By AFUGO UYANNA
Two years after their public spat over Governor Dave Umahi’s ‘baleful’ defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), combustive Rivers State Governor, Barr Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, has nominated the Ebonyi State Governor and his ‘political enemy’ for an honour as Grand Service Star of River State (GSSRS).
Grand Service Star of River State (GSSRS) is the highest honour that Rivers State government bestows on distinguished personalities from the State and beyond.
The surprise reconciliation move by Wike is coming against the background of his running battle with the PDP leadership over his ‘curt treatment’ by the party, the same complaint by Umahi against the party, leading to his exit from the PDP and for which Wike publicly upbraided the Ebonyi Governor in Rivers Government House press statements and in his interviews on national television.
“My friend, Umahi wants to be president. There is no problem about that. You have a right to be president. Nobody can stop you. You are educated. You have been a governor for two terms, so you are qualified to say I want to be president of Nigeria.
“My reaction to Governor Umahi’s defection is not that he has no right to defect, but to say he is defecting because of injustice meted to the South-East that is insulting to the South-East,” Wike had sneered in a statement by his Media Assistant, Kelvin Ebri.
A November 18, 2020, report by Punch also quoted Wike as demanding that Umahi retract his ‘false claims’ against the PDP, and arguing that the PDP had treated the South East fairly over the years, what with the zone having “produced Senate Presidents; National Vice Chairman of the PDP and Secretary to the Federal Government.”
PDP’s backbone Wike, then, urged the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) and the National Executive Committee (NEC) to take decisive steps to ensure that PDP did not die in Ebonyi State.
Wike had pooh-poohed Umahi’s explanation that he was leaving the PDP because of the injustice meted out to the people of the zone despite several years of loyalty to the party.
Pundits say that Wike’s move signposts a contriteness of heart by the Rivers Governor who is believed to be seeking ways to rekindle his relationship with people he had offended by what has been described as his ‘overzealous’, not to say ‘offensive’, way of putting down anyone criticised PDP’s seeming undemocratic tendencies.
“Now Wike has seen the light and is trying to make amends in whatever ways he can,” a source told AbeyaNews. “Overzealousness isn’t always a good virtue. It almost always brings one to grief. What has Wike got to show for all that effort and money to save PDP?”
A statement by Ebonyi State Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Uchenna Orji, disclosed that a letter notifying Governor Umahi of the honour was dated 24th October, 2022, and personally signed by Governor Wike.
“From the spirit and letter of the nomination conveyed to the Governor of Ebonyi State in the hands and seals of the Governor of Rivers State, His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Woke,CON, GSSRS,POS, dated 24th October,2022, the Governor’s Distinguished Award from the Government of Rivers State is in recognition of his exemplary life achievements, outstanding contributions to the advancement of national cohesion, equity and justice and his invaluable leadership dispositions to the Government and people of Rivers State”, Orji enthused.
Orji further said Umahi’s nomination by Wike was in pursuant to his powers under the Rivers State Honours Law 2017.
“The Governor of Rivers State who acted pursuant to his powers under the Rivers State Honours Law ,2017 approved the conferment of the Star Honours to be accordingly conferred to the people’s Governor on a date to be communicated in due course.
“All hail the Governor of Ebonyi State and all glory to God for announcing the virtues of his servant to the world. To God be the glory,” the statement by Orji added.
Grand Service Star of River State (GSSRS) is the highest honour that Rivers State government bestows on distinguished personalities in the State and beyond.