Wike might have won in court, he knows it was a blood victory - Peterside FeaturedWritten by The Neighbourhood
Dakuku Adol Peterside was the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, for the governorship election in Rivers State last year. A highly controversial election, it was decided a couple of weeks back when the Supreme Court eventually upheld the election of Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as the duly elected governor of the state. While Peterside admits he and his party are ready to abide by the pronouncement of the court, it will not remove from the fact that it was a victory tainted with blood of those allegedly killed during the election. In this interview he debunked claims that his party ever criticised the judgement.
The Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, spoke to THISDAY last week and accused you of unnecessarily lashing out at the Supreme Court following a judgement that went against you. Why will you want to smear the highest court in the land just because its judgement went against you?
The first thing is that I didn’t criticise the judges of the Supreme Court. In the press briefing I had after Nyesom Wike did what he called a thanksgiving service which was actually an opportunity to bash the president and the Nigerian military, what I did was to draw the attention of the world to what Governor Wike said in church. I would like quote him all the time: “concerning the judiciary, let me thank the former governor of Rivers State, (Peter) Odili. He will call me at midnight to tell me what to do, he will say go to so and so place, I took all his advice and here we are today, that is the reason for this celebration.” And I thought that was weird. In sane societies that comment should have led to a wild outrage. If you have a case in court what is ordinarily expected of you is to hire good lawyers to go and marshal out your case and the judges make a decision one way or the other but for you to say in church publicly that someone counseled you and because of that you are going from one place to another, you have an explanation to make. You need to tell the world where and where did you go to? Who and who did you go to see and who and who did you see that helped you get the victory in your case? Those things call for some explanation. In a civilised society, nobody expects you to go and see anyone once you file your case. It is expected that your lawyer files your case and judges arrive at a decision. I simply said based on what Wike said in church juxtaposed with earlier things that had been said, concerning that he met some Justices at Owerri, some at Mbaise, some at Dubai but if you put the two things together you will see that something is amiss and I said to the judiciary: please there is need for retrospection. Judicial officers need to sit back and reflect on what is going on. That is all we did and I have said it over and over again not for once did we criticise any Judge. Even at that, criticism of any judge at the Supreme Court will not alter anything. A verdict has been arrived at and we have accepted the verdict because that is the final court in the land.
By now, you must have done an analysis of the Supreme Court judgement on your governorship election petition. So can you tell Nigerians where and where you fault that judgement?
I haven’t had cause to criticise that judgement because of my principle and standards. The highest court in the land has made its decision and I stand with them on the decision. That doesn’t mean I don’t have reservations on certain issues. Recall also that when I addressed a press conference at that point in time they have not released the reason for their decisions at the time I drew the attention of world to what Wike said in church. He made so many reckless statements. He described the President as a Boko Haram president that he should go and bring his Boko Haram army and he said he doesn’t believe in the president’s fight against corruption. He said a lot of things that I thought he might have been drunk when he said all these things. No sane person can say such thing. I have not made any form of criticism of the judgement.
I have said I do not have capacity to join issues with Supreme Court. So, I will not comment on the judgement. However there are things to note: the Supreme Court earlier backed the relocation of the tribunal from Port Harcourt to Abuja on the grounds that there was violence before, during and after the elections in Rivers State. But the same court now said there was no violence in Rivers State. The Chief Justice of Nigeria before the commencement of the tribunals warned against dealing with technicalities; against substantive justice in election matters yet the Rivers State matter was ultimately decided on technicalities. Supreme Court said you need to bring voters from all 4442 units in Rivers state in a space of 30 or maximum of 60 days that the case lasted to prove irregularities. So, even if 20 percent of the people were denied opportunity to vote, it is of no consequence and that INEC do not have power to make its own regulations; thus card reader is alien to law. These are some of the issues that the judgement may have thrown up. Ultimately, I am scared we may be on reverse gear in election management and electoral integrity.
There are minimal qualities expected of a Governor and of anybody who want to serve in that capacity. What we have in Rivers state today is a state on reverse gear and it will not do anybody any good. We must sit back and ask ourselves fundamental questions about the future of our state.
But do you intend to?
I don’t intend to.
