Mr. Evans Bipi is the member representing Ogu Bolo State Constituency in the Rivers State House of Assembly. In this interview with CHUKWUDI AKASIKE, he speaks on his role in the crisis rocking the Rivers State House of Assembly.
I feel bad and I really feel sad, but this is a nation where the Press has freedom of speech. It is a democratic setting. Based on the past incident, one can call it animal kingdom, but it is not. We are there to correct all the anomalies. Whatever that is not good is not good. We are there to point out to the governor that this is not good, this is good, do this, don’t do this so that we can form a good government.
Why did you instigate a fight in the House of Assembly?
How? Where are the video clips that showed that I was the person that instigated the fight? Where are the clips? They have nothing to hold; they are drowning. They are looking for a way to drag everybody into the matter. Right now, they have nothing to hold. We are in a democracy where we are allowed to impeach anybody when there is an impeachable offence. At my level, how would I go and start a fight. It is only somebody who is about to fall that will want to react.
Have you ever been trained in the art of boxing, karate, or wrestling?
No! We are all human beings and we can be doing one form of exercise or the other. I am not into karate or taekwondo. It is not possible.
Why do you call the President’s wife mummy? Are you in any way related to her?
Have you forgotten that she is from Okrika? So, whoever attains the position of the First Lady, what would you call the person? You call her mummy. She is the mother of the nation and she is the mouthpiece of Okrika people. She is the mother of Okrika people. So, every Okrika person calls her mummy.
But you are from Ogu Bolo. Is Ogu Bolo near Okrika, why she hails from?
Ogu Bolo is Okrika. They are all Okrika people. It is like Ikwerre and Obio/Akpor; they are all Ikwerre. It is only the local government areas that split them. So, as an Okrika woman, who has risen up to that position, everybody calls her mummy.
Is that why you also call her your Jesus Christ on earth? What is her role in your life?
People are misinterpreting this Jesus Christ on earth. Let me say this. Man is God to man; it is in the Bible. You must not see God; you will see God through somebody. God said, see me through Jesus Christ. That is why we are seeing God through Jesus Christ. This woman (Patience Jonathan) is everything in my life. She made me what I am today.
Are you talking about politics?
Politically and otherwise; I can say it anywhere. I can say she is my Jesus Christ because she has made me who I am today. That is the truth and I can defend that anywhere. Babangida’s wife was from Delta State. Her people called her mummy. Yar’Adua’s wife is from Katsina, all the people from Katsina call her mummy. Even Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s wife, the people call her mummy. When a woman attains such level, everybody calls her mummy. It is a form of respect to her. But to me, my mummy (Patience Jonathan) is special because she brought me up to this level.
What made you think that five members can impeach the Speaker out of 32 members of the House of Assembly?
Point of correction, we were not five. I have told you this before. Five members cannot impeach the Speaker and five cannot impeach the governor. Why is Amaechi afraid and going to court to stop us from impeaching him? If we were five, Amaechi wouldn’t have gone to court. He (Amaechi) knew that we were not five because he could no longer trust the people he perceived to be his supporters. Again, there was no time we thought of impeaching Amaechi. If he thought we wanted to impeach him, which means he had come to know that there was an impeachment or he has come to understand that there is a new Speaker and the recognition stands. But there has never been any plan to impeach him, but rather I am ready to work with him. It is not true. You can’t even dare going to discuss with President Jonathan that you want to impeach Amaechi because he (Jonathan) is a man that does not want to hear such thing. He will not even allow you to end your discussion. He is a peaceful man.
You were seen in a video clip almost snatching an AK 45 rifle from a policeman, what did you want to do with the rifle?
What happened was that after Chidi Lloyd used the mace to hit my colleague, he ran away, then the governor came, supervised the beating of my colleague. So, I was running after him (Rotimi Amaechi). That policeman now used the gun to hit me. Take a look at my hand. So I dragged the rifle in anger. I don’t know how to shoot. I was only trying to ask him why he used the gun to hit me. I was only trying to let him know that what he did was bad. Why did he stop me from going after the governor? I was going to meet the governor to tell him that coming to the House to supervise the beating of my colleague was not good.
How do you feel when some people call you impersonator?
I feel very sad that they call me impersonator. But those who say I am impersonating, they are not also sitting, I am not also sitting. If I am impersonating, then you should go and sit, let the whole Rivers people see if they will not stone and drive them out. The beauty of it is that they are not sitting, I am not also sitting. I am waiting for the National Assembly to decide since they said they had taken over.
