It is clear that our state is in a battle for its soul. A battle, which no sane person would wish for. Last week, someone published an article in The Guardian, asking Governor Amaechi to go and make peace with the President. Good advice I guess but the bigger question is, is Governor Amaechi fighting the President? Can he even do so?
What really are the issues under contention? It may be necessary to throw them out and let Rivers people honestly judge for themselves.
The first issue that appears to have caused contention is the demolition of buildings around a primary school at Ayungibiri in Okrika Local Government Area. The incident occurred in 2010 when Governor Amaechi had received Her Excellency the wife of the President and she had spent a night in Port Harcourt. The next morning she headed to Okrika and the Governor out of regard for her person and position and because she is a Rivers daughter and our pride, decided to show her some of his work. She took offence when he showed her the primary school and mentioned that he would like to buy the adjoining properties to enable government demolish them and create grounds for the primary school. He was still explaining the rationale behind this and the children’s safety when Her Excellency grabbed the microphone and thoroughly berated him for daring to suggest or even give a thought to buying up the properties to create a better learning environment for the children. There were many witnesses at this event and there is a recording of the same, which thankfully, Mr. President is privy to. Governor Amaechi did not respond to this abuse but dutifully waited until the reception in the First Lady’s honour was over before leaving Okrika. The school in question stands today in Ayungibiri smack in the middle of those living houses. In deference to the first lady who comes from that local government area, NOT ONE HOUSE was brought down. For the sake of peace, the children lost.
The second issue is that of the oil fields in Soku. Soku is a riverine community in Rivers State. The people of Soku are Ijaws. The fight between Soku and neighbouring Nembe in Bayelsa is an old one. In October 2012, the Kalabari National Forum, an interest group of communities from the Kalabari area of Rivers State protested against what they termed “ the malicious and unconstitutional intent to balkanize and excise oil producing communities in Kalabari Kingdom of Rivers State and annexing them to be part of Bayelsa State.” Governor Amaechi’s electoral and constitutional mandate is to protect and secure the lives and properties of Rivers people and of Rivers State. As a Rivers son now privileged to defend his state; he must be able to rise to the occasion. He refused the stealing of Kalabari oil wells just as he defended the rights of the Andoni, the Etche and the Ndoki whose oil wells have also been ceded to neighbouring Akwa Ibom and Abia states. Refusing to bribe his way through, but preferring, instead, to the instrumentality of the courts in defending what is rightfully Rivers people’s commonwealth, he has become a pariah and erroneously tagged anti-Jonathan and anti-Ijaw. He defended the rights of the Kalabari people to oil on their land. He stood for them and not against them. He is not Ijaw by ethnic orientation but he is fighting an Ijaw cause similar to the cause for self-determination and resource control. This is his offence and one for which he also has come under persistent attack – for saying that the oil wells belong to Rivers State and that the National Boundary Commission should stop the travesty of justice of paying to one party monies that had been erstwhile held in an escrow account awaiting determination of its rightful owner by the courts of the nation.
The third issue for which Governor Amaechi has come under attack is the matter of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and the allegation that he was using the Forum to attack the presidency. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Governor Amaechi is one man out of 36 chief executive officers of their states. He does not have the wherewithal to order them around. As chairman of the NGF he can merely speak the governors’ minds after a decision has been reached. Why then is he being singled out for persecution? The decisions reached by the forum are the decisions Governor Amaechi announces. Isn’t this a question of killing the messenger rather than the message? The same issues, the NGF talked about were the same issues raised by the PDP Governors’ Forum. Underneath this accusation lies the bigger one that Governor Amaechi is using the forum to prepare to run in 2015 as vice president. But everyone knows that no one contests for vice-president anywhere in the world and there are very few presidential candidates that would pick a strong and prominent character as their vice-presidential candidate. Besides, there are more politically savvy ways to court a perceived opponent in a democracy.
Last week, a new dimension to this entire drama unfolded. An accusation that neither Governor Amaechi nor his wife condoled with the wife of the president on the loss of her foster mother. It was the most shocking and embarrassing statement any publicist could have sent out, especially in the face of a widely publicised visit to the family home of the first lady where she was indeed receiving visitors and where a register was opened for condolences. This new twist has come despite press statements of both Governor Amaechi and his wife Judith to that effect? There couldn’t have been a more classical case of giving a dog a bad name just to hang, nay, out-rightly kill it.
