Senator Lee Meaba represented Rivers South-East in the 6th Senate. In this interview, Meaba attributes the crisis in Rivers State to political fanatism and an attempt by the All Progressives Congress (APC) – led Federal Government to take the state by force.
He also concern and the implications of President Muhammadu Buhari keeping quiet while a component of the country that produces about half of its resources is in turmoil.
Rivers State has been known for violence, kidnapping and killing. Why is it so? Where does the 60 percent of the national oil wealth come from? With all the negative perception, 60 percent of all the oil coming out of Nigeria comes from Rivers. Rivers is the only state in the Niger Delta that has not witnessed severe pipeline vandalism. Rivers houses the biggest oil terminal in Nigeria, the Bonny terminal, Rivers houses big oil installations like Bonga and so, when you say Rivers is a volatile state, how do you quantify it? A state that is producing more than 50 percent of national treasure is one you are painting as where people should not go? Senator-Lee You say a man is an armed robber but you take money from him to eat; you say the man is a killer, but you feed from the money you took from his pocket. I know the aggregate of what some people in the APC want to paint of Rivers but I tell you, Lagos was until recently in the hands of the opposition since 1999. Meanwhile, successive PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) administrations have left Lagos State alone. Also, PDP has consistently won elections in Rivers since 1999, so, Rivers is a PDP state; it is not a swing state because the activities of Governor Nyesom Wike are apparent in development, tremendous in economic activities and in the emancipation of the people and so, the people in Rivers are happy. What is causing problem in Rivers is because the APC government wants to turn Rivers to APC by force. The APC in Rivers, led by Rotimi Amaechi, is using the army to invade Rivers, causing a whole lot of disagreement on the ground, and painting a whole lot of wrong impression about the state. And this is a state where he was governor for eight years. Governor Wike has been in office for just 18 months, how many Commissioners of Police has he had? Seven. As the man arranges with a Commissioner of Police to fight crime, they will change the Commissioner. When he was governor, anytime Rotimi Amaechi said the Commissioner of Police was not working with him, they will change the Commissioner. So, why are you trying to destabilise a state that is crucial to the economy of Nigeria because of somebody’s interest? Do the IG (Inspector-General of Police) and the DSS (Department of State Services) know the implication of Rivers going down? Do they know that their offices are run with the resources coming out of Rivers State? So, if Rivers has a problem, it is supposed to be resolved with combined efforts of the police, the army, the DSS and everybody to keep it peaceful. Rivers is the goose that lays the golden egg. But some people want to kill it because of political fanatism, Elections ended in 2015 and they said, ‘oh, it was rigged because it was Jonathan’s (former President Goodluck Jonathan) army’; they called for the re-run of parliamentary elections on the 19th of March, PDP won again. They said, ‘oh, it was because Arase (former Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase) compromised. Now, there was another election. This time you brought 28,000 policemen, apart from soldiers. In fact, the total number of soldiers and other security men brought to Rivers was 38,000 men as if we were going to war and then they concentrated half of that in Bori to force the Ogoni people to write results. The army seized all the result sheets of the election and wrote that Magnus Abe won the election. But there was no election in Ogoni land. The entire Ogoni land was militarised. In fact, the last time I saw the militarisation of Ogoni land the way it happened on the 10th of December was during the hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa. So, what kind of democracy are we having that you try to force the people against their will? We did not vote in Ogoni land and we are praying that, one day, the tribunal will annul all that rubbish so that we can have the right to vote. In Khana Local Government Area, there was no election in the whole local government area. In Tai, it was done against court order. In Gokana, they shared materials because Magnus Abe is from there. Everybody knew that there was no election in Rivers South- East Senatorial District; it was locked down by the military, forcing electoral officers, taking results from them and asking them to lie down and nobody is saying anything about this. I am surprised that INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) is saying that because of violence, their men were not safe; in a violence that was orchestrated by the military. All the story about people carrying gun revolves around the APC, and because of the involvement, the story is dying. Even the police officer that was beheaded, Alkali, was organised by an APC chieftain, but because it was an APC chieftain, the story is dying.
Do you have evidence of these allegations, especially the one bordering on the beheading of police officer Alkali?
