Contrary to her earlier denials of involvement in the political crisis rocking Rivers State, wife of President Goodluck Jonathan, Patience, on Wednesday opened up on the matter.
She told 16 bishops from the South-South, who visited her at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, that her misunderstanding with Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, started about four years ago in Anyugubiri in Okrika when she appealed to him to engage her people in dialogue instead of demolishing a part of their community.
Mrs. Jonathan said the governor, whom she described as “hot tempered,” did not only ignore her advice, he went a step further by sacking the chairman of the local government for holding a reception in her honour.
According to her, Amaechi did not only stop at those, he imposed a curfew on the community, which is where she hails from.
She said all her pleas with the governor to lift the curfew fell on deaf ears.
Although the President’s wife told the visiting bishops that she had since committed the Rivers crisis to God, she decided to open up for the first time on it so that they could pray to God to touch Amaechi’s heart.
She said, “Rivers State issue is one thing I have committed to prayer because I believe there is nothing God cannot do. God restored me and I will do His work without the fear of man. The truth will always remain the truth and what God ordains must come to pass and so Rivers issue is something we have handed over to God.
“This matter started four years ago at Anyugubiri in Okrika when I begged him not to demolish a part of Okrika but that he should dialogue first with the people. After that incident, he called the chairman of Okrika Local Government and sacked him for holding a reception in our honour; that boy was the first victim.
He also put my people under curfew for nine months. I called him and pleaded with him but he refused. Then I began to hear all sorts of propaganda in the media against me; this is not the way.
I have never spoken about this issue but as men of God, I believe you will say the truth always because there are a lot of conflicting interests; some will hear one thing and say the exact opposite.
I also want you to know the genesis of this problem and pray that God touches Amaechi’s heart as per his hot temper because when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.”
Mrs. Jonathan urged the governor to sheathe the sword and allow peace to reign in the state.
She said as her son, she could not be fighting the governor.
She also urged the governor to avoid being used by outsiders to fight “his own blood.”
She added, “I appeal to Amaechi to sheathe his sword so that we can defend our state and this country with love, unity, patriotism and truth at all time.
“Hebrews 12:14 urges us to embrace peace with all men without which, we cannot see God. Amaechi is my son, I cannot fight him and I cannot kill him. He shouldn’t be used by outsiders against his own blood because this seat is vanity.
One day, no matter how long it takes, we will leave this seat. Power is not forever. This seat is vanity, others sat here and left, so one day I will also leave and we will meet at home; so why should I fight him?
Let’s take it easy and face issues. Let’s stop magnifying lies; we must respect our leaders and people in authority. Let’s give peace a chance.”
Earlier, the leader of the delegation, Bishop God-Do-Well Awomapara, said they decided to visit the wife of the President to unravel the mysteries surrounding the crisis in the state and mediate in order to find a lasting solution to it.
“Our visit is significant in view of emerging situations in our region. We are on a quest to unravel the mysteries surrounding the Rivers issue and mediate where necessary,” he said.
Mrs. Jonathan’s spokesman, Mr. Ayo Osinlu, later issued a statement in which she again called on all those involved in the crisis to sheathe their swords and find ways to restore peace to the state.
The statement reads in part, “Dame Jonathan particularly appealed to Governor Amaechi to fly the olive branch, and resist being used by outsiders against his own people.
“While giving an insight into the genesis of the crisis in the state, she reiterated the need for the warring factions to employ dialogue as a means of resolving the contending issues amicably.
“The First Lady urged those who are crying more than the bereaved to stop magnifying the misunderstanding, while reiterating that Governor Amaechi and Mr. Nyeson Wike (Minister of State for Education) remain her sons, brothers and kinsmen, and would do anything to protect both of them.
Reacting, the State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, said the governor did not demolish the houses around a school in Angubiri, Okirika, as advised by Mrs. Jonathan.
Semenitari, who recalled what happened in Okirika when the President’s wife visited, said the school shown to Mrs. Jonathan by the governor had no playground, adding that a playground and other facilities could only be provided if some houses around the school were demolished.
“The First Lady advised against it and the governor did not demolish the houses. The school is still there without a playground. This issue happened a long time ago. What I don’t understand is that she still bears that in mind,” the commissioner added.
On the allegation that Amaechi imposed a nine-month curfew on the people of Okrika, Semenitari disagreed with Mrs. Jonathan, saying, “Even the First Lady had said several times that one of the achievements of the governor was that he (Amaechi) brought peace to Okrika and that people could sleep with both eyes closed.”
On her description of Amaechi as hot-tempered, the commissioner pointed out that she could not say anything about it since it was the President’s wife’s personal opinion.
Semenitari, however, expressed satisfaction with Mrs. Jonathan’s warning to those using her name to forment trouble to desist from such act.
“What I think is good to hear is that she has no problem with the governor (Amaechi) and that those using her name to cause crisis will stop doing so,” the commissioner stressed.
“She expressed her commitment to ensuring that peace returns to Rivers State soon, stating that as the President of African First Ladies Peace Mission, her desire is to have peace in her home base.”
Also, the state government has raised the alarm over a strange posting of policemen on Wednesday to the Government House in Port Harcourt and the Governor’s Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja.
Secretary to the State Government, Mr. George Feyii, in a statement, said the postings were done without notification.
He claimed that security operatives, whose identities were unknown, said they got a directive to remain at the gate of the governor’s lodge.
Feyii explained that it was aware that an official of a state, especially the governor, had the right to choose the security personnel he could entrust his safety.
The statement reads, “The Rivers State Government notes with distress, what is now an apparent attack on the person of Governor Amaechi. This (Wednesday) morning, two policemen, one of who is Inspector Bawa, reported to the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge at Justice Mohammed Bello Street, Asokoro, FCT Abuja.
“They claimed to have been posted by Nigeria Police Force Headquarters to monitor the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge. Earlier, four intelligence officers had been posted to the Government House in Port Harcourt by the Rivers State Police Command.
“These postings were done without any notification or deference to Governor Amaechi. We are aware that on issues of personal safety, an official reserves the right to pick the security personnel to whom he or she may entrust their safety. This is more so in the case of a state governor.
“The policemen this (Wednesday) morning said that they had directives to remain at the gate of the Rivers State Governor’s lodge. Not only is the Rivers State Government uncertain of the true identity of these gentlemen, we are worried as to the true intent behind this latest posting.”
He recalled that events around the governor in recent times had been suggestive of deliberate nonchalance, adding that the situation had continued even with an appeal to the highest authorities.
“In recent times, events in Rivers State and especially around Governor Amaechi have been suggestive of deliberate nonchalance at best and complicity at worst in the security breaches that have occurred. This trend has continued despite a passionate appeal to the levels of authorities. We are worried that we can no longer guarantee the safety of Governor Amaechi and wish to reiterate our call on all relevant authorities to ensure his safety and the peace and security of everyone in Rivers State,” the statement added.