HOW ROTIMI AMAECHI CONCEDED THE GOVERNANCE OF RIVERS STATE TO NYESOM WIKE: A LESSON IN POLITICAL PARTNERSHIP
It wont be wrong to say that the erstwhile governor of Rivers State conceded his mandate to govern Rivers State early in the life of his administration. It was widely reported recently that his successor and the foremost beneficiary of his political patronage, Governor Ezebuwon Nyesom Wike, in a stakeholders gathering in Port Harcourt recently labelled him “the biggest mugu”. It is for this reason that this article is looking at how political patronage should not be articulated. It is sad to observe how thriving political cooperation and partnership fail because of devious political calculations by excessively ambitious politicians.
A political leader is not one without the following and support of the people over whom he superintends. This was why, in the Biblical account of the intervention of Abraham in the war in which 4 kings won against 5, it is recorded that Abraham arrayed 380 menservants in his service, ambushed and overtook the victorious armies of the 4 kings recovering all – both economic and political powers – that were taken away as booties of war from the Kingdom of Sodom.
That account has it that when the King of Sodom received and celebrated Abraham’s victory, he asked him to take all the properties of Sodom he recovered but hand his people over to him. It was certain to the King of Sodom that he could never be King over Sodom without the people, so he volunteered to negotiate and concede the economic power of Sodom to Abraham for the restoration of his political authority over his people. So it takes the following of the people for a leader to exert political authority and relevance.
Amaechi’s Political Laxity
In the case of Rivers State, and because of the unfortunate circumstances that led to Olusegun Obasanjo’s “K-legging the candidacy of Rotimi Amaechi as flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2007 Gubernatorial elections in the State that led to his withdrawal and substitution with Celestine Omehia, Ezebuwon Nyesom Wike, the incumbent Governor, who amongst others believed Obasanjo’s action was a travesty of justice, voluntarily, with the support of others, took the matter up legally and won back Rotimi Amaechi’s mandate at the Supreme Court in a rascally judicial ruling that set aside an equally rascally executive impunity. It was this victory that led to the seizure of the authority of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as Governor of Rivers State by Ezebuwon Nyesom Wike from the very beginning.
The first two appointments Rotimi Amaechi made immediately he took over as Governor of Rivers State were that of the Secretary to the Rivers State Government, which fell to Magnus Abbe and that of the Chief of Staff Government House, which fell to Ezebuwon Nyesom Wike. From thence, every politically enlightened resident of River State knows that Nyesom Wike, from the shadows, ran the first term of the Amaechi’s administration from 2007 to 2011.
Of particular note was Wike’s insistence in June 2009 that one of Amaechi’s personal nomination to the State Executive Council and his Commissioner of Lands be dropped from the cabinet because, according to him, he must be in charge of all appointments relating to Obio Akpo Local Government Area, from where he comes. That Commissioner was compensated with his appointment by Rotimi Amaechi for having sheltered him when he was on self exile at the time the legal battle for the restoration of his mandate was been fought. This was the first indication of Wike’s resistance to Amaechi’s authority; and a governor in the skin of Godswill Akpabio would have handled this challenge differently and sternly but Amaechi was cowed into submission. It was a golden opportunity Amaechi missed in resting the political intolerance of Nyesom Wike but he chose to be a nice man. There was entirely nothing Nyesom Wike desired in Amaechi’s government that he did not take except if it had to do with the interest of the first family at that time.
The Politics Of Amaechi’s Second Term
In the days leading to the 2011 general elections, and as a political maestro whose eyes was on the future, Nyesom Wike emerged as the Director General of the Chibuike Amaechi re-election campaign organisation; and used this position to build the bridge of reconciliation across to meet all the prominent politicians who were aggrieved with the continuation of Rotimi Amaechi as governor of Rivers State. Of particular note was his mid night visit to the residence of Celestine Omehia to persuade him to withdraw his governorship candidacy of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and to support the re-election bid of Rotimi Amaechi. Though he did not succeed with this bid, he succeeded in closing ranks with Celestine Omehia and majority of those who were not disposed to supporting Amaechi’s governorship. Nyesom Wike enduringly cultivated the Peter Odili political dynasty, which was already relegated to the background in the politics of Rivers State.
