by Stanley Azuakola
It should be pointed here that as bitter and dirty as the recent accusations and counter-accusations and accusations again between Bayelsa governor, Seriake Dickson, and ex-governor, Timipreye Sylva were; that was nothing compared to the one currently unfolding between two other Niger Delta sons.
Rotimi Amaechi, the governor of Rivers state and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum is slugging it out with the Minister of Niger Delta, Godsday Orubebe. The exchanges between the two is a classic case of how not to confront your opponent. It is even doubly worrying, considering the offices occupied by both men and the fact that they are both of the same party, PDP.
But it is proof if ever we needed any, that Gov. Amaechi and President Jonathan do not like each other very much. Orubebe is known to be very close to the president. Many will definitely see from this the perceived ambition of Governor Rotimi Amaechi, who is rumoured to be nursing the ambition of running as presidential running mate to a Northern aspirant in 2015.
The back and forth between Amaechi and Orubebe began on Wednesday, and it was the Rivers governor who fired the first salvo.
Gov. Amaechi while reacting to the recent tanker explosion along the East West road in which about 14 people died, frowned at the seeming inability of the Niger Delta Ministry to fix the road. He said that the nine Niger Delta states would take over the project.
But the Niger Delta minister did not take kindly to the governor’s position which he somehow managed to describe as “bribe.”
Orubebe said in a press conference in Uyo, Akwa Ibom that, “Let him (Amaechi) use the resources of Rivers State to develop Rivers State. Let him not use the resources of Rivers State to bribe people in Nigeria. That must stop. He should understand that God is still God.”
The minister used the occasion to imply that the Rivers governor was an antagonist to President Goodluck Jonathan and was not supportive of the leadership at the centre even though they are both of the PDP.
“In America, people within the same political party do fight, but once the President emerges, everybody will sheathe their swords 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.
“Unfortunately, the man (Amaechi) has forgotten that it was by the grace of God that he became the governor of Rivers State. He has forgotten so soon. He has arrogated to himself, powers that he does not have. It is God that has powers.
“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. But I want to let him know that God is still God. He must have respect for the Presidency. He must have respect for the President of this country.
“It is sad. It is unfortunate that people from the South-South, even governors, particularly Governor Rotimi Amaechi, have 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.”
Orubebe’s response and accusations were curious because the Amaechi’s criticism was specifically targeted at Orubebe himself and the Niger Delta Ministry which he heads. At no time did the governor make a pointed criticism against the president. That the minister brought Amaechi’s relationship with President Jonathan into the matter is perhaps a marker to the politics of 2015.
Not done, Orubebe criticised Gov. Amaechi’s record as governor, especially in the area of road construction: “He (Amaechi) was saying that the governors of the Niger Delta want to take over the East-West Road. The resources of Rivers State are so enormous, but I can tell you that there are so many villages in Rivers State that have not been connected by road.
“Port Harcourt used to be the Garden City of this country. Today, Port Harcourt is a slum. You cannot move in Port Harcourt. I think that he should concern himself with utilising the resources that are in there to develop Rivers State and the people of Rivers State.
“I expect him (Amaechi) to talk, if he is performing like Akpabio (Godswill, the Governor of Akwa Ibom State). If today the Governor of Akwa Ibom State is talking about those things, I will tend to listen, sit down and reason with him, but not governor of Rivers State.
“He (Amaechi) is only talking. Almost the roads he is talking of are abandoned. Nothing is going on in Port Harcourt. The people are crying. He should think of doing that.”
It did not take long for Gov. Amaechi to respond to Orubebe’s remarks. Equally harsh, equally strident, the governor responded through his Chief Press Secretary, David Iyofor, who described the minister’s remarks as “ludicrous, thoughtless and bizarre rantings,” which was done “just to divert attention from his ineptitude and abysmal failure.”
“Contrary to his madcap vituperations, Governor Amaechi has tremendous respect for the office of the President of Nigeria and President Goodluck Jonathan. The office of the President of Nigeria is a big institution that deserves utmost respect and it would be grossly irresponsible for anyone to disrespect Mr. President which unfortunately Minister Orubebe is doing by dragging the President’s name into his inability to deliver on the East –West road.
“Minister Orubebe seems to suffer from a severe form of selective amnesia as he conveniently forgets that the same Amaechi he (Orubebe) now contemptuously, disgraciously and insolently disparages and flippantly accuses of not respecting Mr. President 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’s imprudent and reckless attacks 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.
“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, Minister Orubebe? In the same vein, 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. I will be most delighted to show him the kilometres upon kilometres of brand new roads and bridges, the world-class new hospitals and health centres scattered all over the state, the exquisite primary and secondary schools that have become the models for many, the robust urban renewal programme, and many more developmental projects of the Amaechi administration.
“I will advise him to make sure he brings the press along as well, so when he suffers from his selective amnesia again, the media will be quick to remind him that they saw the projects with him.
“What an irony for an appointed minister, who has failed woefully and who has been unable to complete one single road, to cast aspersions on an elected governor who is judiciously using the resources of his people to better their lives and develop their state.
“What a shame! This is indeed most ridiculous and laughable. It’s no longer in doubt that Minister Orubebe does not like Rivers State. 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.”
Something tells me we haven’t heard the last of this matter.