Wife of the President, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, on Friday took on the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, for attributing the crisis in the Rivers State House of Assembly to her.
In a statement by her spokesman, Ayo Osinlu, the President’s wife said Soyinka betrayed the moral duty that expected him, as a respected member of the society, to carefully consider all shades of issues that informed his opinions on any matter.
Mrs. Jonathan said Soyinka had become an embarrassment to his admirers with his diatribe against her.
The statement read in part, “Unfortunately, Soyinka betrayed moral duty in his recent diatribe against Mrs. Patience Jonathan.
“Of course, this would not be the first time he would reach out against the First Lady, usually from self-righteously indignant lecterns.
“In this particular instance, his verdict was that Mrs. Jonathan was ‘stoking the crisis currently rocking her home state of Rivers…’, and thereupon asked Mr. President to caution his wife.
“The good, old Prof. reminds one of the truth that indeed, most of the giants on the street are men of like passions like everyone else. Worse still, most of them are actually standing on clay feet and would fail the test of a gentle push.
“Otherwise, who would have believed that the social, civil, constitutional and sundry rights crusader Prof. would maintain a safe distance from the heart of an activity that is a potential threat to the peace, security and safety of the people of a state, then collect exaggerated stories and jaundiced perspectives from familiar propagandists and character assassins, and promptly summon the media to a “state of the nation” address.
“It’s an embarrassment to his throng of admirers and followers, that a sage of Prof. Soyinka’s status, who used to be a gauge of public morality in this nation, would lend himself to a propaganda of high drive, to save a governor who elected to launch into a river without applicable survival skills.”
Mrs. Jonathan argued that the calculation was to attack the President and pull to pieces anyone associated with him, as a strategy for attracting public sympathy to the “clear underdog.”
She said Soyinka was only contributing to the project when he claimed that she was Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s problem.
In a related development, the Presidency on Friday said Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State should be held responsible for the fracas that broke out in the state House of Assembly on Tuesday.
Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Ahmed Gulak, said this in an interview with State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Gulak said it was erroneous for someone like the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, and opposition political parties to heap the blame of the crisis on President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, Patience, when the governor himself was the one who instigated it.
He said rather than being the mastermind, the President was the victim of Amaechi’s alleged mischief.
The presidential aide argued that the disagreement among the state lawmakers would not have degenerated to that extent if the governor had not gone to the premises contrary to the advice of the state Commissioner of Police.
He alleged that it was the presence of Amaechi and his security aides that emboldened the Majority Leader and other lawmakers loyal to him to beat the anti-Amaechi lawmakers as shown in the widely-circulated video of the mayhem.
Gulak said, “It is mischief to say that the President is behind the crisis in Rivers State. The President cannot be part of the crisis in that state. He is a man of peace.
“The problem in Rivers State is the internal wrangling of the administration of the governor. It is sad that when there are crises in the assembly, the governor will physically drive to the House of Assembly to partake in the crises.
“The fact is that in this crisis in Rivers State, the governor should be held responsible because if he did not go to the house of assembly, those guys wouldn’t have been emboldened to beat people up.”
Gulak said the Rivers crisis was not the first time a crisis would be recorded in a state house of assembly.
Citing the example of Adamawa State, where the assembly was shut for about three months because of a crisis, the presidential aide said the governor did not appear physically in the assembly and yet the crisis was resolved.
He said the way out was for all parties to abide by the constitution provision which provides for separation of power.
Gulak observed that Soyinka made a public comment on the matter out of ignorance.
He said, “Soyinka, without knowing the fact, just went public to blame the President and his wife for what is happening in the state. He is an elder statesman, I don’t want to take issues with him but I will say that he should be responsible.
“I am not aware of any plan to impeach the governor and the President is not aware even if there are such plans. But what I know is that the house of assembly intended to change their leadership, rightly or wrongly, they have a constitutional right to do it if they have the majority.
Reacting to Gulak’s statement, the Chief Press Secretary to the Rivers State Governor, Mr. David Iyofor, described the President’s aide as the “Wada Nas of our time, who should be ignored.”
Iyofor dismissed Gulak’s claim that Amaechi was responsible for the crisis in Rivers and maintained that the governor was not the five lawmakers that attempted to impeach the Speaker.
“Gulak’s statement lacks the necessary logic. Was Amaechi one of the five lawmakers who attempted to remove the Speaker in a House of 32 members?
“Was Amaechi responsible for shooting teargas into the Government House? If Gulak does not know what to say, it is better for him to keep quiet and allow peace to reign,” the governor’s media aide said.
Meanwhile, the Chief Security Officer, Aide De Camp and other security men attached to Amaechi may be dismissed from the police force and the State Security Service.
Saturday PUNCH gathered that the dismissal would be based on their level of involvement in the fracas that occurred in the chambers of the state house of assembly on Tuesday.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, had already set up an investigative panel headed by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of Operations, Philemon Leha, to probe the political impasse in the state. It was learnt that the SSS was also carrying out a similar investigation to determine the involvement of its officers in the fracas.
A top security source said, “The conduct of the policemen and other security officers is highly embarrassing to the police high command and they will face disciplinary committees.
“Any indicted officer, whether SSS or the police, faces three types of punishment, including demotion and dismissal, which are the highest forms of punishment they can get.”
The Chairman of the Police Service Commission, Sir Mike Okiro, has also expressed an interest in the matter.
He has called for an urgent probe into the involvement of policemen in the assault and battery of lawmakers, which was aired on television.
Assistant Director (Information & Public Relations), Police Service Commission, Ferdinand Ekpe, confirmed to Saturday PUNCH that Okiro had directed that investigation should establish the culpability or otherwise of the policemen in the incident.
He said, “The Police Service Commission Chairman, Sir Mike Okiro, as a Nigerian, watched the incident on television and he is interested in the matter.
“He has directed that investigation into the involvement of the policemen be sped up and the case should be brought to the commission after it might have been handled by the Force Disciplinary Committee.”
Findings indicated that the police high command was embarrassed by the conduct of the policemen that were attached to the governor for jumping into the fray between the pro and anti-Amaechi lawmakers.
It was learnt that the policemen did not exhibit professionalism and good judgment expected of senior officers working in a politically-volatile environment.
The Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, said the panel set up by the IG would investigate the conduct of all the policemen that were at the scene of the fracas and any one found to have breached the police code of conduct would be punished.
“A policeman is a policeman everywhere, no matter who you are working with. A governor has immunity but a policeman has no immunity and if your conduct breaches the police code of conduct, you will not be spared.
“Our investigation will focus on all the policemen at the scene of the fracas and any indicted officer will be dealt with accordingly. I don’t want to pre-empt the investigation panel, but the fact remains that the police force will not condone any act of indiscipline,” Mba stated.
Reacting to the move to dismiss the officers, the Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt, Mr. Tony Okocha, said the police should bother to find out the circumstances that led to the beating of the lawmaker by the police.
Okocha explained that the ADC to the governor had to defend his principal (Amaechi), who, one of the lawmakers instructed somebody from the gallery to shoot.
The governor, according to Okocha, informed the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mbu Joseph, about the crisis in the House of Assembly.
“When the governor got there, one of the lawmakers ordered that the governor should be shot. So, in that circumstance, what would the governor’s ADC do?
“The ADC to the governor did what was expected of him by defending his principal. The gallery was peopled by some youths with guns. That is why I say the police should bother to consider the circumstances that led to the ADC’s action.”
Meanwhile, Governor Amaechi, on Thursday, raised the alarm that his life was in danger following the withdrawal of soldiers from the Government House.
The governor, who expressed surprise over the development, said the soldiers were withdrawn without any prior information to the Government House.
Amaechi, who spoke through his Chief of Staff, Mr. Tony Okocha, explained that with the withdrawal of some police personnel in the past and the pulling out of soldiers, his security could no longer be guaranteed as a governor.
“The truth is that the governor’s life is in danger and you know he has told the people of the state and Nigerians to continue to pray for him. The battle is not about Amaechi, it is about impunity, it is about harassment.
“It is Amaechi today; it may be the turn of another person tomorrow. That is why we are calling on Nigerians to speak out against what is happening in the state,” he said.
More than 24 hours after soldiers posted to the Government House in Port Harcourt were withdrawn, a letter from the Nigerian Army (2 Brigade, Port Harcourt) was sent to the state government to explain the reason behind the action.
The state Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Dan Orbih, explained that though he would not subscribe to any decision that would endanger the life of the governor, Amaechi did not take any action when his (Amaechi) ADC and orderly beat up a lawmaker in the House of Assembly complex.
Obuah, however, attributed the pulling out of the soldiers from the Government House to the prevalence of young civilians parading themselves as soldiers in order to oppress innocent people of the state.