It was six years at the weekend since the struggle to lead Rivers State as governor began. From his days as Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly, Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi has a political history of struggle. But as his middle name, Chibuike, suggests: God is strength, he has always come out stronger from each of the experiences, writes Ojo M. Maduekwe
Simon Kolawole in an article in THISDAY on the Stella Oduah N255 million bulletproof saga said it would be very ‘unNigerian’ for a Nigerian minister to apologise. Certainly, there must have been some politicians reading that sentence and finding it similar to the case between the Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi and President Goodluck Jonathan.
In the course of the continuous fighting between the president and Governor Amaechi, not a few people would have had to ask, “How can a state governor be locking horns with the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?” Some have voiced this opinion out of fear for Amaechi’s political career, if he has any after his tenure as governor expires in 2015.
Others sympathetic to Amaechi may be worried for his life, but the governor is not. Except when he granted an interview to Sahara TV over matters regarding his security, the governor has always been a dogged fighter. In the interview, he was quoted pleading with Nigerians to beg the president to ensure that he was not killed in the name of 2015 elections.
“I don’t have an aide de camp. I don’t have a chief security officer. They’ve withdrawn so many policemen. They’ve withdrawn all policemen from the commissioners. I feel unsafe. I just know that they want to kill me. Beg Mr. President to ensure that I’m not killed because I’m sure they are planning towards that,” Amaechi said in the interview.
The battle between Amaechi and Jonathan is believed to have originated from the former’s alleged vice-presidential ambition. Amaechi would be finishing his second tenure as governor by 2015 and there are speculations that he wants to further his political career by being the running mate of his colleague from Jigawa State, Governor Sule Lamido.
Jonathan too is looking at being president again, without Amaechi’s ambition being a stumbling block. Ambition – to which both are entitled – is the root cause of their ceaseless fighting. This was only made worse by several persons within and outside the presidency that are sympathetic to both parties and are bent on taking advantage of a complete breakdown of the relationship between the brothers from the South of Nigeria.
While some of those within the presidency, in a bid to secure their employment are busy flaring a fire that can be put out by the rub of the fingers, some others from the South, especially the South-south find it incomprehensible that Amaechi would even consider teaming with the North to deny their ‘Son’ and by extension, the region an opportunity of a re-election.
On Amaechi’s side, the Northern governors in the New PDP find it convenient to drum up support for a persecuted colleague since some of them whose tenures expire in 2015 are looking at remaining relevant afterwards. Also, the All Progressives Congress (APC) seems to be rallying round Amaechi, not because they genuinely care for the embattled governor more than the opportunity helps their age-long battle to unseat the ruling political party.
Political analysts, however, believed that Amaechi, as a central actor in the whole saga, is the only one whose motive of survival is genuine. They argued that Amaechi, like President Jonathan shares equal rights to being either president or vice. They contended furtehr that those – in the persons of the New PDP and the opposing APC – who are lending their support are only doing so because it suits their cause.
If you are contending with the man in control of the nations’ resources, you must either be a mad man or possess some winning tricks up your sleeves, some political experts said. It is alien for a Nigerian governor to be seen fighting the all-powerful president. But this is what Amaechi, along with his G-7 clique has been doing for months unending.
While the presidency is fighting with the Northern governors in the New PDP over their clear agenda to return power to the region, Amaechi on the other hand, some believe, is suffering from a suspecting government bent on paving the walkway leading to 2015 of any real or perceived stumbling block, that may try to hinder President Jonathan from having a smooth victory.
Although the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) wouldn’t want to share the tag ‘Progressives’ with the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Amaechi can rightly be termed one. Unlike the average Nigerian who always abides by the rules when dealing with people in authority, be they elders in the community, religious leaders and politicians with an established authority, the governor easily veers from the status quo.
You may be the president of the most populous and powerful black nation on the surface of the earth, but when you step on the toes of Amaechi, he would do well to remind you that the same Constitution dictates both of your actions. This boldness of his to be outspoken when unjustly offended is what his sympathisers can allude to as the problem between him and Jonathan.
Reacting to President Jonathan’s critics over his ambition to seek re-election, his many aides and supporters have argued that the president has the constitutional right to run for a second time. Political experts believe that if only they would extend this line of argument in favour of Amaechi, even if it is true that he intends to elongate his political career with a vice-presidential ticket, maybe there would not have been a fight in the first place.
The life and times of Amaechi as a politician has always been marked with the struggle to survive in a politically hostile environment where any perceived act of disloyalty is met with dire consequences. Take a look at the sacked ministers by President Jonathan and you would understand that one of the reasons Governor Amaechi is still leading Rivers State is because he was not appointed by Jonathan.
Were Amaechi appointed; if it were during the military era where governors were Administrators appointed by the military leadership, President Jonathan would have long retired Amaechi and would not have had the need to expend resources and human capital like the Minister of State for Education, in the person of Nyesom Wike, in wrestling the governor.
In 1999, Amaechi had contested and won a seat as a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly and was subsequently elected the Speaker of the House. Always one with a knack for leadership, he was also elected the Chairman of Nigeria’s Conference of Speakers of State Assemblies. The first sign of the direction his career would be headed was in 2003 when he was again re-elected in the House and made the Speaker a second time.
In the same year, the National Assembly moved to hijack the legislative functions of the Rivers State House of Assembly when he and his colleagues took the matter to the Supreme Court, which gave judgment that the control and supervision of local government is the prerogative of the State House of Assembly. This first victory would signal many more and position Amaechi as a man who knows how and when to fight, and also as one who would not allow injustice of any skind, not minding where it’s coming from.
In 2007 after doing eight years in the State House of Assembly, Amaechi contested and won the PDP primaries for the state’s gubernatorial race, but his name was substituted by the party with Celestine Omehia’s on the grounds that it had a ‘K-leg’. He followed the case up to the Supreme Court and was pronounced the rightful candidate of the PDP and therefore, winner of the election held in April of that year.
Consequent upon the ruling, Amaechi became governor on October 26, 2007 and was re-elected a second time in 2011. What makes Amaechi’s story the more interesting is the fact that he was not even elected governor of Rivers state in his first term. He remains the only man he was governor without standing for an election. He calls it the hand of God.
For some inexplicable reason, it seems the PDP as a political party may have never found anything good with an Amaechi. For a personality that is largely dependent on God, his personal beliefs and developmental achievements in the conduct of his actions, political experts believe that this would go at opposite odds with a party that views ruling Nigeria as an inheritance with a 100-years expiry date and so owes all of Nigeria no accountability.
It does not look like the PDPs disposition towards Amaechi would change anytime soon. This, in the battle towards 2015, it remains to be seen who would come out victorious. The PDP has the resources and Amaechi his principles and God. Would Amaechi survive the onslaught of a ruling party? Like his name, Amaechi connotes, no one knows tomorrow.