Those who had been stoking the fires of divisive politics and fanning the embers of the politics of bitterness in Rivers State, were given a rude shock on Monday, August 24, 2020, when Dr. Chidi Julius Lloyd, a staunch chieftain of the Rivers State All Progressives Congress, APC, walked into Government House Port Harcourt and was welcomed with open arms by Governor Nyesom Wike.
Also on hand to receive him were the Rivers State Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Chairman, Ambassador Desmond Akawor, elder statesman of Emuoha and Rivers politics, Chief Sergeant Awuse and other political big wigs.
Lloyd’s kinsmen from Akpabu and Itu communities led by their royal father, Eze Godwin Chukwuemeka Ordu and complemented with the colourful ensemble of the Akpabu cultural dance troupe added colour to the historic event.
Dr. Chidi Lloyd came to Government House Port Harcourt, to pay homage to the Rivers Governor and inform him, as the number one Rivers citizen and leader of PDP in the state, that the people of his community in Emuoha, had told him to start working with the PDP from now onwards.
Dr. Lloyd, who expressed regret over his role in the crisis at the State House of Assembly on the 9th of July 2013, apologised to the people of the State and Hon. Michael Chindah. He said he had learnt how to be benevolent in politics among other things, from the actions and leadership style of Governor Wike.
Receiving him into the PDP family, Governor Wike said that politicians who bear bitterness in their minds against others hardly make progress. He declared that he is succeeding in politics because he carries no grudge against anybody.
He stated that during his second term inauguration, he had asked for forgiveness from those he offended and also promised to forgive those that hurt him.
Governor Wike commended Dr. Lloyd for publicly expressing regret and apologizing over his role in the 2013 crisis at the State House of Assembly and affirmed that he has also forgiven Dr. Lloyd because he is a Christian and those who were victims of that unfortunate episode have also consented.
“Forgiveness is key for every christian. God has forgiven me, why can’t I forgive. We have also met with Hon. Michael Chindah and others, we got their approval for reconciliation, Governor Wike confirmed.
Speaking further, the Rivers Governor said: “I love to attract people to our party because I am not a greedy politician. I believe that the more the merrier. I will do what is in the best interest of the people and the party. Politics of progress does not undermine the importance of friendship. I believe that we must forget yesterday, put ourselves together for a better tomorrow,” he said.
Rivers State PDP Chairman, Ambassador Desmond Akawor who had earlier received Dr. Lloyd into the Party, described him as an asset and thanked Governor Wike for being an excellent statesman, while the paramount ruler of Akpabu and Itu communities, Eze Godwin Chukwuemeka Ordu also expressed gratitude to the Governor for the projects sited in his domain.
The royal father further pledged that with the acceptance of their son, Dr. Lloyd, they would ensure the continued success of PDP in their communities.
Elder statesman Paul Wonodi noted with pleasure the benevolence and forgiving nature of Governor Wike which has been demonstrated in reconciling with Dr. Lloyd. He said the Party would benefit and secure more success from the versatility of Dr. Lloyd.
The great political juggernaut of Emuoha,Chief Sergent Awuse, hailed Governor Wike for the great heights he has achieved and unimpeded progress he is making in politics, attributing it to the fact that the Rivers Governor mends fences easily and embraces reconciliation effortlessly, because he is a man who loves peace.
The icing on the cake was delivered by Governor Wike himself, who not only assured the entourage that he would complete the Akpabu-Itu Road and the electrification of the communities within the life span of his tenure, but also upgraded the traditional stool of the traditional ruler of Akpabu, Eze Godwin Chukwuemeka Ordu from third class to second class.
The ceremony was brief and convival with plenty of laughter and the resounding ovation that greeted the event also endorsed the return of Dr. Lloyd to the PDP. Most importantly however, is the undeniable fact that the event was a symbolic blow to the misleading conjectures of those who had been pushing the misleading and defamatory narrative that Governor Wike is rigid, unforgiving and vindictive.
People who have followed the political trajectory of Governor Wike will recall that the offering of the olive branch and the clarion call for peace and reconciliation has been a major and recurring decimal in all his address.
For instance, during a Special Family Thanksgiving service at Salvation Ministries, Port Harcourt, after he was declared winner of the 2019 guber election, Governor Wike declared with humility that: “Nobody has won and nobody has lost the elections. But Rivers State has won. I forgive anyone that has wronged me and I also ask for forgiveness from those that I have wronged”.
