27 January 2013

Nigeria: Inside Ameachi VS Orubebe - More Than Just a Spat

A twitch of dissent, a verbal war and the fight is turning out to be ugly. The purported aspiration of Rivers State Governor Rotimi Ameachi to be on the PDP presidential ticket in 2015 as a running mate of another ambitious governor from the North penultimate week, ignited a grim face-off between him and Niger Delta Minister, Godson Orubebe, a staunch ally of President Goodluck Jonathan.

And, now the fight has escalated beyond the two political gladiators. Joining into the fray is no other person than Chief Edwin Clark, an elder statesman, and indeed, one of Jonathan's pitch bulls. The Ijaw leader lampooned the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF), which Ameachi heads, describing it as more dictatorial than the military regimes in Nigeria's recent past.

First, Mr Orubebe accused Governor Amaechi of disrespecting Jonathan by criticizing his administration of poor performance and poor service delivery. He claimed that the Rivers governor was using his position as Chairman of Nigeria Governors' Forum to frustrate Jonathan's re-election in 2015, by rallying his colleagues in the PDP as a bastion of opposition within the party. He said Governor Ameachi had gone on air to say that he and his colleagues in the Niger Delta states were ready to take over the construction of the East-West Road.

The Niger Delta minister, who accused Governor Ameachi of arrogating powers that did not belong to him, described Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, as a slum.

Hear him: "If today, the governor of Akwa Ibom State is saying these things, I will sit down and reason with him, but not the governor of Rivers State. He is only talking; almost all the roads he (Amaechi) started are abandoned."

However in a sharp rebuke, Governor Amaechi, speaking through his spokesman, Mr David Iyofor, described Orubebe's accusation as ludicrous and bizarre, adding that at no time did the governor disrespect President Jonathan. He said the minister's allegations were an attempt to divert attention from his failure to deliver on the East-West Road.

The Rivers governor then went on his own frontal attack describing Orubebe's stewardship at the Niger Delta Ministry as an embodiment of "ineptitude and abysmal failure."

He said further: "It shows clearly that the minister's game is just to divert attention from his ineptitude and abysmal failure."

Reflecting on his off-putting relationship with the president's inner circle, Ameachi said: "I have said it, they don't like Rivers State. If they like Rivers State, they should show us evidence that they like Rivers State. Everything that comes to Rivers State they have taken away. I have said that to the President.

"Even ordinary wavers for security helicopters, agricultural materials, they wouldn't grant the state. Anything we applied for, they will never approve. There is nothing we applied for that we have got successfully, absolutely nothing. It is not that the President is bad. He is absolutely a good man, but those people around him continue to give that impression of hatred and dislike because that is how they will succeed and make their money."

To lessen the tension that might arise between him and the Presidency, the Rivers governor restated his loyalty and respect for President Jonathan and his office. He slammed the minister for painting a different picture.

Ameachi retorted: "The office of the President of Nigeria is a big institution that deserves utmost respect and it would be grossly irresponsible for anyone to disrespect Mr President, which unfortunately Minister Orubebe is doing by dragging the President's name into his inability to deliver on the East -West Road. Minister Orubebe seems to suffer from a severe form of selective amnesia as he conveniently forgets that the same Amaechi he (Orubebe) now contemptuously, insolently disparages and flippantly accuses of not respecting Mr. President, led Rivers people to overwhelming vote for and gave President Jonathan the highest votes by any state in the country at the last Presidential elections.

"Minister Orubebe should please tell us, what respect, regard and show of love is bigger than that? This callous attempt to drag the President's name into it is what is most disrespectful and irresponsible."

While accusing the minister of monumental failure in office, Amaechi challenged Mr Orubebe to show the world the projects he started and completed in the Niger-Delta as minister with the huge resources allocated to his ministry.

Amaechi wrapped up by saying that Niger Delta Minister had failed the region and should honourably resign.

On his own part, Chief Clark launched a verbal attack on former president Olusegun Obasanjo and the Ameachi-led Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF).

While calling for its proscription, Chief Clark upbraided the NGF for constituting and acting as an opposition party to the federal government with some of their activities driving the country to madness but which the governors care nothing about, provided that they achieve the purpose. He accused Peoples Democratic Party governors in the Forum of exerting over bearing influence on the party and hijacking the party's supremacy.

To many political watchers, this wiggled war of words coming out of Niger Delta, explains the level of discord and disharmony within the president's home front. Though, Governor Ameachi would not easily pass as a Jonathan acolyte, but by his own position as the chief executive of Rivers state, he elicits huge strategic and electoral value. Here, the gripe against Governor Ameachi, who is serving his second term in office, was his perceived link with a 2015 presidential ticket being floated by Jonathan's arch-foe Chief Obasanjo, as Orubebe elucidated recently at a press conference in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

"In America, people within the same political party do fight, but once the president emerges, everybody would sheathe their swords and support the President to succeed so that Americans can get the best. But is that what our President is getting? That is not what he is getting" said Orubebe, stressing that the Rivers governor of all people should not be a party to any move to stop his boss (President Jonathan) from getting a second term in 2015. Is this a political game to pressure the governors to support President Jonathan's bid for a second term? Are these gladiators (Messrs. Clark and Orubebe) playing to the gallery as part of a scheme to weaken opposition within PDP and Niger Delta?

Just keep your fingers crossed and hold your breath, for the fight will be murkier as 2015 draws nearer.

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