Pro-Wike protesters attack Northern Govs in P’Harcourt
•Leader of opposition lawmakers, Bipi, visits Aso Rock
•Govs call for redeployment of CP Mbu, establishment of state police
The raging political crisis in Rivers State entered a new phase in Port Harcourt on Tuesday when protesters believed to be loyal to Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, pelted some Governors of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the North who were on a solidarity visit to Governor Rotimi Amaechi.
The protesters, under the aegis of Grassroots Democratic Initiative (GDI), besieged the Port Harcourt International Airport where they blocked the VIP Lounge, thus preventing Amaechi and his visitors from leaving the airport.
Wike, an indigene of Rivers State and political opponent of Amaechi, also reportedly arrived Port Harcourt on Tuesday.
The protesters had besieged the airport shortly before the arrival of Governors Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Sule Lamido (Jigawa) and Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano) at the Port Harcourt International Airport.
Chanting anti-Amaechi slogans, the protesters berated the Governors for interfering in Rivers State’s internal crisis.
The three Governors, sources said, however remained at the VIP Lounge of the airport for about an hour waiting for Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliyu, to arrive.
After Governor Aliyu arrived, the Governors drove out of the airport in a waiting motorcade provided by their host.
But as their cars drove out of the airport and headed towards the Rivers State Government House, the protesters became violent pelting the motorcade with stones, water bottles, sticks and other items.
However, the Governors arrived the Government House safe, without any major incident.
The visiting Governors have been firm supporters of the embattled Rivers Governor.
Wike has been accused of being the arrowhead of the anti-Amaechi group.
The Rivers State Governor has been having a running battle with the Presidency over his stance on major public issues.
He has since been suspended from the PDP.
The crisis in the state worsened last week when five state lawmakers believed to be loyal to the Presidency attempted to impeach Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Otelamaba Dan-Amachree.
The Speaker and 26 other lawmakers are loyal to Amaechi.
Commenting on Tuesday’s airport incident, Secretary of Grassroots Democratic Movement, Samuel Nwonosike, said, “Rivers People are against this visit. We want Soyinka (Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka) to concentrate on his western states. We want him to concentrate on the problems in Osun, Ekiti.
“We also support Evan Bipi (Rivers Assembly Leader) as the Speaker of the House of Assembly because he will call the Governor to account how he has been governing Rivers State.”
Soyinka had, at a press conference in Lagos last week, cautioned President Goodluck Jonathan’s wife, Patience, against inserting herself in the politics of the state, and working secretly as matron to forces trying to unseat Amaechi.
But Mrs. Jonathan has denied the claims, describing the Nobel Laureate as an “embarrassment.”
When contacted, spokesperson for Rivers Police Command, Angela Agabe, confirmed the protest at the airport.
“I am not there now. I am in the office. But an Assistant Commissioner of Police has been drafted there. If there are any issues that would warrant breach of the peace, they will be arrested.”
Some of the placards carried by the protesters read: ‘Nyako leave our resources alone. Northern Governors leave Rivers State alone’.
It was gathered too that a pro-Amaechi youths group, under the auspices of Ikwerre Youth Movement (IYM), also mobilised to show solidarity at the airport.
Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Ibim Semenitari, in a statement afterwards said, “There were jitters in the Presidency over the visit of Governors of Adamawa, Jigawa, Kano and Niger to Rivers State Governor and Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, Rt. Hon Chibuike Amaechi, in Port Harcourt, today, Tuesday, 16 July, 2013.
“Members of the Nyesom Wike campaign organisation, Grassroots Democratic Initiative (GDI), had mobilised youths to disrupt the visit.
“Chanting solidarity songs in favour of the Presidency, they attempted to attack Governor Amaechi and his team.
“Wike had boasted after the failed impeachment attempt at the Rivers State House of Assembly that he would set Rivers State ablaze and render it ungovernable,” the commissioner said.
Bipi himself had surfaced at the Presidential Villa on Monday night where he claimed that since he was yet to be “impeached,” he remains the “Speaker” of Rivers Assembly.
