• Sunday, February 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

Mutually assured destruction?

Wike-Amaechi
Wike, Amaechi hurling more poisonous corruption allegations in renewed political warfare
Preamble:
The endless political warfare between two kinsmen and former political allies, Nyesom Wike, now governor of Rivers State, and immediate past governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, began as a public-interest struggle but seems to have degenerated to personal-interest fight with little or nothing for the ordinary people.
Now, both Wike and Amaechi seem to have invented fiercer corruption pellets which they aim at each other with the aim of either dethroning one or stopping the other from political elevation. It now seems that for a long time to come, the political divide in Rivers State will remain along Wike and Amaechi polarities, and they are fast pushing it to look like victory for one camp would be to the detriment of the other.
For this reason, each political leader would do everything to paint the other black in the public domain and do everything to deny the other of any elevation or advantage. On this score, while Amaechi did everything to stop Wike from succeeding him, Wike now seems bent on stopping Amaechi from becoming a federal power force.
Amaechi seemed aware of the powers of a governor and therefore seemed to not want Wike to step into those shoes even for one day, as it would amount to a bull in a china shop. Developments since Wike assumed the office of governor on May 29, 2015 seem to justify the fears. On the other hand, Wike, who was not only a federal minister but the then president’s political ally and strategic confidant, seemed to realise the enormous powers of a minister and being a member of the presidential kitchen cabinet. He seems to devote a lot of time stopping Amaechi from becoming one, not minding whether juicy position to a Rivers man was a blessing or not.
Friends before:
Both men had done each other huge political favours in the past and gained from it, but because there may be no permanent friends in politics, much hate seems to ooze from both camp. Amaechi was said to have helped Wike to break unto the political limelight to become chairman of the all-powerful Obio/Akpor local council, (ruler of richer half Port Harcourt), for two terms, even against the wish of the lords of the ruling party in the state, according an elder, Chidi Wihioka. Wike was to return the favour when Amaechi was in distress and in self-exile in Ghana, coordinating the home-front. Wike was rumoured to have been behind the miraculous victory of Amaechi at the Supreme Court in 2007 which led Amaechi to become the first man to win an election he did not contest.
Amaechi allegedly repaid Wike handsomely thereafter, by making him chief of staff in Government House, the first appointment after the apex court verdict, allegedly supported him for a senate contest in 2011 before the first lady demanded for the slot, and later nominated him for minister (education).
Nobody knows for sure what led to their bitter separation but many speculations abound; some saying Wike asked to replace Amaechi as governor under Ikwerre north and south initiative, but that the then governor rejected the request. What is obvious is that when Amaechi looked like positioning himself for vice president for 2015, believing that Jonathan would not run (in keeping with an alleged deal with the north), and when this seemed to infuriate the presidency, Wike joined in the fight to help Jonathan liquidate Amaechi or at least put him to size. This eventually snowballed into a bitter and bloody political rivalry that has torn the entire state into irreconcilable camps down the midrib. The only way out for each camp seems to be to shoot down the other.
This did not seem to work that way after the elections as nature seemed to share the fortunes into two, giving each the opposite of what he had: Wike became governor in a new opposition party (PDP) while Amaechi’s new party (APC) won at the centre with the former governor playing crucial roles that have made him the president’s beloved, the same position Wike occupied under Jonathan.
Wike’s message to the people was that he was fighting for the interest of Rivers State by fighting to sustain a Jonathan in office. This seemed to win huge admiration to him. Amaechi also said he was fighting to liberate the Rivers people from oil well deprivation, allocation diversion, and funding (loan) injustice. Many also agreed with him.
Now, many begin to question the real motives of the each combatant as Wike has realised his ambition without that of Jonathan, and Amaechi is bent on stopping Wike’s continuous stay in power despite appeals even from the bishopric to allow peace to reign.
