president Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, was born on December 17, 1942. He was at various times Military Administrator of the defunct North Eastern State (now Borno and Yobe states) from July 1975 to February 1976; Federal Commissioner of Petroleum and Natural Resources from March 1976 – June 1978; and Head of the Federal Military Government from 1984-85. He later became Chairman of a major interventionist initiative, Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). A respected elder statesman and one of the few celebrated saints in Nigeria and the only Nigerian who have contested for president of Nigeria three consecutive times, Buhari won on the fourth attempt. His first shot at the number one position was in 2003, against President Olusegun Obasanjo during his second term; and in 2007, he ran against Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua (now late) and in 2011, he contested against Dr Goodluck Jonathan – all of the Peoples Democratic Party. He lost all the three elections. And on his fourth attempt in 2015 – on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), an amalgam of major opposition parties – he defeated an incumbent President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
To emerge as the APC presidential candidate, Buhari scored 3,430 votes to beat Kwankwaso the former Kano State governor and now a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to a distant second with 974votes. Surprisingly, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar came third with 954 votes, while Owelle Rochas Okorocha, the Imo State Governor, polled 624 votes to come fourth while the publisher, Leadership Newspapers, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, came fifth with 10 votes.
For the avoidance of doubt, the main attempt of this treatise is to examine the facts that led to President Buhari’s victory in the 2015 presidential election of March, 25, 2015 so convincingly; and to ascertain if the involvement of Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi was all that was required in turning this giant of Nigerian politics into a winning candidate, after three failed attempts. Most interestingly, the part erstwhile President Jonathan played in midwifing the union between Buhari and Amaechi, thereby indirectly making the presidency of Gen Muhammadu Buhari a reality will also be examined and discussed.
Now that the main task of this attempt has been exposed, let us critically examine why Rt Hon Chibuike Amaechi, a thoroughbred PDP man should be the one to lead and spearhead, not only the loss of the presidential election of 2015 by PDP but reducing the party to a mere unprepared opposition political party after 16 years as the main ruling party in Nigeria. For a party that brags and prides itself as the largest political party not only in Africa but in the entire black nation of the world to be so decimated by the attempt of one single man is a study in political wonder. This political phenomenon and enigma, described in some quarters as the Lion of Niger Delta Politics, is a study in modern political engineering. Two-time Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly under the PDP, two-term chairman of Speakers’ Forum of Nigeria under the PDP; two-term governor of Rivers State under Peoples Democratic Party, of which he spent two years out of the eight as an APC governor and two-term chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum. If you talk of a truly thoroughbred PDP personality in Nigeria, then Amaechi should be the fellow. The reason why he joined the opposition to wrestle power from his party, as I stated earlier, is one of the attempts of this study.
Amaechi And Opposition Politics: The Foundation
Understanding Amaechi’s role in opposition politics in Nigeria can only be well understood if one reflects on the university days of this radical unionist. University of Port Harcourt (Uniport) in Rivers State was where Amaechi laid the foundation of his political life: participating actively in student union politics, especially in the National Union of Rivers State Students (NURSS), of which he was president, and the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS)
He led other students to protest some of the policies of then Military Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari the incumbent President of Nigeria under which he is to serve as a Minister. After graduation, he cut his teeth in politics as Secretary of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, from 1992 to 1994. He was Secretary of the Caretaker Committee of the Rivers State Chapter
of the disbanded Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) in 1996 during the transition programme of the late General Sani Abacha junta.
As stated above, from 1999 to 2013, a span of 14 years, Rt Hon Amaechi has been a pivotal member of PDP, the ruling political party from 1999 to 2015. Let me, therefore, examine the factors that led Amaechi to spearheading the near collapse of the PDP during the 2015 general election.
