More than his primary posting as the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi is currently challenged by the intricate politics of 2023, in his assignment to return President Muhammadu Buhari to office in 2019, writes Olawale Olaleye
There is no debating his role in the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. As early as the beginning of 2013, Amaechi had taken a position that given the state of the nation at the time, the one person needed to defeat then President Goodluck Jonathan as well as commence the process of healing the country was Buhari. Even when others were still considering other candidates and clandestinely instigating them to set the space on fire by showing interest in the presidential bout, Amaechi remained immovable as he deployed his resources to the election and put his all on the line until Buhari emerged victorious.
However, those who know the goings-on in the corridor of power are of the belief that since the party emerged victorious, there has been conscious move to shove Amaechi aside in the Villa. This is because those who are known to call the shots now in the Villa can hardly stand him and everything is said to be done with a view to whittling his influence and strain his relationship with Buhari.
In fact, the reason many believe Buhari has not yielded to the plan or pressure to decimate Amaechi is because he is said to genuinely like the former Rivers State governor and has refused to listen to some of the side talks concocted to undermine him.
Buhari, perhaps, saw the direction of the power game in the Villa and the plot to relegate Amaechi hence he bought into the idea by some of his close associates to return Amaechi as the Director-General of his campaign for the 2019 polls as early as many could hardly relate to. The development was exclusively reported by THISDAY sometime in April, even though it was initially dismissed and the report almost discredited by those opposed to Amaechi, it later turned out to be true.
Unfortunately, for Amaechi, that marked the beginning of another crisis for him in the corridor of power. While the president has remained unperturbed about the ongoing mudslinging, which seeks to have Amaechi dropped as the campaign DG, the power game has intensified especially since after the national convention of the party two weekends ago, which produced a leadership many believed may not be disposed to Amaechi’s choice as the campaign DG.
It was therefore not surprising, when last week the news of a simmering crisis in the APC broke out. It was said that some governors in conjunction with a former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu as well as some top security officers, who have their eyes on 2023, had begun to gang-up against the Minister of Transportation, principally to replace him as the Director-General of Buhari’s 2019 campaign.
The interestingly thing about the news was that the development, according to the THISDAY report, owed largely to the scheming and positioning ahead of the 2023 presidential run, a development a majority of party members reckoned would cut out the challenge of the new leadership of the APC led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, a former Edo State governor.
According to the development exclusively reported by THISDAY last week, the plot to displace Amaechi as the Campaign DG had been on long before the national convention but kept under wrap till after the exercise, as some of the actors had waited to see how the convention would eventually pan out.
One of the reasons Amaechi’s is said to being opposed as the Campaign DG job was because many of the APC leaders felt he had a presidential ambition in 2023 and that the platform could put him in a vantage position that would enable him leverage his ambition.
Although some of the northern governors, who ordinarily were Amaechi’s friends, were believed not to be averse to his ambition if established to be true, the problem they were said to have with him was that he had flaunted too much his relationship with El-rufai, a situation being interpreted to mean that the Kaduna governor might be his favourite running mate in the event that he chooses to run in 2023.
This is one major reason Tinubu was said to be against Amaechi as the Campaign DG because he too (Tinubu) had never hidden his interest in the nation’s top job and had taken the step forward to rally potential northern governors by dangling the running mate ticket before them, without showing preference for anyone for now.
It was however understandable that these northern governors considered their chances brighter and open with Tinubu than it could be with Amaechi whom they believed might have settled for El-rufai.
It was in sync with this plot that they conceiving new conditions for potential presidential campaign DG, who according to the new rule, must be a serving governor and must also be the current chairman of the Nigeria Governor’s Forum, which initially narrows the job down to the Zamfara State Governor, Yari Aziz.
But there is a second option which is considering the outgoing Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, who is the chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum. The choice of Okorocha is also strategic and deliberate to undermine Amaechi, because until Buhari overturned the Imo APC congresses, Okorocha believed Amaechi was instrumental to the development in his state as he was said to have accused the minister of funding his enemies, amongst whom was Senator Osita Izunazo, who had successfully taken the party structure from him before Buhari ordered a reverse even when the congresses were inconclusive.
The plot to have Amaechi out as campaign DG also corroborates an existing theory about possible camaraderie between the APC and some Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), governors on the understanding that they would deliver the presidential election and they too would be allowed to return. This is particularly instructive for Amaechi as the governor of his state, Rivers, Nyesom Wike, is technically the sole owner of PDP and would gladly negotiate his way through the 2019 election at the expense of Amaechi.
However, such an understanding would be difficult to achieve if Amaechi remains the DG of the campaign. Thus, the need to edge him out has become almost sacrosanct for those, who are scheming fast ahead of 2023. Whilst it may be correct to assume that Buhari is not aware of some of the intrigues dotting the development, the assumption is that he created the atmosphere for such politics to thrive. And whilst his knowledge of some of these intrigues is nearly non-existent, he has refused to let those who know it to play it.
Thus, a short meeting, which reportedly held between Tinubu and Amaechi the other weekend, in Lagos, where the former Lagos governor was said to have asked Amaechi to drop his position as DG confirmed some of the high wire politics ahead of the 2023 election. But, according to the report, when Amaechi allegedly insisted he would remain the DG, Tinubu then asked him to resign his position as minister if he must cling unto his appointment as Buhari’s campaign DG.
Sources said Amaechi immediately reeled off names of political parties’ DGs, who did not resign their former positions as at the time they took the job of DG in previous elections, noting that there was nothing conflicting between the two interests to the best of his knowledge. He was said to have also mentioned at the meeting that the talk about his presidential ambition was the imagination of certain persons in the party, because he had never shared any such information with anyone.
But his own allies in the party were said to have kicked against such openness, when he should have known that Tinubu at all times always has one game or the other up his sleeve, reiterating that the information on where he intended to be or what he’d do in 2023 was too much for such a meeting, more so for someone, who would never believe him.
With the recent breakaway of a faction of the party, the task ahead of the 2019 presidential election becomes more intricate and the need for a collaboration of all interests is also not negotiable.
Unfortunately, whilst those opposed to Amaechi are thinking 2023, Amaechi’s next act is how to successfully deliver Buhari in 2019, a task some of the recent developments have made nearly impossible. But the first step is to keep the distractions already heaped in his way low and come together as a body to fight an already menacing opposition.
To say the APC and Buhari would find the 2019 election more challenging than their 2015 experience is saying the obvious. With lack of unity, gapping mistrust and individual disillusionment, APC is fast becoming a shadow of itself. Yet, the choice of what happens next is entirely theirs and how they are able to manage their obvious artificial misadventures.