The face-off between President Goodluck Jonathan and Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, worsened on Friday, with the presidency accusing the governor of disrespecting the President.
Special Adviser to the President on Political Matter, Ahmed Gulak, accused Amaechi of showing utter disregard for the President by arriving late for Thursday’s mid-term dinner organised by Jonathan after the event had started.
He also accused Amaechi of making refusing to cooperate with the President and making “inflammatory comments.”
Amaechi swiftly fired back, saying he had no problem with Jonathan.
At the dinner, the President’s bodyguards prevented Amaechi from going to have a handshake with Jonathan. The Presidency on Thursday explained that the action was taken for “security reasons.”
Gulak, who said Amaechi had refused to cooperate with the President, said, “An example of what I am talking about is the mid-term dinner held on Wednesday. You are aware that Governor Amaechi arrived well after the President was on his seat.
“That is the kind of thing we are talking about. Does that show cooperation with the President? That was unfair. Afterall, the programme’s commencement time was clearly stated on the invitation sent to him.
“How can he be coming there about 30 minutes or one hour after the programme has started?”
When asked further whether the Presidency also expected Amaechi to drop his chairmanship of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Gulak said Jonathan had not interest in whether the Rivers governor or his rival claimant, Jonah Jang of Plateau State, was in charge of forum.
He said, “The President is not interested in who is the chairman of the NGF, whether it is Amaechi, or Jang. The NGF is not a constitutional organ so he is not interested in who leads the forum.”
He stated that “there is no rift between the President and Governor Amaechi, at least from our own end. The President is the leader of all governors, including Amaechi. He is a friend to even governors from opposition parties.
“President Jonathan always welcomes what will bring peace and unity among political gladiators in the country. People abuse him and yet he is calm and focused.
“The President is the father of the nation. All the governors are his friends. They discuss issues that will move the country forward. The Rivers State governor should understand that he is a senior stakeholder.
“As a member of the same party with the President, we expect a level of cooperation with the President. He should refrain from making inflammatory statements.”
Reacting, Amaechi said he had utmost respect for Jonathan and his office.
Speaking through the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, the governor would he would never disrespect Jonathan.
“Governor Amaechi holds Mr. President in high esteem and will not at any point disrespect him; and this is obvious. The governor has repeatedly said that he respects Mr. President and the Office of the President of the country.
“Mr. Gulak is mischievous by his utterances against Governor Amaechi and this clearly shows that he has a hidden agenda known to only him.”
Meanwhile, there are indications that governors under the aegis of the Peoples Democratic Party Governors’ Forum are planning a reconciliation meeting between Jonathan and Amaechi, to end their rift.
A PDP governor told one of our correspondents in Abuja on Thursday that the situation had become a source of concern, especially as Jonathan’s guards could prevent Amaechi from greeting him.
“We are still waiting for a formal meeting to be called. For now, all we have are chance meetings during informal gatherings like you saw during the presidential dinner.
“The problem now is that neither the Amaechi group nor those behind Jang are willing to shift ground on the issue of NGF chairman.
“With both sides unwilling to make compromises, it is difficult to make any serious progress.
“What happened during the dinner that made Amaechi and the governors backing him to leave is also a matter that is worth looking into. That dinner provided an opportunity (for Jonathan) to reach out but I think some overzealous aides ruined everything.
“Some of us had expected the kind of situation where you saw the President, the Speaker (of the Hosue of Representatives), whom some accuse of being too close to the opposition, and Amaechi sharing a joke, but that did not happen.”
A pro-Amaechi governor said, “The truth is known, people voted and Amaechi won. If anybody wants reconciliation, I think PDP should first apologise to Nigerians for this shameful act, then we can made progress.”
A Northern governor said, “Look, we have learnt our lessons and like one of our leaders, Gen. TY Danjuma said recently, we are going to make less noise and act more. We have talked too much on issues, the outcome of the Nigerian Governors Forum is the outcome of talking less and acting more.
“If you recall, we talked and talked about the marginalisation of the North, nothing was done. With the NGF election, we spoke clearly and people are paying attention.”
When contacted for comments about the progress being made by the PDPGF under Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio, to reconcile Jonathan and Amaechi, the State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, declined comments.
The Special Adviser to the PDP National Chairman, Mr. Olivs Okpala, could not be reached for comments.