Those who know him know he is unassuming and forthright about his position on any issue. He was commissioner for Sports in Rivers State during the administration of the former governor, Peter Odili. He was later appointed chairman of the post primary schools board by former governor, Rotimi Amaechi. Allwell Onyesoh later served as the deputy director general of the Greater Together Campaign Council, the campaign organization of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 general elections in the state. In this interview , he addresses the controversies trailing the perceived governorship ambition of Senator Magnus Abe, his relationship with Amaechi, among others.
What is this we are hearing that you and your supporters assaulted one Nnamdi Nworgu at your village, Umuanyagu in Etche?
My brother, I don’t know what you are talking about. Is that the way they want to play their politics? Is there anybody contesting in Etche? What will make anybody beat anybody or manhandle anybody now? Is there council election? What is…is there anything at stake for somebody like me? You see, they should stop playing politics I beg?
There are insinuations that this restructuring going on is about clearing all the people that are likely to give weight to the ambition of Senator Magnus Abe. Doesn’t this look like an impending implosion for the party?
Well, let’s look at it…let’s be going, we shall see…because let me tell you, Amaechi is my friend, in fact, he is my brother not my friend; the man has lost contact with yesterday. He doesn’t remember where we are coming from. To start with, I’m not Amaechi’s boy; I’m his friend and contemporary. I’m not his boy, Odili was our oga, he made me commissioner and made him speaker and I know how we suffered to ensure that he became governor. It will shock you to know that for the eight years he was governor I didn’t do one contract, one, one, one. Then he now made me board chairman, which was downgrading. It was disrespectful but I didn’t want it to look like anything. I took it…because he had chief of staff, he had SSG, he had ministerial appointments, and other things but he thought that I should be chairman of board in Rivers State. As at that particular time, I was the most experienced political administrator in Rivers State with eight years of green biro…
And that board was an aspect, a unit of a ministry you have headed before…
Yes…And if he really thought of me as somebody that should be respected, he would have funded it, knowing fully well that I shouldn’t be there. He did not fund it; he did not fund it throughout. When we were about to go, the man brought three billion and then taxed N2.5 billion and the tax was N270 million, then we got N2.7 billion. He did not allow me award the contract. He awarded it through five companies from every LGA and spent his money. Then teachers’ jobs, you know how it happened…yes, we took it to ministry of education; a job that is purely that of schools board. I didn’t say anything, I kept quiet even when the house of assembly asked him to return the jobs to where it belongs. In his normal characteristic way of being very autocratic…anyone that doesn’t like it should leave. But I didn’t think that that should make us quarrel, I let it be. They only brought it for me to sign; all I did was to sign appointments that some other person made because I didn’t talk, nobody said anything. It was Etche’s turn; we agreed three ethnic groups in that entire district: Okrika, Ikwerre and Etche. As at that time, Ikwerre has done two tenures through John Mbata. Okrika was doing two tenures through Sekibo. Amaechi looked me in the face, took it and gave again to an Ikwerre man. Now, God is punishing them. Almost how many years down the line, they are still in court.
So, in the middle of all that I now started again. Then I was deputy DG to somebody that was inferior to me. I nearly dropped it but thanks to Tele (Ikuru) then, Tele spoke to me, and said, bro, take that thing, forget it. I understand wetin dey go on. I said, Ok oh, that one man no dey sabi everything. If he wants me to do that and I don’t do it, he will say but I told you now you should take it. So I took it. Do you know that since after the election, my friend and brother has never asked me how do you eat, how do you survive, how do you pay school fees for your late brother’s children; in fact, nothing, nothing. All I should do is sit back and take instructions from him. Sit down and allow him think for me. He is not more educated than myself, he is not more exposed than myself, he is not more political than myself. I have done all of that and I have nothing to show for it. As deputy DG. They award contracts, leave that one dem dey use deceive ona o. Make the man no allow me talk oh. They award contracts worth millions and billions regularly from NPA, from NIMASA they award. Even Ibim (Semenitari) awarded contracts; they didn’t think I should get one as deputy DG, nothing and nobody thought it was wise. In the light of that, I now said okay fine this is politics we are playing, I think I should take my destiny in my hands I can also read the situation. I have read the situation before; he cannot bring anybody as the next governor of Rivers State. Mark what I have told you, he cannot. In fact, the mere fact that he is fighting Abe has strengthened my resolve because as Rivers people, we will not victimize Magnus. But anybody Amaechi will bring, they will victimize that person, that he is Amaechi’s boy. So, fighting Magnus alone is a proper indication in the positive direction. So. for me I’m more encouraged. That was the reason I advised him publicly since he decides anytime he wants to talk about people, he talks in public as if we are his boys. When he wanted to rejig the party, I spoke to him that he has no power to remove anybody. He can only change one thing or the other.
