Understanding Amaechi’s Brinkmanship

18 Jul 2013

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Rotimi Amaechi


Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi should take the initiative to resolving the crisis in the state, writesLewis Chukwuma In currently and clearly daring his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a scenario at the core of the extant Rivers State crisis, Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State is essentially attempting to redefine the old quirky game of political brinkmanship. First, let’s quickly tidy up the meaning of the term. Brinkmanship is the practice of pushing dangerous events to the verge of - or to the brink of - disaster in order to achieve the most advantageous outcome.

It occurs in international politics, foreign policy, labour relations, and (in contemporary settings) military strategy involving the threatened use of weapons of mass destruction (in Rivers’ case - the speaker’s mace, camera tripods, ADCs and incendiary rhetoric were deployed!).
This ploy of pushing a situation with the ‘opponent’ to the brink succeeds by forcing the opponent to back down and make concessions. This might be achieved through diplomatic maneuvers by creating the impression that one is willing to use extreme methods rather than concede. The dangers of brinkmanship as a political or diplomatic tool can be understood as a slippery slope. Amaechi is apparently realising that he is on a slippery slope. Egged on and applauded by the opposition arrowheads outside his region, he is unlikely to acknowledge this reality.

But what is the genesis of the state parliament’s crisis and Amaechi’s war game against his party? It is on record that the Rivers State House of Assembly was the most harmonious until the sacking of the chairman of Obio-Akpor Local Government Area of the state at the veiled instance of Governor Amaechi.

But this script met with the stiff objection of five state parliamentarians who kicked against the process; the other 27 Amaechi loyalists stuck to their guns while the state government said it was purely a legislative action. Subsequently, Amaechi appointed a care-taker chairman who assumed office from the elected chairman.

In sacking the LGA chairman, Amaechi knew the fellow is a core sympathiser to the current Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, a loyalist of President Goodluck Jonathan. A former local government chair under ex-Governor Odili, Nyesom is believed to have borne the lion share of the litigations bill that gave the governorship position to Amaechi.

Along the line, cleavages emerged between Amaechi and Nyesom, a scenario not helped by open disagreements between Amaechi and First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan over demolition of the Port Harcourt waterfront. When the Rivers-Bayelsa and Akwa-Ibom/Rivers oil issues came to the fore, further cleavages widened the distance between Amaech and President Jonathan.

The governors’ forum brouhaha and latest bust-up in the state House of Assembly which supplied opposition advisors to Amaechi more ammunition to cash in to undercut President Jonathan’s 2015 agenda, using Amaechi maximally sums up the sorry story. It will be recalled that Amaechi was suspended in May for disobeying the directive of the state PDP asking him to reinstate the suspended chairman and executive of Obio/Akpor local government.

At any point in this tragi-comic trajectory, Amaechi could have tracked back to his party and President Jonathan to seek off-the-radar resolution and accommodation. He did not but chose the current ego-fired brinkmanship as a political strategy for survival. By choosing to buck his party and seek support outside his zone and original political platform, Amaechi is seen to be missing a fundamental point.
For the first in the nation’s history, a Niger Delta son is president and all logic would presuppose that his greatest support will come from the South-south, first before other geo-political regions. The calculative opposition knows this and that is why they are going into over-drive mode to exploit the situation.

But rather curiously, recently, a significant voice from the South-west counseled Amaechi himself to make up his mind as to where he wants to stand. Just last week, the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, asked the Rivers State governor to either reconcile with his party or defect to the opposition in order to resolve the crisis in his state.

Spokesman of the group, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, told journalists that as much as Afenifere condemned the violence and unconstitutional attempt to remove the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, it also blamed Amaechi for the crisis in the state.

“We do not support any attempt to use undemocratic means to solve democratic problems. We think he is the cause of some of these crises. If he wants to defect to the opposition, let him do so. He cannot continue to use the platform of PDP to hold the party to ransom and think there will be no crisis. Most of the people who are supporting him from the opposition will not tolerate this kind behaviour from any of their members.”

Odumakin advised Amaechi to act in the interest of the people by either defecting or reconciling with the Presidency and the leadership of PDP.
For a prominent son of South-south to be receiving such a counsel from a rival region’s political intelligentsia – even if a faction - is seen to speak to the shocking level of political degeneration that Amaechi is nurturing.

On the other hand, clearly, this is one counsel Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the arrowhead of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) will detest. As far as Tinubu is concerned, the Afenifere has no business meddling with his business, especially with the nearness of 2015 and with a delicate political coalition building in the works.

From a synthesis of current political analysis related to the Rivers crisis, political oblivion beckons on Amaechi if he will or cannot drop his current strategy of brinkmanship and quietly seek new accommodation with his party and president. Of course, he is entitled to choices other than that. From the latest crisis within the precincts of the state parliament, there is nothing about Honourable Chidi Lloyds and his brutal gang that can save Amaechi’s skin in the long run.

Folks that are low on integrity and high on bravado will certainly negotiate accommodation for themselves to remain in power and avoid long jail terms, clearly realising there is no such thing as legislative immunity for attempted murder.

What’s more, impeaching a governor is technically comparable to the script deployed in removing Obio-Akpor LGA Chairman. Amaechi should consider restoring the Obio-Akpor LGA chairman as a confidence building measure. He can no longer glibly claim it was purely a "legislative affair" given his physical intervention in favour of the 27 lawmakers at the state parliament.

If he can intervene in a legislative fracas to save the majority, then he must also intervene to restore the chairman. Governor Amaechi could make or mar a promising political future by the choice he makes in resolving this festering and hugely embarrassing drama today.
-Chukwuma, a public affairs analyst, is based in Abuja

Tags: Politics, Nigeria, Featured, Brinkmanship

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