Ministerial confirmation: Amaechi & the mystery of his political struggles
By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze
Preamble and Political Life
Contrary to the expectations of Chief Nyesom Wike and his gang of miserable ingrates, their ferocious campaign to blackmail, disparage and portray Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi as a very corrupt person and unfit to be appointed as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria failed to achieve the desired objective. On 30th September, 2015 President Muhammadu Buhari went ahead to list and submit the name of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi along with those of 20 other great Nigerians as ministerial nominees to the Senate for confirmation.
However, to the shock of most Nigerians, during the two sittings of the Senate to screen and confirm the 20 ministerial nominees, Amaechi’s screening was deferred based on the Senate’s on-going investigation into the fraudulent petition against Amaechi by one Livingstone Wechie working in consonance with Wike. This is despite the fact that the case is in court and is, thus, not supposed to count against Amaechi with regard to the Senate screening.
As God would have it, the Senate has resolved that Amaechi will be screened on 20th October, 2015 alongside the 16 new nominees submitted by President Buhari. This indicates the failure of the wicked plots by Wike to truncate and frustrate the ministerial position of Amaechi. Senate Spokesman, Otunba Dino Melaye confirmed on Thursday that Amaechi and eight others would be screened on Tuesday. According to him, “Amaechi has no problem; he would be screened on Tuesday. We received two petitions, one on Amina Ibrahim and one on Rotimi Amaechi. We sorted out her own; Amaechi’s is a one-line petition.” Melaye further said: “The report of the Ethics, Privileges and Petitions Committee would be ready next week; Amaechi will be screened alongside eight or nine others because our extant laws prevent us from commenting on cases undergoing judicial review.”
Public Opinion Favours Amaechi
It is the view of a Civil Society Group that “Wike-led govt’s approach/ response to the nomination of Amaechi as a minister of Federal Republic of Nigeria is brutish and petty.” To an elder statesman, Adamu Ciroma, “All these people opposing Amaechi’s ministerial nomination are ignorant of the following facts: Even if Amaechi does not become minister he will still remain with Buhari and enjoy his life. Many people enjoyed Jonathan’s government without being ministers. Virtually, they were more powerful than some of the governors. Dokubo, Edwin Clark…”
To Lauretta Odochie, a London-based civil society activist, “Call him what you like, Rt. Hon. CR Amaechi has become an Idol of some sort with a cult following especially in his immediate constituency, the South South. He is more admired for standing up to the bullying tactics of the timid ex-President Jonathan and his over-bearing wife who ran the illegal arm of his government. Gov. Amaechi is a warrior and knows how to do battle. But during the last elections in March and April 2015, he lived up to his Progressive expectations by proving that he indeed, had left PDP, body, soul and spirit and now a reformed progressive. He showed bravery in the face intimidation, thuggery and electoral malpractices across Rivers State. After all, he is now a progressive who believes that electoral success is not about thuggery and hooliganism, but the will of the people. But the forces of retrogression in the South South are not done with Hon. Amechi. In a bid to thwart his chances of being nominated as a Minister by President Buhari, an obscene amount, looted from the people, was earmarked and spent in a blitz media war aimed at tarnishing the image of Hon. Amechi in the eyes of the President. Did President Buhari take them seriously? Absolutely not! President Buhari himself has been a victim of such campaigns of calumny so can identify with those who are targets. President Buhari is sensible, reasonable and intelligent. Best of all, he has his own mind. Unlike Pres. Jonathan, he knows when someone is pulling the wool over his eyes. This must be a lesson for all those who have been using the media to lie and utter despicable things about people they are either envious of or loathe. So on 20th October, 2015, Nigerians, particularly South Southerners, expect Rt. Hon. Chibike Amechi to dazzle at the Senate. It promises to be everything you find in a James Hardly Chase novel. Watch out!”