You claimed that the election was violent with several people killed and that there was massive rigging through over-voting but the governor said you never came to the court with any evidence of violence or killings.
First I don’t believe he said so but let’s assume he said so. It simply means that he is not in touch with what transpired in the court. He was never in court for a day. It is understandable that he doesn’t know what transpired in court. He didn’t call one credible witness. The Tribunal that evaluated the case said he didn’t call one credible witness. A witness of his came to court and said I voted, when he was eventually showed the voter’s register his name wasn’t ticked. They showed him result sheet where the INEC people wrote result which was later cancelled due to violence and it happened in several cases. Now we called witnesses and led them in evidence, including the military whose duties were to keep law and order that day. We called the police and the SSS. And at the end of the day, the Tribunal agreed with us that the election was mired by violence. Is he saying that the judges of the Tribunal are all insane or they all not in the right frame of mind? The Court of Appeal also agreed with us.
Now to the Supreme Court. The judgement said that on the balance of probability, they don’t want to believe that violence influenced the election. That admitted that there was violence and for him to say there was no violence is turning facts on his head and it cannot stand.
On the issue of irregularities, in one local government we had one person signing all the result sheets and we had that in four local governments, what else is irregularity? In the voter register that was used for the election, only 400,000 persons were ticked and yet you (Wike) assigned yourself 1.1 million votes. What else is irregularity? So by card reader 200,000 plus were accredited. By voter register, about 400,000 persons were accredited and yet the total showed that we cast a total of 1.1 million votes. Something must definitely be wrong. I said I won’t like to talk about the judgement; it is just that you are forcing me out of my shell. I don’t want to talk about the judgement because the highest court has given its verdict and no matter what I say it won’t reverse the verdict unless I follow a procedure to show that the judgement was a product of corruption. That is the only time the law says that you can now call for a review of the judgement. I don’t think I want to join issues with him; the court has made a decision and it is binding on all of us.
What about the issue of those who were killed. Did you also produce death certificates at the court?
Well, several persons were killed during the election. As we speak, we have gone for the burial of Clever Oruku, the APC youth leader in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni. Now, his physical dead body and burial is more important than any evidence I would have produced in court.
Mind you, the way the legal system works there are allegations that are criminal which did not require that you must strictly prove beyond reasonable doubt. Our interest wasn’t to prove criminal allegations; our interest was to prove that the elections were tainted and that the elections were not conducted in accordance with the law. That was our interest and we were very focused and single minded about the things we were pursuing.
So you never produced any death certificate?
What we were dealing with were electoral violence, irregularities and elections that were not conducted with substantial compliance with the law which is different from a criminal allegation.
There was also an allegation you made against one of the Supreme Court judges and the wife of a former governor of your state, Mary Odili, in which you were quoted as having alluded to the fact that she may have compromised her position in the case in question.
You have already called it an allegation. I never made any such allegation. Where did I make such allegation? I simply drew the attention of the world to what Nyesom Wike said in church. That Dr. Peter Odili was his chief adviser and I said mind you, Dr. Peter Odili is the husband of Justice Mary Odili. Does that amount to allegation?
But what did you mean by that?
I was simply quoting Nyesom Wike and this is what Governor Nyesom Wike said in church. You people should evaluate this statement and give it its proper interpretation.
So why mentioning the wife of Odili?
Is Dr. Odili not the husband of Justice Mary Odili?
Yes, but under the context you must have intended something…
Nothing intended. I simply drew the attention of the world that Dr. Odili is the husband of Justice Mary Odili.
What the governor said was that he could recall that in one of his own cases that came to the Supreme Court, Justice Odili was in the panel that dismissed his application and you and your party did commend that ruling at that time and hailed the Supreme Court for a good judgement. But another of his own case that came in his favour that Mrs. Odili wasn’t on the panel yet, APC criticised the Supreme Court judge. He was actually trying to say that APC is a party that believes in double standards.
Let me say this and put this on record. So far so good to the best of my knowledge as governorship candidate of APC and as a leader of the APC, APC hasn’t issued one statement criticising the Supreme Court judgement and I challenge anybody to give me evidence. I led the delegation that met with the national chairman of the party and all these things that were reported in the press never took place.
You mean the party chairman never criticized the Supreme Court judgement?
