By Jimitota Onoyume
Doris MacDaniels is the Chairperson of Ijaw Mothers Union, a group at the forefront of the campaign for a better Niger Delta. She is also a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Rivers State and the Deputy Publicity Secretary, South South Peoples Assembly, SSPA.
In this interview, she speaks on the just concluded governorship elections in Rivers and the fate of the Niger Delta following the emergence of General Muhammadu Buhari as president-elect.
What is your assessment of the just concluded governorship and House of Assembly elections in Rivers State?
You will agree with me that this is the first time we are involving social media in monitoring and expressing our views in an election in Nigeria. I have been a grassroots politician for about 25years. The elections held in the 1990s were conducted in an orderly manner. We never had ammunition in my community, Okrika. In the late 90s, we had communal clashes with a neighboring town and some boys were frantically looking for a gun to ward off some intruders, they were unable to access gun easily. A boy later brought his father’s dane gun. Violence associated with elections in the state started in 2003 and there after we have been having Carry Go elections, meaning endorsement for candidates.
The March 28 and April 11 elections are the only ones that have been competitive and I disagree that they were marred by killings. The killings we had in the state were more from cult rivalry.
Certainly there were pockets of violence here and there but it was a similar thing during the elections in other parts of the country.
Governor Chibuike Amaechi described the elections as a sham, saying it was rigged.
If the April 11 elections did not hold, how come he voted? How would anyone doubt Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, winning Rivers State ? If Buhari won Sokoto, Kano, Borno, etc, then there is no way PDP will lose its stronghold states like Rivers, Delta, Akwa-Ibom.
I was not supporting Nyesom Wike initially. I had wanted the power rotation arrangement between the upland and riverine to be effected but we did our best but our best was not good enough.
When Wike won the primaries and I knew anybody that got the PDP flag will win the election, I gave him 100% winning chance. I never thought the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Dr Dakuku Peterside, will ever win the election because he was Governor Amaechi’s candidate. Besides, he was forced on his party by the governor. So a lot of people were not happy.
Some people also have issues with the governor over his relationship with President Goodluck Jonathan. Don’t forget that Mr President is an Ijaw man and their are Ijaw in Rivers.
Apart from the Supreme court judgement that brought Amaechi to power in his first term, he never won the House of Assembly election. It was when Dr Peter Odili won his governorship election that they went to court to get victory for Amaechi so he could go the House of Assembly. In essence Amaechi does not have the strategy to win election. Buhari’s victory cannot be attributed to Amaechi because it was obvious the people with Jonathan were working to fail. Even Amaechi re-election was difficult for him. The First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan pleaded on his behalf and campaigned for him.
She came to Okrika, specifically, to plead with her people to give him a CARRY-GO.
The April 11 elections were well managed. Elections held but there were pockets of violence here and there. But nobody can say elections did not hold.
Some people have called for the cancellation of the election. What do you think?
The situation in Rivers on April 11 was like the moment of truth. A lot of lies had been told about Rivers being an APC state but that is a lie . Jonathan is an Ijaw man from Bayelsa , the riverine people in Rivers are Ijaw, the First Lady is from Rivers .The loss of Jonathan at the centre was like mourning for Rivers people. And then the guber election came up. They were angry that Amaechi was part of the PDP problem.
This was a governor that had neglected his state in pursuit of national politics; so how was he expecting to project Dakuku for victory? As a matter of fact, Amaechi presence in APC ruined Dakuku’s chances and APC getting a better grip in the state. if Amaechi was not involved,a lot of people may have decamped to APC but nobody wants to be associated with a governor that was talking the way he was doing. Riverine people don’t act like that. We have typical Rivers men in the calibre of Mr Odein Ajumogobia, SAN,l, Atedo Peterside, Fafaa Princewill and so on. We are very respectful.
What are your expectations from the governor elect, Wike
The much I know about Wike is that he is a man of great courage and determination. He has succeeded in being Obio Akpor local government Chairman,Chief of Staff to Governor Amaechi and he supported Amaechi to interpret Amaechi dreams.
The truth is if we have to have a re-run, Wike will beat Dakuku. You are contending against Wike who is a master of the game, he has his strategy, his schemings, his boldness.
Now we have Buhari as president. What is the future for the Niger Delta?
We opposed Buhari obviously but now he is president-elect. I believe it is an act of God and no God-fearing person will oppose God’s verdict. Based on this, I call on my sisters and brothers to render their support .I think the Niger Deltans want to see how the things will unfold. They want to see whether they would be respected or disrespected. Niger Deltans are not troublesome people but they fight injustice. Our brother did a lot for the North regardless, if Buhari comes with such gestures of non-tribalistic rulership like Jonathan, then we may witness peace .
The oil producing states must not be treated with disdain like it happened in the past. There is so much awareness in these communities and it will not be business as usual, the PIB provisions on oil producing communities should be adhered to.and these communities must be treated with utmost care .
Do you see boys going back to the creeks
I don’t think it is in their program for now but let us not rule that out. It all depends on how tactful the president handles it. If he listens to the likes of Amaechi on how to handle Niger Delta, then a lot could go wrong.
Some ex militants have been voted into the state House of Assembly
People have wrong perception about these former militants. Niger Delta ex-militants are not like Area Boys. Some of them are educated, intelligent, some are engineers, master degree holders who had no job,then got affiliated to MEND. These are forgiven militants for whatever role they may have played in the past. Some of them are people from good homes.
Those that made it to the House of assembly are level-headed young men I personally respect and they are qualified. We did not vote in miscreants, we know these boys are responsible.
The nation watched with horror seeing some so-called honorable members in their true colour, fighting, breaking heads. These ex militants will never act that way. These are boys I am ever proud of because they have distinguished themselves as respected sons.
These are freedom fighters. They are very organized.