Special Assistant to Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State in charge of the Lagos liaison office, Mr. Aso Wena, speaks with Ojo M. Maduekwe on the crisis in the state and the roles played by the dramatis personae. Excerpts:
Looking at the crisis in Rivers State, would you say Governor Amaechi is rather misunderstood?
I find it very difficult to situate why people don’t understand Governor Amaechi. If you come close to Governor Amaechi, you’ll know that he means well for this country. He is a rare breed politician. When you look at him from afar, there’s that common knowledge that he is arrogant. Why do they refer to him that way? It is because he is principled, that’s all. Most of these people fighting him know that he is a good man, and they are not comfortable with that.
Importantly, the reason many people seemed to misunderstand the governor was because when Wike was Chief of Staff, he wielded too much influence and power that he fenced off the people from accessing the governor, having been handed some strict political assignments while the governor struggled to put the state on the portal of stability, development and infrastructure renewal. But a lot of people didn’t know.
I also didn’t know that they didn’t know until recently when I met with some people who opened up. They thought it was Amaechi who was doing all that shenanigans. One major problem with Amaechi is that he is too trusting and that’s how Wike got away with a lot of mess. Without doubt, Wike is the problem of the Rivers people and those who can see beyond the flash that he seems to represent now can see that he was the problem and can decipher also why he was doing all that.
In essence, are you saying those fighting him, one of whom is the Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, are the opposite of him?
Absolutely! The issue of Wike fighting Governor Amaechi is one area that hurts me so much. The reason is that Nyesom Wike knows that the governor is a good man. That much he knows. He worked closely with the governor for four good years as Chief of Staff. This is aside being in Amaechi’s political family during his time as a local government chairman. Having come to work with Amaechi as Chief of Staff, he understood him better and knew that Amaechi is a good man and one who is not corrupt. The governor has character which Wike lacks and there is therefore, no basis for comparison between them. Above all, Amaechi has one thing that his traducers lack- his knees. While they rely on state power, he counts solely on his prayers to God.
Aside Wike, there is President Goodluck Jonathan on whose behalf people like Wike are fighting Amaechi. Are you saying he’s also the opposite of the governor?
If the president is viewing Amaechi from a different angle, it is quite unfortunate and I don’t know why. Governor Amaechi is like his younger brother and they are from the same zone. Let me ask a question; when President Jonathan was the vice-president, what was his relationship with Governor Amaechi, and what was his relationship with other governors who were running around him today? I am yet to know and, I stand to be corrected. One governor including Bayelsa where he comes from who gave him the chance to nominate a commissioner in his cabinet was Amaechi.
When Jonathan was vice-president, Amaechi gave him the chance to nominate two commissioners in Rivers State. The president is also from Rivers state because he grew up in Port Harcourt and Bayelsa is nearby. So we see ourselves as family. What I want you to appreciate here is that, as vice-president, Governor Amaechi saw him as a brother and they worked closely together. Where were all these other governors now running around him? They were busy running around late President Yar’Adua.
When eventually Governor Amaechi became chairman of the governor’s forum and spoke what his colleagues told him to say, the president began to dislike his attitude, and that is unfortunate. When he was acting president, Amaechi was the chairman of the forum, and used it to assist him greatly. When the issue of Yar’Adua’s sickness was creating problems for him, the governor’s forum assisted him and he knows.
The point I’m making is have you seen any governor from the 36 states that has come to say that this communiqué that Amaechi read was not what we agreed. As the chairman of the forum, when they take a decision, it is his duty to read the communiqué. I am sure that most of these communiqué do not go down well with the president. But there are better ways to go about it. If only the president can realise that Amaechi would have been one of the best persons in his life, it would have been better for him.
What do you say of close allies who have now fallen out with the governor?
From my understanding, the main person is Nyesom Wike who because of ambition and greed, fell out with governor Amaechi. First, if you see the way he is going, you’ll think he’s working for the president. If the president thinks that Nyesom Wike is working for him, then he should watch out for what’s coming. Wike simply wants to be the governor after Amaechi. He has had this ambition, having worked with governor Amaechi as Chief of Staff, during which time the governor gave him so much leverage.
At a point Wike was almost making decisions in the state. He amassed so much wealth. If governor Amaechi was corrupt, would he have amassed so much wealth? Wike saw the awesomeness of being a governor and it got into his head. He amassed so much wealth and felt that he could take a shot at the governorship. But he sees that the governor won’t support him because they are from the same tribe and there are other tribes in the state. Seeing that was not possible, he began moving away from Governor Amaechi. In summary, Wike is the problem of the Rivers people. That is all!
The others, Austin Okpara and Chibudum Nwuche, feel that governor Amaechi should bring Rivers money for them to share. Amaechi is not that kind of person. If not why would these two, after being deputy speakers, be running around government and the president’s wife? Whenever the president’s wife is coming, you’ll see them at the airport going to welcome her, short of carrying her bag. These are men who people should be looking up to as role models. But look at the level they’ve brought themselves, following Wike to run down Governor Amaechi for no just cause, because they feel they should grab power from Amaechi at all cost. Seeing that the president and his wife are not happy with Amaechi, they feel they can cash-in on that and make the state ungovernable for Amaechi. They make the president believe that they are working for him, never. They are not working for the president but Wike.
Amaechi has left the PDP for APC; what does this tell for his political career and future?
I don’t want to speak much about that. I am aware that the New PDP has defected to the APC and we are waiting for our governor to come back to the state and properly brief us. But look at it this way, he was unjustly suspended from the party; the structure taken away from him through the backdoor; his security reduced in size, thus putting his life at risk and yet when he cried aloud, the president turned deaf ears. Have you seen a politician and political office holder without a party? No.
One thing you must know is that anytime he comes back to the state and speaks to us, he’ll have more than 80 per cent support from Rivers State, because the people of the state love him. Things that they don’t see, they bow see in Amaechi’s government and I can assure you that the Rivers people genuinely love him.
Therefore, Amaechi will win election in Rivers any day, anytime. What Wike and co are relying on to win an election in Rivers is the use of security to intimidate voters, and Rivers people are aware. Any day we do election in Rivers state, free and fair, they won’t get up to 20 per cent; they don’t have that support in Rivers. Governor Amaechi is a leader and he has done well, and our people love him.
Talking about security, Rivers is a volatile state. Do you foresee the people revolting if Wike and his co-travellers try to intimidate them with the use of security agencies during 2015 elections?
To begin with, that Nigerians even hear of Wike making noise in Rivers State is because the president seems to disagree with Amaechi. If the president was neutral on this matter, you won’t hear of Wike; he is no match to Amaechi. Governor Amaechi is his benefactor; he should appreciate that and be grateful to God. Now, on the day of election, if they try to intimidate Rivers electorate, we will resist them; I can assure you that. Rivers youths will resist them and the aftermath will be too much for the president to contain. So if they know the proper thing to do, they should allow the people to vote. If you say you’re popular and he has been campaigning, they should allow the people to vote.
Some are saying that Governor Amaechi, like some of the now defunct G7 governors has plans after 2015. Having worked closely with him, what can you say are his plans after 2015?
Honestly, he has not sat any of us down to say what his plans are after 2015. He is someone that if he has any form of ambition, he’ll let us know. That is why when you see posters indicating that he wanted to be vice-president, the question anyone should ask is that do people contest to be vice-president? It is not possible! Vice-presidency is by nomination, after a presidential candidate has emerged. To begin with, I say this in many places; I doubt if Amaechi is a soft choice for vice-presidency. I see people naturally being scared of him. So where all these stories come from, I don’t know. For us, he has not told us anything regarding his ambition after 2015.