ONE-time Transport Minister, Dr. Abieye Sekibo, dismissed, yesterday, as mere shadow-chasing the two-week ultimatum given the Okrika community in Rivers State by Governor Rotimi Amaechi to produce warlord Ateke Tom.
The governor handed down the ultimatum on Wednesday following Ateke’s statement, claiming responsibility for the New Year day’s attack in Port Harcourt in which 16 people including seven policemen were killed by gunmen.
Former Transport Minister, Abiye Sekibo
But as Dr. Sekibo who also once served as Secretary to the Rivers State Government spoke in Abuja, the state government vowed afresh to ensure Ateke’s arrest and make him pay for his crimes.
Governor Amaechi is also threatening to arrest parents of suspected militants to deter attacks on oil instalations and public buildings, while the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta denied that its attack on Ateke Tom has political motives.
Dr. Sekibo speaking in Abuja condemned the governor’s directive that the warlord be produced because, according to him, it makes no sense for government, which has at its command all security apparatus to apprehend Ateke, to issue such ultimatum.
His words: “You have all heard the news of Governor Amaechi’s visit to Okrika on Wednesday. Nothing is wrong for a governor to visit his people. But when the governor went there, what did he say? He went to threaten the people. He went to give them an ultimatum to produce Ateke Tom.
“Here is a governor of a state who has all the security apparatus under him. He is the Chief Security Officer of the state. He could not arrest Ateke Tom. How can he give an ultimatum for the Okrika community to produce Ateke Tom? Ateke Tom is armed, the people are innocent unarmed people, how does the governor want them to arrest Ateke Tom?
The governor is just chasing shadows.
“The threat was not meant to achieve any objective. The threat was meant to score a political point. It was not meant to resolve the security problem. That is the point I am making. If the governor wants Ateke Tom, the way to do it is not to go and threaten over a million indigenes of a community. That is not the way to go about it,” he said.
Dr. Sekibo said the governor’s comments were not only capable of causing internal problems in the Okrika community but also capable of causing disaffection between the Okrika people and the Ikwere community, from where Mr. Amaechi hails.
“When you hear some of the things he said as a governor, there were statements that were unbecoming of any governor, which will not only inflame sentiments within that community but will also inflame sentiments between the Okrika Community and his own Ikwere community.
“I will want to believe that it was out of frustration, but I will also want to believe it was out of political frustration. Not security frustration. Our security agencies are more than able. If Amaechi opens up to the security agencies and tells them what he knows about the crisis … he knows more than he is telling them,” Dr. Sekibo said.
The former Transport minister said he was convinced that Gov Amaechi knew how to solve the security problem in Rivers State if he sincerely wanted to do so.
“He was close to Chief Ada George as governor of Rivers State, who incidentally is from Okrika. And he saw how Ada George ran that state the short period he was governor. He was very close to him, he should have learnt something from Ada George. He was very close, in fact he was the Speaker, the closest person to Dr Peter Odili. He saw how Odili ran that state. He should have learnt something from there.
“Celestine Omehia, the person he took over from, is his first cousin and both of them have been close politically. No matter the difference this governorship thing brought, he should have seen within the period how Celestine went about things. He has been there from the beginning.
“This problem has been there and Ameachi has been there from the beginning. So he cannot say he does not know where this problem is coming from and how it can be solved,” he said.
According to Sekibo, Ateke Tom was not an Okrika phenomenon, saying: “Ateke Tom phenomenon is not an Okrika community phenomenon, it’s not like the Okrika people held a meeting and set up Ateke Tom. You cannot hold the community responsible.”
On the way forward, he said: “I have been to several fora like any other person even Amaechi. I have constantly said we should condemn all the activities of militants, all cultists. You know that is not the way to go. The problems of the Niger Delta should be resolved on a round table talking with our brothers and sisters.
“I have always held that view, those who know me, know that has been my position because in this age, it is no longer the time for muscle flexing, it is more of the brains and in Rivers State and the Niger Delta, we have young men and women who have the brains to match their colleagues from other parts of the country at a round-table and discuss and reasonably come to a conclusion in the interest of everybody,” he said.