Amaechi: A Political Warrior Trying to Regain His Footing

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After a dismal showing in the 2015 elections, another attempt by the Minister of Transportation and former Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, to regain his foothold in the oil rich state during the just concluded rerun polls did not go quite as planned, writes Segun James

For the Minister of Transport, who is also a former governor of Rivers state, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, the outcome of the Rivers State National and State Assemblies elections is no less some sweet revenge. It is also an opportunity to stamp his authority as the political leader of the state. Results from the Rivers Election re-run showed that the All Progressives Congress (APC) favourably challenged the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in its stronghold, despite the politically stifling environment.

In Khana/Gokana federal constituency in the district, Maurice Pronem of the APC polled 68,219 votes to defeat Dumnamene Dekor of the PDP, who secured 20,329 votes. In Tai/Oyigbo/Eleme federal constituency, Barry Mpigi of the APC garnered 48,760 votes to defeat Jacobson Nbina of the PDP rival, who secured 11,737 votes. In Khana state constituency 2, Friday Nkeeh of the APC got 15,000 votes and defeated Dinebari Loolo of the PDP, who polled 4,000 votes.

The results also showed that Magnus Abe, candidate of the APC for the senatorial seat won and was returned to the upper chamber of the National Assembly. However, in the two senatorial districts, the PDP won.

Alarmed by the ease with which the APC gained grounds in the state, Governor Nyesom Wike and other leaders of the PDP accused security operatives of collaborating with the APC to rig the election (perhaps, the same manner they came into office in the first place), forcing the Nigerian Army to issue a statement.

According to Maj. Gen. Kasimu Abdulkarim, General Officer Commanding 6 division of the Army, who insisted that those behind the reports of partisanship were bent on tarnishing the image of the army, while revealing that the soldiers rescued 16 abducted corps members and some policemen, who were ambushed by the militants many believed were recruited by the PDP.

“They acted swiftly in response to security breaches in order to enforce the law, provide aid to the police and other security agencies especially in areas like Abonema, Etche, Gokhana, Ikwere, Eleme, Tai, Khana and Omoku amongst others,” Abdulkarim said in a statement, adding that “Susceptibility of mentioned areas warranted providing security for the electoral officials, voters, international and local observers, in conjunction with other security agencies by soldiers for a peaceful election to thrive in the environment.

“In Gokhana, armed hoodlums engaged the soldiers providing outer perimeter defence for the electorate. In Abonema, there were three explosions that created bedlam. Subsequently, 11 NYSC members were abducted along with electoral materials. However, 10 of them were rescued two hours later by the soldiers while one was rescued about eight hours later. At Emouha, five NYSC members were abducted with election materials in a Siena bus. The corps members were rescued while the suspect was handed over to the police.

“Several shootings were recorded in some communities such as Bodo, the home town of the secretary to the state government, and Mogho in Gokhana local government area, including snatching of ballot boxes. The most brutal incidence occurred at Ujju Community near Omoku in Onelga, where police patrol team was ambushed. In the ambush, 10 policemen scampered into the bush.

“These attacks are reasonable evidence of violations of breach of law and order which portray the area as a flash point. In spite of this barbarism, soldiers acted with civility and professionalism in guaranteeing peaceful election. Some people allegedly accused soldiers of ballot box snatching, illegal escorts of some politicians, arrest and detention of voters during the general conduct of the elections.

“The weighty nature of these allegations could cause members of the public to view soldiers negatively, hence the need to adequately inform the general public on the true perspective. The public thus need to consider them as mere farce to garner public sympathy.”

Following his declaration as the winner of the Rivers East senatorial district, Senator Magnus Abe issued a statement thanking the people and more especially his political leader, Amaechi but not without mockingly calling on Governor Wike to congratulate him (Abe) for winning the election.

“First is to say that this has been a titanic struggle; it has been a very difficult two years for Rivers people and for all of us. My victory in this election is a reward for faithfulness. I have been faithful to my party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). I have been faithful to my people, the people of the Rivers South East Senatorial District and I have been faithful to my leaders and I think God in his infinite mercies has rewarded me with this unprecedented victory. There is no victor, no vanquish.

“I also want to use this opportunity to extend a hand of friendship to the executive Governor of Rivers State, Barrister Nyesom Wike and to say to him that he had promised that there was nothing personal in this contest and he has said that if I win, he will congratulate me. The only barometer for measuring success in an election in this country is the declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the commission has declared me the winner.

“I want to call on the governor to keep his words and send me his letter and words of congratulation because I have won. I want to also say that Rivers State has suffered enough and that it is time for us to bring this contest to an end.

“I want to thank my leaders, President Muhammadu Buhari, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, my wife, my family and most importantly, the people of Rivers South East Senatorial District. You have spoken and you have spoken loud and clear. We should respect your views. We should work together to make this district a better place for Nigerians to live.”

And as it is usual in recent time, Ekiti State Governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose, who has assumed the position of the leader of the opposition PDP cried out in protest against the election. He described the rerun elections as a sad reminder of the level of destruction already done to the country’s electoral process by the APC government of President Mohammadu Buhari.

“Free, fair and credible election is dead in the country and that whatever victory that is recorded by any political party in the Rivers State election will be nothing but victory at gun-point.”

The governor lamented that it was worrisome that the legacy of free, fair and credible election left by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been destroyed less than two years that the APC assumed power.

“We thought that we had gone past this era of manipulated electoral process after the 2015 general election, which brought the APC and President Buhari to power, but the Buhari administration has taken us back to the stone age by merging his party, APC with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the police, military and other security agencies.”

However, Amaechi, until recently has been seething in anger at the audacity of his cousin and former political godson, Wike to challenge him on the political turf. To the Minister, Wike became governor of the state only because former President Goodluck Jonathan used presidential and federal might to force him to the office.

Now, it is sweet revenge as he was believed to have used the same federal might to liquidate the governor’s political profile and may have, in actual fact, dealt a bigger blow on the PDP dominance in Rivers State politics, seen as the most strategically important state in the South-south geopolitical zone for the APC in the run up to the 2019 general election. The party lost out completely during the last elections in both the zone and the South-east.

Like a magician, Amaechi has practically bulldozed his way into Rivers and captured most of Wike’s strongholds, thereby weakening the state government most effectively with the loss of one senate seat and a number of House of Representatives and State House of Assembly positions.
By all indications, Wike is very vulnerable as his dream for a second coming as governor in 2019 may actually be evaporating right before his very eyes.

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Amaechi has practically bulldozed his way into Rivers and captured most of Wike’s strongholds, thereby weakening the state government most effectively with the loss of one senate seat and a number of House of Representatives and State House of Assembly positions