They have three months and this will soon elapse. Because we are not sitting, Amaechi has gone to extend the tenure of Obio/Akpor Caretaker Committee, which is our own duty, my own duty as the Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly. I have said it is illegal. He (Amaechi) does not know what he is doing. If you say the National Assembly has taken over, you wait and let the National Assembly extend the tenure of the caretaker committee. He should have waited for the National Assembly to come and not extending the tenure of the caretaker committee himself.
Some people see you as a thug and cultist. How do you feel about this?
Well, that is always the case, when you react to something, they call you names, when you fold your hands, they call you woman. That is what some people call Jonathan then. When you react, they will say that you are a military man. Just because I reacted, they say I am a thug, I am a cultist. Well. God knows. All those around me know that I am not a thug, I am not a cultist. I came from a Christian family and I am an Anglican. There is no way I will join cult, there is no way to be a thug. One day, the whole nation will know that I am not a thug. What they are portraying me to be because they have money is not what I am.
But we saw some thugs inside the chambers of the House the day the incident happened. They said that some were your supporters that you invited into the chambers of the House. How true is that?
That is a fallacy. They are not saying the truth to the world; it is another way of tarnishing my image or painting me black. If I have thugs, Chidi Lloyd would not have walked away. I did not invite any thug and I did not invite any cultists.
How do you feel as a lawmaker fighting on the floor of the House?
If you look at the clips, I was not the one; it was Chidi Lloyd. After the impeachment, he reacted and tried to defend his position in the House because we impeached him alongside with Speaker. The impeachment angered him and made him (Lloyd) to hit Chinda with the mace. I was not there and I believe that after Chinda, the next person that would have been hit was me. I was only being alert. It (free-for-all) is part of democracy. It happened in the National Assembly, it happened in Kogi State, it happened in Lagos State; Rivers State is not an exception.
Is that why you used taxpayers’ money to fly Michael Chinda abroad over a fight that had nothing to do with the welfare of the people of the state?
That is why we condemned the act of Chidi Lloyd as barbaric. For him to have used a mace on not just a fellow lawmaker, but his own brother; they are from the same community, it is barbaric and we condemn it.
Considering the incident in the House, would you warn your children against fighting?
Of course, I will definitely warn my children against fighting. But my children will not run away from a woman. There is no way a man will run away because of a woman. I will always tell them to defend themselves at any given time. But I will tell them not to fight. They should run away from trouble, run away from fighting, run away from anything crisis, demonstration, but they should not run away because of a woman.
How did you explain your role in the brawl that took place in the House of Assembly to your family?
Well, I told my wife and children that if not for God, that mace Chidi Lloyd used would have hit me. I was the target, but it was God that diverted his (Lloyd) attention to his own brother, Michael Chinda. So, my wife and children knelt down and thanked God for not making me to be a victim. We prayed and my wife also thanked God for it. So, I guard against fighting. The truth is that fighting is not good, but always fight against injustice.
But some people would still insist that the fight was for personal gain and not for the people of Rivers.
The fight was for the people of Rivers. If I represent my constituency, M.O. Chinda represents a constituency, former Speaker represents a constituency. If what should be for my constituency is not given; the whole projects are not given, are my people not part of Rivers people? They are part of Rivers people and they are being denied their constituency project. They are being denied of their sons’ allowances and this is what I would have used to rehabilitate them. The allowances are for human empowerment. So, we were fighting for Rivers people.
You have continued to call Amachree a former speaker. Could you throw more light on why you describe him in that manner?
I earlier told you that Amachree was duly and respectfully impeached. I have the clerk of the House; I have the sergeant-at-arm. The sergeant-at-arm he (Amachree) used to present the supplementary budget is a fake one. We are even taking him to court for impersonation. I have been made the Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly, Amachree is not contesting it. He has not taken me to court. If he says I am impersonating, he should take me to court and let’s dig it out there. I will bring all the available papers around me. He is saying I am impersonating and I am an impostor, he should take me to court and let me prove that I am the Speaker. I have all the documents with me. I want to use this medium to warn Amachree not to be telling people that he is the Speaker. He should know that he has been impeached and he is no longer the Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly. Anywhere he goes and answers Speaker, I will get him arrested and take him to court.
What exactly are the issues you have against Amaechi?
I, for, one, do not have issues against Amaechi. I am only correcting Amaechi in certain areas he was going astray such as his interference in our legislative functions, using money in executing projects that were not budgeted for, taking loans without stating what the money was meant for, non-payment of allowances of honourable members; I am a victim. For some time now, my allowances have been seized. The allowances of those he (Amaechi) perceived to be his enemies have not been paid for the past six months. Another point is the interference of his wife in our constituency projects. She (Amaechi’s wife) took my constituency project. My constituency project is ESI, which is Amaechi’s wife’s pet project.
