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Forces Against Ameachi, his many sins

■Will he survive? ■Forces against ex-Rivers gov, his many ‘sins’

In sync with his more than two decades political odyssey, the ministerial screening of ex- Rivers State enigmatic governor, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has come with intense suspense, anxiety and controver­sies. His nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari, came like a déjà vu, following spirited oppo­sition from multiple forces from within and outside his state, which he bestrode like a colossus for 23 years on end.

So much were the tension and speculations that a rousing reception party had to be organized for him by his friends and associates in Abuja ahead of the release of the list of nominees, to re-emphasize his polit­ical weight and send warning signals to all and sundry. While the jockey­ing and legal fire-cracks were flying all over to stop him, the impulsive and largely abrasive politician from Umuordu-Ubima in Ikwerre Local Government Area, LGA of Rivers, who has a history of run-ins with many political bigwigs including his acclaimed benefactor and godfather, Dr Peter Odili, appears set again to scale over the hurdle.

Indeed, his eyes are primed beyond this scare as he evaluates his strength and optimism on the scale, saying, “My politics is that of strug­gles and not an easy path.” The Sen­ate has had to contend with the most unyielding and fiercest opposition to a nominee in recent memory.

The Committee on Ethics, Privi­leges and Public Petitions, which sat on the barrage of petitions against Amaechi is evidently confused and exasperated.

A source close to the committee told Sunday Sun that “while we are not averse to the grains of merit in some of the petitions, we are also conscious of our political leanings and the kind of message our refusal to endorse his nomination will send out. We are trying to untie the knot, search for the easy way out and provide a soft landing for him and our party.”

The deadlock has led to the postponement of his screening initially from Tuesday, October 13 to Thursday, October 15, and again to Tuesday, October 20. While these shifts and manoeuvres are ongoing, there is nothing yet visibly certain, based on the spiraling situation that the hard nut will be untied without a sledge-hammer or rocking the boat. He is yet to meet the set minimum condition of securing the support of at least two senators from his state. As at press time, efforts to rein in the three adamant senators to his side have yielded no fruits, leaving his highly vocal supporters askance and dejected. The Senate, the party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Presidency are no less perplexed. But Sunday Sun learnt that the jigsaw has reinforced their determi­nation to see him through.

The same source at the Senate committee said; “We are not unmind­ful of the yeoman role he played in installing this government. He not only raised the bar in the electioneer­ing, but was the Director-General of the President Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Council. He is seen by many as an asset to the party and the dynamics at play today must be carefully weighed and understood. We are not going to be stampeded. Although his case is bad, but we will find a way out.”

Twice, the committee had had to weigh in on the pendency of his case in court and the implications of subjudice to side step hearing of the petitions, but failed. Also befuddling his case is the allegations of corrupt practices while in office as governor. For a government that is treading on the string of anti-corruption mantra, overlooking the allegations whimsically will un­settle its image gear and popularity rating. The choice for them is, therefore, deep, enervating, and throbbing with encircling sensations. The puzzle is gradually taking the shape of the twists and turns that attended his emergence as gover­nor in 2007. Amaechi had a landslide victory at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primaries polling 6,527 of the 6,575 possible votes, leaving seven others, including the then deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Austin Opara, the late senator Martin Yellowe, Pawariso Horsfall, and Mr. Chris Orji in the dust to share the remaining 48 votes. His name was forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on December 14, 2006 in compliance with section 32(1) and (2) of the Electoral Act 2006. INEC duly published his name as the candidate, but the equation later changed when the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, at the presentation of the party’s flag at the Liberation Stadium, Port Har­court, declared that his candidacy had ‘K’ leg, and subsequently let loose the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) goons on him. He was substituted with his cousin, Sir Celestine Omehia, as he fled to Ghana on exile from where he prosecuted his famous legal battles to retrieve his mandate. It was not the first time he would come from behind to snatch victory from the jaws of the lion.

In 1999, INEC declared Uche Okwukwu, a lawyer and candidate of the then All Peoples Party (APP) winner of the election for Ikwerre Constituency for the state House of Assembly. Against all hopes and expectations, the tribunal and the Court of Appeal, however, upturned the victory and declared Amaechi the winner, and he was sworn in.

The intrigues and forces

Perhaps, no Nigerian politician in this democratic dispensation has amassed the number of enemies, and contributed more to the nation’s jurisprudence and political lexicon than Amaechi. His enemies and detractors are drawn from various flanks and walks, across political frontiers and interests, on a national canvass. For a career, which took off on a flying start in 1992 when he became the Secretary of the National Republican Convention (NRC) in Ikwerre LGA, as well as special assistant to the then deputy governor of the state Dr Peter Odili, the pulsation and his travails speak eloquently of the forces arraigned against him. Significantly, as if guided by an unseen force, he has always overcome all the intrigues and forces.