Ifeanyi Izeze, a seasoned and respected media chief in Nigeria, in a recent article titled, “Protest against Amaechi Nomination and Inanity of Rivers Politics”, stated: “It is unbelievable how the minds of our people work. If as said by Sekibo that this same petition was forwarded to all anti-graft agencies and the Presidency some two months ago, does it not occur to him and the other protesters that if Buhari still went ahead to nominate Amaechi, it must be that the so called petition is not worth the paper it is written on?
“How does Buhari nomination of Amaechi negate the president voiced anti- corruption stance? Submission of allegations two months ago to the President sounds to me that he must have done his background check to really confirm those allegations and might have established the baselessness and political mischief in all of it. And this verification of not only allegations against Amaechi but every other nominee facing accusation of corruption from their various constituencies may have been one of the reasons for the delay in announcing the ministerial list. If the Wike-led Rivers state government actually meant to probe Amaechi management of the state funds in truth and sincerity, it would not have started by dangling mind-blowing figures of stolen monies even before inaugurating the panel to look into the account books of the state. Now the problem the government and its people are having is reconciling all the alleged figures which they have publicly accused Amaechi of stealing or misappropriating. Rotimi’s name was verified by both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) before taken to the Department of State Security (DSS) and now with the Senate for confirmation. Anybody who thinks Amaechi has not been cleared by EFCC, ICPC and DSS before being nominated and sent to the Senate for confirmation should actually have his head examined.”
At the end of its consultative meeting in Port Harcourt on October 14, 2015, Doing Democracy Movement (DDM), a creation of the Niger Delta Civil Society Coalition (NDCSC) with membership of over 80 critical civil society and human rights organisations across the political Niger Delta region, issued the following communiqué with regard to the nomination of ex-governor Amaechi as minister by President Buhari: “Chibuike Amaechi deserves the recognition and call to further service extended to him by Mr. President, by virtue of the remarkable delivery of public goods in Rivers state, as a two-term governor. Such public goods in the area of education, health, agriculture, urban renewal, road networks, security, etc, are most evident across the communities of the 23 local government areas of the state. Former Governor Amaechi in his outing in Rivers State governed with true courage, recognised that the burden of leadership is to make hard choices, to tell the truth, stick to principle and to take responsibility when hardship follows. Governor Amaechi sticking to sound principle, made enormous sacrifices in the best interest of the country, by way of contributing immensely not only to the change that Nigeria is witnessing momentarily, but most critically the participatory politics of extended and expanded voices in Rivers state and the Niger Delta in general.
“Machiavelli was right when he wrote: ‘There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.’ Amaechi displayed true maturity which is a persistent ability to stand on principle and pursue the long-term best interest of the country.”
Amaechi a Victim of Dirty Politics
With Amaechi having become the topic of discussion regarding the ministerial nomination and confirmation process, I decided to research on the mystery behind the man addressed in some quarters as the Lion of the Niger Delta Politics. In the end, I came to the conclusion that it is too early for Wike the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to start any form of celebration because their chief opponent in the person of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is someone that is gifted in turning the table when it seems highly impossible to do so. It is my findings about the past struggles and successes of this consummate politician that I intend to share with you. After the presentation, you can then understand why Amaechi is facing his current travails in the hands of those he brought from obscurity and threw into the political limelight.
In my studies, Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia, came to my aid with the appropriate word to describe this man whose impact in the politics of Nigeria is infectious: ‘Audacity’, which it described as boldness, bravery, courage and daring. Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, a British politician, was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and from 1951 to 1955. Widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, a historian, a writer, and an artist. He is the only British Prime Minister in history to have received the Nobel Prize in Literature, and was also the first person to be made an Honorary Citizen of the United States. According to this great man, “There is no limit to the ingenuity of man if it is properly and vigorously applied under conditions of peace and justice.” In another breath; he stated: “Battles are won by slaughter and manoeuvre. The greater the general, the more he contributes in manoeuvre, the less he demands in slaughter.” After tasting great wars and the results of diplomacy this great statesman declared and I quote, “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.”
