Amaechi @ 48: Audacity & rejection of PDP's Greek gift
By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze
Audacity, according to Dictionary.com is defined as one being very bold or daring, especially with confident or arrogant disregard for personal safety, conventional thought, or other restrictions. A “Greek Gift” on the other hand is a gift given with the intention of tricking and causing harm to the recipient.
On May 27, 2013 while Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, was celebrating his 48th birthday with youths and children of Rivers State in Government House, a ‘monstrous’ Greek Birthday gift was parcelled to him all the way from Abuja, the nation’s capital by the National Working Committee, NWC of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, a party he and others of like minds, have worked tirelessly to nurture to its present status of a national podium and a party with the largest membership in Africa.
In previous articles, I have said that Amaechi’s tie with the destiny of Rivers State is mysterious and different with that of any other political leader from the State. He is the only political leader so far who has played a key role in shaping the political future of the State who shares the same birthday with the State. Whilst he was born on 27t May 27, 1965, the State was created two years after on May 27, 1967. This, somehow underscores why his commitment towards the emancipation and development of the State is total and unique.
Another unique aspect of this great leader from Rivers State is that he shares the same date with the day that Nigeria celebrates her children’s Day. Inspired by the United Nations Children efforts, the Federal Government of Nigeria decided in 1964 a year to the birthday of Amaechi to set aside the May 27 every year as Nigeria Children’s day. On this special day the whole Nation celebrates the Nigerian Child and the Federal Government declares a public holiday for public schools across the country. The day is usually marked by fanfare such as dances, singing by children in colourful dresses and youth parades considered by many as the highlights of the day.
To all intents and purposes, his massive investment in Education clearly shows his love for a better tomorrow for children, as there is no gainsaying the fact that education is the bedrock of development of any society. Today, his investment in Education in the State stands out in the country. The State and national awards the State has earned in this regard bears this out.
WHY AMAECHI IS AMAECHI!
The family of Amaechi in Ubima, Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State was blessed with the birth of a son who unbeknownst to all would become a force to reckon with in Nigeria’s political even before his 48thBirthday. He was named Chibuike which means “God is all Powerful” and “Rotimi” an abridged version of “Oluwadurotimi”meaning “the Lord stands by me”, while Amaechi means “who knows tomorrow?”.Remember the popular phrase, what is in a name? One does not need to be prophetic to know that all the meanings embedded in his name are playing out in the acts and arts of politics in Amaechi’s life.
Amaechi, as he himself has overtly said in several occasions was not born into opulence. As a child his family experienced real hardship and the young chap admits that he has gone through several challenges that have helped to shape his perception of life. His determination to ensure equal access to education for every Rivers child and bridge the gap between the privileged and underprivileged children in the state is unprecedented. Whenever the occasion demands, he (Amaechi) would not hesitate to point out that though he came from an underprivileged background; his was a modest family that inculcated in him the virtues of honesty, humility and sheer doggedness to succeed.
To give an insight into some of the experiences Governor Amaechi had to go through in order to be educated and which perhaps may very well be the reason behind his passion to provide free education for all children in the state, rich and poor as he says in a recent interview. “I don’t know how many people in my cabinet that could have experienced poverty like I did. I grew up at No.18, Chibu Street, I moved from there to Nnamdi Azikwe. Later, I live with one of my friends in one of the creek villages near Port Harcourt. And I knew that my parents suffered a lot. With tears, they were looking for money to pay for my school fees, buy me uniforms, bags and all that. When I was in the university, I used to tell the girls that none of you looked at my face because I was wearing one shirt, one pair of trousers almost every day with a sandal.’ On Fridays, we would wash it and we wouldn’t move out at all on Saturday to enable it dry; Sam Okah and myself. Then it would dry on Saturday, but on Sunday, we were back to life; wearing the same shirt and the same trousers. How many of those in the cabinet passed through that?” This is the pathetic story of the man that is driven with a passion in his drive for a better Rivers State.
He became Governor of Rivers State in October 2007, after his previous position as Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly from1999 to 2007. He successfully sought re-election and won as River State Governor on April 26, 2011.
An alumnus of the University of Port Harcourt and probably due to what he went thorough growing up; today, he is committed to ensuring that education is received without much burden in terms of finance to parents and guardians, as exemplified in the free education policy of his administration, including the provision of free uniforms, free sandals, free books, free hand bags and free tuition in the primary schools, while in the secondary schools, the government offers free uniform, free bags, free books and free boarding and free sandals. This may well be his own special way of living up to his birthday which coincides with the Children’s Day!
Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi has also made massive infrastructural investments around the state, road projects, schools, health centres, rural electrification, ongoing monorail project, rural development, land reclamation, implementation of the Greater Port Harcourt Master Plan and most importantly the sustenance of relative peace and security evident in the continued attraction and influx of foreign investors to the State. Amaechi stands as the only African Leader to have constructed 60 health centres, donated the same to 60 communities in 60, a feat many within and outside the state describe as first of its kind. His astute leadership in striving for financial transparency, accountability and inclusive governance has earned the State a lot of accolades, numerous awards and recognition by international bodies and corporations including the ability to attract a B+/AA Fitch investment rating to the state, boost economic and structural development as well as enhance content development in all sectors of Rivers State.
As Speaker of the State House of Assembly, he was Chairman, conference of speakers of State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria (1999 –2000), Governor of Rivers State (2007 – date) and currently Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, a position he recent re-contested and won. He has received the prestigious national award of the Commander of the Order of the Niger, CON.
Amaechi bagged the Sun Newspaper Man of the Year Award in 2007 and the Compass Newspaper Award for Security in 2008. The Governor of the year 2009 Award was presented to Governor Amaechi at the ‘Leadership Award for Excellence – 2009 and was the Vanguard personality of the Year for 2012.
AMAECHI AND HIS ENDLESS TRAVAILS
The issues around the governor’s forum and his desire to seek re-election and the eventual outcome are not new to Nigerians. Speaking manner of fact, Amaechi won the NGF election and the facts are there for all to see. The Rivers State Government plane was grounded in what was obviously a political action. Even after the House of Representatives has indicted both the Ministry of Aviation and its agency, the plane is yet to be released. The Police Commissioner in the State became a law onto himself - he is either threatening or withdrawing police orderlies of the Speaker of the State House of Assembly or that of the Chief of Staff to the Rivers State Government or locking up the Obio-Akpor Local Government Secretariat even against the order of a Court. The two day warning strike called by the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC and the Trade Union Congress, TUC in the State does not make any meaning to the Police. The duly elected PDP leadership under Chief Godspower Ake was ousted by a High Court in Abuja and the speed in which the Felix Obuh led Executive was inaugurated by the National leadership of the party lives a sour taste in the mouth. Some youths from neighbouring states were mobilised against Governor Amaechi, asking for his resignation for doing nothing not minding all his achievements to improve the lots of the State, while plots to get the Governor impeached by a minority in the State House of Assembly is still being hatched.
One starts to wonder if the Governor is being persecuted for performing as stated by an illustrious son of the State and former Minister of Petroleum Resources Prof. Tam David-West who described the unholy happenings in the State as “orchestrated travails” which is unfortunate in view of the fact that the governor has worked hard enough in restoring the glory of Port-Harcourt, known as the Garden City of Nigeria. To the University Don, Amaechi’s travails is “Nigerian paradox “where excellence is relegated and mediocrity is elevated. “I’m particularly worried about the trend, not only because I am a Rivers State elder, not only because I am a strong supporter of Amaechi without any regret, I am also worried as a Nigerian because what is happening to Amaechi underscores a terrible Nigerian paradox, which I call the paradox of excellence. We support him because those of us who grew up in Port Harcourt as a famous “Garden City” knew how the city changed to a rotten city. And Amaechi, who is also a Port Harcourt boy, returned the city back to its glorious “Garden City” status. Any person that does not realize this is not only blind but terrible.” This great Sage reminded Amaechi’s opponents that he who laughs last, laughs best, stating with emphasis that the governor would laugh last because his first name, Chibuike means “God is strength.”
Commenting on the perceived sins of Governor Amaechi to warrant all these attacks and plots against him; one of his closest allies, former Commissioner of Works and current Chairman of the Petroleum Downstream Committee of the House of Representatives, Hon. Chief Dakuku Peterside in a recent interview said “Some persons also claim that he is too forthright and I don’t know what crime that is called. However, the biggest unsaid problem is the perception by certain persons in the presidency that Governor Amaechi has ambition to aspire to higher office. The attempt to criminalize ambition, if any, is the root cause of the perceived problem in NGF. The second strand is speaking truth to power as can be seen in Governor Amaechi’s comments on sovereign wealth fund, excess crude account, Rivers-Bayelsa oil well issue, fuel subsidy, East-West road, Adamawa PDP amongst others”.
