Amaechi opens up on rift with Patience Jonathan

By The Citizen

RIVERS State Governor Chibuike Amaechi has said that his misunderstanding with the First Lady arose out of his desire to provide a conducive learning environment for the children of Okrika, her hometown.

The governor stated this when clergymen of the Niger Delta Bishops' Forum visited him in Government House, Port Harcourt Friday as part of their efforts to mediate the political crisis in the state.

On the Okrika story, he explained: 'As the governor, by protocol, I will receive the President and you know that the President is not just our President, he is the head of the nation.

'But when the wife of the President came, I went to receive her at the airport and she slept in Port Harcourt.

'The next day she came up with a programme that was not part of the official programme, which was for her people to receive her in Okrika, there was no plan, no protocol arrangement, nothing.

'We just had to quickly arrange protocol to take her to the place. But to do that, we wanted to also show her, as part of her own programme, not our programme, the projects we had done in Okrika.

'So, we took her to the Rufus Ada George Ring Road in Okrika, which we started and completed and then somewhere, we saw a health centre and a primary school and I said stop, let me show her this health centre.

'We looked at the health centre and we were satisfied. At the primary school, there were houses around the primary school too close for comfort, no football field, no playground, no space at all around the school and I turned to the wife of the President and said, 'Your Excellency Ma, we have not finished with this building, we would buy the houses surrounding the primary school and demolish them.'

'Once she heard the word 'demolish,' the wife of the President flared up and took the microphone from me and started all sorts of diatribes that I won't mention here for the respect I have for the office of the wife of the President.

'I felt it is wrong to confront the wife of the President publicly. When she finished, I withdrew and walked into the bus. When we got to the ground of the reception, which was not part of our programme, I came down from the bus and went to sit in one of the primary schools. That is where she said my wife met me.'

He continued: 'How did the wife of the President know that my wife met me and I pushed her away when she was supposed to be in a public ceremony. Was she standing with me and my wife in that primary school and saw me push my wife away?

'So, it is important the public know that the altercation between myself and the wife of the President was as a result of providing services to her place, the Okrika people.

'If you build a primary school and the place is surrounded by people who are cooking and selling and buying, that is not a conducive atmosphere for learning, and we did not say we would come there with caterpillars and demolish; we said we would buy the houses from the people and pay them off to be able to get a football field and provide playground for the children and fence off the school, so that we can protect them from pedophiles.'

Amaechi, however, said he has enormous respect for both President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife.

Amaechi also told the Bishops forum: 'My lords, I don't know what to say. Believe me, the only thing I want to say to you is that, and I want to be put on record, the wife of the President said when my wife came to beg me, I pushed her away.

'I have never quarrelled with my wife publicly, and I will never quarrel with my wife publicly. So, there is no time I pushed my wife away, and there is no time I will push my wife away.

'I just want to correct that so that nobody goes away with the impression that somebody told my wife, 'go and talk to your husband,' and she came and I pushed her away.

'No, that day, I simply walked away into a bus and I sat down until they finished. So, all I did was go back to the bus to enable my wife perform her official function of someone who had received the wife of the President and escort her to all the places she wanted to go to.'

He continued: 'I hope that it (this mediation) will work. Niger Delta monarchs came and no result came out of it and since you are men of God, I hope that this one God will bless it.

'I hope so, because that is the same way I spoke to them (the monarchs) and they said, 'watch out, it will work,' and they never returned, because it never worked.

'There are so many persons who had come to mediate, but nothing came out of it. If it is peace that everybody wants, I am ready for peace.

'When you say you are seeking for permission, I am wondering why, because if you did not have the permission, you would not have gone to see the wife of the President.

'The mere fact that you have seen the wife of the President means that you have initiated the peace move, so you don't require any further approval than the approval of God that you have started with.'

The governor also said: 'When you spoke with the wife of the President she spoke publicly, and I concede to her, that she said she is my mother.

'As wife of the President, who is the head of government and head of the nation, she is my mother, and you expect that as my mother, she should be able to protect her son.

'No mother takes away a police commissioner to the detriment of her son, so when next you see my mother, please tell her that she should try and protect her son.'

Regarding the Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, whom he nominated for appointment as minister, Amaechi stated: 'I hear you also visited Wike. I try not to talk about Wike. I say so because he is my subordinate.

'Why I won't talk about him is that Wike, his second tenure as Obio Akpor Council Chairman was by the grace of God, but I was the architect of that second term.

'He was appointed Chief of Staff by me and I nominated him as minister. I was under pressure by the President to drop him and bring a woman, but I refused.

'I hear he is going all over town saying I didn't appoint him; that the President appointed him. But I nominated him to be a minister, as the Chairman of NGF.'

Earlier, the leader of the delegation, Rt. Rev. James Aye Oruwori, said they came because they needed the governor's permission to intervene in the prolonged crisis in the state and the dispute between him and the First Lady.

They said they took the challenge to intervene in the crisis without, external influence, having also visited First Lady, to restore the peace that existed in the state.

Oruwori said: 'It is not an exaggeration to say that we have been praying, but then prayer without faith is classified as dead and it is on this note we have taken it upon ourselves to make a move to seek for peace.

'The best thing to do, we felt, is to first of all come to you and say we would want to intervene in this matter, believing that there is nothing impossible with God.

'We just feel that if this matter is allowed to escalate, the matter is something that will not affect only we that are living, but also our children that will be born tomorrow.'

The bishops had some weeks ago visited the First Lady and Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, in Abuja as part of their efforts to resolve the issues