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NPA and the road to 2023

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Nigerian Ports Authority


Given the profile of the dramatis personae and the organisation that is in question, it is not surprising that Hon Rotimi Ameachi and the suspended Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala Usman have been in the news over the past weeks. But while everyone is haggling about whether some monies were remitted or not, or whether Bala Usman subordinated herself to the Minister of Transportation or not, I see a methodical journey for the furtherance of a political ambition that Nigerians have speculated about. 

Insubordination, if it truly existed between the two, is enough to inspire the torpedo that has been caused in this prime parastatal. And here we have two examples, first it was Dakuku Peterside and now, Hadiza Bala Usman. The question to however ask is what if the point of disagreement with the minister would serve Nigeria’s interest more as some have suggested in this instance? This, is where more questions should be asked about the personality under focus. 

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Rotimi Ameachi, former Governor of River State and current Minister of Transportation, by far one of the most influential privileged ministers in the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is referred to as the Lion by many of those who are close to him. Where is Ameachi even coming from? How did he get here? Twenty-two years back, where was this man? Who are the people who facilitated his rise to the top and where are those people in his life today? And what happened to their relationships? Have you ever seen anyone stand in the way of the lion? After ruminating over this man’s antecedents, it occurred to me that he seems like a man who always gets what he wants and cares little about opposition.  

Former Governor Peter Odili is believed to the facilitator of Ameachi’s political career. After goading this career until Ameachi became two-term speaker of River State House of Assembly, the latter already grew wings mature enough to fly by himself. He wanted to be Governor, Odili didn’t want to be part of that. The battle was fought and lost, Ameachi became governor.  

Towards the end of his second tenure as governor, he fell out with former President Goodluck Jonathan and his faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Knowing the strategic import of being at the head of Nigeria’s Governor’s Forum, he fought his way through all opposition and got into that office with support of his immediate predecessor, former Senate President Bukola Saraki. He was one of those who proudly left the PDP for the All Progressives Congress (APC) and would become so influential in the new party to become Director General of the Buhari/Osibanjo campaign towards the 2015 Presidential elections. It was sufficient to make him remain in the good books of the President till date, that is after being named campaign DG for the second time in 2018. How come Ameachi is the only one of the big PDP catches that remains in the APC today? The others: the Atikus, Sarakis, Kwankwasos, Tambuwals, Ahmeds and Barajes of this world are not likely to ever forget the initial misadventure. Ameachi has not only remained but stayed as a powerful, surefooted factor. 

Have you heard that Ameachi is gunning for the Presidency in 2023? He truly has not declared his intention, but all the signs are there. And if the APC zones the Presidency to the South as some interests in the party are advocating, the former governor will be in good stead for the ticket. But Ameachi’s political trajectory has shown that he does not leave anything to chance. If anything happens in the APC, and he fails to get the ticket or the party itself gets crisis ridden on the strength of the conflicting ambitions of stalwarts and the almost constantly aloof disposition of Buhari, who is the stabilising pillar of the party, Ameachi could be finding his way back to the PDP!

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The truth is that he has more chances to get closer to the presidency in the PDP. Look at how people win elections in Nigeria and tell what political structure the former Rivers governor can bank on for his ambition if he gets the presidential ticket. But it is easier to get the vice presidency ticket to a more formidable candidate in the PDP and ride on to getting elected. 

We now hear stories about Ameachi asking for the NPA to reverse all suspended or terminated contracts belonging to Atiku’s Intels. Court cases were also asked to be withdrawn and failure to do that is one of the reasons the lady at the NPA is now being accused of insubordination and placed under suspension! Getting those multi-million-dollar businesses back will put significant money in the pockets of people who make it happens and more than that, it would prepare a wet the ground for an ambitious minister to step on when the time comes. Now, it doesn’t seem like anyone can stop the minister; he asked his eleven-man panel to investigate all contracts awarded by the NPA since 2016 till date and, the one involving intels, in particular. Singling out that contract by a man known not to shoot within an aim in sight is building an alternative plan, which may be the platform to the Eldorado of his ambition. So, Nigerians, prepare for an Atiku/Ameachi ticket in 2022. It may not even be under the PDP where Atiku is also going to have a herculean if not impossible task of snatching the ticket, but on whatever platform it may be, I am willing to bet my last kobo for a collaboration between the two in the next elections. 
Daud is a Lagos based public commentator.

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