Amaechi: A Governor And His Many Battles
Unarguably, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is in the last lap of his second term as the governor of the oil and gas rich Rivers State as stipulated in the country’s constitution. Like every other Nigerian politician, Amaechi is free to decide whether to run for another elective position in the country or not.
However, on several occasions, the governor, who has gone down in history as someone who emerged as a chief executive officer of a state under the current democratic dispensation without participating in the gubernatorial election, has denied speculations that he has an ambition to become a vice presidential candidate in the 2015 general election.
In fact, the Nigerian media was awash early last year with the news that there were high powered plots to draft Jigawa State Governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido, as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015 with Amaechi, who is also the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), as his running mate.
Amaechi’s battles as governor seem to have started in 2008 when his relationship with foremost Ijaw leader and former Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark, went sour. The face-off between the governor and Clark, which lingers till today, was attributed to the decision of Amaechi to oppose the granting of amnesty to former Niger Delta militants who were mostly of Ijaw extraction.
The former minister had insisted that the Joint Task Force (JTF) that was comfroting the various militant groups in Rivers State, will not win the battle, saying that Amaechi must negotiate with the militants to achieve lasting peace in the state.
Clark described most of the militants as freedom fighters who brought the attention of the whole world to the problems in the Niger Delta, adding that there would be peace in the region if they were granted amnesty.
He said; “There will be peace in the region if the boys are granted amnesty. They will lay down their arms; there will be no fighting again and with the good intention of the Federal Government in bringing development to the Niger Delta, they should be part of the process, the new Niger Delta.”
The governor saw the position of the elder statesman as ‘offensive’ and this development destroyed the cordial father-son relationship that existed between the two of them, especially during the period when Amaechi was battling to reclaim his stolen mandate as the governorship candidate of the PDP.
In December 2008, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), declared some officials of the Rivers State government wanted over alleged N12 billion and after several months of accusations and counter accusations between the Rivers State government and the commission, the anti-graft agency finally sneaked into the state in December 2010 and arrested some top government officials. They were however released after some days without being charged to court.
Late October 2012, the governor woke up to hear that the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation, and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) has ceded oil wells in Soku communities in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of the state to Nembe Kingdom in Bayelsa State.
This development attracted protects in Port Harcourt and Abuja, the nation’s capital, by chiefs and people of over 30 communities in Kalabariland as well as a tripartite ‘press war’ involving the Presidency, the Rivers State government and of course, the Bayelsa State government, with each other either laying claims, or defending her role in the ceding of the oil wells.
To Amaechi, Rivers and Bayelsa states have never had issues with boundaries as the boundaries are well known to all just as since the creation of Bayelsa State there has been no law or agreement ceding any part of Kalabari communities or Rivers State to Bayelsa State.
He asked; “We will not allow the attempt by the Bayelsa State government to collect our oil wells I have read what the Bayelsa State governor said. That the 11th edition of the administrative map of Nigeria gave them the oil wells. When? They didn’t talk about the 1st edition to the 10th edition, they chose to avoid that, and went to the 11th edition, but the question they should answer is why avoiding the previous editions?”
The governor explained that the Federal Government has admitted in court to correct the mistakes in the 11th edition, saying that the court documents were filed by their lawyers who admitted the mistakes contained in the map of the 11th edition.
Hear him; “But the Federal Government came to court and said, ‘oh we made a mistake in the 11th edition, we will correct it’. They should correct it; the documents were filed by their lawyers, not our lawyers.”
“All we want is for the federal government to go back to the 10th edition and correct everything. Bayelsa State was created so many years ago. There has been no law ceding that part of Kalabari kingdom to Bayelsa State. Now when did it suddenly change, it changed in 2006, but I don’t want to join issues. I want the Kalabari people to represent themselves and I will stand behind them, and all what we are saying is that they should look from the 1st to the 10th edition (of the administrative map) and not an imaginary 11th edition.
“It won’t work; it will certainly not work, no matter how they try to intimidate the agencies of the Federal Government we will continue to go to court and let our people know that the agencies of the federal government are being intimidated, that is what we are saying.” Amaechi stated that the battle over the Soku oil wells may have a link with the 2015 general election as people had rumoured that he was warming up to be the running mate of Lamido in the forthcoming presidential election. He said; “there is rumour that they are emasculating me because of 2015. It is unfortunate. It is a non-issue. For now, I have no plan for 2015. I was shocked to hear of Lamido/Amaechi 2015 campaign, with branded vehicles in the North and many people are panicky. I am exhausted. I have not attended any 2015 meeting. If they are taking Rivers oil wells because of 2015, they should leave us alone.”