According to one of his associates, and governorship candidate of the APC in the last election in his state, Dr. Dakuku Peterside,” He has trounced the big and the small. He is no new comer to battles and controversies. He takes them as they come, and he beats them in their numbers. This one will not be an excep­tion. We are confident of victory.”

The contending forces at play to frustrate Amaechi’s ministerial ambition are mainly from his home state government led by his es­tranged political associate, Governor Nyesom Wike.

Poignantly, Amaechi nominated Wike as minister in 2011, before they parted ways in very messy circumstances. Their disagree­ment has been ferocious, unduly tempestuous and all encompassing. Both have since been at each other’s jugular, every bend of the way. Wike is staunchly backed by a constellation of other political kingpins in Rivers and Bayelsa states. He has also dredged up the report of the panel that probed the administration of the ex-governor to full advantage in the battle.

The fact that Rivers State has been ruled exclusively by the PDP since 1999 has banded the people especially the political elite together in PDP. This has really shored up tremendous support in the push to stop Amaechi’s nomi­nation. There are also those who are aggrieved over his role in the ousting of ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, a kin from the neighbour­ing state of Bayelsa from office. This group, it was learnt, had sworn to pay him back in his own coin. The vengeance mission began with his loss of the state in the last governorship elections when a stony conspiracy ensured that his protégé, Peterside lost. The gang-up is also being assiduously pursued at the Elec­tions Petitions Tribunal, going by the armada of evidence and witnesses pulled together in defence of the result of the election, and de­spite the movement of the tribunal from Port Harcourt to Abuja. Again, there are fears that his unparallel contributions to the enrichment of the nation’s legal annals notwithstanding, the intrigues in the appointment of Justice Pe­ter Nwoke Agumagu as chief judge of Rivers State in March 2014 may serve as a clog in the wheel of his current resort to the courts to validate his nomination. In an unprecedent­ed move, Amaechi had dared the National Judicial Council on the appointment; put the courts in abeyance until he left office. This, it is gravely feared, ruffled not a few judicial feathers.

The power struggle within the ruling APC by the various interest groups and blocs, which has since the party’s famous victory accentu­ated divisions and acrimonies, has equally not let up in the quest to stop him.

Sunday Sun learnt that indif­ference and apathy to his plight by those who should fence off the opposition without much ado has emboldened his traducers to move this far in their onslaughts. But the camp of the ex- governor is not sleeping. In an electronic mail to Sunday Sun, Ibim Semina­tari, erstwhile commissioner for information in his cabinet and one of his close associates said they were very optimistic and upbeat about eventual victory this week. She reasoned that the global practice is that an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. This is in apparent reference to the petitions against Amaechi to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, alleging corrupt practices during his reign as governor. She further deposed that some members of the opposition were beginning to show him love, a development that could sway the tide.

The ex-governor’s lawyers have equally stepped up action to fore­stall the plans of the opposition. In three separate letters to the Senate president, Bukola Saraki and the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, they prayed the Senate not to entertain the petitions, which were said to be “flawed in law and subjudice.”

In one of the letters dated October 9, 2015, entitled, “Peti­tion against ministerial nominee Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi; demand to withdraw his nomination and appointment on grounds of cor­ruption, criminal breach of trust, unlawful enrichment and conver­sion of over N70 billion of Rivers State people’s money by former governor of Rivers State,” the lawyers accused the state governor of witch-hunting Amaechi. They also urged the Senate to assert its authority by dispensing with the petitions, which they adjudged are frivolous.

Amaechi’s sins

In 2013, in the heat of the move to oust him as the Chair­man of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), Amaechi was roundly adjudged by the local media as one of the 10 politicians to watch. His brushes with sever­al leaders squarely placed him in that box. He had a spat with the wife of the then president Dame Patience Jonathan, the then minister of Information, Labaran Maku, the then Niger Delta minister, Godsday Orubebe, and some of his governor-colleagues. He was said to be arrogant, disrespectful and belligerent. He allegedly ran the NGF like an alternate presidency and in the process offended many people. Using the platform of the NGF, he opposed government policies on the Sovereign Wealth Fund, the new minimum wage, the removal of oil subsidy, among others. Through this he rallied opposition against the govern­ment of the day, upsetting several power centres. To add to his number of ‘sins’, he was linked to a vice presidential ambition ahead of the 2015 presidential elections. Indeed branded vehi­cles depicting him as running mate to former Jigawa governor Sule Lamido were sighted in some states. These ‘sins’ as they say,’ lived after him’, and tend to foreshadow every bit of his political steps. His many battles, which he has always won, have won for him friends and foes alike. While some see him as a go-getter, others assess him as a spoil- sport that would swing his dagger either way, depending on mood and tide. Many of his rivals are envious of him, and are not too comfortable with his uninterrupted ascendance and would spare nothing to pull him down. The ministerial screening offers a huge opportunity for the enemies to nail his coffin. If he crosses this hurdle, Amaechi, will wait much longer like the French Military General Napoleon Bonaparte for his own Waterloo.
Source: Sunday Sun