Politics Of Impact: Eze Analyses Amaechi’s Sacrifices In The Formation Of APC And How Tinubu Held Him On High Esteem

By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze,

“Today, because of political convenience, those who currently hold the country on the jaguar and who have conquered her people are hellbent on demonizing and demolishing Amaechi’s relevance in the political playground. Let us watch and see where all of these gimmicks will lead them..” Chief Eze

Preamble

Eze excerpted from Chapter 14 of his book titled, Amaechi: His Feats, inspirational and revolutionary leadership style …” where he did an extensive appraisal of what Amaechi went through in the formation of APC and what he is currently going through in the hands of those who have conquered Nigeria.

Chapter Fourteen titled “Exit from PDP and Birth of APC” pens down who Amaechi is and his legacies:

FORMATION OF APC

Excerpt.
According to ex-Foreign Minister, Tom Ikimi, in a joint statement read to reporters by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), it was stated thus, “At no time in our national life has radical change become more urgent. And to meet the challenge of that change, we have resolved to merge forthwith and become the All Progressive Congress.”

The merger involved the ACN, led by Nigeria’s former anti-corruption chief(,) Nuhu Ribadu, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), headed by former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari, as well as the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), led by Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, and All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), led by Owelle Rochas Okorocha.

President Muhammadu Buhari gave the details of the emergence of the APC thus: “At one point, we in the four former opposition parties, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), came to the painful realisation that there was no way we could defeat the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as separate entities without coming together as a united force. So, having agreed to come together, we decided to set up committees to look into how we can best merge to form a formidable opposition party. After that, each of the four parties developed the terms of reference for the committees on the modalities of the negotiations for the merger.

“We, however, made it clear that none of the committees has the power to take any final decision on the merger. Their work was mainly to discuss with their party members and report the outcome of the discussion to the leadership of their parties. The understanding was that the final decision regarding how to go about the merger would be made by the executives of each of the merging parties. We wanted to make the process as democratic as possible.

“We eventually succeeded in coming together. It was a major sacrifice made by the leaderships of the respective political parties. The significance of this event was underscored by the fact that the future of Nigeria was tied to it.

“I always wonder what would have been the political, economic, and security consequences to the country without the merger of the old opposition parties and seizing political power from the ruling PDP democratically.

“I wonder how many people have taken the time to reflect on this development and make projections as to what could have happened if the opposition had failed to come together to take away power from PDP.

(i) How Amaechi was forced out of PDP

This political phenomenon and enigma, described in some quarters as the Lion of Niger Delta Politics, is a study in modern political engineering. Two-time Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly under the PDP, two-term chairman of Speakers’ Forum of Nigeria under the PDP; two-term governor of Rivers State under Peoples Democratic Party, of which he spent two years out of the eight as an APC governor and two-term chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum. If one talked of a truly thoroughbred PDP personality in Nigeria, then Amaechi was that fellow. The reason why he joined the opposition to wrestle power from his former party is a study in political understanding and movement. He thus played the role of the connecting rod between two important components of an engine, the PDP and APC.

Before delving into the role Amaechi played in making the dream of APC to unseat the most powerful political party then in Nigeria, PDP, the coming of the erstwhile Governor of Rivers State becomes imperative. Let me state that the obvious desperation of the PDP leadership to completely destroy Amaechi led to his departure, alongside six other PDP governors, to form the New PDP, with five of them later joining the mega opposition political party, the All Progressives Congress.

When the PDP national leadership undemocratically decided to suspend Governor Amaechi from the party without any sound reason on May 27, 2013 and was to follow it up with expulsion, Amaechi, the victim, resorted to the courts, once again, to stop them from taking any further step on his case until he decided to join APC. The suspension of Amaechi from the party was agreed during an unscheduled and unusually early morning meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party at the residence of the then National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur. The meeting commenced at 8:00 am and came two days ahead of the regular meeting of the NWC, which normally holds on Wednesdays. It was also three days after Amaechi beat the odds with his re-election as chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum. He had been allegedly opposed by the PDP Governors’ Forum (PDP-GF) ahead of the election.

The governor’s suspension was hinged on what the party described as his refusal to order the reinstatement of members of the Obio/Akpor Local Government executive who were suspended from office on the orders of the Rivers State House of Assembly upon allegations of corruption raised against the LG executive. Hours after the suspension was announced, the party, at a press conference, said that it had constituted a committee headed by Mr. Joe Gadzama, SAN, to probe allegations raised against Amaechi. Other members of the committee were PDP National Legal Adviser, Victor Kwon; Inalegwu Onche, Friday Nwosu, Udorji Amedu, Ola Kukuyi, Wakil Mohammed, Yusuf Jangwe, Mr. Bola Doherty, Mr. Tanimu Adamson. Anicho Okoro was secretary.