Never! And he issued a statement immediately after that saying he never criticised the judiciary.
So all he said were misquoted?
The national chairman issued a statement thereafter that not for once did he criticise the judiciary.
Let’s change the topic a bit. You contested the governorship election in Rivers State. You lost and went to the tribunal to get justice but it did not work out. Now how would you assess that election?
There was no election so there is nothing to evaluate. If there was election, then you can ask me of evaluation. Every right thinking person who lives and does business in Rivers, who had the opportunity to register in Rivers knows that there were no elections and so there is nothing for me to evaluate. If there were elections then I would be able to evaluate then we can begin to place things in context.
You mean that INEC went on a wild goose chase in 2015?
There were no elections in Rivers, I insist. You can get a judgement of the court but as I have always said the judgement of God will definitely come and there is nothing man can do about it. There were no elections in Rivers. Rather than casting ballots, bullets were pelted on the people and so what we had in Rivers State were celebration of killings and bloodbath. And if anyone is dancing on the grave of the people to get to power, time will tell.
Is it true that you felt disappointed over the outcome of the election petition in Rivers State and that you and your party men had to seek out the president for assistance?
Now, I will call that fallacy of statement and fallacy of reasoning. At the time the elections were conducted President Buhari wasn’t yet the president of the country so he couldn’t have done much for us. Isn’t that correct? And so to expect him to have done so much for us during the elections would be standing reasoning on his head. Our argument is that there were no elections and it is a fact. Even those who won in the Supreme Court know that there were no elections. When they sit back in their private moments they will know that they are simply riding to power on the blood of people, on the graves of people and that they can never have peace. I wish they will have peace but the way nature acts, it rewards you based on your deeds and so if you killed, if you spill blood, if you celebrate victory tainted with blood you will never go scout free and so it is a matter of time nature will catch up with them. We have never complained about the elections; we simply said there were no elections not to talk of our party not standing with us during the elections. What will anybody expect the party to do? Our party wasn’t in power by the time we ran the elections. So maybe there is something you are not putting in context.
But during the trial at the tribunal your party (APC) was in power.
At the time we were persecuting our case at the tribunal did we complain that we didn’t have money to pay our legal fees? That is usually the most expensive part of persecuting a case.
So you never sought any assistant whatsoever like it was insinuated that you relied on federal might to get ruling in your favour.
Does the president sit at the Supreme Court or Court of Appeal or the tribunal? Did my party expect the president to go and sit at the Supreme Court? Is he a judge of the Supreme Court or a judge of the Court of Appeal or the tribunal? The thinking of people is to put words in your mouth or they sometimes put you in their context, the way they would have loved you to behave. I am a man of character. I have said this before and no one has disputed that. I am a man of integrity, I don’t tell lies. I believe in honour and I prefer honour to any other thing, not wealth, not position, not power, not authority. So what is it that we ask for the president for assistance and the president didn’t do for us?
Now may we know what was the aim of the meeting with Chief Oyegun, your party’s national chairman? Why were you there?
We had a lot of issues to discuss with the national chairman and we had a successful engagement. Those issues were private; they weren’t for the public consumption and it was routine. From time to time leadership at the state level meets with the national. If we are having challenges we share challenges and if we are making progress we share our progress. That is why it is called a party; people with mutual and common objectives. Our objective is to grab power and use the power to transform Nigeria, change Nigeria, and put Nigeria on the path of peace and progress.
From the statement issued after your meeting at the party office, the chairman was quoted as having promised to take you to President Buhari and to ask for possible assistance in terms of appointment.
The chairman, I can tell you categorically, never said so in the meeting. I was in the meeting from the beginning to the end. He never discussed appointment throughout the meeting.
I read the statement.
He never discussed anything about appointment.
Was he misquoted by the party?
It is very possible.
After that meeting, we had dismissals of appointees of federal government by the previous government and people were saying that Buhari had apparently bowed to your pressure to make way for your party men to be in government.
