From Uzonna Ononye, Lagos
My appointment to meet with the Rivers State Governor was sudden and so pumped extra adrenalin into my blood. While I thought of the official and formal approach to the meeting which to a large extent lies with me to set out, I contemplated on getting out a few responses that may not have been intended. Those responses that the speaker would, few minutes after the encounter, wish he never gave.
Getting into his hotel suite and meeting a number of people waiting to have audience with the governor, it was clear that the meeting may not be private and the leisure of abundant time will not exist so I have to come all the way.
My first question made Gov. Amaechi to speak about the country’s economy. He seemed not surprised at the level of decline in the country’s economic fortune.
“Why do you think they balkanized the Nigeria Governors’ Forum? It is simply because that was the platform we stood on to demand explanations from the federal government over the recklessness of the administration” He said.
Gov. Amaechi reminded me that there shouldn’t have been need to lament if the government has been prudent and sincere.
“Let us not forget that oil was sold for as high as $140 per liter this year even when the benchmark in the budget is less than $80. Check it, we made an excess $60 per barrel when we sell about 2 million daily. Please do the calculation. What did government do with the excess funds? Some of us have been shouting that there is going to be a huge down turn but the economic experts we brought from world bank kept telling us “no shaking”. Does it now make sense to you that we have been deceived for a long time?”
He accused me, as representing the Nigerian public of demanding for his head when the government divert attention from the real issues on the table and begin a shadow-boxing gimmick.
The conversation stretched from security to politics, collapse of the judiciary and comatose state of the legislature and the governor insisted that the federal government shut the state assembly even when it was obvious there was no threat any longer.
Governor Amaechi said the National Judicial Council is interested in denying him of his constitutional right in the appointment of a state chief judge.
That was when I asked the governor, “Why are you always attacking the President despite the fact that he is your “brother”? Is it just because you need to bring him down to realize your ambition of becoming the Vice President?
He laughed and asked me what I studied. I have interviewed a few people who will subtly make one look stupid with some questions. So I insisted on getting the answer.
“Young man, you should have known that nobody vies for the VP. Becoming the Vice President is at the discretion of the part and the Presidential candidate. Haven said that, there is nothing between me and the President. If I have anything against him, I will not have supported him the way I did in 2011. Go and check the records”
I pushed further. “Why then are you constantly attacking the President?”
He laughed again, cleared his throat and said “fault me in all the issues I have raised against this government. I was elected the governor of Rivers state and I swore to protect and defend the constitution to the benefit of the state. On what basis will I fraternize with those who took the oil well that belong to my people and gave it to Bayelsa state? Recently, they have taken another well and given to Abia state. When I complain, you people in the media will say I am attacking the President. What has the President done for my people in Rivers state? Name one project which this government started and finished in Rivers or are we not part of Nigeria? Ok, if he does not like me, does he not like the entire state? Just name one project and I will immediately tender apologies to the government”.
I glanced at my wrist watch and it was an hour already. The governor was ready to speak more but my time was up.
What I took away from that meeting was that most Nigerians are helplessly tuned to a wave length they have the least idea about. Gov. Amaechi may by arrogant, but are there real issues of injustice as alleged? Nigerian may become better when issues are deal with on their merit.