The politics of Obasanjo’s visit to Rivers

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When Obasanjo visited Rivers state

BY DAPO AKINREFON
FORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo, ended his two-day working visit to Rivers State, during the week and gave a thumb up to the Rivers State governor, Mr Rotimi Amaechi for the projects initiated and executed by his administration.

While some analysts expressed surprise that Obasanjo and not President Goodluck Jonathan was invited to commission projects in the state, others argue that it is the governor’s discretion to invite anyone whom he pleases to carry out such functions.

Aside this, many hold the view that Obasanjo’s visit to Rivers state have implications.

One of such implications is the laying to rest of the k-leg issue where the former President proclaimed that the Supreme Court judgement resolved the K- leg issue.

Obasanjo Commissioning of Projects in PH

Obasanjo Commissioning of Projects in PH

Again, the visit again established Amaechi as an emerging national leader whose developmental strides, developmental projects and numerous achievements in office places on a pedestal far above his peers.

Furthermore, the visit and the many projects commissioned by Obasanjo again shows that the attacks against the Amaechi administration by its critics are largely unfounded and mostly to score cheap political points.

Obasanjo’s arrival

The PortHarcourt International airport came alive penultimate Monday as drummers were on ground to welcome a former president for the commissioning of projects in Rivers state.

Obasanjo’s jet, which touched down the airport at exactly 11:10 am, was welcome by Governor Amaechi, his wife Judith, the deputy governor, Engineer Tele Kuru, Senator Magnus Abe, members of the House of Representatives, members of the state executive council and traditional rulers from the state.

The road leading to the airport was lined up with people especially for the Ikwere local government area of the state who waved and cheered as the former president left for the project commissioning tour.

Obasanjo, accompanied by  Owo born business magnate, Otunba Johnson Fasawe and other aides, was clad in brown native attire.

At the GU Ake road, which was the first project commissioned, Obasanjo said, “we have great pleasure in commissioning this road to the benefit of all those who will make use of it.”

Next to be commissioned, was the Okporo road project, which links the East/West road and Aba road situated in Obio/Akpor local government area of the state. Other road projects commissioned by Chief Obasanjo were Elekahia Rumuomasi and the Ken Saro Wiwa roads in the state capital.

Being a farmer himself, Obasanjo commended the Songhai farm initiative situated on Bunu Tai, off Bunu Afam road in Tai local government area of the state.

The first day of his visit also afforded him to commission the Ambassador Nne Kurubo Model  secondary school in Ebubu Eleme; Model Primary school in Ban-Ogoi and the Afam power station as well as the Akpajo health centre.

On the second day of his visit, Obasanjo accompanied by the governor was led to commission a football field located along Niger/Bende street. From there, he proceeded to commission St Andrew’s primary school, the Professor Kelsy Harrison hospital, Emenike street both in Mile 1 at Diobu and the Buguma fish farm in Asari-Toru local government area.

APC leaders absent

It was, however, a surprise that leaders from the All Progressives Congress, APC, were conspicuously absent during Obasanjo’s visit.

The Chief Press secretary to the governor, Mr David Iyofor explained that it was not deliberate that the APC, including General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and its interim national chairman, Chief Bisi Akande among other chieftains, were left out of the scene.

Iyofor said the project commissioning was in segments, explaining further that subsequent ones will involve APC leaders.

Why I invited Obasanjo-Amaechi

The Rivers state governor, told the audience at the Ambassador Nne  Krubo Model Secondary School, Ebubu community, Eleme Local Government Area, Rivers state, that previous attempts to invite Obasanjo to the state, had proved abortive.

He appreciated the former military head of state for taking time out of his very busy schedule to come to the state saying, “let me thank you sir for accepting to come, even at my age, I will not be able to meet your schedule, you are permanently in the air.

I tried to bring you last year but it was impossible, but this year, I fought extremely hard. Let me tell you what my cabinet said, they said it will repair the k- leg.

I told them that I know baba, if he is not satisfied, he will damage the k-leg further. Don’t you ever remind baba about the k-leg, but I said the only reason I am pushing baba to come here is that we share few friends most people do not know about. They said any time they try to convince baba that we are working, baba will say ‘I don’t know because I have never been there’. “

Speaking further, he said “So I said the best thing for me to do is to bring baba here, to see for himself and if you know baba very well, I am a smaller version of baba. So, if we are not doing well, baba will say it well and he will tell me in the car that ‘Amaechi, I am not impressed’. If you give him microphone, he will say it in the open.”

