First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan
• Rivers expresses fear over Amaechi’s security
•Soyinka: Parties in crisis lobbied me
• ACN condemns attack on governors
Muhammed Bello, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Ernest Chinwo
Amidst a rash of reactions over the festering political crisis in Rivers State, the First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, Wednesday gave an insight into why the state has been on the boil in recent time.
According to her, the crisis in the state, took a turn for the worse following the wresting of the structure of the state chapter of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from loyalists of the governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, began four years ago.
However, unlike the first lady who attributed the crisis to a clash of interests among the political elite in Rivers State, Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, in another intervention in the worsening situation in the state, said like most Nigerian conflicts, “inordinate greed for public resources” could not be ruled out as the source of the tension in the state.
As the crisis continues to take a different dimension, the state government yesterday raised the alarm over attempts to compromise the security of Amaechi by the indiscriminate posting of security officials to the state government.
And against the backdrop of the attack by anti-Amaechi protesters in Port Harcourt on Tuesday on four northern governors who came on a solidarity visit to their Rivers State colleague, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which decried the incident, warned that it portends danger to democracy in Nigeria.
The first lady, while receiving 16 bishops from the South-south geo-political zone who paid her a visit in Abuja, said the seed of discord in the state was sown in Anyugubiri in Okrika four years ago following moves by the state government to demolish some structures in the town.
According to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Mrs. Jonathan reiterated that contrary to the impression created, she had nothing to do with the crisis; rather, she has been working for peace in the state.
She told her guests that she had been praying fervently for God to intervene in the crisis so that peace could return to the state.
She said: “Rivers State issue is one thing I’ve committed to prayer because I believe there is nothing God cannot do. God restored me and I’ll do His work without the fear of man.
“The truth will always remain the truth and what God ordains must come to pass and so Rivers issue is something we’ve handed over to God.”
She said contrary to some reports that she has been fuelling tension in the state, she has always mediated between Amaechi and other parties in the crisis.
“This matter started as far back as four years ago at Anyugubiri in Okrika when I begged him not to demolish a part of Okrika but (that he should) hold dialogue first with the people.
“After that incident, he called the chairman of Okrika (local government) and sacked him for holding a reception in our honour; that boy was the first victim.
“He also put my people under curfew for nine months. I called him and pleaded with him but he refused. Then I began to hear all sorts of propaganda in the media against me; this is not the way.
“I’ve never spoken about this issue but as men of God, I believe you’ll say the truth always because there are a lot of conflicting interests; some will hear one thing and say the exact opposite.
“I also want you to know the genesis of this problem and pray that God touches Amaechi’s heart as per his hot temper because when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers,” the first lady added.
She urged the parties involved in the crisis to help resolve the issues plaguing the state and not “whip up sentiments that will aggravate the problem”.
“I appeal to Amaechi to sheathe his sword so that we can defend our state and this country with love, unity, patriotism and truth at all time.
“Hebrews 12:14 urges us to embrace peace with all men without which, we cannot see God.
“Amaechi is my son, I cannot fight him and I cannot kill him. He shouldn’t be used by outsiders against his own blood because this seat is vanity.
“One day, no matter how long it takes, we will leave this seat. Power is not forever. This seat is vanity, others sat here and left so one day, I’ll also leave and we will meet at home; so why should I fight him?
“Let’s take it easy, face issues, leave non-existent matters, stop magnifying lies and respect our leaders and people in authority. Let’s give peace a chance,’’ she added.
Earlier, Bishop God-Do-Well Awomakpa, Chairman, Niger Delta Bishops Forum, who led the delegation, said the visit was significant “in view of emerging situations in our region,” adding: “We are on a quest to unravel the mysteries surrounding the Rivers issue and mediate where necessary.’’
However, despite the assurances of the first lady that she was not fighting Amaechi, the state government yesterday raised the alarm over what it said were attempts to compromise the governor’s security.
The Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. George Feyii, in a statement in Port Harcourt, said the state was uncomfortable with the curious posting of security personnel to monitor the seat of government.
