BY JIMITOTA ONYUME
THE battle between Governor Chibuike Amaechi and his erstwhile Chief of Staff, who is now the Minister of State for Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike, over who controls Rivers State politics, has continued to assume different dimensions. The two main actors in the battle were principal actors during the time of former governor of the state, Dr Peter Odili.
Amaechi was Special Adviser to Odili when the latter was deputy governor in the old Rivers State under the tenure of former Governor Rufus Ada George.
When Odili emerged the governor of the present Rivers State, he sponsored Amaechi to the state House of Assembly where he rose to become two-time Speaker. As Speaker, Amaechi was largely perceived as a stabilising factor for the Odili administration because there was hardly any friction between the House and the executive arm.
On his part, Wike was a two-time Chairman of Obio Akpor local government area when Odili was governor. He climbed to the position of National Chairman, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON.
Also, the deposed chairman of the Rivers State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Mr Godspower Ake, was National Vice Chairman, South South and Special Adviser to Odili while Mr Felix Obuah, aka Go Round, who recently secured an Abuja High Court judgement that ousted Ake and installed him as Chairman of the state PDP, was Chairman, Ogba Egbema Ndoni local government area, ONELGA.
Although the Odili political structure started caving in at the twilight of his last term in office, hardly did any keen political observer imagine that the remnants of the empire would engage in a major battle of this nature.
Many are asking if the former governor is indifferent to the war by his boys. In the last three weeks, the battle has dominated discourse in several quarters.
There have been claims and counter claims over the leadership of the PDP in Rivers State. Although until the Abuja High Court judgment is vacated, Obua remains the chairman of the PDP in the state,. this means that the party is in firm grip of Wike. But groups loyal to Amaechi have consistently pledged their loyalty to Ake as their Chairman.
Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Otelemaba Amachree, told newsmen, sometime ago, that his leadership of the House would continue to accord recognition to Ake as the Rivers PDP Chairman, a stand the state chapter of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON, also took.
Though they all conceded to the effort already in court to reverse the Abuja High Court verdict which installed Obuah as Chairman, they have continued to fault the judgment, describing it as a travesty of justice. ALGON dragged its position on the judgment further when it said it was part of a grand design to create an atmosphere that would lead to a declaration of a state of emergency in the state.
Mayor of Port Harcourt, Chimbuko Akarolo, who read an address by the local government chairmen issued under the aegis of ALGON, Rivers State chapter, said the court verdict was part of a grand design by a group of individuals to rupture the peace in the state.
The Chairmen alleged a plot to create an environment that would warrant declaration of a state of emergency with a view to illegally remove Amaechi as governor.
In an address signed by the trio of Chimbuko Akarolo, Chairman of the body / Mayor of Port Harcourt; Edward Pepple, Publicity Secretary/Chairman, Bonny local government; and Ojukaye Flag-Amakiri, Chairman, Asaritoru local government/ Secretary of the group, they opined that the alleged boundary dispute between the state and its Bayelsa counterpart was also part of the scheme to instigate declaration of emergency rule in the state.
Amaechi, who also flayed the Abuja court verdict, called for urgent intervention of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Murktar, and viewed the judgment as a miscarriage of justice.
The governor, who spoke through his deputy, Engr Tele Ikiru, at Government House, Port Harcourt when thousands of Rivers people paid him a solidarity visit, said it was shocking that the court declared Obuah and Mr. Ibibia Opuene Walter who were allegedly not part of the PDP congress that elected the Chairman and Secretary respectively of the state chapter.
Continuing, he said the action of the court amounted to the desecration of the temple of justice.
The governor appealed to members of the party in the state to be law abiding.
“I think as a nation one area we should not allow mud to go into is the judiciary. As a nation one area we should not allow to become a thing of play is the judiciary. The temple of justice has been desecrated. Nigeria arise, Nigeria arise. If we do not rise, we will lose our country. As a nation, any day we allow the temple of justice to be desecrated we’ll lose our country”, he said.
“Any day a poor man cannot go to the court and state his case and get justice that country is lost”.
The heat generated by the sack of the Ake-led PDP was still on when the Rivers House of Assembly suspended the Chairman, his vice and the seventeen councilors of Obio Akpor local government area over allegations of abuse of public funds and breach of security. Wike had been Chairman of the local government. The action of the House triggered a reaction from the state chapter of the PDP loyal to the Minister of State.
The state Chairman of the PDP, Obuah, handed the state lawmakers 48 hours to rescind the suspension or face sanction from the party. At the expiration of the ultimatum, the PDP announced the suspension of 27 members of the House. They included the Speaker and all other principal members of the House.
Meantime, Leader of the House, Hon Chidi Lloyd, said the suspension was an action in nullity because the members earlier secured an injunction from the High Court of Rivers State restraining the party and its executives from carrying out such action.
Justice Sika Aprioku, in his verdict, restrained the defendants: Obuah, his Secretary, Opuene, and the PDP from declaring the claimants seats, i.e. the 27 lawmakers, vacant and applying to the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, to replace the claimants as members of the Rivers House, pending hearing and determination of the motion on notice. The matter comes up on Monday.
?In the heat of all these came the news of the grounding of the Rivers government aircraft and the argument over the ownership of the Bombardier BD 700 Global Express jet. While the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, alleged that the aircraft belonged to Bank of Utah Trustee of Salt Lake City, Utah, United States of America, the Rivers government affirmed its ownership, saying it was only registered as a US aircraft “in the first instance to preserve value and provide ease of operation and sourcing of available pilots”.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, who gave the explanation in a statement, said, “To qualify for N registration, operator must be a US citizen hence RVSG entered into a trust with Bank of Utah Inc, a bank that specializes in aircraft trust.
“The relationship between the state government and Bank of Utah is that of a trustor and trustee. All N registered aircraft enjoy the privileges of a US citizen, Trust agreement for the purpose of N registration is common in the aviation industry”.
Continuing, the Commissioner said the aircraft was not the only one in the country with N registration, adding that the aircraft had been operating in the country since October last year.
Meantime, the Speaker of the Rivers House, Amachree, said the parliament had uncovered a plot to smuggle a mace into the House to impeach Amaechi. According to him, the alleged game plan was to first throw him out as Speaker and then go ahead to sack the governor.
“Furthermore, there are strong indications that some persons have been detailed exclusively to create systemic collapse of security in the state, putting lives and property in danger”, the Speaker said.
Although the PDP in the state denied the allegation the following day, speculations were rife that impeachment was likely part of the script of the new leadership of the party in the state.
Obuah told newsmen that he was out to unite the party and work with the governor to achieve development in the 23 local government areas of the state.
Is what is happening part of the agenda of the new leadership of the Rivers PDP to create an atmosphere of chaos for the declaration of emergency rule in the state? Will the new leadership orchestrate a probe of the Amaechi administration with a view to impeaching the governor through the House of Assembly? These and many more are the questions on the lips of many people.
Already the party has handed Amaechi 48 hours ultimatum to explain the allegations around the ownership of the Rivers aircraft that has now been grounded by the Federal Government. It is not clear if the explanation made on the ownership of the aircraft by the state government through its Commissioner for Information and Communications served the demand of the party.
This is truly not the best of times for the Odili Boys as the fight seems to be getting messier.