The relationship between Amaechi and the ex-President Jonathan before he created the Amaechi of APC
Before divulging how Dr Goodluck Jonathan created the Amaechi of APC, let me point out the relationship between these two great sons of Niger Delta. Reminiscing on the orchestrated problem between former President Jonathan and former Governor Amaechi, I took out time to study the gladiators and the bond between them which, ordinarily, should have made their friendship impenetrable. The word bond means something that binds, fastens, confines, or holds together a cord, rope, band, or ligament, something like an agreement or friendship that unites individuals or people into a group. According to Catherine Beecher, “The principle of subordination is the great bond of union and harmony throughout the universe.”And, according to Rainer Maria Rike, “I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other.”
Facts available to me show that these two great exponents of democracy share similar family background – raised in humble families and experienced the pains of being educated by poor parents. Former President Jonathan won the hearts of Nigerians with his expose that he was that student who trekked to school without a shoe, while Governor Amaechi also won hearts by revealing that he had a sandal and one pair of trouser, which he washed every weekend to be used the following week for the major part of his undergraduate days. The two political leaders are products of UNIPORT, and are among Port Harcourt big boys.
Although President Jonathan is the older of the two, Amaechi has greater political experience. He has been in politics right from his days in the university, eventually becoming the only Nigerian that was a speaker of a State House of Assembly for eight years and at the same time chairman, Conference of Speakers in Nigeria, while later becoming Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). President Jonathan, on the other hand, is the first PhD holder (not honorary) to preside over the affairs of the country and the only Nigerian that left the academic environment where he was a lecturer, after having a stint with the defunct OMPADEC and rose to become a deputy governor and later governor (Bayelsa State), vice-president and president – all these without contesting a single election, until 2011 when he contested a proper election and won. And in 2015, he lost woefully to President Buhari. Talking of the significance of their names, Chibuike means God is all powerful and Rotimi, an abridged version of Oluwadurotimi, meaning the Lord stands by me, while Amaechi means who knows tomorrow? On the other hand, Ebelechukwu, which is the native name of the ex-president, means God’s Mercy. Remember the popular phrase, what is in a name? One does not need to be a sage to know that all the meanings embedded in their names are playing out nicely in their lives.
While Jonathan, as the vice-president of Nigeria, was suffering every humiliation in the hands of the cabal during the Umaru Yar’Adua-led administration, Amaechi proved to be a reliable pillar of support behind him. When President Yar’Adua passed on, and Jonathan was being pushed around, Amaechi was among those in the forefront of ensuring that the vice-president assumed office as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; before the National Assembly came up with the ‘Doctrine of Necessity.’
During the 2011 elections, Governor Amaechi, not minding some other options available to him, opted to rally other governors to ensure that Jonathan won the PDP ticket; and during the election proper, Amaechi delivered two million votes from the state to ensure that Dr Jonathan got elected as the 14th President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Not done with all this affection to his own brother with whom he shares some invisible bond not known to many Nigerians, Amaechi went ahead – even while Jonathan was the vice-president – to ask him to nominate candidates to his cabinet in Rivers State. This resulted in the nomination of Prof Israel Owate, who was once the president’s classmate, as the Commissioner for Education. Unfortunately, Prof Owate could not drive the vision of the governor on education as fast Amaechi wanted, so he was dropped.
Amaechi still requested a replacement from Jonathan, who this time nominated Mr. Moses Ahubele, who manned the Ministry of Empowerment and Employment Generation, till he died after an illness in the later part of 2010. After the 2011 general election, Amaechi requested from Jonathan, and he graciously nominated Mr Charles Okaye, who served as Commissioner for Chieftaincy and Community-related Affairs.