Profiling Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, CON
Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi was born in Ubima, Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, to the family of late Elder Fidelis Amaechi and Mrs Mary Amaechi. University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) in Rivers State was where Amaechi laid the foundation of his political life, participating actively in student union politics, especially in the National Union of Rivers State Students (NURSS), of which he was President, and the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). After graduation, he cut his teeth in politics as Secretary of the now defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State from 1992 to 1994. He was Special Assistant to Dr. Peter Odili, the then Deputy Governor of Rivers State, and also a member of the Board of West Africa Glass Industry as well as Risonpalm Nigeria Limited. He was Secretary of the Caretaker Committee of the Rivers State Chapter of the disbanded Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) in 1996 during the transition programme of the General Sani Abacha junta.
In 1999, Amaechi contested and won a seat to become a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly to represent his constituency. He was subsequently elected Speaker of the House of Assembly as well as Chairman of Nigeria’s Conference of Speakers of State Assemblies. He was re-elected into the State House of Assembly in May 2003 and equally re-elected Speaker. A Master’s Degree holder, Amaechi’s assumption of office as Governor based on a Supreme Court judgement after PDP dumped him despite his convincingly winning the party’s gubernatorial ticket, remains a mystery to many political watchers in the country. By May 29th, 2015 Amaechi would have spent eight years as Governor of Rivers State. He is currently Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). His unprecedented feats in the transformation of Rivers State have won him many international and local awards as well as the respect of great world and Nigerian leaders
Amaechi was the rallying force behind mobilising the governors under PDP to support the presidential aspiration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan during the PDP Presidential Primaries that produced Jonathan as the PDP flag-bearer and during the 2011 presidential election proper ensured that President Jonathan got over 2 million votes from Rivers State – the highest by any State in Nigeria. A misunderstood but an amiable personality; his forthrightness and boldness to stand by the truth attracts so much enemies to him, particularly those who cannot withstand his manner of approach to result-oriented feats. His numerous ‘sins’ will be highlighted later.
Chibuike Amaechi holds the National honour of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), is a Christian Catholic and a Knight of St John. Amaechi was appointed the Director-General of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign and led the party to win the March 28th Presidential election of Nigeria in which a sitting President was roundly defeated for the first time.
Unraveling the Mystery and Political Struggles of a Misunderstood Politician
Now that I have stated the political life of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Roimi Amaechi, let me now come to the main treatise of this study, which is to unravel the mystery and political struggles of this misunderstood politician in Nigeria and how it will affect the outcome of the October, 20th 2015 ministerial confirmation.
An outsider to the politics of Rivers State may conclude that the odds are against Governor Amaechi to survive the ongoing onslaught against him. However, after closely watching and studying Rt. Hon. Amaechi, I have come to the conclusion that this man does not achieve his political feats on a platter of gold but through the hard way and most of the time through the law courts. It was the disillusionment I noticed in some Nigerians regarding the ongoing macabre dance as regards Amaechi’s confirmation as a Minister that informed this attempt to expose or rather unravel the hard road that Gov Amaechi must to go through in his political journey and I wish to declare that the ongoing Senate screening imbroglio cannot be an exemption.
Amaechi’s Political Struggles through the Courts: 1999 State House of Assembly Election
Signs of the mission of Governor Amaechi in the politics of Nigeria started when FEDECO, the then electoral umpire, announced Barr. Uche Okwukwu of the defunct APP winner of the State House of Assembly election of the Ikwerre Constituency in place of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of PDP. Amaechi contested this at the then Election Tribunal and the Court of Appeal and won and was subsequently sworn-in as the member of State House of Assembly representing Ikwerre Constituency. This began his political struggles through the courts. Reacting to this, Barr. Uche Okwukwu stated: “Yes, I contested against the present Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. Like I said, the Court of Appeal said I didn’t win and I should not be in the Rivers State House of Assembly. So, as a lawyer, by my training, I have since accepted the verdict of the court, particularly, when you do not have the right to appeal beyond that point.”
Fight over the Control of the Local Government Affairs between the National Assembly and State House of Assembly
In 2003, Governor Amaechi came up with another feat through the courts. When the National Assembly moved to hijack the legislative functions of the State House of Assembly as enshrined in the constitution, he led his colleagues to take the matter to Nigeria’s Supreme Court and the court gave a judgment that the control and supervision of local government is the prerogative of the State House of Assembly.
PDP Leadership and its Undemocratic Suspension of Gov. Amaechi from the Party
When the PDP national leadership undemocratically decided to suspend Governor Amaechi from the party without any sound reason on 27th May, 2013 and was to follow it up with expulsion, he resorted to the courts once again to stop them from taking any further step on his case until he decided to join APC. The suspension of Amaechi from the party was agreed during an unscheduled and unusually early morning meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party at the residence of the then National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur. The meeting commenced at 8:00 a.m. and came two days ahead of the regular meeting of the NWC, which normally holds on Wednesdays. It was also three days after Amaechi beat the odds with his re-election as chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). He had been allegedly opposed by the PDP Governors’ Forum (PDP-GF) ahead of the election.
The governor’s suspension was hinged on what the party described as his refusal to order the reinstatement of members of the Obio Akpor Local Government executive who were suspended from office on the orders of the Rivers State House of Assembly upon allegations of corruption raised against the LG executive. Hours after the suspension was announced, the party at a press conference said that it had constituted a committee headed by Mr. Joe Gadzama, SAN, to probe allegations raised against Amaechi. Other members of the committee were PDP National Legal Adviser, Victor Kwon; Inalegwu Onche, Friday Nwosu, Udorji Amedu, Ola Kukuyi, Wakil Mohammed, Yusuf Jangwe, Mrs. Bola Doherty, Mr. Tanimu Adamson and Anicho Okoro as Secretary.
Reacting to his suspension during an interactive session with youths of the state, Amaechi asked: “Who has power to suspend Obio/Akpor council? Now you see political witch-hunting; it is so ridiculous, my party must rise above political witch-hunting. The Governor did not suspend Obio/Akpor council, I hope you know. My power is to dissolve and remit it to the House of Assembly, but I have not done that yet, what the Assembly has said is ‘we are investigating corruption’ then the party says we should not investigate corruption, is that fair?” He went further to state that the NWC issued a press statement to suspend him without any invitation and fair hearing. His words: “I was not invited by the National Working Committee of PDP, I was not given fair hearing. What I heard was ‘why did I refuse to reinstate the suspended Obio/Akpor Council executive? Who suspended them?’ His questions received the enthusiastic response of the youths who chorused: “The Rivers State House of Assembly.” Again the governor asked, ‘who has the power to investigate Obio/Akpor council executive?” The youths again replied: “The State Assembly.”
It was this suspension of Governor Amaechi from PDP not minding all that he did to uplift the party that started the decimation of PDP and its reduction from a ruling national political party to an opposition regional political party.
The Intrigues in the Appointment of Justice Agumagu as the Chief Judge of Rivers State
The indefatigable and indomitable Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi recently started another legal battle but this time with the National Judicial Council (NJC). Like other cases involving Governor Amaechi, this case is unprecedented in the annals of judicial adjudication and Nigerians are watching with keen interest to see how he may win it.
Based on the Federal High Court ruling approving Justice Peter Nwoke Chukwuma Agumagu as the Chief Judge of Rivers State, Amaechi supervised his formal swearing-in ceremony. However, after few days, the NJC came up with a verdict suspending the newly appointed Chief Judge, this again is unprecedented in the history of appointment of Chief Judges in any other State in Nigeria.
