Rivers power play: How I smuggled Amaechi into Abuja in the night and made him governor – Nyesom Wike opens up

Nyeson Wike

by Akan Ido

Nyesom Wike, the Minister of State for Education has been in a long-drawn political battle with the embattled Rivers state governor, Rotimi Amaechi with both parties engaging in verbal battle.

In this no holds barred interview with the Saturday Sun, Wike speaks about his relationship with Amaechi, his contribution to making him the governor and the cause of their new-found enmity among them.

Read excepts from the interview below:

You and Amaechi had been allies, how and when did things get this bad between you?

I had wanted and avoided in the past to comment on the matter between His Excellency, Governor Chibuike Amaechi and I. I never wanted to make it a press matter. But I have held on for long to the extent that facts are now twisted out of shape.

A lot has been said by Amaechi against me in the media, so I have to speak up and correct the impression before they are taken as true and factual. Let me go to the very beginning and mention that we never knew each other from Adam until 1998 or 1999 when politics brought us together under former Governor Peter Odili.

Between 1999 and 2002, I was the chairman of Obio/Akpor LGA and we were allies like you said. And that is why I find it hard to understand how I suddenly became Amaechi’s enemy and the betrayer he calls me today. In the real sense, the people who are close to him today are the real betrayers that deserted him when it mattered most, and I tagged the betrayer today bore the burden making Amaechi what he is today.

But things have changed because people easily forget yesterday and people also are good in paying bad for good because of selfishness. Just because I stand on the side of justice and rule of law in the leadership of our party in the state, I am branded a betrayer. I take the names I am called because Amaechi wants to own the party in the state and push others out, and the court said no. So I don’t know if we should obey the governor instead of the court that lawfully gave its verdict on the matter.

What annoys me most is being called a betrayer by a man who I had all the powers in my hands to deny him being governor and refused to do that. I had every chance to supplant and scuttle Amaechi’s mandate in 2007. I fought the battle for his sake even when he absconded to Ghana. I face assassination and did not yield because I believed I was standing on the side of the truth when he actually had the mandate. And even tomorrow these are facts he can never fault that I stood for him and took the bashing and the salvo on his behalf when it mattered most.

I did not only invest my time and efforts, but my financial resources to an extent that I did not see my family for three months because it got to a point that I was hiding. Even his legal team then could attest to this that I was the person to get to stop Amaechi’s mandate. I had all the facts and championed the fight.

There was no enticement I did not face to hand out the mandate, but I refused. I never divulged his secrets then and stood firm with him, but today Wike is a betrayer. I remember this particular incident in London when security operatives tracked and wanted to pick up two of the persons that worked with me for Amaechi.

They were somewhere waiting for me when security operatives railed them and wanted to pick them up when I came down from a meeting. They had to go with me to where I had the meeting before they were released. For three months I never saw my wife. I was basically based in Abuja. That was how I disguised in kaftans, so that nobody will know where I go to and where I do not go. It was like those days of NADECO when Sani Abacha was after them.

So I had to disguise myself that time. Even those who are today dining and wining with Amaechi, the very set of people who said that it would be over their dead body that he would become a governor, the same people who in the night would go to Omehia’s house to beg him to make them ambassador.

When however they had heard that we went to court and that there was a strong legal argument, which has become obvious that he was likely to win, two days to that judgment, most of them came. So, I was in a position to terminate whatever ambition he had to be governor. Amaechi’s lawyer is alive, Lateef Fagbemi is his name.

He will tell you the role I played. I know when I smuggled Amaechi into Abuja in the night. Then I never betrayed. I never went and told security men that he was coming in the night. But today, the governor sees me as a betrayer. To those who read English language, what is the meaning of betrayal? By my own understanding, betrayal will mean, that we have an agreement to do something but you sold out. What agreement did I enter into that I never fulfilled my part or I sold out? But I can tell you, I could remember one of the days I was going to Abuja and nearly lost my life to armed robbers along Uromi road. At that point, Amaechi was calling me on the phone, on a Sunday, I was in a bus, and those armed robbers blocked the road.

