BACKLASH: The Making Of Saint Amaechi 2
It was an effrontery unheard of in the land. The chairman of Okrika Local Council, one Ibibi Walter, who hosted the ceremony that offered Patience Jonathan the opportunity to wrestle a microphone from Amaechi to make a point about how land and water were central to the survival of the Okrikas, was fired, even as a democratically elected council chairman.
Thenceforth, Amaechi brought everything he knew and had into the fight. He co-opted the media, civil society and just anybody and institution that could mount a public platform and make loud statements about the persecution of Amaechi by Patience and her husband. He had a large army of mercenary fighters. He perfected a war strategy that kept him perpetually in an underdog status even when he was winning. Anything that didn’t go in his favour was rechristened as persecution by the Jonathans.
Rivers State’s loss of oil royalty rights to the neighbouring states of Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Imo and Abia was pinned down on them. So also was crisis in the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), where Amaechi was chairman. Because Goodluck Jonathan dashed Rivers oil wells to other states, there was a drastic shortfall in the state’s derivation revenue from the Federal Government. As a consequence, Amaechi’s star project – the Port Harcourt mono rail – could not be funded. It became a boondoggle.
His battles with super cops Joseph Mbu also had the hands of the Jonathans. He actually said Mbu as commissioner of police in Rivers State listened more to Patience than he listened to him on issues of security in the state. Amaechi had total control of the public address system and the voice of the policeman that Amaechi was an absolute monarch in Port Harcourt who must be contained by law was not heard or loud enough to be of consequence.
And so, instead of applauding the policeman for his courage to proclaim the supremacy of democracy over monarchy in Port Harcourt, he was branded by the opposition and their media as one of the many irritants deployed by the Jonathans to unsettle Amaechi in his kingdom.
Amaechi has had a good fight. He has vanquished all his adversaries to emerge the champion of not only Rivers, but Niger Delta politics. Largely, he got what he wanted, which was to cut an image of a crusader. His master, the man who gave him all his teeth, Dr. Peter Odili, is in the background, unheard. Nobody can tell what is on Odili’s mind. Poor fellow! He had seen in Amaechi, a son in whom he would be well pleased. Could Odili be regretting ‘giving birth’ to Amaechi, who like Oedipus in the Greek mythology, has grown to kill his ‘father’ and seize the throne without following laid down laws of inheritance?
And herein lies the real problem of the Nigerian brand of democracy. Every big masquerade that has ever taken the arena wants to leave behind a son to continue the bizarre dance steps of masquerades in the public square. Even so, the problem has been more biting in the Niger Delta where leadership is a foul blend of mediocrity, buffoonery and thuggery . Thus in seeking to enthrone Amaechi before the Obasanjo’s K-leg theory that cast spanner in the works, the least consideration on Odili’s mind was fitness.
He only wanted a loyal ally, lackey if you like, who would hold together the home front as he (Odili) entered for a higher prize – the presidency – in the competition of 2007.
Same could be said of Obong Victor Attah who has just announced his retirement from partisan politicians, some say, out of frustration. He was not thinking of effective leadership for Akwa Ibom State when he sought to make his son-in-law governor after himself. Godswill Akpabio who came instead of Attah’s son-in-law to change the skyline and landscape of Uyo, the state capital, was an error more or less.
In Bayelsa State, Goodluck Jonathan settled for Sylva instead of seeking a real Silver to manage the State when he (Jonathan) received a higher calling in Abuja in 2007. When he got tired of Sylva or when Sylva was no longer serving his purpose, he went for a Seriake Dickson. In all of these, the impositions were never done to create better opportunities for service delivery. People with neither the orientation nor inclination for leadership just got conscripted to keep open the access to resources.
This makes it a dangerous game of elimination where a successor is ever scheming to terminate the hegemonic hold of his predecessor on the power base. Except in Kwara and Lagos states, where Bukola Saraki and Bola Ahmed Tinubu have managed somehow to hold together their dynasties, across the country, from Enugu through Anambra, Abia and Ebonyi to Benue, Plateau, Sokoto, Bauchi, Borno and a lot more, dynasties are crumbling.
The lesson here is for political actors to quit the stage after their role and never seek to redirect the performance or even heckle from the auditorium. World over, actors especially confident ones, only wish to be prompted at difficult points but not to be supplanted by an overbearing stage manager.
Besides, real power does not come in measures. It is often total and except a man chooses to be timid in the dialectics of power utilisation, there is no higher power than the operating power in a uniform context. This is what governors that have chosen to break clean from their ‘makers’ have proved beyond contest. If you are in power, you are in power and you do not need a godfather to circumscribe your steps.
Other things being equal, the turbulence in Rivers State is precipitated by attempt by Amaechi to rewrite his own rule. He wants to leave his shadows behind after quitting the stage, a privilege that he denied Dr. Peter Odili. The sudden ascendance of Dakuku Peterside from a back roll to the very pinnacle of Rivers politics is strictly for that purpose. The people knew this and I can safely add that the endorsement of a Wysome Wike in a PDP line-up of aspirants that had Odien Ajumogobia and other tall names was not so much a quest for competence, as it was a determination to terminate the hegemony of Amaechi in Rivers politics.
Perhaps, a search was conducted and it was established that in the impending electoral showdown between PDP and Amaechi’s APC in Rivers State, only a Wike who reportedly retired undefeated as a local wrestler in Ikwerre land had the capacity to match the latter in all departments of the fight and ensure victory. And he did, effectively pushing down Amaechi to an underdog in Rivers politics.
Amaechi may have been beautified a ‘saint’ in Abuja. That is not a problem. What may have serious consequence is the attempt to retake Rivers State at all costs. A lot has taken place in these last five months to complicate the issues. The government and to a large extent the Rivers economy, which Amaech had shut down in order to gain time and resources to prosecute the Buhari presidency, has been re-opened somehow by Wike. The people want to move forward with their lives, a point that may make the cost of retaking Rivers State for Amaechi and the APC too high to bear.