“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.”- WIKE
Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi a humanist, an administrator par excellence, visionary, egalitarian, radical, respected, a pragmatist and exemplary leader, is a Nigerian of Ikwerre extraction, a former Governor of Rivers State, a recipient of the prestigious national award of Commander of the Order of Niger (CON), and an Associate Fellow of the United Nations Institute for Training & Research (UNITAR), Geneva, Switzerland.
In acceptance of his international figure status, Amaechi, Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation was recently appointed as an Advisory Board member of the United Nations Road Safety Trust Fund (UNRSTF) and sole representative of Nigeria and Africa at the inaugural meeting of the Board at the UN Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland on 9th August 2018
The UNRSTF established in April 2018 to address the worldwide accident crisis resulting in 1.3 million lives lost and an additional 50 million injured on the road each year and as a member of the UNRSTF Advisory Board, Amaechi will play an important part in collaborating on reducing the number of accidents and casualties; and making a real impact on global road safety
A man whose multi-faceted roles in the politics of Nigeria place him in the mould of other great nationalists all over the world but the case that actually made this “mysterious” man exceptional and catapulted him into the national limelight and marked him not only as an institution in the politics of Nigeria but one whose inputs can’t be swept off the carpet, was his major political challenge in 2007. Amaechi had won the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Rivers State gubernatorial ticket but was denied flying the flag under very controversial circumstances which later became the infamous “K-leg” episode. But the Supreme Court of Nigeria in a landmark ruling, affirmed him as the duly elected governor of Rivers State. That was about four months after Sir Celestine Omehia, incidentally Amaechi’s cousin, had been sworn in as governor.
Writing Amaechi’s exploits in the politics of Nigeria would not be enough in one book. So, this treatise is to examine how this man undertook the greatest risk, or rather a suicidal mission, to remove a party that paraded itself as the largest political party movement in Africa, destined to govern Nigeria for sixty years, from power.
Amaechi and his mysterious life of second term bids
Amaechi’s remarkable feats in all facets of the polity remain a challenge to most of his contemporaries but the mystery behind his bid for second term in any office he occupies forms part of this study.
The following facts in this regard suffice:
- He was a two term Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly from 1999-2007 and Chairman, Conference of Speakers of States Houses of Assembly in Nigeria (1999 – 2000)
- He was also a two term Governor of Rivers State from 2007 – 2015
- He has the singular honour in Nigeria as a two-term Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum from 2011 to 2015.
- He is currently the Minister of Transportation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, an office he used to redefine transportation system in Nigeria.
- He was appointed the Director General of the Muhammadu Buhari Presidential Campaign Organisation in 2014 and in line with the postulation that he is used to occupying an office two times, he was appointed in 2018 to head the Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation.
President Muhammadu Buhari and his quests for the Nigerian presidency
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 but won on the fourth attempt. His first shot at the number one position was in 2003 against the then 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, of the People’s 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 Rabi’u Kwankwaso, a former Kano State governor, and now a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to a distant second with 974 votes. 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.
Circumstances that forced Amaechi into the risky task of positioning General Muhammadu Buhari as the President of Nigeria
It is pertinent to examine why Amaechi, a thoroughbred PDP man, led and spearheaded, not only its defeat at the presidential election of 2015. Today, PDP is a rag-tag opposition party struggling to find its feet. For a party that boasted to be 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.
If you talked of a true thoroughbred PDP personality in Nigeria, Amaechi was 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’s build-up to joining APC occasioned by his travails in the hands of Jonathan
Despite his great show of love to former President Jonathan, Amaechi, as governor, was subjected to 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 re-election as chairman of NGF was rejected 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 Joseph Mbu, was posted to Rivers State with the mandate to haunt, insult and abuse Amaechi, at a time calling him a despot. The manhunt of Amaechi was much; even some governors that came to visit him were stoned.
Why Amaechi joined APC
Let me bring Chief Nyesom Wike to tell us their plot against Amaechi had Jonathan 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 is excerpted here: “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 had Jonathan succeeded, the travails of Amaechi during his nomination and confirmation as a minister would have been a child’s play that is where he was not killed. The desperation of the PDP leadership to 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 marginalization 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 judgment 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 was 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. Amid 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 and 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 could achieve that was one Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze who is currently in Port Harcourt. His colleagues gave in. When I walked into their midst, it seemed had expected to see one huge and domineering personality. Their facial expressions gave them away. After about two weeks, they were pleading with me to slow down a bit, asking Amaechi where and how he fished out such a fellow.
