Admin l Monday, September 19.2022
RIVERS, Nigeria – Kingsley Wenenda Wali, a Port Harcourt-based entrepreneur and politician, is a supporter of All Progressives Congress (APC) from Rivers State and a member of the Governing Council of Federal Polytechnic Auchi, Edo State.
Wali, a one-time radio talk show host, was the Chairman of Amaechi Presidential Media Campaign Committee for the APC presidential primaries that held in June this year.
He is the Convener of the Unity House Foundation (UHF), a Non-Governmental Organization, NGO, primarily engaged in leadership training, youth mentorship, social advocacy and promotion of peace, unity and harmony among Nigerians.
In this interview, Wali, an ardent campaigner for good governance, who last month clocked sixty years and gracefully glided into the sexagenarian club, spoke on his life at 60 and issues in the polity.
Last month, precisely on August 7, you climbed the sixth floor of your life with the attainment of 60 years on earth. What does it feel like?
I see myself as somebody who by the grace of God got to the sixth floor using the elevator. You know ordinarily it is a lot more difficult climbing to the sixth floor using the stairs. But to the glory of God, we didn’t struggle to get here. We didn’t get here in pain or sickness or regrets. It just came almost naturally and smoothly. So it’s difficult to really narrate how it feels. The good thing is that the grace of God Almighty was sufficient for me to get here. As to how I feel physically, I have not noticed any changes in my physical being. Like I said I thank God for everything. It’s just His mercy and His grace.
On that special day of yours, great men of timbre and calibre in the likes of Nyesom Wike, incumbent Governor of Rivers State, ex-Governor Rotimi Amaechi, Sir Celestine Umehia, Senator Magnus Abe and a host of others were on ground to rejoice with you. How does it feel like seeing such eminent personalities surrounding you to celebrate with you at 60?
Well, for me, really, it was more of my friends honouring me by coming around to celebrate with me. I don’t see the rock star type of gathering as something that is exceptional, because these are people that I have clubbed with. These are people who were my friends – some of them at primary school, secondary school, university, law school, youth service, party level, growing up and all of that. So, it was more of the gathering of my friends. It wasn’t about heavy weight or men of timbre and calibre. I just saw my friends come to honour me because none of them was a stranger to me.
At 60, how would you say you have carried yourself all these years?
I tried to carry myself in a way I thought is going to be beneficial to the society. I tried to be critical of things that I believe are negative, anything that will impact the society negatively. I have always tried to contribute my bit to ensuring the wellbeing of the community. The truth of the matter is that as you grow older the responsibilities grow bigger. And I have managed them as effectively as possible as they come. We thank God that opportunity has been provided for one to be able to add my own bit to nation building and the development of the society.
You are the convener of the Unity House Foundation (UHF). Can you tell us about this foundation? Is it purely a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) put in place to offer service to humanity or there is a kind of political connection or connotation to it?
I don’t like seeing myself living in denial of the fact that we are all supposed to be politicians. However, the Unity House Foundation was not created to achieve political purpose or aim. You can call it a training ground. Politics is about service and people call themselves politicians. We must be able to render service and focus on service. It doesn’t make sense to me that you need to kill people to be able to render service. By the time you become a destructive element and you destroy the society, who are you going to render service to?
My friends and I agree that there was a need for us to change the language of political engagement. And that is what we try to do in the Unity House Foundation. I found it quite nauseating when you see politicians make very uncomplimentary and volatile statements capable of giving rise to needless chaos. So, at the Unity House Foundation, we try to educate the people, particularly the younger ones, that politics is not what they see of some Nigerian politicians. We try to make them understand that politics is essentially about service.
You don’t see somebody as your political enemy because he is in a different party from yours. That somebody is not in the same political party with you doesn’t make him your mortal enemy. He is just a political opponent. Opponent in the sense that you people have different ideas of how the society can get better. So if I feel that we should go by rail and you feel that we should go by air, what we need to do is to explain to ourselves. And the only way you can explain to me and for me to listen to you, is for you to accept the fact that I have the right to hold an opinion. The moment you want to intimidate me, there will definitely be problem.
How do you communicate with somebody who is not listening to you? So at the Unity House Foundation, we are trying to say that let’s respect choices and opinions. When you do that, I’m more likely to listen to you and see the sense in what you are saying. We equally think that the level of political education in this country is low. So we are doing all we can to help complement whatever the system is doing. That is basically the essence of the Unity House Foundation, to emphasize the fact that we are one people to start with and that there is really no need to get very combative and destroy ourselves.
You have shown great zeal towards promoting civility, decorum and maturity in public discourse to the extent that you launched an Annual Facebook Award to encourage decent conversation in the social media. As we officially begin the electioneering period on September 28 for the 2023 elections in line with the electoral time-table, how do we make the campaigns strictly issue-based?
The truth is that issue-based campaigns guarantee peaceful elections. If indeed you are seeking an elective position for the sole purpose of offering public service, you shouldn’t see it as a do-or-die affair. You don’t have to show desperation in your bid to govern or represent the people at any level. In the course of the campaigns, the political parties, their candidates and supporters must endeavour to concentrate on the issues that will bring hope and development for the people. We should be seen speaking to the issues and not engaging in needless campaign of calumny and resorting to pointless innuendoes, name-calling and character assassination.
