Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State has said he is opposed to President Goodluck Jonathan because the South-South region where the president hails from has not benefited from his administration.
The sorry state of the economy, poverty rate and poor infrastructure, especially the East-West Road, are some of the other reasons Amaechi said he is opposed to Jonathan’s presidency.
Reacting to comments by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who spoke on the nation’s economy and Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, who was rallying the South-south’s support for Jonathan, Amaechi stated that the Nigerian economy is struggling to survive, contrary to the rosy picture painted by the finance minister.
According to him, the federal government was yet to fully pay the Rivers State allocation for July.
On Uduaghan’s remarks that opposition to Jonathan should not come from the president’s South-South region, Amaechi stated that he considered Nigeria’s national interest far and above any other interest.
He lamented the way those fighting a just cause were being maligned on the altar of public criticism, pointing out that Nigerians usually suffered for not asking the relevant questions.
“When you are principled in Nigeria and you stand on your principles, what do they call you?”
“Stubborn,” the audience chorused.
“They expect you to compromise at a point but when you refuse to compromise, you are a very stubborn man.
“We (NGF) asked the Minister of Finance to resign if she is not able to manage the economy and she replied, ‘I dey kampe’. As at now, we are yet to receive the complete federation allocation for July.
“How strong is an economy that cannot fund its statutory state government federal allocation? Our entitlement as Rivers State Government in July was N19 billion, they have paid us only N14 billion, you get the point?
“Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) published (revenue) receipts of N1.05 trillion in July, so why do they say that there is no money? If we receive N1.05 trillion by July, why are they saying there is no money?” he queried.
Amaechi, who spoke at a programme organised by the Rotary International, District 9140 for young future leaders at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, Thursday, said he was opening up to the youths, because as potential leaders they should learn how to ask their leaders questions.
“Now, why am I saying this to you? I am saying it because as potential leaders, you must learn to ask questions. If you think that the youths spur me, you don’t, you don’t inspire me. Why don’t you inspire me? Because you are learning to be like us. Let me paint the image of us – corrupt, poor leadership, that’s what you are copying.
“We produce oil and we are one of the poorest nations in the world, are we not? Which nation would allow a Commissioner of Police like (Joseph) Mbu to continue as commissioner other than in Nigeria?”
“Iraq, Syria,” the crowd replied.
Responding, he said: “Maybe Syria. So you see our peers – Syria, Iraq, Pakistan. I am sharing experiences with you before I talk about the issue of leadership.
“Now, I read today’s paper and my friend (Emmanuel) Uduaghan says anybody who is from South-South should not oppose our president, should not have a different view from our president. Did you read it?
“I will reply him but let me start replying him from here. First, I am a Nigerian. The reason why you have the South-South, South-West, South-East, South this, North-West, North that, is because in Nigeria what you have in leadership is a wrecked culture.
“I would have brought you a book titled ‘It’s Our Turn to Eat’ on Kenya. In Nigeria, it should be what, ‘It’s Our Turn to Chop’.
“The reason you have this South-West, South-East, North-West, North this, North that and all that is because you have a wrecked culture, where all we care about is how to share the till.
“So the South-south has shared for four years, how many of you have benefitted from the sharing for four years, raise your hands; how many of you?”
“None,” the crowd again responded.
“So none. How many of you passed through the East-West Road, how was the road?”
“Bad,” the audience said.
“And our president is from the South-South, so you see; should I support the president?” he asked.
“Nooooo,” the crowd drawled in unison.
“So the basic rule is that none of us should oppose our president if you are from South-South, that is what the man (Uduaghan) tells us,” he said.
He urged the youths to arm themselves with education to revive Nigeria which is comatose, expressing sadness that the country’s poverty rate had risen to unbearable levels where many Nigerians hardly get enough to eat.
“Now for you as young men and women, we present you a nation that is yearning for repair. For me, the nation does not only need repair, it requires change.
“In 1970, the poverty rate in Nigeria was 30 per cent. How many of you know the poverty rate now? I was in a meeting where I said it was 70 per cent but the Minister of Finance said it was 68 per cent. What’s the difference between 68 and 70? So we are giving you a nation that is in a comatose state, that’s what we are handing over to you.
“If it is a nation that is progressing, from 30 per cent in 1970, we should be talking of about 15 per cent now. So you have work to do and the first step to that work is get an education,” Amaechi said.
He explained that his administration introduced free education in the state to provide everyone, particularly poor parents, the opportunity to send their children to school, lamenting that the cost of education in the country had denied education to most Nigerians.
Amaechi also used the occasion to commend Rotary International for complementing the state governors in the fight against polio.
Earlier, the District Governor of Rotary International District 9140, Dr. Charles Oniawan, said Rotary unites people from all nationalities and backgrounds, adding that the programme was designed to give youths leadership skills to serve the people and humanity.