Buhari and Amaechi, Relationship Ordained by God
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, on edge, security organs were all over the place hunting 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!! earlier echoed and re-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 People’s 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.
Buhari and the APC presidential ticket
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 Amaechi for championing the defeat of his own brother from the Niger Delta.
The second term as Buhari’s Presidential Campaign Organization Director General and the obstacles
On January 3, 2018, both local and international media organisations were awash with the news of the appointment of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi since December 2017 as the Director General of President Buhari 2019 presidential campaign. That marked the strongest indication that the Nigerian leader would seek re-election in 2019.
Immediately after the announcement of Amaechi’s appointment, those who didn’t want him as DG went to work to ensure that it was reversed.
Some APC stakeholders reportedly opposed to the re-appointment of Rotimi Amaechi as President Buhari’s campaign director general in the 2019 re-election bid moved into action. They argued that as a sitting governor and chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) when he held the position of director-general of the Buhari Campaign Organisation in 2015, Amaechi had enormous power which is not so now that he is just a member of cabinet.
The move against Amaechi as the president’s campaign DG is being anchored on a narrative that the position should be held by a serving governor.
But they failed to understand that majority of APC governors, ministers and members of the National Assembly were already working with Amaechi to advance the re-election of Mr. President.
One of the reasons Amaechi is being opposed is this rumour that he has a presidential ambition in 2023 and that as Buhari’s campaign manager, he would leverage on the connections.
The struggle of Amaechi retaining his office as the DG of Buhari Campaign Organisation was laid to rest on 1st August 2018 when he conducted President Buhari round the proposed Campaign Office in Abuja.
Although, in the unfolding scenario, Amaechi’s major concern is to prospect for Buhari’s re-election, yes, an encore, yet the possibilities of a repeat performance of the 2015 victory are great and likely to be pervasive, other things being equal. Otherwise, the situation may be dicey. Nevertheless, Amaechi is certainly a rampart for effective prosecution of Buhari’s re-election battle.
What are the chances of President Buhari in the 2019 election with the gale of defection, consequences and Amaechi’s prediction?
With high class politicians like Dr. Bukola Saraki, the Senate President, 36 members of the Federal House of Representatives, 12 Senators, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State and Governor Aminu Tamnuwal of Sokoto State having defected to opposition political parties, the question on the lips of every Nigerian is “What chances does President Buhari stand getting re-elected come 2019?”
Chief Obafemi Awolowo one of the best leaders ever from Nigeria, in 1968, foresaw Dr. Saraki and his co-defectors and stated thus, “For the progressive to be in power they need the support and collaborations of some conservative. After attaining power, the conservative would, on their own, walk away. The progressive would now build a great party that would move the nation forward.” So, what is happening currently in the politics of Nigeria was prophesied about 50 years by a great sage.
Speaking on the chances of President Buhari in the 2019 general elections, Amaechi said, “Nigerians will certainly reject a second looting”. He went further to state, “On those that defected at the House of Representatives and Senate, where do they come from? They come from areas that the President is comfortable. Do you honestly believe that the President will lose election in Sokoto? We are not God, but it’s one of his comfort zones. If you bring the President on a sick bed to Bauchi and Kano, he will win, and he has never lost election in Bauchi. But that is a bit arrogant on our side; we should not underestimate them. I am not God. It is only God who can say the APC will win or not. But what is clear is that if you remove the God element, I think we are prepared to coast to victory because Nigerians will certainly reject a second looting. Nigeria can’t survive a second looting. Never!”
Apart from Buhari, Tinubu, Rotimi Amaechi’s name is the only name you hear during the ‘cursing-laden-time’ at PDP campaigns. His life was obviously in danger. They boasted that after the election, Amaechi would be arrested, ridiculed and severely punished for daring to oppose and working the re-election of Goodluck Jonathan, whose wife is from Okrika, Rivers State. What did he do? He resisted Jonathan’s illegal transfer of Rivers State oil rich-land to Bayelsa and worst of all, he supported Muhammadu Buhari right from the primaries to the election, proper. Buhari was hated so much by the wailers in the South South.
Amaechi is rare breed, scarcely found in Nigerian politics. He is a great stabilizer and a harbinger of a good cause.
I just pray and hope that those who were aware of the risks that this man took to get President Buhari elected will assist him in his second missionary journey to ensure the continuity of the administration of President Buhari for the great future of our dear country.
Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt.