Rivers 2015: I am an aspirant – Dagogo-Jack
Recently, there was controversy over the sponsor of some posters announcing the candidacy of Reynolds Beks Dagogo-Jack in the 2015 governorship race in Rivers State. While the Abonnema-born technocrat and the Chairman of Presidential Task Force on Power denied being behind the posters, he told Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu, in this interview that he is an aspirant in the forthcoming race although his ambition is secondary to the project of ensuring President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election. Excerpts
Where are strong speculations and even poster evidence that you are in the gubernatorial race in Rivers State. Is this true?
For the records I was just as surprised to see those unsolicited posters as anyone else. Indeed, I had to put out a disclaimer of sorts to forestall anyone capitalising on the act for political mischief. I also want to say that it is perfectly possible for some enthusiastic well wishers to do this as this is fast becoming part of our culture in politics. And to your question, yes, I am an aspirant waiting to progress to being a candidate for the guber race. Now, don’t forget that I still have a job to which I am fully committed. However, I can confirm to you that I am indeed an aspirant to the office of governor of Rivers State in the next election under the banner of the PDP. I was convinced to prepare for the race in order to enrich the field and provide both the political leadership and our party constituents in the state a wider range of qualified and capable options. You know the peculiarities of our state, being very strategic to the national economy. Our party cannot afford to make unforced tactical mistakes ahead of the main elections which we stand a very good chance of winning landslide. Rivers State remains a PDP state at all levels. Rivers people are waiting adamantly to massively vote PDP in all the elections, especially the presidential and the gubernatorial races. Believe me: all current pretensions to the contrary are mere grandstanding and shall fizzle out in due course.
What are your core political interests?
As they say, no permanent enemies in politics but only permanent interests. Even at that, you will agree with me that the interests are bound to be shifting based on the circumstances of the moment. For me, the principal and paramount political interest I have into the foreseeable future is not to do or be involved in any activity knowingly or unknowingly which can pose even the remotest threat to the re-election of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election. Every other political consideration must be fully subjected to this paramount goal. Once all plans, choices and actions fully align with this goal, any secondary interest can queue behind this. I totally believe in this and I have no apologies on this.
What motivated you to come out?
Like I said, my first motivation is to enrich the field, knowing that over the years I have received the level and quality of preparation required for a high public office, duty post such as the governorship of our state. On a more personal level, I am motivated to offer a credible alternative to the regime of conflict, suspicion and exclusion-based politics which have dominated our political landscape for over a decade now. It will surprise many to learn that the Rivers State GDP is larger than that of Gabon or Senegal. We have what it takes to perform as a country, yet we live like beggars in the midst of plenty because we allow ourselves to be misgoverned and misled. By far, my strongest motivation is my personal conviction that our President sincerely desires to leave enduring developmental achievements especially in the Niger Delta region in order to fully resolve the restiveness in the region and this can only be successfully delivered when the states are governed by adequately prepared, humble and well committed transformational leaders who would work to earn the trust and followership of the people. I strongly believe that if we get development right in the states of Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers we can create a momentum of economic opportunities which could cascade across the country with far reaching nationwide impact. In this sense therefore, I personally share the view that the decades of mismanagement of the economy of the oil bearing states has been not only a disservice to the people of the region but also to Nigeria as a whole. Don’t you wonder sometimes how, by some strange process we keep electing all sorts of desperately insecure people with largely unconcealed desire to use the office chiefly to acquire stupendous wealth just to overtake those who they consider previously ahead of them whilst doing everything they can to dismantle meritocracy and enthrone below-par mediocrity for their succession plan? I tell you, I am motivated to present myself as a committed agent of change who would see the state and our neighbours as a huge economic asset to be optimally exploited for the full benefit our people and Nigeria at large. The challenges shall be significant in view of decades of practicing wrong politics and to deliver this change shall require discipline, tenacity and exemplary leadership. It will require ability to set clear targets and secure the buy-in of critical stakeholders; it will require transparency and accountability in governance. It will require capacity to build consensus. It will require humility and a learning spirit.
From information available to us, the Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, is also an aspirant and he has the state and PDP structures fully secured to his interest. So, how do you think you can compete fairly at the primaries under such a situation?
Yes, I have read and seen different groups filing out in newspapers and mini rallies either endorsing or calling on Mr. Wike for the ticket. Indeed there is even news of the state PDP chairman openly canvassing for him. Yet, I have yet to hear him say he is running so it will be improper to speculate too widely. Be that as it may, I can only adduce that going by the current brand of politics which have failed to serve the people for decades, I will not be surprised if indeed it is restless political jobbers, incurable dependants and hangers-on who are piling the pressure on him for what they can corner for themselves now and in the future. For me, I believe all prospective candidates for governorship should fully respect the fact that political interests are both interconnected and hierarchical. By this I mean we must first design a winning model for the President’s re-election and avoid placing our interests ahead of his own thereby putting his victory prospects under any undue and unnecessary stresses in the state. As members of the same political family, which has the sitting President, we must be ready to make any sacrifice required for his re-election. Unless subsequent events indicate differently, I want to give all interested candidates, including Mr. Wike when he declares publicly, the maximum benefit of doubt on this. Again, you know very well that the primaries are meant to be a family affair. I strongly believe that our party would conduct the primaries, produce a flag bearer and still remain united for the main election ahead.