Amaechi’s Travails in the Hands of Jonathan
Despite his great show of love to former President Jonathan, ex-governor Amaechi was subjected to monumental humiliation by the Jonathan administration. A few examples: The private jet of the Rivers State Government was grounded for no just cause; the PDP structure in Rivers State was taken away from Amaechi and his election as the chairman of NGF duly certified and acknowledged worldwide was annulled by President Jonathan and his cohorts. As if that was not enough, Amaechi was suspended from a party he so much loved and spent so much to build. Indeed, if not for divine providence, he would have been illegally impeached by five legislators in a house of 32 members; a Police Commissioner, by name Mr Joseph Mbu, was posted to Rivers State with a mandate to haunt, insult and abuse the governor gublicly, calling him a despot. What is more, Governors that came to visit him were stoned! In the eyes of Nigerians, Amaechi stands as a great man, whereas he was regarded as persona non grata to those haunting him.
Achinike Godwin William-Wobodo, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Amaechi on Inter-Governmental Affairs, a legal practitioner, who holds LLM in Criminal Law and Practice and currently pursuing a PhD in Money Laundering and Anti-Corruption Law. In his submission on the travails of Amaechi at the time stated: “The induced situation is caused by third party elements that are either driven by the hunger for power or jealousy. The seeming situation is induced principally by two classes of persons: those driven by hunger for power which represents the group in Rivers State, and those driven by envy, which houses external factors. For instance, the Minister of State for Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, my friend and brother, is at the centre of the group opposed to Amaechi’s style of governance and bent on wresting power from the governor. My worry is not that they seek to wrestle power from him, because that basically is politics. My quarrel is the approach: the crude, undemocratic and uncivilised manner that they are going about it. In the process, they have undermined the rule of law, breached the peace of Rivers State and are threatening a breakdown of law and order. “In the second category are persons who are driven by envy and the rising profile of the governor. And the only way, to them, to break the rising profile of Governor Amaechi, is to pit him against the president and hiding under the cover of the Presidency. For these persons, I think and honestly too, that they have proven that they are not men enough to personally handle their affairs.”
To an illustrious son of the state and former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Prof Tam David-West, Amaechi is an innocent man and his travails illustrate the Nigerian paradox, where excellence is relegated to the background and mediocrity is elevated. His words: “I’m particularly worried about the trend, not only because I am a Rivers State elder, not only because I am a strong supporter of Amaechi without any regret, I am also worried as a Nigerian because what is happening to Amaechi underscores a terrible Nigerian paradox, which I call the paradox of excellence. We support him because those of us who grew up in Port Harcourt as a famous ‘Garden City’ knew how the city changed to a rotten city. And Amaechi, who is also a Port Harcourt boy, returned the city back to its glorious “Garden City” status. Any person that does not realise this is not only blind but terrible.” This great sage reminded Amaechi’s detractors that he who laughs last, laughs best, stating with emphasis that the governor would laugh last, because his first name, Chibuike, means God is strength.
Jonathan’s 25 Sins against Rivers that forced Amaechi out of PDP
1. President Jonathan failed to muster the courage and political will in a PDP-controlled National Assembly to see to the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in the over six years of his administration, to demonstrate his hatred for the Niger Delta Region,
knowing that communities in Rivers State will benefit from the bill
2. The East/West Road, especially Eleme-Onne axis in Rivers State, has not only been abandoned but has become a nightmare to travellers and commuters.
3. Bodo-Bonny Federal Road is completely abandoned, just because it is situated in Rivers State
4. Refusal to refund to the state government over N120 billion used in the dualisation of Ikwerre-Owerri Road, approved by late President Yar’Adua, and other federal roads in the state executed by the state to ease the suffering of the people of Rivers State.
5. Wickedly stopped Train 7 at NLNG Bonny with its attendant loss of jobs to our people and revenue to government.
6. Non-implementation of UNEP Report on the clean-up of Ogoni land, despite all the pleas by our people and the international community – just to punish the Ogonis and Rivers State, despite their overwhelming support for him during the 2011 elections.
7. Lack of any visible Federal Government project in Rivers State throughout his over six years as President of Nigeria. Instructively, of all the states President Jonathan visited in the course of his re-election campaign, it was only in Rivers that he could not name a
single development project he initiated, not to talk of executing.