THE NIGERIA GOVERNORS FORUM ELECTION
Not minding all the obstacles put on the path of Governor Amaechi even the leadership of the party was mobilised to tour some States to lure their Governors to ensure that Gov. Amaechi was not re-elected and surprisingly to all Nigerians and even the Chief Godswill Akpabio led Campaign Team, could stop the moving train which Amaechi demonstrated by beating their preferred candidate, Governor David Jang 19 to his 16 votes. In a well-documented and videoed election which was democratically conducted by the Director General of the Forum, with Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan the Governor of Delta State acting as the Returning Officer as reported by the Ekiti State Governor Dr. Kayode Fayemi and funny enough Dr Uduaghan came out in public to denounce the election and his role as the Returning Officer not knowing that the free and fair election was filmed.
The election exposed to Nigerians the type of stuff some of our leaders are made of. Nigerians are aware how some of these people went about cooking up any known story to discredit the election and by the type of video showing how the election was televised on AIT all of them hid their faces in shame.
THE GREEK BIRTHDAY GIFT FROM PDP
In a manner that shows that Chief Akpabio and his cohorts were playing out a script, the NWC of the PDP was summoned to an emergency meeting on the birthday of Governor Amaechi, leading to his suspension from the party and an 11 member Disciplinary Committee headed by Chief Joe Gadzama (SAN) was inaugurated to investigate the Governor. According to the party the Rivers State Governor was being suspended for disobeying the party to recall the Obio-Akpor Local Council earlier suspended by the Rivers State House of Assembly on charges of corruption without the opportunity for fair hearing. But it would be recalled that the PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and PDP BOT Chairman, Chief Tony Anenih had in their separate visits to the State said Amaechi is one of the great pillars of the party and is doing very well as Governor.
It seems Charles De Montesquieu had the action of PDP NWC on Amaechi in mind when he stated that “there is no crueller tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.”The party according to PDP National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, that the party acted according to its constitution to suspend a man who did not commit any crime or abused the constitution of the party thereby undermining the motto of the party ‘JUSTICE, UNITY AND PROGRESS’ with the relevant sections of the party particularly Article 7 section C subsection iv which states that they should ‘promote self-respect, self-reliance and human dignity’ and section vii ‘promote an egalitarian society founded on freedom, equality and justice’just because he contested an election and won in assumed democratic culture. It is sad that this development is contrary to vision of the founding fathers of the party – how a governor could be suspended without fair hearing.
GOVERNOR AMAECHI REACTS
Reacting to his suspension, Amaechi said it was political witch-hunt and I intend to agree with him as he was not invited by the National Working Committee of PDP neither was he given fair hearing. It may interest all to note that contrary to what the Governor was accused of, he did not suspend Obio/Akpor Council (executive) not minding that he has the power to dissolve the Council if the need arises as he said. “I can dissolve Obio/Akpor Council (executive). But I have not done that. What the assembly is doing is that they are investigating corruption. But the party said they should not investigate corruption, is it fair? If they are not guilty, then they will re-instate them, but if they are guilty, then we will ask for the dissolution of the council. We have not even gone half, and the party (PDP) says re-instate them. It means that the party likes corruption. Let the assembly resume and commence investigation, let’s see what goes on. Whether there is corruption or not, it is the business of the assembly. I have been a speaker, and I know the powers of a speaker and the legislature. I used it when I was a speaker”.
He urged the youths and people of the State to pray for God’ s intervention, stating that there is nothing wrong as governor and a PDP member for him to ask for his rights, which the PDP is now describing as anti-party. "I will not leave the PDP. I will go to court.... The plane issue is same politics, pure politics. For one year plus, a minister refused to sign import permit. I’m sure you are aware of the House of Representatives Committee report on the plane issue," he said.
On the NGF election, Amaechi said: "You will see it on the internet when the governors were voting. All the governors were there and you will also see the counting. We (governors) agreed to voting, and all the governors voted, so any governor who said he didn’t vote is lying to the nation because all of us are on oath to govern properly, so we should not lie. Every governor voted, you would see the video. If we leaders of Nigeria today are refusing to accept the results of a properly organised election supervised by the director-general of the governors’ forum, it is bad. And somebody brought a paper that was signed in April. If you check that list, it was signed in April and you brought it on May 24 after the governors have finished voting their chairman into office. That list is not part of our election. There is a rumour that they want to go to court to stop me as NGF chairman. We are ready to meet them in court but they should not go through the back door to get an order”.
