The Rivers State Crisis has stirred up many views, opinions and interests. These are also not the best of times for Nigeria's First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, within the context of her involvement (or otherwise) in the crisis rocking her home-state. This report refreshes how the First Lady's problems with Governor Rotimi Amaechi started.
Before the revelation, which appears to be an elixir of fresh breath and window of rapprochement, Mrs Jonathan had a media scuffle with Noble Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, who accused her of being responsible for the crisis in the state, owing to her allerged over-bearing attitude.
But 74 hours after her response to Soyinka's allegation, Mrs Jonathan opened an unexpectedly dramatic chapter in the crisis, as she traced the genesis of the disagreement between her and the governor, whom she called a son she could not harm.
Mrs Jonathan, on Wednesday, dismissed the allegation of her involvement in the current political tussle in the oil-rich city.
She told 16 bishops from the South-South, who paid her a courtesy call at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, that her problem with Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, could be traced back to four years ago in Anyugubiri in Okrika, when she told Amaechi to engage her people in dialogue instead of demolishing a part of their community.
She said that aside throwing her advice to the wind, Amaechi went as far as sacking the chairman of the local government for holding a reception in her honour.
She added that all her pleas with the governor to lift the curfew imposed on her people for nine months became futile at the end.
Hear her: "Rivers State issue is one thing I have committed to prayer, because I believe there is nothing God cannot do. God restored me and I will do His work without the fear of man. The truth will always remain the truth, and what God ordains must come to pass, and so Rivers issue is something we have handed over to God.
"This matter started four years ago at Anyugubiri in Okrika, when I begged him not to demolish a part of Okrika, but that he should dialogue first with the people. After that incident, he called the chairman of Okrika Local Government and sacked him for holding a reception in our honour; that boy was the first victim.
"He also put my people under curfew for nine months. I called him and pleaded with him, but he refused. Then, I began to hear all sorts of propaganda in the media against me; this is not the way.
"I have never spoken about this issue, but as men of God, I believe you will say the truth always, because there are a lot of conflicting interests; some will hear one thing and say the exact opposite.
"I also want you to know the genesis of this problem and pray that God touches Amaechi’s heart as per his hot temper, because when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers."
The first Lady explained that she urged the governor to sheathe his sword and allow peace to reign in the state. She said as a mother, she could not be fighting the governor, her son. She also urged the governor to avoid being used by outsiders to fight "his own blood."
"I appeal to Amaechi to sheathe his sword so that we can defend our state and this country with love, unity, patriotism and truth at all time.
"Hebrews 12:14 urges us to embrace peace with all men without which we cannot see God. Amaechi is my son, I cannot fight him and I cannot kill him. He shouldn't be used by outsiders against his own blood, because this seat is vanity.
"One day, no matter how long it takes, we will leave this seat. Power is not forever. This seat is vanity, others sat here and left, so one day I will also leave and we will meet at home; so, why should I fight him?
"Let's take it easy and face issues. Let's stop magnifying lies; we must respect our leaders and people in authority. Let’s give peace a chance."
However, the First Lady in a statement through her Media Assistant, Ayo Osinlu, called on all those involved in the crisis to sheathe their swords and find ways to restore peace to the state.
The statement read in part: "Dame Jonathan particularly appealed to Governor Amaechi to fly the olive branch, and resist being used by outsiders against his own people.
"While giving an insight into the genesis of the crisis in the state, she reiterated the need for the warring factions to employ dialogue as a means of resolving the contending issues amicably.
"The First Lady urged those who are crying more than the bereaved to stop magnifying the misunderstanding, while reiterating that Governor Amaechi and Mr. Nyeson Wike (Minister of State for Education) remain her sons, brothers and kinsmen, and would do anything to protect them."
But as the First Lady gave the insight into the genesis of the rift between the Rivers governor and the First Family, the Rivers State government has clarified that Governor Amaechi did not disobey Mrs Jonathan.
Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, said the governor did not demolish the houses around a school in Angubiri, Okirika, but obeyed Mrs Jonathan.
Semenitari, who recalled what happened in Okirika when the President’s wife visited, said the school shown to Mrs Jonathan by the governor had no playground, adding that a playground and other facilities could only be provided if some houses around the school were demolished.
"The First Lady advised against it and the governor did not demolish the houses. The school is still there without a playground. This issue happened a long time ago. What I don't understand is that she still bears that in mind," the commissioner added.
But as both Mrs Jonathan and the Rivers government give their own accounts of the genesis of the crisis, Prof. Soyinka has described the recent crisis in the state as impunity, just as he said he had encounters with both Governor Amaechi and other interested parties who gave conflicting accounts.
Referring to the controversial election of the Nigerian Governors' Forum (NGF), he said, "Before the press conference held by Femi Falana and myself – that is, even before the Rivers Assembly fracas – I had been contacted by opposing sides of the face-off, both via telephone and physically.
"One of such visit, perhaps the most significant, was made by a special adviser in the Presidency, who outlined what can be regarded as the official rationale for the Governors’ Forum election debacle.
"In the process of this exchange, he did make certain complaints against Governor Rotimi Amaechi, including charges of a conflict of interests over certain resources. This was implied as the root of division between the Governors' Forum and the Presidency.
"I wrote down the details, informed the emissary that I would pass on these accusations to Governor Amaechi, which I did. That Amaechi hotly denied them and offered contradicting facts, which he urged me to verify, remained, and remains utterly irrelevant to the democratic core of the conflict – and this has been made clear to all interventionists.
"Keyed into this core are: the arithmetics of democracy involved in figures 16 and 19 at the time, and now, with increased confidence in impunity, the figures 27 and 5. Whether or not it is democratic, even cultured proceeding that a state governor is barred from public access anywhere within his own zone of constitutional authority, with the massive security apparatus of the centre, on behalf of an unelected individual.
"For the rest, since beneath the surface of most Nigerian conflicts will be found inordinate greed for public resources, it is perhaps pertinent to remind ourselves that oil is not the only marvel to emerge from the Delta swamps. There are also exotic creatures – mermaids, manatees, even mammy waters and hippopotami," Soyinka said.
For Dr. Tamuno Ibiyedoh, an environmental activist, the arguments of both Mrs Jonathan and the Rivers government are irrelevant in the context of the current crisis.
"The issues are very deep from what we can all see and read on the pages of the newspapers; the First Lady has told the world what actually transpired four years ago.
"I think that is a good starting point to commence moves to douse the tension rather than people from outside encouraging the crisis.
"From all indications, the whole crisis we are witnessing today all started as a personal issue between two indigenes of a state that has now become a national issue; but the truth is that the Rivers State government has no business reacting to whatever she said, because for some to open up that way, it means the crisis is almost half way solved," Ibiyedoh said.
As the nation awaits Mrs Jonathan's next possible move, by calling her 'sons' to a roundtable as a means of drawing a roadmap towards the resolution of the crisis, only time will tell if the needless crisis is on the verge of fizzling out.