8. Ceding of oil wells belonging to Rivers to Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Abia states, to ensure that the revenue accruing to the state is reduced
9. Abandoned construction of the Port Harcourt International Airport after completing other airports started at the same time with it. The airport has thus become an eyesore and declared as one of the worst airport in the entire world. Pictures of the current state of the airport attached explain the level of hatred President Jonathan had for Rivers State and her people.
10. Turning the Port Harcourt axis of Enugu-Port Harcourt Express Road into a death trap.
The pictures attached of the bad state of the road explain everything
11. Posting and encouraging the excesses of the tyrannical Police Commissioner Joseph Mbu during his inglorious days in the state.
12. Supporting the impunity of daily killing, maiming of members of Rivers APC by the PDP and their agents’ killer squads.
13. Supporting every imaginable act of impunity in the state, including the plot by five State Assembly members to impeach the speaker in a house of 31 members, with the hope of impeaching Amaechi thereafter.
14. Seizing and grounding the planes of the state for no just cause.
15. Harassing and intimidating the duly elected governor of Rivers State for no just cause, and even supporting the splitting of the Governors Forum into two, to ensure that Governor Amaechi, who was duly elected by his colleagues, does not have an easy reign as the chairman of the forum.
16. Refusal to allow the governor to construct the federal road that leads to the Kalabari kingdom, just to ensure that during the rainy season the Kalabaris will not have a road to their place.
17. Forcefully taking over the 50,000-seater Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium. Incidentally, his party could not mobilise enough supporters to fill the stadium during his rally, even after hiring supporters from Bayelsa, Abia and Akwa Ibom states.
18. Refusal to refund the state the money used to construct the smooth, beautiful dual carriageway from Omerelu to Port Harcourt – particularly up to the Airport Junction from Owerri in Imo State, which the Federal Government abandoned just because Rivers State
people ply that road.
19. Refusal to refund the money used by Rivers State to construct the
Ahoada/Elele Alimini Federal Road and the interchange (flyover) at Obiri Ikwerre.
20. Refusal to rehabilitate the Onne – Port Harcourt component of the East/West Road, which services the Port Harcourt Refinery from where petroleum products are supplied to the South-east and parts of the South-south; the road that leads to the Onne Free Zone and to Okrika, the home Local Government of Dame Patience Jonathan, then First Lady.
21. Turning a blind eye while his party continued to kill, bomb and disrupt APC rallies.
22. President Jonathan released all the N25 billion that accrued from the principle of derivation from the five Soku oil wells that rightly belong to Rivers State kept in reserve for Rivers State and Bayelsa State were all paid to Bayelsa State, his home state.
23. As president, Jonathan continued to under-fund the NDDC, to ensure that Rivers State and in extension the Niger Delta Region is not developed; till date, N500 billion owed by the Federal Government is yet to be paid to the Niger Delta Development Commission.
24. Refused to empower and fund the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs initiated by the Yar-Adua’s administration. The Minister of Niger Delta recently stated that the N41.7 billion due to the ministry was not paid, thereby affecting 90 percent of the projects initiated by the ministry, just to ensure that projects to be executed by the ministry in Rivers State and other Niger Delta states are not executed.
25. The unseen hand behind the travail of Amaechi during his ministerial nomination and confirmation macabre dance.
For the record, Jonathan is from Bayelsa, a sister sate to Rivers. He is married to Dame Patience, who also hails from Rivers State; and having schooled at UNIPORT and lectured in the state before joining politics, one would have expected him to be a key factor in any election in Rivers, after the State gave him the highest number of votes in the 2011 presidential election. But, shockingly, all these contributed to his abysmal performance and the greatest undoing of his party in the 2015 general election.
Prof Wole Soyinka was right when he stated: “Only four sets of people can vote for the PDP:
“*Those who are intellectually blind,
* Those that are blinded by ethnicity.
