The fight for supremacy in the politics of Rivers State between Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, with his supporters on one part and the former governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, Nigeria’s Transportation Minister, and his loyalists on the other hand has polarised, and
become a major distraction to development initiatives in Rivers state.
Last Saturday’s confrontation in Port Harcourt, between security operatives attached to the two top government officials, and the subsequent claims of assassination attempts on both sides, have compelled concerned citizens to think aloud, and to ask, if there are no worthy elders in the state, to intervene, in the interest of peace and development of the state.
In this interview with Iheanyi Ezinwo, publisher of Notable Outcome in Port Harcourt, Wednesday, Hon. O.C.J. Okocha, SAN, former national president of Nigerian Bar Association, explains that efforts have been made by interest groups in the past, and that further interventions are on going to resolve the dispute. He however regrets that Amaechi’s fixated conditions have been frustrating sincere efforts at achieving reconciliation between the two politicians.
Responding to Notable Outcome’s question on, if Ikwerre land, and indeed Rivers State lack elders who can intervene settle the dispute between Amaechi and Wike, he had these to say:
“I know as a fact, that we have elders and other groups, interest groups and lovers of peace and unity in Rivers State, who have tried to intervene. Indeed there are several on going projects.
“ I personally, with one of the close advisers of Governor Chibuike Amaechi before Barr. Nyesom Wike was elected as governor in 2015
“ I personally also tried to intervene because both of them acknowledge me as their respected senior brother, and you won’t believe it, this close adviser of Amaechi, whose name I will disclose without fear of contradiction is Hon. Nyema Weli. He was first commissioner for lands, and later commissioner for environment in Rivers State. “Sometimes, as late as 2a.m, we were shuttling between Wike’s house and Amaechi’s residence at the time in Government House.
“I personally met with Ameachi on several occasions, all in a bid to say, look o, all these wahala, all these bitterness should stop. You are all of the same stock. If for nothing else we are all Ikwerre people. But I don’t know why things have not made much progress.
“I know other groups that I said are intervening. There is a group of senior religious ministers that are in that same quest, including one of our most revered senior pastor in Redeemed Church, Pastor Shyngle Wigwe, from Isiokpo, and former Director General of Nigeria Television Authority. Bishop Precious Omuku, who retired as a top management staff in Shell, who under Amaechi’s administration was chairmen of Bureau on Public Procurement.
“Several people have intervened, but you see, the group that ought to have intervened, namely Ogbakor Ikwerre had compromised itself at the time under Governor Amaechi’s administration. And I took issue with them on their lack of vision; lack of focus; lack of purposeful intervention when the issue of the appointment of Chief Judge of Rivers State arose.
“And all the principal parties are Ikwerre people. Governor Amaechi, Justice Daisy Okocha, nominated Chief Judge designate; Justice Peter Agumagu, President of Customary Court of Appeal, but nominated by Amaechi to become Chief Judge; Wogu Boms, Attorney General; Iche Ndu, retiring or subsequently retired Chief Judge: all five principal parties in that imbroglio were Ikwerre people.
“I personally wrote to Ogbakor and said, look, you have a moral authority over all Ikwerre men and women. What did I see, Ogbakor under Chief Sampson Agbaru, and later Pro. Onyeuzu had constituted themselves as if they were the cultural wing of a political party. And I saw them wearing APC shirts, attended political rallies which was unheard of in our history.
“Yes, when Ogbakor Ikwerre was newly founded, we had to come out, Ogbakor had to come out enmasse to support Wobidike Wonodi because he was standing an election against an Ibo man, who was being sought to be imposed on the Ahoada Division by the NCNC at the time. And Wonodi was an Ikwerre man.
“Yes, he was the only candidate from Ikwerre. So yes, Ogbakor had every moral authority to back him because you know, Ogbakor is not a political organisation. But when it got to the stage where several Ikwerre men, four of them: Sergeant Awuse, Andrew Uchendu, Ken Etokochay, Igantius Ajuru, were contesting for governor, during the SDP and NRC days, I had to personally approach the traditional rulers headed by Eze Epara Rebisis at the time, His Majesty Eze S.N.Woluchem to say, look o, these are all Ikwerre men and you people need to do something.
“Let the four not go and damage our interest. We as Ikwerre people will sit back and use our tongue to count our teeth, to know which one we will back, and which party we will back so that we will achieve that ambition of an Ikwerre man becoming the governor of Rivers State for the first time.
“So just like at that time, in this recent time, I had expected that Ogbakor would play a dignified role but what did we see? Ogbakor was now carried to support one political party, and the candidate of that political party is not even an Ikwerre man. And then there was someone somewhere saying an Ikwerre man cannot succeed an Ikwerre man.
“Haba! is that the wish of the political party? It is only a political party that will chose its candidate and they will usually look at the candidates and say, this is the one that will best serve our interest and win elecrion for us. This was what I saw in Wike. Some of my friends from Kalabari even took issue with me, Fafaa Princewill, Odein Ajumogobia,SAN, for example and I said to them, look o, at this time, our party needs a candidate that will face and successfully defeat APC in Rivers State.
“So that was my issue with Ogbakor Ikwerre. Now I have still continued. I know that the new President General of Ogbakor, Prof. Simeon Achinewhu is on this mission. I also know that Ikwerre Government Recognised Traditional Rulers headed by Nyewe-Eli Isiokpo, His Majesty Blessing Wagor, have been on this mission. Others in it include Eze Victor Woluchem of Rebisi, Port Harcourt; Eze Leslie Eke.
“They even went in different delegations to see both Amaechi and Governor Wike on several occasions. So efforts are on, even non Ikwerre people are also interested in the peace and progress of Rivers State are also on the mission, but my experience which I regret to say is that, you know sometimes people get intransigent, they get too fixated on their own position. I have said, particularly to our former governor, Rotimin Amaechi, when you are looking to settle a matter, you start with imposing pre-conditions! You go to settlement with an open mind.
“And my own personal experience is that our governor, Barr. Nyesom Wike has always been willing and amenable to harmonious discussion and resolution of issues. But for some reasons that I cannot fathom, former governor Chibuike Amaechi seems to be so fixated on his own conditions, which I call preconditions, and settlement does not have a place for precondition: you come with an open mind so that you will be receptive of any meaningful suggestion coming from the mediators, to achieve amicable settlement.
“It is not doing Rivers State any good. Every once in a while one fracas will occur. There was one last weekend, and it is all over the place. And now they said someone attempted to kill our governor; some say they attempted to assassinate Amaechi. And people who are bystanders, who did not even witness the incident are going on air and saying what I consider really damaging, things which will not help the process.
“But we continue to pray to God; we continue to appeal to our elders; we continue to appeal to well meaning citizens and organisations: we must find a way to amicably resolve whatever may be the pending disputes between our two worthy sons, who have elevated themselves to such eminent positions. Former governor, now minister; former minister, and now governor. We pray to God, one day, as they say, discussion over a table will end every conflict”, the elder statesman concluded.