By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Jimitota Onoyume and Wole Mosadomi
LAGOS—The political forces against Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State cut sharper, yesterday, after 27 lawmakers loyal to the governor out of 32 in the State House of Assembly were suspended by the new leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PPD in the state. Their seats were immediately declared vacant.
The action of the Felix Obuah led faction of the party opposed to the governor was immediately rebuffed by the House leader, Hon. Chidi Floyd who decried the action of the new PDP executive as lawless and part of a set agenda directed at destabilizing the state.
The pressure against Amaechi nonetheless, Chairman of the Northern States Governors Forum, Dr. Babangida Aliyu yesterday said attempts to clip the wings of the nation’s governors would be counterproductive as he said that those fighting the governors would come begging in 2015. Aliyu spoke while receiving secretaries of the PDP in the 19 Northern states. It was not clear if he had knowledge of the latest perceived moves against Amaechi who is chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF.
The National Secretariat of the party was yet to be communicated on the development in Rivers State last night just as there were mixed indications of a court action allegedly instituted by some elements in the House to stop Obuah from his action.
Obuah, who was penultimate week confirmed by the National Secretariat of the party as the new state chairman of the party announced the suspension of the lawmakers at a press briefing at the state secretariat of the party in Port Harcourt. He also declared the seats of the 27 lawmakers vacant.
The latest development follows last Saturday’s ban by federal authorities on the official aircraft of the Rivers State government from flying in the country.
Why they were suspended — Obuah
Obuah, who was flanked by other executive members of his party, said the suspension followed an earlier ultimatum handed the lawmakers to reverse the suspension slammed on the elected Chairman, Vice Chairman and 17 councillors of the Obio Akpor Local Government Area last week.
“Furthermore, you will recall that on April 22, 2013, the party issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the Rivers State House of Assembly to rescind the order on the dissolution of Obio Akpor Council, which was flagrantly disobeyed. The party hereby, suspends all the 27 members of the House of Assembly that carried out such action while their matter is referred to Disciplinary Committee for further action.”
When reminded that those suspended had earlier vowed not to accord recognition to his leadership, Obuah, said he remained the authentic chairman of the party in the state.
It will be recalled that those suspended had in a statement pledged their loyalty to deposed Chairman of the party, Chief Godspower Ake.
The leadership of Ake was sacked by an Abuja High court judgment recently, a verdict the Ake-led structure had appealed. The lawmakers had described the court judgment that sacked the Ake-led leadership as a travesty of justice.
Those suspended by the party are the Speaker of the House, Mr Amachree Otelemaba, Asari Toru I; Mr Augustine Paul, Abua/Odua; Ewor Nname, Ahoada East I; Nwuche Ibiso, Ahoada East II, Deputy Leader; Dr Chigbo Sam Eligwe, Ahoada West.
Others are Brown Onari, Akuku Toru I; Mr Anabaraba Benibo, Akuku Toru 2; Ikuinyi Owaji Ibani, Whip, Andoni; Horsfall Godstimes, Asaritoru 2; Aye Atamah, Bonny; Tonye Ezekiel, Degema; Chidi Lyold, Leader Emohua; Amadi Victor, Etche 1; Golden Chioma, Etche 2; Barikor Innocent, Gokana; Wanjoku Azubike, Ikwerre; Legborsi Nwidadah, Khana 1; Leyii Kwanee, Deputy Speaker Khana 2; Gift Nwokocha, ONELGA 1; Lucky Odili, ONELGA 2; Belema Okpokiri, Okrika; Miller Anderson, Opobo/Nkoro; Victoria Nyeche, PHALGA 1; Irene Inimgba, Deputy Whip, PHALGA 11 and Chief Felicia Taneh, TA I.
The party also called on Governor Chibuike Amaechi to explain alleged issues over the ownership of the Bombardier aircraft that was recently grounded. According to Obuah, the aircraft allegedly belonged to Bank of Utah.
“From the records made available to us and the statements credited to the acting Director General of Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Joyce Nkemakolam, the Bombardier B.D 700 global express aircraft with registration number RS purportedly bought by the Rivers State Government was false as its registration showed that it is owned by the Bank of Utah trustee of Salt lake city, Utah, United States of America .
“The government of Rivers State led by Amaechi owes a public explanation to the entire people of Rivers State and PDP in particular as to the true owners of Bombardier BD, 700. He should also explain the identity and the role played by the Bank of Utah of USA in the purchase of the aircraft and the identity of the owners of the said company should be unveiled.”
Reacting to the development yesterday, Hon. Floyd, the Majority Leader of the House told Vanguard on telephone that Obuah’s action was subjudice and an act of lawlessness.
“Unfortunately for them we already have an order of the High Court when we got information from some of their so-called supporters that this was what they were up to and this is the next thing in the act because what they are doing is melodrama, it is Act two.
“Once we got hint of that we immediately approached the court for an interim order restraining them from taking such an action. The order of the court came this morning and apparently when they got wind of the matter in court, they now rushed to dish out their own suspension, so the matter is already subjudice. The matter has been adjoined to the May 5,” he added.
Noting that the action was a continuation of the plot against the peace of the party in the state, he said:
“This is also to call on Nigerians that this is the real script that has been handed down to them. This is a group of young men who can get judgment without buying forms (PDP congress forms), so you don’t expect them to play by the rules, this is a group of lawless people.”
Chief Olisa Metuh, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP when contacted last night, said the party was yet to receive news of the development.
“There is always a channel of communication and they have not been communicated and the NWC is not aware of such a development.”
Nobody can clip wings of govs — Aliyu
Receiving state secretaries of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP) from the 19 Northern states in his office in Minna, yesterday, Governor Aliyu said the efforts to clip the wings of the governors would instead nudge them to do more for their people just as he affirmed that the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF is not being used to champion the presidential aspiration of any governor.
“Nobody can clip the wings of the governors. At the party, presidential or other levels, anybody that thinks he can clip the wings of a governor is wasting his time,” the Niger State governor said.
”Instead of clipping, we must strengthen the governors to be able to produce more because we use the forum to discuss who has done what and try to compare notes and encourage others to do more from the excellent jobs where necessary and also learn not to commit the same mistake where any governor has done wrong in the implementation stages since we have seen what such governor or governors have done,” Dr. Aliyu explained.
According to him, “we don’t discuss who will be what. We hear a lot of noise on who wants to be president, vice president e.t.c but that is the work of God. However, we must continue to talk the truth and that is the only way for Nigeria to progress because if we keep quiet, we will run into a lot of problems.”
The governor pointed out that the desire or move to clip the wings of the governors has led to a lot of crisis in the PDP and advised on the need to be cautious for the future of the party.
“Many of the crises of my party today are based on the desire to clip the wings of the governors and whether you call a governor the leader of the party or not and whether it is there in the constitution of the party or not, the governor is still the leader of the party because the party produced the governor and when there is a symbiotic relationship with the government of the party, the party will be as strong as the government it produced,” the governor remarked.
He said people should not forget so soon how the governors’ strength were used to attain political heights during elections and that if their wings are to be clipped now, they would still be strong factors in the 2015 presidential election.
“We know what happened during our congresses; we know what we had to do to produce leadership of the party at the national level and how the governors were used. How will it be after that if they now want to clip their wings? There will be 2015 and if you clip their wings now, you will be clipping your own wings and not the governors’ wings,” Gov. Aliyu declared.
Governor Aliyu also reiterated his support for the merger of the major opposition political parties into the All Progressive Congress, APC, saying that the evolving party should not be regarded as an enemy but as a friend of the PDP.
“We should even embrace APC so that we don’t fight many political parties but fight only one.”