by Stanley Azuakola
On Thursday in Aso Rock, Rivers state politicians in the Peoples Democratic Party met with Pres. Goodluck Jonathan and the meeting was notable for two reasons – the unity of the politicians against Gov. Rotimi Amaechi, the governor of the state, and the brand of politicians who were present.
Everyone present at the meeting from the president to the last partisan in the hall was united in thought and speech against the Rivers governor. Take the president, who although recently shook and hugged Gov. Amaechi had this to say: “In a situation where somebody is in a particular political party but his faith is in another political party… For those who are not holding political offices, yes you can excuse…But if you are holding an elective office, you won’t be in that party and be working for another party. Otherwise, why are you there?”
There was no question about who the president was referring to – Gov. Amaechi. Speaker by speaker took the same position, although some were more acerbic than others.
However the other thing to note was the brand of politicians who made it to the event. It was the old brigade, all those who lost out in the power equation following the victory of Amaechi at the Supreme Court in 2007. Politicians like former Rivers governor, Peter Odili, arguably one of the most corrupt governors in the 1999-2007 set who nonetheless got a perpetual injunction against prosecution from the court; Abiye Sekibo, the former minister of transport who ran under the ACN platform in 2011 but decamped from that party last month following the alleged romance between Amaechi and the ACN national leadership; Austin Opara and Chibudom Nwuche, both former deputy speakers of the House and many others like that.
Apart from the two ministers of Rivers state origin, Ama Pepple and Nyesom Wike; one federal lawmaker (Sen. George Sekibo) and three anti-Amaechi state lawmakers, there was hardly any serving elected or appointed official present.
But Nyesom Wike would not like the way this story and the headline has been framed. He said to newsmen after the meeting that:
“The governor is suspended, so he can’t come. It is only when he comes back to the party, then he will join us. You can see the men of timber and calibre, the leaders of the party. So, it is not a question of what The Nation or The Sun will publish. I am happy that The Nation and Sun reporters are here and I hope they will publish correctly.”
“Tomorrow, you will see on the front page that a faction of the state PDP… there is nothing like faction in the PDP. This is the chairman of the party; he led the members of his exco; all the party chairmen and other stakeholders are here.”
Wike insisted that the group was not a faction but the main thing. Speaking further, Wike said, “We cannot shut our doors to anybody. That is why it is politics. If you are willing to come back, you will do so. The chairman of the party has said so but there are rules which we must comply with and if you cannot comply with the rules, you can’t come back. There must be party discipline. If you don’t want to belong to party A, you may go to party B.
“As I have said before, this issue of threatening does not hold water. It even favours us because people will now see who actually controls the votes in Rivers State. We are on ground and we have the grassroots. Money does not solve all problems.”
He, however, maintained that there is no misunderstanding between him and Amaechi, saying:
“There is no misunderstanding. What you should understand is that in every political process, you expect some disagreements. Some people see it as if there is a personal misunderstanding. There is none.”
“One thing you must understand is that Nigerians do not easily accept change and when change comes, it takes some people some time to accept, but it is change that has come to stay. That the governor does not have the party structure does not make him comfortable. So, all that you are seeing is a reaction to that and we believe that you cannot build a party around a personality.”
“The party is meant for the people and the people make the choice and the choice they made, they were denied and people went to court to get their mandate. It is like a tribunal; if you lose election, you go to tribunal and the tribunal will tell you if you won or lost. Then you can go on appeal; that is the way it is. So, there is nothing personal; rather it is a political activity that is going on.”
Denying the reports that he was shunned by the President last week, Wike said: “First of all, there is nothing like face-saving. If Mr President came on Friday and I received him and when he came back on Saturday, I was the one who mobilised the people and Mr President was quite happy. You can see me with Mr President in the pictures.”
“What you saw was a syndicated job. That is why I am saying and I will continue to say that journalists are supposed to report the truth. Some people stay in government house and write a story and send to you and you publish. You could see that they cut my picture just to prove that I was not there or that Mr President was not happy with me.”
“How would I have mobilised the entire people to see Mr President and he will now say Mr President should not see me. In fact, it is a humiliation to the governor; it is as a result of that humiliation that he went to the church the following day to now say I am a betrayer. It was that anger.”
The chairman of the party in the state also had tough words. We’ve already brought you excerpts of his speech at the event in an earlier report in which he apologised to the president and the first lady for the actions of “the young man, Amaechi.” He said Amaechi has already been given the structures of the APC in the state. He went further during a chat with newsmen afterwards:
“Everybody is entitled to his own opinion. He has been suspended because of anti-party activities. So, I don’t want to refer to Amaechi’s matter because it is with the NWC of the party. So he has all to say with the party and not me. If he wants to remain in the party, he has to show respect. If he wants to leave, I cannot stop him.
“That is why we are here. In any case, he has gone to court. If he shows remorse and goes to the party and apologises, we will call him back, but if he still remains recalcitrant and refuses to change, we are not begging for everybody to be in PDP. That is the essence of multiple party democracy. If he wants to remain, fine. But if he wants to leave, nobody will stop him. Well, as he leaves, two will come to PDP. That’s a plus for PDP.
“We want to assure the President that there is no crisis in the party. We are committed members of the PDP and we remain committed. We also assured him that whoever that is not disciplined and who is not in support of our programme should be left out. At every point in time, we let people realise that the party is supreme and the President is the leader of the party and we have come to show our commitment and loyalty to him.
“We have come to solidarise with the President and we want to pledge our support to his government. We support his transformation agenda. We also thank First Lady for her recent visit to the state and the empowerment programme for women in all the local government areas in our state. Ordinary, this is the first time the leadership of the PDP is paying a courtesy visit to the President. We used the opportunity to appreciate him and wish him well.”
Also speaking, the former Rivers State Governor, Dr. Peter Odilli, said, “There is no human problem without a human solution. What is important is for us to recognize that at any point in time respect for authority, respect for the rule of law, discipline is the guiding principle that will make us run whatever system or societies we are running in an orderly, disciplined fashion, in a way that will be inclusive for all stakeholders to contribute maximally to the well being and purpose of the organisation.
“My assurance to you on behalf of the new leadership of the party of the state is that you will see an end to this exchanges that put Rivers State PDP in bad light. The end will be for the family to resolve the matter in a way that will reflect the discipline and the proper organisation of the party.
“The leadership of the Rivers State PDP came with its executive to meet the leader of the party in the nation. And it was a very cordial meeting and a reunion, if you like, because for quite sometime the party in the state has not interfaced with the leadership at the centre. It was a very warm and cheerful meeting.”
The meeting was also attended by former Senator Lee Maeba, Fred Kpakol, and Walter Opuene (secretary of Rivers PDP), Sergeant Awuse, Kenneth Kobani, Timothy Nsirim, Doris Fisher, Toru Ofili, Boma Iyaye, Evans Bipi, Hope Ikiriko, Vincent Nemieboka and Elemchukwu Ogbowu.