Atiku’s visit to Rivers State & the definition of embers of ethnic politics

By Odimegwu Onwumere

The former vice-President Atiku Abubakar's two day visit to Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, has opened some political Pandora Box. His visit which started in the late hours of Tuesday 4th January 2010 was attended by all men and women from all walks of life in the People's Democratic Party (PDP). (Not only the South-South PDP members). Among other dignitaries that were present on 5th of January when Atiku visited the Rivers State PDP secretariat on Aba Road of the Garden City, the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof Chukwuma Soludo, was significant. The state's PDP chairman, Chief Ake, while making an open remark, said nothing comprehensible to the audience. This elicited murmurings rending the air why the choice of a man who was supposed to be a village chief for the exalted office such as the PDP chairman of Rivers State. Atiku's visit to the PDP secretariat took place at about 11.00am.

On the part of the South-South coordinator of the Atiku Campaign Organization said that all Atiku's life depended on political formation, foundation and fronting. He described Atiku as a fighter who reforms ideas. However, he thanked the governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, and described him as one man who doesn't threaten the lives of people, but allows a level play.

No doubt professors are respected in the academic arena. When Prof Soludo was asked to make a remark on Atiku, his speech took all in the medium hall of the secretariat rending ovation, though they bemoaned he should end his speech because time was running out of the day's schedule for the places Atiku was to visit. Among other things, Soludo admonished that the April elections is not about Jonathan nor Atiku but about who will move Nigeria to the next 50yrs. “Atiku stands out among the equals,” Soludo said. “Atiku is people-oriented because of his humble beginning and antecedents.”

Soludo in another vein said that Atiku has been the most investigated Nigerian, yet not prosecuted. He told all who cared to listen that it was the power sharing that will give hope to even the minority groupings in the country but reiterated how it saddens him that some people in the PDP are saying that there is no power zoning because of Jonathan. He said that even at that, the track record speaks for Atiku.

On the side of Peter Biabra, a loquacious man, he said that he got deliverance on the road of Damascus while persecuting Atiku for Jonathan but he thanked his God who delivered him from further persecution of Atiku, but to sing his praise.

According to Biabra, it was Jonathan's selfish ambition that is leading him to drag the entire South-South region to what he described as Golgotha. He said that if today Jonathan wins and later on the North grabs the power again, since some people in the PDP have said that there was no power zoning, the North might not allow power to return to the South again. “It will be from Mohammed to Mohammed,” Biabra said.

Barely 35mins the event kick-started, Atiku was handed over the mic. This was at about 11.35. He opened his speech with the slogan, “Rivers! Amaechi.” Among other things, he said that one of the reasons he was in the state was because PDP in Rivers State has maintained power for 12yrs. He asked the people to give him his support because, according to him, he's a man who knows where to find target no matter where the fight be, for the benefit of the society. He decried that he has sacrificed a lot of things for the betterment of this country. For example, he said that he fought General Sani Abacha (now late), General Ibrahim Babangida and forfeited the 1993 presidential elections for Chief MKO Abiola (now late) for the attainment of democracy and for the unity of the country.

Governor Amaechi, represented by his deputy, Engr. Tele Ikuru arrived at the venue at about 11.45. He apologised for his lateness with excuses that he was with Amaechi heading to the venue when Amaechi got a call and went back but despatched him to attend the occasion. He told the people that since they have heard what Atiku and everyone in the hall had said, it behoves them to vote.

The convoy moved from the PDP secretariat to the Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers secretariat at about 12.5pm, and was received by the Amanayabo of Kalabari Kingdom, HRM, King (Prof) TJT Princewill, who doubles also as the Chairman of the Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers. In his welcome address, King Princewill thanked Atiku for the visit and urged him to do anything in his capability in making sure that the country continues to enjoy a peaceful environment. On the part of Atiku, he said that he belong to the Adamawa emirate, so he knows the traditional institution very well. He reiterated that the royal fathers in the country should be given the respect they deserved in the democracy because the traditional institution had been in existence before democracy. He called for the re-visitation of the traditional rulers reforms of 1975. The Atiku Campaign Organisation chairman in the state, Prince Tonye TJT Princewill on his part said that he didn't come into politics because of what he will get but for what he will give. He cited the advise the father gave to him when he was deciding to venture into politics in 2007. “My son, be wise and judge uprightly,” he quoted his father. When the cotton was drawn at the traditional rulers office, the convoy left for the Rivers State Government House for a few relaxations before it headed to the expensive and expansive compound of Chief Pere Ajuwa.

At about 1.30pm, the convoy arrived at the befitted compound of Ajuwa. In his welcome speech, Ajuwa welcomed Atiku, with the salvo that leadership in the country is not an ethnic thing. In the presence of some leaders of Ijaw ethnic nationality present in the auditorium, the place of the attendance, Ajuwa said that the leaders of Ijaw believe in inward capability. He said that any leader who can't take self decision is not a leader. “Our doors are open for Atiku,” he said. “Those who believe in the breaking of the country are those who are fanning the embers of ethnic politics.”

On the part of Atiku, he commended Ajuwa and the leaders of Ijaw for their gesture and said that he intends to govern and hopes that he was going to win. He said that nobody from his area has helped him before but that he always gets support from those from other places when people want to humiliate him. He talked about how he brought the best brains in the Niger Delta region to Abuja for a master plan of the region when he was vice-President. He said that it was through this initiative that gave birth to the Niger Delta Ministry. “We've a Ministry of Niger Delta in Abuja, what is it doing in Abuja?” Atiku asked. He boasted that he had worked in the region for 27yrs, and added that if there is any Nigerian politician that knows the region very well, then that person is him. He said that all Nigerians must work assiduously in making sure that this country works.

At about 4.35pm, the convoy left for the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa. There was a brief press conference at the airport with the teaming journalists (led by Directorate of Media and Public Affairs of Turaki Vanguard, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze) who waited patiently since 7.30am they arrived the PDP secretariat in Port Harcourt. Princewill thanked all present for their patience and support since the morning. “We are trying to stop the culture of 8yr term in the country, but the North is bent on finishing the remaining years of late Umaru Yar'Adua,” Atiku said, while responding to questions from journalists before leaving the presidential lodge of the airport to board.

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes In Rivers State (CONIRIV). Mobile: +2348032552855. Email: [email protected]