Before his appointment as the State’s new Chief Judge, Justice P. N. C. Agumagu was the first ever President of the Rivers State Customary Court of Appeal. He is an administrator, a former state High Court Judge and the seventh the new Chief Judge of Rivers State.
On 27th March, 2014 – to the shock of both the Governor and close watchers of events in Rivers State – the NJC suspended Justice P. N. C. Agumagu from office and directed that he should, within four days, explain in writing why he should not be sacked as a judicial officer. The Council, which took the decision at the end of an emergency meeting in Abuja, said it suspended the Rivers CJ over his failure to abide by the Oath of Office he took to uphold the Constitution and Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
According to Acting Director of Information at the NJC, Mr. Soji Oye, in a press statement: “At its 10th Emergency Meeting, which was held on March 26, 2014, the National Judicial Council under the Chairmanship of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Aloma Mariam Muktar (GCON), considered the purported appointment, confirmation and swearing-in of Hon. Justice P. N. C. Agumagu as the substantive Chief Judge of Rivers State on March 18, 2014.
“In the meantime, Council in exercise of its powers under Paragraph 21 (d) of Part 1 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution has suspended Justice Agumagu from office as a judicial officer with immediate effect.”
Reacting to all the brouhaha, a UK-based Social Commentator, Emeka Reuben Okala, stated, and I quote: “I join other Nigerians to congratulate the articulate Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, on the battle well fought and job well done on this issue. In all of these, Amaechi clearly stands on the pedestal of truth and that’s the magic behind his countless victories. Keep the flag flying, Mr. Governor, you are clearly on the right side of history. Kudos! To Justice PNC Agumagu, I say congratulations! Your appointment as the Chief Judge of Rivers State is richly deserved. Knowing you as I do, the Judiciary under your leadership will have a lot to benefit. We look forward to your good services.”
On his part, Nebukadineze Adiele, a well respected online Social Commentator, stated as follows: “The idea that a customary court judge could not be appointed a Chief Judge of a state was thoughtlessness taken too far. The NJC shamed itself by practically dictating to the governor as to who to appoint CJ. Kudos to Amaechi for standing firm on his belief and for trusting the judiciary into resolving this matter. His tenacity over this matter is a public service to other governors and future governors. A timid governor would have buckled when pressured from all angles to not appoint Justice Agumagu as Chief Judge of Rivers state. I am both a fan and a critic of Chibuike Amaechi – I support him when he gets things right and I get on his case when he goofs. On the appointment of Justice Agumagu as Rivers state Chief Judge, Governor Chibuike Amaechi showed tremendous courage under fire and his action will remain as revolutionary (over judicial appointments in Nigeria) as the circumstances he overcame in becoming governor. That the most senior judge in the state should have been denied appointment into the Chief Judgeship, simply because he was a customary court judge, would have been blatantly discriminatory, stupid, and legally not justifiable. There are instances when one cannot help but admire Chibuike Amaechi’s confidence and convictions. This is one such instance.”
Challenge to the Transfer of Rivers State Oil Wells to Akwa Ibom State
As the serving Governor of Rivers State, Amaechi caused his Attorney-General to challenge the transfer of some oil wells from Rivers State to Akwa Ibom State. The Supreme Court eventually ruled in favour of Rivers State in that case.
The Most Celebrated Supreme Court ruling on Governor Amaechi
A lot of articles and statements were written following the ‘k-leg’ episode that was the outright hijack of the 2007 PDP gubernatorial ticket from Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi ahead of the 14th April, 2007 election in Rivers State. This occurred despite his landslide victory at the primaries where he clinched 6,527 of the 6,575 possible votes while seven other aspirants that included political heavyweights like Hon. Chief Austin Okpara, a former Deputy Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives; late Senator Martin Yellowe; Pawariso Horsfall; and Mr. Chris Orji shared the remaining 48 votes amongst themselves. Amaechi’s name was subsequently forwarded to the INEC on December 14, 2006 in compliance with Section 32(1) & (2) of the Electoral Act 2006. INEC thereafter duly published Amaechi’s name as the gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers State.
