The war of words between Mr. Nyesom Wike, the Rivers State governor, and Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, his predecessor and Minister of Transport, has taken a new dimension with the governor challenging the minister to a public debate. The debate, according to the government will be on the logic, financial cost, and social value of the failed monorail project along Azikiwe Road, Port Harcourt.
Ameachi, it would be recalled, had on Tuesday in Abuja accused Wike, of playing politics with the lives of the people of the state instead of completing the project and not taking the development of the state seriously.
He also accused Wike of “twisting, butchering and turning the truth upside down; and in most cases telling outright lies in his failed bid to denigrate, tarnish and rubbish his towering image, person and laudable, landmark achievements.”
The minister described as most troubling Wike’s alleged propensity to play politics with the safety and security of the lives of Rivers people without any qualms whatsoever, saying that the governor’s action was indeed most worrisome.
Amaechi, in very scathing remark, said: “It is no secret that Wike plays politics with the development, welfare and well-being of Rivers people. But, no government should play politics with the safety and security of its citizens like Wike is sadly and shamelessly doing.
“Governor Wike claimed that the brutal political killings and murder of the All Progressives Congress members and other hapless citizens in the state are cult-related or a result of cult clashes.
“What cult wars is he talking about? Since he claimed to have security reports, we challenge Wike to tell Rivers people the cult group that Franklin Obi, the APC Ward Chairman in Omoku, belongs to, that led to his being gruesomely beheaded and butchered, alongside his pregnant wife and teenage son.
“Or did Franklin suddenly become a cult member because he had the guts and courage to host a resoundingly successful ward meeting of APC faithful in the same ward as Wike’s Peoples Democratic Party state chairman, Felix Obuah, just a few days to the rerun elections?”
Amaechi challenged Wike to tell Nigerians the cult groups and the cult wars that led to the killing of the youth corper, Chukwudumeibi Okonta, on the day of the last rerun election on March 19, asking, “Was the youth corper a cultist or a victim of cult wars or yet another victim of politically-motivated killings in Rivers State?”
He also said that Wike must tell Rivers people the cult wars that led to the brutal murder of hundreds of Rivers people since the election that made him governor was held, and the cult groups that all those that had been murdered, belong to.
Amaechi stated that Wike’s cult wars and cultists claim was akin to insulting and spitting on the graves and memories of all those murdered and their families. He added: “With pity, we watched as Wike tried to compare the political killings of the late Okonta and Independent National Electoral Commission ad hoc staff on the rerun election day in Rivers State to the fire accident that occurred at the home of the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Kano State days after the elections of 2015. How pathetic! Even for Wike, this is a new low.”
On the Rivers Monorail project Amaechi started, which Wike allegedly plans to abandon, the former governor said the governor needed to know that the project belongs to Rivers State and not his (Amaechi’s) private property.
He said: “Pray, Governor Wike, which Rivers people told you not to touch the monorail project? Is it the same Rivers people that have consistently praised the project and see it as a catalyst to jump-start the local economy and place the state at the forefront of transport infrastructural development in Africa?
“Or is Wike aggregating the jaundiced views of the coterie of court-jesters that hang around him daily, as the opinion of the entire people of the state?
“It is sad, very sad that Wike has elected to play politics with this laudable project that was almost completed before Amaechi left office.”
Amaechi lamented that Wike described several ongoing projects in the state when he (Amaechi) left office as ‘abandoned’ when he (the former governor) had claimed to have completed or about to complete. He stated that Wike specifically mentioned the Ogoni-Andoni-Opobo Unity Road that connects the Island of Opobo to Andoni and the rest of the state.
“What a shameless lie! This project was ongoing and was almost completed as at May 29, 2015. May we also remind Wike that the Eagle Island- Diobu Road that he once claimed to have been abandoned was 90 per cent completed with just the final course of coal tar remaining as at when he succeeded Amaechi,” Amaechi added.
But in a swift reaction, the River State government challenged Amaechi to a public debate on the logic, financial cost, and social value of the failed monorail project along Azikiwe Road, Port Harcourt.
The state government said it would meet the minister for a debate on any platform, concerning projects allegedly abandoned by his (Amaechi) administration.
Speaking through a statement issued by Dr Austin Tam-George, state Commissioner for Information and Communication, the government challenged Mr. Amaechi to come to the debate prepared ”with full explanations on other inflated contracts and unexecuted projects, such as, the Greater Port Harcourt City project over which N200 billion was spent with nothing on the ground to justify the huge expenditure.”
Dr Tam-George also asked Amaechi to give reasons for pulling down a standard, well equipped teaching hospital complete with doctors’ quarters along Hospital Road, Port Harcourt, leaving only weed to grow wildly in the space were the hospital once stood.
“By that thoughtless and disastrous action Mr Rotimi Amaechi restricted healthcare access for thousands of people, particularly women and children, and may have contributed to the deaths of thousands of people in the past eight years”, the commissioner said.
He asked: “Will Mr. Rotimi Amaechi also explain how N80 billion was spent on the Rainbow Town project, near Amadi Ama, that was originally designated in 2010 to cost 40 billion Naira? Why does that project remain uncompleted six years after? ”
“How about the billions of Naira signed off the State treasury in the name of the so-called Justice Karibi Whyte Specialist Hospital, which is a fictional project that does not exist on land, sea or anywhere in Rivers State?”
Dr Tam-George reiterated the commitment of the Nyesom Wike administration to complete any relevant project that could uplift the socio-economic life of the people of the state, even as he condemned the previous administration “for leaving the most abandoned projects in the history of Rivers State, since 1967, despite receiving over 3 trillion naira in revenue in eight years.”
As things stand now, the people of Rivers State in particular and Nigerians are patiently waiting to see if Amaechi will accept this challenge to a debate. They are also watching how this dog fight between the two friends-turned foes will play out. One however hopes that as the war of words rages, at the end of the day, it is the people of Rivers state that will suffer most, for there is an adage that says “when two elephants fight, it is the ground that suffers.”