Aside the need to bring Obasanjo to see things himself, he said the visit was another avenue to dissuade the views of critics of his administration.

According to him, “ I told my cabinet that we will achieve two things: the first is to show case to baba and see whether he is convinced that we have done anything at all. The second is to also showcase to the public that these young politicians who are running around, that you can refer to them that they are my boys, even though I do not like having boys.”

He also appealed to the former president to criticize him where necessary and commend his administration, where appropriate.

Amaechi said “So, baba, we are grateful that you agreed to come and we think that wherever you are not impressed, tell the public.

And if you are satisfied, do the same by telling the public. We believe in your leadership and we hope that the Nigeria we know, they will say things after your old age when the God we worship must have called you.  We thank you for coming and we wish you God’s blessings.”

Obasanjo and the k-leg issue

When it was time for the visitor to give his remarks, Obasanjo broke protocol and did an acrobat unto the platform, as the audience applauded and watched in amazement.

In an attempt to clear the air on why he stopped Amaechi, the former president jokingly asserted that his (Amaechi’s) case had a k-leg.

It will be recalled that it was Obasanjo that prevented Amaechi from emerging as PDP candidate in the April 2007 general elections, a situation which led the latter to seek redress in the law courts.

The former President was quick to point out that he had no regret over his decision to stop Governor Amaechi from contesting as the governorship flag bearer of the PDP then.

He said he acted based on reports available to him then.

He said: “I believe I took a decision I believed was right. When I took it, I had no apology. I fast and pray to take decisions on important issues. When I have something that requires action, it must be taken, otherwise I am not a worthy leader. A report came on Amaechi which indicated that there were some issues and I said yes, there are some issues, going by the report.”

He said he was not happy with the court verdict which declared Amaechi winner of the election since he did not physically participate in the exercise.

He said he found the judgment awkward in the sense that, “how can a man who had not contested an election, was not voted for, be declared winner? I laugh about it, but kept quiet.”

He said the issues Amaechi had with his candidature were straightened by the judgment of the Supreme Court.

“He took it to the higher court and at the Supreme Court, he won and that was the end. As far as I am concerned, the issues have been straightened out.”

Obasanjo challenged those who are not satisfied with the apex court’s verdict to take their case to God.

To strengthen the frotsy relationship between Amaechi and his predecessor, Dr Peter Odili, he appealed to Amaechi not to blame his predecessor, former Governor Peter Odili, for his failure to emerge the PDP flag bearer in the April 2007 election, saying  that he (Obasanjo) should be held responsible for that action.

“I phoned Amaechi not to take anything against his predecessor. Hold me responsible for whatever decision taken against you, not your predecessor,” he said.

“When you invited me, many people said I should not come. They said for security. There is nothing more dangerous than fear.  At my age what should I fear even if it is death?”

Turning to the governor, he said “If I die tomorrow, send a cow for my funeral. They told me that one road named after me was cancelled by you (Amaechi). Why should I come, they asked me? If anybody named anything after me, good luck to him. I am not working for Nigerians to name roads after me. I want my name to be in the minds and heart of people of the world, not necessarily on roads. If you invite me and I didn’t come because of the road that was cancelled, then I don’t deserve to be honoured, I will be petty,” he said.

Gala nite

Having gone round to commission projects initiated by the Amaechi administration, Obasanjo was hosted to a gala nite.

After settling down, the governor expressed his displeasure at the alleged attempt by the federal government to stifle development in the state.

He told Obasanjo that “the reason why we invited you to Rivers state is because some young boys, who by the grace of God, have been appointed to Abuja, just sit down and assume the role of God and of how they made us governor. They did not talk about corruption. Luckily, of all criticisms against me, I am yet to see somebody who is yet to accuse us of being corrupt. What we have done is to show you how we have spent our money. The only thing remaining for the monorail to start running is the terminal and once the terminal is roofed, the trains will start to work and we will put our enemies to shame.”

