He is an unassuming top Rivers state politician whose grass root experiences in organising community groups to developing their political consciousness has been a well known man whose great contributions to Rivers state Politics knows no bounds. Honourable Chief Tony Okocha the former Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area in Rivers state , former Students’ Union Government President and foundation member and founder of Ikwerre Youth Movement IYM and former Chief of Staff to the then Governor of Rivers state Rt. Honourable Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi now Minister of Transportation remains an enigmatic and charismatic leader of All Progressives Congress APC in Obio/Akpor LGA Rivers state last week spoke to Emeka Amaefula, as he unleashed retrospective account of how those friends of Honourable Minister of Transportation Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as APC leader in Rivers state. Today, Chief Tony Okocha is the Rivers state Coordinator of Bola Ahmed Tinubu –BATSV 2023 presidential aspiration.
Most of you who started and served with Rt. Honourable Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, 6-years after he left office as executive Governor of Rivers state is no longer with him, why is it so?
Well as far as I am concerned, I may not know exactly what the reasons are but if you ask me, I think there is something wrong ab nitio. I didn’t start the Government with him as I got into Government at the second term. Some persons have been with him as the Supreme Court ordered that he should be sworn in immediately; he made three major appointments that day. He was appointed Chief of Staff, he was appointed Commissioner for Finance and he was appointed Attorney General and Commissioner For Justice. The major question you should ask is, among the three initial persons that he appointed, who is still with him till today? Nyesom Wike was his Chief of Staff, Honourable Osinakachukwu Udezor was his Commissioner for Finance and Senator Magnus Ngei Abe was his Secretary To-Rivers state Government-SSG. Then you have Honourable Barrister Ken Chikere who was Attorney General and commissioner For Justice now in the Federal House of Representatives. These are key offices that any government or appointor should not want anybody to go to because it is really his priority and these are people who are supposedly very close to him.
Now some of us got into government like I said during the second tenure. You are supposed to know that we then had Rt. Honourable Tonye Harry (May his Soul Rest In Peace) as the Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly. Rt. Honourable Tony Harry held fort for him while he was Speaker as he was undergoing some training in Law in the United Kingdom and all that, Tonye Harry was filling the gaps he was the one presiding over the Rivers State House of Assembly.
It was Tonye Harry who was Speaker at a time when there was a problem Amaechi had to go on self-exile to Ghana and then the grounds were wet for an impeachment at least if Tonye Harry had the nap to take over permanently with the pressures that came. If he had to, he would have impeached him. But he held to and held the forth and held on to friendship and never did that. Well, it is unfortunately that he’s passed on, may God receive his soul. Butthen the problem is, what is Amaechi’s relationship with Tonye Harry’s family, of the late Speaker who was his very close confidant? Although the issue of K-Leg was announced by President Obasanjo a night before the Day of Handing Over of Flag, that was when he came into Port Harcourt to break that news.
It was at Tonye Harry’s House that all of us converged as those who were crying were crying and those who were shouting were shouting. That was how close they were. Amaechi goes to Tonye Harry’s house to sleep and he goes there to eat without biting an eyelid. They were that close. So, what is the relationship today? At least there’s a woman who was the wife to the late Tonye Harry who gave him food, what is the relationship today? I know very well that he and that woman are not in a good relationship.
Now leading to the second tenure I was Chief of Staff as from 2012, there was former Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly Rt. Honourable Otelemaba Dan Amachree. Otelemaba Dan Amachree also played a part in ensuring that the former Governor Amaechi’s seat was not compromised through impeachment as he stabilized the Rivers state House of Assembly. Even to the point where it came at his peril when Amaechi was having problems with the Federal Government. Otelemaba Dan Amachree had overtures made to him, in fact there’s nothing that they did not offer him, they even got the point that they waving up sentiments around Ijaw that he was supporting an Ikwerre man that is non-Ijaw person against an Ijaw cause. When those overtures failed they resorted to the stick, there’s this thing in Diplomacy “Carrot and Stick” approach, When the Carrot approach failed they resorted to the Stick approach Otelemaba Dan Amachree went underground.
For how long did he go underground?
That was for more than a year and six months. I can tell you that authoritatively because we were together. What I meant by that is that we were together with Otelemaba under my watch because of a security challenge and because we didn’t want anybody else to come around him in one way or the other. And because of this Otelemaba was accommodated at Presidential Lodge inside Government House Port Harcourt wherein nobody will access him without having clearance from me. As his colleagues can hardly see him unless I approve. No Executive Council member will see him except the Honourable Attorney General (Worgu Boms) who will also meet with him for Legal advice. Of course my own boss and I also have access to him because he was under my watch as I was in charge of Government House. So, today after all these deprivations, where is Otelemaba Dan Amachree? His friend the then Governor has abandoned him. He has abandoned all his friends and is focusing on himself. Otelemaba saved our democracy as he did the same thing Honourable Chidi Lloyd did. Honourable Chidi Lloyd saved our Democracy. If not for the role Chidi Lloyd played with the famous “Akpako”.
