The palace of the Obi of Onitsha has said that His Majesty Nnaemeka Achebe was not involved in any sod turning ceremony for the second River Niger bridge in the first term of President Olusegun Obasanjo, who tenure ran from 1999 to 2007.
While responding to Obasanjo’s endorsement of Labour Party presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu had recalled that Obasanjo performed the sod turning ceremony for the bridge in his first term (1999 to 2003), but “work never started” on the project.
The presidential spokesman said on Monday: “When he sought re-election for his second term in office, he (Obasanjo) returned to the site to turn the sod for the bridge the second time. When the Obi of Onitsha, forthright and scholarly, reminded him that he had done this in the past, Obasanjo told the foremost Southeast traditional ruler that he was a liar, in the full presence of the chiefs and oracles in his palace”.
But in a statement by the Obi’s Chief of Staff, Chinyelugo Osita Anionwu on Tuesday, the palace said that the Obi of Onitsha “was never involved in any sod turning ceremony for the second River Niger Bridge during the first tenure of President Obasanjo … and, therefore, could not have engaged in any altercation with the then President”.
The statement stated: “The only involvement of His Majesty with President Obasanjo regarding the Second River Niger Bridge was at the very tail end of his second term as President during a low-keyed flag-off of the project when His Majesty prayed that the succeeding administration would construct the bridge expeditiously”.
The palace said that it made the clarification “to ensure that public statements relating to our monarch are factually correct”, adding that, by his “position as traditional and natural ruler, (the Obi) should normally not engage publicly in high level discourse on affairs of state between two of our highly respected national leaders, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR”.
The Obi of Onitsha place said that “Onitsha people will continue to express their utmost gratitude to President Buhari and his Government for successfully constructing the magnificent bridge”.