Thousands of youths stormed the Port Harcourt International Airport in Omagwa Rivers State to receive five Action Congress of Nigeria governors who were on a solidarity visit to Governor Rotimi Amaechi.
These governors include – Babatunde Fashola (Lagos); Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti); Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo); Rauf Aregbesola (Osun); and Ibikunle Amosu (Ogun) – had in their company, the deputy governors of Imo State ( Eze Madumere); Nasarawa (Dameshi Luka), and Muktar Ankar (Zamfara).
The visit came about two days after youths believed to be supporters of the Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, protested a similar visit by four governors from the North. The youths had pelted some vehicles on Amaechi’s convoy with stones.
At the airport on Thursday, the youths said to be members of the Ikwerre Youths Movement, ensured that no opponent had a space to spring any surprise that could embarrass Amaechi and his visitors, who were driven straight to the Government House, Port Harcourt.
During their discussion, the governors and the deputy governors, all of them from opposition political parties, advised Amaechi to brief President Goodluck Jonathan on the dwindling security situation in the state.
They also urged the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, to restore the confidence of the people in the state police command.
After the meeting, Fayemi told journalists that Amaechi had briefed them on the security situation in the state.
Describing Jonathan as their leader, Fayemi stated that the situation in the state also required the moral authority of the President to solve.
He said, “It is just to stress the importance of our concern for the security of the citizens of Rivers State. We have met with our brother, the Chairman of our forum (Nigeria Governors’ Forum), Governor Amaechi.
“We had extensive discussions; he has briefed us on the situation on the ground here (Rivers State) and we feel very strongly that having listened to him, that it will be quite important for him to actually go and brief Mr. President, who is our leader and the chief security officer of this country on the very challenging security situation here in Rivers State.
“We believe that our chairman and brother, as the chief security officer of Rivers State, should go and brief Mr. President on the security situation in the state.
“It is also of importance for the police authorities, especially the IG to help in restoring the confidence of the people of Rivers State in the Police Command here in Rivers State.
“We believe that the IG is very well placed to help take the necessary steps to restore the confidence of the government, of the governor and the people and every step that is crucial to making these possible is an aspect that we believe that Mr. President can address.”
Fayemi explained though the National Economic Council was holding in Abuja on Thursday (yesterday), their presence in Rivers State did not mean the denigration of the meeting.
“We believe Mr. President, being our leader, we are all President’s men; we are all President’ s governors, he is our leader and we feel that he actually occupies a very critical position that necessitates wielding his moral authority in ensuring peace reigns here and that nobody uses him by subterfuge to create situations that are entirely avoidable.
“The tension in Rivers State is entirely avoidable and we want all parties to sheathe their swords and to help restore the peace and security here.”
Also, Ankar said, “We advised him (Amaechi) to meet with the President to discuss with him so that we can find a way out of this crisis which is avoidable. We believe that his meeting with the President will actually bring this crisis to an end and strengthen democracy in Nigeria.”
But the Peoples Democratic Party in the state and the state government differed on the visit by the opposition parties’ governors.
While the PDP insisted that the visit was a sign that Amaechi had moved to the opposition, the government said that the Ikwerre-born politician was still an ardent member of the PDP.
The PDP, in a statement signed by the Special Adviser, Media, to the State Chairman, Mr. Jerry Needam, argued that the solidarity visit to Amaechi had justified its petition against the governor.
The party said, “It’s no longer hidden that Governor Amaechi has pitched his tent with the opposition where he belongs but only plans to destroy the PDP in Rivers State before leaving finally.
“One clear quality of Gov Amaechi is that he does not leave anybody in the dark as to his moves and plots as proved by the solidarity visits of four northern governors on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 and that of the Action Congress of Nigeria governors, the Congress for Progressive Change governors and All Progressives Grand Alliance governor today; Thursday, July 18, 2013 in Port Harcourt.”
But the Chief Press secretary to the Governor, Mr. David Iyofor, told reporters during a telephone interview that Amaechi was still in the PDP.
Iyofor argued that since the governor is the NGF Chairman , it was not out of place for members of the forum to pay solidarity visit to him over the situation in the state.
Iyofor described the allegation that Amaechi had left the PDP as the handiwork of mischief makers.
He said, “The governor has not left the PDP. Those making such a statement should realise that Amaechi is the NGF chairman and other governors can decide to pay him a solidarity visit because of the challenges in the state.
“Again as a governor, other governors may want to visit him (Amaechi) as their colleague. So, the solidarity visit by some governors today (Thursday) has nothing to do with the Rivers State Governor leaving the PDP. He is still a member of the PDP.”
Also, the Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt, Mr. Tony Okocha, recalled that PDP governors also paid solidarity visit to Amaechi, wondering why the visit by the opposition parties’ governors was being misinterpreted.
Okocha explained that there was nothing wrong in governors coming to the state to see the “impunity from Wike and his cohorts”.
“The governors that came to visit are saying no to what is happening in the state. Apart from that, Nigerians are watching and they know the reason for the crisis in the state. The fact is that Amaechi still remains an ardent member of the PDP,” he said.