Battle for the soul of Kalabari kingdom
by Ignatius Chukwu
October 12, 2014 | 4:55 pm| | | Start Conversation
The political battle to capture Rivers State’s over two million votes for both the presidency and the governorship seat in the oil-rich state may have shifted from the Ikwerre and Ogoni to Kalabari kingdom. Both the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) that controls the Federal Government with plenty of goodies to dish out and the All Progressives Congress (APC) that is the government closer to the people have moved to prove which loves the Kalabari people more. This has forced each of the two fiercely opposed parties in the state to submit its scorecard.
Chibuike Amaechi, the arrowhead of the APC in the state, is Ikwerre (upland) but fiercely supports a governor after him from the riverine areas (where Kalabari is part of), but the PDP is heavily tilted to another Ikwerre governor. Also, the federal government ceded oil wells in Soku, Kalabari, to Bayelsa, but President Goodluck Jonathan is Ijaw from Bayelsa while Kalabari is also Ijaw. These calculations have brought confusion to the ordinary Kalabari people as to who truly is their benefactor, between Amaechi and Jonathan, between APC and PDP.
Now both Governor Amaechi and President Jonathan’s supporters have tried to throw more light into this darkness; but let’s see how much this has helped in decision-making.
Governor Amaechi visited Degema, headquarters of Degema Local Government Area to football stadium on October 5, 2014, and pointedly declared President Jonathan an enemy to the Kalabaris.
Amaechi said the PDP has nothing to offer Kalabari people, and that one way for the people to regain their lost oil wells and benefit from democratic governance was to vote out the PDP. Amaechi explained that the President was taking sides in the Soku oil wells matter, as he narrated the president’s reaction during a meeting with Kalabari chiefs.
“In that meeting, before Kalabari chiefs, Mr. President said to us, ‘you people call it Soku, we from Bayelsa call it Oluasiri’. ‘Is Soku Oluasiri?’, he questioned and the people said ‘no’.
“As President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he is not supposed to take sides. The moment he said it is called Oluasiri, he is taking sides and we have no faith in Mr. President returning our oil wells. They have taken the (Soku) oil wells; they are spending the money because they have the Presidency. The only way you can get back your oil wells is to vote out Mr. President. The only opportunity you have now is your vote. Vote him out, he is not Rivers, he is from Bayelsa. He has not and will not serve us and I have said here, let Mr. President tell us what he has done for us”.
He noted with regret that his efforts to build Trans-Kalabari road in the state and reconstruct the Emohua-Abonnema federal road already in deplorable condition was frustrated by President Jonathan.
He therefore called on the people to fight for their rights by using their voting strength to correct all anomalies by voting out the ruling PDP.
“When I was coming here (to Degema), I saw the Emohua-Abonnema road, it’s going bad. When I met the President with Kalabari chiefs and I told the President: ‘that road is going very bad, if we don’t intervene now, that road will soon be impassable. Mr. President, that road is a federal road’, and he said, he knows. And I then asked: ‘Mr. President, can the Rivers State government reconstruct that road? Because that is the only road by which Kalabari people come out to town’ but Mr. President said no.”
“He told me ‘no’ and said he (Federal Government) would do it. One year plus, he has not done it. So what you will do to make sure you have a road next year is to vote out PDP. If Mr. President says he is our brother, because I hear Kalabari people say he is our brother, let him do our road, let him return our Soku oil wells.
“I begged him (President Jonathan) that the Federal Government is owing Rivers State N105 billion, he should take N50 billion from there and help me construct Trans-Kalabari road, he said, ‘Amaechi, I will do it’. Three years after, Mr. President has not done it, so he is not a Kalabari man. Don’t follow your buccaneer brothers, who want to be governor and all that and because of their personal selfish interests, they want to sell the Kalabari Kingdom. You are the youth, defend your kingdom. Nobody should take away what belongs to you. The Kalabari people are known to fight for their right. They are people who can stand up to any challenge to protect themselves and their people. One way to defend your kingdom is to vote out those who don’t have your interest at heart”, he noted.
Amaechi got huge applause for these comments.
Immediately, the PDP fired back with a statement. The reply came during the visit of Minister of Sports, Tammy Danagogo and his political associates to The Kalabari Kingdom. The area was agog when the crème de la crème of the Kingdom trooped out to thank them. At the occasion, scholarships were awarded to 153 indigent university students.
The minister used the opportunity to catalogue the projects, love and plans of President Jonathan for the Kingdom and showered encomiums on him for his uncommon transformation agenda for Nigeria in general and Rivers State and the Kalabari Kingdom in particular. He urged the people to continue to support their fellow Ijaw man – President Jonathan- who is their son, brother and in-law; also to their sister and wife of the president, Patience Jonathan, the minister of State for Education, Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike, and the PDP.
In their response, the Kalabari stakeholders from all the 33 communities/towns who spoke through, David Briggs (the first executive chairman of Akuku-Toru LGA and two-time commissioner in Rivers State); and several others thanked President Jonathan for his love for the Kalabaris and appointment of one of their illustrious sons, Tammy Danagogo, as minister. They promised to support President Jonathan and the PDP through thick & thin in the LGAs, state and national levels.
They urged President Jonathan to ignore the governor for saying the president dislikes the Kalabaris, saying it was a case of the charcoal calling the kettle black.
They said that they are aware of the governor’s deep-seated hatred for the Kalabaris borne out of inferiority complex and his plans to knock their head against that of their fellow Ijaw man- President Jonathan. They said they are aware that after their meeting with President Jonathan he directed the boundary commission to proceed immediately to demarcate the boundary but upon their arrival the governor disallowed them, insisting that Rivers State must be paid her claims from 2004 till date before they could go to the field; knowing that it is impossible to make any payment without first demarcating the boundary.
The Governor should know that Kalabari people are aware that he did that to perpetuate the boundary dispute, so as to further alienate the Kalabaris from their kinsman the President and to score cheap political points.
They queried why the only road leading into the Kalabari Kingdom from the East-West Road has been left in complete disrepair since his election if he (Amaechi) loves the Kalabaris, while he dualised the federal road from the Airport to his native Ikwere land and his tiny village, Ubima; why he abandoned the trans-Kalabari Road awarded and commenced by Peter Odili; and why the hitherto beautiful Abonnema Ring Road and internal road had been completely impassable for years, since he assumed office.
They urged the governor to remove the log in his eyes before complaining about the speck in Mr. President’s eyes and come to reality with the fact that he cannot hood-wink the Kalabari.
This got big applause from PDP chairman, Felix Obuah.
Now, has the true enemy or friend been established or should a public debate be staged for more clarification?
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