Reacting to his suspension during an interactive session with youths of the state, Amaechi asked: “Who has power to suspend Obio/Akpor council? Now you see political witch-hunting. It is so ridiculous. My party must rise above political witch-hunting. The governor did not suspend Obio/Akpor council, I hope you know. My power is to dissolve and remit it to the House of Assembly, but I have not done that yet, what the Assembly has said is ‘we are investigating corruption’ then the party says we should not investigate corruption. Is that fair?”

He went further to state that the NWC issued a press statement to suspend him without any invitation and fair hearing. His words: “I was not invited by the National Working Committee of PDP; I was not given fair hearing. What I heard was ‘why did I refuse to reinstate the suspended Obio/Akpor Council executive? Who suspended them?’ His questions received the enthusiastic response of the youths who chorused: “The Rivers State House of Assembly.” Again, the governor asked: “Who has the power to investigate Obio/Akpor council executive?” The youths again replied: “The State Assembly.”

It was this suspension of Governor Amaechi from PDP, not minding all that he did to uplift the party, that started the decimation of PDP and its reduction from a ruling national political party to an opposition regional political party.

It is said that during the intervening days, many interventions were made to save the crisis and resolve the matter. Important national leaders including General Yakubu Gowon(rtd.) tried to stop the departure of Amaechi knowing it was the only way to stop the exodus. But, the more such efforts were made, the harder those who did not want Amaechi in the party again worked to push him out.

AMAECHI EXPLAINS WHY HE JOINED APC

Explaining why he joined APC, Governor Amaechi said: “Unfortunately, recent events within the PDP have given me reason to reconsider our collective interest as people of the South-South and, indeed as Rivers people. At various times, as the one whom you gave your mandate, I had cause to complain about the marginalization of our state and our people, despite our huge contribution to the national coffers and our unflinching commitment and support for the ruling PDP. While the political and economic importance of Rivers State cannot be contested, we continue to hold the shorter end of the stick.

“A few instances may suffice: Our demand that the Federal Government return oil wells belonging to Rivers State to us has gone unheeded and been treated with levity under this administration. Rather, our oil wells have been ceded to Bayelsa, Abia and Akwa Ibom states. Even after we got a judgment that the oil wells were wrongly ceded to Akwa Ibom State and should be returned to us; only dry wells that were no longer producing oil were returned.

“In the specific case of the Soku oil wells, despite a decision reached that the monies should remain in an escrow account till all matters concerning it are resolved, the Federal government continues to pay neighbouring Bayelsa State the revenues meant for Rivers State in a classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. It is indeed noteworthy that we have made several representations formally and informally on this matter.

“A second instance is the total absence of federal presence in Rivers State. The ‘National Good Governance Tour’ provided a good opportunity for the Federal Government to showcase its presence in Rivers State. The tour, if nothing else, proved that there was not much to show in a state that is the cash cow of the federation. The East-West Road remains abandoned, work has been deliberately slow on the Port Harcourt International Airport, the third busiest airport in the country, while all airports started along with it have long been completed and commissioned. The Bonny-Bomu Road that leads to the only functional liquefied natural gas project remains uncompleted. In the midst of all these, our administration went ahead to fix federal roads to the tune of N103 billion. Several representations and letters after, not one kobo has been repaid. The Federal Government is actively discouraging investments in Rivers State.”

Amaechi at another forum stated, “They have become so desperate that they have gone to hire Joseph Mbu to serve as the political wing of the PDP in Rivers State. I pray to God to save Rivers State so that those thieves will not come to power and steal your money. We want to confront the Nigerian Police. When you hear impunity, it is because you allow it. There is no revolution without blood. From now till election, we should mobilize and confront the Nigerian police. If they say they are ready for debate, tell them I am ready. They should go to the National Assembly and summon me.”

Other instances that made the departure of Amaechi from PDP inevitable

Posting and encouraging the excesses of the tyrannical Police Commissioner Joseph Mbu, during these inglorious days in the state.

Supporting every unimaginable act of impunity in the state, including the plot by five State Assembly members to impeach the speaker in a House of 31 members, with the hope of impeaching Amaechi thereafter. That is led to the closure of the courts but they turned around to blame the victim, Amaechi.

Seizing and grounding the planes of the state for no just cause. Shutting down of a robust security architecture that was to save(d) the region and oil facilities

Harassing and intimidating the duly elected governor of Rivers State for no just cause, and even supporting the splitting of the Governors Forum into two, to ensure that Amaechi did not have an easy reign as chairman.

