by Dare Lawal
A few days ago, we brought report of an interview which the minister of state, Nyesom Wike, granted to some journalists, in which he talked about his history with Gov. Amaechi and how the governor’s claims that he betrayed him do not hold water. Wike also disclosed during that interview that he was responsible for Amaechi’s victory at the Supreme Court because even when the governor fled the nation, it was he who steered the ship and became the rallying point for his supporters. He said he refused several entreaties to back down at the time.
Wike also said in that interview that he was fasting and praying for Amaechi to leave the PDP. “Let him leave now and let us meet at the election,” he said.
We now have the transcript of the Wike interview courtesy of Thisday Newspaper. You can read below:
Q: Can you give us a background to your relationship with Governor Amaechi.
Wike: Ordinarily, I wouldn’t want to comment on anything that has to do with the Governor of River state vis-à-vis my relationship with him, but because of certain events that started re- occurring, it becomes imperative for one to clear the air on certain things the public should know. I was the chairman of Obiakpo Local Government Council. I became chairman from 1999 to 2002.Thereafter there was a break when the federal government had to stop to assess the importance or otherwise of local government. Of course, that was not to be, nothing came out of that. By 2004, we now had another local government election, which I re-contested as my second term and also won. His Excellency, Governor Rotimi Amaechi was the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly then. It will interest you to know that we all came to know each other then.
There was no relationship prior to 1999. I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me. We were in the same team of Dr. Peter Odili under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) even though he was at a higher level, so to speak. But we were also at the level where we were making our own contributions. The relationship was cordial thereafter, when we had the primaries of the governorship election. People were projecting their own people to be the flag bearer of PDP in the governorship election. As a council chairman, I was the rallying point of virtually all those who were supporting Rotimi Amaechi. During those primaries, I was the agent at the Civic Centre for Rotimi Amaechi. Along the line, some problems came up. When they were to give flags to all the South-South PDP candidates in Port Harcourt, in December 2006, then the Obasanjo issue came up coupled with the fact that there was a problem.
And I and some other people said we were not going to participate in it. In fact, that particular day, we were to disrupt the process with regard to other states gubernatorial flag bearers but Amaechi prevailed on us to allow the whole process and we heeded his advice. I remember that on a Saturday after that, Celestine Omehia came to see Amaechi at his residence as the speaker, which he was then. Amaechi said I and Magnus Abe, the commissioner for information then, were going to talk with Omehia. So, Amaechi and Omehia didn’t talk. That same day, Amaechi travelled to Ghana. The very day he left the shores of this country for Ghana, a protest started. That is why it is very painful when people forget history.
I can tell you, most of the people dining and wining with Amaechi today are those who ran away from us. You don’t need to see a prophet to know who as at that time was in charge when Amaechi regained his mandate. In everything that happened, I led it; every meeting that was done, held in my house to the point that our tenure hadn’t expired as local government chairmen, but Omehia dissolved us. Most of us were seen as Amaechi’s men. That never bothered me. There was no day while Amaechi was in Ghana that he never spoke to me. He called sometimes as often as 10 times in a day. Every now and again, he would say to me, see what I am hearing, and I would tell him it was rumour and that he should discard it. But we said, we have decided to support Amaechi and will continue to support him. At that time, I was not a betrayer; I never had a character because it was working for him.
When Amaechi was in Ghana, most people had given up hope. In fact, I was chased around by the EFCC at the time. There was nothing that was not done to make me withdraw my support for Amaechi. I had everything with me to terminate Amaechi’s ambition. There was no offer that was not made to me, but I said no, because I had taken a decision. I was not just a mere supporter, but I also committed resources. In fact I had to leave my home. For three months I never saw my wife. I was basically based in Abuja.
When, however, they had heard that we went to court and that there was a strong legal argument, which had become obvious that he was likely to win, two days to that judgment, most of them came. So, I was in a position to terminate whatever ambition he had to be governor. Amaechi’s lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi, is alive. He will tell you about the role I played. I know when I smuggled Amaechi into Abuja in the night. Then, I never betrayed? I never went and told security men that he was coming in the night. But today, the governor sees me as a betrayer. What agreement did I enter into that I never fulfilled my part or I sold out? By the grace of God, after all said and done, we won, on the 25th of October, on the 26th he was inaugurated. I was appointed chief of staff. But that appointment did not augur well in spite of everything I did. There were people who were saying why should I be given chief of staff position. I didn’t realise that people had positioned themselves for the same appointment. But I wasn’t bothered; I was doing my job. The following year, 2008, unknown to me, they called in the EFCC. What I had in my account then was N624, 000. Meanwhile, that account was opened since 2002. What has passed in that account from 2002 to 2007 was about N100, 000,000 (One hundred million). That was when they had put in money for about good six years. Nobody gave a statement that I was not a signatory to government account. You have the permanent secretary, and the DFA. I did not hold money. So, why would I transfer government account to personal money? The governor, never for once supported me in that matter. But God saw me through, I got to the Supreme Court and I won the matter.
