By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
President Muhammadu Buhari’s perking order in his inner room has apparently seen the relegation of Rotimi Amaechi, the campaign manager who handed him his first political victory in 2015. What is happening?
Four years ago Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi sat at the apex of the Muhammadu Buhari campaign as director-general. It was the first time in four presidential campaigns that Buhari would have a southerner manage his campaign. And it worked. Four years on, Amaechi was again picked as the campaign manager, but has now been substantially relegated in the perking order with the appointment of at least five other persons ahead of him in the presidential campaign council.
In the order rolled out by the president, Buhari and Tinubu are on top as co-chairmen of the campaign with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and All Progressives Congress, APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole as deputy chairmen. Another Tinubu stalwart, Senator George Akume is to act as deputy national chairman (north) while Senator Ken Nnamani is to act as deputy national chairman, (South) with, Amaechi next as director general in that order.
President Muhammadu Buhari himself gave notice of the development last Monday when he inaugurated the Presidential Campaign Council, PCC as he removed doubts as to Amaechi’s relegation in the scheme of things in the presidential campaign.
Giving his intention not to allow his campaign for a second term interfere with his present job as president of the country, Buhari had said:
“I must also add that, though we will all be deeply involved, I would like to assure the nation that I will do my part without making governance or my work suffer.
“Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, my co-chairman, will be fully in charge, and is going to be on 24-hour vigil.’’
Buhari’s assertion of Tinubu’s primacy of place in the campaign was against the earlier disclosure by the president that Amaechi would serve as director-general of the campaign.
The president had officially announced the appointment of Amaechi as his campaign manager through a tweet by his spokesman, Garba Shehu on September 20, 2018.
“President @MBuhari has approved the appointment of a campaign organization for his re-election in 2019 with Hon. @ChibuikeAmaechi as Secretary/Director General.
“Hon. Amaechi was the Director General of the Buhari-Osinbajo Presidential Campaign Committee in 2014-2015 that won the elections and brought the current administration into office.
“The new Director General will announce other appointments into the campaign structure as approved by President Buhari.”
That tweet was a follow-up to what insiders claim was the unofficial appointment of the former governor of Rivers State as campaign manager. Amaechi had followed up with the appointment of crucial persons in various positions in the campaign. Party insiders say that Amaechi may have solely appointed Mr. Festus Keyamo as director of communications and strategy. Keyamo it was gathered was not supposed to use the position to be the spokesman of the campaign. However, it appeared that the search for a spokesman for the campaign from within the media may not have succeeded or may have been dumped, a development that may have led to Keyamo doing the job.
Amaechi was appointed at a time that Tinubu was still not a shoo-in into the president’s re-election plans. Indeed, at the beginning of 2018, Tinubu had taken a feisty attack at the policies of the Buhari administration.
Amaechi’s ascendancy has also been challenged in his local fiefdom in the South-South. Unlike four years ago when he was the unquestioned leader who subsequently made the major appointments from the region, the emergence of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as national chairman and the defection of Senator Godswill Akpabio has lately diluted his dominance.
The PDP Presidential Campaign last Wednesday excavated that speech delivered at the Annual Daily Trust Dialogue exactly a year ago saying that Tinubu’s new superiority in the Buhari camp had to do more with personal interest than any other thing.
In the PDP statement issued by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondinyan, the PDP campaign said:
“It is very unfortunate that at a time Nigerians, across the board, are boldly jettisoning their personal interests and joining in the quest to rescue our nation from President Buhari administration’s incompetent, corrupt, divisive and anti-people regime, a leader of Asiwaju’s status is chasing personal interests and self-preservation.
“Nigerians can recall how Asiwaju in January 2018, at the 15th Annual Daily Trust Dialogue rejected the Buhari administration’s nepotism, incompetence, corrupt oil subsidy regime; blamed it for the high-level of poverty in our country and urged Nigerians to be guided by their conscience in electing leaders in the 2019 general elections.”
The party quoted Tinubu as saying then that “too much political and economic power resides in the hands of too few.
But that was then. Amaechi’s seeming relegation also coincided with the circulation of an audio tape in which the former governor was perceived to have been critical of his principal, Buhari.
It has now been alleged that the audio was released by PDP partisans.
In the audio Amaechi is severally alleged to have criticized Buhari’s performance and also flayed the performance of the party in Lagos State.
The criticism of the environmental situation in Lagos is, however, no news. But what is outstanding is the perception that the assertion was a further dig at Tinubu by Amaechi. It is political wisdom that has been taken to heart by many APC leaders that the problems that came the way of Senate President Bukola Saraki flowed partly from his opposition to the emergence of Tinubu as the running mate to Buhari ahead of the 2015 election. Amaechi was also said to have taken a similar position, a stance that may not have earned him much applause in the Tinubu camp.
So, the criticism of the condition of Lagos was no surprise to people.
The Amaechi camp, however, affirms that the tapes have been seriously doctored to humiliate their man.
So when Tinubu emerged on top of Amaechi in the perking order in the campaign council it was not surprising that some political actors would trace the development to the audio tapes.
The Amaechi camp while rubbishing the tapes, however, say that the appointment of Tinubu had nothing to do with the tapes.
“The audio tapes are not related to it. The campaign council was announced well ahead of the revelation of the audio tape, and in fact, the audio tape did not make much sense in that they did not play everything. Why did they not play everything, just patching one side to the other.”
On why Tinubu had to be brought in now despite his unofficial involvement in the 2015 contest, a party source said:
“It is just that this time it is felt that the campaign has gotten bigger and more hands needed to be involved.”
Meanwhile in the face of the seeming embarrassments that Amaechi is now laying at the feet of alleged blackmailers, Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate has invited the minister of transportation to come over to the PDP.
In a statement issued on his behalf by his special assistant on communications, Phrank Shuaibu, Atiku said:
“We dare say that the cold war between the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Mr. Rotimi Amaechi as well as the statements credited to the latter in a leaked tape which led to the appointment of Tinubu to take charge of the campaigns are at the least a national embarrassment to the nation. Amaechi must now resign and return home to the PDP where he belongs,” the statement said