There are two things I want to believe you are trying to relate. We visited the national chairman, we had private discussion with the national chairman and then the president exercised his powers as president of the country and chief executive of the country. Those were unrelated things. Even people admitted that the president supposed to have taken this action earlier to bring sanity to the system and to install people who believe in the same vision as he does. How was that related to our visit to the national chairman? What was the link? You see the problem with Nigeria is that we shouldn’t live in self denial; we should always tell ourselves the truth. The entire purpose for power is to bring about force for good to bring about changes in society. Society is permanently dynamic.
You came on the platform of an initiative by former Governor Amaechi to move power from the dominant tribe to the minority; trying to do rotation. Looking at it from the benefit of hindsight, do you think that has played to your advantage or not?
First of all, the party nominated me and not the previous governor and let me correct an impression. I got party nomination to run for governorship of Rivers State; it wasn’t on the bases of my ethnic group or where I come from. The party in its wisdom thought I was their best foot forward at that time. At the time they supported my emergence as candidate of the party and the party was convinced that in a free and fair election that I would emerge victorious, but unfortunately we didn’t have an election talk more of a free and fair one. We simply had a bloodbath and so no one can say whether my candidature would have been an advantage or disadvantage of the benefit of the party. But for the benefit of hindsight, I know that my candidature was widely accepted in Rivers State because I represent three important things. First: power shift to another side of the state. Rivers State is multi-ethnic. Ekwere isn’t the only ethnic group as there are many major ethnic groups and there are other ethnic groups too in the state. My candidature represented a change in senatorial district, change in the geo-political divide of the riverine upland and my candidature represented those who believed one could lead where men and women of character, men and women who had a vision and men and women who would use power for good and all those who believed in all these things were solidly behind my candidature. Looking back, I know that if we had an election in Rivers State there is no doubt that I would have emerged victorious. Nobody will see a decent person and go for a tout.
We still have National Assembly elections and state House of Assembly elections ahead. What will you say as INEC prepares to conduct those elections are the chances of your party?
Very bright! All we are asking for is let’s have a level playing field and we are convinced without any doubt that APC will win all the seats if there are elections in Rivers. Our prayer is let’s have elections. I am sure you are noticing the emerging trend of violence and the threats of Nyesom Wike that he will visit violence on the people. He has been consistent on this. He has said over and over again that all those that are coming to prepare for elections in Rivers should prepare their wills before coming because there will be death. He also said in the same church service that par venture the Supreme Court had nullified the same court judgement and asked for a rerun, the most likely thing is that he won’t have presented himself as a candidate because the death rate would have been too high for Rivers State to bare. He said he didn’t want that level of death; he won’t have minded a few deaths but not that level of deaths. He said that after the Court of Appeal judgement, those who are coming to conduct elections should prepare their will. He repeated it over and over again in the so-called thanksgiving service.
Didn’t he give a precondition?
No matter what the precondition is, he has no right at all. Let’s assume he says those that are coming to rig election should prepare their will, does he have right to visit jungle justice on the people? Are you saying it is justifiable to take the laws into his hands? Is he a police officer, military personnel, a security officer? Does he have right to take people’s lives? But that is what you are trying to justify.
Everyone wonders why whenever there is election in Rivers State or Bayelsa State; all that you hear are violence and killings. Do you think that this has become a kind of tradition or what?
There are three major reasons for it. In most societies where the economy is driven by oil, you are likely to experience such situation because people are used to free money without working hard to earn a living. People want to control power so that they can distribute resources at all cost and very few men in the quest for power can choose to be civil.
Secondly, the geographical terrain of the area is a bit challenging. They are scattered in islands in small settlements amongst the creeks and all of that is making it extremely difficult for formal security to combat crime there. That on its own is a challenge. So when you have mirage of creeks it is a bit difficult to effectively police the area. The third is the character of the current politicians we have; pointedly Nyesom Wike. We have had some dimension of violence in politics before now but Rivers State has never experienced the level of violence since we were introduced to politics in Rivers. Never in our history. I have always been involved in politics longer than him and I can say we have never experienced this level of violence before. He introduced this level of violence into the dimension of Rivers politics.
The judgement has been given and as you said you have accepted the verdict but Nigerians want to know your next move. Like you know, politicians are never idle.
There are many options opened to me anyway but it is a personal choice. But for now, I won’t want to discuss my next moves because I won’t be considered a serious minded person
This interview first appeared in thisdaylive.com