When Rotimi Amaechi commenced his second term administration, one of the major decisions he made was to remove Nyesom Wike from Rivers State. If Wike was given any opportunity to choose what office he would love to occupy between 2011 and 2015, he would have chosen to remain the Chief of Staff Rivers State Government House for the security of tenure, especially after conceding his senatorial ambition to Dame Patience Jonathan who insisted that George Thompson Sekibo be given a second term mandate in the Senate.
Rotimi Amaechi, having endured been in the shadow of Nyesom Wike during his first 4 years as Governor of Rivers State, according to reports, pleaded with President Jonathan, who had already made up his mind to give a former President a slot to nominate Ama Pepple as minister from Rivers State to represent the South South zone; and had personally penciled his erstwhile Foreign Minister, Odein Ajumogobia, for reappointment, to discountenance the reappointment of Odein Ajumogobia and relieve him of the menace of Nyesom Wike remaining in Rivers State by considering him to represent Rivers State as a minister.
This was how Nyesom Wike became the Minister of State for Education in the Jonathan administration. It was at this point that Rotimi Amaechi conceded his second term mandate again as Governor of Rivers State and this may have been the only reason why Governor Wike recently called him the “biggest mugu”.
The question is: what would have happened if Rotimi Amaechi had dropped Nyesom Wike from his cabinet and anchored his helplessness to compensate him upon President Jonathan’s decision to reappoint Odein Ajumogobia as minister? It was at this point that Rotimi Amaechi missed it all politically and this cost him the stability of his second term regime. It was ensured that he remained a mere figure head in Rivers state; and only the sympathies of majority of Nigerians, especially the Civil Societies that kept him to complete his tenure because “impunity” was relocated to Rivers State.
The Emergence Of Felix Obuah As Rivers State PDP Chairman
It was “flying news” carried among close associates of Rotimi Amaechi at the peak of his political war with the Presidency and the leadership of the PDP; and at the time when the Presidency was embarrassed by his emergence as Chairman, Nigerian Governor’s Forum that Nyesom Wike decided to use the Certificate of Return issued to confirm Godspower Ake as Chairman of the PDP in the State, which he had detained in advance as a political strategy to cash in on the patronage of the first family and the PDP national leadership. That Rotimi Amaechi allowed him to keep that certificate on behalf of GU Ake and the PDP was another “mugu-ish” mistake he made.
At this time, Rotimi Amaechi was suspended from the PDP and was no longer the party leader in Rivers State; so the continued allegiance of Godspower Ake to Rotimi Amaechi, and the reserved slight Nyesom Wike felt with the appointment of his arch-enemy in the politics of Obio Akpor Local Government Area, Tony Okocha, as his successor to the office of the Rivers State Chief of Staff, woke him up to the occasion and he demanded from President Jonathan and the PDP leadership to allow him lead the battle to snatch Rivers State from the grips of Rotimi Amaechi; and he did this dirty, never minding the notoriety.
Nyesom Wike produced the certificate that returned GU Ake as Chairman of PDP in Rivers State, which was in his possession and requested that the party national leadership issued another certificate in the name of Felix Obuah as the Chairman elected in the congress that produced GU Ake. They got the returning officer to that congress and the PDP Chairman for Edo State, Dan Obih, to endorse the new certificate and to accept to testify as a witness before the Federal High Court that declared Felix Obuah the duly recognised Chairman of the PDP in Rivers State.
At this point Rotimi Amaechi began his struggle of political survival. The menace of Joseph Mbu, the judicial and legislative crisis that engulfed the State during this period are still green in the memories of Nigerians. Both Dame Patience Jonathan and Nyesom Wike ensured that Amaechi did not enjoy stability in his governance of Rivers State.
The Battle For The Political Soul Of Rivera State
Upon gaining ascendancy to the leadership of Rivers State PDP, the support of the presidency and the backing of the national leadership of the PDP, Nyesom Wike spent and was spent to ensure that the State PDP was remade in his image. He established the Grassroots Development Movement (GDM) as a PDP bloc; which he ultimately transformed into his campaign organisation to contest the 2015 governorship elections in the State. He spared nothing in ensuring that GDM was entrenched in every ward in Rivers State.
While Nyesom Wike was welding and building political influence, consolidating his hold of the polity, rebuilding the broken walls of the Odili political dynasty using the apparatus of the office of the Minister of State for Education, Rotimi Amaechi was distracted with canvassing other aggrieved PDP governors to consider a political realignment outside of the PDP. He constantly flew over the Nigeria skies and sometimes got officially detained via his private jet in order to frustrate his bid to actualise the marriage of his PDP team with the All Progressive Congress, which at that time had built a multi-party merger to procure victory in the next elections.