Governor Amaechi has endured much bashing because he has chosen to tread the path of peace. When the incident occurred in Okrika, he briefed his older brother, Mr. President. Thereafter, he worked assiduously for Mr. President’s election. Rivers State was not a burden at all to Mr. President all through the campaigns and preparations for the 2011 elections. Indeed, to date the Government and people of Rivers State continue to mourn our brothers and sisters who shed their blood at the Elekahia Stadium just to ensure Mr. President’s victory. The NGF was also a united front and gave support to Mr. President during that re-election bid.
Before the NGF elections he met with many leaders of the party explaining his position and his desire to contest. After the NGF elections, he sought audience with Mr. President and was denied access. When the Commissioner of Police hurled insults at him, he protested to the authorities. When there was a breakdown of law and order and insecurity loomed in the state he sought audience and met with the President and Commander-in-Chief. He has repeated at different times he holds the person and the office of the President in high regard. So, why has he been declared public enemy number one?
For me, the answer is simple. People are using the name and office of Mr. President to fight a proxy war. People who are determined to seize the soul of Rivers State and send us down the beggarly road of “ruler-centric” rather than “people-centric” government. People who fear that Governor Amaechi in office till 2015 may put paid to their attempt to get at the purse-strings of Rivers State and the draw-strings of the Brick house.
These are the people goading Mr. President on and feeding him with lies that have been allowed to fester for so long, that they are beginning to seem like the truth. People who shudder to think of the day there might indeed be peace between Mr. President and Governor Amaechi and, therefore, who would stop at nothing to foment trouble and continuously fan the embers of the furnace of hatred. Thus, the reason these people increase the tempo of the sabre-rattling of war each time the President and Governor Amaechi meet to forge a way forward. For them a resolution portends political demise and the end of their hopes. Peace means the exact opposite to their ambition. These people are those screaming to Mr. President “share the child, share the child”, because they hold no good intention for or claim to the child.
But Governor Amaechi is determined to finish this race well. Rivers people deserve to enjoy the benefits of the wealth that God has put in their soil. Free education, free healthcare, good infrastructure, new opportunities, human capital development and saving for future generations. Amaechi’s work is evident and that is why those who oppose him are panicky.
The problem is that in their panic, they are sowing the wind. For sowing the wind, the bible promises them the whirlwind in full measure.
As for Governor Amaechi, I think he knows this already, because it is his mantra: “Once has God spoken, twice I have heard this, that power belongs to God.”
Mrs Semenitari is the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications.
GoG: Nigerian, Ghanaian Navies Meet On Joint Operations
Against the backdrop of renewed piracy and hostage-taking incidents in the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria’s Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo and his Ghanaian counterpart, Rear Admiral Issah Adam Yakubu, have commenced a security engagement aimed at joint security initiatives to tackle the situation.
Speaking during the meeting held at Naval headquarters, Abuja, Vice Admiral Gambo said, “The Gulf of Guinea is currently bedevilled by the activities of criminal elements who take advantage of limited capability of the navies in the region to adequately secure the area.
“The threat posed by the activities of these criminal elements constitute a major challenge not only to the littoral states but equally undermines regional development and global trade.
“Notably, the trans-boundary and trans-national nature of maritime crime makes the security of the maritime domain a task beyond the capacity of any country acting alone.
“It is against this backdrop that this bilateral engagement was convened at the instance of the Heads of Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Republic of Ghana towards addressing the maritime security challenges within the region”.
Vice Admiral Gambo expressed belief that “the engagement would foster greater collaboration and burden sharing that is hinged on cooperative maritime security framework as envisioned in the 2013 Yaoundé Protocol to arrive at strategies that would help address the maritime insecurity for enhanced economic prosperity in the region”.
Declaring the technical session open, the CNS said, “In deliberations, please consider amongst others: maritime area of interest covering Zone E and integration of the capabilities of the countries in Zone E, emplacing a robust intelligence sharing mechanism and collaboration with international partners”.
On relations between both countries, Gambo said, “This good relation is equally manifest in the several interactions between the Nigerian Navy and Ghana Navy. I must not fail to mention the remarkable contributions of the Ghana Navy-CNS to manpower development during his tour of duty at the prestigious AFCSC, Jaji as a member of the Directing Staff. I have no doubt that this engagement would further strengthen the existing cordial bilateral relations between Nigeria and Ghana navies.