If not for the role that he played, he (Amaechi) would have been impeached because we had gotten information that one of the Assembly members for security reasons, I will not name the person. In fact, we have gotten information from one of the Assembly members calling me from the toilet and informing me that Kelechi Nworgu has come into the Chamber with another Mess. Their intention was for them to impeach the Speaker and then impeach Governor Amaechi. There were five of them. So as soon as that call came, I jumped upstairs and we drove into the Rivers State House of Assembly. Now when we got there Honourable Evans Bipi had really seated on the Speaker’s chair and they were already seated when they saw the way we rushed into the place they all ran away. Unfortunately, luck ran out on Honourable Michael O. Chinda who was the victim as Chidi Lloyd hit him with the MESS three times as he bled profusely. That was what saved us as a government. Of course, the then Commissioner of Police in Rivers State CP Joseph Mbu had already stationed Armed Personnel Carrier APC vehicle in front of Government House Port Harcourt in anticipation as he just wants to hear the news that Governor Amaechi has been impeached and he will use the Police to force him out from Government House. And the journalists were already waiting for the story. When that happened his intention was to chase all of us out from the Government.
What year was this?
It was in late 2013 to early 2014.
Now where Chidi Lloyd is, is he loyal to Rt. Honourable Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi?
Honourable Dr. Chidi Lloyd had defected from the party as he has returned back to PDP. He is now executive Chairman of Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers state. If not Honourable Chidi Lloyd’s role with the encounter with M.O Chinda and the party APC couldn’t recognize his worth and he has been elected on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party -PDP. Let me tell you about those who have left Amaechi, Honourable Felix Nweke was APC leader in Oyigbo of the “United APC”, I use the words United APC signifying when we were together. I was leader of Unified APC in Obio/Akpor LGA Honourable Marcus Nle Ejii, was Leader of United APC in Eleme Local Government Area, Right Honourable Chidi Wihioka former House of Representatives Member was leader of United APC in Ikwerre LGA, Honourable Barrister Worgu Boms was a leader of Port Harcourt LGA, Senator Wilson Asinobi Ake was leader of APC in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA. Rt. Honourable Otelemaba Dan Amachree has been swept underground as he was never featured in any APC leadership hierarchy even in his LGA by the Minister of Transportation as he enthroned Honourable Ojukaye Flag Amachree as APC leader in Asari Toru LGA where Otelemaba Dan Amachree hail from. Now, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe was the leader of APC in Gokana LGA, so all of us on a particular day Amaechi woke up from sleep, sitting from the right hand side of his bed and removed us in one day.
Was it on his birthday?
No, just like that he removed us, particularly hinging at the fact that we were supporting Senator Magnus Ngei Abe.
Which year was this?
That was in 2017 because I recall that after our elections in 2015 a lot of us traveled to Abuja to pursue our Election Petition Tribunal cases. That was when the Tribunal gave judgement that we all returned for fresh elections in 2016. A bit of that came for Senator Magnus Abe and Chidi Wihioka , Azubuike Nwanjoku, Friday Nkee, and Engr. (Mrs.) Victoria Nyeche and this man from Eleme Honourable Josiah Olu. These the ones left with him as the rest left him to PDP. In the course of our post mortem where we reviewed what happened we saw all of these things displayed out. Our meeting held that few of us were tilting towards Senator Magnus Abe as a choice for 2019 Governorship election in Rivers state. Our leader Amaechi. Don’t forget that he went to Magnus house and warned him in the presence of his wife and he went there for the second time in front of his wife and elder brother to warn him that he shouldn’t dare and that he knew that he has the support and that he would win but who will give him the ticket and secondly, he has no money. So, as a follow up to that mindset any other person that leans towards Senator Magnus Abe’s side was a threat to him (Amaechi). That was how he removed all of us. At a stage Honourable Marcus Nle Ejii has decamped back to PDP and he’s doing well (he owns THE OAK HOTEL Port Harcourt). Honourable Allwell Onyesoh has decamped to PDP and he is doing well. Honourable Felix Nweke has decamped to PDP and he is doing extremely well.
