Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State has given reasons why he stayed away from Nigeria’s centenary celebration in Abuja, saying it was his way of getting back at President Goodluck Jonathan for failing to honor the invitation of prominent citizens of the state to attend the centenary anniversary of Port Harcourt last year.
The governor noted that although he has tremendous respect for the president, he expected Mr. Jonathan to have accorded the state respect by honoring the invitation.
Amaechi, who spoke at a book presentation to mark the 70th birthday of the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Nimi Briggs, on Saturday, explained that he was not surprised by the president’s action.
He said, “When they ask me why I did not attend the celebration, I said five prominent Rivers men left here to go and invite the President. When they approached me that they wanted to go and invite the President, I said, ‘don’t bother your head, the President won’t come.’
“They said ‘no, not after he had seen us.’ They (Rivers indigenes) are seated hear, Justice Karibi Whyte, Prof Tekena Tamuno, Prof E.J. Alagwa, Chief Agbaru and Prof. Nimi Briggs; and they went. They were very well received by our President and they were very impressed.
“They came back to my house that day in Abuja and they told me that they met with the President and I was excited. Everybody in the Federal Government told me the President would come (for the Port Harcourt centenary). The President did not come.
“So, I told them that I would not go to (Nigeria’s) centenary because Port Harcourt turned 100 and the President refused to come even though he grew up here. I said I would not go to Nigeria’s Centenary in response to his (Jonathan) refusal to come for Port Harcourt Centenary.
“I did that not because I wanted to disrespect the President. I respect him for his age and his achievement in the society. I thought that the Federal Government should have respected and honoured that invitation”, Amaechi said.
On the political crisis in the state, the governor said the only way the problem could come to an end was for the Federal Government to make its presence felt in Rivers.
Amaechi acknowledged the presence of some elders in the state that could convince him to move from the All Progressives Congress back to the Peoples Democratic Party, but added that such elders have not seen reason for him to leave the APC.
He said, “They asked me, how would you end this crisis? I say with me, it will be difficult to end because I stand forward to look at Rivers State. I said the only way to end it is to change the face of Rivers State. If Rivers people get better things, I will change.
“Then I put a caveat; I said there are some old men here who can make me move from APC to PDP because they will never tell me to move to PDP if they are not convinced that it is the right thing to do. This means you can’t influence them with anything rather than what is right for Rivers State and Nigeria.
“They are here; they know themselves and they have been part of the struggle in a very quiet manner and they support me. My prayer is that God will continue to bless all of you”.