He used to go to Ubima to build up his image. Celestine is there. I said it yesterday in the news that Celestine is there, he should go and contest with Celestine and then he should look for Ikwerre Local Government where little boys like Ishii and co. don’t allow him move freely, before he talks about the Ikwerre ethnic nationality, before going to other people’s area, I said so. He has forgotten that his being in Etche today, it was because some people stood for him there. His being in Bonny was because some people stood for him there. Now, he thinks he can come to Etche. I’m sure this thing now, they are the ones planning it but I don’t care. I am from Umuanyagu village, so, as you are now, if something happens to your people now, it’s you.
The man is sharing an audio recording where he was narrating his experience and the incident…well, people are sharing it also.
Wait, the audio they are sharing, did they see me beating him or what?
It’s audio not video and they said he was talking to journalists from the hospital bed…
That’s why I’m telling you too that there is nothing like that. That was also the reason I told you. What is the motive? What is in contention at my level and experience? Was there an election going on? Did he snatch election box or because I was in the village yesterday they decided to do something and they say I’m the one? I didn’t even know. Somebody got married yesterday, I was in my village. Shouldn’t I go home again? And If I go home and people fight, then it is me? That means I shouldn’t go anywhere because if I go and people fight or burn houses or do something…have people not been fighting in that village before? You know when you brought up this thing; I thought that this thing is funny. Someone somewhere is doing something and that is a very cheap way. Is that how you do the thing? If you play it this way, assuming you bring up your candidate, is it not just nomination? What of general election? You will come and call me. What will you now tell me, after all this kind of things?
So about the Abe…I looked at everything and I checked, Wike is Ikwerre ethnic majority, Abe is Ogoni ethnic majority. Now, let two of them slug it out. And Abe has the right amount of force to start with, then if we now follow and give him support, it can’t be too much against us. In fact, if anything, maybe this time, they will likely be for us. If you should add up all these, there are chances of our making it to the Brick House. Now, if we make it to Brick House, I am not going be anything. I won’t be anything. But at least, it will open up some new vistas for those of us who have attained this level of governance before to reach the other one. In a situation where, what we rightly deserve by experience, you give it to somebody else – he has never done any administrative duties. He has never – and that is why our people can’t even get anything out of it because they don’t know how things are structured. You have people who have 12 years of green biro experience then you leave them and go and take someone who has zero level. Sokonte came out from university and worked as party officer. He worked there and then “Total” got him in those days of “carry go” and then he went to House of Reps and then you bring him and put him there when you have people like Tony…people like myself you know you have them
You now do things with sentiment because you have something you are looking at. You do things upside down and we are all suffering for it. You are gathering all the money keeping for yourself against tomorrow and people are dying of hunger. Nobody is doing anything. You want to warehouse all contracts if person no win, if nobody supports you, you will not. It doesn’t work like that. The day you became governor, you didn’t have these contracts to warehouse…yet you became governor. We worked for you without any incentive 2005, 2006, 2007. I was at the forefront. We didn’t need to warehouse any money. We were not in control of the party structure. Austin Opara was. You see, people forget history. We worked. He has called me and told me look, look, when I say you should start, you start. I told him, you can’t do that nah! I am old enough politically and otherwise to know when to play my politics and how to play it. If you think that my produce is yielding results in my own area, you call me for negotiation. That’s how politics is played. How far you can play your own determines how much you get because you are bringing something to the table. But you don’t even want anybody to bring something to the table; you want to bring all yourself so that you can share as you want. It’s no longer politics because you are becoming an emperor. So, I will not agree with that. I can bring something to the table. If I bring something to the table you don’t agree, I can take it elsewhere.
