Thursday, November 28, 2013

Rivers State Governor Tells Why He Left Nigeria's Ruling Party

Why We Left PDP, By Amaechi, Nyako

•Their defection, good for democracy, says Babangida
•Tinubu: Nigeria moving from imperialism to proper democracy
•Tukur expresses shock

By Our Correspondents
Nigeria ThisDay

A day after their formal declaration for the All Progressives Congress (APC), two of the five governors of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who defected to the opposition party yesterday defended their action.

Rivers State Governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, and his Adamawa State counterpart, Alhaji Murtala Nyako, told people on return to their states that they had to leave PDP because they could not continue to remain in a party that undermines the interests of their people.

Amaechi particularly expressed regrets that the federal government has been doing all it could to stifle growth in Rivers because of the political difference between him and President Goodluck Jonathan.

However, a national leader of APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, was upbeat about the prospect of the fusion of the splinter group of the PDP with the opposition party, saying the relationship between the two parties has heralded the movement of Nigeria from imperialism to proper democracy.

On his part, PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, whose removal from office was one of the key demands of the aggrieved PDP governors during their talks with the president, said he was shocked by the defection of five of the seven governors who along with other aggrieved PDP members formed the New PDP that fused with the APC.

Unlike Tukur, former military president, President Ibrahim Babangida, described the merger between APC and the PDP splinter group as good for democracy.

Amaechi, on arrival in Port Harcourt yesterday, told reporters that he finally made up his mind to join APC to protect the interest of the people of the state.

His arrival coincided with the celebration of his exit from the PDP by members of the party whose leadership has engaged him in a war of attrition for about one year.

According to him, Rivers State has suffered neglect under the President Goodluck Jonathan administration.

He also said part of the decision to join the APC was because the issues raised by the G7 Governors were not resolved by Jonathan and the PDP.

He said: “The governors met on Monday and decided that we must meet with the APC leadership and when we met with the APC leadership, it was important we took a position and the position we took is for the good of our democracy and will ensure that Nigeria moves forward. We can’t continue the way we are, where we are. The picture painted by the PDP was as if we were begging to come back to PDP and issues were not being looked into, issues were not being resolved and it’s important that we resolve it one way or the other.

He solicited the understanding of the people, stressing that he desired to protect the general interest of the state.

On his relationship with Jonathan in the light of his changing camp, he said he had no personal quarrel with the president despite his defection to the APC.

“The president and I have no personal quarrel, it’s important we put that in perspective. All the issues were issues that affect Rivers people, were issues that affect Nigerians and I am a Nigerian, I have to address those issues...he is my president and I respect him. I respect his office, respect him as a person, respect the fact that he's older but then as elected governor of Rivers State, I have the responsibility to lead Rivers State," he added.

Amaechi, later in the day issued a statement in which he shed more light on his political battle with the federal government that eventually necessitated his defection to APC.

He explained that he had at various times complained about the marginalisation of the state and its people despite the huge contribution that the state, which is a major oil-producing state, make to the national coffers and his administration's unflinching commitment and support to PDP.

He listed the state's demands, which the federal government had ignored to include the failure to return oil wells belonging to Rivers State, adding that rather than do so, the state's oil wells were being ceded to Bayelsa, Abia and Akwa Ibom States.

"Even after we got a judgment that the oil wells were wrongly ceded to Akwa Ibom State and should be returned to us, only dry wells that were no longer producing oil were returned. In the specific case of the Soku oil wells, despite a decision reached that the monies should remain in an escrow account till all matters concerning it are resolved, the federal government continues to pay neighbouring Bayelsa State the revenues meant for Rivers State," he said.

He also cited the total absence of federal presence in Rivers State, stating that the East-West Road remains abandoned, work has been deliberately slow on the Port Harcourt International Airport while the Bonny-Bomu road that leads to the only functional liquefied natural gas project remains uncompleted.

He also accused the federal government of discouraging investments in the state and accused Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, of refusing to allow the commencement of train seven of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) that would have provided jobs for the people.

His other grievances include the marginalisation of the state in board appointments and absence of internal democracy in the running of the state chapter of the party.

