There seems to be no end in sight to the war of attrition between the Minister for Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi and his estranged former right-hand man, now governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, writes Davidson Iriekpen
It is no longer news that the feud between the former governor of Rivers State and Minister of Transport, Chibuike Amaechi and Governor Nyesom Wike, is getting messier by the day. At every given opportunity, they throw jabs at each other.
Last week, they were in the news again when Amaechi raised the alarm that Wike planned to forge documents to prosecute him in court. In a statement issued by his media office, Amaechi alleged that the governor â€œwants to use the elaborately distorted and most times outright but carefully forged documents to persecute and prosecute his erstwhile benefactor in court. In the past couple of days, Wike has been telling anyone who cares to listen, bragging that he will certainly get a conviction- a judgment against Amaechi in the law courts on spurious charges of corruption using his forged documents because he (Wike) is in control of the judiciary at the state and national level,â€ the statement said.
The minister alleged that Wike had been boasting that he has the judges in the state judiciary in his pocket; that he was in full control and that the state judiciary would always give him any judgment he wanted against his predecessor at the apex court, â€œusing his contorted documents.â€
He said: â€œWike is also telling anyone who cares to listen that the Supreme Court (justices) and judges generally are not happy with Amaechi and so they would easily convict him with any forged document he presents in court. Wike is using the recent visit of the CJN to state as his bragging right to prove his â€˜extremeâ€™ closeness to the CJN.â€
Amaechiâ€™s fear was sequel to the allegation by one Livinstone Wechie, who had earlier pressed for the prosecution of Amaechi for corruption, that the former governor was framed by Wike. Wechie in a live programme â€œFocus Nigeriaâ€ on Africa Independent Television (AIT), accused Wike and the Rivers State government of fabricating documents with which it had discredited Amaechi for corruption. He said documents presented by the state government to the Justice Georege Omereji-led judicial commission of inquiry that indicted Amaechi of corruption were forged.
Wechie, as Executive Director of the Integrity Group, a non-governmental organisation, had in 2015 filed petitions against Amaechi to the National Assembly. In order to stop Amaechi the Senate from screening and confirming the former governor as a minister, he appeared before a Senate committee to defend the petition and allegations. But appearing on television, he said he had believed the documents then to be true but has now realised they were forged and fabricated to indict Amaechi. He accused Wike of forging documents to implicate the former governor.
â€œWe call on the general public and all relevant institutions to disregard all documents tendered by our organisation indicting Amaechi including particularly the so-called Omereji report and the subsequent white paper by the Rivers State government as all documents tendered were all politically fabricated and forged by the Wike government to achieve his unrighteous end,â€ he stated.
As if it was a good news it was waiting to hear, the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) quickly responded, saying that Amaechi had been vindicated by Wechieâ€™s testimony.
The Publicity Secretary of the APC, in Rivers, Chris Finebone, rather than condemn Wechie, said: â€œIt is always our position in Rivers APC that every lie has an expiry date. Today, all the lies and falsehood perpetrated against Amaechi by Wike and the PDP expired with ignominy. No better vessel would have conveyed the message of shame than Wechie himself having been the arrow-head of Wike and PDP on their self-appointed mission to destroy the impeccable image of Amaechi.â€
But the state chapter of the PDP called on the Senate to summon and prosecute Wechie for the â€œlies.â€ The state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Samuel Nwanosike, said â€œI want to state clearly that from what we have seen today, men who lack integrity and character ought not to be taken seriously. This same Wechie swore to an oath in 2015 before Senator Anya that he was not sponsored by anybody. That anything he had said was based on his investigation. What happened today showed that when a man is hungry, he can be able to eat from the gutters. One of the issues he raised was the Karibe Whyte Hospital. Is it that there was no Clinotech that came in the name of building 1,000-bed hospital and nothing was built. The question we are asking is that did Clinotech not rip off the state in the contract?