I was in the same bus with two former chairmen, the same people Amaechi does not want to see. They were the same people that nearly got arrested in London. These are the risks I took for him. But today all of us are betrayers just because we oppose the wrong things he does. Those days, many of them didn’t sleep until they heard from my position and me. They would ask how is Wike? Is he laughing or frowning. If he is laughing things are okay.

After all the trouble, we won, and by the grace of God we won and on October 26, I was appointed chief of staff to the governor even when other people had positioned themselves and kicked against my appointment after all the efforts. I was not bothered. I went about doing my job. I recall this particular day I was targeted for assassination at the Garrison Junction inside Port Harcourt at about 7pm. I mean my driver was shattered totally.

But I managed to escape even when the tank of my car was blown off too. The Brigade Commander of Port Harcourt and the Director of SSS inspected the attack and admitted that it was professional job. But do you know up till now as I am talking to you, nobody in the Rivers government investigated the attempt on my life.

Nobody ever came to me to ask for my statement on this incident, and the governor never asked his security men any questions on the attempts on the life of his chief of staff. You begin to ask how normal that was. In 2008, there was a report against me before the EFCC that I transferred over N4.5b from Government House account into my personal account. And I start to ask how I became the accountant of the state or that of the state house as to have powers to transfer the money into my personal account.

The same account in reference had about N624,000 during this allegation and since 2002 I operated the account, the total money that ever passed through it was about N100m. Nobody defended me for not being a signatory to government account. Nobody made any statement to exonerate me. No one argued in my favour that if such transfer was possible then, the permanent secretary and the director of finance in the government house must be involved.

So how did I manage to do that alone? The government never supported me on the matter. Ask my lawyers to Amaechi they will tell you the same thing. God was on my side and I fought it till I won at the Supreme Court. I faced at least five assassination attempts and I was not a betrayer until now.

And people don’t ask what do I stand to gain in betraying him today. But I remain happy that God used me to ensure he became the governor. I am really grateful to remember that. Today, Amaechi calls me a small boy because he leads the governors’ forum, talks to other governors anyhow and can to talk to Mr. President anyhow he wants and gets away with, so who is little me. But when I staked my life for him I wasn’t a small boy.

But I believe that one day, God will turn the small boy to a big boy. But that is not the way people in power should behave. I remain happy that nobody in Rivers State that can look me in the eyes and tell me stories of how Amaechi won or emerged governor. It is a secret only a person like me knows better than any other person there.

But Amaechi appointing you chief of staff was part of his appreciation of your efforts. Or don’t you think so?

What appreciation, when I offered far more than I was appreciated. Let me tell you I took the bullet on behalf of Amaechi, and I keep saying that all glory to God who used me, I made Amaechi governor, and it is not in dispute. I might tell you that I was to leave his government just two years after. But people prevailed on me not to that it would send a wrong signal about what was going on.

But the conditions of my work were becoming impossible to bear. He made things so difficult and beached in a way that showed me he grudgingly put me there and never wanted me to continue. But I still remain confident that I am the one that has and knows his secrets more than any other person.

They later made me Director General of his campaign after removing me from the position of chief of staff. I finished the campaign and called people to reconcile because I did not see any need fighting. I was the agent at the collation centre during his election, not only I was the DG in the campaign so I know everything that happened.

There is no page in the election petition by ACN and APGA that Wike’s name was not mentioned, in fact to the point that the ACN gubernatorial candidate, Dr. Abiye Sekibo said he withdrew his petition because Wike frustrated him. What happened? When Amaechi published the list of his transition committee, somebody called me and said we have worked for you people, why can’t you even put us in transition committee? I told him no transition committee had been formed? But he shocked me with a newspaper publication of the list drawn up at my back. So I went to the governor and said what happened?

