By Ochereome Nnanna
Many Nigerians were shocked when embattled Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, invited former President Olusegun Obasanjo to commission some projects in his state recently. They were even more shocked when Obasanjo honoured the invitation amidst great fanfare.
When two bitter enemies come together, some adages are often brought out to explain it away. One is: “There is no permanent enemy or friend but permanent interests”. The other is: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” (or conversely: “the friend of my enemy is my enemy”, and so on). Neither of these scenarios seemed to apply in the relationship between Amaechi and Obasanjo.
There is nothing to suggest that they have become friends. Obasanjo does not regret pushing Amaechi out of the governorship race after the latter had won transparent primaries. And the Ota chicken farmer did not apologise for doing so. Instead, he told us how he laughed at the Supreme Court verdict that restored Amaechi’s mandate even after his cousin, Sir Celestine Omehia, used the ticket to win the governorship election in 2007.
By “circus show”, I am not referring to Amaechi inviting Obasanjo to commission the Airport Link Road. This was a road which former Governor Peter Odili had constructed and invited the same Obasanjo to commission as President of Nigeria. During that event, Odili named the road “Olusegun Obasanjo Link Road”. But when Amaechi assumed power he changed the name to “Airport Link Road”. Amaechi might have been driven by the quest for vengeance, but he had taken the right decision, nonetheless. It would be ridiculous to have two major roads named after one man in the same metropolis. It is only in Lagos that I have seen something like that: Awolowo Road in Ikoyi and Awolowo Way in Ikeja. There is another Oko Awo Street somewhere. It does not matter if streets are named after every part of Chief Awolowo’s anatomy.
It is somewhat understandable because of the role Chief Obafemi Awolowo played in uplifting the lives of the people of the West, leaving the people effusive with their eternal gratitude. Well, you can say Obasanjo has been a major proponent of the Rivers State we know today. After the civil war, Obasanjo was one of the prime movers behind the Abandoned Property policy. It was also during his regime that an ill-motivated boundary adjustment was carried out to cede many oil-producing communities in old Imo State into Rivers in 1976. Rivers State became the beneficiary of such insidious deprivations of the oil resources of Imo, Abia, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa states. The disputes are still raging on every front till date.
And for this show of unpatriotic favouritism, Obasanjo feels entitled to help himself to the bounties of the Treasure Base of the Nation. According to him, while snatching away Amaechi’s ticket at a rally in Port Harcourt in December 2006, he has what he calls a “special relationship” with Rivers State and that is why he takes everything about the state “personally”. Obasanjois one of those post-war military leaders who see Port Harcourt in particular and the Niger Delta as a whole as their booty of the Biafra – Nigeria war which they “liberated” from the Igbos. Odili did not see anything wrong in two major highways in Port Harcourt being named after Obasanjo. He was blinded by sycophancy and the deluded hope that Obasanjo would hand over the presidency to him.
The circus show that I refer to has nothing to do with the alleged commissioning of a road done by Amaechi’s predecessor, Dr Odili. I am reliably informed that Amaechi actually discarded the narrow road done by Odili, widened and raised it beyond the perennial flood level. It is akin to what President Jonathan is doing on Apapa – Oworonshoki Express: a total reconstruction and upgrade that will last for another 30 years. Such massive amount of work deserves to be commissioned on completion because we are living in a highly politicised atmosphere. Politicians need to blow their own trumpet or people will ignorantly accuse them of non-performance. I fully support that.
What I do not support is the negative motivation that led to the coming together of the duo. Amaechi’s quarrels with President Jonathan had driven him out of the PDP. Ordinarily, that the two of them belong to different political parties should not prevent the governor from inviting the President to commission the projects. But their quarrel is now at the level of personal enmity. There is no guarantee that the President will come if invited. What stopped Amaechi from inviting the leaders of his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, instead? After all, Major General Muhammadu Buhari is also a former head of state. He, in the company of Chief Bola Tinubu and other party chiefs, could have made a more rousing political capital out of those commissioning exercises.
Quite obviously, Amaechi resorted to Obasanjo to spite Jonathan, and Obasanjo accepted the invitation also to belittle the President. It had nothing to do with reconciliation. Rather, it was merely a public dramatisation of their mutually-shared malice towards President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
Perhaps, the joke was lost on Obasanjo that Amaechi might have invited him to commission some of the projects as a way of mocking him to his face. I don’t know how Obasanjo felt after commissioning the narrow lane that was named after him and being brought back to commission it again, this time as a wider expressway with walkways and drainage; the way a modern road in an oil city should be done. I think Amaechi took Obasanjo for a ride on this matter. He invited Obasanjo to come and see what his “K-Leg” mandate was able to produce. Spurred by the need to protect his “investments” in Rivers and bathe in anti-Jonathan spotlights, Obasanjo took the bait.
Whoever advised Amaechi to carry out the commissioning of projects is his true friend. At least, it was a good way of showing that not all money of the people of Rivers State is being poured into anti-Jonathan politics and propaganda. Behind the scenes, some quality work is still going on, even if at snail’s pace.
Ministerial nominee, Adesiyan speaks poor English!
I watched with horror, members of the Senate brushing aside the vehement protestations of Prof Olusola Adeyeye, the Senator representing Osun Central, who pleaded with his colleagues not to confirm the nomination of Alhaji Abduljelili Adesiyan as a Minister of the Federal Republic. Adesiyan also hails from Osun State.
All three senators from Osun State had opposed Adesiyan’s confirmation primarily on the ground that he was a principal figure alleged to be behind the unsolved murder of former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Bola Ige. Adesiyan was a close confidant of Ige when he was killed in December 2001. He was subsequently arrested, detained and tried but not found guilty. But many people, including the Osun senators, are not satisfied that Adesiyan could shake off the stigma and emerge as a member of our federal cabinet.
Senate President, David Mark, pointed out that since the courts have not convicted Adesiyan, he is not guilty. Be that as it may, in the eyes of most Nigerians he has a lingering stigma, and such a person is best left out in the search for ministerial materials.
But beyond that, my main concern is that Alhaji Adesiyan has a very poor command of the English language. I find that surprising for someone who was a teacher and a self-acclaimed educationist. Of all the 11 nominees who were screened a fortnight ago by the Senate, he was the only one who fell far short in the use of English language to communicate. He garbled the tenses with reckless abandon. Adeyeye, one of the most charming speakers in the Red Chamber, said he faulted Adesiyan six times. I faulted him EIGHT times while monitoring the live screening. Based on that alone he should have been dropped rather than confirmed.
It is not yet too late to do so. I hope he will not be sent to man the education portfolio, where he will be an object of ridicule, much like our beloved the late Senator Sabo Bakin Zuwo. That would be a great disservice to Osun State, which houses the Obafemi Awolowo University, currently rated as the best in Nigeria! This is what troubles Adeyeye and his colleagues. I am also terribly concerned!