A fresh light has been cast on the dark intrigues and succession crisis that trailed the choice of Mr.Celestine Omehia as the PDP governorship candidate in Rivers State in the 2007 election to take over from Dr. Peter Odili.
Omehia went on to win the election only for the Supreme Court to upturn his emergence, and declared Mr. Rotimi Amaechi as the rightful candidate of the party and winner of the election.
In a new autobiography, ‘Conscience and History – My Story’, Dr. Odili said he had already settled for Mr. Amaechi to succeed him until loyalists of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo raised hell and insisted that he must replace Amaechi.
He bowed to the pressure leading to the emergence of Omehia.
The development soon caused a break down in the years of friendship between him and Amaechi who had served as the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly for the eight years of Odili‘s tenure as governor.
In the freshly released book which sole purpose seems to be to correct the unsavory public impression and perceptions about the author’s reign as governor, the author also explains how the then President Obasanjo did not forgive him for supporting the groundswell of opposition against his (Obasanjo’s) bid to tinker with the 1999 constitution in order to serve a third term in office.
The 511-page amorphous compendium of Odili’s life, school years, Biafran war odyssey and his days in office as governor of Rivers State is signposted by the intrigues that was the December 16, 2006 Presidential Primary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and how Odili, who was supposedly the clear front runner, was shooed off the race by a “so-called” ‘EFCC interim report’ which ostensibly incriminated him.
In chapter G of the book under the title, THE PLOT – THE GREAT GANG UP, Odili says: “with the failure of the constitutional amendments which included tenure elongation, campaigns for the presidency in 2007 took off about the 3rd quarter of 2006, across the country. By October/November my campaign, led by Dr Raymond Dokpesi had penetrated every state in the federation and it became obvious that the Odili candidacy had attained national acceptance and had become a movement. Odili was seen as the front runner, the candidate to beat. Traditional rulers, emirs, tribal leaders, labour unions, stakeholders, etc had embraced and were favourably disposed to Odili. For some inexplicable reason, the plot to stop him, by some people, became pathologically ‘urgent’. The PDP convention for the nomination of the Presidential Candidate was slated for 16th December, 2006.
“The commissioning of the Omoku Power plant of 150 mega Watts and 120km double circuit Transmission line to Port Harcourt by President Olusegun Obasanjo, took place on 5th December, 2006… We were lauded very generously and extolled for the unprecedented feat.
“Exactly one week later, 12th December, a spurious and anonymous petition was posted in the internet from a questionable ‘source’ alleging CORRUPT practices against the Rivers State Government under me. These allegations were converted into a petition by the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) under Nuhu Ribadu’s hand, to the President same day. On the 13th of December, 2006 Mr President directed EFCC to investigate. On 14th day of December, 2006, EFCC submitted a so-called “interim report” to the then President who promptly minuted for my response on the same 14 December, 2006 but forwarded to me on 15/12/2006, a day to convention vide ref. PRES/44. I assembled what was left of my cabinet team, a few having been arrested and kept at the EFCC in Lagos within these few days of urgent dramatic action. We submitted our response on the 15th day of December, 2006 by which time it had become clear what the whole exercise was about – “Get Odili out of the race for the Presidency, at all cost.”
More controversial however, is Odili’s revelation on page 444 of the book that Malam Nuhu Ribadu had long confessed to Odili’s innocence and to the spuriousness of this ‘interim report’ deployed to nail Odili. For instance, at a venue in Maitama Abuja, Ribadu ostensibly, “denied authorship of the so-called ‘EFCC interim report’ of 2006 December which he signed”
Apart from enumerating and showcasing the achievements of his administration, “Conscience and History” is a repository of the about half a dozen court processes the author went through to win his controversial perpetual injunction against his investigation and trial by the EFCC. His argument is that the constitution empowers only the States House of Assembly and the state’s auditor-general to carry out such functions in the federation. Both the state and the federal high courts upheld his position. All the arguments, submissions and judgments, in the minutest details are contained in the book.
The book does not shy from highlighting the musketeers who stood to the last minute to ensure that not only did Odili not get the presidential ticket, his name was edited from the already prepared speech of the nominee, Umaru Yar’Adua which was to declare Odili vice presidential nominee. These men of steel gloves are Chief James Ibori, Chief Lucky Igbinedion and Dr. Bukola Saraki who were his fellow governors at that time. The others are Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and Nasir El-Rufai. Conscience and History is a book poised to set the tone of political discourse in Nigeria in the New Year.