May 5, 2023

Where Is Rotimi Amaechi?

Amaechi calls for strengthening of port state control, others


By Emmanuel Aziken

The outing of the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to Rivers State earlier this week inadvertently gave a preview of how the politics in the All Progressives Congress, APC may play out after May 29.

The visit was remarkable in several respects among which was the fact that Tinubu chose to visit a state that had traditionally been regarded as one of the most unflinching bedrocks of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

Also remarkable was the fact that Rivers State is the political base of Rotimi Amaechi, the man who took second in the APC presidential primaries. Amaechi was, however, a distant second with 316 votes compared to the 1,271 votes obtained by Tinubu.

Tinubu was ostensibly invited to Rivers State by Governor Nyesom Wike, the rebel PDP governor who did not hide his antagonism to his party’s presidential candidate and his overt bias to Tinubu in the presidential campaign.

First, it has been erroneously circulated that Wike marshalled support for Tinubu mainly because of his failure to get the PDP presidential ticket. This is simply wrong because the two appeared to have forged an understanding long before the party presidential campaign.

Your correspondent remembers the speed with which Wike in February 2021 came out to disown a report which quoted him as saying that Tinubu could not see the gate of the presidential villa in 2023.

Before then Wike had also affirmed his respect for Tinubu during the Edo State governorship battle in 2020 when he refused to exchange words with the former Lagos State governor while they engaged from different political positions.

The warmth between both men as many can guess flows from their mutual antipathy to Rotimi Amaechi.

Amaechi, like Bukola Saraki and some few others had opposed Tinubu’s emergence as Muhammadu Buhari’s running mate in the 2015 presidential election. While Saraki was sufficiently punished and chased into the PDP, Amaechi stood his ground, having established a foothold within the Buhari government on account of his cordiality with some leading elements in the presidency, notably the president himself and his wife.

That rivalry between Amaechi and Tinubu continued for the eight years of the Buhari administration and dovetailed into the primaries where the former Lagos State governor with superior money power, organization among others easily prevailed.

Since then, Amaechi appeared to have gone underground.

However, the former Rivers State governor and minister for transportation momentarily surfaced during the governorship flag-off of Senator Aisha Binani, on January 9, 2021.

That rally was also about the only governorship flag-off that President Buhari attended.

The now suspended Adamawa Residential Electoral Commissioner, REC, Hudu Ari was alleged to have made a call during the collation of the March 18 governorship election where he was overheard giving  instructions that Binani must be returned by all means based on instructions from ABOVE.

But what we now hear is that the propulsion to foist Binani as governor was met with opposition from other stakeholders marshalled by a powerful woman within the power circus in the seat of power in Abuja.

That lady is alleged to be also aligned to Tinubu. So, when Amaechi graced the flag-off of Binani in Yola on January 9 the impression on the surface was that he came to honour Tinubu. However, it now appears that he was there more for Binani having apparently identified with those supportive of her and maybe spite the Abuja Powerful ‘woman’ who dumped him for Tinubu.

Now after the emergence of Tinubu as president-elect, watchers of the drama in Adamawa would have noticed his cavalier dismissal of Binani as he asked that the police investigate the circumstances that led to her declaration as governor-elect.

Going further, Tinubu during his visit to Rivers State completely ignored the APC in the state. Indeed, he even went as far as hailing the chief antagonist of the party in Rivers, that is Wike, for being a very helpful collaborator!

That collaboration was seen in the way that Wike ensured victory for Tinubu in a state that he got about the least turnout during his presidential campaign rally.

These tell-tale signals from Tinubu are enough to point to the prospects for Rotimi Amaechi in the next administration at the federal level.

The prospects for Amaechi are easily indexed in the lack of mention of his name in the organization for the next administration. Some who are in the know are conscious of the fact that for the first 16 or so years of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC that Amaechi was like the power behind the throne in the appointment of several key officials.

Either as Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly when he was Governor Peter Odili’s main man, or as governor of the state, he was a major player in the appointments. That was until few years ago when Senator Godswill Akpabio ran Niger Delta political players aground and took the pie to himself alone with his ‘boy’ as sole administrator.

Out of contention in the NDDC, Amaechi’s bid to checkmate his eternal foe, Wike in the Rivers governorship contest was perhaps thwarted by the collaboration that Tinubu spoke of during this week’s visit.

A study of Tinubu’s style of checkmating political rivals can be seen in the decimation of Afenifere after he first emerged as governor of Lagos State. Many of those political powers from Lagos who were contemporaries or rivals have been completely neutralized.

We have long heard of Bode George’s plans to go on exile with the emergence of Tinubu as president. But we have only recently heard of similar plans by the former deputy governor of Lagos State, Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu.

Whether Rotimi Amaechi will physically follow them may be speculative. But we know that for now he is on political exile.