Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that Transportation Minister, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi exhibits certain minor weaknesses which have boldly coloured his essential character
Nigerians cannot miss the name, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. The former governor of Rivers State and current Minister of Transportation seized our collective attention, first, for some of the revolutionary things he was doing as the state Chief Executive. When it was his privilege to call the shots in Rivers, the politician recorded such unforgettable achievements that lifted the profile of the state and instilled in the indigenes a sense of pride.
Amaechi’s performance as a politician seeks to connect directly with the people and excite them with experiences that leave a lasting impression. He understands something more than the fleeting gains of electioneering. Amaechi successfully curtailed the reign of terror and brigandage that was the order of the day before he assumed office. He got the militants to surrender their arms, inspiring the Umaru Yar’Adua presidency to offer clemency to the rebellious youths disrupting operations of oil companies in the Niger Delta. Amaechi it was who tried to build a mono rail as part of the solution to traffic gridlock in the city of Port Harcourt. Work in the project was at an advanced stage when the curtain fell on his administration. His model schools-from primary to secondary-remain today as a testimony to the sheer power of imagination, creativity, ingenuity and vision to build a state that depends on a thoroughly educated and equipped personnel, as scores of teachers and students were trained locally and abroad to promote his vision of a developed Rivers.
He draws inspiration from drudgery of daily living and from his interaction with members of the upper crust of society, in equal measure. This enables him to speak to the interest of the commoners and the bourgeois at the same time.
His honesty is an agreeable nuisance, which often turns him to a victim. Amaechi illustrated with an incident, “In 2015, the army tried to arrest me as a sitting governor. You have a governor who is busy lobbying us, negotiating with us (let us give you presidency, you will give me governor). He is afraid, is he not? Eighty per cent of those who have made a success in Rivers State, passed through me. Wike was my Chief of Staff, I made him Chairman of Council, I inaugurated him as a minister but when he saw Goodluck, he betrayed me. I have been betrayed serially… including senators. After you finish helping them, after praying for them, they will go and betray you for a pot of porridge.”
The Transportation Minister is currently struggling to explain to the Igbos why he said they could not take a shot at the presidency of Nigeria in 2023. Whether or not he enjoys controversy for its sake may result in an unending argument. What is not in doubt is that Amaechi does not shy away from a fight. He can give as much as he can take, regardless of the stature of his opponent. By chance, the former governor of Rivers is a philosopher. Even if sometimes what he says does not seem to make sense immediately. On a deeper reflection, however, they are entirely sensible. Always filled with fundamental statements that may sound harsh, at first, yet offering the best insights. He is the kind of friend every truth seeking individual should have to keep them on the straight and narrow path, that is, if you do not mind the full length of his tongue on any subject. He is a fiercely loyal friend.
And Rotimi Amaechi is, for the most part, aggressive, too. This open inclination to attack is directed at his enemies, whether real or imaginary. Several examples abound. Amaechi can elevate a seeming simple quarrel to a war. By now, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, former first lady, Senator Magnus Abe and Governor Nyesom Wike know they should not have crossed Amaechi’s path. Though he labours to show he is the victim and the betrayed. He does not hold back his hand, once his sword is drawn. Finding peace with Amaechi is more difficult than becoming his friend. While his hands are open to welcome new confidants, once the bond is broken, he often has a most fascinating story of betrayal to tell anyone who cares to listen. Revealing some of the heartrending details to give the tale a whimsical yet naturalistic spin, many are persuaded.
There’s a lot of oddity about Amaechi. Wearing a suit comes naturally to him as wearing his ethnic Rivers attire. He is also at home in casuals. In public, he can be seen with his hands clasped behind his back in a pensive mood. This same man is capable of such stiffness. It is easy to know who his current enemy or friend; and perhaps the issues dear to his heart at any time. Even if the subject at hand was different, he finds a way to connect it to what matters in his world. He strikes playful and emotional chords in every speech.
They are not just for addressing his many wars, as the opportunity presents itself, he drops succinct statements that sparks a national discourse. Often this has some pretty big implications for the various strata of his relationships. Being an Igbo himself, why would he stir the hornet’s nest with his recent statement on the Igbo’s and the 2023 presidential race?
