Wike begged me to join PDP for my freedom – Ojukaye Flag-Amachree FeaturedWritten by LEDUM PRINCE
Honourable Ojukaye Flag-Amachree is a member of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Rivers State. He recently was granted bail by the Court of Appeal ending about 8 months of incarceration on the orders of Governor Nyesom Wike whose administration slammed a murder charge on him. In this interview, Flag-Amachree, who is a staunch supporter of Transportation Minister, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, speaks on his jail experience, his innocence of the murder allegation and Wike’s offer of reprieve if he(Flag-Amachree) would decamp to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. It is as explosive as Flag-Amachree himself. Excerpts:
How is your health now?
I am still having seizures. I have just run tests and my personal physician is yet to bring the result. I have been on drugs. I have been on health monitoring, for now. The only way I can tell the proper health situation of myself is when I get the result.
How will you describe your April 19, 2016 arrest?
It was very funny, because before April 19, I was not aware of any allegation levelled against me. I had been going to the police stations frequently, I had been visiting the Rivers State’s Deputy Commissioner of Police and the Commissioner of Police, but nobody told me of any allegation levelled against me.
What played out on April 19 was a planned and pre-meditated arrangement to arrest and detain me, because I went there to bail someone around 11 a.m. and after spending about three hours with the Deputy Commissioner of Police and other policemen, I was told that the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, said I should be detained and I asked them why I should be detained. They said they would furnish me with some of the allegations.
Unfortunately for them, they could not lay hand on any concrete allegation. The first allegation they brought against me was a diesel dispute that my company and one other company had. I have forgotten the other company’s name. The case is still in court. I told them it was purely a civil matter and in court. I insisted I would not want to comment on it. They noticed that it could not really give them what they wanted and I was granted bail on that.
They brought in another allegation, which is a problem between my compound in the village and a neighbouring compound. I told them that I am not the head of my family and that Chief Amachree Flag-Amachree is the head of my family, who is in the best position to answer some of the questions they were asking me and I was granted bail on that.
They brought in another allegation, saying that I was threatening Tubotamuno Dick on Facebook. Tubotamuno Dick came too. By the time we started discussing, it was very clear that I was not threatening him. I was also granted bail on that.
They then brought a murder allegation around 5 p.m. I told them that since I had been coming there always, if we could continue the following morning, because I was tired, but they said no and that we must discuss it. Unfortunately, I did not give them my statement. I only told them verbally, because I was tired. I told them that the incident happened while I was a local government chairman and on the particular day, I was in my house, with policemen and operatives of the Joint Task Force (JTF), Department of State Services (DSS), other security personnel and my family members with me and I was asked to leave.
While I was going around 7 p.m., I was called back and I was detained. The following morning, April 20, 2016, I was charged to court and I found myself at the Port Harcourt Prisons.
What is your relationship with Tubotamuno Dick?
I do not have any special relationship with Tubotamuno Dick. He is from my LGA (Asari-Toru). I knew him well, when he was about going to the Law School and he did not have money. He came to me as a local government chairman and I paid his Law School fees. I signed his forms, but you see how human mind is. It is unfortunate that he joined the enemies to concoct some of the stories and allegations, thereby biting the fingers that fed him yesterday. I leave him to God.
You were at the Port Harcourt Prisons between April 20 and November 25, 2016. How was the experience?
It was terrible. It was a dark moment in my life that I would always want to thank God for, for helping me to pass through that phase of my life. It was not an easy experience. I was not feeling well. I was sick. From time to time, I was having seizures. The prison is not well equipped to handle cases like mine. I was also taken once to the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH). It was obvious that I needed medical attention. I was struggling between my health, the condition of the prison and also the case before me.
You have just mentioned the condition of the Port Harcourt Prisons. What is the condition of the prisons?
The Port Harcourt Maximum Prison is supposed to house 804 persons, but right now, you have close to four thousand persons there. It is crazy. People are being packed like sardines. The warders are doing a good job, in spite of the fact that the facilities are not okay. The Deputy Controller of Prisons in Port Harcourt is a great man and doing his best.
