By Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt
The beef between Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi and Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike deepened on Monday as they continued their verbal altercations.
The cause of the heightened quarrel is Amaechi’s description of the oil-rich state as unsafe under the Wike administration.
The minister who served as the state governor between 2007 and 2015 had at the weekend said that political intimidation and insecurity had become the order of the day in the state.
“Everyone is scared; we are going back to when Ateke (Tom) held sway. We are going back to the period where we run away from our people, but from next year, I will begin to speak, if nobody wants to speak.”
Prior to becoming the traditional ruler of Okochiri Kingdom in Okrika Local Government Area, Ateke was one of the militant leaders that held sway in the creeks of the Niger Delta.
But yesterday, Wike while featuring on a live television programme, hit back at Amaechi, saying “Rivers is safer than any other state” in the country.
He said: “See what is happening in Borno, Kaduna and Plateau states where bandits have taken over their areas.
“When Amaechi was governor, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc was chased away because of insecurity. But they are here now, constructing roads all over the state without fear.
“Amaechi’s hometown, Ubima, is a place you have a large number of cultists that he uses.”
Wike added that Amaechi could only be remembered for white elephant and uncompleted projects in the state.
He said instead of focusing on the real essence of development, the minister was concerned with awarding political projects while serving as a governor to boost his personal ego.
The governor claimed that a project like the Justice Karibi Whyte Hospital, which gulped $39.9 million under Amaechi administration, only existed in paper.
He added that Amaechi also spent N65 billion on a 1.2- kilometre monorail project which, according to him, was conceived as a white elephant.
According to him, most of such political projects were used to settle allies.
The governor stated that Amaechi and his political allies after wasting huge sums of money from the state left behind uncompleted projects.
His words: “Amaechi does not have the moral ground to talk about development in the state when he wasted so much financial resources on non-existing projects.
“Go round the state, you will never see anything that looks like Justice Karibi -Whyte Hospital. It is a scam that never existed.
“Again, tell me what is the traffic along Azikwe Road that a 1.2- kilometre monorail project will be awarded for over N65 billion .
“When I came into office, I was told that it will cost about N30 billion to complete that project. If I have such money, I will build more infrastructure across the state.
“His Economic Advisory Council led by Prof. Nimi Briggs published a document. The records covered the activities of his administration from 2007 to 2014.”
Specifically, the governor said the records showed that only 116 out of 478 primary schools billed for construction were completed while the remaining 362 were abandoned.
Wike described Amaechi as a self-seeking leader who parades himself as one that knows everything.
He said that unlike Amaechi that allegedly killed the dreams and projects of other people, he voted money to complete road projects initiated by him (Amaechi).
Acting Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state,, Igo Aguma and the Chief of Staff, Government House, Chukwuemeka Woke, also carpeted Amaechi for his “vexatious remarks”
While Aguma described the minister’s comments as “ridiculous and a dilemma of a hoper,” Woke said he(Amaechi) had lost touch with development in the state.
The APC state chairman said: “ We are not surprised that the dictator of the party in Rivers state, in keeping with his 2018/2019 vows … has vowed to begin to ‘speak up’, with the sole aim of serving his personal, diversionary and selfish political interest and nothing more pretentious, just to play out a script which only him understands.”
Wike on his part said: “It is unfortunate for Amaechi to come to Kalabari land and accuse former President Goodluck Jonathan of not developing the area six years after he had left office.
“I wonder why the former governor will choose to make such embarrassing remarks at the funeral of Late Justice Karibi-Whyte, a man he claimed to be his mentor”.
Also, the remarks by Amaechi drew the ire of Okochiri Kingdom Council of Chiefs and Okirika Council of Chiefs in Okirika Local Government Area.
They appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the minister to leave their king (Ateke Tom) alone.
Chairman of Council of Chiefs, Chief Jackson Ibiteinbo, described the comments as unfounded, saying it was aimed at denigrating the revered throne of the kingdom.
But a former Publicity Secretary of the APC in the state, Chris Finebone, described Wike’s claims as lies.
Finebone, a loyalist of the minister, said he was not surprised that the governor “as an insider in the then Amaechi’s government, would lie to himself and members of the public.”
He compared Wike to the Biblical Judas Iscariot, who as a Chief of Staff to Amaechi, feathered his nest and turned around to betray his boss.
Listing some of Amaechi’s achievements as a governor, Finebone said Wike’s claims reminded him of Ola Rotimi’s epic play, ‘Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again..’
He said: “It was not unusual to see Governor Wike take to his despicable path once again on live television ranting, cursing and agonising in a manner unbecoming of a governor. It was typical of him.”