* Those who are blinded by corruption and therefore afraid of the
unknown, should power change hands,
* Those who are suffering from a combination of the above terminal sicknesses.”
Why Amaechi Joined APC
The desperation of the PDP leadership to completely destroy Amaechi led to his departure, alongside six other PDP governors, to form the New PDP, with five of them later joining the mega opposition political party, the All Progressives Congress . Explaining why he joined APC, Amaechi said: “Unfortunately, recent events within the PDP have given me reason to reconsider our collective interest as people of the South-south and, indeed, as Rivers people. At various times, as the one whom you gave your mandate, I had cause to complain about the marginalisation of our state and our people, despite our huge contribution to the national coffers and our unflinching commitment and support for the ruling PDP. While the political and economic importance of Rivers State cannot be contested, we continue to hold the shorter end of the stick. “A few instances may suffice. Our demand that the Federal Government return oil wells belonging to Rivers State to us has gone unheeded and been treated with levity under this administration. Rather, our oil wells have been ceded to Bayelsa, Abia and Akwa Ibom states. Even after we got a judgement that the oil wells were wrongly ceded to Akwa Ibom State and should be returned to us, only dry wells that were no longer producing oil were returned.
“In the specific case of the Soku oil wells, despite a decision reached that the monies should remain in an escrow account, till all matters concerning it were resolved, the Federal Government continued to pay neighbouring Bayelsa State the revenues meant for Rivers State, in a classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. It is indeed noteworthy that we have made several representations formally and informally on this matter.
“A second instance is the total absence of federal presence in Rivers State. The ‘National Good Governance Tour’ provided a good opportunity for the Federal Government to showcase its presence in Rivers State. The tour, if nothing else, proved that there was not much to show in a state that is the cash cow of the federation. The East-West Road
remains abandoned, work has been deliberately slow on the Port Harcourt International Airport, the third busiest airport in the country, while all airports started along with it have long been completed and commissioned. The Bonny-Bomu Road that leads to the only functional liquefied natural gas project remains uncompleted. In the midst of all these, our administration went ahead to fix federal roads to the tune of N103 billion. After several correspondence and representations, not one kobo was been repaid. The Federal Government was actively discouraging investments in Rivers State.”
My Encounter with Amaechi over Buhari
On August 25, 2013 by 6 am, as I was concluding my usual morning prayer session and packing my things to leave Port Harcourt to see my family that left Yola due to the menace of Boko Haram, Rt Hon Chibuike Amaechi, my principal, called me through Mrs Ibim Sementari, then Rivers State Commissioner for Information and said: “Chief Eze, I have a serious national task for you but decided to call to find out from you first if your past political background can cause you to renege on the task.” I told him, Your Excellency, you called me because you know that I have not disappointed you in the past and I don’t intend to in the near future.” So he told me to wait for further instruction.
On September 7, he sent for me and on arrival to the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge, I had a breakfast meeting with him that lasted for about thirty minutes and Amaechi could neither allow me enjoy my meal as he continued to say: “Buhari! Buhari! Buhari!! Is the only solution to the challenges of Nigeria, which is corruption.” As if he was not done
with Buhari, Buhari, Buhari, he embarked upon another issue, President Jonathan is a history-maker: he will make history as the first sitting President to lose power. After the breakfast, he asked me to see Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola then secretary of the newly-formed New PDP that came into being when seven governors comprising G7 Governors – namely: Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers) – with former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar with some senators, PDP chieftains left the Eagle Square venue of the PDP National Convention to Yar’Adua Centre to have their own convention, where they expressed their reservations about how the party was being run.