Whenever Amaechi was in his State, it was either Joseph Mbu or Dame Jonathan that would shut him in from using the roads in Port Harcourt. On an instance he was embarrassingly blocked from accessing his officially residence along Forces Avenue in GRA Port Harcourt. All credit for the survival of Rotimi Amaechi during this time rests squarely on the table of Lai Mohammed, the APc National Publicity Secretary, who opened up the window that showed the world the effectual impunity the regime of President Jonathan exerted on the government of Rivers State.
The 2015 General Elections In Rivers State
The campaigns that culminated in the 2015 elections in March and April peaked the political rivalry between Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and Ezebuwon Nyesom Wike and their contest for the political leadership of Rivers State. A neutral view of the situation at that time showed the ambition of Nyesom Wike as the one to beat. He was clearly “shoulder above” every politician in Rivers State including the incumbent governor. He had his ways where the governor could not have his. He showed political finesse in how he emerged the PDP governorship candidate for Rivers State. While everyone ruled him out of the contest for being from the same Ikwerre stock as the incumbent governor; promoting the emergence of a candidate from the riverine bloc, Nyesom Wike concentrated on building the fortunes of the PDP in the State.
It was rumoured that Dame Jonathan supported the aspiration of George Thompson Sekibo and other interests that were entrenched to take the PDP governorship ticket for the State. At the appropriate time, all Wike did was to showcase how the fortunes of the PDP were in his firm grip and how his non consideration for the party’s ticket would cost the PDP the government of Rivers State. He gave undeniable and very fearful proofs to buttress this fact. He proved how it was not about his ambition but about the wishes of the Rivers people to have him as their governor.
The only political structure the PDP relied on in that election was that of Wike’s GDM. Apart from these, he had warmed himself into the political consciousness of the “who is who” in the politics of Rivers State by appropriately channeling all subsequent political appointments meant for Rivers State and empowering several indigenes with contract allocations for the construction and renovations of primary, secondary and Al’majiri schools.
One character that stands Wike above Amaechi is that while Amaechi is a stingy man, Wike is offensively large hearted and an obscene spender of money. His residence is the most beseeched by every class of the Rivers people. Ezebuwon Nyesom Wike is one politician who knows when to eat the humble pie, stooping to conquer; while Rotimi Amaechi has always counted on his good fortunes such as Goodluck Ebele Jonathan enjoyed during his political ascension. He has usually enjoyed favourable court judgments and the peoples’ sympathies.
It was at the election proper, especially during the Presidential and National Assemblies elections that the political naivety of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi clearly manifested when he arrogantly instructed all Local Government Chairmen to ensure elections did not hold in their localities and advised supporters of the APC to boycott the elections. This was the peak of his political shortsightedness and this is the reason all elections into the National Assembly were upheld by the Election Petition Tribunal for the State. That boycott ruled them out of gathering intelligent evidences that could be used at the elections tribunal.
I share the same polling unit with the Oji Ngofa, the incumbent National Assistant Secretary of the APC and I observed how he prevented the elections from holding in my unit and jumped ship a few minutes later. I waited until 5pm that day when INEC Ad Hoc staff left with all materials intact. It was the next day that I heard that elections held that night as I was preparing to return to my polling unit to vote. It was indeed over and this was how Amaechi instigated the entire loss of the APC in the National Assembly elections including the rulings of the elections tribunal, which rulings on petitions differs from the one ruled on the State Assembly elections.
I suppose these are the reasons why Ezebuwon Nyesom Wike had the audacity to call Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi the “biggest (political) mugu” and I have chosen to put all these to the record as a lesson for politicians to learn from, especially political leaders, for them to know that politics is like a gamble. Like Kenny Rogers wrote in his song, the gambler – “you’ve got to know when to hold on, know when fold up, know when to walk away, know when to run…you never count your money, when sitting there at the table; there’ll be time enough for counting when the deal is done”.
Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi did not recognise “the time of his redemption” and he is today still struggling to keep his house from becoming desolate. He refused to learn the Kenny Roger way: “every gambler knows the secret to surviving, knowing what (who) to throw away, knowing what (who) to keep…for every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser, and all that you can hope for is to done in the win”.