Dr Dakuku Adol Peterside ise the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). In this no holds bared interview, he discusses his childhood, politics, relationship with the Minister of Transportation, Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and several other issues.
Sir, your growth trajectory shows an early and consistent rise in politics and public service. Did you also enjoy an easy childhood”?
I did not enjoy an easy childhood; I have strict parents who did not compromise on discipline. I was thought what my parents considered the important values in life which I now appreciate better. My parents considered love. Service, honesty, doing the right things at the right time without procrastination and hard work as values no man should compromise. I have grown up taking up these values as a code and a way of life. Parental influence shaped my life strongly. My grandmother was an unrepentant giver and I believe her giving is part of the reasons why I have enjoyed unusual Favour all the way in life. My mother followed her Mum’s path and giving from her meagre salary till retirement is a way of life for her. I grew up being happy because I was not denied the basic things of life. My rise in politics is principally by reason of Favour of God , support of a mentor who God gave me as a special Gift , my determination to be consistent in my principles and relentless pursuit of excellence in whatever role i find myself.
Do you still maintain contact with any of your growing up friends in Azumini and Kaduna?
Relationship is everything to me. Apart from God the other language I understand is love for my fellow mankind and respect for relationship. This explains why i make excuses for people before and after they have offended me. My friends in all the locations where I grew up are still closely linked with me. This has greatly affected my cosmopolitan outlook of life. I am free with all manner of people and it is obvious I do not have ethnic baggage. I can relate with people of different background and ethnicity. I can relate with the challenges of the poor, middle income families who are struggling to survive and those of the rich.
As an openly professed Born again Christian, how has religion and politics influenced your evolution process these 47 years?
Serving God is the real essence of life. Without God there is no meaning to life. My Christian life has faced its own challenges over the years but like Apostle Paul i will keep pushing until I get the ultimate prize. The different trials and temptations I have passed through and still passing through will make me strong. My heart desire is to grow deeper and stronger in faith. However many persons use the reason of religion as excuse to be lazy. This is a worrisome development in the Christian community in recent times. There is a place for prayer and there is also a place for hard work.
You studied and obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences with specialization in Haematology and Blood Transfusion from the present day Rivers State University. While in the university, you were elected national president of the National Union of Rivers State Students NURSS. You were also involved in campus journalism and became the editor of Kampuswatch in the then RSUST. So how did you end with mainstream politics instead of journalism or even saving lives from the laboratory?
Medical diagnostics is about finding the root of medical challenges, working with others in the medical team to fix health challenges and real politics is about mobilizing people to identify problems of society and fixing it. Basically I am doing same thing from different perspectives. On a broader scale I have deep passion for service and I guess politics is in the gene of every person it is just that it manifest in different ways. I find politics an important platform to change society. It is a force for good though misunderstood. Journalism is a flair I have and I will still get back to it at some point. Recall I was a publisher, editor and columnist at different times.
It is common knowledge that you have had a long and amiable relationship with the Minister of Transportation. How did it all start?
It is true that I have a strong relationship with the Hon Minister of transportation. The whole world knows my relationship with him and how my life is interwoven with his. You may have noticed that I don’t like to talk about so nobody thinks I am taking advantage. At some point I will write a book on
My life, and the Hon. C.R. Amaechi and his family will have Chapters devoted to them. Apart from God and my parents no one had more influence on me that Rt. Hon. Amaechi. God designed it from the beginning and has kept it. I appreciate him and he knows it.
In the 2015 elections the opposition had held that voting for you was same as giving your boss, Chibuike Amaechi a third term. If you had won that election which project or policy of the Amaechi era would you have modified, scrapped or adopted?
I have said this over and over again that no two persons are the same. Our genetic composition differs. Our environment is different and our experiences are also not the same. I would have continued with all his laudable projects and would have modified the ones that need to be modified. Rivers people would have been my only reason for decisions that I will make. On the whole as an adult I know I will be personally held liable for my actions. Those alluding to my election as giving Rt. Hon. Amaechi third term were simply being mischievous. Today they ended up with deep regrets as they have a failed government in their hand. We had a program to ensure we maintain security in the state, build human capacity and develop World class infrastructure. Most importantly we had a clear roadmap on how to create jobs and make people the centre of our development agenda.
All your campaign grounds for the 2015 elections were always packed full with people yet your party performed abysmally. Does this in anyway say that those crowds were hired?
We all know what happened in Rivers State in 2015. It is now history but I believe rivers people have learnt the important lessons. We enjoyed popular support which was not allowed to manifest. I bet you if there were popular votes even the dumb and deaf knew we were the choice of majority of rivers people. We campaigned vigorously, sold our message of hope and earned the trust of the people. Unfortunately our people were denied the basic right to choose their leaders. Given another opportunity the people will speak in a way that will be unmistaken. Rivers People simply want a government that works for them and for Future generations.
There are people who believe that your party could not have won the 2015 elections because while your opponent was arming and inciting thugs and dangerous criminals you were kneeling and praying in churches. In this environment that is riddled with violence and the gun culture is it possible for a peace loving, gentle natured candidate to succeed in elections?
