Groomed to be a leader and servant of his people, the University of Port Harcourt Masters Degree graduate from Uthe niversity of Port Harcourt and Peoples Democratic Party-PDP elected Chairman of Akuku Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, Honourable Rowland Sekibo, is a young man with very bright future in his chosen political career. And he is at its threshold. He surmounted the fear of failure as a growing up youth after which he went into service oriented jobs as a community party leader, and in his socio-cultural Ijaw Youth Council-IYC Akuku Toru chapter of Eastern Ijaw section. He is a leader that has devoted his youthful energy and time to serving his people of Akuku Toru Local Government Area.
On Monday 23rd of July, 2018 he spoke to City People team of IBRAHIM BAKARE and EMEKA AMAEFULA, at Abonnema town inside the Council Headquarters where he talked about his growing up years and how he developed interest in Politics and his believe that come 2019 Governor Nyesom Wike will return to Brick House Port Harcourt to complete his 2nd term in office.
How did you develop the interest to serve your people as a Politician?
As a Christian I fear God. God has asked us to take dominion and subdue our environment. And I know that if you don’t participate in leadership there is no way you can serve your people. That was how I picked interest in politics as I want to make positive impact. And that is why I picked interest to serve my people.
As a youth, most people see politics as a dirty game, kindly relay to us some of the experiences you have had that almost made you regret being a politician?
Well it is not dirty. Politics is about conception of what you believe in if you are outside as there is no profession that doesn’t have the ones that you call dirty. Every profession has its own hazard even in the banking industry there are a lot of things that people do. And in Oil companies there are a lot of things that people do. But because they are not public figures we don’t tend to hear about them. It is so bad that you know in politics some human beings believe that politicians are super human, that if any misfortune comes to you they begin to read unnecessary meanings to it. I want to be specific. For example now as a politician if you lose your loved ones maybe your child dies, or your wife dies, or your husband dies they will feel that it is not normal, that may be you have used them for one thing or the other. But check, everyday people die owing to one thing or the other but because they are not public figures they feel those people are normal. But when it happens to public figures especially politicians they believe that it is abnormal.
For me, I don’t believe that politics is dirty but that is misconception as people just erroneously believe that it is dirty. But you bring me back to my first answer too, if you don’t participate in what will make you a leader you cannot create impact in the world and some of us want to create impact. Even if you live for 200-years you must die one day. It is the legacy that you leave behind that matter in life. That is why they say great leaders, what they leave behind is not great in monuments but it is imbedded in the hearts of people so that they live for so long even when they are no longer on earth again.
The President of France was voted into office at the age of 39 years, now in Nigeria, what is your opinion about having youths at the apex of leadership?
Now we also have some youths at the apex of leadership. As you can agree with me that the Governor of Kogi State is a youth. So, it is not every youth that will be in leadership position and for you to be in leadership position there are some things that qualify you. And the most important thing for me is character; you must have that integrity, that character and you must have the competence and you must have the capacity to be in leadership. It is not just for everybody as age is not a qualification. We have some very young people that behave like old people and we have some old people that behave like very young people. So, I don’t believe in age I just believe in the competence, the capacity and the character to lead people.
The journey so far, did you at any point in time set up a target for yourself saying I want to be this or that?
For me, I have been in leadership position for a very long time. I started having leadership position at the age of 21-years as I was the first Ijaw Youth Council –IYC for Akuku Toru Local Government Area. And I was at the Kaiama Declaration in 1998 when the Ijaw People stood up to demand ‘Resource Control by every means possible’ and when we came back from that convention I was made IYC Chairman in this Local Government Area. After that I became the Abonnema Youth President that is in my community here. After that I became the Supervisory Councilor in this Council under Dr. Tammy Danagogo, the former Minister for Sports during President Goodluck Jonathan’s Government, who incidentally is my political mentor. So, from there I became the Peoples Democratic Party –PDP Chairman of Akuku Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State. I have been Care-Taker Committee chairman and not today that I am sitting as elected Chairman as I have been in leadership position for like almost 20-years but I desired to be Chairman of the Council as it is accidental, you know that success is not accidental but intentional. So I desired to be here and I worked my way and I served my way to be here.
You are youthful and youth-friendly, what are your plans to curb youth restiveness and also provide employment for them?
We are looking at it multi-dimensionally; we are looking at it in terms of our believe in taking the youths out from social vices as you need to educate them. It is not just about education because even in the civilized societies you will see that most of the persons that do some of these things are educated persons too. In our own area here we believe that if we educate them we must be able to pull them away from some of these things and go into infrastructural development. Take for example, if we have the resources to go into building estate in this place you know the number of youths that will be engaged from the architect that will draw the plans down to the several Engineers, even to the food vendors and even to the water vendors. So, apart from educating our youths, not everybody will go to school no matter how you talk to them as we were not all created the same way.