Some of us are still there with Senator Magnus Abe. Sometimes my life was at stake as a founder of the party (APC) in Rivers state and I haven’t seen any reason why that I should leave it for anybody as I suffered for it. Honourable Worgu Boms was almost debarred from Nigerian Bar Association NBA because of the role they claimed that he played in shutting down Rivers state Judiciary for those period that the 5-members of rivers state House of Assembly wanted to Impeach Amaechi. Are you not aware that there were no Court sittings in Rivers state for two years from 2013 to 2014 up to 2015? There were no courts in Rivers state. This is because the courts have been arranged for impeachment and every other thing to stiffen the Government. So, as a drawback they claimed that Worgu Boms of course everybody would point accusing fingers at him as he was almost De-robbed as Attorney General and Solicitor Commissioner for Justice of Rivers state Government that he gave the advice. It is a serious matter. Imagine a very good lawyer who had been in the BAR for a long number of years who got into Government by recommendation from the judiciary because of how cerebral that he is. Not from any other politician, he wasn’t recommended by any Politician but he was a true professional lawyer. He was recommended to the Governor and the Chief Judge then recommended somebody in the person of Worgu Boms as other Judges closer to the Governor agreed because the young man is cerebral. So, see how his profession would have gone down. He didn’t accuse Senator Magnus Abe of competence, apart from the fact that he comes from an area that has bulk-votes Magnus almost died. Senator Magnus will always fly from Abuja to come and speak almost every other day. We would do a Protest in Rivers State then as they have removed the case of the First Lady fighting with the Governor as they have made it Federal Government versus the Rivers state Governor then. So, none of us from the Government would speak. So, I was directed to always get Magnus to always speak as a Senator. He was close to us as the right person to speak. When we were holding a meeting to mobilize the entire Rivers people, they said look this where it is and this is where we are. Magnus was a victim of Stray bullets.
Let’s look at the 2015 Governorship election in Rivers state, the Gubernatorial Flagbearer then Dr. Adol Dakuku Peterside former NIMASA Director General, where he is on the side of Rt. Honourable Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and is he in good relationship with him?
No. He will answer that. But from what I think, I don’t know how that relationship is today compared to what I know in the past. As Director General of NIMASA he was entitled for a second term in office. When Dakuku was removed the Minister for Transportation Honourable Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi claimed he didn’t know that Dakuku was removed but as a lined Minister of Transportation who we know supervises that agency he said that it’s confirmed by senate and that he doesn’t appoint that Mr. President appoints. He came on air that he doesn’t even know that he has been removed. How is it possible? It could have been possible. Elder Chidi Wihioka as a Senior Lecturer at Rivers State School of Arts and Science is an old-time friend of Amaechi; at some time he was Amaechi’s close ally. Seeing him (Amaechi) and Chief Allwell Onyesoh, it is told that it was Allwell’s vehicle that they used to convey Amaechi’s father’s corpse to the mortuary. They were very close. They shared clothes, one of those clothes of Chief Allwell. You can see how intimate they were. Elder Chidi Wihioka started working as a Senior Lecturer at Rivers State College of Arts and Science-CASS from where he and Amaechi came into contact as they came from the same Ikwerre Local Government Area. That is how deep their relationship has been. Chief Allwell Onyesoh also lectured at CASS.
When he starts talking about ingratitude it makes me sad, what is the ingratitude here. I was the General secretary of Ikwerre Youth Movement-IYM which was formed in 2002. We had what you call Ikwerre Women Forum-IYW plus the apex, Ikwerre National Forum INF which was led by Professor Nath Abraham while IWF was led by Mrs. Ohochukwu ab nitio she was ex-president of IWF before she and her husband left. These were the groups that midwife Amaechi’s ambition that he projected for 2007 were formed in 2002 imagine 5-years ahead of time. I was in charge of the inauguration as I moved from units to wards, from villages to and from hamlets to hamlets were my responsibilities. I moved round the nooks and cranny of villages in Ikwerreland I even went beyond that to universities to make sure that Ikwerre boys who are our ardent supporters emerge as Students’ Union Presidents. I was one. So, I knew the ropes. I even went up to Imo state and Abia State universities. I even went around to Lagos state University to inaugurate their IYM branches. Now, if I am paid back then I was recompensed for an appointment in 2012 should anybody say that is ingratitude for how many years? Ten donkey years. Am also grateful that Amaechi as Governor then looked my way with the appointment. But what I will not agree with if anybody tells me that is that I was picked from the gutters. It is wrong. I have been at the epi-center of Rivers state politics. From the University, with Rivers state Government and down here in my community There are plenty as I don’t know where to start to count. I was Executive Assistant when we had the SDP, GDM, DPN, NRC and all that I was Executive Assistant to Freddy Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area. That was where I showcased myself and then Wike took me when he became Chairman. Chief Eric Asoh took me when he was alive, I was in charge of his conglomerates and I was his Personal Assistant when he was a Governorship candidate in Rivers state under Alliance For Democracy, AD. So, I am not a green horn as it were. I have been in the system. Again, it is also important to know that the Governor couldn’t have been Chief of Staff, couldn’t have been Commissioner to all the ministries at the same time, couldn’t have been Secretary-To Rivers State Government SSG appointments must be given out. And there are two conditions: one is your contribution to the coming of being of the Government or on serious recommendation based on professional competence and all that. You see these are two major reasons for bringing people into Government. Mine is not because I am a professional. Mine is because of my contributions.