The First Lady, Mrs Patience Jonathan, has used her stay in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State Capital to seek the support of traditional rulers for President Goodluck Jonathan in his undeclared bid for re-election in 2015.
Jonathan’s undeclared second term bid has been one of the issues fingered as the source of the friction between the state Governor, Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, and the president.
It is also believed that contrary to the statement from the presidency that the first lady’s visit has nothing to do with the frosty relationship between Amaechi and Jonathan, the long visit to her home state was being used to solicit support for her husband, just as she was said to have held some clandestine meetings with some anti-Amaechi groups in the state.
Mrs. Jonathan yesterday visited the palace of the Nye-nwe-eli Rumueme Kingdom, Eze Omunakwe Nsirim, where she solicited the support of the traditional ruler and people of Obio/Akpor for her husband in the 2015 presidential election.
She also inaugurated the South-south zonal secretariat of the Women for Change and Development Initiative, her pet project, and event that was boycotted by the governor, his wife and other top government officials from the state.
Mrs. Jonathan, at the palace, expressed appreciation for the support Jonathan got from the area in the last election and said such support should be repeated in 2015 to ensure his re-election.
“I am here to thank and appreciate the role you and my people of Rivers State played in voting for my husband in the 2011 presidential election. Rivers people voted massively for my husband. I am your daughter and my husband is your son. I want you to support him when the time comes. I know you will not disappoint us. We, on our part, will never forget you,” she said.
She also called on the people to maintain peace and harmony and obey the laws of the land in all their endeavours.
Responding, Nsirim assured Mrs. Jonathan of the massive support of Rivers people for Jonathan in the quest for re-election in 2015.
The traditional ruler, who is also the father of the suspended chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Council, Timothy Nsirim, said anybody from the state, who is opposed to Jonathan’s second tenure did not have the interest of the people at heart.
He also described those opposed to Jonathan as people who wished to sell the state to the north.
“No Rivers man should join those who want to sell Rivers State to the north because we know that they do not have the interest of our people at heart,” he added.
However, Amaechi and his wife, Judith, yesterday shunned the inauguration of the South-south zonal secretariat of the Women for Change and Development Initiative.
Also, other top government officials in the state were absent at the event, which took place in Port Harcourt.
A source in Mrs. Jonathan's entourage, who did not want to be named, said Amaechi and his wife were invited for the ceremony which saw to the empowerment of over 1,000 women in the state.
The source said: “We sent a letter of invitation to the governor and his wife, one week to the event, but as you can see, no single government official was present at the occasion.
“The truth is that government deliberately refused to attend the event. Enough publicity was done for the occasion. Besides, invitation was extended to the state government.”
But officials of the state said they were not invited. Mrs. Amaechi’s Press Secretary, Mr. Dike Bekwele, denied knowledge of the event, saying that the governor’s wife was not invited to the occasion.
He said the governor or his wife would have sent a representative if they would not be in the state during the occasion, recalling that the wife of the governor attended the launch of the scheme in Rivers.
Speaking at the ceremony, Mrs. Jonathan, charged Nigerian women to train their children so that they will be useful to the society.
The first lady distributed sewing , cassava, pepper and tomato grinding machines to women across the 23 local government areas of the state.
Meanwhile, a former Chairman of the Rivers State chapter of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Apostle Eugene Ogu, has advised the president to withdraw his wife from circulation as her utterances in the political crisis in Rivers State were becoming inflammatory.
Ogu said the first lady should be reminded to see herself as a true mother of the nation who should not support one citizen against the other.
He said it was unbecoming of “a mother of the nation” like Mrs Jonathan to be making “inflammatory” public utterances in the Rivers crisis.
“Jonathan should withdraw his wife from circulation. She is making a lot of inflammatory statements that can further ignite the problem that two brothers are having presently. Patience Jonathan is not helping the PDP in its current peace effort," he said.