There is this thing we have inside of us called authority, which is the innate ability deposited in you. Some persons may want to learn one skill or the other. We are taking it multi-dimensional, as we are going to educate our people to let them know that it is education that gives you that advantage to be competitive or that comparative advantage tomorrow. It is also education that is an equalizer, that is to say if you are educated anybody that has education around the world you can compete with such person. We also plan to go into infrastructural development like I told you so that apart from the skilled people, those people that are not skilled we take them away.
May we get a rundown of your academic background?
By the grace of God I am one person that , when I hear academic background I used to be shaking. For me I wouldn’t have even gone to school considering what happened during my secondary school, I wrote my WAEC for a very long time. Any time I hear about WAEC I tell people because how simple they got what they have we seem to take God for granted. Some people wrote WAEC when they were not even in Senior Secondary School-SS3. From my SS-2 class I began to write WAEC after all those things by the grace of God today I am a Masters Degree holder in International Relations. I did my first degree in Public Administration and Political Science from University of Port Harcourt and my Masters Degree from the same institution –University of Port Harcourt.
Abonnema is noted for historical buildings and artefacts, what are your plans for tourism?
Tourism is like putting something on ground that people will want to come and see at the end of the day. We have some of that stuff but we are taking it gradually. You know Government is something that you can’t do everything at the same time. We have our priorities now but there is something for tourism now. Like in Abonnema Town there is something we celebrate annually, what we call “Go to Niger”.
It is a demonstration of what happened during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war as the Biafran soldiers came to sack us from this place (Abonnema) and relocate us until the Nigerian soldiers came and halted the plan. So, we celebrate it every 21st of June. We just did one for this year. My thinking is to package that thing to become a tourists’ attraction for some people to come in and begin to participate or to see the heartbeat of our history and to know what we went through during the Nigerian Civil war.
You are one of the Local government Chairmen that have a cordial relationship with the Governor of Rivers state, how do you see his re-election bid in 2019?
Well, it is very funny (laughs) Recently because of what happened at Ekiti State our people here tend to believe that they can replicate what happened at Ekiti State in Rivers State. You know for some of us we believe that what happened in Ekiti state is not election. For me, it is Coup d’état with all the intimidation and the Governor here said that he has not seen that kind of robbery before. But here, the scenarios are not the same.
Fayose was not re-contesting election, Fayose was not on the ballot but here Nyesom Wike is on the ballot and he has done tremendously well and I believe that every right thinking Rivers people needs to reciprocate what he has done. This is a man who has done projects in all the 23 Local Governments of the state. And in our place here at Abonnema in Akuku Toru LGA per se if we have not gotten projects we have gotten up to five to six projects.
You know in politics and in governance why some leaders fail is because they don’t take time to know the major needs of the people as they sit down in the comfort of their offices and just allocate projects for them. So, you can be doing something big and the people will not appreciate it because that is not what they want. But each one that he has done for us here is very positive and life-touching. So, for me I tell people he does not owe us rather we owe him.
And in 2019, we need neither to reciprocate what he has done, especially considering the lean resources that we have now compared to when his predecessor was on ground. Some of them that have refused to see, things that way will tell you that he has not done anything. If you are conversant with Port Harcourt you will see that the road from Garrison to Akpajo town in Eleme, if it is the only that road that somebody did for just 4-years in office it is okay as it cuts across about 6-bridges. Yes, they mooted the idea; it is okay as Governance is a continuum.
You can moot it and somebody will come and will not even bother about it but he came and executed it and where he has had to spend only about seventeen billion naira-N17B and they still do not appreciate. They should go somewhere around Eleme or Akpajo area, it was like one day journey before but from Garrison now it is 20 or 30 minutes drive and you are in Akpajo, ELEME as you go and come back. So, he has touched the lives of everybody in the state because there is a project you can lay hands on at every Local Government Area , in fact it will be suicidal for us not to vote him back to power again in 2019.
Abonnema is like an Island, apart from being the only road linking Akuku Toru LGA to the rest of the world, how do you change the old water craft mode of transportation to the modern use of watercraft for safety of lives and property?
Life itself is a process, as you must count one first before you count two. Inasmuch as we are in the 21st century, it is expected that we would have upgraded. It also depends on the people before us, what have they done? You know they have not done so well that is why we are doing what they are supposed to have done; It also brings me back to this partnership and resources, if we get them we would be able to upgrade seriously.