â€œAll he said today was aimed at laundering the image of Amaechi. I am calling on the Senate to know that the document he presented to them belongs to him. With the current development, it showed that he lied on oath and the Senate should summon him. If he is being compelled to do what he had just done, then he should be used as an example because he thinks that Nigerians can be taken for a ride.â€
However, Wike reacted to the allegation, saying the minister was embarking on another journey to blackmail the judiciary again and noted that his plan would fail. In a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Electronic Media, Simeon Nwakaudu, the governor denied the allegations and described them as unfounded and baseless.
â€œOur attention has been drawn to a reckless press statement credited to Amaechi to the effect Wike is forging documents to secure his conviction in a court of law. This allegation is unfounded, baseless and a figment of the imagination of the former governor,â€ the statement said.
The statement noted that the minister also went ahead to falsely allege that Wike bragged that he has the judiciary at the state and federal level in his pocket to secure his conviction on charges of corruption, saying, â€œThis is another false allegation, merely concocted by the former governor to distract attention from the crimes he committed against Rivers people, by diverting their resources.â€ This statement issued by Amaechi is part of the campaign of calumny launched by the former governor, following the foundation stone laid by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter Onnoghen for the construction of the Rivers State judgesâ€™ quarters. He accused the former governor of sponsoring advertorials in the media through proxies some day to Justice Onnoghen’s visit for the flag-off of the construction of the Rivers State judgesâ€™ quarters stop the laudable project. He said it was because the advertorials did not yield his desired result that he resorted to falsehood and character assassination of the judiciary.
â€œWe are not surprised by Amaechiâ€™s antics to blackmail the judiciary. Ever since the Supreme Court victory that validated the election of Wike, Amaechi has never failed to malign the judiciary. The governor is a law abiding citizen, who believes in the rule of law. That is why he has followed due process in tackling the issues of high level corruption against the Minister of Transportation,â€ the statement said.
It did not end there. A day after, Wike while addressing the 106th quarterly meeting of the state Council of Traditional Rulers in Port Harcourt, declared that the state did not forge any documents to implicate Amaechi. He said evidence of corruption against former governor was so overwhelming that he (Amaechi) himself admitted to them publicly.
The governor said Amaechi admitted paying $39 million for a non-existent Justice Karibi Whyte Mega Specialist Hospital. He added that the former governor confessed publicly that he sold the stateâ€™s gas turbines, which the immediate past administration diverted the funds. He said: â€œAll the documents that proved Amaechiâ€™s corrupt acts are authentic. We never forged documents. The former governor himself admitted that he paid out $39 million to Clinotech, without a single block laid anywhere. Is that a document he claims was forged? Where is the Hospital? He has agreed in different interviews that he sold the state gas turbines for $309 million. Convert $309 million to naira and you will understand the level of fraud. Amaechi left only $204,000 in the state account.
â€œThe bank statements of the pattern of withdrawals from that account are there for all to see. Can that be forged? The dates and amounts withdrawn are clearly written.â€ The governor berated the minister of transportation for engaging in the blackmail of the Supreme Court because his appeal is pending before the apex court over the establishment of the Rivers State Judicial Commission of Inquiry. There is no time that he loses a case without blackmailing the judiciary. He feels that the only way he can do it is to blackmail the Supreme Court. You cannot play politics with everything,â€ Wike said.
But Amaechi in his response, insisted that the governor has no concrete evidence to prove his allegations of corruption against him. Amaechi maintained that he ran a transparent administration devoid of all the spurious acts and practices being attributing to him.
Many analysts are of the view that the feud between the governor and the minister is an indication of what is likely to play out in Rivers State in 2019. There is no doubt that since the APC under Amaechi lost the 2015 elections to the Wike-led PDP, the former governor is not happy. This was manifested during the December 2015 and March 2016 rerun elections in the state where the APC-led federal government flooded the state with security personnel in order to win a senatorial and some House of Representatives seats that were up for contest.
Since after the elections and with 2019 elections fast approaching, Amaechi who has lost political relevance in the state, is unrelenting in regaining it. While his main pre-occupation has largely been to discredit Wike as much as possible for him not to get a second term in office, the governorâ€™s focus is how to deliver good governance in the state knowing that what will decide his future is to satisfy the people and provide them with infrastructural facilities.
At every given opportunity, they throw jabs at each other.