Former Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, has said his refusal to support ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s bid to secure the support of governors for an upward review of subsidy payments was one of the reasons why they fell apart.
Amaechi also revealed that the former President asked him not to seek re-election as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum because of his principled stand against the unjustified depletion of a common patrimony.
The former governor said this in Abuja, late on Sunday, at a dinner organised in his honour by his friends in Abuja.
The Committee of Friends was chaired by ex-Bayelsa State governor, Timipre Sylva. Others in the group included Senator Magnus Abe, Dakuku Peterside and the governors of Plateau and Bauchi states, among others.
According to Amaechi, the former President also presided over the taking away of oil wells belonging to the people of Rivers State, a situation which adversely affected the state’s revenue base.
He said, “When the trouble between me and the former President started, as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, the oil subsidy was N300bn under President Obasanjo. It remained the same under Yar’Adua. Six months of President Goodluck Jonathan, the oil subsidy rose to N1.9trn. Is it that the country now doubled its population or bought more machines or started manufacturing?
“As the Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, I was in a position to get my own share of the N1.9trn, but I chose the part of honesty and truth; you cannot catch me being dishonest.”
The former governor also said, “There was a time I walked into a meeting with the former President (Goodluck Jonathan) and in the meeting, the argument was that they wanted more money for oil subsidy. As the Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, I stood my ground and told the then President I was not going to support that.
“He asked me why and I explained that we are already in court with you on the issue of fuel subsidy. The ex-President abused the hell out of my life. I have huge respect for the President, but the only thing that made me disagree with him was on the issue of the management of the country’s treasury.”
Amaechi challenged those who claimed that he betrayed the South-South with his support for the All Progressives Congress and President Muhammadu Buhari to tell the world how former President Jonathan’s presidency benefited the region in particular and Nigeria in general.
He pointed out that by his own admission, the former President, while seeking re-election, appealed to the people of the zone to give him a second chance because he did nothing for them in his first term.
Amaechi also said the looting of the nation’s treasury was done by people from all the geo-political zones, but noted that the only thing was that it was presided over by a President from the South-South.
He said the victory of the APC during the last general elections was largely due to the fact that the party had a good product in the person of Muhammadu Buhari to sell.
Amaechi said his successor, Nyesom Wike and his supporters were trying very hard to dent his image because they know that if he gets a federal appointment, it would change the politics of the state.
In his remarks, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo described Amaechi as a man of tremendous courage who stood up, not just against former President Jonathan, but the entire establishment.
He said, “Everyone agreed that the Peoples Democratic Party was powerful and it would be difficult to remove it from office, but one man stood up against the whole might of the Federal Government, and today, we are celebrating the man and the victory of our party because of what he did.
“Amaechi is also a man of big ideas and very insightful. He understands how to live long in the hearts of men. His education policies in Rivers State and all of those children he gave real hope and opportunities will always be there. He will be remembered long after he left this earth.”
Earlier, the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, said the former Rivers State Governor was one Nigerian who deserves all the accolades because of his detribalised nature.
He explained that his decision to lead four of his other colleagues to dump the PDP altered the equation, because if only the four who were northerners left, it would have been a case of northerners leaving the PDP “to join a northern party.”