Ibim Semenitari, Commissioner for Information during the tenure of Rotimi Amaechi as Governor of Rivers State, has reacted to the leaked audios of her erstwhile boss criticising President Muhammadu Buhari.
In the audio, released by Phrank Shaibu, an aide of Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Amaechi, who is now Minister of Transportation, said in a private conversation with some journalists that the only way Nigeria can change is for everyone to be killed.
“This country can never change, I swear. The only way this country can change is in a situation where everybody is killed,” he was heard saying in the audio.
“This country is going nowhere. When Magnus (Abe) was secretary to the Rivers State Government (SSG), I told him that this country is hopeless and helpless and he told me, ‘Oga, stop it’. This cannot be coming from a Governor.
“But two months in Abuja, Magnus came to meet me and said, I agree with you; this country is hopeless and helpless. All they do in Abuja is to share money.”
Amaechi was further heard saying: “I have already written to the governor of Katsina state and I don’t know why he has not replied to give us the land in Daura for a university in Daura. The next university would be in my village. There is a popular saying while we were growing up, that charity begins at home. Will my own begin abroad?
“The President does not listen to anybody. He doesn’t care. You can write what you want to write. Does he read? I was flying with him in the aircraft and we saw a news report where a goat seller was complaining that he couldn’t sell his goats during Sallah because of Buhari’s administration. And the President said, ‘what is my business with goat sellers’”?
Responding in a post on her Facebook wall, Semenitari’s intervention suggest that the voice in the audios is indeed Amaechi’s, but she added that the comments were taken out of context.
“Anyone who has sat with Amaechi in private discussions or at a media interview will agree that he has been consistent in expressing the belief that most Nigerians do not hate corruption but simply hate the fact that they are not the ones perpetuating the corruption,” she said. “This has been his view expressed at different times in press interviews. It is for this reason that he has maintained that only a bloody revolution somewhat like the Rawlings revolution in Ghana will change Nigeria.”
She also said Amaechi had criticized former President Goodluck Jonathan’s “refusal to listen”, adding that his criticism of President Muhammadu Buhari’s frugality certainly couldn’t have been made with a negative undertone.
Semenitari expressed sadness that a conversation that was meant to be private had been “cut and paste” out of context and made available to the public.
SEMENITARI’S FULL REACTION
Let me first make it clear that I am not speaking for the Honourable Minister nor for his media team. He has quite competent hands who can do so.
However I feel compelled as someone who had sat in at myriads of interviews granted by the Honourable minister both when he was governor and a little while after that to correct what I believe is deliberate twisting of what he had said. First a bit of background to put things in context.
1. Anyone who has sat with Amaechi in private discussions or at a media interview will agree that he has been consistent in expressing the belief that most Nigerians do not hate corruption but simply hate the fact that they are not the ones perpetuating the corruption. This has been his view expressed at different times in press interviews. It is for this reason that he has maintained that only a bloody revolution somewhat like the Rawlings revolution in Ghana will change Nigeria.
2. During the Jonathan era, he had made these comments at various media discussions during which time he had also lamented about the former President's refusal to listen and take counsel. Media colleagues at these events I am sure will remember. It is for this reason that I am certain the first recording was from one of those parleys
3. It is possible that the Honourable Minister has also on some occasions spoken about the frugality of the Buhari regime but he did so not in the context of negativity but as a positive indication of a new Nigeria where pain will ultimately translate to gain. Again I say this with the privilege of knowing his governance world view in this regards.
The reason I have bothered to speak about this is because
1. This is a clear case of cut and paste. Different conversations taken out of context and brought together to create a narrative that is far from the truth
2. I am saddened by the fact that a purported conversation meant in the first place to be not for reportage and in strict confidence is being peddled. Though I wasn't present at this so called meeting but I gleaned this from the supposed comments of the minister in the peddled tape itself.
Like I said, I do not hold brief for the minister not can speak for his media team but I do owe my country, my profession and posterity the truth that I know. Happy new year again and may Nigeria prosper.