It was published by Sahara Reporters. So, what other evidence do you want? Ask Sahara Reporters where they got the names. We saw the names of APC people there, we saw the name of a Commissioner in Rotimi Amaechi’s government being mentioned as the mastermind. I am quoting Sahara Reporters, is it not the same Sahara Reporters that said Wike was recorded, threatening electoral officers? They are setting-up a commission of inquiry because Wike is a PDP man. The IG should also set-up a commission of inquiry to investigate his men who were given a mandate to deliver Rivers to APC. Magnus Abe did not participate in any election, they just wrote the result and announced it for him. Imagine APC getting 125,000 votes and PDP getting 24,000 in a senatorial district where, in the previous election, he got the least votes. So, you can imagine the sham called election, the bloodletting called election. I am ashamed. What is the way out of the violence taking place in Rivers? The way out is for the President, who is the Commander-in-Chief, to call the security agencies to order. All these things are happening because a former governor of the state, who is now an APC chieftain, wants to put a successor in Rivers and he couldn’t in 2015; so he is looking for every way to do it in 2016. In fact, they wanted a state of emergency in Rivers. At what point does a President watch one very important component of a nation going into crisis? And this was a crisis caused by human desperation, crisis caused by political fanatism. Three elections have been held and they lost all, so what else are they looking for? What else is the President waiting for to say ‘leave Rivers alone? So, what I am seeing is that when the governor of Rivers spends money to ensure that there is no pipeline vandalism in his state, when the man ensures that the national asset in Rivers is protected, what they pay him back with is to try to pull him down at all costs. He is the Chief Security Officer of the state who does not know about the movement of security agents. Meanwhile, Amaechi knows about the movement of the police more than the sitting governor. I am very sure you know that about 70 percent of the police attached to the governor was withdrawn, what do you call that? The CSO (Chief Security Officer) to the governor was withdrawn. The governor said they wanted to assassinate him. If you withdraw 70 percent of the police protecting the governor including his CSO of course it is right to say that you want to kill the governor. Or if you cannot kill the governor you create a sense of insecurity in him. So, why is the press looking away from this, why is the President looking away from this? It will be so sad if the President sits down and watch Rivers degenerate into violence and disaster. Bonny terminal is the biggest oil terminal in the country. So, any government that means well for this country should try to protect Rivers State. Call the APC gladiators and say, ‘Look, Rivers is a PDP state, let Rivers rest, next election you can come and participate and stop forcing Rivers people against their will. The way forward is that they are placing Rivers State now on a keg of gun powder, if Rivers explodes, Nigeria will suffer economically because there will be no oil to sponsor anything in this country. Imagine 12 APC governors lining up in the stadium of Port Harcourt and abusing the governor of Rivers State one by one, three days to the election. Some called him a rogue, all sorts of names, one even spoke in Hausa asking all the Hausa people in Rivers to organise jihad against the governor. These are states that their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is not up to N50 million a month, but they need two point something billion obtained from the oil wealth of Rivers to run their states. Which South-South governor can go to Kano and abuse the governor and go scot-free, no matter the number of police protecting him? Which South-South state governor can go to Kaduna to abuse El Rufa’i and go free? And this is a state where governors from the North gathered to abuse the governor of Rivers State, putting a finger in our eyes and we did not revolt and you say we are violent. Enough is enough because very soon, we shall define our stay if the President does not define the peace we want in Rivers. It was rumoured that governor Wike was sponsoring ‘thugs’ to cause mayhem in Abuja. How true is the allegation which came from the DSS? You know before the DSS comes out to name the governor of a state, it is only the governor of Rivers State he can mention. If he had mentioned the name of the governor of Kano, possibly, Kano will be boiling now. If he had named the governor of Kaduna, Kaduna may also be boiling by now. So he feels that he can continue to insult, intimidate and blackmail the governor of Rivers State, it is unfair. The DSS boss himself, his office is run with resources from Rivers State. If he does not like that, he can reject the budget, the budget is funded with oil money. At what point do you try to blackmail a governor? Even if you caught people who wanted to protest because of the governor, of course, we are in a democracy, people have the right to peaceful protest and the governor of Rivers State, with all due respect, also has right to ask people to protest peacefully on his behalf if he so wishes. What is your assessment of Wike’s administration in the 18 months he has been in the saddle as governor of Rivers State? This is the first time I see a governor of Rivers State working. This man is a gift to Rivers people. This is a governor that has dwarfed every political calculation against him. Amaechi’s eight year in office, ask anybody from Rivers, cannot be compared to Wike’s 18 months in office. Anybody who wishes the state well should be happy that his successor is doing very well. Wike was the Chief of Staff to Amaechi, he (Amaechi) should be happy that somebody from the same political family is doing very well; forget about APC, forget about PDP. We are all from the same political family of Peter Odili. Wike is working. In Ogoni land, there is no way APC can get 20 percent votes. In fact, anywhere in Rivers State, not Ogoni land only, APC cannot get 20 percent anywhere in Rivets State. The old road from East/West road to Bori was done by the colonial administration in 1952, Wike is dualizing that road now. So, you have a triumphant entry to Ogoni land. So the man is working, he is turning around our physical infrastructure, he is turning around our health infrastructure. Right now more than 23 General Hospitals are at reconstruction stage.
All Quotes in this Interview were lifted from Vanguard Newspaper