The elections would only produce the right persons if we give room for issue-based campaigns and violence-free polls. The Unity House Foundation will be embarking on a crusade for a violence-free electioneering in both the campaigns and election proper. We intend to engage the public and the political class on the need to be civil, the need to focus on what the issues are and the need for them to be law-abiding too. By the grace of God we will be kick-starting the crusade with an event we have tagged ‘Citizens Get together: Meeting with the Stakeholders’ billed to hold on the 28th of September 2022 in Port Harcourt where the voters, politicians, advocates, students and youths shall gather to discuss how we can ensure violence-free campaigns, smooth and hitch-free electioneering process.
As a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, what would you say is the state of APC in River State as we speak?
The state of APC in Rivers State is the same thing as the state of APC in Nigeria. A party that is basically a gathering of people that just came together. It is not ideologically based. We don’t have something that we can say this is what binds us together apart from the desire to access power. From the state to the federal level, it is the same thing. So the state of the APC in Rivers is not different from what you have at the national level.
Of recent there has been a number of defections of some key members of APC in Rivers to other platforms. Do you see these defections having negative impact on the performance of your party in Rivers State in the coming elections?
A political party is a gathering of people and everybody has value one way or the other. So when you lose one person you have lost that value the person was supposed to add to the party. I can’t deny the fact that we lost members who were an integral part of the political organisation and the structure of the party in the state. But the truth is that it happened to PDP too in Rivers State. There were also people who had moved from the PDP to the APC in River State. For instance, Hon. Ephraim Nwuzi, a member of the House of Reps, left the PDP for APC. Hon. Chisom also left the PDP for APC. Therefore, in terms of movement, both parties have suffered losses and both parties have had new entrants. It’s a big deal to the extent that you lose people that you were working with. However, it gives the party the opportunity to reassess itself and see how to move forward in the absence of those who have left.
Almost every day you see reports that one ally or the other of Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, the leader of APC in Rivers State, has left the party. As an insider, what would you say is responsible for these movements/defections?
One thing I have tried not to do is to condemn those who have left. I only had direct engagement with one or two persons on why they were leaving, and wished them well. I hope and pray that they get satisfaction and joy from where they have gone. I really don’t have any issue with anybody leaving the party. Everybody has the reason why he joined the political party. Everybody has an interest that made him join a political party. So if you feel that that interest cannot be fulfilled in that political organisation where you find yourselves and you want to go elsewhere, you are free to move. That is the beauty of democracy.
But I think there has been an exaggeration of what is happening in Rivers APC. Everybody, one ‘Waka Pass’ like they say in the Nigerian movie industry, who wants to get noticed goes to one business centre, types a letter and says he is the youth leader of Unit 1 or Unit 2 in certain Local government and used to work with Rotimi Amaechi, he has left APC. And the news will be everywhere. Of course you know the power of the media. I can tell you that I regret the exit of Chief Sam Jaja who used to be the National Vice Chairman of PDP and member of the Board of Trustees of the APC. I regret the absence of Tolofari George who used to be the strong member of the party and leader of the party in Bonny Local government area and two-term commissioner for eight years under Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi when he was Rivers governor.
And Theodore Georgewill from Asari-Toru Local Government Area. Those are the people that I think I have reason to worry about their leaving the party. Any other person, I see them as members who are not comfortable and they left. Some of those who said they have left APC if you ask them to bring their membership card they don’t have anything to show you. Almost 70% of the people who claimed to have left APC were people who have never been there for the party for the past three years. Those who went to court to fight the party and have never been loyal to the party. So if they formally leave the party, is it not good riddance?
How confident are you that your party, the APC, with the candidacy of Tonye Cole, will emerge victorious in the 2023 governorship election of Rivers State?
The party in power, the party in government, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has done the APC a lot of good by providing us with campaign materials. They have virtually reported themselves to the people of Rivers State with the reckless manner that the resources of the state have been managed. With the way they have presented governance as something that is pedestrian where governance has been turned to award of contract of which due process isn’t followed. You have a situation where you have a House of Assembly for eight years where people hardly sit down to discuss anything.
Government is run at the whims and caprices of the head of government in the state. Everything wrong with governance in the state is there for Rivers people to see. We are not seeing policies. We are not seeing development plans. There is a total absence of commerce. No industries. Investment is almost zero because people are screaming around the whole place and scaring outsiders who are investors. So, there is really nothing much that we the APC need to tell Rivers people because Rivers people already know. They feel the absence of governance. They see the presence of incompetence in the management of the resources of the state. So, we are very hopeful that the PDP won’t win.
What can you say about Tonye Cole? What stuff is he made of that makes you think he would do well as Rivers governor come 2023?
Well, for me, I think before the party decided that he was the one that is going to fly their flag, they must have done some checks and confirmed that he has what it takes to pilot the affairs of the state. And I personally think for somebody who has been able to manage his personal business successfully, he will perform as governor. He used to be the Chief Executive Officer of the Sahara Group that is not new or strange to Nigerians. So we are hoping that he will bring to bear the experience and the network of friends and connections that he has been able to make for the several years that he managed Sahara Energy. He should be able to bring that to attract investments and investors into Rivers State. It is our wish and hope that that happens if and when the Rivers people decide that he should be the one to pilot the affairs of the state from May 29, 2023.