The perceived ambition of Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State in 2015 has sparked a dirty fight between him and the Minister of the Niger Delta, Elder Godson Orubebe, with both South South leaders publicly calling each other names.
Amaechi, who doubles as Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), is widely rumoured to be nursing the ambition of running as presidential running mate to a Northern aspirant in the next election.
Orubebe believes that the Rivers governor, of all people, should not be a party to any move to stop President Goodluck Jonathan from getting a second term in 2015, declaring on Thursday night: “In America, people within the same political party do fight, but once the President emerges, everybody will 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.”
He spoke at a press conference in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
However, Governor Amaechi, who is serving his second term in office, has not publicly declared any ambition; and he parries questions on the matter whenever he is confronted.
He added: “Unfortunately, the man (Amaechi) has forgotten that it was by the grace of God that he became the governor of Rivers State. He has forgotten so soon. He has arrogated to himself, powers that he does not have. It is God that has powers.
“Today, he sees himself as the governor of governors and he begins to feel that he is even bigger than the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. But I want to let him know that God is still God. He must have respect for the Presidency. He must have respect for the President of this country.
“It is sad. It is unfortunate that people from the South-South, even governors, particularly Governor Rotimi Amaechi, have no respect for the President of this country. I think this is the right time we should let him know and I have decided to speak because this is the time to speak.
“Let him (Amaechi) use the resources of Rivers State to develop Rivers State. Let him not use the resources of Rivers State to bribe people in Nigeria. That must stop. He should understand that God is still God.”
But it was not only Amaechi’s speculated ambition that riled Orubebe.
The governor had on Wednesday expressed disgust at what he regarded as the minister’s lack of attention for the vital East-West road which runs across swampy sections from Oron in Akwa Ibom State passing through Ogoniland in Rivers State as well as Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Ondo and Ogun states, while terminating in Lagos.
The rehabilitation of the road, especially between Delta and Rivers, has suffered from severe red-tape which has slowed down its completion thus, exposing motorists and commuters to danger.
Governor Amaechi, reacting to a recent tanker explosion on the road in which about 14 people died, had said the nine Niger Delta states would take over the project in view of the alleged inaction of the Niger Delta Ministry.
The minister asked Amaechi to mind his business and stop using the resources of Rivers State to bribe Nigerians.
He said: “He (Amaechi) was saying that the governors of the Niger Delta want to take over the East-West Road. The resources of Rivers State are so enormous, but I can tell you that there are so many villages in Rivers State that have not been connected by road.
“Port Harcourt used to be the Garden City of this country. Today, Port Harcourt is a slum. You cannot move in Port Harcourt. I think that he should concern himself with utilising the resources that are in there to develop Rivers State and the people of Rivers State.
“I expect him (Amaechi) to talk, if he is performing like Akpabio (Godswill, the Governor of Akwa Ibom State). If today the Governor of Akwa Ibom State is talking about those things, I will tend to listen, sit down and reason with him, but not governor of Rivers State.
“He (Amaechi) is only talking. Almost the roads he is talking of are abandoned. Nothing is going on in Port Harcourt. The people are crying. He should think of doing that.”
Orubebe had earlier on Thursday inspected work on the projects in Warri, Kaiama in Bayelsa State, Port Harcourt and Ogoniland in Rivers State and Eket and Oron in Akwa Ibom State.
The inspected sections alone,according to him, has 42 bridges, with 32 completed and ten ongoing and 768 culverts, with 740 completed.
Sand-filling is epected to be completed by June.
Orubebe said that the recent collapse of parts of the road was caused by last year’s massive flooding.
Amaechi’s response to the minister’s attack was swift and no less strident.
In a statement through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr.David Iyofor, the Governor said: “Ordinarily, I would not respond to the ludicrous, thoughtless and bizarre rantings of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe, against Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, but it has become imperative for me to do this and show clearly that the minister’s game is just to divert attention from his ineptitude and abysmal failure.
“Contrary to his madcap vituperations, Governor Amaechi has tremendous respect for the office of the President of Nigeria and President Goodluck Jonathan. 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, disgraciously and 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?
“Minister Orubebe’s imprudent and reckless attacks on the person of Governor Amaechi is a dubious but obvious attempt by the minister to divert attention from his abysmal failure to deliver on the East- West road. This callous attempt to drag the President’s name into it is what is most disrespectful and irresponsible.
“I challenge Minister Orubebe to show the world projects he started and completed in the Niger-Delta as Minister of Niger-Delta Affairs. I challenge Minister Orubebe to show the world one project he started and completed in Rivers State with the huge resources allocated to his ministry.
“Or is Rivers State not part of the Niger-Delta, Minister Orubebe? In the same vein, I challenge Minister Orubebe to come to Rivers State at anytime of his choice and since he has become too blind to see Governor Amaechi’s monumental developmental strides and projects in the state. I will be most delighted to show him the kilometres upon kilometres of brand new roads and bridges, the world-class new hospitals and health centres scattered all over the state, the exquisite primary and secondary schools that have become the models for many, the robust urban renewal programme, and many more developmental projects of the Amaechi administration.
“I will advise him to make sure he brings the press along as well, so when he suffers from his selective amnesia again, the media will be quick to remind him that they saw the projects with him.
“What an irony for an appointed minister, who has failed woefully and who has been unable to complete one single road, to cast aspersions on an elected governor who is judiciously using the resources of his people to better their lives and develop their state.
“What a shame! This is indeed most ridiculous and laughable. It’s no longer in doubt that Minister Orubebe does not like Rivers State. Minister Orubebe should please face the simple task of completing one road, just one road, the East-West road, as this dubious diversionary attempt to attack Governor Amaechi will not complete the road that is most dear to the hearts and lives of Niger-Deltans.”