The Senator representing the FCT, Ireti Kingibe, speaks at length on the rift between her and the FCT minister, Nyesom Wike, and the relevance of the road construction projects he executed in the last year to the bulk of FCT people.

Ireti Kingibe is the senator representing the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, and is currently one of the only four female senators in the 10th National Assembly.

The senator has recently been in the news due to a heated rift with the Minister of FCT, Nyesom Wike. Mr. Wike has gone as far as threatening to block her reelection in 2027, adding a twist to the political saga.

On Monday, she spoke with ARISE TV‘s Reuben Abati in an interview, during which she talked extensively about the rift between her and the FCT minister.

During the 26-minute interview, Ms Kingibe, 70, dwelt on how Mr Wike has overlooked the priority needs of the bulk of FCT people partly due to a lack of communication between her and the minister. She highlighted how this discord impacts her activities in the Senate.

She assessed President Bola Tinubu’s administration’s performance since his inauguration last year and suggested putting legislation in place to boost women’s participation in politics in Nigeria.

Falmata Daniel and Fortune Ose Eromonsele of PREMIUM TIMES bring you a transcript of the interview:

ARISE TV: Since you won your election to be the senator of the Federal Republic, one persistent complaint has been that you are not allowed to represent your people. As recently as about a week ago Senator Godswill Akpabio had to remind you that if you wanted to make a contribution to the budget for the FCT you needed to go through the process by serving a motion or notice and then raising objections, rather for you to just complain that you are being sidelined. You know you didn’t follow the process. So why would anyone sideline you, when you are representing your people who voted for you.

Senator Kingibe: Well, Reuben the truth is that I did go through the process but at this point in time I think that since we are in the process of discussion and sorting it out, I would like us to leave that and go to how my constituency is being marginalised generally.

   Senator Kingibe and Reuben Abati

FCT has the unique situation of having the president as the de-facto governor of the federal capital territory and he administers that territory through a minister one elected senator and two House of Reps members; also, all members of the National Assembly because they are, in fact, the equivalent of the state assemblies for the Federal Capital Territory. They are also responsible for ensuring that the rights of the people of the FCT are maintained, just like any other state assembly.

So, it is not just that, but because I am the highest elected official in the FCT, everything that happens in the FCT the people complain to me and expect me to go through whatever authorities I need to, to get it sorted out.

A few days ago, there was a fire in Abuja, it was me they told me. This is what we need, this is what must be done, and you must get the minister to do this, ABCD.

In the past, that arrangement has always worked very well. But it has not been so seamless with the current Minister of the Federal Capital Territory. I am not sure why, but he has said that I claim that I am the senator of the FCT.

ARISE TV: You claim, or you are?

Senator Kingibe: That’s what he says. I am the senator, but he said in interviews that I claim that I am the senator of the FCT, and he is not obliged to deal with me. But I am saying that by sections 122 and 124 of the Evidence Act, he is bound by the judicial notice of the occupier of the seat of the senator of the FCT.

I am also saying that section 24 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, imbues on him a duty, that is, the honourable minister, (I am not calling any names because anybody who is the minister is bound by those same laws and duties) to abide by the constitution, to respect all its ideals, institutions and legitimate authorities entirely.

So just the same way that some Nigerians would have voted for the president, and some would not have, but as soon as he is declared the president, he becomes the president for everybody, and nobody can pick and choose who would rather be the president. And therefore, the same applies to all offices regardless of party or any other position.

ARISE TV: But madam, the man you are talking about, his name is Nyesom Wike, former Governor of Rivers State, and he is now the Minister of FCT. Now he has responded to the issues you have raised. He says you want him to be your friend and that he does not want to be your friend, is it by force? That you should leave him alone.

FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike

Senator Kingibe: Please what constitutes friendship between two people who have never met each other? I have never sat in the same room with the minister except in the senate committee. So how does friendship arise? Why would I want to be the friend of somebody I do not know?

The truth of the matter is that the minister refuses to speak or communicate in any way with the senator representing the Federal Capital Territory. So, how are the wishes and the needs of the people to be communicated to him? Please tell me if you know a way.

