BACKLASH: APC And The South-South
The talk in town now is that the ruling APC wants to add the three states of the deep South-south namely Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom to its kitty. Even with the emphatic outcome of the governorship election in Bayelsa State, the APC is not relenting. Its candidate, Timipre Sylva is threatening to recover through the courts what he has lost in the polls.
What has happened in Bayelsa signposts the nature of things to come in Rivers and Akwa Ibom States where a re-runs seem imminent following the reversals and voiding of results of the 2015 governorship election in both states at the electoral tribunals and the Appeal Court.
The APC may have to work very hard to realise its dream. For reasons which are not too clear, the APC’s hot message of change is not spreading in the South-south with the same ferocity that it has spread in most of Northern Nigeria.
Maybe it is a problem of strategy and I am here to advise on better strategy. Any approach outside robust engagement with the issues and stakeholders on ground will be counter-productive. I am saying this so that the APC is not erroneously led to anchor its take-over bid on the shoulders of its so-called zonal leaders. For now, the leaders in the South-south manifest more as dealers who are ready to trade the zonal heritage for personal glory.
Only last week, transport minister and former governor of Rivers State Rotimi Amaechi announced on national television network the discontinuation of the Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Delta State citing the inadequacy of take-off infrastructure in spite of the release of huge sums of money by the Federal Government through the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for that purpose. He said the entire concept of a maritime university in Delta State “is a waste of resources” given that a Maritime Academy already exists in Oron in Akwa Ibom State. He explained to the Senate that there was nothing on ground to push a take-off of the university and that the Chinese company contracted to build part of the physical infrastructure confirmed to him that only the feasibility study was in place.
Amaechi made this weighty proclamation with gusto. He sounded as if he was dishing out the best policy statement to have ever come out of the Ministry of Transport since the start of this democracy in 1999. He also seemed to have told folks from the Niger Delta who might have expressed surprise at his statements that: ‘I don’t give a damn whether or not I am from the region; I must say the truth as a nationalist.’
Meanwhile, alarmed by the signals Amaechi had initiated at the very top, Chief E.K Clark, an acclaimed leader of the Ijaw nation, tried to do something to correct or at least counter the impression already created. He bought newspaper space last Friday to openly communicate the state of affairs at the Maritime University and other burning issues in the Niger Delta including the resumed bombing of oil facilities by militants to President Muhammadu Buhari. He said the university which Amaechi says has not taken off beyond documented feasibility study actually has a temporary campus at an adjoining community called Kurutie which is only five minutes speed-boat ride from Okerenkoko in Warri Southwest local government area of Delta State.
Specifically, the old man added that the N13billion paid by NIMASA was not all sunk in conducting feasibilities but judiciously utilized to create facilities enough for a good take-off of a university of whatever description at the Kurutie site. He reeled out a long list of the functional buildings and their uses and other facilities in Kurutie.
For instance, on ground at Kurutie are guest houses, staff quarters, clinic, block of classrooms and an auditorium that sits 200 people. There are also instructors offices, purpose-built library, two reading halls of approximately 180 square metres each, administrative buildings, cafeteria, mechanical workshop, electrical/ stimulation block and a ceremonial pavilion that can take 800 spectators. Also on ground according to Chief Clark are swimming pool, male and female hostels for approximately 150 students and a generator house.”
Eighty-seven year old Chief Clark who trained as a lawyer and served as federal commissioner of information was not pretending to know so much about estate management or physical mappings. The original listings in the published open letter to President Buhari were not clear cut. They overlapped in certain areas but contained enough to support his claim that Minister Amaechi lied and deceived the Federal Government and indeed Nigerians regarding the state of affairs at the Maritime University, Okerenkoko.
It is a straight contest of integrity between the old man and the young man. There are two things for verification to reach an unbiased assessment. The first is the truth or otherwise of the very demoralizing position of Amaechi that the Maritime University after due approval by the Federal Government and the National Universities Commission (NUC) is still a distant concept that has not manifested beyond a feasibility study. The other, are the huge claims of real take-off by Chief Clark. In fact, the old man added that, administratively, the university has been prepared for operation too. The Governing Council is in place with Prof (Mrs) Viola Onwuliri as Pro-chancellor and Chairman of Council; Prof (Mrs Ongoebi Maureen Otebu , Vice Chancellor and Anho Nathaniel Eseoghene, Registrar.
As I write, close to a brigade of Nigerian soldiers are in and around the location of the Maritime University searching everywhere for the militants that bombed oil and gas pipelines early last week precipitating production shut-ins that is costing the federal Government a whooping N470 million daily according to Works, Power and Housing Minister, Babatunde Fashola. These same soldiers can expand their scope a little and dash briefly to Kurutie to verify the claims of Papa Clark. It is worth the trouble because we cannot, in the words of Amaechi, go on wasting resources on nothing.
APC leaders usually have their ears to the ground. They have a way of picking up, like radio antennae, big stories of fraud in Nigeria narrated especially by foreigners. If it is not Governor Adams Oshiomhole who was told by an American legislator in the US about stolen billions of dollars of Nigeria’s money, it will be Lai Mohammed who has just been reliably informed by foreign sources of how only 55 Nigerians stole about N2 trillion naira from the national treasury.
Now Amaechi has joined claiming that a Chinese contractor told him that the tens of billions of naira provided by the Federal Government to start the Maritime University in Okerenkoko were all used to conduct feasibilities and print the arising report. He should be given the benefit of doubt because you never can tell!
But here, at least, is something outside Dasukigate for the EFCC and DSS to work on. They should get interested in the verifications of all the claims and counter claims regarding the Maritime University. They should get that Chinese contractor to restate his case before a proper court. By the time they are through, it will be easy to know who between the old man and the young man is saying the truth.
Even if it is discovered that Amaechi actually lied, nobody in Port Harcourt or elsewhere in the South-south should propose crucifixion. His sin will not be weightier than the sins of others before him including former President Goodluck Jonathan who spent all the time playing politics of self preservation and forgot that he represented more than himself and his wife in Aso Rock Villa. Amaechi is on the same trajectory hoping that a pan-Nigerian posturing at this early stage of his national sojourn will soften the bargain for him in 2019.
If Amaechi does not know what to do or say, I will guide him. He should start a process of redistributing some of the bureaucracy for maritime management in the country, namely Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Shippers Council and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency to the Niger Delta where there is more water. He should stop cutting his nose to spite his face. It is only a slave that aspire to impress at all costs.