Wike-Amaechi
As Amaechi continues to press for the upturn of Wike’s stay in the N4Bn Brick House (Government House) in Port Harcourt, Wike on the other hand has continued to dig out dirt to show to the anti-corruption president that his new-found friend and ally, Amaechi, was not the man to befriend. The strategy seems to be to put Buhari under pressure over his closeness with Amaechi, the man that helped Buhari to win the APC primaries and helped him to conquer Nigeria in a historic victory for an opposition party in Nigeria.
The objective is said to be to deny Amaechi an influential federal position that could be used to do to Wike’s administration what Wike used his closeness to Jonathan to do to the Amaechi administration. Jonathan was severally accused by Amaechi of taking away many Rivers oil wells and therefore reduced the state’s share of oil windfall; posting hostile police commissioners that seemed to levy war on the administration and refused to recognise the state governor as chief security officer of the state, stopping Rivers N250Bn bond quest that forced the state to harsh short-term commercial bank loans, stopping foreign funds and soft loans heading to Rivers State, impounding Rivers jet and stopping arrival of Rivers security helicopters, making appointments without recourse to the state governor and in fact seeming to appoint Amaechi haters to undo him, etc. There are fears that should Amaechi assume such powers as Wike had, the reverse could be the case and Rivers State could suffer more. The trouble seems to be to know when to say ‘stop’, since each combatant must have his turn.
To stop Wike, Amaechi had accused him of corruption in terms of road and schools contracts not executed. The then minister was accused of expensive lifestyles too. Wike had in February 2015 countered that Amaechi was the most corrupt governor in Nigeria.
Now, both combatants have resumed the firing of corruption pellets at each other, either for Wike to stop Amaechi from making the ministerial list; or Amaechi to alert federal investors on Wike’s records in office as minister to put him in trouble and probably get him behind bars in the brief moment Wike may not have immunity should the April 11 election be quashed. Each fighter seems to have fierce arrows aimed at the other, all in the name of the Rivers man.
Wike fires fresh cannons:
As the hints on Amaechi making the ministerial list grew stronger in Port Harcourt, the Wike camp reacted through a press interview by the governor’s special adviser on media and publicity, the Knight and Justice of the Peace (JP), Opunabo Inko-Tariah, reaching for corruption pellets once again, calling him corrupt.
He charged: “If Amaechi is not corrupt, what happened to the billions from IGR and the allocations the state got in eight years as civil servants, pensioners, footballers, contractors and even students on scholarship were not paid”. He also challenged the former governor to account for the billions of tax payers money spent on the proposed Clinotech hospital and referred to what he called Amaechi’s refusal to probe the consultants of the failed N3Bn road maintenance agency chaired by Wihioka as well as the monorail.
 He said Rivers people demand to know where all the monies were kept or what they were used for. He said for the eight years Amaechi governed the state, there was nothing to justify the amount he received.
The Wike camp poked the fire they started in February 2015 when the then aspiring governor insisted that Amaechi was the most corrupt governor in Nigeria. He had accused Amaechi of squandering N298Bn between January and November 2014, money he said had accrued to the state from the Federation Accounts and loans obtained from various commercial banks.
Wike had accused Amaechi of expending N11Bn said to have been channelled into Buhari’s campaign fund, a charge Amaechi finance commissioner, Chamberlain Peterside vehemently denied at the time, saying no money from funds under him was diverted. He had averred that the massive corrupt expenditure of the over N300Bn just for 2014 and the first month of 2015 excluded the internally generated revenue of Rivers State.
Wike had said then: “These are facts duly obtained from government sources. They are not newspaper reports. They are authenticated facts of revenue received by the outgoing government of Rotimi Amaechi. Before the people of Nigeria is the most corrupt administration ever seen in this state”.
He charged further: “For instance, Amaechi paid N500 million for a non-existent new Bridge in Abonnema. He paid N2 billion for the Trans-Kalabari Road where nothing was been done by his administration. For the Port Harcourt Centenary celebration, Amaechi expended almost N1 billion and he released N1.7billion for the production of international passports.”
Since he was sworn in, Wike has not only set up a probe panel on Amaechi but has been digging all over to get bankable evidence to nail his bitterest political rival so he can fully consolidate political power in the oil-rich state.