Do you think rotation of key political offices should take precedence over the capacity of a candidate?
I do not think the two elements are mutually exclusive. We are 165 million people in Nigeria with around 5 million in the state. In the state, we have well known ethnic nationalities, which unfortunately denote our political groupings for now. I make bold to state that each of the groups are richly blessed with prepared and experienced leadership materials who most often get crowded out by the more desperate power mongers in our midst. To suggest that we should at this vulnerable stage of our political evolution pretend we do not know that once a particular group gets elected into power, it can manipulate the dynamics to perpetrate its kind in office on the basis of a jaundiced “capacity and qualification” argument is to my mind self serving and deceitful. No group has the monopoly of capacity and experience. The compelling arguments in favour of rotating executive offices amongst the constituent groupings is well known; chief of which is equity, fairness and trust, which are the irreducible requirements for sustainable peace and development. Now, if a group can’t trust others to govern over them, tell me what gives them the right to govern over others? It’s as fundamental as that. A time shall come when we shall transcend such proclivities and collapse the ethnic boundaries into better integrated social classes which shall then predicate our political process. Until then let honesty and integrity prevail please.
In this context, how do you explain the unprecedented and unimaginable victory of Fayose against the incumbent, even in his own electoral ward?
The Fayose victory shall remain a political case study for some time in the annals of contemporary history, yet I see the twin elements of capacity and equity at play here. Without doubt the incumbent governor took far more for granted than he should. Not taking anything away from Fayose, he seemed to have resonated well with mood of the people. On one hand he enjoyed an overflow of emotional redress from the injustice of his forced displacement by the Obasanjo government. In politics as in real life, it’s very unhelpful to compare oranges with apples.
We have heard a lot of people say that you are a well respected technocrat and that you are really not a politician; can you take on Amaechi’s (APC) candidate as well as the Education Minister? Can you?
Again, I want to really avoid being presented as the minister’s bitter rival for whatever reasons, because I am not. He is my younger brother. I have a lot of respect and admiration for him. He is a very strong politician and we both have a duty to work together and retain Rivers State as the PDP state it has always been. I repeat, it’s not so much about us as it is about our boss’s political calculations which guarantee a win-win for both of us who are the President’s aides. Talking of being a technocrat, I fail to see that as a liability in any way. Politics is a people and contact game which can be likened to football in its simplest form. An all defenders and no strikers line up can’t make a good team and vice versa. The potency of my candidacy is not anchored entirely on my skills, muscles and orientation, but its rather a coming together of several socio-political like minds and interests who share a common set of core values and have agreed to rally support behind a single point of leadership. The world is full of such examples where respected technocrats are invited to lead a change vanguard with the full support of the other forces to undertake phenomenal transformation of their nations especially in these times which need deep technocratic experience to navigate successfully in the global village. I am proud to associate myself with such great minds, including our President and his Vice who have discharged themselves very creditably in the political arena yet both came into public service from the technocrat side of our larger society.
What are your strengths as a candidate?
I am a very credible alternative which can be used to change the destructive direction of our politics to make significant improvements in all socio-economic indices, including health, education, industry, employment, agribusiness, quality of life, etc. Of course, I have other strengths but it’s a bit too early in the game to let them out of the bag.
But what do you think are your weaknesses as a candidate, if I may ask?
I’m not quite sure what you want to know but maybe my not being as desperate as I have seen other candidates conduct themselves? Now, if I know of any more weaknesses you can bet I will keep them to myself and try to overcome them before they hurt me and my project.
What specific values will you bring to the process as the governor of Rivers State?
Strong and clear vision; discipline and robust work ethics; transparency and accountability; I shall do everything in my power to restore peace and security to the state and set the state on the path of irreversible growth into being the destination of first choice by investors and tourists during my tenure .
If you become the PDP flag-bearer, how would you rate your chances against any APC candidate in Rivers State?
At this point in time, I have not the foggiest idea who the APC candidate would be? I told you Rivers State has no business with APC. I will always show respect to my opponent but I sincerely doubt it if the APC in Rivers State can boast of the kind of candidate line up from the PDP.
What do you make of the recent court judgement secured by the state chapter of the PDP to ensure that only the current State Executive Council can conduct all political activities including primaries for the next four years?
I think it’s immature and uncalled for. Taking a careful look at the actions and the mind boggling judgement that followed, what one sees are: One, inordinate ambition and greed necessitating such a pre-emptive action designed to predicate the results before the exam. It will not work. Two, total lack of confidence in and unmerited disrespect of the national leadership of the party; Three, an attempt to sow the seeds of party crises which can make us vulnerable in the general election; I strongly believe that a full investigation is proper and appropriate disciplinary action should be meted out to all parties involved in the procurement of this obviously kangaroo judgement.
So, when will you declare formally?
For now I remain fully loyal and committed to the official duty I am assigned to. For now I remain an aspirant conducting needed consultations, conferences, engagements, organising, etc. I believe declaration is essentially a formal public event announcing my candidacy and entry into the race and must be done the right way. As soon as my team and I are ready, I promise you guys will be the first to know.