The Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, on Friday rejected an award slated to be bestowed on him by Governor Nyesom Wike, calling it “a poisoned chalice”.
Mr. Amaechi “unequivocally rejected” the award, a statement from his media office said.
Mr. Wike immediately welcomed the rejection, with the Rivers State Commissioner of Information, Austin Tam-George, describing it as “a huge moral relief for the administration, and the people of the state”, in a statement to PREMIUM TIMES Friday evening.
The rejection came two days after PREMIUM TIMES reported that Mr. Amaechi had been listed amongst those to be honoured by Mr. Wike as part of activities marking the 50th Anniversary of Rivers State.
A list of honourees prepared by the jubilee anniversary committee set up by Mr. Wike had Mr. Amaechi’s name at number 18 amongst 29 people to be awarded Grand Service Star of Rivers State.
Former Nigerian leaders Goodluck Jonathan and Yakubu Gowon are also on the list, alongside late activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, who would be honoured posthumously.
This newspaper also reported that it was not immediately clear if Mr. Amaechi would accept the award or attend the award night scheduled for May 27.
While echoing his past clashes with Mr. Wike, Mr. Amaechi made it clear in his Friday statement that he would not be part of the programme put together by the governor, who succeeded him in 2015.
“The purported award itself is a contradiction of monumental proportions, a contradiction that can only come from a warped and perverted mind.
“From day one as governor, Wike has made it his sole, one-point agenda to attack, abuse, insult and falsely denigrate Amaechi, his immediate predecessor and erstwhile benefactor.
“Since he became governor, Wike spends most of his time making reckless, deeply irresponsible malicious, false allegations against Amaechi, as he attempts, albeit fruitlessly, to malign and destroy the outstandingly superb performance and legacy of Amaechi in Rivers State,” Mr. Amaechi said.
Therefore, the minister wondered why the governor would even contemplate honouring him.
“So, what are the bases or criteria for Wike to give an award/honour to a man he (Wike) has rashly attacked and called all sorts of unprintable names in the past two years?”
Similarly, Mr. Amaechi said he could not accept the award in the face of a deplorable situation which Mr. Wike allegedly plunged Rivers into.
The minister said residents of the state would find his action untenable should he go ahead and pick up the award.
But Mr. Tam-George said Mr. Amaechi qualified for the award by default.
“The Rivers State Government never set out to give any special award to Mr. Rotimi Amaechi for meritorious service,” he said. “There is a category in the award structure for former governors of the state. As a former governor, Mr. Amaechi fell automatically into that category.”
Furthermore, Mr. Tam-George said Mr. Amaechi should prepare himself for serious legal challenges which the Wike administration would soon confront him with.
“Mr. Amaechi was personally indicted for stealing billions of public funds, by a court-approved panel of inquiry set up by the state government.
“The State government is about to begin a prosecutorial process against him in multiple jurisdictions, in Nigeria and abroad. And no award would have stopped that process,” the commissioner said.
But Mr. Amaechi said Mr. Wike had become accustomed to making allegations with little regards for facts needed to establish same.
“When the governor talks, he should talk with facts and must be able to prove his claims. Most unfortunately for Rivers State, Wike possess none of these qualities.
Mr. Amaechi highlighted a recent claim by Mr. Wike in which the governor linked the minister to the huge stash of cash found in an apartment in Ikoyi, Lagos last month.
The minister demanded a retraction and apology from Mr. Wike for the claim, which had since been found to be false.
“The only other alternative is for him to publicly apologise and tell us that he wickedly and maliciously lied when he had that disgraceful, middle of the night press conference to push the false narrative that Amaechi owns the money and apartment,” the minister said.