And he replied that there was nothing there, I said what is going on? The governor called all the leaders and asked them to bring names of people to make commissioners. Later on his own he took a person he wanted who was not in the list. I went to him and asked what was going on? And he said I shouldn’t bother that the man he took is his friend, I said I don’t have any problem with it but why should my LGA be the one the suggested name was dropped. The problem of Uche Sekondus came up when he was national organizing secretary when Nwodo was the National Chairman of party.

There was a move to harmonize our party list; Sekondus stood firm and said he cannot work with us. We later reconciled the differences but when it was time to back Sekondus emerge as deputy national chairman, Amaechi plotted against it? He said if Sekondus were allowed to get the position, he would make his brother the governor in 2015, even with so many years ahead.

This is a man who stood by us. Do you know as a minister the governor never called me one day to say, gentleman look; we cannot support Uche Sekondus, look at the person I am bringing. He brought one referee from the Nigerian Referee Association.

Because I am a small boy, a minister, the governor cannot accord me little courtesy because he is chairman of governors forum, he is everything. I don’t want to talk about activities of government, I don’t want to discuss his so-called transparency; it would be a subject matter for another day. One day Nigerians will know at the appropriate time how honest all of us are, not honesty in the newspapers. Nigerians will know one day. We are talking about the political activities, the agenda setting to just move away people.

The same governor set up a machinery to reduce me in my local government before a boy who was my assistant as chairman of my local government. The governor summoned a meeting in his lodge, while I was in that meeting there were sharing of positions, even my position as chief of staff was given away to another person without prior information to me.

And I didn’t talk, the next thing the governor said that he has a new chief of staff from my place who was my executive assistant, the boy abuses me anyhow; I never knew it was the governor who planted him to be insulting me. Each time I complained to the governor, he would say don’t worry all theses boys are not too important, not knowing it was his plan.

When he announced that we have a new chief of staff people were looking at me but I didn’t talk; he never one day mentioned that to me. So he had plotted how to reduce me politically, how to do away with me politically, but you can plan but you are not God; man proposes, God disposes. The governor has always said that he wants to be like Tinubu in Rivers State; playing the politics while some other person governs.

And if he sees you as a person who will not support that ambition, it becomes a problem; he knows I wouldn’t support that.

Is the fight about your intention to be governor?

Who said I want to be governor? When did I call you to say I want to be governor? When I fought for him, what was my ambition?

When he was in Ghana and I was fighting for him what was my ambition? To be what? To be minister? People just sit down and say are you sure he is not doing this because of this or that. But in any case too, assuming I want to be the governor, is it when he decides I will be a governor? Is it when he decides I will be a councillor? Is he going to run for third term as a governor? He would sit as a lord of the manor. Amaechi wants to remain in Rivers State as the lord.

But Amaechi nominated you a minister?

Okay that is like your father who gave birth to you, gave you the best education, made you to work in the best place, and one day you bought a car for him, and starts boasting about it.  Then the question would be; who laid the foundation for you to be able to buy the car? If you are not a governor, if I had thrown you out, if I did not want to be the instrument that God will use to germinate the ambition, where will you be as a governor?

Yet, it was still a payback. Pay back how? Let me also tell you, you don’t know the politics of making me a minister? The Tonye Cole he nominated, what was his role? What paying back? Those who are commissioners in his cabinet, what role did some of them play? So what paying back are you saying? As a Rivers man, am I not qualified on my own?

Assuming I am not a politician, am I not qualified? You said you made me, you nominated me; most people were nominated, most people were disqualified too. If he nominated me, who went back to the security people to indict me? You nominated me; you hid me at the back to throw in pebbles to make sure I was disqualified at the screening. Go and check the security report and find out the efforts to undo the nomination. I did my reception in the governor’s lodge after my confirmation and he never came down to talk to anybody or to receive anybody, never! A colleague of mine, I wouldn’t call the name, came there and said: “Be careful I don’t think this man is happy that you are a minister.”