(ii) “The real reasons Amaechi was being crushed” – Dakuku Peterside

*Suspicion that Amaechi was aspiring to higher ambition
*Speaking truth to power on:
*Sovereign Wealth Fund
*Excess Crude Account withdrawals without governors’ consent
*East-West-Road in Rivers section
*Fuel subsidy
*Rivers-Bayelsa oil wells scandal
*Adamawa PDP crisis
And many others

Throwing more light on the perceived “sins” of Gov. Amaechi during that period, one of his closest allies, former Commissioner of Works and then the Chairman of the Petroleum Downstream Committee of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dakuku Peterside, in an interview stated, “Some persons also claim that he, Amaechi, is too forthright and I don’t know what crime that is called. However, the biggest unsaid problem is the perception by certain persons in the presidency that Governor Amaechi has ambition to aspire to higher office. The attempt to criminalize ambition, if any, is the root cause of the perceived problem in NGF. The second strand is speaking truth to power as can be seen in Governor Amaechi’s comments on sovereign wealth fund, excess crude account, Rivers-Bayelsa oil well issue, fuel subsidy, East-West Road, Adamawa PDP amongst others”.

(iii) The wooing of Amaechi by APC leadership

Considering that all the past attempts by the opposition political parties to challenge, let alone oust, a sitting political party had failed, the need to secure a rallying force capable of unseating a party in power arose. This need threw up the Lion of Niger Delta.

To achieve this onerous task, APC leaders stormed Port Harcourt to officially woo Amaechi on November 5, 2013, to join their party ahead of the 2015 general election. They did this because they saw that the PDP did not want him anymore within their fold.

Bisi Akande who was the interim National Chairman, clearly said they had visited to ‘woo’ Amaechi because of his antecedents in the Nigerian political spectrum and also for his developmental strides in all areas of the economy.

On his part, former Lagos State Governor and the leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, commended Amaechi for being a ‘progressive’. He said; “We did not come here to campaign. We are here to see, to seek and to invite. I know Port Harcourt. I know Rivers State and I know Rotimi Amaechi. He has performed extremely well and we know this country cannot develop on the axis of intimidation, harassment, and lies. We know this man is focused. A man who stands to be cheated is not a man, he is a pig. I invite all of you to please ask Governor Amaechi to lead you to APC. We will join hands to move this country forward. The progressives have come.”

For the former Head of State, General Buhari, the APC has been keeping an eye on Amaechi for a while and “We believe he is an ‘asset’ the party will like to own. The leadership of APC decided to target some governors who we think should make changes in the political scene of this country. We are here to come and seek understanding and support of your leader, Governor Rotimi Amaechi”.

Owelle Rochas Okorocha, then Imo state Governor and Chairman of the APC Governors Forum, boasted that in 2015, “Victory has been signed and sealed for the APC. We have come to invite you, our brother, into this movement. APC is not a political party, per se, it is a movement, a movement of change. We are people carefully selected by God. We’ll assure you as our colleague that governors in APC are accorded their due respect. I want to assure you that you are coming to a place you rightfully belong.”

Amaechi told the APC delegation that he would consult with major stakeholders, including President Goodluck Jonathan and other PDP and South-South leaders before taking a decision.

“To our guests, APC, we have heard you but we are a group of seven Governors.

“I will get up and consult our leaders. I will also consult you, Rivers people. The day we shall take a decision, whether for or against, it shall be at the stadium. If we are staying with the PDP, the President will address us and if we are going, Tinubu and Buhari will address us”, he said. Many saw the consultation by the APC leadership with Amaechi and others, as an opportunity for President Jonathan and top party leaders to act and save the looming collapse ahead of the PDP. It however appeared that they have resolved to root him out of the party, never realizing the consequences.

(iii) New PDP Joins APC

Five governors and ex-presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, formed a PDP splinter group in August. The PDP (then) had fewer governors supporting it than the opposition.

According to a joint statement read out by Kawu Baraje, the New PDP National Chairman, “After exhaustive deliberations, the two parties (APC & nPDP) agreed to merge in order to rescue our fledgling democracy and the nation.”

In September, President Jonathan sacked nine cabinet ministers amid serious divisions in the governing party. This came a month after the PDP splinter group was formed – the seven state governors and former Vice-President Abubakar were angered after their allies were disqualified from party elections. That marked the beginning of the downfall of the PDP and weakened their grip of federal power which manifested formally at the 2015 presidential election.

