A packed audience of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Inspector General of Police, ministers, National Assembly members, the Interim Administrator of NDDC and directors, senior police and government officials, as well as religious and traditional leaders cracked up in laughter yesterday as Gov. Nyesom Wike and Senator Godswill Akpabio exchanged banters publicly at the commissioning of a police barracks in Omagwa, Port Harcourt.
The complex was built and donated by the Niger Delta Development Commission to the Special Protection Unit of the Nigeria Police Force.
Ordinary folks and community members, not used to such high-profile hilarity, could not contain their excitement. Even before the two men went up the podium to make their speeches, I could tell from my vantage position that their conversations were largely filled with some repartees, and Prof Osinbajo, seated between them, was enjoying their jokes.
Senator Akapbio started it all in his speech, saying that although Gov Wike were doing well as a governor; he would not acknowledge it publicly, “because he is not a member of APC.” (Laughs.) Then he added, ‘’I will not even join the bandwagon of those calling for the governor to join APC. We have enough troubles in our party already’.” (More laughter.)
Soon after, the governor had his turn. ‘’I thought we came here to commission this beautiful complex. I did not know that the minister was planning to turn the event into a political arena.” (More laughter. Applause.)
The governor was not done. ‘’I cannot leave a place where I am having malaria to where I will get cancer,” he continued, in an apparent reference to calls for him to join APC. The audience, led by Vice President Osinbajo, doubled up in more laughter.
Gov. Wike commended NDDC for completing the barracks and handing over to the police. ‘’I don’t know who leaked my secret plans to NDDC. Just seven months ago, I was planning to take over this place and complete it. But apparently the Commission got a hint of my plan and quickly mobilized contractors to site’,” he joked.
The governor commended the Commission for a good job done, essentially returning the compliments which its chief executive, Mr Efiong Akwa, had paid him in his welcome remarks.
We had thought that the banters were all over until Prof Osinbanjo got on to the podium to read President Buhari’s speech. ‘’Well’’, the Vice President started with a smile, ‘’I will eventually settle the controversy between the governor and the minister at a later date…’’. The crowd roared.
The executive conviviality beamed live on national television was a clear indication that despite political differences, our leaders do share a good dose of friendliness. ‘’But we ordinary folks take our differences to the extreme. It should not be’’, a middle-aged man who sat by me said just before the police band struck the first note of the National Anthem to close the day’s events.