Rivers crisis: Amaechi replies Patience Jonathan
The Rivers State Governor and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors' Forum, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, on Friday responded to wife of the President, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, account of what precipitated problems between the governor and herself.
Amaechi said that the First Lady did not give a true picture of the misunderstanding between them.
The governor spoke in Port Harcourt when clergymen of the Niger Delta Bishops Forum, who were in the state capital to mediate in the political crisis in the state.
According to him, it is important for the public to have a true picture of what transpired between him and the President's wife.
He said, 'I want to be put on record that 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.
'There was 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, 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 to go back to the bus to enable my wife to 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.'
From his own account, the perceived misunderstanding with the First Lady arose out of his desire to provide an environment conducive for learning for the children of Okrika, the home town of Mrs. Jonathan.
The governor said that he had enormous respect for both President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife.
The bishops had, some weeks ago, visited the First Lady and the Minister of State for Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike, in Abuja as part of their efforts to resolve the lingering misunderstanding between the President's wife and the governor.
Amaechi expressed the hope that the mediation would work.
He said, 'I hope that it (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.'
Amaechi, who agreed that Mrs. Jonathan was his mother, however, argued that no mother would take away a state police commissioner to the detriment of her son.
He further said, '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 and what was the programme? She wanted her people to receive her in Okrika. There was no plan; there was 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, 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 that are 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.
'When she finished, I felt that it was 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, which she just included by herself, I came down from the bus and went to sit in one of the primary schools.
'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 paedophiles. That was what happened.'
Governor Amaechi also spoke on the issue of Nyesom Wike, the Minister of State for Education, whom he nominated for appointment as minister.
'I hear you also visited Nyesom Wike. I try not to talk about Wike. I say so because he is my subordinate; I try not to talk about him but I hear you visited him. Why I won't talk about him is that Nyesom Wike, his second tenure as Obio Akpor council chairman was by the grace of God, but I was the architect of that second term.
'Wike was appointed Chief of Staff by me. As a Minister of State, I nominated him. I was under pressure by the President to drop him, I refused.
'The President persuaded me to drop him and bring a woman but I refused. I hear he is going all over town, saying I didn't appoint him. I didn't appoint him, the President appointed him, but I nominated him to be a minister. I did but you know, character doesn't come easily, character is a very difficult thing and I am a man of character,' Amaechi said.
The leader of the delegation, Rt. Rev. James Aye Oruwori, had in earlier remarks, said they had come to seek the governor's permission to intervene in the prolonged crisis in the state and the dispute between the governor and the First Lady.
The cleric added that they took the challenge to intervene in the crisis without external influence, having also visited Mrs. Jonathan to restore the peace that existed in the state.
He 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 upon ourselves to make a move to seek for peace. The scripture says precisely in Matthew 5:9 that 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are the children of God.'