BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR
TUESDAY March 15 was a special day in the ongoing electioneering campaigns in Rivers State. It was a day that Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took the battle to Okrika Local Council- the homestead of his main challenger, Dr. Abiye Sekibo of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Not to be outdone, an electoral battle- ready Sekibo also retaliated by taking his campaigns to Port-Harcourt, Amaechi’s seat of power.
The political face-off presented an interesting scenario. Convoys of both combatants by-passed themselves twice without any untoward incident.
Amaechi’s team, which left for Okrika as early as 8 a.m by-passed Sekibo’s team, which was headed on the opposite direction for Port Harcourt, the State Capital. A reverse situation recurred in the evening when the teams returned to their bases.
However, Amaechi took an extra step to outshine his opponent. He got the NTA and AIT to cover his rally live as opposed to the ACN rally in the Oil City. Amaechi said he did so to show that he was more popular in Okrika than Sekibo and to also show that he could pull crowd in Okrika land.
Indeed, every blade of grass at the National School field, Okrika venue of the rally was covered by the mammoth crowd that came from all parts of Okrika land and adjoining areas for the event.
Notable personalities and statesmen who came to identify with Amaechi at the occasion included former Governor of old Rivers State, Chief Rufus Ada George, Deputy Governor tele Ikuru, rtd Rear Admiral Austin Fingesi, Senator George T. Sekibo (PDP Rivers East Senatorial Candidate), Mrs Linda Somiari Stewart (Member Rivers State House of Assembly), Alubokiki Gilbert Fiberesima (Okrika LGA PDP chairman), Mrs. Ibim Seminitari (Rivers Information Commissioner), Hon. James Aduko (Okrika LGA chairman), Hon. Bright Gogo Tamuno (PDP House of Reps candidate, Okrika/Ogu Bolo), Rev. Belemi Okpokiri (PDP House of Assembly candidate), Dr. Sampson Parker (Health Commissioner), Chief G.U Ake (Rivers PDP chairrman) and Chief Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike (Chief of Staff to Amaechi and director-general, Amaechi campaign organisation) among others.
Amaechi started the rally with a visit to the Amanayanbo of Ogoloma, who thanked him for the projects and development he brought to Okrika and prayed that Amaechi “will stay in Government House and do more work.”
Thereafter, Amaechi was entertained at the beach side to a display of canoe war regatta. After which the stage was set for the colourful rally at which a host of people and groups- Igbo association, Ijaw, Kalabari, and other ethnic nationalities blazed the blazing sun, to show their support for the governor.
Speaker after speaker at the rally praised Amaechi for his achievements as governor in the last three and a half years, distribution of dividends of democracy to all parts of the state and stressed that he should be re-elected.
Speaking, Okrika Local Government Chairman, James Aduko welcomed the governor and the State PDP leadership to the council area.
He described the campaign rally as a demonstration of Amaechi’s humility, adding that in-spite of the numerous projectsthe governor had executed he still deemed it necessary to present himself for accountability before his followers.
Chief Rufus Ada George, an Okrika man, said he was backing Amaechi because of his hard work, humility and honesty. According to him, of the three leading guber candidates, whom he said were his political sons, only Amaechi considered him worthy for consultation and information.
They also enumerated the projects the governor did in Okrika including 14 model primary schools, 10 well-furnished health centres, construction of a ring road, employment creation and ensuring peace and security in Okrika among others.
Amaechi seeks Sekibo’s Ward 4 as birthday gift
Speaking to the mammoth crowd, the Governor urged the people of Okrika, to deliver Ward 4, Abiye Sekibo’s ward, to him as a gift to mark his birthday on May 272011, which he promised to celebrate in Okrika if his request was met.
Amaechi told the crowd of supporters and party faithful, that his political story would be incomplete without the mention of Okrika, because he received his first political appointment from an Okrika man.
“I have heard them say that I do not like Okrika people, but if you are a politician, play back to 1987 when I left the university, my first exposure to government was through Chief Rufus Ada-George, it was in a meeting with him that I met Dr. Peter Odili, so you cannot write my political story without writing about Okrika” he disclosed.
He urged the people to vote for him, as it was pay-back time, since he once risked his life for Chief Ada-George, during the latter’s campaign.
“I was thoroughly beaten up in Isiokpo. Ikwerre people beat me up because of an Okrika man. To survive, I jumped into a moving trailer that took me to Elele, it was at Elele that I was rescued, and my only sin was that I was supporting an Okrika man for governor. So why would I now hate the same people that I risked my life for?” Amaechi asked.
Comparing the security situation of the LGA seven years ago with its current condition, Amaechi disclosed that he was very sad when the people of Okrika were being killed by their own brothers.
“Truly, I was extremely angry, I was not just sad when Okrika young men were being killed in Okrika town. I complained to the former governor that Okrika people were being killed in their home, I told him that one cannot replace lives, you can tear my shirt and buy a new one for me, but the day that you kill me, you have completely exterminated me from this world.
“We can play politics, we can win election, but we should not win election with people’s lives, we should rather keep people alive and lose election,” he said.
The governor said that when it became obvious that his entreaties were falling on deaf ears, he made up his mind to go and develop his own LGA, since his colleagues did not want to develop their areas. “I told my wife then that I would concentrate on my constituency, and develop it since others were not ready to develop their own, I went to the governor and brought developmental projects to my people” he said.
The governor also picked holes in allegations that he only did 30 per cent of some of the projects he commissioned in Okrika. “I have done Okrika Ring Road and they said they had done 70 per cent before I came. The same people who are claiming 70 per cent were the contractors, I never cancelled the contract, all I did was expand it from less than three kilometres to four kilometres with more bridges. And your own son said I should not have expanded it. Today, that your son and others are driving on that road.”
He continued: “The struggle for the governorship of Rivers State most times is because of poverty. The moment politicians begin to get poor, they start looking for avenues. We do not want people to tamper with our resources; we want those who will equitably distribute these resources to our people.”
If elected, Amaechi promised that his administration in the next four years would focus on Infrastructure and Agriculture to create employment, as well as capacity building. “The PDP government will consolidate on what we have to improve the lives of Okrika people and all other lives of Rivers people,” he said.
He further urged the people to disregard threats by some militants and come out to vote during the polls and thereafter protect their votes by staying behind through the counting of votes to collation of results and promised to provide security.
“There is a difference between government and small teams called militants; and I call them criminals because militants have ideology and they fight for the people. Militants don’t kill their people, militants don’t kidnap their people. There is a difference between Amaechi, who is PDP Governorship Candidate and Amaechi, who is the governor of Rivers State and whose tenure will expire on May 29. That Amaechi who is governor, has the responsibility of protecting every life whether from Rivers State or not but inside the state, and I will discharge responsibly.”