The Presidency has dismissed insinuations that the crisis in Rivers State poses a threat to the nation’s democracy, saying “Nigeria remains peaceful and is not and cannot in any way be threatened by political developments in Rivers State.”
The Presidency’s reaction to the political logjam in Rivers was conveyed by Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Public Affairs, Dr Doyin Okupe, who addressed a press conference yesterday in Abuja.
Okupe said: “We are compelled to react to the unfolding political drama emanating from recent activities of some governors from the Northern part concerning political developments in Rivers State. These political moves, which are clearly intended to create fear, despair and a sense of apprehension among the citizenry are grossly unfounded, misplaced and a deliberate over-sensationalization of the situation.”
According to him, the situation in Rivers is calm and peaceful as residents of the state are going about their various businesses, religious, social and political activities under peaceful atmosphere, a picture better painted by the absence of its governor, Rotimi Amaechi from the state.
“A key pointer to the prevailing peace in the state is the fact that Governor Amaechi, the Chief Executive and Chief Security Officer of the state, felt confident enough to travel to the United Kingdom on official assignment. It is doubtful he would have had the luxury of leaving the country if his state is in turmoil as is being canvassed.”
Stressing that the Rivers State conundrum is purely a “a localized political matter and has no dangerous or far-reaching consequences for the peace and security of the nation”, Okupe recalled that since the return to democratic rule in 1999, no fewer than 12 states have witnessed similar events currently playing out in Rivers noting that such did not pose any threat then “when our democracy was not this established” and cannot now that it is gaining sound footing.
He, therefore, said that it would be “disingenuous for anyone to suggest that the political disagreement in Rivers State would imperil and ultimately derail our democracy.”
The presidential aide recalled that in 2010, when series of sustained fracas and attempts at impeachment and counter-impeachment took place in Ogun State, the House of Assembly was placed under lock and key for several months by the then Inspector General of Police.
“In all that time, nobody in the whole country suggested that the situation was a threat to our nascent democracy, and no state governor went on any solidarity visit” he said in apparent reference to the visit by governors to Port-Harcourt in solidarity of Governor Amaechi.
In veiled reference to the four northern governors that first visited Amaechi in the wake of the Rivers fracas, Okupe said rather than show concern for their people, who have been most affected by the activities of Boko Haram and appreciate the Federal Government’s efforts at bringing the situation under control, they were busy looking for cheap publicity at the expense of their states and stability of the country in general.
He said, “Surprisingly, they appear to be more interested in political maneuvering and grandstanding at the expense of the well-being of the people in their states and the stability of the nation at large”.
On the crisis rocking the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and the general belief that the presidency is orchestrating the rancor within the rank of the governors in his bid to use the NGF to actualize his re-election bid in 2015, Okupe said: “The outcome of elections in the body is inconsequential to the orderly governance of the Nigerian state by the Presidency. The choice of who becomes leader of the body clearly has no significant ramification on the wider political calculation of who becomes President of the country as events in our recent history bear out.”
He said the notion was not only erroneous but one that has been tested and proven to be a lie noting that in the build up to the 2011 presidential elections, Mr. Jonathan defeated the then NGF chairman, Bukola Saraki at the PDP primaries to emerge the party’s flag-bearer and later went to de elected president by the votes of majority of Nigerians.
“It is clear therefore that occupying the chairmanship of the NGF does not in any way confer any political influence or advantage as regards who becomes President of the country, neither will it be of any major political significance in the 2015 presidential race as is being bandied about erroneously” he stressed.
The presidency, however, in a rare expression of commendation for opposition governors in the country, hailed them for their ‘statesmanlike’ role in the Rivers dispute.
“We note with satisfaction and appreciation, the subsequent visit by five governors and two deputy governors including Governors Fayemi, Fashola, Aregbesola, Ajimobi and Amosun, who demonstrated high and commendable sense of patriotism and genuine concern for the nation, with very conciliatory disposition and statesmanlike advise to Governor Amaechi towards finding a lasting solution to the political disagreements between the governor and members of the state’s House of Assembly.
“We want to assure Nigerians that the Presidency is not involved in the dispute in Rivers State”, Okupe reiterated.