President Goodluck Jonathan
•Government urges opponents to stop using first lady’s name to foment trouble
Olawale Olaleye, Ernest Chinwo and Onyebuchi Ezigbo
Beleaguered Rivers State Governor Chibuike Amaechi got a tip Thursday from his colleagues in the yet-to-be registered All Progressives Congress (APC) on how he could end the lingering crisis in the state.
Eight of the governors in the opposition coalition, who were in Port Harcourt, the state capital, yesterday on a solidarity visit to Amaechi, advised him to take his case to President Goodluck Jonathan.
They urged him to personally see Jonathan and brief him on the worsening security situation in the state so that the president could intervene to restore normalcy to the state.
The state has been tottering towards a breakdown of law and order since last week when members of the state House of Assembly, who have been split into pro and anti-Amaechi camps, clashed in the chamber, resulting in some of them sustaining varying degrees of injuries.
Already, the police have declared the state assembly Majority Leader, Hon. Chidi Lloyd, wanted for attempted murder following the fracas between the two camps while Amaechi’s security chiefs have also been summoned for interrogation.
However, unlike the Tuesday visit of four Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors to Amaechi, which was disrupted by people mobilised by his opponents, yesterday’s visit by the APC governors was without any untoward incident.
The governors who visited Port Harcourt yesterday, were Dr. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State and Senator Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State.
Their colleagues from Zamfara, Nasarawa and Imo States were represented by their deputies -- Damishi Darua Luka, Mukhtar Anka and Eze Madumere respectively.
After a brief reception on their arrival in Port Harcourt, the governors went into a closed-door meeting with Amaechi during which they discussed the security situation in the state and how to restore peace.
Addressing journalists on behalf of the group after the closed-door meeting, Fayemi said they had listened to their colleague and had advised him to take the matter to the president, who is the chief security officer of the country.
He said: “We are here in solidarity with the government and people of Rivers State in these very challenging times. You are aware that some of our colleagues were here a couple of days ago.
“We are here because we think security for us is far more of a major concern to the people of Nigeria. You may be aware that today is National Economic Council holding in Abuja, all of us instead of attending the National Economic Council meeting came here and our being here is not a denigration of that meeting in anyway. It is just to stress the importance of our concern for the security of the citizens of Rivers State.
“We have met with our brother, the Chairman of our forum (Nigeria Governors’ Forum), Governor Chibuike Amaechi. We have had extensive discussions; he has briefed us on the situation on the ground here (Rivers State) and we feel very strongly that having listened to him, that it will be quite important for him to actually go and brief Mr. President who is our leader and the chief security officer of the country on the very challenging security situation here in Rivers State.
“We believe that our chairman and brother will give a fair consideration to that particular concern when we met with him; that it is important that as the chief security officer of Rivers State to take the opportunity to go and brief Mr. President on the security situation in the state.”
The governors also called on the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, to take immediate and appropriate steps to rebuild the confidence of people of Rivers State in the police following the partisan role the state Police Commissioner, Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu, has been accused of playing.
According to Fayemi, “It is also important for the hierarchy of our police authority, the IG, to help in restoring the confidence of the people of Rivers State that have really been greatly diminished in the police command here in Rivers State.
“We believe that the IG is very well placed to help take the necessary steps to restore the confidence of the government, of the governor and the people in the police in Rivers State.”
He also called on Jonathan to ensure that peace reigned in Rivers State as well as other states of the federation.
“For us, we believe that this is a matter that requires moral authority of Mr. President as well. It is about deepening this democracy; it is about ensuring that peace reigns, not just in Rivers, because we know that Rivers is of concern to Governor Amaechi, but the state of security in the entire country is also of concern to him.
“And we believe Mr. President being our leader, we are all president’s men; we are all president’s governors; he is our leader and we feel that he actually occupies a very critical position that necessitates wielding his moral authority in ensuring peace reigns here and that nobody uses him by subterfuge to create situations that are entirely avoidable. The tension in Rivers State is entirely avoidable and we want all parties to sheathe their swords and to help restore the peace and security here,” Fayemi added.
Also speaking, Deputy Governor of Zamfara State, Damishi Darua Luka, said: “We, being progressive governors, we met with our Chairman of NGF and Rivers State governor and we are very happy that we met him in very high spirit and it seems he is popular and moving with his people.
“We are very happy with that and we resolved and advised him that he should meet with the president to discuss with him so that we can find a way out of this crisis, which is avoidable and we believe that his meeting with the president will actually help in finding a way out of this crisis in Rivers State and strengthen democracy in Nigeria.”
There are indications that Fayemi may also meet with Jonathan this morning at the State House as a follow-up to the governors’ visit to Rivers State.
Fayemi, a source said, is billed to have a breakfast meeting with the president and might seize the opportunity to raise the political crisis in Rivers State with him.
Meanwhile, Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications Mrs Ibim Semenitari has said people should stop hiding under the guise of First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, to foment trouble in the state.
She was reacting to statements credited to the first lady suing for peace in the state.
“It is a thing of pride that a Rivers woman is wife of Mr. President. So we hold her very dearly. I have read the statement credited to her and it is important to note that she is calling for peace. So, all those who continue to use her name or to commit acts that are very distressing under the guise of trying to protect our sister and our mother, it is clear now that they have been doing this without her consent; at least that was what her statement is trying to suggest,” Semenitari said.
While Semenitari welcomed Mrs. Jonathan’s stand for peace in the state, she however said it was not true that Amaechi demolished houses in Okrika.
According to her, “She (Mrs. Jonathan) spoke about the incident in Okrika and that that was her grouse with the governor. What I am curious about is that there was no demolition in Okrika. I recall that incident: I happened to be with them that day.
Governor Amaechi was trying to show her, as a Rivers daughter, some of the things his administration had done and he rode with her to Okrika, and was showing her the primary school at Ayigobiri.
“He was explaining to her that because of the fact that there were living houses within the premises of that school, there would be need to buy off those houses from the owners and relocate them, then expand the school so that they could have a playground for the children.
“She was distressed and asked the governor that there should be no demolition of those houses and that she did not see any need to buy off those houses; that they could use the facility as it was. Thereafter, the school had been left the way it was.”
Also reacting to the first lady’s remarks on Wednesday and the declaration of Lloyd as a wanted man, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) said the pattern of investigation being adopted by the police in the crisis in Rivers State had been one-sided.
ACN, in a statement by its spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, added that recent revelations by the first lady showed that contrary to the statements blaming the crisis on some external forces, the cause is right there in the presidency.
ACN urged the police to be more circumspect and avoid being partisan in their ongoing investigation into the crisis in Rivers State, if the outcome of the investigation is to be acceptable to Nigerians.
According to ACN, the root cause of the Rivers crisis appears to have come to the fore going by the statement credited to the first lady that it started four years ago when Amaechi allegedly defied her appeal not to demolish a part of Okrika.