The atmosphere was charged, the political rhetoric had begun, and the gladiators were dagger drawn days before the one-day official visit to Port Harc
The atmosphere was charged, the political rhetoric had begun, and the gladiators were dagger drawn days before the one-day official visit to Port Harcourt by the Acting President on Thursday July 27, 2017.
Rivers people were again treated to yet another political high drama by the Rivers State PDP Government and the APC which is the party in opposition in the state. It was another opportunity for the two major parties to flex their political muscles of supremacy in a state where political leaders, especially governors do not get into office by popular vote but by imposition from the presidency and its institutions.
The Acting President was coming with all the glamour and paraphernalia of his office into Rivers State and it was time for Governor Wike to make good his statement that the APC was merely in government at the center and not in power. The governor had gone to town with the story that the Acting President was visiting Port Harcourt specifically to commission projects completed by the state government as a testimony to the excellent performance of the governor who prides himself as “Mr. Project”.
The Rivers State APC was in no mood to allow “Mr. Akara Project” (as the APC mockingly calls Wike) steal the show during the Acting President’s visit. The APC insisted that Prof. Osinbajo was not coming to commission state projects but to commission a fertilizer manufacturing plant built by Indorama Ltd at Eleme. The APC said that the project is of high economic value and was within President Buhari’s vision of economic recovery and self-reliance. The Acting President was not coming to commission state projects the APC shouted.
As a prelude to the visit of the Acting President, Governor Nyesom Wike had in its characteristic smartness, also invited the Chief of Army Staff and the Chief Justice of the Federation to commission projects in Rivers State days to the grand visit. The state APC had earlier raised suspicion over the building of an official guest house for the Chief of Army Staff by Governor Wike. The APC had also decried the invitation of the Chief Justice of the Federation by the PDP led Rivers State Government for the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of Judges residential quarters in the state.
The stage was set for a showdown in Rivers State where political leaders are rated only by their closeness to the Presidency, the military and the Judiciary, especially the Supreme Court
The debate and argument continued: “The Acting President is coming to commission roads, market and motor park”. No! “He is coming to commission a fertilizer plant”. “I invited the Acting President to Rivers state” No! “He is coming on the invitation of the Indorama Group”.
Radio and TV stations were inundated with jingles welcoming the August visitor in the month of July to Port Harcourt. The PDP, the APC, Local Government Councils Chairmen, traditional rulers and top politicians were all falling over each other to outdo the other in radio announcements. It was quite interesting to see the Rivers PDP promote its brand with the visit of the Acting President who is APC.
On the D-day, the morning of Thursday July 27, 2017, all roads led to the Port Harcourt International Airport Omagwa. Buses of party supporters, vehicles of VIPs, flags and T-shits adorned the airport and the drama began when the aircraft of the Acting president touched down.
A reporter narrated the scene thus: “first, it was the Minister for Transport, Rotimi Amaechi who stepped out of the Presidential Jet, with shouts of “the Lion” by APC faithfuls who besieged the airport, then next was Senator Magnus Ngei Abe. They both walked down to where a chopper was waiting for Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
“The Acting President then alighted the Jet and was received on hand by Gov Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and a handful of traditional rulers and others who queued for a formal handshake with the August Visitor.
“A mild drama ensued as Wike pointed at the already waiting BMW to chauffeur drive Osinbajo who insisted rather that they walked to the already waiting Chopper where Amaechi and Abe were already seated.
“Wike who was visibly worried tried hard to convince Osinbajo to go with him and commission just one project, but the Acting President insisted that they head to the Chopper for the venue of the commissioning of the World Standard Fertilizer project built by the INDORAMA Group.
“A disappointed Wike had to leave his aides, supporters and convoy behind and joined Osinbajo to the Chopper where APC faithfuls were already singing the praise of their leader, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi. As soon as Osinbajo entered into the Chopper and Wike made his way to enter, the already charged youths began to boo him with shouts of, ‘Come down!, Come down!’ while some others continued with shouts of ‘the Lion!’ until the Chopper left.
“The governor’s convoy and his party faithfuls who were now grumbling over their leader’s failure to convince Osinbajo to first commission any of his projects had to make their way back home as it was obvious that they may not make it to Eleme, the venue of the official program for the Ag. President”.
The Acting President, pressed for time, managed to commission only two road projects – the Chokocho-Igbo-Etche-Rumuokurushi Road and Chokocho-Umuechem-Ozuzu Road.
The APC had won. The party had succeeded in stopping Wike from taking the Acting President around to commission what the party called low-rate projects. A deflated, Governor Wike cried out that the APC had put tremendous pressure on the Acting President to decline commissioning his market and motor park projects but the APC insisted that “no President in goes about commissioning local government projects such as markets and garages”.