The statement said: “The Rivers State Government notes with distress what is now an apparent attack on the person of Governor Chibuke Rotimi Amaechi. Yesterday (Tuesday), two policemen, one of whom is Inspector Bawa, reported to the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge at Justice Mohammed Bello Street, Asokoro, FCT, Abuja. They claimed to have been posted by the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters to monitor the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge.
“Earlier, four intelligence officers had been posted to the Government House, Port Harcourt by the Rivers State Police Command. These postings were done without any notification or reference to Governor Amaechi.
“We are aware that on issues of personal safety, an official reserves the right to pick the security personnel to whom he or she may entrust his/her safety. This is more so in the case of a state governor.
“The policemen this morning (yesterday) said that they had directives to remain at the gate of the Rivers State Governor’s lodge. Not only is the Rivers State Government uncertain of the identity of these gentlemen, we are worried as to the true intent behind this latest posting. In recent times, events in Rivers State and especially around Governor Amaechi have been suggestive of deliberate nonchalance at best, and complicity at worst in the security breaches that have occurred. This trend has continued despite a passionate appeal to the highest levels of authority.
“We are worried that we can no longer guarantee the safety of Governor Chibuike Amaechi and wish to reiterate our call on all relevant authorities to ensure the safety of Governor Amaechi and the peace and security of everyone in Rivers State.”
Reacting to the ongoing crisis in the state, Soyinka, in a statement yesterday clarified why he had to intervene in the situation.
He said before he and Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, addressed the press on the matter, he had been canvassed by opposing sides in the face-off during which he gained some insight into the cause of the crisis.
“Before the press conference held by Femi Falana and myself – that is, even before the Rivers Assembly fracas - I had been canvassed by opposing sides of the face-off, both via telephone and physically. One such visit, perhaps the most significant, was made by a special adviser in the presidency who outlined what can be regarded as the official rationale for the governors’ forum election debacle. In the process of this exchange, he did make certain complaints against Governor Rotimi Amaechi, including charges of a conflict of interests over certain resources. This was implied as the root of division between the governors’ forum and the presidency.
“I wrote down the details, informed the emissary that I would pass on these accusations to Governor Amaechi – which I did. That Amaechi hotly denied them and offered contradicting facts, which he urged me to verify, remained, and remains utterly irrelevant to the democratic core of the conflict…
“Since beneath the surface of most Nigerian conflicts will be found inordinate greed for public resources, it is perhaps pertinent to remind ourselves that oil is not the only marvel to emerge from the Delta swamps. There are also exotic creatures – mermaids, manatees, even mammy watas and hippopotami. However, unlike crude oil, which can be refined, you can extract a hippopotamus from the swamps, but you cannot take the swamp out of the hippopotamus,” Soyinka said.
In its reaction to the attack on governors of Niger, Jigawa, Kano and Adamawa States during their Tuesday’s visit to Port Harcourt, the ACN warned that Nigerians would hold President Goodluck Jonathan responsible if the country slides into anarchy, which might affect the 2015 elections because of the worsening crisis in Rivers State.
The party said in a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, that ACN wondered when it became a sin for any Nigerian, including elected officials, to visit any part of the country as the governors did.
''We will not accept the usual sophistry that President Jonathan is not in any way involved in the Rivers crisis. It is also not an excuse to argue that the president did not know that the visiting governors would be attacked, because as the country's chief security officer, he has his ears and eyes all over the country in the persons of security agents. Therefore, if the argument is that he did not know of the attack, then he is not on top of his game,'' it said.
Meanwhile, children in the state have risen against calls by some politicians to make the state ungovernable, saying any violence would affect the children more than any other group.
The children, under the aegis of Rivers Teenagers Parliament (RTP), spoke when they paid a courtesy call on the Deputy Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Leyii Kwanee, in Port Harcourt yesterday.
In an address presented by the spokesperson of the group, Miss Soblachi Amadi, the children said a statement allegedly made by the Minister of State for Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, that he would make the state ungovernable was a threat to their future.
Amadi said peace had returned to the state and that any attempt to plunge the state into fight and war would portend grave consequences particularly to children and women.
In his response, Kwanee assured the children that Amaechi would do everything within the law to ensure the protection of lives, especially those of children and mothers.