Few weeks after the Soku oil wells saga died down; there were reports that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) submitted names of three state governors, including Amaechi to President Goodluck Jonathan for possible arrest and prosecution for corruption related offences. Although, the governor did not react to the development directly, his former aide, Mr. Blessing Wikina, said the Amaechi-led administration was used to the threats of arrests and prosecution as it was used to the attacks of the EFCC.
Wikina, who is the immediate past Chief Press Secretary to the governor, told LEADERSHIP on telephone that the rumour of a planned prosecution of the governor by the EFCC heightened because the country was approaching an election year.
He said; “We are not aware that the EFCC is investigating Governor Amaechi. But, if they do, we will not be surprised because that is how the EFCC always behave whenever the country is approaching an election year. The fact is that we are used to their antics and it will end the way other efforts ended. We are not afraid of them.”
The governor’s former aide wondered why the anti-graft agency would try to prosecute a government, whose administration has received credit ratings from international organizations, such as Standard & Poor’s as well as Fitch for the past six years.
Wikina said; “Another point is that for six consecutive years, Rivers State under Amaechi has been getting ‘A’ ratings from international organizations. If the Amaechi government is corrupt, why will an international organization give the state government such rating?”
While the tension generated by the EFCC issue was dying down in the state, Amaechi came under attack again, but this time from the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe.
Orubebe who chose to attack Amaechi from Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State, accused the governor of disrespecting President Jonathan. He alleged that the governor was arrogating too much powers to himself; and urged him to use the resource there to transform the oil and gas rich state, rather than using such funds to pursue a selfish agenda.
He said; “Most times, when people talk about the Ministry of Niger Delta, I ignore some of them. But, I have decided this year to respond to some of them because when you don’t respond, the general public tend to think that maybe what they are saying is true. Yesterday, (Wednesday 16-01-2113), the Governor of Rivers State was talking about East-West road and he was saying that the governors of the Niger Delta want to take over the East-West Road. I just laughed.”
The minister noted that the resources of Rivers State was enormous, but that many villages in the state have not been connected by roads, saying; “Port Harcourt used to be the Garden City of this country, today, Port Harcourt is a slum.
“He (Amaechi) has not provided roads for Port Harcourt. You can’t move in Port Harcourt and I think that he should concern himself in utilizing the resources that are there to develop Rivers State and the people of Rivers State. Today, he sees himself as the governor of governors, and he begins to feel that he is even bigger than the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I want to make him (Amaechi) know that God is still God; God is still God.
“He must have respect for the Presidency; he must have respect for the President of this country. In America, even within the same political parties, they struggle and they fight over positions. “But once a President emerges, everybody will hold his tongue and support the President to succeed so that Americans can get the best. But is that what our President is getting? That is not what he is getting.
“It is sad, it is unfortunate that people from the South-South, even governors; particularly Governor Rotimi Amaechi, has no respect for the president of this country. I think this is the right time we should let him know and I have decided to speak because this is the time to speak now. Let him use the resources of Rivers State to develop Rivers State. Let him not use the resources of Rivers State to bribe people in Nigeria; to give to people in Nigeria. That must stop. He should understand that God is still God.”
Again, instead of the governor reacting to the comments of Orubebe, his media aide, David Iyofor, who incidentally hails from Delta, the home-state of the minister, took him on saying; “Orubebe’s impudent and reckless attack on the person of Governor Amaechi is a dubious but obvious attempt by the minister to divert attention from his abysmal failure to deliver on the East- West road.This callous attempt to drag the President’s name into it is what is most disrespectful and irresponsible. Contrary to his madcap vituperations, Governor Amaechi has tremendous respect for the office of the President of Nigeria and President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Amaechi led Rivers people to overwhelming vote for and gave President Jonathan the highest votes by any State in the country at the last Presidential elections. Minister Orubebe should please tell us, what respect, regard and show of love is bigger than that? Minister Orubebe should please face the simple task of completing one road, just one road, the East- West road, as this dubious diversionary attempt to attack Governor Amaechi will not complete the road that is most dear to the hearts and lives of Niger-Deltans.
“I challenge Minister Orubebe to show the world projects he started and completed in the Niger-Delta as Minister of Niger-Delta affairs. I challenge Minister Orubebe to show the world one project he started and completed in Rivers State with the huge resources allocated to his ministry. Or is Rivers State not part of the Niger-Delta? I challenge Minister Orubebe to come to Rivers State at anytime of his choice and since he has become too blind to see Governor Amaechi’s monumental developmental strides and projects in the State.”
With the turn-out of events, no one knows if Amaechi’s many battles will end in 2015 when he hands over to his successor or will he continue the battle beyond 2015 considering the fact that he has been accused of stepping on the toes of not few prominent personalities using his current position as Chairman of the NGF? Only time will tell.