As Amaechi’s prospects of emerging into a federal force become real, his home government has intensified the firing of corruption pellets (charges) at him to attract Buhari’s scorn. The ex-governor’s local tormentor-in-chief, Jerry Needam, a media aide to the state PDP chairman, referred to a live report by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and alleged stacking of $757m in US accounts. Needed added bite, saying “An NGO, the Integrity Group, has also petitioned to President Buhari as well as the EFCC on alleged conversion of over N70Bn belonging to Rivers State government. This is aside of over US105m (N21Bn) which the PDP said Amaechi hurriedly transferred from the sale of the Power Assets proceeds Account with the Access Bank into accounts of three private companies (names withheld)”. The PDP mentioned what it called unlawful payment to and fraudulent conversion of N4.6Bn and another N1.5Bn by a medical investment company and one consultancy firm.
To put Buhari under pressure, the Wike camps said Nigerians would expect “that you demonstrably commit yourself to doing the right thing by not having sacred cows around you. (Stopping them) will further earn you credibility and trust. We make bold to say that under Amaechi as governor, corruption was legalised and institutionalised. There are obvious evidence attesting to the validity of this position and the PDP is fully ready to provide prove of its claims.
Amaechi seemed to brush aside the attacks and tested the national opinion by allowing his ‘friends’ to organise a reception for him in Abuja, though his birthday is still way ahead in May next year. There, the crowd was said to be tumultuous. He allowed himself to hint that Mr President was begging him to be minister. His enemies at home went mad and wild, asking him to come out of hiding and face charges. As far as the Wike camp is concerned, the huge crowd that converged over him in Abuja had rather turned into a forest of humans, shielding him from prosecution.
Amaechi camp fires back:
Amaechi has always dismissed these allegations and has waved off the probe effort saying Wike would not find anything incriminating. Instead, the APC in the state has intensified efforts to nail Wike before he would nail Amaechi, corruption wise.
The party last week passionately appealed to President Buhari to hasten to fulfil his pledge on electoral violence. The state party boss, Davis Ikanya, appealed to Buhari to quickly look at the issue of Rivers State, “where Wike and other PDP henchmen planned and executed a mind-boggling campaign of violence that claimed over 100 APC members and supporters in their desperate bid to capture power. Wike and his people should be prosecuted for murder without delay to restore hope to the families whose breadwinners were slain during the elections”.
The party gloated over the order by the president to comprehensively probe the N4 trillion debt by 28 Ministries and their departments and agencies.  “We are deeply sad and embarrassed that the highest culprit among the 28 federal ministries was the one headed by a Rivers son as Minister of State and later as substantive minister. Out of the total sum of N4 trillion debts accumulated largely through unconscionable and reckless contract awards and graft, the Federal Ministry of Education under Nyesom Wike came out tops with a total debt of N1.2 trillion or 30 percent of the total indebtedness by the 28 Ministries”.
The party said the then minister of education received audit queries in his ministry for three years which he blatantly refused to respond to. “And each time he was reported to the then president did nothing but rather shielded him from responding to queries in line with civil service rules”.
Ikanya said: “The APC has earlier drawn attention to an allegation that N20bn was released for the purchase of books for Federal Government institutions, adding that such books were never provided. We also drew attention to the Almajiri School Scheme, the Universal Basic Education, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund and the N87bn approved for the ministry but not utilised. Another is the N180bn UBEC funds allegedly looted by Chief Wike and Dame Patience Jonathan, through fraudulent contracts for the supply of textbooks to higher institutions but the textbooks were never supplied”.
The party said: “When the special task force to conduct the probe of the Ministries is raised by the Federal Government, the APC would like it to be meticulous with its assignment especially with the Federal Ministry of Education that was headed by a smart person”.
Conclusion:
The way the battle is raging, the battle could end up as a mutually a mutually assured destruction (MAD). In stopping Amaechi from Buhari favours, the state may lose, and in stopping Wike from using his governorship powers effectively, the same people may lose badly.
Ignatius Chukwu