AMAECHI IN THE EYE OF THE POLITICAL STORM 1
“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..
ABATIGATE AND N50M.
“When sorrows come, they come not as single spies, but in battalions.” Shakespeare, VBQ, p 161.
Last week I addressed the issue of demons in Aso Rock raised by Reuben Abati. Once upon a time, we were proud to say “our Reuben Abati”. Now everybody wants to keep his distance – particularly those who received any of the alleged N50 million he was said to have collected and distributed to media people. I hope it is not true; because if it is, honour is lost. “And, when faith is lost, when honour dies, the man is dead.” (John Whittier, 1807-1892, VBQ, p 94).
From the reports reaching us, ( which I still want to regard as a rumour), when interrogated, Abati claimed not to remember the names of those who collected the money and how much each of them walked away with. If true, that amounts to adding deception (self-deception really) to disgrace. Are we supposed to believe that a Ph D holder, former Chairman of Guardian Newspapers collected funds to be distributed to people and he failed to draw up a check-list and tick the names of those who collected? Even if he can’t remember every name on the list, which had apparently developed wings, are we also supposed to believe that he can’t remember a single name? But, those are small potatoes compared to the allegations leveled against Abati by Area Boys at UniJankara. The reader has got to remember that these guys are professional scammers. And, what was their verdict?
They strongly believe that if indeed Abati collected N50 million on behalf of media people, he delivered less than half the money and kept the rest for himself because it never occurred to him that the secret will leak out. That is called double-cross in street language and thousands of people had been killed for it. – if that is what happened. On the face of it one might think that Abati is seeking to protect his former colleagues. That would be noble of him; and the noblest thing he had done so far. But, that is only if he delivered all the money to the intended recipients.
Abati’s real reason for suffering from self-induced amnesia might not be so honourable after all. If he names Mr X and claims that the fellow collected N1 million, then, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, will invite the person. But, what if only N250,000 was given to the fellow? Suddenly, the charges against Abati multiply. He would have robbed the government and his colleagues. The consequences for the rest of his life will be hard to imagine.
Finally, for now, at the very least, he owes all the media practitioners a duty. As long as he continues to stonewall regarding disclosure of the names of the recipients he had placed all of us under suspicion. That is not just unfair; it is unethical (see how the charges multiply just because of one indiscretion or theft). If the EFCC cannot compel him to offer full or partial disclosure then pen-pushers like me must find a way of forcing him to reveal the names.
Don’t go away. There is more on Abatigate than you realize. In the combination of his article on demons at Aso Rock and his alleged statement to the EFCC, Abati had revealed more of himself than he cared to do. He has got the best of Area Boys discussing the matter. Wait for their verdict.