The fate of Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, arguably, one of the best performing governors in the last dispensation hangs as a moral burden on the All Progressives Congress, APC Senate caucus. After deferring the screening on two occasions, the Senate would be hard put to justify another deferment today.
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
IT is not surprising that Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi’s ministerial confirmation hearing has generated the most contentious debate among stakeholders. Controversy was imprinted at his naming ceremony even as an infant. Though he is neither Yoruba nor Igbo, Amaechi bears two of the most popular names among the mutually suspicious Yoruba and Igbo.
His schooling was also not without controversy peaking with his activism on the platform of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS in the mid-80s.
Politically, Amaechi’s footprints are also laced with much controversy underpinned by his revolutionary emergence as governor in 2007 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, despite having a ‘K-leg’ problem as perceived by the former leader of the party and then President Olusegun Obasanjo.
However, his most controversial political landmark was his role in marshalling the successful campaign of the APC in the 2015 presidential election. That was despite the fact that just four years before, Amaechi, was perhaps the closest confidant of President Goodluck Jonathan among the five governors of the PDP in the South-South.
Buffeted and browbeaten by the political intrigues of Governor Timipire Sylva in Yenogoa, Bayelsa State, Jonathan as vice-president, reportedly found comfort and companionship in Port-Harcourt where he mostly resorted to in the desert years under the late President Umaru Musa Yar‘Adua regime.
It was perhaps that companionship that gave Amaechi the opportunity to understand the future foibles and failures inherent in a second term for Jonathan, leading to his violent disagreement that made him the number one enemy of the Jonathan family.
Indeed, against the odds and inclination of the political leaders of his South-South region, Amaechi took the uncommon step of leading the push against his “brother” Jonathan, and in the process, facilitated the first election defeat for a president in Nigeria.
His efforts should ordinarily have been rewarded with a high-level position in the new government, and it was no surprise that he was easily pointed out for high office in the new administration.
The realisation of his possible emergence as an official power broker in the new regime was enough to stir what his associates have described as a campaign of calumny against him.
On the Senate floor, the antagonism is led by Senator Thompson Sekibo, a third-term senator who returned to the Senate in 2011 under Amaechi’s political shadow.
Outside the Senate, the campaign against Amaechi is reportedly fuelled by his successor as governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, his one-time chief of staff who was promoted minister under Amaechi’s gaze. Even before Amaechi was formally nominated, Wike’s apprehension was buttressed in a statement he issued last July.
In the statement issued on his behalf by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Opunabo Inko-Tariah, the governor, pre-empted a panel he charged to investigate Amaechi by describing his predecessor as corrupt and who, according to him, would stain Buhari’s vaunted anti-corruption stance.
“If Buhari is sincere in his fight against corruption, let him probe Amaechi’s government, and he will discover that there cannot be a government official that is more corrupt than Amaechi,” he said.
Associates of Wike in the Rivers State chapter of the PDP have seized upon the White Paper on the report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry to launch a public campaign against Amaechi’s confirmation.
Remarkably, the White Paper on the report quickly came out once it emerged that Amaechi had been named as a ministerial nominee.
Even thought the issues raised in the panel report are presently the subject of court processes, they are, under the correct atmosphere, sufficient to stop anyone from holding the high office of Minister of the Federal Republic.
Commission of inquiry
Associates of the former governor and lately, Amaechi himself, have pooh-poohed the assertions against him, notably alleging that the Commission of Inquiry was instigated against him. It was further claimed that the report and white paper were timed to cause maximum damage to derail Amaechi’s nomination.
The frenzy against his screening by the PDP in Rivers State, it is feared in some quarters, may be because of speculations that Amaechi may be given the Police Affairs Ministry on account of his successes in arranging the security infrastructure that at one time kept robbers and kidnappers at bay in Rivers State.
Whatever it is, Amaechi has turned into a bone in the throat of the Senate and especially the APC caucus. Many APC senators rode on the coattails of President Muhammadu Buhari to win election which was held on the same day as the presidential election.
Amaechi’s associates have also come out to defend their man citing the world class primary and secondary institutions that became a model for other governors, the healthcare infrastructure established by the preceding regime and the once impregnable security infrastructure put up by Amaechi as legacies that cannot be rewritten. But in the game of politics facts quickly fade out as political interests becloud political players.