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Calling time for the nonsense in Port Harcourt – Hallmark

By The Citizen
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The long running theatre of the absurd which has been showing in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, turned into a farce two weeks ago. In what must rank as an incredulous display of crass irresponsibility, Gov. Rotimi Amaechi alleged that a detachment of policemen refused him entry into the Government House premises, housing his official residence and the seat of his government, through a back entrance which he had sometimes used in the past. In the event, it turned out that his rendition of facts was not exactly factual.

All the same, the incident touched off a maelstrom of reactions by members of the public who are understandably appalled by the increasingly ugly dimension the Port Harcourt crisis has assumed. This Newspaper is equally disturbed and deeply worried. The situation in Port Harcourt is totally unacceptable and should not be allowed to continue festering. As a drama, it has played to full audiences long enough and now it is time to call time and draw the curtain.

But in order to do that effectively, a few home truths must be told and the key players of this ugly episode clearly identified. This is important for factual clarity and historical accuracy.

Hallmark is aware that the version of the crisis popular within the mass media and with mainstream public opinion, is that President Goodluck Jonathan is fighting Governor Chibuike Amaechi, for the latter's insistence on contesting for re-election and consequently winning the Chairmanship of the Governors Forum.

In the period before the NGF election, Amaechi had cried out that he was under pressure by the Jonathan Presidency not to contest for the chairmanship, and vowed that nothing would stop him from contesting.

In the event, he contested and won. But his victory sparked off a crisis within the Governors Forum with as many as sixteen Governors declining to recognise his leadership and lining up behind Mr. Jonah Jang, Governor of Plateau State. Curiously, the Presidency chose to recognise the Jang faction of the NGF. The situation rapidly degenerated with the two groups engaging in relentless media campaign to make their cases. In the ensuing media war, Mr. Amaechi clearly has had the upper hand for two main reasons. First, he has sold a captivating narrative of victimhood. A courageous, principled democrat, ranged against an over-bearing President, is usually a good fare with the Nigerian press, weaned as it is, on the diet of protest journalism.

Secondly, Amaechi's handlers have deftly manipulated the media, dominated and controlled by the opposition political parties, to promote his own version of events. However, the truth is far from the front pages of these hopelessly compromised media coverage. If you scratch a little beyond the surface, it will emerge crystal clear.

Within those in the know, the crisis in Port Harcourt is basically a personality clash between Gov. Amaechi and President Jonathan. Since his emergence first as Ag. President, and subsequently defacto President, Gov. Amaechi apparently has had little appetite for a Jonathan Presidency. Unknown to many, Amaechi had enjoyed a rather robust relationship with the late President YarÁdua and his key supporters, like former Governor Bukola Saraki. Amaechi  and Saraki had forged a chummy relationship, with the former providing logistical support for Saraki's chairmanship of the NGF. Even though Amaechi supported Jonathan's quest for the presidency, many Jonathan insiders believe that the support was perfunctory and lacked enthusiasm. Even during the last presidential election, Amaechi had allegedly provided clandestine financial support to General Muhammed Buhari, the candidate of the rival Congress for Progressive Change, CPC.

Thus unknown to many, the relationship between Jonathan and Amaechi has been difficult despite their best efforts to put a shine on it. The situation was worsened by the public altercation between Amaechi and First Lady, Patience Jonathan, in Port Harcourt. However, the last stroke which broke the camel's back was the re-election of former Bayelsa Governor, Timipre Sylva, an Amaechi friend and loyalist, and who Amaechi fought hard to save, Sylva lost his re-election bid due to. Jonathan's insistence that he must not be re-elected. This had reportedly embittered Amaechi.

Nevertheless, whatever may be the truth in all of these issues, the obvious facts are that the two sides have mis-read certain situations and subsequently acted wrongly. In order to restore peace in Rivers State, it is pertinent that the Presidency recognises Gov. Rotimi Amaechi as Chairman of NGF. He was duly elected in a credible election. If some Governors have any reason to doubt the process of the election, they should follow the due process enshrined in NGF constitution.  Any other recourse will amount to illegality. As far as this Newspaper is concerned, Amaechi is the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum. Simple!

But having said that, Hallmark insists that Gov. Amaechi should call himself to order. Some of his conduct and utterances are not only embarrassing but reprehensible. Perhaps unknown to him, he has become, wittingly or unwittingly, the lighting rod of the anti-Jonathan movement.

President Jonathan is Gov. Amaechi's kinsman from the South/south geo-political zone. His Presidency is the first of its kind from the South-South in the annals of Nigerian history. It came after decades of agitation and crusade by Niger Delta indigenes for equity, justice and fairness. No matter whatever personal reasons he has, it is incomprehensible that a Governor of the Niger Delta would be the rallying point and indeed, the standard bearer of the anti-Jonathan movement. In his classic, 'Things Fall Apart', the great Chinua Achebe had counselled: 'If the oracle of the hills and the caves say that my son shall die, I will neither say no, nor be the one to kill my son!'

Of course we recognise that in a democracy, anyone is entitled to their choices and political preferences. But it is also a truism that democracy functions in a socio-cultural milieu. It is inconceivable that any other Governor from any other geo-political zone can elect to champion the cause of the opposition against their own son who is President, in the manner Mr. Amaechi has done. During the Presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo, no Yoruba Governor  opposed him even though they belonged to different political parties. In fact in 2003, the alliance for Democracy AD, even declined to present a candidate for the Presidency in order to ensure victory for Obasanjo, a PDP candidate, against Muhammed Buhari of the ANPP.

As Chairman of the Governors Forum, Dr. Bukola Saraki worked assiduously on behalf of the ailing Yar'Adua. He never sought to supplant, undermine or ridicule him. In fact, it was in that process that he recruited Amaechi. It is also instructive that he never used the NGF as a platform to mobilise against Yar'Adua. All these should serve as morality tales for Mr. Amaechi.

He was elected Governor of Rivers State where a consensus has emerged that he has done a fairly good job of providing meaningful leadership. His engagements with the NGF is not part of his core responsibility as governor. His unending entanglements are distracting and do not serve the people of Rivers State well. Even more importantly, it does not serve him well in the long run. The governorship is not a tenured appointment. It shall surely pass. What endures is the record of service and reputation.

Hallmark is not persuaded that Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi wants to be remembered in history as the Niger Delta Governor who betrayed the first Niger Delta President of Nigeria.