Members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) are beginning to worry about the effect that the long-running battle between President Goodluck Jonathan and the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi is beginning to have on the party.
It is even more worrying to them that every time there seems to be some peace made between the duo, giving the members hope of no crises, the battle then takes a new dimension. All efforts to reconcile them have failed, chiefly due to mistrust and mutual suspicion among the warring parties.
Only recently, there were reports that Amaechi had acquired bulletproof helicopters to prosecute a presidential ambition in 2015.It was alleged that Amaechi was wooing governors of the eastern states to join his presidential campaign train with the sum of N2 billion each. It was also reported that the governor was planning to dump the PDP and join a yet to be identified political party to pursue his alleged presidential (or Vice Presidential) ambition in the next political dispensation.
Amaechi has consistently denied these allegations while restating his loyalty to the ruling party, as his Commissioner for Information, Mrs Ibim Sementari has constantly described these allegations as a smear campaign against her boss.
Semenitari explained that the state government had at several forums mentioned its intention to purchase two security helicopters for 29 million USD to collaborate with the federal government and to support security agencies in the state. She added that the said helicopters are to be operated by the Nigeria police in conjunction with oil companies who have offered to bear some of the operating costs, to enable government to fight the menace of oil bunkering.
She said, “The Rivers State Government has always owned a private jet and has not purchased any new airplane nor does it intend to purchase one. As is typical of Governor Amaechi, such purchases would be openly and transparently done and so would not need to be a matter of conjecture. The helicopters, 2 bell 412 helicopters with camera payload for aerial surveillance of Rivers State, were purchased as part of the state government’s collaboration with the federal government and its support for the security agencies in the state.
“The total cost of the helicopters was 29 million USD. The Federal Government of Nigeria through the office of the National Security Adviser paid 15 million USD, while the Rivers State Government paid the balance. The Federal Government granted duty waiver. The aircrafts are being freighted into Nigeria and will be reassembled in Lagos.
“The helicopters are to be operated by the Nigeria police in conjunction with oil companies who have offered to bear some of the operating costs to enable government combat the menace of oil bunkering. The police took delivery of similar choppers in 2012 built by the same company. The 412 four axis choppers are rated the most advanced civil helicopters in the world. The acquisition, which was done with the support of the federal government, is to enhance security of lives and property in Rivers State.”
She expressed the state government’s desire to acknowledge and thank President Jonathan for his quick action and support leading to the purchase of the helicopters.
She also said, “His commitment to national security and willingness to collaborate with all tiers of government and all sectors to ensure the security of lives and property is worthy of accolade and support.”
However, Amaechi also took shots at the Presidency recently while speaking at a youth forum in Ekiti State, accusing the Presidency of trying to orchestrate his removal from his post of the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum due to his stance on stopping corruption in the fuel subsidy scheme of the Federal Government. The NGF chairman said President Jonathan had decided to ostracise him from some official programmes as a result of his position on the matter.
The Rivers State Governor also used the occasion to announce that the presidency was dissatisfied with his insistence, as NGF chairman, that complete transparency and accountability be brought to the payment of petrol subsidy. He said state governors were not opposed to fuel subsidy, but were frustrated by the corruption in it. He also accused federal officials who supervised the subsidy regime of fraud, saying, “They balloon the figures.”
This brought a reaction from the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Ahmed Gulak, who accused Amaechi of having a hidden agenda.He also denied that President Jonathan was after the governor because of his position on the alleged fraud in the fuel subsidy regime and his opposition to the Sovereign Wealth Fund and the Excess Crude Account and warned the NGF Chairman to stop playing to the gallery in the pursuit of his agenda.
He said, “The President is a man who follows the provisions of the constitution. The President is a man who consults robustly before taking decisions. The governors are members of the National Economic Council and that council, though advisory to the President, takes a lot of decisions about Sovereign Wealth Fund, about Excess Crude Account and everything members agreed on.
“If they don’t agree, such decisions are not implemented. It is wrong for Amaechi to say that the President is after him because of that. People should not play to the gallery. If people have agenda, let them pursue their agenda but let them not point fingers at Mr. President. Mr. President is not pursuing anybody. Mr. President is not pursuing Amaechi or any other governor. After all, they are all members of the same Peoples Democratic Party family. But that does not derogate from the fact that things must be properly done and agencies must be allowed to do their work.”
On the cold war between Amaechi and President Jonathan, a PDP chieftain and former governorship candidate in Rivers State, Prince TonyePrincewill, says contrary to the belief in some quarters, there is no hatred between Jonathan and Amaechi.
He said, “In fact, secretly, if they are honest, they both like each other, but I think they have been surrounded by events that have led to this gross misunderstanding and in the end, the same Amaechi and Jonathan will surprise us all and settle.
“Some of us have checked the cause of this misunderstanding. When Amaechi became the Chairman of the Governors Forum, he was already suspected of harbouring an anti-Ijaw sentiment in. Remember he was part of the old Rivers State where the Ijaws dominated. So, anybody who saw the arrogance we exhibited back then knows we created our own enemies.
“Combine that with the suspicion that Rivers State was leaning towards Atiku during the 2011 primaries and you will know that an Amaechi Governor’s Forum gave the Jonathan camp goose pimples. Some of us advised him that this is going to bring issues between him and the President; he refused to listen to us because he genuinely believed that there is no reason why this would bring about conflict between him and the President, his boss and the leader of his party. Now we can see who was wrong.”