In his address, Chief of Naval Staff of Ghana, Rear Admiral Issah Yakubu, noted that he and his delegation were in Nigeria at the behest of President Nana Akufo Ado to engage the Nigerian Navy and come out with collective strategies to tackle insecurity which is in the ascendancy in recent times in the Gulf of Guinea.
“We hope our navies will buy into this engagement to improve security in the Gulf of Guinea. We know our big brother Nigeria has bigger capacity to chart the way forward”.
He disclosed that, “Since year 2020, the situation has bot been good in the Gulf of Guinea”, noting that “Last May, two Ghanian vessels were attacked and 10 persons were abducted with investigations still ongoing”.
Consequently, the Ghanian Navy Chief said, “We are proposing an ECOWAS naval task force and joint maritime security architecture to checkmate these threats, adding that this was done in the past successfully during ECOMOG operations without problems with inter-operability and doctrinal issues.
Furthermore, he proposed the setting up of a ‘transit corridors’ where ships from fellow West African countries can go to anchor for assistance and joint naval assets will conduct regular patrols especially for protection of commercial fishing vessels.
Wike Orders Destruction Of Criminal Hideouts In Rivers
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has ordered the destruction of all criminal hideouts in Ahoada, Elele, Eleme and Onne to prevent attempt to undermine security of the state.
The governor said criminals were already coming to terms with the reality that Rivers State was too hot for them to invade at will and detonate their foolish attacks on targeted security posts and personnel.
Wike, who made this assertion in a state broadcast, last Friday, disclosed that the state government has identified the hideouts, safe houses and secret places that provide both cover and comfort for the hoodlums to plan, execute and return to after operations.
“This was the reason we ordered the destruction of all the shanties and makeshift structures located along Elele to Ahoada expanse of the East–West Road to deny the criminals the opportunity to continue to undermine our security from these hideouts.
“We have equally decided to destroy all the shanties, illegal shops and mechanic sheds along the Eleme to Onne stretch of the East-West Road having discovered these places also as hideouts and operational bases for criminals and criminal activities in the state.
“Consequently, I hereby direct owners of such shanties and illegal structures along the Eleme – Onne axis of the East-West Road to vacate the area within two weeks from June 11, 2021, as the state government will go ahead to destroy these structures without any further notice.”
Wike said the government was not unmindful of the economic effect these measures would have or may have had on residents carrying out businesses in the affected areas.
He, however, stressed that government was merely discharging its constitutional responsibility to advance the collective security of all with no ethnic targets in mind or attachment to political sentiments.
He explained that the existing curfew in Rivers State will not last one day beyond necessary, and pleaded with all residents to endure the temporary inconveniences in the interest of the state and collective wellbeing of all.
“We will continue to take the war on criminality and insecurity to the den of the criminals and we will neither yield nor lower the tempo of our assault until they are comprehensively neutralized. As a matter of fact, they want us to prematurely terminate the state wide night time curfew in order for them to have the leeway to operate again and roll back the gains of the last few weeks.”
Wike said he has received reports about the excesses of the State Task Force on Illegal Trading and Parks, especially the alleged shooting of motorists, extortions and abuse of the human rights of citizens.
He assured that government would not hesitate to bring the full weight of the law on any member of the task force who crosses the boundaries of the law and rational behaviour.
The governor, who appealed to motorists and residents to be responsible road users by complying with the clear regulations against illegal trading, indiscriminate parking and irresponsible driving, noted that the situation where some motorists would have the effrontery to compete for traffic space with or even attempt to block his official vehicular convoy leaves much to be desired.
He has meanwhile, directed the management of the Rivers State Waste Management Authority to clear the state of filthiness within one week or be disbanded without any further notice.
Army Begins Shooting Exercises In Rivers
The Nigerian Army, 6 Division, has announced that it would commence its annual range classification exercise from yesterday to Sunday, June 27.
The division’s spokesman, Lt.-Col. Charles Ekeocha, said in a statement in Port Harcourt, that the exercise aimed at ascertaining the professional competence of troops on the use of firearms.
He said troops from the division and its affiliated formations and units would conduct the exercise at the Army Shooting Range in Igwuruta and Elele Barracks, both in Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state.
“The shooting exercise is a routine activity in the Nigerian Army which involves the firing of various calibre live ammunitions.
“Members of the public, especially residents of Igwuruta and Elele, as well as its environs, are advised to keep away from the general shooting area,” he stated.
The Army spokesman also advised the public not to panic over the movement of troops, military hardware and sound of gunshots.
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