Bipi and his four colleagues opposed to Amaechi had been at loggerheads with the 27 other members of the Assembly staunchly in support of the Governor.
Bipi showed up in Aso Rock for a dinner hosted by President Goodluck Jonathan for delegates of the Abuja+13 African Union summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
He told journalists there that his headship of the Rivers House of Assembly was a done deal as he was able to form a quorum and was “elected Speaker” by about 23 lawmakers.
“Of course, it is not contestable, I remain the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly because I have not been impeached.
“A motion for impeachment was placed on the Speaker and I emerged as the Speaker and I have not been impeached.
“How would it be five? We formed a quorum. It was a full house and I was duly elected; it was by over 23 lawmakers,” he said.
Bipi denied ever punching or assaulting any pro-Amaechi lawmaker during the melee, but described the Governor’s purported directive to beat up a lawmaker on the floor of the House as degrading and embarrassing.
“I want to thank God Almighty for making it possible for me to serve my people once more. But the only regrettable thing is the Governor coming to the hallowed chamber to supervise the beating of my honourable colleagues.
“It is so sad for the Governor of a state bringing down all the security apparatus in the Government House, including his ADC and CSO, beating duly elected honourable members in the hallowed chamber,” said Bipi.
Also on Tuesday, a lecturer in the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Professor Oyelowo Oyewo, noted that the political logjam playing out in Rivers State reflects the culture of impunity in Nigeria.
Oyewo, who spoke to newsmen in Lagos, said if what happened in the Rivers State House of Assembly last Tuesday happens in other climes, the actors would have been sanctioned.
“Laws are being violated, nobody is being arrested; people’s heads are being broken with all of us looking at it, nobody has been arrested for violence.
“It seems like there is a different kind of law that applies to the general public as opposed to the laws that apply to the political players in Nigeria,” the don said.
Meanwhile, the four Northern Governors who visited Amaechi in Port Harcourt have expressed concern over the “partisan” involvement of the state Police Commissioner, Mbu Joseph Mbu.
The Governors in a statement in the Rivers State capital explained that they were in the state to ascertain for themselves some of the things they have been reading in the papers, seen on the television and heard on radio which threatened the peace, security and democracy in the country.
The statement, released after many hours of closed door meeting with their host, Amaechi, in the Government House, said: “We are pleased to notice the peaceful atmosphere in town and that people in the state are going about their normal business and that the governor and government are in charge.”
They described the situation as “reassuring as opposed to the organised protest by a handful of persons at the airport when we arrived”, apparently referring to the airport mob.
The Northern Governors who are PDP members said having interacted with their colleague, Amaechi, they were shocked at the role of the police in Rivers State and condemned its clear partisanship in the crisis that took place at the state House of Assembly.
“As Chief Executives of our states who have sworn to protect lives and properties in our various states, we are particularly troubled by the development in Rivers State.
“We commend the House of Representatives for its proactive leadership in the crisis and appreciate the Senate Committee’s thoroughness in addressing the matter,” the Governors stated further.
They called on the Inspector General of Police to hearken to the voice of reason and immediately redeploy and discipline the state Commissioner of Police, Mbu Joseph Mbu, saying “his actions smirk of unprofessionalism and political partisanship which is unbecoming of his office.”
“With the way the police is being used and abused with officers like Mbu in the force, we do not see the need for state governments to fund an antagonistic police and may be forced to reconsider our position on the financial contribution of states towards the funding of the Nigeria Police.”
The Governors added that arising from the actions of the police and Mbu in Rivers State, the call for state police as a constitutional provision becomes necessary.
“We note that events in Rivers State have again brought to the fore the question of true federalism and the need for institutions derived from Constitution be allowed to function without undue interference.
“As federating units we must be allowed space to guarantee our people sustainable development as provided by the constitution.
“We acknowledge the great work Governor Amaechi and his team are doing in Rivers State and commend his maturity and calm even in the face of apparent persecution.
“We join all well meaning Nigerians to call on all political actors to diffuse tension and stop all actions capable of overheating the polity and derailing our nascent democracy.
“We must all work together to build a united and indivisible nation and strengthen our democracy”.