Furthermore, he asked why the people of the state were treated in such manner saying “the people are asking what has this government done for us and when I say this government, I am talking about the government at the national level. That is the problem. I know you see the president regularly and I know you talk to the president regularly. Let me on behalf of the Rivers state people send this message across to the president through you that the following things have happened to us for just voting for Mr President. We have the syringe factory, and we signed an agreement with the federal government that it will buy 500 million syringes. The president and the Minister for Health agreed but few months after, they refused to sign. What was their reason for not signing it, they said Amaechi is fighting the president? Am I Rivers state? My name is Amaechi and I am the governor of Rivers state. By 2015, I will no longer be the governor. If the president allows that factory to go on, today, Rivers people would have benefited from it. People are dying for using the wrong syringes. We said let us save Nigeria by bringing a syringe factory, today our goods are at the seaports because we cannot get the president to sign the paper. That is one sin we committed for voting for Mr President.”

Appealing to the former president to intervene in the imbroglio, he said, ”Baba you see Mr President and that is why we want you to convey the message. Mr President encouraged us to buy two helicopters for surveillance, we have paid $30 million for those helicopters but for two years, they are packed in the USA and we are paying demurrage. Why are they not inside Nigeria? They have refused to allow it come in because it is for Rivers people. We would have used it for something else. If Mr President knew he was not going to allow us to bring it in, he should have told us to use our money for something else. We would have built schools, we would have built health centers and we would have improved on the lifestyle of our people.

“Baba, water borne diseases are killing our people. Tell Mr President that I have spoken with the world bank and they have agreed to release the money. The Minister of Finance, her name is Mrs Okonjo Iweala of international repute has refused to sign a document that will enable the release money for them to begin the construction of pipe borne water for Rivers people. So many persons are dying everyday because of water-borne diseases, they do not care for the lives of people.

“I just want to pass this message to you because I know you see him regularly but I do not see him, it is nearly a year since I got to the villa to see Mr President. So, I assume that as a former president, you see him and when you go, tell him that this message is from the governor of Rivers state and the Rivers people to our dear president. He comes from the South South and Rivers state is in the South South, baba welcome.”

Obasanjo’s response

When it was time for him to respond, Obasanjo disappointed the governor, the audience and members of the press present.

It was the belief of all present that a political statement would be made where Obasanjo would lampoon the federal government under the leadership of President Jonathan.

Instead, he said “I have said it earlier that I am here not to politick, I am here not to receive a message, I am here not deliver a message, I am here to see development. I am here to hear development, I am here to talk development.”

He added that “I have come with my delegates, I have heard, I have seen and I have come to declare. Seeing is believing and I what I see, I believe and what I believe, I will talk about. What we have seen in the rural areas of the state, the infrastructure is worth believing and is worth declaring. On the basis of that I will just say this, that you should not worry about people who do not like you as much as you will want them to like you, you should worry about your conscience and your God and the people who voted for you.”

He urged the governor not be perturbed by the criticism that would come his way but said, “If you are doing what your conscience says is right for the people of Rivers state, keep on doing it. Know that there is God who, if you do not satisfy him, has the final judgment. So, do not worry about those who cannot kill the soul, they can kill the body if they like or those who will try and pull you down, worry about God and the people you are voted to serve and your conscience.

“If people oppose you, leave them in the court of God, provided you are doing the right thing. Let us have politics with principles, love and not politics with bitterness. All those messages you want to send me, take it and deliver them yourself. I really thank you all for honoring me, we have been enthusiastically received, we have seen and we have been seen and it was a great day”, he said.

 

Commends monorail project

Having completed his two day visit to the Garden City, Journalists approached Obasanjo to get his verdict on the Amaechi administration.

Commenting on the monorail project, which has been widely criticized by opponents, he said “anything that you are doing and there is no opposition, you should take a second look at it. The Ivory tower, which is a land mark monument for the French, when it was being built, some people said the man who built it should be killed. All good things must have some opposition. That is what I told the governor on Monday that to thyself and to thy people, be true, do not mind what the opposition says because too many people may not know what it takes and how it takes, but when they come to know, they will say well done.”

Confessing his ignorance of the monorail project, he said “ I did not know there was something of that magnitude to that extent. But when I saw it, I know that the only state that can do that now with the deficit of power that we have now is PortHarcourt because the state generates over 700 mega watts and it can dedicate 20 mega watts to that mono rail. There is no other state that can do that. So, that is my own assessment.”

With the above words, Obasanjo ended his two day visit to Rivers state.

 

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