By Ochereome Nnanna
WHAT started like a rumour is now a confirmed conflict. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the Governor of Rivers State and President of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, who hails from nearby BayelsaState, are locked in an “exhibition” fight towards the 2015 election year.
The recently concluded Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) election which Amaechi won tells a lot of short stories. For instance, it tells us that indeed, the Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, is no longer in the president’s political camp. In fact, he went out of his way to organise an economic summit in his state as the Federal Government staged a classy mid-term Democracy Day in Abuja where it tendered its scorecard for public evaluation.
The Jigawa summit drew a number of people that should have been in Abuja, such as former president Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo openly said Lamido was the man who should be entrusted with the nation’s leadership. Based on his performance in his state, Lamido is, indeed, a fine material for the presidency. But Obasanjo is not known for choosing or endorsing candidates in the national interest. His selfish interest is always ahead of every other consideration.
Poor quality leadership
If anyone thinks the period between 2007 and today has been spent under poor quality leadership Obasanjo is the man behind it all. So, we must watch it when he endorses a candidate, and decide for ourselves if what he wants is what we also want.
What is not too clear yet is whether Lamido will challenge President Jonathan for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) ticket in 2015. House of Reps Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, has also been pussyfooting, goaded on by some northern leaders to run for president. He chose to attend a local event in SokotoState on Democracy Day. The implications are obvious if Lamido and Tambuwal will contest with the president for the PDP ticket unless, of course, they would be joining the All Progressives Congress (APC) and fight from there.
The Governors’ Forum election also exposed some PDP governors from the North, such as Dr. Babangida Aliyu of Niger, Admiral Murtala Nyako of Adamawa, Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano (who is also said to be nursing a presidential ambition) and Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State. They, along with Lamido, were the party rebels who, after endorsing Dr. Jonah Jang as PDP’s consensus candidate, switched to Amaechi, thus compromising their positions within the party.
Amaechi is engaged in a brazen rebellion against the president and the PDP. He has become the rallying point of PDP rebel governors and the governors of the opposition APC states. I have often wondered what he really hopes to achieve, after beating the president’s candidate in the Governors’ Forum election. For the opposition APC, it is a telling gambit. They have made a great inroad into the PDP. Even if these PDP governors would not join their party, they have unsettled the unity of the ruling party with hopes of gaining more ground. They have won a tactical victory.
The president’s camp has also won an unlikely tactical victory. Though its candidate was defeated, the NGF has split into two, with president’s camp holding the larger chunk. Secondly, the president, so early in the day, now knows who his enemies are, especially within the PDP fold. He can now deploy his counter measures. But for Amaechi, victory at the NGF polls is at best a pyrrhic one. From now till the day he leaves office, he will never know peace. Jonathan will chase him with venom. It is going to be a fratricidal war. William Shakespeare in Macbeth warned of such conflicts: “the nearer in blood, the nearer bloody”. Professor Jibril Aminu once told me of a Fulbe saying that translates thus: “Why should I harm you? Am I your brother?”
The principle of contiguity and consanguinity applies closely to the relationship between Rivers and Bayelsa. Jonathan’s Ijaw people inhabit both states. In addition, most Bayelsa big shots still live primarily in Port Harcourt, the RiversState capital. Strategically putting it, President Jonathan cannot afford to have the greatest threat to his re-election be from Rivers. He will likely fight Amaechi with the no-brakes vehemence with which he settled the hash of former Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa. Chibuike Amaechi is an intelligent man. But he is not a wise man. He is action-packed, but he lacks self control. Power without control is nothing, an old Asian saying goes. Amaechi has been overwhelmed by the arrogance of power and oil money and he fails to realise how preciously the people of the Niger Delta – and the South East for that matter – value Jonathan’s presidency.
Call it sentiment if you like, but it counts for a lot in Nigerian politics. I don’t see how the Niger Delta and South East will want to exchange Jonathan’s presidency for Chibuike Amaechi’s vice presidency! I don’t see how the South-South will like to throw away a position they fought for nearly fifty years. When will they have it again? That is the sentiment Amaechi is going to run against.
When the PDP announced their decision to suspend him from their party, Amaechi called on the opposition and “youths” to defend “RiversState”. As if harkening to the call, a feral Arewa critic of the Jonathan administration, Mallam Nasir el Rufai, pledged to go to RiversState and “fight for Amaechi”.
I hope reason prevails in both camps. I hope this “war” does not start. We all need peace in RiversState, just as we need it in every state. But should this “war” start, I look forward to seeing el Rufai actually in RiversState with his daughters in person trading tackles. That would be a refreshing departure from the past when such individuals incited violence and ducked into the cozy confines of their opulent mansions while the children of impoverished Nigerians attacked one another. I hope the president maintains his usual, matured cool and avoids the counsel of warmongers. There are many ways a Nigerian president can get even and seemingly difficult matters taken care of.