Then on Tuesday April 16, 2019, the Rivers State Governor, while receiving his certificate of return from INEC as the duly elected Governor of the state following the March 23 polls, offered the olive branch to his political opponents, urging them to join hands with him in the development of the state.
The Governor had said at that auspicious occasion that: “Nobody can be more than the state, so, for me, I want total peace in Rivers state. All of us should come back, wherever you are, whether in the federal or local government, come and work for the interest of the state.
“Elections have come and gone. We have no other state other than Rivers State. I owe this state a lot, if I die today, I’ll not be buried in Lagos neither will I be buried in Abuja. My house is in Rivers. I am unrepentant Rivers man. I stood on the altar of God and I said bygone is bygone.
“Some people do not believe it, I want to assure them I’m not like them. I cannot stand on the altar of God and make a statement and go back.
“Let us forget about whoever is angry or not. Forgive me if I have stepped on your toes and I have forgiven everyone who stepped on my toes. Let’s work for Rivers state. Anybody who knows me knows that when I say something, I’ll do it,” the governor had declared passionately.
He had also offered the olive branch on several other occasions since and to substantiate his offer with specific reference to the matter involving Dr. Lloyd and to convince everyone that he is truly and honestly offering the hand of fellowship unconditionally, he directed the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice to withdraw all pending cases and drop all charges against Dr. Lloyd in 2019.
Rivers watchers will even recall that Governor Wike, during a Town Hall meeting in Port Harcourt, where he unveiled his two years scorecard, had appealed to his opponents thus: “We must find ways to forgive one another, open avenues of co-operation and join hands and together, defeat the smacks of poverty, inequality, and lack of meaningful progress preventing majority of our people from enjoying the good life that we all desire and aspire for.”
Yet, some refuseniks and harbingers of bitterness, who are feeding fat and gaining notoriety by formenting discord against the Governor, have preferred to be suspicious of Governor Wike’s olive branch. In fact they murmured loudly and wagged their tongues in uncontrollable frenzy when he attended the Thanksgiving reception of Senator Magnus Abe in February 2018.
The buzzing that greeted the warning that no harm should befall a Rivers daughter at the height of the NDDC debacle had hardly died down and one could literally hear their jaws drop to the floor in confounded disbelief and consternation, when Governor Wike marched authoritatively into the compound of Dr. Joi Nunieh, an ardent, unapologetic supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari, on the morning of Thursday, July 16, 2020, to rescue the former NDDC Acting Managing Director from the clutches of suspected abductors who had laid siege to her home as early as 4am, with official instructions to ‘capture’ her at all cost.
We all recall even most recently, how Governor Wike excoriated the Nigeria Governors Forum, over their docility in reacting to the way and manner Governor Godwin Obaseki, a brother Governor in another political party was been humiliated, harangued and embarrassed in his quest to win his party’s ticket for re-election. He was eventually denied the ticket in the most ignoble manner.
Infact, the magnitude of his benevolence was such that having recognized the goodness and humility in Governor Obaseki and his sterling leadership capacity and achievements as Governor Wike virtually pulled all stops to ensure that the Edo state Governor was given a soft landing when he joined PDP and the total reconciliation brokered by the Rivers Governor in Port Harcourt, was so peaceful and satisfactory that all the aspirants actually joined Governor Obaseki on the podium to unanimously endorse him as the PDP governorship candidate for the September 19, 2020 Governorship election.
The formal decamping of Dr. Lloyd from the APC to the PDP and his formal induction into the largest party in Black Africa in Government House, Port Harcourt, is a clear and loud testimony that the olive branch which Governor Wike has continuously offered the opposition is neither a fluke nor a political gambit but a sincere and honest invitation to all Rivers people to join hands with him to take the State to greater heights.
Like he said in his second term inaguration address: “We have no other state. You may have mansions elsewhere, but there is no place like home. We must come together and build our state. We must make the state move forward. We must not continue to de-market the state. I cannot stay beyond 2023, but Rivers State will continue to be”.
There is no doubt whatsoever that with each passing day the burgeoning reputation of Governor Wike as a great leader, an outstanding statesman and a benevolent human being with a forgiving spirit, grows in leaps and bounds.
Rivers State will only get better and benefit tremendously from the peace and harmonious coexistence that would be entrenched, if those who are still holding out and bitterly antagonizing the Rivers State Governor, can just decide to pause for a while to recognize and accept the olive branch and hand of fellowship, just as Dr. Lloyd has done.
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State