The Rivers APC was delighted with Ag. President Osinbajo’s visit to Rivers State. In a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Chris Finebone the APC said that it is “profoundly delighted with the visit of Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo SAN and his successful commissioning of the new ultra-modern world-class fertilizer plant built by Indorama Eleme Fertilizer and Chemicals Limited in Port Harcourt”.
Different people however reacted differently to the drama that attended the Acting President’s visit. Solomon Okocha said “it was indeed a pitiable sight to behold the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, wailing profusely over the refusal of the Acting President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to commission the Obio/Akpor Local Government Council Motor Park and Rumuokoro Town Market Projects, respectively”.
An APC stalwart, Achor Omodu asked “Would it not have been very ridiculous for our amiable, vision-driven and dynamic Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to handle a scissors and cut a tape to commission a Motor Park and a Community Market? How would you have felt if the Acting President actually went to Gada Street in Ogbunuabali Town, Port Harcourt City, to commission the less than 100 metres rehabilitated road? Ridiculous”.
To others, Gov. Wike should ordinarily show appreciation that the Acting President squeezed in the commissioning of those two projects into his very tight schedule instead of accusing the Ag. President and APC of playing politics. They said that if anyone played politics over the visit, it was Gov. Nyesom Wike, insisting that the governor should have cleared the projects he wanted commissioned with the office of the Acting President prior to commencing his media propaganda. They blamed the Governor for mismanaging the process and deliberately lying to Rivers people about the visit. They concluded that “with the visit having come and gone, we believe that Rivers people now know who tells them the truth”.
For Emmanuel Eteng Enang, Governor Wike missed a golden opportunity to apologize and reconcile with his formal Boss, His exellency Rt. Hon. Rotimi Ameachi.
Left to commission the Ogbunabali Roads by himself, Governor Wike yelled that “anybody who wants to die out of bitterness because I am the Governor of Rivers State and that I am working in Rivers State, should come and I will give him free land for burial”.
Unable to bear what looks like a TKO, a PDP spin doctor, Oraye St. Franklyn irked by the defeat of his party in the show of power, took on their normal target, Amaechi. He said “As Amaechi alighted from the plane, with a crestfallen and forlorn mien that revealed his rapid aging look; he neither acknowledged the presence of First Class Traditional Rulers of the State or even the Governor of the State. He didn’t even wait in line, as is customary, to receive the Ag. President. He simply disappeared into a waiting chopper while the President was being received” and that “all through the trip to Eleme by chopper, while the trio of Ag. President, the Governor and Senator Abe engaged themselves in meaningful discussions, Amaechi was left to himself and his conceited agony”
To many, Oraye was only bellyaching, the APC had effectively succeeded in stopping the PDP from using Osinbajo to shine.
Also commenting on the Acting Presidents visit, Mujahid Asari Dokubo said that “Wike should stop this condescending behavior…. Please you don’t need Osibanjo to be governor of Rivers state…. Today you run to Sokoto to ass lick, tomorrow it is Ota to ‘dobale’.”
One APC supporter however thinks differently from Asari when he exclaimed that “Acting President Yemi Osinbajo commissioned the Chokocho Etche road reconstructed by Gov Nyesom Wike. Truly, Change is here. During the era of President Jonathan with Amaechi as governor and Wike as Minister, this wouldn’t have been possible. We pray that Wike reciprocates this gesture and stop attacking the Federal Government unnecessarily”.
There was a bit of internal ‘roforofo’ too. Belema Dikio, a pseudo name took on fellow APC Members, accusing them of leaving the Transportation Minister alone at the airport unlike the PDP supporters who were on ground to give support to Gov. Nyesom Wike. He said that members of Senator Abe’s Kairos group had to fill the gap.
Some pictures went viral during the Acting President’s visit. The most circulated was a picture of a seemingly stranded bunch of Rivers PDP bigwigs: Desmond Akawo, Celestine Omehia, Seargent Awuse, Uche Secondus, Lee Maeba and Austin Opara. All looking frustrated and disappointed following what was called the Osinbajo Snub. “This is the real 10-man Rivers Executive Council” one social media activist said. They are called the Bishops or Cardinals in the PDP circle.
Another picture that went viral was that of the Transportation Minister sitting alone in the chopper while the Acting President was being received by Wike. Commenting on the picture a PDP supporter said “see the so-called Minister of transportation, Amaechi full of hatred and bad minded, still sitting in the helicopter thinking evil of what to do and how to do it”
One other picture that circulated widely on the social media was that of Governor Wike and Senator Abe. Observers are surprised that despite Wike’s stiff opposition to Magnus re-election, the duo had interacted freely. Tams Boma Anderson said about the picture “see Senator Magnus Ngei Abe and Mr Project having further discussion on moving the state forward”. From the unfolding run of events, this might soon be proven right #