Governor Nyesom Wike has opened up on the circumstances that led to his refusal to reappoint Dr. John Bazia as a commissioner in his cabinet accusing him of editing kola given by an unnamed presidential candidate to traditional rulers in the state.
He alleged that Bazia was slapped by the former commissioner for information, Emma Okah after the theft was discovered.
Bazia recently defected to the APC.
Speaking on the issue, Wike said: “You know in some places you can present kola by money. In some other places you can present real kola and wedge it with money.
“The presidential candidate came to see traditional rulers and then the clergy. He presented kola. I took it and gave it (money) to him (Bazia) to hold.
“Later, Chairman of Rivers State Traditional Rulers Council called me, asking ‘where is our kola?’
“I responded which kola, has it not been sent to you? He said no, that the chiefs were waiting with him. I called my then Commissioner of Information (Emma Okah) who was Chairman of that sub-committee.
“He said he called Dr Bazia. You know what he (Bazia) did? He took 80 per cent of the kola and brought 20 percent.
“For the first time, the Commissioner for Information got angry and slapped him (Bazia). He said no, he gave it to his PA, who did something to it.
“Everybody got angry and said you must go and get back the money. We were there when he brought back the kola. That is the man who’s talking.”
Bazia has, however, responded telling Vanugard:
“This money Wike is talking about was given to me— two sets, not one as he’s suggesting— I didn’t know how much. I was asked to give to religious organisations and to chiefs. “Rev Zilly Aggrey was CAN Chairman. I went to him and said take, I was asked to give this to you. He said I should give it to his secretary, a lady that was behind him. I gave it to the lady and that was done.
“The governor, maybe he hasn’t good memory, was lying to people that the Chairman of Council of Chiefs then was the one who called him that they can’t find the kola. That’s a lie. “The Chairman of Council of Chiefs then was King Ginuwa. I call him Papa. That’s my father. I am a member of Tai Council of Chiefs and Elders. I was Secretary of the electoral body that made King Ginuwa the Gbenemene of Tai.
“I am from a dignified family, well nurtured. To Wike, I am royalty, so I can’t steal.
“So, King Ginuwa was not there because he was not even supporting the Governor. I went to Emma Okah and asked, what do we do with this money, since we can’t find the king? “Okah said, John, you keep this money since Ginuwa is not here, later we will give it to them. So I gave the bag of money to that driver, not knowing how much or what currency. “For three days I didn’t even remember that money.
“I was in the village campaigning when they called. I told them I was in the village campaigning for him. And that the money was with my driver in Port Harcourt.
“I came to Port Harcourt, called my driver. He brought the money. I innocently, not even looking at it, thinking it was the same way I gave it to him. I then handed it over to them.
“It was when they now said they removed some money that I went after my driver. He returned some of the money; between three to five hundred dollars. And I sacked him on the spot.
“I then wrote a resignation letter from the campaign organisation as chairman of my LGA and member of the state campaign body.
“We are talking about 2015, before I was made commissioner. He tore my resignation letter and declared I must continue as a member of the campaign organisation. “Emma Okah was the one who said the money was not complete, but to slap me; he cannot. If he raised his hand, I would have slapped him there.
“Emma Okah came, rushing towards me. But look at my size and Okah. Do I look like someone Okah could have slapped? Before the governor in Government House, I told him I would have slapped Okah if it were in my youthful days.
“Then he asked, will I slap an Ikwerre man? I told him look, I was born, raised here in Port Harcourt. I am an Ikwerre man. Do I look like somebody people will slap?”