Worried by the abnormality of his suspension, Nigerians from all work of life cried foul and wonders what such a scenario portends for her democracy.
Speaking on the axe on Amaechi, former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and one of the founding fathers of the party who suffered a similar injustice like Amaechi in the past, when the party leadership ensured that he was deregistered from the party and not minding that for many years he was paying the rent of the National Secretariat of the party said, “I am particularly disturbed by the worsening polarisation of the party and internal divisions which might weaken the party structures at the state and deepen the crisis between governors and the president”. He lamented the failure of the National Executive Council (NEC) to meet in line with the provisions of the party’s constitution and the inability of the Board of Trustees (BoT) to arrest what he termed ugly development. He warned that if the crisis was not properly managed, the PDP might find itself weaker and politically vulnerable.
According to the National Chairman of the de-registered Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Alhaji Balarabe Musa described “the suspension of Amaechi as a desperate action. I am not talking as an opposition, but as a politician with greater interest in the democratic dispensation of the country. He said that because of the political future of Nigeria, every politician must see the action as a warning signal which must not be handled with sentiments. PDP has a big problem and as a ruling party, they have to show good example, rather than heating up the system all the time”.
In his reaction, the national secretary of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Mallam Buba Galadima, said the suspension was a minus for the PDP, adding that the party had now polarised itself.
Galadima said the party stood to lose many of its members, stressing that “it is obvious any member, who is loyal to the governor, will go with him and it will be a big minus to PDP.”
A constitutional lawyer, Mr Fred Agbaje, said the PDP had only shot itself in the foot, as the suspension was bound to bolster the popularity of the embattled governor. “PDP has succeeded in cutting its nose to spite its ugly face. The suspension can never demean the political ruggedness, popularity, astuteness and the ‘iroko-ness’ in Amaechi. PDP leadership is jittery and acting politically demagoguery and a clear case of infantile puerility”
Similarly, renowned constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Professor Itse Sagay, said the action of the anti-Amaechi governors violated democratic norms, because they were trying to upturn an election that was widely believed to be free and fair.
According to Sagay, “What the anti-Amaechi governors are telling Nigerians is that losers should refuse to accept the loss. (Jonah) Jang lost, (Godswill) Akpabio lost. Whatever mandate he was given, he could not defend it, they lost,” he said.
For a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Sokonte Davies, “It is unfortunate that this is the only time I have heard that somebody is punished for winning”.
According to Hon. Chief Dakuku Peterside a member of the House of Representatives, Governor Amaechi’s Suspension is a bad omen. According to the lawmaker, “this is an inauspicious moment to suspend a popular governor who is not only marking his 48th birthday today but was also a few days ago, re-elected by his colleagues in Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF as Chairman. This news is baffling and a major blow to lovers of democracy because it violates the right of an individual to associate freely, to vote and be voted for in any democratic process. The NGF is not an extension of PDP, thus not governed by the constitution of the PDP. This is also a major impediment to PDP’s future as a party as Governor Amaechi is seen in Nigeria today as one of the most outstanding governors. What would it benefit a political party to suspend its most performing governor,” he asked with awe.
Taking it all round, all these reactions condemning the persecutions and embarrassment Amaechi is currently being subjected to and seeing the bad image such an act is creating for our democracy and great party. The way it is now; only President Goodluck Jonathan, the leader of PDP can call off this bluff and attempt to smear his revered status as a true democrat by wearing the statesman toga and call for a truce before this madness goes too far, particularly going by claims by the presidency that he (Jonathan) has no hand in all these macabre dance. Perhaps Mr. President should read a recent issue of ThisDay editorial which partly read, “Ordinarily, this outcome ought to make the governors themselves proud in the sense that those who supported Amaechi and those who were opposed to his re-election freely cast their votes in a secret ballot and produced a result that is clearly a reflection of the wishes of the majority. However, the response of a handful of them led by Akwa Ibom State Governor Godswill Akpabio is not only disappointing, but disgraceful.
