Recent events in the politics of our country give cause for writing this article. Rotimi Amaechi became the governor of Rivers State following the land mark ruling by the Supreme Court in June 2007. Before then, he was speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly. A post he held for eight solid years. During his time as speaker he was also elected as chairman of conference of speakers.
I was on ground when the Odili regime started, so I had a little knowledge of the workings within the government and the party in general in the state. The events that led to Amaechi becoming a governor including the K-leg episode are still fresh in our minds. The usual saying in politics is that there is no permanent friend but permanent interest. So one is not surprised at what is going on at the state and federal level. But is Amaechi’s jet overshooting the run way recently?
Amaechi’s meteoric rise to the post of Executive Governor of Rivers State was not without opposition as he will tell you himself. In fact the issue is still lingering in the state as his erstwhile cousin Celestine Omehia whose face was on the ballot papers and stood for the election was declared by the Supreme Court as not the bona fide candidate. Omehia it would appear is still nursing the injury of his short lived Brick House experience and working assiduously to get Amaechi out of the coveted Brick House.
Since coming to power, Amaechi has held sway in Rivers State and even beyond. He appears to have played his game well and has been reckoned upon as a youthful governor who is eager to make changes in his domain and Nigeria in general. He has also been accused of arrogance and being disrespectful to his seniors in the business. I have not worked with him but those who have and are continuing to do so say that this young man has guts. They say he says it as he sees it. But continuous reckoning in politics requires tact and only those who have good tactics can survive it. Ask Bola Tinubu and he will tell you. There is time to fight and there is time to retreat. That is Nigerian politics.
I know that Amaechi has his supporters who will go the whole length to praise him and take whatever he says as correct and divine. I have seen and noted this online and even on facebook. He also has his opposition who will not waste time to vilify him for his wrong deeds and his arrogance.
The Bible says judge not so that ye shall not be judged. My mother used to say that when you bend down and are looking at someone else’s back side you also open yours for others to see. This is life.
Politics is about power. The first law written down among the 48 laws of power is “Never outshine the master”. My friend seems to have forgotten this rule. Ask Dr Odili and he will tell you his experience. One would have thought that Amaechi who is a student and political son of Odili would have learnt from his master. I however believe it is not too late.
In Nigeria the Federal Government is the most powerful organ. Given that the Federal Government does play such an important part in our life, it follows that any group or class (or even, in some instances, an individual) that can control the various agencies of the government is potentially very powerful in political, economic and ideological terms. I guess this is what my friend forgot. One can change the power base through influence. Confrontation be it overt or direct in most cases bring out the beast in those confronted. Amaechi will remember that was what happened in Rivers State when a faction of the PDP raised its head. They were crushed and nobody is hearing of them again.
Although the existence of competing political interest means they will each represent a "core" or "fundamental" sectional or personal interest the political system itself involves a number of structural checks and balances over the exercising of power. That is the power game.
I read Magnus Abe’s article titled in whose interest Jonathan vs Amaechi and had cause to reflect on it. Call me myopic; in my opinion, the core issues which seem to pitch Amaechi against Jonathan have nothing to do with the people Amaechi governs in Rivers State. I am from an oil producing rural community which gives the Rivers State Government quite a lot of revenue yet my community has no water to drink and Amaechi’s government has been there since 2007. There are many communities like mine and this is worrisome.
With lack of such basic amenity from government, fraudulent extortions which Amaechi is fighting against at the Federal level become the norm in his backyard. Just recently, I was informed by my community that Dame Judith his wife through her pet project (ESI) wanted the community to cough out over 40 million Naira to establish a nursery school and she will in turn help the community with a water treatment plant which I understand is less than half the amount she has asked them to bring. Imagine an NGO making a community to cough out such an amount of money which could have provided the school on its own. Three months after about half of the money has been wired to the board of directors of ESI, nobody has heard anything.
Those who are involved with this act tend to justify the need for education of our nursery aged children so that they will not be involved in militancy. However, they forget there is no good primary school to continue these children’s education. Also I ask them; has Mrs Amaechi ever visited the community to understand the needs of the community if she so desires to help? I understand the agreement was signed far away from the community. Who told her a nursery school is the top priority in this community without portable water, jetty and constant electricity or even a functional health centre? At least through facebook shouting and sharing of the coloured water in the community, efforts are being made to make water available via the SA on MDGs in the state. This is the politics we are seeing in the state. However, my friend governor has the money to buy jet and helicopters in collaboration with Federal Government. Don’t tell me about safety and security because the greatest security is the welfare of the people.
When Diete-Spiff was governor, we had Water Lines as boats that transported people in the riverine areas and the buses upland. When Spiff bought waterlines he also bought a biplane (sea plane) and nobody was angry. If we are very concerned about the people we govern, then sacrifice and prioritisation is the key word on the part of the governors. I hear from friends that if going to Bonny you will need the help of NLNG. Why should this be so? As for other riverine communities your guess is as good as mine. Ross Alabo George wrote recently on rating your governors that if your governor has not completed old projects but is allocating money for new ones then something is wrong. I believe my friend Amaechi is not alone in this but I thought he had seen enough of uncompleted projects before he became governor that he will run away from projects that will not be completed in his tenure.
Coming back to Amaechi’s disagreement with the Presidency which seems to be in the news every day now, I think my friend and governor requires wisdom. I have read in some media that Jonathan versus Amaechi is about Ijaw and Ikwerre. I bet you this is not about Ijaw versus Ikwerre as some will portend it to be. Some others have also said it is because Amaechi has fallen out with his erstwhile confidant and chief supporter Hon Wike. There also appears to be other reasons adduced such as oil wells trouble between Bayelsa and Rivers, as well as Amaechi’s positions on critical national and party matters. Whatever the reasons may be we all know the bottom line is about power. It is obvious at least for now where the balance of power lies.
Prince Tonye Princewill a very good friend of Amaechi recently in his interview said that those who are supporting Amaechi against Jonathan are doing so for themselves not for the people of Rivers State and I think that is the real truth. Bob Marley sang “He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day”. I will therefore implore my friend to be wise in this imbroglio. I am waiting to see any politician who fought the Presidency and came out unscathed. This is not about fear. The question Amaechi needs to ask himself is whether he is truly convinced that he is fighting a just cause and for the people of Rivers State. I think history will put him in a better position if he concentrates on Rivers State and makes the state an Eldorado. There is still so much work to be done in the state. Many projects he started are still uncompleted and he knows time is not on his side. I am yet to see the goodies the chairmanship of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum has brought to the state. Our state is bigger than any one individual’s ambition. Governors have come and gone but the people remain. I believe with wisdom and humility Amaechi still has a future in the politics and power game of Rivers State and Nigeria. I wish him good luck.