I later met with Prince Oyinlola and Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, the National Secretary and Chairman respectively. And on September 9, 2013, I was announced as the National Publicity Secretary of the New PDP. I became confused when I was told that other governors and chieftains of the new party wanted to recruit a very visible
personality to man the office of the National Publicity Secretary (NPS) and Amaechi insisted that if the new party needed a person that would create the immediate awareness the party needed at the short time available for the party, the only Nigerian that can achieve that feat is one Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze who is currently in Port Harcourt. His colleagues gave
in. When I came in, they were expecting to see a huge and domineering personality, but could not make any complain. After two weeks, they were pleading with me to slow down a bit. They went back to Amaechi to query him on where and how he fished out such a fellow.
Buhari And Amaechi
By the time I put both President Jonathan and the PDP leadership under my uncle Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, as both of us came from Adamawa. As PDP was put on edge, security organs were all over the place looking for me and other key actors of this new movement. We became the new bride of political groups in Nigeria, mostly PDP and the then main opposition political party, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). In carrying out my task, what was always ringing in my head was: Buhari! Buhari!! Buhari!! being echoed by Amaechi. And to pave way for the smooth ascension to the presidency was to work with other leaders to point to Nigerians not only lapses but the sins of Dr Jonathan. Within three months, Jonathan knew that he has created another Amaechi, and his days as the President of Nigeria were truly numbered.
The fact remains that when it comes to believing in the abilities of President Buhari, I am yet to see anyone who can rival Amaechi. His love for Buhari and strong belief in his ability to take Nigeria out of the woods is like an obsession.
“I can still vividly remember how Amaechi predicted Buhari’s emergence as president during the early days of APC and long before the issue of who would fly the party’s flag came up. When on 9th September, 2013 my appointment as the National Publicity Secretary of the defunct New Peoples Democratic Party was announced to Nigerians, the only brief I received was the 30-minute encounter I had with Governor Amaechi. During that encounter, he kept repeating that whenever Gen Buhari (rtd) accepted to fly the flag of the emergent mega opposition political party in the country, the unseating of President Jonathan and PDP would become a reality. I was deeply impressed by his strong belief in Gen Buhari. It was based on this that I went boldly into the field and with the cooperation of the G7 Governors and other leaders of the New PDP, we were able to dismantle what was the famous and largest political party in Africa, PDP.”
Amaechi pursued Buhari’s emergence as APC presidential candidate with evangelical zeal, after the New PDP joined APC. “This obsession explains why Amaechi did all within his power to ensure that Buhari emerged as the flag-bearer of APC during the Lagos Convention and, as the Director-General of the Buhari Campaign Organisation, worked even harder to ensure the ouster of former president Goodluck Jonathan during the March 28, 2015 presidential election.”
If not for the emergence of Buhari as President, Jonathan and his cohorts would have arrested and jailed Amechi for championing the defeat of his own brother from the Niger Delta.
You have read what Amaechi went through in the hands of Dr Jonathan, Wike and their cohorts. Now, judge if Amaechi was right in joining APC to pilot the fall of Dr Jonathan and PDP. If not by the grace of God, President Buhari and the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, this misguided group would have still succeeded in frustrating Amaechi from becoming a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in their continued persecution of an innocent man who did everything possible to promote and reposition Jonathan, Wike and PDP to greater heights.
Let me conclude by bringing Chief Nyesom Wike to tell us their plot against Amaechi, if Jonathan had won the 2015 presidential election. The PUNCH of February 22, 2014 under the title, FG’ll arrest Amaechi after Jonathan’s victory –Wike, reported and I quote: “Once the Independent National Electoral Commission announces the victory of President Jonathan, we will immediately shut down the Port Harcourt International Airport and all land and sea borders in Rivers State to prevent Governor Amaechi from escaping.
“Does he (Amaechi) think we don’t know that he is planning to run away? But he and his cohorts will not succeed. All they can do thereafter is to lock themselves inside the Government House and at the appropriate time, we will go there and pick them up one after the other.”
The fact remains that if Jonathan had succeeded, the travails of Amaechi during his nomination and confirmation as a minister would have been a child’s play if they failed to kill him.
Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt and can be reached either through firstname.lastname@example.org