I’m happy because God used me as an instrument for him to achieve what he has achieved as a governor. I give all the glory to God; whether today he wants to see me or not, it is immaterial. Because he has become a governor, he has become the chairman of the Governors’ Forum now I am no longer qualified; I’m insignificant to talk to him. Why am I insignificant? Why am I a small boy? He talks to the president anyhow, he talks to his brother governors anyhow, he talks to the elders anyhow, so, who am I?
I was the campaign director-general so I know everything that happened. There is no page in the election petition by ACN and APGA that Wike’s name was not mentioned. In fact the ACN gubernatorial candidate, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, said he withdrew his petition because Wike frustrated him and that there was no need going on.
Q: But there are rumours that you want to be governor of the state?
Wike: Who said I want to be governor? When have I called you one day to say I want to be governor? When I fought for him, what was my ambition? When he was in Ghana and I was fighting for him what was my ambition? To be what, to be minister? But in any case too, assuming I want to be the governor, is it when he decides I will be a governor that I will be a governor? Is it when he decides I will be a councillor that I will be one? Is he going to run for third term as a governor? What Amaechi wants to do in Rivers State is to remain the lord of manor. If he says you will be a councillor you will be and nobody should have a say, nobody should make contribution. Certainly, some of us cannot accept that. Do you know the politics of making me a minister? Tonye Cole he nominated what was his role? Those who are commissioners in his cabinet, what role did some of them play? Assuming I am not a politician, am I not qualified? You said you made me, you nominated me; most people were nominated, most people were disqualified too. If he nominated me, who went back for the security people to indict me? I did my reception in the governor’s lodge, the governor never came down to talk to anybody or to receive anybody. A colleague of mine came to the lodge and I introduced him to the governor, the way the governor received my colleague, the man came back and said, “be careful, I don’t think this man is happy that you are a minister.”
Q: But the Governor said that he nominated you into your present position?
Wike: It is not that he nominated me; he wanted to send me out of Port Harcourt, that I was becoming too powerful in Port Harcourt, that my continued stay in Port Harcourt will be a problem to nominate his successor by 2015. That was how he said, ‘ok let me push him out,’ anybody who went to Abuja will no longer be a potential successor. But like I said, you don’t know what God plans.
Q: There are insinuations that the disagreement has the tacit support of the presidency?
Wike: Did the matter start as I became minister of state? How can the presidency be behind me? I should wait at the level I am? On Friday, June 28, we came and received Mr. President, the governor was in Lagos with his APC friends for Governor Fashola’s birthday, he didn’t come to receive the president, and the deputy governor came. On the 29th being Saturday the governor came, when he came he saw us, the first thing he did was to call the chief of staff to Mr. President that “if these people do not get out of this place”, he would not come and receive the president. Who are the people he was talking about? He doesn’t want the state party officers to receive the president; he doesn’t want hands with elders of Rivers State to receive Mr. President. Mr President then alighted from the aircraft, we all went and shook Mr. President. Mr. President went to great the mammoth crowd that came to welcome him. He wanted to greet the president with his four commissioners and four chairmen of council. That is the humiliation he wanted Mr. President to suffer. The president of a country is passing an area, what you do was to bring four commissioners and four chairmen to receive the president. Some of them were wearing jeans to receive Mr. President. Then when Mr. President was to now shake hands with people, he told Mr. President that these people for security reasons should be avoided and I said “no, these are state party officers, you are the leader of PDP you must shake the party officers”. They said he should not shake some people’s hands for security reason and Mr. President said, “just forget it, they are all Rivers people” and went and now shook hands with everybody. Of course, he got angry and left; he left before Mr. President left.
What also angered Amaechi this way was because he has no party; he does not have the party structure. I have started fasting that he should leave PDP. Let him leave now and let us meet at the election.
Q: So what is being done to restore peace in the state?
Wike: We are not quarrelling; these are political things going on. You know they say we are Abuja politician but I am always home every week, they come to Abuja too, we are in Abuja, they call us Abuja politicians meanwhile no of them can conveniently win their wards; I can tell you few who can win their wards. I’m a minister today, I’m not in competition with anybody. I need to tap from what you have and add to my own and be a better minister. PDP is carrying out a lot of massive mobilisation. People are yearning for a new Rivers State. Those of them who are with Amaechi now, who wants to be governor, when this goes tomorrow, the other person will go and mobilize his own ethnic group to go and pay the governor a solidarity visit stating that they are with him, that any day he leaves they would leave the party. Rivers State will be a masterpiece of 2015; you will know that money does not work in everything.