And so, I told him, when we were doing for you, Odili did not agree that we should hold meetings but we were holding meetings for you in Tonye Harry’s house, every 2am we were there. That’s when we used to start the meetings and today what do we have to show for it, nothing. Maybe for him, but for me nothing. As soon as he got it, he started building a new structure, discarding others. Now, we are age mates and now you are telling me about retirement, meanwhile, you are not planning to retire. You are not planning to retire and you are telling people you have been in the system. What of you? Since, Ada George and I don’t know why I didn’t notice that greed then. In Ada George’s government, Rotimi was PA to Odili, SA to Ada George, Rotimi was a member of the boards: Rotimi was a member of the board of Risonpalm, a member of the board of WAGI, at the same time. Then, after that when we came back, he became a speaker for eight years and governor for eight years. He said he funded government. If he funded government, he shouldn’t have taken anything, he should have brought in his people. You say you want to be like Tinubu, Tinubu, after governor, has not been seen again, he put in his boys. Yeah, he put his men. He funded Buhari. Why didn’t you submit a name if you want to be like Tinubu. You funded and you took. So you got it. People shouldn’t allow us talk. We are all politicians. We have come a long way. Nobody is an idiot. Now after that, you say, no. Everybody should bring somebody. So I told him, O boy, we don’t do things like that. This party card I get, na my name them write for there, no be your name. You cannot use my card for me. Then why am I here? Why am I in the game? At my level and age? Haba! In 21st century,no nah, no! It’s not done. That’s how we started gradually. He will invite me to Abuja, I will go. He will talk, talk, talk. He will bait me with eh eh, that appointment. I dey look am. Any appointment he brings, na for the one wey we don work. If you like, you bring, if you like, you leave. You can’t tell me, am not a kid now. He has never worked anywhere after all this political appointment. I have worked, I have earned salary level this, level that. He knew. You don’t do that. We have been talking and people stepped in between us. So that we talk and we don’t get to this point. You know Father Deedua, he also spoke to us and I told him, ask your friend, my brother, what I have benefitted from him being at the top for 10 years and I told Father Deedua, he was governor for eight years. I should have been the de facto governor of Rivers State. I shouldn’t have needed a position to enjoy Rivers State. Then to even enter Government House you have to introduce yourself, some small boys will stop you. That privilege wasn’t there.
Now, he has been minister. He comes to boast to us that his ministry is very rich. Two billion dollars, six billion dollars, six trillion dollars and they have been spending it. Where are this money spent and yet people back here are hungry. I told Father, he will make us come to a meeting and tell us how big his ministry is, how rich it is, what they are doing, they are building railway lines from this to that. Before I used to escort him to those places but I no longer escort him. I want to be part of those who will guide him and show him what we have done so far. Then, put bills for money to be paid. It is good to bring up these things so that you know why men make up their mind to fight over issues. Now, every day you will come, I will escort you to the airport. You will walk inside the building and outside the building and I will be there. You will be calling small, small girls and be giving them big, big jobs. They are your this, they are your that. That is why I didn’t want to give you that job oo. So, you are before me, so you can give jobs and people are here littered, looking for jobs. You are giving Yoruba girls and Igbo girls jobs. You are giving them jobs. It was after that, I noticed that he was not just doing it to me alone; he was doing it to a lot of other people. There are so many people he will have to remove. In fact! By the time him go dey where him dey deal with us, by the time him know to finish with us elections don come, don pass. before him go come do him campaign. We have learnt. He has offended nearly everybody. And then, in all of that, he is still thinking he is governor. He operates like a maximum ruler. No room for complain, no room for discussion. No room for trying to talk with you. Everything is hot, hot, hot.
You think Amaechi is not facing reality…he wants everyone to think he has now gone beyond being a governor to being a political leader but in practice he is still operating like a governor?
