BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME
The tides of trouble for Governor Chibuke Amaechi since his reelection as chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF are turning into a weekly dose.
ONE week after the fracas that rocked the Rivers state House of Assembly, another crisis broke out last Tuesday after supporters of the Minister of State for Education, Bar Nyesom Wike stormed the Port Harcourt Airport to taunt Governor Rotimi Amaechi and four visiting northern governors.
The battle ground was at the Port Harcourt international airport, Omagwa. Thousands of supporters of the Minister had stormed the airport as early as 5 am with an intention to humiliate the governor who was hosting four of his colleagues from the north. They carried placards with various inscriptions with some reading “Amaechi must go”, “Rivers money for Rivers people”, Northern governors go back” etc.
The protesters were mostly members Grassroots Development Initiative (GDI), a political outfit that has Wike as its grand patron.
They blocked the exit gate at the VIP lounge as they chanted anti Amaechi songs. The governor who came in from Abuja at about 10 am once he deplaned crossed over to the VIP lounge nearby where he waited for his four visiting guests.
The quartet of Rabiu Kwankwaso ofKano, Sule Lamido of Jigawa, Babangida Aliyu of Niger and Murtala Nyako of Adamawa later arrived in three different aircraft.
The protesters who had maintained some relative calm even while chanting their anti-Amaechi songs immediately turned boisterous once the governor arrived. It was as if Amaechi’s presence was a tonic for their frenzy.
They became aggressive as the tempo of their songs increased. Some of them ran to the exit gate of the VIP lounge to join in the dance against Amaechi. Some of them who offered comments to Vanguard said the visiting governors should go back and resolve the security challenge posed by the activities of Boko Haram.
The four governors with the exception of one, arrived in separate aircraft and two of them came together. As they arrived, they were welcomed by their host and taken to wait at the VIP longue as they waited for the rest to arrive. On the arrival of the last visiting governor, the five governors proceeded in a convoy to the Government House.
However, as the governors made way to leave they were blocked by the protesters but an Armoured Personnel Carrier in the convoy helped to clear the way, but it could not stop the protesters from hauling stones and other missiles at the convoy.
Glasses of some of the vehicles in the convoy were shattered while one Government House driver was reportedly brutalized by the protesters.
In her account of what happened, the Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari said: “There were jitters in the Presidency over the visit of governors of Adamawa, Jigawa, Kano and Niger to Rivers State Governor and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Rt. Hon Chibuike Amaechi in Port Harcourt today (yesterday).
“Members of the Nyesom Wike’s campaign organisation, GDI, had mobilised hoodlums to disrupt the visit, chanting solidarity songs in favour of the Presidency and attempted to attack Governor Amaechi and his team.
“Wike had boasted after the failed impeachment attempt at the Rivers State House of Assembly that he would set Rivers State ablaze and render it ungovernable. A four-litre keg, suspected to contain some acid, was found beside the mob. “Rivers State Police Commissioner Mbu Joseph Mbu denied knowledge of the mob’s presence. Although the police stated that the airport is a public place and everyone has a right to visit freely and unhindered.
“This portends grave danger and has far-reaching implications for our fledgling democracy.” Secretary-General of the GDI, Samuel Nwanosike, who led the protesters told a national newspaper that the protest was to convey their displeasure with the visiting governors.
Nwanosike who doubles as the Publicity Secretary of the Wike faction of the PDP, in the interview with the newspaper said: “Rivers people are not happy with Amaechi and the four visiting governors. We went to the airport for a peaceful protest, singing and dancing.
Over 5,000 chiefs, women and youths from the 23 local government areas of the state participated in the protest. Nobody threw stones.
“The four governors should leave Rivers State resources alone. We are tired of their presence. They should quickly return to the North and face Boko Haram suicide bombers.
Remarkably, the police claimed that there was no rupture of the peace at the airport.
At the Government House the five governors after some deliberation came out with a prepared statement in which they demanded the immediate transfer of Mr Mbu as commissioner of police.
In their joint statement denouncing the role of the increasing slide, the five governors said: “We wish to call on the Inspector General of Police to hearken to the voice of reason and immediately redeploy and discipline Commissioner Mbu.
His actions smirk of unprofessionalism and political partisanship which is unbecoming of his office. Arising from the actions of the Police and Mr Joseph Mbu in Rivers state the call for state Police as a constitutional provision has become a necessity”, they said.
“We commend the House of Representatives for its proactive leadership in the crisis and appreciate the Senate Committee thoroughness in addressing the matter”
Continuing, the governors said the alleged action of the Rivers state Police Commissioner, Mr Mbu had again brought to “the fore the question of true federalism and the need for institutions derived from constitutions be allowed to function without undue interference. As federating units we must be allowed the space to guarantee our people sustainable development as provided by the constitution”, they said.
The governors who also appealed to political actors in the crisis to exercise restraint for sake of peace and development further lauded the achievement of Governor Amaechi.
“We join well meaning Nigerians to call on all political actors to diffuse tension and stop all actions capable of overheating the polity and derailing our nascent democracy. We must all work together to build one united and indivisible nation and strengthen our democracy”, they said.
Former Deputy Governorship candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP in the 2007 general polls, Mr Sonny Marshall Harry described the action of the five lawmakers behind the botched impeachment last Tuesday as an abuse of constitutional democracy. “I condemn in its entirety the use of thugs to attack honourable members of the House and the attempt to remove the Speaker of the House illegally”
Continuing, he said the attempt to remove the Speaker, Hon Otelemaba Amachree was a clear move by some to disrupt the peace in the state, adding that effort should be made to amicably resolve whatever misunderstanding among members of the House of Assembly.