By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State yesterday said he is remaining in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP affirming that purveyors of his desperation for higher office had no right to bring down the country because of their assumptions.
Speaking on a BBC television interview, Hardtalk, Amaechi asserted that problems between him and the president were essentially fanned by those in the presidency bent on profiting from a crisis.
In the 25-minute interview anchored by Shaun Ley, Amaechi painted a triangle of insecurity, poverty and unemployment as the major problems of the country which the political class must address. He said the qualification of leadership must not be ethnicised as he called for a visionary leader.
While pleading for the speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB as a way of addressing decreasing investment by multinational oil corporations, Amaechi nevertheless called for the abrogation of the office of minister of petroleum or reduction of the powers of the minister under the PIB.
Amaechi also restated his opposition to the administration’s amnesty programme which he said partially rewards criminality and has fanned the embers of criminality in other parts of the country.
Challenged that his focus has been on ascending to higher office of vice-president, he said: “That has not been my focus. My focus has been mainly on developments. We have disagreements on policies, this is the transition period, we have disagreements on the issue of transition and there are a lot of assumptions here and there by different persons about what they think or assume my ambitions are.”
“Let us assume that my ambition exists, nobody has the right to bring down the state because my ambition exists. First and foremost everybody should allow 2015 for 2015 is a bit too early.”
Charging stakeholders to allow the president do his job of presiding over the country, the governor said:
“I want everybody to allow Mr. president to preside over the country for which he has been elected and I support that and I want everybody to allow Mr. President to preside over the country for the interest of the country.”
Challenged that he had raised charges of impunity against the president in the past, he sharply drew back saying:
“I didn’t say the president, I said the people around him.”
When asked whether he was told not to run against Governor Jonah Jang who the interviewer described as the oldest politician in the NGF, Amaechi replied:
”Nobody told me not to run. Nobody told me not to run.” But on whether he informed the president he was going to run for the NGF chair, he said:
”There is no law that requires me to tell him that I am going to run.
I didn’t need to. If the journalists in Britain have an association and you belong to the association would the prime minister tell you to run or not to run for the public office?” he asked.
“That is the freedom we are looking for in the Nigeria Governors Forum, I didn’t need to go to the president and say Mr. President I want to run for the office of the chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum. I didn’t need to do that.
“And I didn’t do that and he in turn didn’t call me to say don’t run, ‘I heard you are going to run.’ So, I ran and I didn’t see the president on the ballot. The person I saw on the ballot was Jonah Jang.”
Challenged on the outcome of the vote and on whether he beat Jang, he quipped: ”I didn’t say that I beat him, the result was clear.”
On his continuing membership of the PDP and on whether he would leave the PDP, Amaechi affirmed: ”I am going no where. We will all be in PDP.”
Told that he was sticking to PDP because the party is the country’s dominant party and the only platform to the presidency or other high office, he is accused of aspiring to, he said: ”Let’s assume that I remain in PDP and that I am running for the office of vice-president, will my leaving PDP not enhance that ambition?
“Don’t forget that it is assumed that the president wants to run in PDP and if PDP wants him to run and I remain in PDP, it then means that I have no ambition.
“Or those who are assuming that I have ambition would be making a lot of mistakes. Because the place to pursue that ambition would be on an alternative party but the reason for remaining in PDP is because nobody can chase me out of PDP. I am a member of PDP and I love to be a member of PDP.”
Amaechi blamed the tension in the country on 2015 politics.
“The point is that we are getting close to transition and politics is one of the greatest businesses in Nigeria and a lot of those whose interests appear to be threatened have come up now to pursue their very private interests and as governor of Rivers State my focus is not on that.
“My focus is to pursue the goals for which I have been elected.”
On the PIB, he said:
“America produces oil but they have no minister for petroleum, if you look at the PIB what we are saying is that either the power of the minister should either be reduced or that there is no need for a minister. Privatize the oil industry so that people can do their business and pay the government for the resources they need to pay.”
While expressing his rejection of the amnesty programme which he said rewards and inspires criminality, he said the progamme was also not coordinated with some other welfare schemes directed at the Niger Delta region.
“I have never supported amnesty, the whole country knows that. My position about the amnesty is I have always believed that when criminals commit crime they should be prosecuted and my position is that if you don’t prosecute them, then you will have others in other regions asking for amnesty, and right now you know there are others asking for amnesty.”
While he admitted that the amnesty programme helped to curb criminality in the region, he added that social policing and physical policing introduced by his administration had curbed criminality before the advent of the amnesty programme.
“Instead of amnesty enforce law and order, once you curb impunity, criminals will know that they can’t commit crime anyhow. It is a social welfare programme that is not sustainable. What is sustainable is a programme that introduces income earning, amnesty, yes it has introduced some pilots, but it is not enough.”
… as court halts PDP’s convention
BY Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—An Abuja High Court at Apo, yesterday, aborted plans by Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to organise a convention for the purpose of electing its national officers.
The court, in a ruling it delivered yesterday, restrained the party from carrying out any action with a view to filling vacancies in its national structure, pending the hearing and determination of a suit filed against it by three aggrieved members.
Dismissing a preliminary objection that sought to terminate further hearing on the suit brought against the party by Abba Yale, Yahaya Sule and Bashir Maidugu, Justice Suleiman Belgore accused PDP of deliberately attempting to usurp the powers of the court by fixing a date to hold its national convention despite being aware that a case bordering on such subject matter was pending before the court.
The court’s decision is coming barely 24 hours after the national chairman of PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, inaugurated the Professor Jerry Gana-led Special National Convention Planning Committee, which had already agreed to conduct South-West congress and mini convention of the party on August 24 and 31, respectively.
However, Justice Belgore, visibly irked by the action of the party, yesterday, warned that no such event should take place until the court makes its final pronouncement on the case before it.
He said: “Evidently, the defendants have taken some steps to pre-empt this court by constituting a committee to organise and conduct election into its vacant offices, but can they do that when the matter is still pending in court? My answer is in the negative.
“Such action was a deliberate attempt to foist on the court a fait-accompli capable of rendering any decision this court will eventually take on the matter nugatory.
“Parties, who have submitted to the jurisdiction of the court, have a duty not to take any action to make nonsense of the final decision of the court. It was recklessness of some high degree for PDP to have sworn into action to do certain things that have a direct effect to the case before the court.”
Consequently, he ordered that “PDP and its agents or any group of persons acting on its behalf are hereby restrained from convoking, convening or holding any convention, special or ordinary, for the purpose of electing its national officers for any office pending the hearing and determination of the suit before this court.”
Meanwhile, National Chairman of PDP, Tukur, yesterday, brought an application wherein he sought to be joined as an interested party in the suit.
Tukur, through his lawyer, Mr. R. Oluyode, in a 13-paragraph affidavit and a written address, successfully persuaded the court to grant his joinder application, and was eventually joined as the 2nd defendant in the matter.
The plaintiffs had through their lawyer, Mr. Jubril Okutekpa (SAN), sought for an order of interlocutory injunction to restrain the National Chairman of PDP, Tukur and other officers of the party from holding the scheduled “special convention,” which date they said was announced by a committee led by former Minister of Information, Prof. Gana.
They further urged the court to set aside or nullify all steps and processes that led to the appointment of all the national officers of the party.
However, shortly after the matter was slated for hearing, 17 national officers of the party listed as 2nd to 18th defendants, voluntarily resigned from office and their names were accordingly expunged from the case.