwerre people will abandon their own prince. With my pedigree and the contents that I have, they believe that with me, there will be a good tomorrow. They know that I am talk and do; they have seen how I have managed my father’s assets. You can see that this is the stuff I come from and it’s not by boasting, it is because I am humble to go for the best. And what I am going to give to my people will be the best. And that is why I said that I am going to govern Rivers state with three trust funds.
You are from Ikwerre, Wike, and Ameachi who happen to have governed the state also came from Ikwerre, don’t you think this is an injustice to other ethnic groups in the state?
I am not a believer in the concept of zoning; if you understand what democracy is and its origin before Abraham Lincoln even said the government of the people, by the people and for the people, those things were not considered. At that point in time, people who were allowed to participate in a democracy are people who are property owners and stakeholders.
On the issue of Ikwerre dominance in Rivers, if you know the politics of Rivers State very well, you’ll understand that the agitation for state creation was started by the Ikwerre people. There has always been that kind of understanding between the Ikwerres, the Ijaws, and the Igbos. What has caused this problem of unnecessary agitation and zoning is simply because the Igbos lost the war that was fought for Biafra.
So, the zoning too, if it is allowed to creep into our body politics and be added to our constitution, I think it will cause more problems than what was intended because you will not be able to know how to limit the zoning. So, I don’t believe in zoning, I believe in getting the best candidate from Rivers state to do the job. I didn’t fall into Wike, Ameachi, and Odili because they are Ikwerre governors. At the time they were contesting, it is not that there are no better candidates from other parts, they are not just lucky. I stand as Rivers State governor, not an Ikwerre governor. Whatever thing that had happened in the past is not my fault; it’s the fault of the same cabal that kept producing them.
Are you sending a message to Wike to start preparing his handover note for you?
Yes, definitely. Spiritually, he already knows I am the governor and he is handing over to me.
Are you going to probe him?
Let me tell you one thing I will not do in my life is to spend time idle away; I will not spend time chasing people. My mind is more constructive in moving the state forward with the things that I will do to better Rivers state. We have to unite Rivers state and for you to be able to unite them, they must see and believe in your policies.