The story, however, took a different turn when, speaking at the presentation of the party flag to its gubernatorial candidate at the Liberation Stadium, Port Harcourt, former President and then “Emperor” of PDP, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, declared that Amaechi’s candidacy had “k-leg”. Following this outright abuse of office, the dreaded bulldog that was the Nuhu Ribadu-led Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was let loose on Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, resulting in his decision to seek legal redress for his travails. Suffice it to say, Amaechi went on self exile to Ghana and the powers that be further showed their contempt for him by selecting his cousin, Sir Celestine Omehia, who neither purchased nor filled a form, as PDP flag-bearer in his stead.
Amaechi’s vindication came with the 25th October, 2007 landmark ruling by the Nigerian Supreme Court declaring him as not only the authentic flag-bearer of PDP but also ordering that he be sworn-in immediately to replace Omehia, who had previously been sworn-in on May 29, 2007 as the Governor of Rivers State. Thus, Amaechi became the first and only person to occupy the office of governor in the country without standing for election. In explaining the ruling, the Supreme Court has since stated that it is the party that contests elections and that the PDP won the gubernatorial elections, and that, consequently, Amaechi, being the rightful candidate, should assume power as governor.
This epochal feat stands as Amaechi’s greatest input towards the growth of judiciary in the political life of Nigeria as it has become a reference case in determining similar cases in Nigeria today.
Let me conclude this treatise with the stand of Amaechi on his current battle with his October 12 letter written by his Solicitor, Edward E. Pepple to Dr Bukola Saraki the Senate President (EW/GC/CRA/15/012) reads in part, “ I’m innocent until proven otherwise by court as the allegations against me were not only false but also made malafide with the intent to solely irritate, embarrass and tarnish his hard-earned reputation.” . He further stated that since there are pending cases at the Federal High Court, Abuja and the Court of Appeal, any action by the Senate will be subjudice. He asked the Senate to “discard” the petition against him by the Integrity Group and the report of the Justice G. G. Omereji Judicial Commission of Inquiry. Citing the case of ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Amaechi said the Supreme Court had emphasized that an indictment by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry or Administrative Panel is not an “indictment” or sufficient for the purpose of preventing a person from holding a public office.
FINALLY, permit me to bring Elders statesman ADAMU CIROMA to conclude this treatise, “All these people opposing Amaechi's ministerial nomination are ignorant of the following facts:
1. Even if Amaechi does not become minister he...will still remain with Buhari and enjoy his life. Many people enjoyed Jonathan's government without being ministers. Virtually, they were more powerful than some of the governors. Dokubo, Edwin Clark and Tampolo are example.
2. The chances of Rivers state people to benefit from Amaechi's ministerial post have been
3. By the constitution nobody can appoint ministers for the president of Nigeria. It's his prerogative to appoint his ministers. Therefore, petition and opposing a person from a state to be a minister means that state does not like the slot. However, the state will either stay without a minister or another state can provide the minister instead.
4. Nigeria can survive without a minister from Rivers state. At the same time Wike or PDP cannot appoint a minister for Buhari. But if the PDP and people of Rivers state wished to
deny their state from having a representative in the executive council simply because they are angry with Amaechi for his support of Buhari against Jonathan then other states can have the slot.
5. Fayose realises that that is why he swallowed all his opposition and asked his people to support Kayode Fayemi. Please you people should let Amaechi be. He contributed well for the emergence of PMB and there is nothing wrong in making him a minister.
As the battle to stop Amaechi rages on will the former Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi ride the storm over his nomination as a minister? This is the question in all the lips of every concerned Nigerian but if the above analysis of the mystery behind the political struggles of this star is anything to go by then he will not only come out top by Tuesday, 20th, October, 2015 but come out as the Star he is..
Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt in Rivers State.