ARISE TV: Well, but he says he is the minister, and that he is doing his job. He has commissioned some roads, he has renamed some roads, he has built some projects. He appointed permanent secretaries, and he says he is concentrating on his work in Abuja and that he does not want blackmail. He says you are blackmailing him.

Senator Kingibe: To do what, to regard the needs of the people? The minister may be a great minister in a ministry that has no people. But the unique situation of the FCT minister is that apart from infrastructure and roads, he also has to take into consideration the needs of the people in that territory; that is the difference between him and, say, the minister of works or any other minister.

The Minister of FCT is almost acting as the governor for the president, so it’s not just being a regular minister. He says he commissioned roads. Yes, those roads were started by Mohammed Bello, and I commend him for finishing some of them. But also, just like the people took me on when those roads were commissioned, they said, ‘Madam you people are celebrating roads in Maitama, Asokoro, and the Central Business District, bulk of the people do not live there’. Show me the projects where the people live; that’s the difference. It’s almost like the governor telling you that he built some roads, so he does not care what the needs of the people are.

They have needs so it’s not good enough. The people are not impressed. I commend him because I see that some things are being done but at the end of the day, they do not have water. The fire that happened in Karu could have been prevented if there was water. But I don’t know if you know Abuja, any fire truck has to go all the way to Asokoro to get water, to spray the fire and then come back, not to talk about the fact that there were no access roads into the market and a whole litany of issues. Who do you think is going to sort out those issues? The minister? But the people are going to tell the senator not the minister. The same way insecurity, the people ‘scream senator, senator, senator’.

Senator says minister sort insecurity, he says he does not have to speak to me, so I spoke to him on Channels, just like a lot of the issues that I am going to bring up today he will hear from Arise.

ARISE TV: Okay madam, do you think that your complaint is not just about Wike? You have also been quoted as saying that you have been excluded from most of the key decisions affecting the Federal Capital Territory in the Senate. Do you think this is because you are from a minority party, the Labour Party, or do you think it’s because you are a woman, four of you, four women in the National Assembly?

Senator Kingibe: It is not because I am a woman, in all fairness to the Senate as a body. It is not very difficult to exclude the women and they do not exclude us; we get involved in as many things as we like to. And most of the time, yes, your party matters a little bit, but not seriously.

If you want me to be honest, this boils down to the fact that the Senate President is a personal friend of the honourable Minister of FCT. So, when things that they think Senator Kingibe might object to are brought, I am not quite sure as I said, this is a topic that I would rather (let) wait, since I plan on coming back to you in another week to discuss in detail.

I was planning to have a general discussion with you today. But I am on several committees, not excluded from any of them. I am aware of every little detail that goes on in every other committee. Why is this committee special? You would think it will be the reverse because I am the senator representing that place as most other senators are called when things affect their constituency. So, it is something that needs to be sorted out privately in the Senate and if it is not sorted out privately in the Senate, then we can discuss it in public.

ARISE TV: I get the point about the friendship between Akpabio and Wike, but there is also something about style and communication. If you, as the senator from the Labour Party, if from the floor of the Senate you behave like these ‘Obidients’ on the social media, that could create a problem. Because Wike has said that you expect that he will report to you, and that he, as a minister, will not report to a senator.

Senator Kingibe: No minister has ever reported to any senator. If you look back several years, most ministers and the senators do not even usually come from the same party, but they worked in synergy. Synergy is the keyword. Reporting to anybody does not arise and our proceedings in the National Assembly are recorded. Being cantankerous or disorganised is not my style. In fact, I think I have been quieter than I normally am, because I was studying the Senate and the dynamics of the place. So, I doubt that it has to do with my style. But if it is, you can look at the Senate proceedings and advise me because they are all recorded.

ARISE TV: Okay but you say key decisions are affecting the FCT, what are your own priorities that you think have not been addressed in the best interest of the people in the Federal Capital Territory?