What of the feeding in the prison?
They are also trying, but because of my health condition, I applied for self-feeding and I was also feeding all the persons in my cell, about sixteen people. I was doing the feeding in the morning and at night.
Did it ever cross your mind that one day, you will come out of the prison, considering the fact that while you were still there, you were charged for another murder?
I knew that one day, I would definitely have my freedom. I was only scared with the level of desperation from the Rivers state government. So that they would not look for a way to eliminate me. I knew I was innocent, but I made sure that I checked what I ate, the people around me and I hardly mixed up with the inmates, in such a way that I would just expose myself. My greatest worry was just my life, not that I would not come out of the prison.
The police, under the leadership of the immediate past Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Solomon Arase, wrote a report and stated that their investigation did not link you to the murder in Buguma, headquarters of Asari-Toru LGA of Rivers State during the 2015 elections, but you were still incarcerated for so long, until you were granted bail by the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt on November 24, 2016 and you eventually left the prison the next day. How did you feel about the unpleasant development?
I knew that they would not listen to the then IGP Arase, because the essence of my arrest is not because I committed a crime, but because the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Governor Nyesom Wike were looking for a way to silence the opposition in Rivers state. They feel that I am aggressive and forward when it comes to the All Progressives Congress’ (APC’s) activities in Rivers state and that if I am incarcerated, it will break the APC and silence us to a point that people will start running away. The essence of my arrest and incarceration is not to prove anything, but to get me imprisoned and keep me there.
Even when I heard that the then IGP Arase sent a team of lawyers to say there was nothing linking me to the crime and that the matter had not been investigated, and that there was no proof that I committed the crime, I knew that the judge and the Rivers State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice (Emmanuel Aguma, SAN) would never sign in for nolle prosequi (Latin legal phrase meaning “be unwilling to pursue, thereby amounting to do not prosecute/discontinue the action”) to drop the charges.
Did you suspect connivance between the Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice Adama Iyayi-Lamikanra, and the presiding judge, Justice Margaret Opara, the wife of a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Austin Opara, an ally of Governor Nyesom Wike, in your incarceration?
I wrote petitions to the National Judicial Council (NJC) against Justices Adama Iyayi-Lamikanra and Margaret Opara. Everybody knows that Justice Margaret Opara is the wife of Chief Austin Opara, a PDP chieftain, who is the Chairman of Microfinance Agency in Rivers State and he was appointed by his friend, Governor Wike.
There is no way I can get justice from Justice Margaret Opara. Even when the prison authorities wrote a letter, the prison’s doctor also brought a letter, even from UPTH, that my health condition was failing and that I needed urgent medical attention, Justice Opara saw all and she refused to grant me bail.
Husband of the Chief Judge of Rivers state is also a friend to Governor Wike. How do you expect me to get justice from Justice Iyayi-Lamikanra?
The second murder charge that was slammed on me, I was remanded and detained in prison, even without me appearing before the chief judge of Rivers state, in a criminal case. That means that you can be in your house and they will issue remander order, without seeing you, in a criminal case. That’s how bad it is.
I wrote petitions to the NJC and IGP, because on the second murder charge, I did not write any statement. The chief judge of Rivers state (Justice Adama Iyayi-Lamikanra) and the attorney-general of Rivers state (Emmanuel Aguma, SAN) forged my signature and statement, just to slam the second murder charge on me.
The Court of appeal, Port Harcourt granted you bail on November 24, 2016. Shortly after and on the same day, the Rivers State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Emmanuel Aguma, SAN, through the Rivers State Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Florence Fiberesima, wrote to the authorities of the Port Harcourt Prisons that your remand order still subsisted, stressing that you could not be released from the prisons, in spite of being granted bail. How did you feel when you were informed of the development?
The letter ought to be seen as a direct challenge to the ruling of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt. I see no reason why Aguma, a SAN, would write mere letter, stopping a court order from a higher court which directed that I must be released. It is so surprising. That shows how desperate they are to keep me in prison.
How could an ordinary lawyer write a letter to the prisons authorities that I should not be released? Are you not seeing something strange there? They were too desperate that they did not bother about the consequences of their actions. I thank God that I am out.
