All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders stormed Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, yesterday to persuade Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi to join the battle for a better Nigeria.
But the colourful visit was not without some initial obstacles as policemen, on the orders of Commissioner Mbu Joseph Mbu, barred Amaechi’s teeming supporters from the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa where they headed to welcome the visiting APC leaders.
The main gate on the Port Harcourt-Owerri Expressway was locked against the sea of admirers of Amaechi, who is also the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF). But the people were undeterred. They started singing, drumming and dancing as from 6 am, not minding the teargas canisters fired at them by the policemen.
Amaechi flew in from Lagos yesterday morning to receive a former Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, APC Interim Chairman Chief Bisi Akande, party leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and many others.
After landing at the Port Harcourt International Airport, the NGF chairman was on his way to the Government House, Port Harcourt to freshen up and get ready to receive the visitors.
On getting to the airport’s main gate in a convoy at 9:20 am, Amaechi noticed that some policemen did not allow his supporters in.
The governor spoke with the senior police officers at the main gate, but they were adamant. Amaechi made a detour and asked all the people at the gate to move in.
Rather than heading for the Government House, Amaechi decided to join his supporters, trekking the four kilometres back to the airport in what later turned out to be an exciting walk.
The supporters were saying: “No intimidation”; “Mbu must go”; “We are for Amaechi”; “Amaechi is our man”; “Amaechi is doing well”; “We are solidly behind our performing and focused governor”; and “Let us avoid sentiments”, among others.
Later in an interview with reporters at the VIP Lounge, the NGF chairman said the police had become the military wing of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The aircraft, marked ZS-ZOT, painted white with yellow and blue stripes, which conveyed from Abuja, Buhari; Tinubu; Akande; a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Bello Masari; Tom Ikimi; a former Governor of Edo State, John Odigie-Oyegun; and some leaders of the APC, landed at 10:53 am.
A long convoy of vehicles departed the airport at 10:57 am, with the governor’s jubilant supporters lining both sides of the road from the airport to the junction.
It was an opportunity for Amaechi to show the dignitaries some of his administration’s projects.
The convoy headed for the Model Primary School at Elekahia, Port Harcourt. The visitors saw also the nearby Model Health Centre, before heading for the Government House, Port Harcourt where a huge crowd had gathered.
The main gate of the seat of power was unusually left open, for the carnival-like reception near the Presidential Lodge in the Government House. A long queue of Amaechi’s supporters, who were trying to enter the seat of power, remained at the gate.
Amaechi said at the airport: “I flew in and wanted to go and change (dresses) to receive my visitors. I got to the gate (of the airport) and I was told that the policemen did not allow my supporters into the airport. I said an ordinary minister of state, who was my chief of staff (Chief Nyesom Wike), would gather people at Eleme (Rivers State on Sunday) with police protection, while a former head of state, with some governors arriving and police will not allow the people in; what type of country is that?
“Somebody said the police had become the military wing of the PDP. That is not the only truth. The other truth is that we are running a military government. I led the people. I had to march them into the airport. That’s how we got here (VIP Lounge). I trekked from the gate to this place (VIP Lounge).
“For any breakdown of law and order in Rivers State, police should be held accountable. If they had allowed the people to come in, they would have been orderly. They were here (at the airport) for the purpose of receiving the guests.
“The last time we were here (airport) to receive the President (Dr. Goodluck Jonathan Nyesom Wike and his group mobilised people that booed me. If we had mobilised people, there would have been crisis.
“I quietly walked in; let them boo me and I went to receive the President. By the same way they were allowed to get to the airport, blocked all the roads, and in the same way, they should have allowed the people to come in to receive the guests. Buhari is a former President. Bola Tinubu is a former governor and there are other governors that are coming.”
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Felix Obuah said the open confession and resolve of Governor Chibuike Amaechi and his lawmaker supporters yesterday is an eloquent testimony that they had long defected from the PDP.
A statement signed by Jerry Needam, Special Adviser on Media to the State Chairman noted that the demand on Amaechi by the suspended lawmakers loyal to him and led by Otelemaba Dan Amachree for an immediate declaration for the APC is a mere camouflage to hoodwink Rivers people into believing they are being wooed to join the party.
“We urge the police commissioner and all the security agencies in the state and the country at large to keep a tap on Governor Amaechi and his cohorts to ensure nobody is taken awares as he is plotting”, the statement said.