Our victory in 2015 election was foretold and almost taken for granted. It is possible for a humble man and a gentleman to be elected governor of rivers state. You don’t have to be a criminal or sponsor of criminals to be elected governor. Under President Buhari we will achieve a clime where people will be confident and secure to express their preferences. I know that the people will chose only persons with the right vision and ideas, experience, record of performance, right temperament and competence to lead. The office of Governors is not for jokers and comedians but it is unfortunate we have created the wrong impression.
In the last elections, your party alleged that several Rivers people were murdered and in some circumstances their bodies were mutilated simply because they identified with the APC. Why has no one being arrested and prosecuted for these heinous crimes?
The arm of the law will catch up with the perpetrators of electoral violence no matter how long it takes. Some persons are undergoing investigation and I know that the authorities are doing something about it. Those dark days of rivers politics will be remembered for a long time to come and those who have a hand in it will account for their actions soon.
How did you receive the news of your appointment as Director General of NIMASA?
Surprised. I did not bargain for it , was not expecting it but had to rise up to the challenge and the result is what Nigeria is celebrating today – the quickest turn around in recent history of any government agency.
It is said that nothing just happens in politics. Did you lobby to be appointed DG of NIMASA or was it compensation from the party for your loss in the 2015 elections?
No lobbying at all. I do not think it is a compensation for 2015 governorship. I was not the only one who ran but not sitting in government House. Those who appointed me may have their reasons but it is obvious they are not disappointed.
The blue economy is vast and is being ruled by international laws and conventions. How were you able to fit into your current assignment without any specialized maritime training?
Study, read, learn from those who are grounded in the industry and be a good student. I am privileged to have good resource persons around whom I could lean on.
Like many other government agencies, lots of unsavoury commentaries exist about NIMASA. Tell us about the NIMASA you met nearly two years ago
NIMASA is largely misunderstood. NIMASA has hardworking people but desperately needed leadership to bring out the best in the Agency as a foremost maritime regulatory agency in Nigeria. The systems in place were like any other government agency, very bureaucratic and out-dated so it became our lot to fix it. It is left for those who appointed us and the Nigerian people to assess us.
On assuming office you reeled out an impressive roadmap containing a reform agenda intended to change the agency’s way of doing business. How far has NIMASA travelled down this roadmap and how are you doing it?
We have done exceedingly well, in some areas surpassing our expectations. The NIMASA medium term growth plan is on course. The most important thing to me is that we have been consistent in making progress. We have enjoyed tremendous support from our supervising ministry and stakeholders. We plan to do a medium term review in the second half of this year.
As DG of NIMASA you have lowered operating cost by 50% and at the same time remitted N20 billion in one year, raising the bar to an unprecedented level. How did you achieve this feat?
Simply working with a team and adopting latest technology to drive our processes. Another cornerstone of my phenomenal success in NIMASA is clear vision prioritization, and capacity to follow through plans. To raise revenue we blocked all loopholes so all revenue ended up in federal coffers. To reduce operating cost we had to focus on our core mandate as well as ensure fiscal discipline and prudence.
How have you dealt with corruption in NIMASA? We read of contractors complaining that staff collects bribes before processing documents. Are you aware of this?
I can vouch for NIMASA under me that there is zero tolerance for corruption.
If you were to leave NIMASA today, what would be your greatest achievement?
We have changed the perception of the people about NIMASA and its reputation. We have put in a place a new system that works, that is effective and efficient. NIMASA today commands respect of the international community. We have taken NIMASA back to its core mandate and restored order in the way she performs her regulatory function. We can say we have reformed and repositioned the Agency to leapfrog the maritime industry in Nigeria.
As a political leader, can you say NIMASA under you has been fair to Rivers people, especially the teeming supporters of the APC?
NIMASA is a national regulatory institution and it has been more than fair to rivers people as it has been to others.
Is the Rivers APC divided?
We have one state Chairman and one leader in Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi.
Governor Wike has been garnering awards for good governance and infrastructural development. Almost every professional body in Nigeria now uses Rivers state as venue for annual conference and seminars. Can you still say the Nyesom Wike government is on reverse gear?
More than ever the government has failed in every respect especially in its primary responsibility of security, law and order. The government is acting as if it has no brain. The government lacks vision and do not have implementation capacity. Have you heard them talk development any day? All you hear is that we have patched road A or road B. How many jobs have they created? How many new enrolments do we have in our schools? What is the plan to industrialize the state? You buy as many awards as you want to , it will not change the reality on ground . Rivers people are in a hurry to do away with this government.
Does the APC in Rivers State have what it takes to return to the Brick House in 2019?
We are marching into Brick house on a redemption mission. These chaps have totally destroyed our state and have destroyed our cherished values of peace and love. It has never been this bad before. We do not deserve this punishment of a Wike Government visited on us.
What, in your view is the biggest problem the people of Rivers state face today?
Lack of a government to coordinate the march to realize our aspirations. If we have a government, thousands of rivers people cannot be murdered as rams , if we have a government hundreds of rivers people cannot be thrown out of school , if we had a government black soot cannot be killing hundreds monthly and nobody has raised a voice . If we have a government pensioners cannot be suffering the way they are doing and no one cares. We have no government in Rivers state today.
Will Dr Dakuku Adol Peterside run for governor in 2019?
Whatever decision my family and I make will be made Public soon.
Who is your mentor?
- R. Amaechi in politics. I have mentors in other areas too.
What’s your best success tip?
Serve God, integrity, respect others, work hard and discover who you are and what you are meant to be doing.