Rivers Crisis: Battle for Soul of Ogoni Heats up

01 Oct 2013

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  Governor Rotimi Amaechi

• Abe: Don’t intimidate us with clamour for south-south presidency

 •Pro-Amaechi lawmakers seeking asylum, says Wike

By Ernest Chinwo   

As the political crisis in Rivers State continues unabated, loyalists of President Goodluck Jonathan and the state Governor, Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, last weekend intensified efforts to win the support of the people of Ogoniland.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Senator Magnus Abe, led the pro-Amaechi group as he rallied support for the governor at the third synod of St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church, Bera Deanery, before addressing a rally at Methodist Secondary School field, Bean, in Gokana and Khana Local Government Areas respectively.

The Supervising Minister of Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, however, led the team for Jonathan as he also inaugurated his political structure, Grassroots Development Initiative (GDI) in Bori, headquarters of Khana Local Government Area of the state.

Speaking at the Anglican Church and at the rally, Abe, an Ogoniman and senator representing Rivers South-east in the National Assembly, said the people would not be intimidated by the much orchestrated talk about a South-south presidency in 2015.

He stated that Jonathan became Nigeria’s president from the South-south only after intense struggle for the position by eminent Rivers sons and other notable personalities from the region.

Abe lamented that the state was being neglected despite its agitation for a South-south president and support for Jonathan in the 2011 polls.

He said: “First, we have not said that we are against President Goodluck Jonathan, we have not said so here. People need to remember that the South-south presidency that we are talking about and enjoying today had an origin. In fact, the Calabar Declaration that was the beginning of the South-south struggle for the presidency was written by me in my own hand in the office of then Secretary to Government of Cross River State. I wrote it. Prince Tony Momoh, was there, Mr. Ebokpbo, the then secretary to the Government of Cross River State was there and a lot of other eminent persons from South-south.

“The reason why we fought for the presidency to come to the South-south was because we said we wanted Nigeria to be restructured, that we needed to change the structure of this country so that we have a more progressive, more prosperous, a more successful Nigeria for all Nigerians.

“Today, we have a president from the South-south and in bringing about that president from the South-south, all of us supported President Jonathan in 2011. We voted for him, we spent money on him. Nobody brought one Naira to Rivers State to campaign for Jonathan. Nobody brought one Naira and I challenge anybody who said he gave Rivers State money. It was out of our resources and our time, settled our differences, and ignored whatever challenges we had to ensure that we produce a president from the South-south.

“Now, what is the problem today? We are politicians, you must look around you. Today, we are standing here, if we talk of the president from South-South and the president is from Bayelsa, it means that Rivers State can no longer be president because it is our turn. It is as much the turn of Rivers State as it is the turn of Akwa Ibom State, as it is the turn of Cross River State, as it is the turn of Bayelsa State, as it is the turn of Edo State, as it is the turn of Delta State because that is how Nigeria is structured. So, this president it is our own turn. It is the president from Rivers State and the question that has brought about the fences between us and the federal government is simple: what has Rivers State benefited from it?

“We have challenges that started right from the time of Dr. Peter Odili, between Rivers State and Bayelsa State over some oil wells in Rivers State. Presidents came and went, the problem was still there, we were in court, the boundary commission had written to say that the matter would be settled and all that but today those oil wells had been ceded to other states. The money that was in escrow account when we didn’t have a president from Rivers State is no longer in escrow, it has gone to Bayelsa State. You look at the Bodo-Bonny road, when we came, the governor (Amaechi) offered to do the Bodo-Bonny road, all he wanted was a letter from the federal government...we didn’t get that co-operation, today what is the fate of the road?"

Abe also expressed his displeasure at the delay by the federal government to implement the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoni, saying the delay clearly gives a wrong impression about the president.

He said Amaechi had used his mandate to fulfil the needs of Rivers people in roads, health, education, economy, agriculture, tourism among others.

He said no amount of threats from militants would intimidate the Ogoni people, as he expressed sadness that those who were opposed to the leadership style of Amaechi were using militants to cause chaos there.

He expressed dismay that intellectuals were not being allowed to speak anymore in the state; rather it was only people of questionable characters that now enjoy the commonwealth of the state.

Also speaking at the rally, the president of KAGOTE, (four Ogoni LGAs of Khana, Gokana, Tai, Eleme), Dr. Peter Medee, said he was delighted that the people of Ogoni have continued to support Amaechi.

However, while addressing the GDI rally in Bori, Wike described members of the state House of Asembly loyal to Amaechi as anti-people and said they were already seeking asylum in foreign countries.

He noted that the lawmakers who had shown condemnable disloyalty and insubordination to the leadership of Jonathan had been anti the people and the development of the state.

Wike, therefore, called on the people of the state to remain steadfast and peaceful in their quest for development, assuring them that Jonathan would not let them down.

On the East-west Road, the minister noted that although the entire stretch of the road was yet to be completed, considerable work had been done by the contractors handling the Akwa Ibom – Ogoni axis of the road.

He emphasised that by 2014, the entire East-West Road would be completed as promised by Jonathan, disclosing that approval had been made by the president to the relevant ministry to enable them complete the construction of the road by 2014.

Wike also assured Nigerians, particularly students of the various affected universities in the country that the ongoing strike embarked upon by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) would soon be called off.

He expressed optimism that the lecturers would soon return to the classes following a positive ongoing resolution engagement between them and the federal government.

He disclosed that Jonathan was committed to the resolution of the crisis and has therefore directed that all issues in the crisis be addressed accordingly.

He reassured that the president would continue to take issues that affect the education sector seriously.

Also speaking, the Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus, called on the people to continue to support the Jonathan administration, assuring them of total delivery of all promises made by the president and the PDP leadership in the country.

In their separate speeches, the state Chairman of the PDP, Bro Felix Obuah;  Chief Sergeant Awuse; Senator Lee Maeba, and Kenneth Kobani commended the Ogoni people for their unalloyed support for Jonathan and said the area remained a focal point in the scheme of things particularly as an area that would be developed and be made to enjoy the proceeds from their God-given resources.

They said come 2015, the people of Ogoni should support Jonathan for president, noting, “We the people of South-south must not opt for any other position other than that of the president of the country.” 

But in his reaction to allegations of lawmakers taking flight, the Deputy Speaker of the state assembly, Mr. Leyii Kwanee, condemned the comments and advised the minister to be sure of his facts.

In a statement signed by his media aid, Mr. David Amusa, Kwanee, said the lawmakers were all in the country except for him and a few others who went for an official engagement outside the country.

Tags: Politics, Nigeria, Featured, Rivers Crisis

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