Eze in Chapter fifteen highlighted:

(iii) Circumstances that forced Amaechi into the ‘risky’ Buhari business

It is pertinent to examine why Amaechi, a thoroughbred PDP man, not only led but spearheaded its defeat at the presidential election of 2015. Today, PDP is a rag-tag opposition party struggling to find its feet. For a party that boasted to be the largest political party, not only in Africa, but in the entire black nation of the world, to be so decimated by the attempt of a single man in consonance with President Buhari and a few others, is a study in political wonder. This political phenomenon and enigma, described in some quarters as the “Lion of Niger Delta Politics”, is a study in modern political engineering.

If you talked of a true thoroughbred PDP personality in Nigeria, Amaechi was the fellow. The reason he joined the opposition to wrestle power from his party, as I stated earlier, is one of the attempts of this study.

(iv) How Wike Contributed in Causing Amaechi to join APC

Let me bring Chief Nyesom Wike to tell us their plot against Amaechi had Jonathan won the 2015 presidential election. The PUNCH of February 22, 2014 under the title, “FG’ll arrest Amaechi after Jonathan’s victory –Wike”, reported and is excerpted here: “Once the Independent National Electoral Commission announces the victory of President Jonathan, we will immediately shut down the Port Harcourt International Airport and all land and sea borders in Rivers State to prevent Governor Amaechi from escaping.

“Does he (Amaechi) think we don’t know that he is planning to run away? But he and his cohorts will not succeed. All they can do thereafter is to lock up themselves inside the Government House and at the appropriate time, we will go there and pick them up one after the other.

The fact remains that had Jonathan succeeded, the travails of Amaechi during his nomination and confirmation as a minister would have been a child’s play, that is(,) where he was not killed. The desperation of the PDP leadership to completely destroy him led to Amaechi’s departure alongside six other PDP governors to form the New PDP. Five of them later joined the mega opposition political party, the All Progressives Congress. Explaining why he joined APC, Amaechi said: “Unfortunately, recent events within the PDP have given me reason to reconsider our collective interest as people of the South-south and, indeed, as Rivers people. At various times, as the one whom you gave your mandate, I had cause to complain about the marginalization of our state and our people, despite our huge contribution to the national coffers and our unflinching commitment and support for the ruling PDP. While the political and economic importance of Rivers State cannot be contested, we continue to hold the shorter end of the stick.

Conclusion:

Let me conclude this treatise by quoting two of the great Leaders of APC and for you the Reader to judge the present leadership of APC plot to decimate this man who if not for his inputs APC would have not be what it is by today.

After the victory of APC during the 2015 general elections, Tinubu stated and I quote, “Amaechi you an Eagle and without you of APC at the centre this victory would have bot been possible”

When Amaechi was being wooed, Bisi Akande who was the interim National Chairman, clearly said they had visited to ‘woo’ Amaechi because of his antecedents in the Nigerian political spectrum and also for his developmental strides in all areas of the economy.

On his part, former Lagos State Governor and the leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, commended Amaechi for being a ‘progressive’. He said; “We did not come here to campaign. We are here to see, to seek and to invite. I know Port Harcourt. I know Rivers State and I know Rotimi Amaechi. He has performed extremely well and we know this country cannot develop on the axis of intimidation, harassment, and lies. We know this man is focused. A man who stands to be cheated is not a man, he is a pig. I invite all of you to please ask Governor Amaechi to lead you to APC. We will join hands to move this country forward. The progressives have come.”

The risk and sacrifices Amaechi went through in setting up APC was duly captured by the New Telegraph Newspaper in her recent report stated and i quote, “Historically, the existence the APC in Rivers has been characterised by high level drama. Beginning from when Amaechi embraced, nurtured and held the party together alongside some deeply committed members, Rivers boasts of the same enthusiasm and charisma with states where the APC is in power. The circumstances that led Amaechi to the party are unique, and subject to the interpretation of observers, whose views might be influenced from the position they watched during the face-off between Amaechi and the national leadership of the PDP.

Some political watchers had wrongly assumed that he had embarked on a political suicide by dumping the PDP for APC, an unknown and untested party with an unpredictable future. Yet, it was that defiance, risk and confidence that contributed to whatever impact the party has made in the state and the South-South geopolitical zone. This also attracted the envy of other states that saw it as a worthy alternative to the PDP. For instance, it was through Rivers that the APC gained entrance into other South-South states. As events keep unfolding in Rivers APC, the main issue that watchers of Rivers politics are struggling to comprehend is what becomes Amaechi and his teeming supporters’ fate.

Today, because of political convenience, those who currently hold the country on the jaguar and who have conquered her people are hellbent on demonising and demolishing Amaechi’s relevance in the political playground. Let us watch and see where all of these gimmicks will lead them.

Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt & can be reached either through 08022049770 or ezemediaconcept2020@gmail.com