Senator Kingibe: Actually, some of my interests are not specific to the Senate, but they are specific to the honourable minister. But just like any state assembly, when a governor is not taking care of the rights and needs of the people, the state assembly draws his attention to it and makes him do it. For one thing, in Abuja, there is no water. Let me even take the last budget that was passed; the supplementary budget …

ARISE TV: N98.15 billion, the supplementary budget?

Senator Kingibe: Yes, let’s not even go into the big budget; let’s just deal with that little one. In that budget of N98 billion, only N18 billion has anything to do with the people; N20 billion for renovating 20 schools. Now everything else, we are building a road to EFCC, another one to DSS and all those things. Please, with all due respect, those roads may need renovating, maybe the road to the presidential wing all needs work. I am saying that for an impoverished nation, for a territory where insecurity is so high – a few days ago (I live in Maitama), my guard, just walking down the road, was hacked. This is in Maitama; (it) just shows you the level of insecurity.

We have so many issues and we do not have the funds to do them. So, in the bid to prioritise, I think that the needs of the people, that is, the majority of the people – healthcare, education, security, and water. As basic as water (is), we do not have. Those things, we can do those things when we are more liquid, but we are not. Those are my issues.

Another thing, one of these things may be the local government (matters). Like the markets I am complaining about, the local government needs to take care of it. But the honourable minister’s predecessors would join hands with the National Assembly and tell the local government chairman, ‘You’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do this’. So, him alone against the rest of us, he will do them. But when everybody is working in silos, the people of my constituency suffer, that’s the truth.

    Senator Kingibe 

ARISE TV: Okay Madam, I mean I asked you the question that, is it a problem that you are from the Labour Party? Because before you became the representative of the people of the FCT, there was Philip Aduda there. I know him, he was there when I was in government. Now Philip Aduda seems to be having a good relationship with Wike.

Senator Kingibe: Philip Aduda is not the current sitting senator, so he does not have to look out for the interest of the people. When there was a fire, they did not call Philip Aduda, although it was his ward, they called me. So, if Aduda has a good relationship with Wike, that is fine, it does not help the people of the Federal Capital Territory.

I have to draw your attention to the fact that the last minister was APC, (and) Philip Aduda was PDP. At the time, I was APC and the minister worked well with Aduda, and we said to him, ‘Minister what’s your problem?’, and he said, ‘No, madam’ – not just to me, but all of us in APC, that, ‘sorry, for this place to work well, the minister has to work with the senator; it does not matter that he is not in our party. He is the senator representing this territory,’ and we accepted it as good enough reason because he was.

So being in different parties, this is not the first time it’s happening, it has happened with several senators in FCT, because FCT has its own unique way of voting.

ARISE TV: Madam, you know Wike likes to talk, so I am sure he will watch this interview, he will come out.

Senator Kingibe: And I will come back next week.

ARISE TV: However, the real matter is not about his friendship with the APC. He himself is from the PDP. I hope this is not about land allocation. You are a civil engineer. I hope this is not about contracts, because civil engineers, we know, do contracts. I hope Wike will not come and say Madam wants land, madam wants engineering contracts.

Senator Kingibe: Mr Abati I will interrupt you here. I have been in FCT politics for the last 20 years; you can go and verify. There is no minister who will come to you; I live in a house that I have lived in; I have owned the land since 1991. If you find any other federal allocation of land for me in the FCT, come and call me out on it.

I am a firm believer that if everybody took their one or two pieces of land there will be enough for everybody, I am not interested in land.

When the last minister was there, I was very instrumental; I worked with him in the beginning as APC leader. When contracts were being given out, he asked (he is there you can verify from him), ‘Where is madam’s own?’. He spoke to me and I said, ‘Oh, sorry honourable minister I am not a contractor’. And that is the truth, I am not. I am not a contractor.

I am a professional and if I wanted land, I have lived in the FCT since when FCT was just all forest and bush, when there were only two houses on Osuma Street. It goes without saying that I could have acquired a lot more land.

So, whenever the honourable minister Wike comes and talks, you should verify. I want to be his friend? He should show you the indicators of friendship with somebody you have never spoken to one on one. I have only spoken to him across a long table in a committee meeting, so how does friendship comes into our relationship?

