Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, on February 13 and 14, was in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, for the continuation of his tour of the Niger Delta region. In this piece, ANAYO ONUKWUGHA writes that the VP’s visit exposed the deep-rooted rivalry between political gladiators in the state.
The recent visit to River State by the acting president, Yemi Osinbajo underscored the seething discord between the key political gladiators in the state, as encapsulated in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
While in the state, Osinbajo inspected some ongoing projects by the Governor Nyesom Wike-led administration including the Port Harcourt Pleasure Park and the Ecumenical Centre, Port Harcourt. He also flagged off the construction of Doctors’ Quarters at the Braithwaithe Memorial Specialist Hospital (BMSH), also in Port Harcourt.
Besides, spending a night at the presidential lodge, government house, the cordial reception he received from Wike, who has been at loggerheads with the APC as well as the federal government, was instructive.
However, the intense the rivalry between the PDP and APC, erupted sooner than many expected.
At the stakeholder’s engagement cum town hall meeting held at Banquet Hall, Government House Port Harcourt on Monday, apart from the immediate past governor of the state and Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, no APC stalwart in the state was in attendance.
Although, the leadership and members of the State Council of Traditional Rulers, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) youths and women groups in their colourful attires were in attendance, majority of those seated at the venue of the meeting were believed to be members of the PDP.
Addressing the gathering, Osinbajo, who was accompanied by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, reaffirmed the commitment of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to the rapid development of the region.
“It is now clear the Niger Delta needs a new vision. It is no doubt at all that a new vision is required for the Niger Delta. But not only new vision, but a fresh commitment, a renewed spirit by all stakeholders including the states, federal agencies and the oil bearing communities.
“The federal government is committed in going into a partnership with the oil producing states, local governments and the private sector as well as civil society organizations for the rapid development of these communities.
“An oil community’s intervention meeting is to work out what can be done in the short to medium term and the long term possibilities. There is no way that this new vision will be aborted because it does not depend for execution on the Federal government alone. Every stakeholder has a part to play.
“Oil exploitation by itself cannot suffice to assure our people of decent jobs and a decent income. We must make our oil producing community’s hubs for petro-chemical industries, small and large. We must make these communities hubs for refining and related activities.
“The Ministry of Petroleum in collaboration with the oil companies is working on several initiatives for host communities including working with illegal refiners in oil bearing communities to participate in modular refineries to be established. There is no doubt that thermal power stations should be stationed here, it makes sense, and gas deposits are here.
“The biggest benefit we can obtain is to attract more investment to the region. But investments have a choice. They will go where they find an enabling environment especially security. It is up to us as government and people to assure the necessary enabling circumstances for investment.”
The Acting President, who restated the commitment of the federal to the clean-up of Ogoni environment, said in the next six months, the people of Ogoni ethnic nationality would begin to realize the fruits of their struggle.
“In the next six months, we go through a critical stage starting a long journey to realizing the fruits of the struggle that has cost many lives and the loss of an entire ecosystem. Of course, the Ogoniland is one, though important part of the Niger Delta. The environmental remediation is essential across the entire region in order to restore healthy living and enhance other productive activities.
The State Governor, Nyesom Wike, in his welcome address, said the people of Rivers State are fully in support of the initiative believing that the federal government is determined to do things differently this time around.
“The deplorable state of things in the Niger Delta region is the greatest paradox in history. The fact that the region is geographically challenged is not in dispute. Also not in dispute is the fact that the region produces the bulk of the resources that has sustained this nation for over five decades and still counting. Yet, this region is the most broken in the country having been neglected for so long by successive governments at the centre.
In a terse speech, Leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) in Rivers State, Chief Tonye Graham-Douglas, expressed regrets that due to security reports, Osibanjo could not visit some oil polluted communities to see the environmental devastation caused by oil and gas exploration and exploitation in the state.
In his presentation, Chairman of the State Council of Traditional Rulers, King Dandeson Douglas-Jaja, appealed to the federal government to order all multinational oil companies operating in the Niger Delta region, to relocate their headquarters to the region.
Douglas-Jaja, who is also the Amanyanabo of Opobo Kingdom, also demanded the relocation of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to the Niger Delta region, saying such moves will affect the economy of the region positively.
While backing the 16-point demand made by PANDEF to the federal government, the monarch appealed to Osibanjo to order the restoration of Police officers attached to Wike, who were withdrawn before the December 10, 2016 rerun election, as well as the recall of the six policemen attached to the governor, that were dismissed from the Nigerian Police.
However, some stakeholders in the state, especially leaders and members of the APC saw the meeting at Government House, as a PDP affair, and apparently convinced Osibanjo to address another gathering the next day at Aztec Arcum Event Centre, Ken Saro-Wiwa (formerly Stadium) Road, Port-Harcourt.
Dignitaries that attended the meeting included, Amaechi, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani, the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Obong Nsima Ekere, Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside, the Chairman, Senate Committee of FERMA, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu and chairman of APC in the state, Dr. Davies Ibiamu Ikanya.
Speaking at the meeting, Abe, who is the senator representing Rivers South-East senatorial district in the National Assembly, said there was a deliberate scheme by the state authorities, which prevented stakeholders who are APC members or sympathizers as well as those who shared dissenting views from the state