It is obvious that after 60 years, Nigeria as a nation is still facing serious economy challenges, worst is the insecurity challenge that continues to deepen, putting the country in the line of terrorism. In this interview with BLESSING IBUNGE, the Chairman of the Rivers State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party who was a former Ambassador of Nigeria to South Korea, Amb Desmond Akawor, among other issues, warns that the nation may face an imminent collapse, unless Nigerians kick out the ruling APC government and restore PDP to power in 2023.
You recently emerged as new chairman of the PDP in Rivers State. What are your mission and vision as the newly elected chairman of the party in the state?
As a party chairman of the state, our activities started from the inception of this present administration that has a particular vision called The New Rivers Vision, founded by the Governor, His Excellency, Nyesom Wike. We served that administration as the Campaign Director for the first and second term and clearly saw the road map. So on assumption of duty as the PDP chairman, all things I am to do mostly on the activities to be carried out are going to be dependent on the blueprint of the new Rivers Vision as well as the manifesto of PDP. So it is actually going to be centered on the people, the rule of law, as well as the security. We are elected by the people; we believe in the people and will go all out to ensure we get the people on our side.
How do you intend to achieve this.
Of course we have started already, the first thing for every contest there are people you may consider aggrieved, there are people you may consider sitting on the sideline, so what we have done first is to reach from the elders of the party to other members, to talk to them in the form of reconciliation and in the form of massaging of egos for those who are sitting by the fence, for everybody to come on board because we need them to move ahead. And so far, I can tell you we have made a lot of success and the atmosphere is created in such a way that we have received decampees from the major opposition party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and we see ourselves harvesting more. And most of the people that are coming back are the people who were members of PDP, who left the party at a point and are all coming back to their party, we don’t even call them decampees, we call them the returnees.
Few months from today, the state will be conducting local government elections, how do you intend to achieve success for your party in the election.
For our state, we have a style in PDP. We do not win election by gun or intimidations; we win election by winning the people to be on our side. First, we are going to go all out to sensitise our people to campaign through the 4442 units of the state. We work by the unit structure not just by the ward or LGA structure. We get to the unit level so that at every unit in the state we have 10 officers at the unit level, so you are talking about 42, 000 officers that are there as our ambassadors at the unit level. So those are the same people we are going to mobilise to go out and we campaign as if we are going for general election, we will go all out and visit our people, talk to them again with what the Governor has done in this state. We will ensure our leaders local government level, councillors, ward leaders continue with the philosophy of our leader, HE Nyesom Wike.
Talking about what the Governor has done so far, can you recount some of his developmental strides in the state
Well, I believe we have time for this interview because if I want to recall all that the Governor has done, I am sure we are going to spend the next 24hours here. But I can tell you, if you look at the major sectors of our economy, he has completely turn them around: look at the health sector, yesterday we visited the Mother and Child Hospital, the hospital for the babies and our mothers. This is the first of its kind in South – South region, the hospital is ready they are just compiling the furniture, and we believe by latest this December it will be functional. This is a health centre that will attract what we will say a health tourism to our state. And then in each of the zones in the state, we have what is call the zonal hospitals that are being constructed in places like Bori, Ahoada, Isiokpo, Etche etc, we have 13 zonal hospitals that are on in the state, most of them are almost ready, some of them are getting furnished. When these health centres are completely furnished and started operation there is going to be a turnaround in the health sector of the state.
You go to the area of physical infrastructure, the roads and bridges he is constructing are there for even the blind to see. For a Governor that has constructed five flyovers within space of two years, one is 680metres, I don’t know any other flyover within the South – South that is as long as that and not just done by any contractors that are available but by Julius Berger. And you look at urban renewal, go to the old GRA, the new GRA, you look at most of our local government areas, you see massive projects going on like the Omoku internal roads, Akinima, Etche, Agbomchia Oyibo road, Mbano camp from Iriebe to Oyibo town as well. So these are roads outside Port Harcourt, I am sure you are aware of the Sakpenwa Bori road which is extending now to Minor. These are things that were never there but today have turnaround the landscape of our city.
The educational sector has not been left alone. Today, all the higher institutions in the state have been upgraded for proper learning to take place. So, there are quite a lot he has done in different sectors of the state. They are too numerous to mention here
Nigeria will be 60 on October 1, In your own assessment, what are the high and low moments of the country.
Well, as a country Nigeria has come a long way, we were colonised, we had a civil war, we came out of the civil war and then had a military regime for a while, then came into the democratic system in1999. For us we felt that the worst democratic system is better than the best military system, but Nigerians are left to judge. What had happened is that democracy is a little bit time consuming, gradual and painstaking. Most of the democratic systems that are functioning very well in the world. They have had their mistakes. What has happened to us is that we made quite a lot of progress from 1999, until seven years ago when we had an administration that came onboard and said there is going to be a change and promised things Nigerians so much that the people jumped at it. Don’t forget before this particular administration, Nigeria was declared the biggest economy in Africa, we got to that level. We got to point where our economic growth rate was almost hitting 7percent. We got to a period where we were having naira dollar exchange at $1 to N150 – 157, but where are we today, is over N400 per a dollar. You talk about unemployment, it has gotten to a breaking point, Nigerians were deceived, now there painful hikes in the fuel and energy prices as against what they promised, is it about the raging unemployment? they immediately changed their change slogan and Nigerians are now going through excruciating pains.
We are presently in a crisis situation, and the only hope for Nigerians is for them to wait for 2023, and ensure that they change the course of our movement if not we are going to collapse.
Talking about the economy, do you have hope that Nigeria will return to its position as the giant of Africa.
I am one of those who believe in this country, I am one of those who believe that the economy of Nigeria can bounce back. All we need to do is to change the captain. We need to get back to where we were at a point when we attempted to get our refineries back. They promised us two years ago that the refineries will be back, where are the refineries? The East/West Road that was started by the PDP government, where are we today. The last job that was done during Tony Anineh as Minister of Works, since then nothing has been done on the project. Tell me one project that have been completed even at South – South, all we hear that have passed budget, they are doing a railway line from this place to the other place, the one I heard last week, they are doing a railway line to the Niger Republic and Nigerians are here you can’t travel to anywhere; the roads are not there, of course the railway line are not there. I believe what the country need now is to have the right leader. I can tell you the human capacities are here; get the best brain from Nigerians and see how we will fly.
As a Niger Delta statesman, do you support the passage of the Water Resources Bill presently gaining attention at the National Assembly.
The Water Resources Bill is a draconian law. That law I believe is going to be dead on arrival. As a country, we are already crying that we should look at what others are doing and copy suit, you are now getting to the point of telling people that you will visit their homes, the furniture in their homes, you will tell them on how to reposition the furniture in their various homes. Where are we going to?, we are going backwards. Already the natural resources we are saying that the natural resources should be allowed to be manage by those who we may consider the host communities of the catchment areas and pay tax to the federal government, now you are coming back that the waterways which is the normal habitat of the people had to be managed from Abuja. I don’t think anybody bringing that bill means well for this country and I believe Nigerians will resist it because it is not good for us.