By Dele Sobowale
“Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny.”—Shakespeare, 1564-1616. (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 25)
“It is quite impossible for those who want to gain power to avoid getting rid of those who are most likely to form an opposition.” Critias, 404 BC, VBQ, p 196.
Mr Rotimi Amaechi, the Honourable Minister for Transport and I have never met. The closest I ever came to him was at the Award Ceremony organized by VANGUARD about three or four years ago. But, it is impossible for anybody to be the Governor of Rivers State without receiving more than ordinary attention among governors. So, in eight years, as governor, he drew my attention to himself – first as a PDP Governor and later as an APC leader in the state. To describe him as a tough political operator would amount to a great understatement.
To call him a political maverick would be more accurate. He belongs to that small group of politicians who have passed our way since political parties were formed who, in the words of Sam Rayburn, US House Speaker, 1882-1961, said “they are better kept on the inside pissing out, than on the outside pissing in.” Among living examples of the species are: Bola Tinubu, Adams Oshiomhole, Tambuwal and Fayose. He was once a die-hard member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and as such, he effectively denied the Action Congress of Nigeria or any other party a functioning office in Rivers State. He would have remained totally loyal to the PDP and President Jonathan if an incident had not occurred which set the President and the Governor on a collision course. At the time, nobody would have given Amaechi a chance; it was, on paper a catch-weight contest.
In retrospect, if Jonathan had known that conflict with the governor would cost him the presidency, he might have handled the matter differently. But imbued with the hubris associated with all Goliaths, he walked into a sucker punch by a “David”. As in ancient times, this contest is now history. Amaechi now strolls where Jonathan held sway when it all began.
It all started when Jonathan, against all sensible advice, decided to give his wife freedom to intervene in governance – not only at the Federal level but apparently at state levels as well. Mrs Patience Jonathan had gone to Rivers State for a reception organized by the Governor as a mark of deep loyalty to President and wife. Everything went smoothly – until it was the Governor’s turn to address the important guests invited. Amaechi, undoubtedly wanting to impress the President’s wife had included in the address a statement about the need to develop the waterfront, popularly called Okrika. To do that demolition of the entire waterfront was inevitable. Breaching all protocols and good manners, Mrs Jonathan had jumped up; grabbed the microphone from the host-governor and shouted “
“Listen to me; you should stop using the word must. I am from Okrika. You should use diplomacy”.
Words attributed to Mrs Jonathan during her visit to Okrika while addressing the Governor.
” Again history would record that President Jonathan missed the opportunity to put out a fire that was going to consume him and his presidency. A battle line was drawn after that public humiliation of the Governor and only God knows when the war will end. From that day, Amaechi stepped out and the “pissing in” started. At first it created only a puddle, which made the Jonathans to laugh – like Goliath. It became a torrent when Amaechi became the factional leader of the Governors’ Forum – contrary to Jonathan’s wish. That forced the President of Nigeria to betray the basic principle of democracy – decision by majority. Openly, the President of Nigeria recognized the leader of the minority group and dented his image as a believer in majority rule. There is no need to list seriatim the number of ways Amaechi kept Jonathan on the back foot until the man was kicked out of office.
However, if Amaechi ever thought that victory was going to bring him peace of mind, he must have not heard that “Forgiveness to the injured does belong; for they never pardon who have done the wrong.” (John Dryden, 1631-1700, VBQ, p 63). His political enemies never forgave him for fighting back; and, now they have more reasons to hate him for being on the winning side. They want him out of power at all costs; at all costs…..There in lies the danger. Conquerors sometimes pay a terrible price for their victories. If Amaechi ever thought that he was in for short war, like Israel’s six-day war with the Arabs in the 1960s, what has occurred since them should force him to change his mind. What is shaping up all over Nigeria, with Amaechi among the leading generals is going to be more like the thirty (30) years war in Europe. And anybody who does not believe me can take a look at the Southwest. The break-up of the Action Group after the disagreement between late Chiefs Awolowo and Akintola is still shaping political alignments in Yorubaland till today and there is no end in sight.
To be continued..
GIVING PANDEF A BAD NAME IN ORDER TO DESTROY IT — 1
“Nothing in this world is so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”
Victor Hugo, 1802-1885. (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, p 96).
When several long-serving members of the Niger Delta, after close observation of the tragic trend of events in the region decided to get together, irrespective of former or even existing political affiliations, to save the Niger Delta in particular and Nigeria in general from disastrous and unplanned disintegration, the last thing on their minds was personal defamation as the reward for their patriotic zeal. But, that was precisely what they got.
The meeting with President Buhari, by the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, on November 1, 2016, had no sooner been concluded than the airwaves were inundated by rumours bordering on deliberate calumny that the patriotic leaders had gone to request for personal oil blocks. Thereafter, ill-informed commentators, mischief makers operating on the social media took over and very quickly the BIG LIE had gone viral. Within the next two days, cartoonists working with various leading newspapers had published their inane pieces in the belief that the leaders who met with Buhari had actually asked to be given oil blocks. One of the leading newspapers in Nigeria, on its page two public opinion page actually went out to “interview” the usual self-proclaimed activists, to ask their opinion about the request for oil blocks by PANDEF leaders. Contrary to the expectation of the Editors, not everybody interviewed was even opposed to the request – if actually made by PANDEF members. This aspect will be addressed in the second part of this series.
For now, the most important thing is to report the print media and the journalists to themselves. When compiling the VBQ, I came across the statement by Julien Benda, 1857-1952, who said, “Journalists say a thing they know is not true in the hope that if they keep saying it long enough, it will be true.” Every journalist, commentator, cartoonist, editorial writer who had accepted as gospel the lie that PANDEF members asked for oil blocks should go and hide his head in shame. The editors should sanction any reporter who included that in his report. “Facts are sacred” remains the guiding principle of professional and honest journalism. On PANDEF and the rumoured request for oil blocks the Nigerian media disgraced itself.
How did I know? Simple. I traveled at my own expense to Abuja to ensure that I collected a copy of what PANDEF gave to Buhari. On such a historic occasion, I don’t want to base my commentaries on rumours and deliberate falsehood peddled by unpatriotic mischief makers…
Next week, read the entire PANDEF submission and point to the place where there was a request for oil block for the leaders…