"We are concerned that our well-being is not central to the leadership of the PDP. We do not find this satisfactory. We have therefore decided that it is in our best interest that we move to a party that shares the hopes and aspirations of our people and realises and recognises our right to exist and be treated as equal partners in our democracy," he said.

But the state chapter of the PDP was happy that the governor has left the party.
The state chairman of the party, Chief Felix Obuah, said at a press briefing yesterday that the party would sanction any member found to have any link with Amaechi or the APC.

Obuah, who was represented by the state Secretary of the party, Chief Ibibia Walter, said: “To us, this (defection) does not come as a shock; as it only confirmed our earlier position that Amaechi only hung around to ensure that the PDP was destroyed before he leaves."

Immediately after the briefing, PDP members and supporters marched through major streets of Port Harcourt in celebration of the exit of the governor.

Like Amaechi, Nyako on arrival in Yola, the state capital, told reporters that they had to leave the PDP because the party has disappointed Nigerians with its act of impunity, injustice and lawlessness.

He said given the state of the party, he did not believe that it is possible for any decent man to continue to remain in a political party that promotes lawlessness.

“Posterity will judge people who are using their position to torment others and we should be thinking of how to improve our nations in terms of providing quality education for our children and infrastructure rather than these political wars that is taking us nowhere,” he added.

He however said it was his personal decision to leave PDP and not the decision of his supporters, adding that they are at liberty to remain in the party.

According to him, the remaining two governors of the G7 — Alhaji Sule Lamido (Jigawa) and Dr. Babangida Aliyu (Niger) — have not backed out from the struggle as they promised to consult with their supporters on their next line of action.

Nyako explained that Nigerians should not be comfortable with the state of affairs under PDP, adding: “We know from history that lawlessness, impunity and injustice have been reasons for the civil wars in many countries of the world.”

However, a former Minister of Education, Professor Jubril Aminu, said the PDP in the state was not rattled by Nyako and his supporters leaving the party.

Also speaking on the defection of the governors, Tinubu, in an interview with Aljazeera International, said it had redefined Nigeria's political landscape.

"It will change forever and change for good. The scale and balance of power is tilting and changing to the opposition. We are moving from imperialism to proper democracy. This development will start reshaping the landscape of politics in this country forever. Not for us only but for generations unborn and the future of this country to take its position as a leader in Africa.

"This is a party that will put people at the forefront of their cause in participating in politics. Never has there been a group that will focus on the welfare of the Nigerian citizenry and fight corruption and waste in governance. There are many areas that this new APC alliance and effort will unveil. We will ensure that we have credibility in the voting system, the character, commitment of our people – the value that you want to pass the torch to the coming generation on democracy. It is very important that we are able to do that. Otherwise, it will turn out that election after election, confidence in the electoral process will drop and we don’t want that to happen. For us, it’s a new beginning. It’s a new hope. It’s a new commitment," the APC leader said.

As Tinubu was exultant over the defection of the former PDP governors, the party's national chairman expressed shock at the loss of the ruling party.

Tukur, who is currently in China, in a statement yesterday, said the governors went too far by defecting from a ruling party to the opposition camp, especially at a time negotiations were still on with the president and the party.

He assured party members that the turn of event was normal in democracy, as according to him the party leaders would always meet to salvage PDP and further its desire to remain in power.

Also reacting to the defection, Babangida at the launch of a book, Landmark Constitutional Cases in Nigeria: 2004-2007, in Abuja, described the governors' action as democracy in action but expressed the hope that the ongoing peace moves by the leadership of the PDP would restore peace and unity in the ruling party.

Asked if the development would jeopardise the fortunes of the PDP in the 2015 general election, he said it was too early to predict what would happen in an election that was still more than a year away.

Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar who was also at the book launch, said the G7 governors benefitted from the gains of his political travails when he had a similar conflict with the ruling party in 2007.

Meanwhile, the New PDP in a statement by its spokesman, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, said it would finalise its “merger deal” with the APC on December 3 with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between both parties.

He also dismissed speculations that New PDP lawmakers would lose their seats if they defect to APC, saying the 1999 Constitution protects them from doing so as it stipulates circumstances under which a defecting lawmaker could lose his seat.

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