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Brickbats in Rivers

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Former Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State wouldn’t have expected to live in peace with his former aide turned foe as his successor. But whether he expected what he calls the Nollywood drama he says is going on in the state is another thing.

13 months before the last presidential election, the former supervising minister of education, Chief Nyesom Wike had warned that President Goodluck Jonathan would arrest Governor Rotimi Amaechi after the president would have won re-election in 2015, since Amaechi would have then lost his immunity.

“Once the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announces the victory of President Jonathan, we will immediately shut down the Port Harcourt International Airport and all land and sea borders in Rivers State to prevent Governor Amaechi from escaping,” Wike was quoted as saying during a ceremony when he presented buses to all 23 local government area chapters of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State.

With a tone of finality on the imminent incarceration of Amaechi, Wike who at one time was Chief of Staff in Amaechi’s government, said “Does he think we don’t know that he is planning to run away? But he and his cohorts will not succeed.”

He spoke with anger at the defection of Amaechi from the PDP to then emerged All Progressives Congress, APC. Whether it was that threat or whatever, Amaechi was to lead the national fight that eventually halted the return of Jonathan for a second term.

Nevertheless, Chief Wike’s predictions may have partially come true. After his emergence as new governor of Rivers State, Wike has wasted little time in pounding and discrediting what had until now been praised as the veritable legacies of the Amaechi administration. However, his threats of locking Amaechi up which very few would have doubted had Mrs. Patience Jonathan returned to Aso Rock has, however, eviscerated.

After his controversial victory over Amaechi’s preferred APC candidate, Dakuku Peterside, Wike has now launched a blistering attack on the Amaechi legacy.

Stories that once emanated from Rivers of state of the art primary schools, model secondary schools that looked like universities and world class hospitals, have now been replaced with allegations of corruption the Wike administration is alleging against the former regime.

Wike has been aided to some extent in his offensive by the immediate past deputy governor of the state, Engr. Tele Ikuru, who served as deputy to Amaechi’s predecessor, Celestine Omehia, served in the same position in the Amaechi administration and subsequently served as the chairman of Wike’s Transition Committee.

Indeed, not long after he took over the affairs of the government, Wike announced that officials of the Amaechi administration had looted Government House noting that they stripped even the Government House of beddings.

Last Thursday officials of the state administration went to the Port Harcourt residence of the former commissioner of information, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari where they forcefully took away a Lexus SUV officials claimed was government property.

“In furtherance of efforts by the Rivers State Government to recover government property from officials of the immediate past administration in the state, security agents and Government House officials, yesterday, took possession of government vehicles from the home of the former spokesperson for the Amaechi administration, Semenitari.

“The security operatives carried out the operation at the home of Mrs. Semenitari located on Ernest Ikoli Street, Old GRA, Port Harcourt.

“The operatives recovered a Lexus Armoured Vehicle from the residence and a Range Rover vehicle is said to have been in the possession of the former Information Commissioner.

The accusations were immediately dismissed by Semenitari who claimed that the Range Rover belonged to her husband who bought it before her appointment as a commissioner while she claimed that the Lexus was officially purchased by her as part of the monetisation policy of the government.

“The monetization policy of the government allows public officers to leave government with their official vehicles as this is in lieu of vehicle allowance, transport and other allowances, which they cannot draw because of the monetization policy of 2002. Mr. Nyesom Wike served as Chief of Staff, and upon departure left with all the vehicles he used as Chief of Staff. This has been the practice since this democratic dispensation.

“Having served as Commissioner for two tenures, I am entitled to my status cars and have proof of allocation. While I understand that Mr. Wike feels a dire need to destroy the reputation of Governor Rotimi Amaechi and all those who worked with him, it is unacceptable that he will engage in brigandage, thuggery and underhand tactics to do so. A simple letter from any government official requesting me to make a submission or tender documentation would have been the appropriate way to go and I would have willingly tendered all the relevant documents to them.

“Breaking into my home, invading my privacy, damaging my property and removing property from my premises is inappropriate and illegal.

The following day, Friday, Governor Wike officially launched the expected probe of the Amaechi administration with the inauguration of a judicial commission of inquiry.

The panel headed by Justice George Omereji is mandated to investigate alleged sale of some state assets and to investigate projects for which funds were released but not utilised.

Other members of the Commission of Inquiry include Dr. Edith Chukwu, Chief Monday Ekekenta, Rev. Canon Alex Usifo and Elder Ignatius Piegbara. Mrs. Florence Fiberesima is to serve as the secretary while Dr. Zacheaus Adango would serve as the counsel to the Commission. Inaugurating the probe, Wike said he expected to receive the cooperation of President Muhammadu Buhari in his alleged war against corruption in his state.

It was a remark that was picked up by the APC in narrowing the actions of the new Rivers governor as an attempt to deny Amaechi a role in the new Buhari administration.

“One thing Chief Wike and his collaborators fail to understand is that President Buhari knows the politics of Rivers State as he knows his fingers. President Buhari is fully aware that Amaechi and his associates are being viciously persecuted by Wike because he engineered the ouster of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as the President of Nigeria and the election of President Buhari.

“Apart from the above, Chief Wike is embarking upon this worthless vindictive venture knowing very well that he will soon be ignominiously sacked by the Election Petition Tribunal since he never won election but was imposed by Rivers INEC in collaboration with the then-ruling Peoples Democratic Party,” the party said in a statement issued last weekend.

Amaechi, himself has responded saying through his media aide: “This so called Wike’s probe of Amaechi is dead on arrival. All the noise Wike is making is to grab media headlines with his lies of monumental corruption against Amaechi. It is all drama made for the media. What is playing out is a script written and directed by Wike,” the statement said.

“While it is no longer in doubt what would be the report of Wike’s sham probe commission, what may shock Nigerians is the extent Wike has gone and is ready to go to manufacture stories of corrupt practices and the kind of bogus tales of corruption against Amaechi that he will soon be feeding the nation,” the statement added.

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