A colleague of mine came to the lodge and I introduced him to the governor, the way he received my colleague made the man come back to warn me to be careful with him. Yes, he nominated me, then why did he lobby for me to be minister of state. In fact let me also tell you, it is not that he should nominate me, he wanted to send me out of Port Harcourt; that I was becoming too powerful in Port Harcourt therefore my continued presence there will be a problem to nominate his successor by 2015.

That was how he said okay let me push him out; anybody who went to Abuja will no longer be a grounded person. But like I said, you don’t know what God plans. Like he said I am a bushman, I am insignificant because the kind of money he controls, why should I be significant to him? Why should I not turn to a small boy to him, a man who controls that amount of money, a man who tells his brother governors that what he gets can take care of over 10 of them?

What is the place of President Jonathan’s 2015 ambition in the whole fight? Did the matter start, as I became minister of state? So which one now is that the presidency is behind me? So I should wait for the president to tell me that my political future is gone? I should wait at the level I am? I will be sleeping and president would come and wake me.

To tell you the frustration, the new executive of the party in the state came to receive the president on Friday, June 28 at the Port Harcourt airport. The governor was in Lagos with his APC friends for Fashola’s birthday. He didn’t come to receive the president, the deputy governor did. On the 29th, Saturday the governor came and saw us.

The first thing he did was to call Mr. President that if this people, the party executives, do not get out of this place, he would not come and receive the president. Who are the people he was talking about? He doesn’t want the state party officers to receive the president. He doesn’t want the elder of Rivers Sate to receive Mr. president. Mr. President alighted from the aircraft, we all went and shook him.  He proceeded to greet the crowd that came to relieve him.

He wanted to greet the president with his four commissioners and four chairmen of council. That is the humiliation he wanted the President to suffer and I as a minister all I should have done was to go home. The president of a country is passing by an area what you remembered is bringing four commissioners and four chairmen to receive him. Is that proper? When Mr. President was to shake people on the line, he told him that the people should be avoided for security reasons.

I said no, these are state party officers, you are the leader of PDP you must shake the party officers. Mr. President said just forget it, they are all Rivers people, so he went on and shook their hands. Of course he got angry and left before Mr. President. The plane had not left before he took off.

Ask everybody that was there. When he left the airport, he went to the church where OCJ Okocha was had his 60th birthday thanksgiving and started saying announcing us as betrayers. You say I betrayed you, how did I betray you? Did he nominate me as a minister to go and fight Mr. President? Tell me, or before I attend a meeting I should bring the memo to him; which one do I support, which one don’t I support. Where is the betrayal from? Did he tell me that he wants to join APC and I should go with him? I decided not to say anything yet. But at the appropriate time Nigerians will know who is who.

As I said, they have taken the media to propagate lies against me. In Rivers State, when bottle breaks, they wouldn’t say it was bottle; they would say it was dynamite. When they see dynamite, they will say that they saw missile, and all must be aligned to Wike. I have always told Nigerians let us stand by the truth. What also angered Amaechi this way is because he has no party; he does no have the party structure.

I have started fasting that he should leave PDP; let us all meet in the field and test our political popularity. Let him convince Rivers State people, let us convince Rivers State people; since he thinks he is now the Tinubu of Rivers, let him leave then let us meet in the election.

Comments (3)

  1. Ds wike na parrot o. U mean a minister could sit down & ramble on non stop like this? A man for that matter HABA!!!
    Amaechi I wish you would avoid replying him. So you can concentrate on developing Rivers instead of distracting yourself as you have been doing since.

    God dey

  2. God ll be in ur side to continue this strugle of truth n make sure he leave d govt house comes 2015. I belief u n God ll stand by u.

  3. Wike is nothing but a confuse idiot like is superior, this man is not appreciative and want more than he deserve.. I’ve come to understand that in life those that gave you one spoon of rice when you where down will always want the world to believe you where given a bag of rice.. To hell with you wike focus on your work i mean corrupt work.

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