Let me start by stating clearly that I am a close friend of Governor Chibuike Amaechi and therefore unlikely to be objective. I will therefore advise all those who choose to read beyond this point to bear that in mind. I am also a citizen of Nigeria with a clear interest in the progress and prosperity of my country. In our zoning federation, I am from the South - South zone, which gives me more than a passive stake in the success of the Jonathan Presidency.
That said, let me also point out that in the light of what has been happening in the media of late I could have chosen to write this article under a pseudo name like a lot of the sponsored articles in the media in recent times, but I am concerned enough about the subject matter of this article to desire to be on the public record for the future.
I have a pastor friend who comes to pray with me and he always begins his prayers by calling on God to protect me from every “unfriendly friend”, and every “unbrotherly brother”. I have often wondered if that phrase is grammatically correct, but I have since learnt that regardless of the grammar this pastor knows what he is praying against.
Nothing can be more deadly to a leader than vipers in your bosom masquerading as house pets.
In the last couple of weeks the media has been awash with bizarre stories about how Amaechi is fighting the President: oblique pictures of Lamido and Amaechi’s ticket, mischievous stories on how the presidency is set to deal with Amaechi, fermented stories about Niger Delta governors opposed to the president etc.
Even the recent visit to Port Harcourt by the national chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, which well meaning members of the party saw as a positive move to reassure all stake holders, was ingeniously misrepresented in sections of the media.
The unsolved puzzle in this drama is that the President and Amaechi are both from the South - South zone. I am a politician, and like any honest politician will tell you, (yes there are honest politicians) there is no politician without opposition even in his ward.
What I have always seen in politics is that your opponents spend money and resources to convince the world that you have no support in your base. I have never seen a situation where your own supporters spend massive amounts of money to convince the world that you are facing a firefight in your own backyard. The reason for the former is simple, your supporters want people to think you are strong at home to discourage those outside from trying to take you on.
Let me review one of these issues in the media: “The Orubebe outburst”. Seven months ago there was a tanker accident along the East - West Road near Ahoada in Rivers State. It resulted in a fire, lives were lost, and Amaechi as Governor of Rivers State promptly visited the scene to condole with the victims. The Governor subsequently called on the Federal Government to allow the Niger Delta states to complete East - West Road and the Federal government can refund them.
This is a practice that has been ongoing in this country. Several states have fixed federal roads and have been refunded. Indeed President Jonathan himself recently granted a state permission to fix a federal road with every assurance that they will be refunded. At no time has this practice ever been remotely viewed as an affront to the president. Indeed under late President Yaradua, Amaechi publicly made the same offer in respect of the Bodo /Bonny road.
In any case Amaechi’s comment on the East - West Road was made seven months ago. Strangely, the minister waited this long to digest the comments and convince himself that they were against President Jonathan. If the minister of Niger Delta affairs had made his comment in any of the States in the South - West, and it had received half of the publicity it got, right thinking people would have accused the opposition of fanning disaffection, and trying to sow discord in the president’s home base, but the statement was made in a South - South capital and yet it was front page news in every news paper in the country, with the presidents name right in the middle of it.
I have served as a commissioner for information and I know for a fact, that if the information managers on the spot, (which would have been those of the governor and the minister) so desired, the president’s name could have been kept out, and Orubebe’s attack or response to Amaechi would have been no less valid.
By bringing in the president’s name Orubebe may have gained some power points by identifying himself as the minister who takes on the President’s perceived enemies, but it is difficult to see how the President himself benefited from the exchange. In any case, the attack on Amaechi will not fix the East - West Road, and Niger Deltans will always credit the governor for drawing attention to the slow pace of work on the road. It is important that we remember that Amaechi’s initial comment did not get more than fleeting attention at the time.
Since then more of such articles and stories against Amaechi have flowed freely in the media, with all sorts of frivolous litigations, plots against anything perceived to be related or connected to the governor. This includes a court case sponsored by a serving minister in the Jonathan administration against the Rivers state PDP exco.
My late father, who in his life time managed to combine two seemingly impossible professions as a priest and a politician, advised me to inherit his friends, but make my own enemies. Mr. President should be careful lest “unfriendly friends” and “unbrotherly brothers” bequeath their personal enemies to him. He should accept their friends but be careful to make his own enemies.
The basis for the persecution of Amaechi as an enemy of President Jonathan is that he allegedly wants to be Vice President. I am sure that anybody who knows the history of Nigeria, understands that those who want to be Vice President do not behave like Governor Amaechi. They do not freely voice their opinion on sensitive issues because they know that potential presidential candidates are unlikely to pick a Vice President who has his own views on national issues. A governor with an eye on the vice presidency is more likely to ingratiate himself with the President, sponsor media attacks on potential opponents, declare early interest in the Senate as a red herring in a bid to remove themselves from the line of fire, while accumulating dubious awards.
Having invested so many resources to reveal to the world that Jonathan has a serious challenge in his home base, those “unbrotherly brothers” must of necessity settle the problem they have created. The President must now turn to the South - South to ‘stabilize’ the zone by neutralizing the Amaechi threat. This project will take precedence in time and resources and divert the President’s attention from pressing national issues.
Herein lies the danger of this ungodly enterprise, even if it succeeds the real benefits for Jonathan will be minimal, and his opponents will benefit more politically. No matter how it ends, the true beneficiaries will be the carpetbaggers, and buccaneers around the President, who actually have nothing at stake.
In presenting themselves as solving a big problem for the president they guarantee their relevance in the Jonathan presidency regardless of the outcome; if the venture succeeds they pick the booty from Rivers State as legitimate spoils of a war. If it fails they lose nothing, but they would have handed the President a real problem in his backyard that he neither needs nor deserves.
Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is the President of the federal republic of Nigeria. The peace, prosperity and progress of Nigeria is the real challenge facing the President. What the President needs is the ‘friendship and goodwill” of all Nigerians particular the Governors. He should find lieutenants who can turn even potential adversaries to friends and supporters by their performance.
One of the most instructive stories I heard in the Nigerian Senate was the story of a former senator who was nominated as a minister under a former President. The entire Senate rose as one in support of his nomination he was cleared with a bow and thunderous applause in the red chambers. Senators met the president to appeal that he be given a ministry befitting the Senate, and he was.
After the appointment of the minister, things seemed to get worse between the Villa and the National Assembly. The man never had a good word to say about his former colleagues. The President later confided in someone that he was worried about this minister, if he can do this to "his own brothers" what will he do to us? Let us watch out, the unbrotherly brothers, and unfriendly friends in the South - South may end up being the real problem of the President.
*Senator Abe represents Rivers South East Senatorial District in the National Assembly