Amaechi is definitely going for more than the sentimental pull. Already, all kinds of invectives have been hauled at him by angry Igbos, for supposedly serving the interest of the Northern bloc. Only a few have supported his position. This could be what the Transportation Minister was hoping for. As a two-time Presidential Campaign Director General for President Muhammadu Buhari, his scorecard has been blighted by an inability to deliver his home state. This bowl filled with bittersweet assessment of his recent exploits in politics is one he wishes did not exist. Both Wike and Abe are painful reminders of his setback in politics on the home front.
However, Amaechi must look beyond his community for the enemies who seek to curtail his bold advancement on the national political scene. That’s a nice theory bandied around by loyalists of Amaechi, while others are saying former Rivers State governor, Dr. Peter Odili comes immediately to mind, for obvious reasons. It is said that Amaechi narrowed the political space for Odili, until he was squeezed out entirely. This grim prospect may be staring the Transportation Minister in the face.
Given the context of the Amaechi/Odili saga, his quarrel with Wike and Abe could be a bit deeper in its messaging, and therefore more fundamental in interpretation. Amaechi will be 54 years on Monday, May 27, a day celebrated as Children’s Day in Nigeria. His life has the capacity for real wisdom about childhood and appreciating the present moment. It is hard to find Amaechi following his own advice and, to play again with those who betrayed and hurt him. This is not like a physician heal thyself mantra. It is more like allowing the lessons guide him into an undeniably truly great Nigerian leader.
OFF THE CUFF:
*I don’t see anything wrong with those war songs I sang during the presidential campaign. Those songs are the traditional songs those people are known with. If you go to Aba, for example and don’t sing, ‘Nsogbu Nsogbu’, you have not started. Even though the other song was an Ohafia war song, it is better known as Owerri song. They are traditional and artistic. The songs are to let the Igbo know that it is high time they came into the national politics. They are completely out of the national politics. If Igbo are not found in the national politics, it will be to the detriment of their children
Amaechi explaining why he sang war songs at a presidential campaign rally in the South-east
*At the start of government, as Chief of Staff, he (Wike) wore long robes posing as a Muslim. Today, he is going on bended knees in churches, let me tell you, don’t take God for granted. The funny thing is that he knows that I know him
Amaechi taking a swipe at Governor Nyesom Wike
*Would Governor Wike and his PDP party prefer the election of 2015 where thugs overwhelmed the state and unleashed terror on innocent Rivers people that resulted in the lose of so many lives on the streets of Port Harcourt? My cousin was also killed in front of Wike father’s house
Amaechi insisting the security situation in the 2019 elections in Rivers was better than 2015
*Magnus fell ill the day we said, you are not the candidate, but Peterside. If Magnus says he’s not a betrayer, take the case of NDDC. He came to me, sobbing that Ogoni people have not had any position in NDDC. I said Magnus, Okay, we give you the nomination from Rivers. As soon as he got it, he grew convoy, declaring he wants to run for governor. Who is a betrayer? I want to sleep knowing I am an honest man. If Magnus is not ashamed of himself, let me be ashamed on his behalf. My son will worry if they hear their father is slippery
Amaechi stating why he fell out with Senator Magnus Abe
*Wike does not like the fact that the military is maintaining peace. Whereas, he stays in Government House with his security and people are dying on the streets of Port Harcourt. Wike is so desperate about power
Amaechi justifying the presence of soldiers in Rivers during the 2019 national elections
*I have been betrayed serially… including senators. After you finish helping them, after praying for them, they will go and betray you for a pot of porridge
Amaechi casting aspersion on Senator Magnus Abe and Governor Nyesom Wike
*For voting against the APC. For refusing to support the APC, they cannot come to the table to demand the presidency slot.
For people like us in the APC, if the Igbo had come and voted Buhari, they would boldly tell Mr President and the National Chairman of the party that presidency should go the Southeast since the South-south; South-west and North-west have produced president. What argument would the Southeast come up with now to convince anybody that they deserve the slot for 2023 president?
Amaechi commenting on the quest by Igbos to take a shore at the Nigerian presidency in 2023
*I will not hesitate to implore that we all ask God for forgiveness and mercy for all the things done or left undone and from the citizens for the pain and anguish that they have brazenly suffered, which most times are unreported. The persistence of gang violence, kidnappings and killings in parts of the state has dealt a telling blow on the psyche of the people. People no longer feel safe or sleep with their two eyes closed
Amaechi lamenting the state of insecurity in Rivers and why the leaders must have a rethink