Wike charges NASS on electoral reforms, service chiefs on fresh strategies
Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, has said for Nigeria to move forward, elections should be made transparent and all votes counted. Sequel to this, the governor said the amendment of the Electoral Act by the National Assembly would be a mere charade if card readers would not be used to determine the validity of every vote cast.
The governor observed that attempts to achieve credible electoral reform had been mired by overriding personal ambition of persons with vested political interest within and outside the National Assembly.
Governor Wike, who made the assertion in a televised interview in Port Harcourt, monitored by our correspondent, said because most National Assembly members were often preoccupied with the next election, they tended to skew the Electoral Amendment Act to benefit their interest and that of their political party.
“Why didn’t the president sign the last amendment Electoral Act, why?” he asked. “Because APC as a party had informed the president that if you sign this electoral amendment, you are likely to lose the election. Therefore, don’t sign it. And, of course, the president did not sign the Electoral Amendment Act.
“I am not carried away by the antics of the National Assembly. They all know what will make the country move forward. One, make the election transparent by ensuring that all votes are counted. You can achieve that by allowing card reader to function. So that the figures recorded on the card reader should tally with the transmitted figures.”
On the appointment of new service chiefs, the governor advised them to shun politics and concentrate on a strategy that would enable them to expeditiously end insurgency in the country. Governor Wike noted that a lot of Nigerians had lost confidence in the former service chiefs, thus the clamour for President Muhammadu Buhari to sack them.
Governor Wike, who applauded President Buhari for eventually listening to the cry of the citizens, advised the new service chiefs to preoccupy themselves with mapping out a strategy to improve Nigeria’s security architecture.
“They must understand that the challenges are enormous and so they have a lot of work to do. They should not concern themselves with politics. Part of the problem we had with former service chiefs was that they were involved in politics. Instead of concentrating on security the country, they were very much involved in politics. Nobody can deny that fact. The moment you politicise security, then you are bound to have problems.”
Governor Wike also accused the former Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Yusuf Buratai of political bias. To buttress this, he cited the arrest and detention of recruits of Rivers State Neighbourhood Watch Safety Corps, who were undergoing training at the National Youth Service Corp orientation camp at Norwan in Rivers State by the Nigerian Army on the directive of Buratai.
“So many states were setting up their own security outfit, the Chief of Army Staff (General Buratai) allowed it,” Wike said. “He never for one day said, ‘look, we cannot allow this.’ But he allowed it. When Rivers State by law set up Neighbourhood Watch to give intelligence to security agencies, the former Chief of Staff came into politics. Even when we wrote to the Army, we wrote to the police. The police and Department of States Services were the one training the people.”
He, therefore, urged the new service chiefs to bear in mind that though they were appointed by the president, their oath of office and oath of allegiance are to obey the Constitution of Nigeria.
The governor described as erroneous President Buhari’s claim that the security situation in the country has improved far beyond what the situation was when he assumed office in 2015.
“Things have gone very bad. Everybody knows that insecurity has reached the level where everybody was saying change the service chiefs. If it was good, nobody would call for their sack. Even in his party, the APC said the insecurity had gotten to a level we cannot bear again.”
Governor Wike pointed out that despite the withdrawal of $1b, estimated to be above N450b from the Excess Crude Account to procure armament to fight the insurgents, security has continued to deteriorate.
While speaking on community policing, the governor noted that both the Federal Government and the police high command were playing politics with the scheme.
“If you want this country to move forward, it is important that the states must take control of the security apparatus of their states. I know the local governments, I know the communities; I know the families. So I should be able to say this is what we should do in policing these areas. Therefore, the need for community policing is necessary, but the problem is that the Federal Government comes up to say, they will support community policing, but where have they supported it?
“The police itself will say, ‘oh, we are interested in community policing.’ Let me tell you what happened in my state. They said they want to do community policing and they called traditional rulers to seek their cooperation.
“Do you know that every name submitted by traditional rulers, the local governments, the police changed everything. It became political.”
Governor Wike also disclosed that a committee has been set up to work out a possible framework for the establishment of a South-South security outfit. According to him, when the committee is done, the chairman of the South-South Governors Forum would announce the outcome.
On the rumour that he intends to run for president in 2023, the governor said his political detractors were behind the recent circulation of his posters in Abuja.
“Since December last year to this period, we have been commissioning projects. So people now believe that with the commissioning of projects, he may have the intention to run for president.
“They have money to print posters for me. I thank them for telling Nigerians that they want me to run for president. No Nigerian can say I have ever met him, discussed with him that I want to run for president. That does not mean I am not a qualified person, but I have never come out to say I want to run.”
The governor said though it is his constitutional right to aspire for the office of president, his present interest is delivery of dividends of democracy to Rivers people.