Another issue is the refusal of the governor to accept the PDP executive officers in the state. He came to power through the court and the court also gave order for Felix Obuah to take over, but Amaechi did not accept it. The illegal removal of Obio/Akpor Local Government Council chairman is still an issue. There was no due process; there was no petition on the floor of the House. He conspired with the ‘former’ Speaker to remove the chairman, vice and 17 councillors of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area and swore in a caretaker committee the same day. It is not done. Again, he (Amaechi) refused to explain the position of the aircraft owned by Rivers. There are many issues and I am only correcting him. So, I personally don’t have any issue with him.
Is it true that Governor Amaechi is arrogant?
He is arrogant and power drunk.
Some are saying that President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife are behind the crisis in Rivers State. How true is that?
That is a pure fallacy. If Jonathan’s hand is in Rivers crisis, the matter would have been resolved long ago. No matter how humble he is, if he has a hand in Rivers problem, by now, it would have been a thing of the past. But the President does not have a hand in this crisis. You can just imagine how a governor will come out to challenge a whole President. If the President has a hand in this matter, then it would have been a thing of the past. The President has refused to use half of the powers he has. Don’t forget that Rivers State is part of Niger Delta and that President Jonathan is not from Rivers State does not mean that he is not from the zone; he is from the zone, but he has taken it to be a family issue and he has said that Amaechi should go and settle with his people. Up till this moment, Jonathan is still looking for peace. So, he (President Jonathan) does not have a hand in the issue. Patience Jonathan also does not have a hand in the issue; count them out of it.
Are you saying it is possible to wish away the leadership influence of Governor Amaechi in key areas of Rivers State?
He (Amaechi) has no influence in the areas. From the Obio/Akpor issue, you would know that he has no influence. He dissolved Obio/Akpor Local Government Council, but up till now, the council remains sealed and the caretaker committee has not been able to function effectively. If he (Amaechi) has influence, Obio/Akpor could have been a practical example where he could show his influence. Even in Ogu Bolo, he has no influence.
The National Assembly has taken over the duties of the Rivers State legislature. What is your position on this?
The National Assembly resolved to take over the functions of the State House of Assembly. Fine, I am not in dispute with that because the constitution gave them the power to take over such areas where there are crises. But we are talking about the hasty nature in which they took over. The former ‘Speaker’ was impeached on the 9th, on the 10th of the same month, House of Reps took over. It is the Senate that played a mature role; a fatherly role by setting up a committee and the committee came, went from the airport to Government House, wined and dined with Amaechi, forgetting the lawmaker, Honourable Michael Chinda, who was in the hospital. They (members of the committee) came back to interview both parties involved in the crisis. They did a good work and it is a good thing. I pray they resolve the issue.
Who is the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly?
Of course, you know that nobody is contesting it. Since it is not being contested in the court, I remain the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly. The former Speaker was duly and respectably impeached. When he was impeached, the power of authority was before us, which is the mace. If there was no impeachment, why did the governor come all the way from Government House to the Rivers State House of Assembly? Is he a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly? Who did he come to the House to rescue? We were carrying out an impeachment process and when the impeachment had been done, he (governor) came in to supervise the beating of Michael Chinda; one of my colleagues. So, I remain the authentic Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly. I have not been taken to court. So, I remain the Speaker.
Apart from the five lawmakers in the opposition, who else voted to impeach Amachree?
That day, if you look at the register, we were about 23 on the floor of the House, though the governor and his people came and took away the register. Now, out of 23, about 21 voted for me. He (Amachree) was there, Chidi Lloyd was also there.
Do you have the video clip of members voting on the floor of the House?
Yes, I have the video clip of members voting. It is with me. I will get it for you anytime. Those he (Amachree) perceived to be his people are not his people. You know what happened during the Governors’ Forum election; Governor Akpabio thought he had 19 persons to his side, but at the election proper, Amaechi got 19 and the reverse was the case. He (Amachree) perceived those people to be his people, but unknown to him, they were also parleying with me. They had an understanding with me and they all voted for me. He was embarrassed and flabbergasted and with that fear, he rushed out to call Amaechi to come. When Amaechi came, I was giving my acceptance speech. Everybody can attest to it, the whole Nigeria can attest to it. I was giving my acceptance speech when Amaechi came in and he asked me; my friend, what are you doing there? And I told him; is this your office? Amachree has been impeached and I am ready to work with you. Some are saying I want to impeach him; I am not going to impeach him, I am ready to work with Governor Amaechi. He should accept me as his Speaker and I will work with him effectively.