A former governor of Rivers State and Nigeria’s Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, on Tuesday said he once rejected N1 billion bribe when he served as governor of the oil rich state.
Mr. Amaechi, who spoke in Lagos at a forum convened to discuss the place of social media in Nigeria’s political and socio-economic development, said the social media contributed to the erroneous perception Nigerians have about him.
The minister, who said he rejected the bribe because of his principled stance on corruption, said Nigeria needed to go back to its value system.
“My first confrontation with bribe was with a big contractor in Rivers State. After awarding the contract, he brought a billion naira. I screamed.
“I asked, ‘where did you get the money?’ and he said from what he got (from the contract) and I said ‘look, that means you overquoted the contract’.
“I said ‘the only reason you are giving me N1 billion was because if the contract was N32 billion, you made it N37 billion’.
“I have been special assistant to the governor for two years; speaker, eight years; governor, eight years; minister nearly two years…that’s nearly twenty years.
“So I know Nigerian politics well. Very, very well,” he said.
Mr. Amaechi argued that in spite of its positive uses, the social media is capable of destroying Nigeria if not checked.
He said, “Social media can destroy this country, true or false? Just look at Biafra; and that’s why Nnamdi Kanu can say all he is saying and still get a forum.
“Most politicians pay young men to post all sorts on social media.”
While commenting on attacks launched against him on social media, the minister said falsehood spreads online because Nigerians do not verify information.
“I was governor for eight years, for about seven years people used to say ‘this man is arrogant’, how did they suddenly say this man is corrupt?,” he said.
“PDP used to say ‘Amaechi is our response to Fashola’. So when did they suddenly say ‘Oh, he didn’t do anything.
“And I say to people, because somebody just went to pay AIT money and, on social media too, there’s no rule. AIT came to put some things on their television, then social media came to write nonsense.
“The first time they attacked us we came out with document. But they (social media users) don’t verify.
On the controversial $43 million Ikoyi fund, Mr. Amaechi said people claiming that he owned the money were peddlers of false information.
“When they said that I owned $43 million Ikoyi money… I made just a one-page reply: ‘I don’t even own a house in Lagos’.
“I thought people would have said, ‘Ah, eight years as governor, he should be a very rich thief, so he should be able to get a property in Lagos and use it as a form of investment’. Nobody!
“Many people started celebrating, ‘It’s Amaechi’s money, it’s Amaechi’s money’. But people who know me know (that) if I have money, you will know.
“When people meet me and I am not able to spend, it is just basically because I don’t have money… The important thing is, money doesn’t govern me.
“But social media twist it the other way; so the problem with social media (users) is that they misinform…they don’t verify their information, they have no rules. Only decent ones.”
Mr. Amaechi said he was principled and Nigerians do not value principled people.
“Nigerians say I am stubborn, am I stubborn?”, he asked.
His question generated echoes of “Yes!” from the audience.
“Stop there,” he continued, “Let me tell you why you are wrong: once you are a principled man, then you are stubborn.
“Nigeria doesn’t have any word called principle,” Mr. Amaechi said.
“It just shows that we need to go back to our value system, so that we can put a place where we can add principle…where they can give you money and you look at the man and tell the man, ‘keep the money’.”
Commenting further, Mr. Amaechi said the removal of Goodluck Jonathan as Nigeria’s president, was a bigger threat than Biafra.
“The removal of President Jonathan was a bigger threat than Biafra. Nigeria was inching towards the civil war. So, forget the talk about secession; Nigeria cannot breakup,” Amaechi said.
He also said that the social media would play an important role in the 2019 general elections.