The difference between him and Tinubu is that Tinubu did not build a structure for himself, Tinubu built a structure for his generation and that structure has grown so much that it is funding and moulding itself. That’s what Tinubu did. It is the Tinubu structure that is running the whole of South-West. Even those who appear to have fought with Tinubu are still part of the structure like when Fayose, Bankole, Obanikoro went to visit him. He built it; he wasn’t building it for himself. My friend built everything for himself. He wants to build a party for Dakuku alone. Dakuku goes to fail elections; you took the next thing that comes and give back to Dakuku. A five year commission appointment you have given it to Dakuku. Now you don’t even want the boy to stay there for the five years. You are still preparing the government for him to come again. When people now say no, you will go and bring another person outside, a technocrat. I asked him in one of our discussions, you are bringing Tonye Cole as a technocrat. Why not politicians that we know? He said technocrats are better. I asked him, were you a technocrat? He said, no. I asked him did you perform well as a governor? He said, yes! Then I said, were you a technocrat? He said, no. I said look, the way you just do, you don’t listen to people, you act like you know everything. Okay, were you a technocrat? Where are all the technocrats you brought to government? They have all disappeared and he put all the technocrats in key ministries. Where are they today? Where is Alice, where is Parker, where is Nyema, where is Chamberlain? I started mentioning names. Even your SSD is not adding value. We still don’t remember him as SSD; we remember the man that presided before him, Magnus. Because Magnus was a politician. We still remember Wike as Chief of Staff. Me and Tony are friends, there was a time you brought Tony. Tony’s only experience was that of special adviser to Wike, and chairman of LGA. There are people you should have brought in, you didn’t bring them. He is playing ethnic card, this Ikwerre thing. In all of that, I told him, look my friend, you see, you say you dey do this things for me, the one wey I dey do na for you too. When e work, you go follow. Make you dey do your own too. When e work, me too I go follow. Make I dey do my own, no be only you go dey do my own for me. Make I do for you too. So that I keep you up there. Let me up too and do for you small. So that you see how people should be people’s friends. You bring Victor you give him all manner of jobs. You concentrate on things on areas that…see, everything is in the South-East, the party chairman, South-East, NIMASA, South-East, former candidate of the party, South-East, ambassador, South-East, NDDC, South-East. You now want to replace the man who became ambassador; you still went to South-East. No nah! That is not how to play the game. I saw the small tunnel and there was light there. First, for us to be able to capture, Magnus. He has shown capacity, he has shown that if he is supported, he will go far. That we still have APC in that his own zone, no other zone oh. Like your senatorial district that is not a drop of nobody, nothing there. Okay, fine. You come to my own area, it’s just Chidi Wihioka and Bike. That was because they moved South-East to that place. Then Victoria Nyeche, we know how that one happened and then every other thing that symbolizes the life of APC, if in that area and you still don’t want them. Tell us wetin the man do you, you don’t want to say. So my brother, I cool down stay for the man place. They have been deceiving him. So, in a meeting I told him I don’t know what they are telling you but I know Magnus and na there I dey. Many people you see dey there, them dey for Magnus I dey tell you. In a meeting, I told him. I didn’t say it behind him oh, I said it before them in a meeting, they all dey for Magnus oh. This one he is doing is a desperate situation. It is displaying desperation. That was why I replied him. I said, look I am not the leader you think you made. You cannot tell Etche people not to follow me. Yesterday, I went to church, I went to the church as a nobody. The day before yesterday, he announced that I have been removed.
Yesterday, I went to keep an appointment, you should have gone to see the crowd that welcomed me. You should have seen the people that followed me voluntary from other parts of Etche. They followed me and we went and then I attended the wedding and came back. Then the next thing I heard that I manhandled, I manhandled what? If it’s so, I expect persecution. Those entire platforms, how many people dey there. All the members of the entire platform, them reach 25 thousand? Them no reach. Some of them dey vote?
When you look at certain things that happened in 2015, was it that Dakuku was brought up to undermine APC chances?
(Cuts in) …so that an Ikwerre person will continue as governor.
Many people expected that as the changes are being done, some people who supported Dakuku will be removed, some people who supported Magnus will be removed so that there will be a balance.
That’s why we call this thing bluff. You don’t put your hope on a man, he is not God. He is doing all this ones, he has done his own, let us see how it plays out. As Amaechi dey, does he know Form EC8? He doesn’t know, governor. He just siddon and we just carry am. What does he know? Let us face these things, the nitty-gritty of how to win an election, does Amaechi know? As far as I am concerned there are two men; one of them will take the oath of office on May 29, 2019, Wike or Magnus. Mark this thing I am telling you. The rest are not prepared and the man trying to prepare them is not even himself a builder. Amaechi is not a builder. He always brings the wrong bricklayer and the wrong material. When you saw that Wike was coming and the government of the day was against you, you go and bring two minorities to go and run governor and deputy governor against two majorities, Kalabari and Ikwerre.