How will you describe the murder of one of your courageous lawyers, Ken Atsuwete, 45, in Port Harcourt on August 29, 2016, while you were still in prison, considering the fact that he had a young wife, Mrs. Wendy, and three young children, with the eminent lawyer buried on November 19, 2016 at his Koko hometown in Warri North LGA of Delta State?
August 29, 2016 was one of the saddest days of my life. I cried. Ken was not just my counsel, he was a friend. He was full of energy and life. If anybody had told me that Ken would die that day, I would not believe.
I spoke with Ken at 10:23pm on Sunday, August 28, 2016. Ken called me and I did not take his call. I later called him back, but said he would call me back and he dropped. After ten minutes, Ken called me back and he said they came to kidnap him, but he would not know if they were assassins or kidnappers, but unfortunately they thought his neighbour was him and they went away with his neighbour.
I reminded Ken that we earlier discussed that he should not be using his car. Ken said the gunmen could not recognise him, because he and his neighbour were using almost the same type of cars. I asked him to call the police for assistance. He promised to call the police and I slept.
The following morning, I was told that Ken was dead, but I said it was his neighbour. I could not believe. Ken’s death did not come from mere random kidnapping. Imagine people coming to your house, pick your neighbour, then return the neighbour for you. It was a clear case of assassination.
Unfortunately, I was not there when Ken was buried, but I spoke with his wife, immediately after my release. I expressed my sympathy and I told her about how I could help the family.
Ahead of the December 10 legislative rerun across the three senatorial districts of Rivers State, what are the chances of the candidates of the APC and the fate of the main opposition party in the state?
I have just come out. On December 10, God willing, I will go and cast my one vote for my party, the APC and its candidates.
The people of Asari-Toru LGA and members of APC in Rivers State are hosting you to a grand reception at Buguma, the headquarters of the LGA on December 3, 2016. What is your reaction?
I feel honoured, because when you go through what I have just gone through and you are out and your people, more especially, APC members in Rivers state, feel that as a noble young man, I should be honoured and do thanksgiving for my freedom, it is a thing of joy.
I earlier planned to do thanksgiving. When they came up with the idea, I said there would be no need for me to do my own thanksgiving, but to be part of whatever they are organising. I am happy about the civic reception and that my people are appreciating the fact that in spite of what I went through, I was not broken.
The essence of the allegations and the detention was to get me to bow to Governor Wike and defect to the PDP, because for the first three months, while I was still in detention, they made all efforts to make sure that I defected to the PDP and assured me that they would withdraw all the charges against me and at the same time make some offers. I told some of them, but I cannot start calling their names, that the essence of my whole political life, is not just because of what I will gain or any personal benefit, but based on principle.
As a young man, I feel that getting into politics is to make a difference. I feel strongly that with the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, as my leader, by God’s grace, my dreams will be achieved. It is not just about money or what I want to gain. That is why I stood my ground. For almost eight months, I refused to bow to them.
You have just mentioned ex-Rivers Governor Amaechi, a former Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). Is the supremacy battle between him and his former Chief of Staff, Governor Wike, necessary?
As human beings, we always have our differences. Governor Wike is not a good person, because while he was chief of staff, I was also a local government chairman and I saw how Rt. Hon. Amaechi helped him. Suddenly, he went behind and started to stab his boss.
Today, he (Wike) is governor and he is doing everything to bring down the same man who brought him to limelight. It is unfortunate that he decided to toe that path.
The legislative rerun in Rivers State is barely a week away. How will you advise youths of the state, considering the fact that no fewer than 100 persons, mostly APC members, were killed and mostly beheaded during last year’s general elections and the March 19 rerun?
Rivers people, especially the youths, should be peaceful. It is not necessary for any youth to lay down his/her life for any politician or to allow him/herself to be used by any politician. Whether you like it or not, by the time they (politicians) are elected, you will not even have access to them.
There has been a lot of tension in Rivers state. We need to start having peaceful elections in Rivers state. The recent elections in Edo and Ondo states were peaceful.