ARISE TV: Okay, you have been quoted as saying ‘bad governance brought you into the senatorial race to make a difference’. Now you tried the first time, it did not work, second time, it worked. Do you think that there is good governance in Nigeria now, especially in the month of June when we are celebrating one year of the Tinubu Administration?

Senator Kingibe: Well, absolutely not.

ARISE TV: You think the Tinubu Administration is not doing well?

Senator Kingibe: No, it isn’t. I have the utmost goodwill and respect for the president and there is no doubt that he probably wanted to be president so he could make a difference, but as things are right now, it does not augur well for his legacy.

A president is only as good as his team. Any leader is only as good as their team. Even little me, I am constantly tweaking the people who work with me to get the maximum efficiency.

So, no, I am sorry, it is not; the people are suffering. I feel that there are several things that can be done – a marshal plan that can alleviate things for the moment – and I do not see it being done. All of it is not his fault. There was a build-up to this point, but I also do not see a credible marshal plan to solve the problems that we are now in, we only see it getting worse.

ARISE TV: Well, an ordinary person listening to you will say, ‘well you are a member of the Labour party’, that this is typical ‘Obidient’ talks.

Senator Kingibe: Well, let’s put it this way: I turned 70 early this week, and I will think that my mindset will be a little bit different.


Senator Kingibe: Yes, it will be a little bit different from the average ‘Obidient’ who are all young people. But that being said, we cannot look away from the fact that at least 70 per cent of our population is under 40. So, when decisions are being taken, you have to consider the fact that this is how young people feel, this is how they think.

A lot of things that my children do, and I do not quite understand, I would not do it that way. It does not change the fact that this is their time, and, therefore, we need to listen to them. So the fact that I am Labour (Party), I am Labour yes, because I think things need to change. I have been in PDP, I have been in APC, I am an idealist. I am thinking that, ‘Okay, maybe there is somewhere where we can all go and change this country and make it the country that we can be proud of’. But notwithstanding, even when I was in APC, I still have the same beliefs that we can still do better.

You all know I was an ardent ‘Buharist’. There was nothing I did not do, (You also remember from my times on ARISE that I believed that Buhari was going to change this country). So, I did everything, my strength, my money, everything to ensure that…The time they called me in, he did not think that he was going to get 25 per cent (vote) in the FCT; he got 48 per cent, because we all mobilised for him.

But he did not also do anything, and things are only getting progressively worse. We are fast getting to where I fear that we are pushing the people to the wall, because now they are hungry. People can absolve everything, as a nation we are resilient, we are complacent, we are able to take things in our stride. But I do not think we can take hunger in our stride, and that being said, certain things need to be done urgently, nationally.

ARISE TV: Madam, as we begin to wrap up, let me ask you about women in politics. I mean we talk about women representation in politics, I think in the senate now, we have just about four women.

Senator Kingibe: Yes.

ARISE TV: Generally, we do not even have about up to 5 per cent if we take the entire National Assembly (as a whole), yet we have very well-educated women. There are public spirited women like your good self, and, yet, they cannot get into decision-making positions, except they are made coordinator of women affairs in the parties, or they are made ministers of women affairs. What can we do ahead of 2027 to correct this situation?

Senator Kingibe: I believe that Nigeria needs legislation.

ARISE: Affirmative action?

Senator Kingibe: Yes, women inclusion. I know it works because in the party. Let me give you an example. When they ask for three delegates from each ward; they will all just come and bring male delegates. Immediately the party said three delegates from each ward, but one must be a woman, they all started to bring the women. I am not trying to say that we are always law abiding, but it would help if it was the law, number one. Then it means that the onus will be on parties, government, agencies, or whatever, to look for competent women. Do you understand? And they are there.

And I also, as I have said several times, if you look at countries that have more women in governance, they have shown that there is a direct correlation between economic development and women in governance and policy and decision-making processes.

ARISE TV: Okay, one final question, based on what you just said, I have this said again and again, that women do not support women in Nigeria, every election day is mostly women who turn out to vote but women folks will not support their own kind, they will go and support the men.

Senator Kingibe: Well, that has not been by experience