First, the disgruntled governors participated in the election. Second, they fielded a candidate to counter Amaechi. Third, they witnessed the tallying of the ballot and the announcement of the results. Unfortunately, because the outcome did not favour their candidate, the unhappy governors are playing up the existence of some pieces of paper conveying the intention of some governors, and signed before the election, as a more legitimate indication of their electoral choice at the expense of a ballot they themselves designed and participated in. To worsen matters, these renegade governors have continued with their impunity and dis-ingenuity to hold a meeting affirming Jang as the NGF Chairman in a rear guard plot designed to divide and kill the NGF much like the Biblical story of two women claiming one child. One of them, like the Akpabio-led Governors, wanted the child cut into two if she would not have him. President Jonathan -who has shown promise in upholding free and fair elections - must distance himself and his presidency from these bad losers by first congratulating Amaechi, and then going back to the drawing board to heal the deep divisions within his party and putting his house in order. His supporters may have lost this battle, but the political war ahead is even more important”.
In another editorial by one of the most outstanding online media – Huhuonline.Com titled, “Governors Forum and Presidential Impunity” said, “It has been said that those whom the gods want to destroy; they first of all drive them mad. This time-worn expression best describes the Presidency in their running battle with Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, who has been ignominiously suspended from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). What began as a disagreement on policies such as the Sovereign Wealth Fund and the location of some oil wells between Bayelsa and Rivers State has now become an ego-tripping battle over who has more powers between Abuja and Port Harcourt. This is unacceptable and must stop forthwith. It is not what Nigerians voted for. As president, Goodluck Jonathan must at all times aspire to statesmanship and be presidential. He has a duty; both in his public conduct and private thinking not to act in a manner as to invite odium to his high office, or allow the public to hold him out as anything other than the President of Nigeria. Preserving order, peace and harmony is the highest objective of statecraft. Available accounts indicate that all the 36 governors, except Yobe State Governor Ibrahim Gaidam, were in attendance for the election conducted by the NGF Director General, Asishana Bayo Okauru. The election was by open-secret balloting, whereby each governor was handed a ballot on which to write the name of his choice and drop in a box. Amaechi polled 19 votes to Jang’s 16, to win a second term as NGF Chairman. In a bizarre display of political imbecility, the sore losers led by Governor; Akpabio proceeded to create a rival faction with Jang as chairman. This is pig-headed and wrong. To make an already bad situation worse, Amaechi was suspended from the party without good reason. Even with the flagrant display of absurdities assaulting the sensibilities of Nigerians, this unfortunate development in the unfolding NGF saga is one bizarre event too many.
Governor Amaechi in his acceptance speech solicited for the support of his brother and leader of PDP, President Goodluck when he stated, “Today our democracy was tested and proven. Democracy is about participation. The aim of democratic governance is for everyone to partake in winning. Today the governors have spoken with one voice reaffirming our faith in democratic governance as the hope of Nigeria’s future. I must thank my colleagues for their tenacity and determination to ensure the unity of the forum, but more importantly of our nation. We remain committed to supporting our leader, the president and commander in chief of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to realize the development dream of all Nigerians by reducing tension, uncertainty and insecurity in our beloved country. We want to pledge our steadfastness and resolve working alongside Mr. President to better the lives of our people as we render transparent and accountable stewardship”
I will like to conclude this treatise by quoting the great Charles Spurgeon who said, “A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble”. Mr President I love you because you are so enlightened and I know you still remember your good old friend, Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt Jr. the 26th President of the United States (1901–1909) who was noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and particularly his quote, “If there is not the war, you don't get the great general; if there is not a great occasion, you don't get a great statesman; if Lincoln had lived in a time of peace, no one would have known his name”. My beloved President, the ball is now in your court to seize this day and become the true Statesman that God has destined you to be, by righting the wrongs against an innocent man who wants to exercise his democratic right by ignoring the wise counsel of those who truly love you and continue with an act that will bring odium to all your great efforts to be an exemplary democrat.
To Amaechi, I hope you still remember the great Henry Alfred Kissinger the 56th Secretary of State of the United States from 1973 to 1977 particularly his quote which you have without knowing lived all your life? Listen to what he said about you, “A leader does not deserve the name unless he is willing occasionally to stand alone”. My brother, no matter the result, even if it cost you impeachment, which you have said you were not afraid of or disgraced but bear in mind that you have made your point and with God on your side, you will not be humiliated!
Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt