by Ayobami Olopade
“Who told you I joined politics to serve” was the question on the lips of the executive governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi when he was prodded on his motive for joining politics. In a recent interview with The Nation newspapers, the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum bared his mind on many issues and made many revelations including his primary objective for venturing into politics which he declared was “service to myself.”
The Scoop brings you ten notable quotes from the interview.
1. Let’s begin with Amaechi’s motive for participating in politics:
“I didn’t join (politics) to serve. I finished University, no job and I thought this was where my bread would be buttered and I started the struggle. And my bread has been buttered. So it is my turn to contribute to those people who have buttered my bread. So from day one, what propelled me wasn’t the service of the people but service to myself and then after that, I started serving the people.”
2. Rumours have been flying around that it is only a matter of time before the NGF chairman announces his decision to join the All Progressive Congress(APC) due to the crisis in the PDP, his political party, he further fuelled the speculations saying:
“I didn’t think the PDP was progressive enough… But now the opposition is as progressive as they can be and beginning to build up. So it won’t be a bad idea to join them in building a very strong opposition in as much as they will remain progressive.”
What we now await is the Governor’s ‘blessed time’ to announce the open secret.
3. How did the governor find himself in the PDP, he was asked. As always, Amaechi was frank enough to admit that it had nothing to do with ideology.
“I found myself in the PDP because in Nigeria, I don’t think there’s a party with ideology yet. It is now we are beginning to see APC looking as if it is becoming slightly ideological. What we had as parties were just platforms for elections and I chose the platform that everybody was running towards.”
4. “I called three of my friends and I said I am leaving Liyel’s (Imoke, governor of Cross River state) house by past 11 (in the night) to Port Harcourt, if anything happens to me just have this information. I am driving back.”
Amaechi had gone to see his colleague, Liyel Imoke who thereafter pleaded with him (apparently in the interest of some ‘higher powers’) not to run for the post of the NGF chairman, a request Amaechi turned down. In other words, the governor also knew that his rejection of the request would have angered those ‘higher powers’ who can ‘do and undo’.
5. The first Lady of Nigeria, Dame Patience Jonathan took the biggest hit in Amaechi’s revelations. At different points in his interview, Amaechi emphatically blamed her for a lot of things.
He started with “She wants to control the government of Rivers state.There can’t be two governors in a state. You can control the Minister of State for Education…” as being the genesis of everything that has gone wrong. He continued “It’s not the president that says take away his policemen. The problem we have is that we have people who sit down and take decisions and you don’t know who is making those decisions… An ordinary Evans Bipi who was an ex-policeman, who was a militant, will tell Commissioner of Police, ‘my mother, my Jesus Christ on earth says you must remove policemen from governor’. Then Mbu(Commissioner of Police) will obey.” At another point, he stated, “We had already heard that Mrs. Goodluck Jonathan will remove our commissioner of police. Imagine … She is not the Commander-in-Chief but she could transfer a Commissioner of Police and post another Commissioner… I said to Mbu: ‘look, I don’t mind who posted you, I don’t mind whose bidding you’ve come to serve, don’t be part of politics. Just do your work.'”
6. President Goodluck Jonathan also had his fair share, although Amaechi’s comments were mild on him, for obvious reasons.
“As for the President, I hold him in high esteem. He is a wonderful man. You need to stay with the President; you will know that he is a very wonderful man.”
He, however, took a swipe at the President by suggesting that the President was not running the nation as he ought.
“The struggle is not about President Goodluck Jonathan; it is about the system he is running. If you liken what is going on to a military government, you wonder whether the President is running a democracy, a civilian government or military government… I don’t know whether to say it is a civilian government or military government because a civilian government has a similarity with a military government. So what is the difference between the current government and Abacha’s government?”
7. In the past few days, and for whoever cares to listen, Governor Amaechi has been decrying the spate of corruption in the country. He did not leave it out here either.
“I believe that we have no business having the kind of resources that we have in the country and we can’t manage them well to turn the country around… Something is wrong and the corruption is with impunity… Under Obasanjo people were hiding to even buy bungalow where they would live after office but now, they buy it openly. And when they are going, they go with siren, they go with police, SSS and soldiers to inspect the house they are constructing… That’s why they fought the Nigeria Governors Forum because we asked these questions. By January this year, excess crude account was about 9 billion dollars, today it is 4.3 billion dollars. What has happened to the 5 billion dollars? Somebody has tampered with it and the Federal Government should be able to account. The level of impunity when it comes to corruption is something else. Imagine the case of the Aviation Minister … and then some people are queuing up and protesting in the street saying ‘she’s from our town, don’t prosecute her.’ So corruption has ethnicity? This country baffles me.”
8. Amaechi also had some in the reserves for his critics in Rivers state as he sent a poser to them:
“You know they never accused me of corruption; they said he refuses to run an inclusive government. Ask them to please define inclusion.”
As we are not politicians, we might not be able to satisfactorily define it, so we await the response of the ‘critics’ on the definition of inclusion.
9. Now, how about this absolutely cynical statement from the governor:
“If you check nearly all the states, the governors are now more patriotic than anybody. We are the only people shouting in this country that there is corruption. Show me any other person?”
Shouting? Really, governor? That’s just like a boy who murders his parents and then pleads for leniency during trial because he’s now an orphan. Nobody needs governors to shout that there is corruption please. Even a primary school student decries the level of corruption in the land. Action, dear governor, speaks louder than words.
10. Let’s end with this characterisation of President Jonathan by the governor.
“The president will disarm you; he appears when you see him to be harmless. Why I said he appears is that with the actions that happen outside, you will be wondering if this is the same president I saw last night. Somebody said that the president said that there are two animals in the bush: one is the tiger, the other one is a puff adder and that he is the puff adder. He said the tiger makes noise. If it is coming to attack and you hear the noise you should be able to run. But the puff adder just stays and strikes. That is what they said the president said; I was not there. I don’t want to mention the person’s name.”