Amaechi’s mission and misadventure
He came so close to the laurel. But, since nearly doesn’t kill a bird, he fell short, despite his high rating by bookmakers. For Chief Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (CRA), the Dan Amana Daura, his contest for the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential ticket had a chequered history.
In the build-up to the party’s special convention and presidential primary, Amaechi, who was serving as Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, exuded the confidence of an anointed candidate.
The Daura Emirate, to which the outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari belongs, buoyed the Minister’s confidence the more when he was turbaned as the Dan Amana Daura: the chosen one!
If anybody had whispered to Amaechi’s ears that he was being conned or set up for a calamitous ending, chances are that he would have cursed the talebearer. Yet, coming mere months away from the governing party’s much anticipated presidential primary, Amaechi appropriated the aplomb and adulation as the possible successor of his principal. He forgot that the man he was priming himself to succeed was a lucky man, who believes that all men should try their luck and be their own man.
Believing in the spiritual pointers of his names -Amaechi, Chibuike and Rotimi – which suggest that although no one knows tomorrow, God is his strength, even as his friends would stand with him. But, the man, whose friends eulogise him as the Lion of Ubima, forgot that among his friends are those who see him as a game.
He forgot also that like a lone son when the jungle matures, as young boys are wont to say, he would learn that he is on his own. After all, his principal wears a badge of selfishness, on which was inscribed the following words: I belong to all and belong to none!
Yet, in his confidence that Chibuike, “God is my strength,” Amaechi mistook obduracy and blind loyalty for courage and insight. That was why he saw himself moving against the will of an incumbent President, the leader of his party and kinsman, to seek a second term as chairman of Nigeria’s Governors’ Forum (NGF).
Technically, it could be argued that Chibuike Amaechi’s journey to trying his luck at the presidential contest essentially began in the year 2013. It happened that the NGF chairmanship election provided him with a golden opportunity to, not only expand his national political circle but also create a beneficial political future for himself after his final term as governor of Rivers State.
After the controversial 19 versus 16 splits from the NGF election, Amaechi was suspended from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) alongside other ‘rebels’ within the Governors’ Forum from the party.
It became evident that Amaechi’s insistence on seeking a second term as NGF chairman had effectively divided the forum, when the faction led by the then Plateau State governor, Jonah Jang, convened a meeting on June 17, 2013.
Although the governors of Adamawa and Kaduna states sent apologies, only 16 others attended, thereby leaving the absentees as Amaechi’s cohorts, which were clearly in the majority.
At that meeting convened by Jang, a case was made for the recall of the then Sokoto State governor, Aliyu Wamakko, who was suspended. But, while the forum accepted the plea for Wamakko’s recall, nothing was said about Amaechi, because it was obvious that the Rivers State chief executive had strayed.
Another ready feature of the division within the NGF under Amaechi was that most of the then opposition or Progressives Governors were siding with the then Rivers State governor and former NGF chairman.
Those who backed Amaechi in the contest to wrest control of NGF from then President Goodluck Jonathan included Alhaji Sule Lamido, who had eyes on the 2015 Presidency, Dr Babangida Aliu (Talba), Rabiu Kwankwaso, Abdulfatah Ahmed and Wamakko.
Although Amaechi insisted that he remained the NGF chairman, he did not convene any meeting of the forum until Jang did. While Amaechi pledged allegiance to President Jonathan, he warned Jang to stop parading himself as the chairman of NGF, reminding the then Plateau State governor that the then Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola had approached the court to affirm that there was only one chairman elected from the May 24, 2013 chairmanship election.
Despite pledging loyalty to Jonathan, Jang and his group from the PDP accused the then Rivers State governor of hobnobbing with members of the opposition.
It is believed that the leadership crisis within the influential NGF paved the way for the eventual division within the fold of the then governing PDP, which also culminated in Jonathan’s loss of the 2015 presidential poll as an incumbent.
Consequently, when the new PDP moved en masse into the newly formed APC, the Lion of Ubima was not only welcomed as a lion-killer but also regaled as the hero of APC’s effective battle against PDP. In a bid to reward his ingenuity in ‘taking the battle to Jonathan’s backyard’, Amaechi was made the Director General of the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation.
As the commander of the majority members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, the former Rivers State governor was festooned with the powers of a political field marshal. And his head grew bigger, just as he savoured the imaginary Lion’s mane around him.
Further, as victory smiled on APC in the 2015 poll, Amaechi dreamed big. His dreams got bigger when he was saddled with the responsibility of overseeing the hefty Transportation Ministry. And, believing that he is the beloved of President Muhammadu Buhari, who appointed him to the prestigious ministry, Amaechi sought to emasculate the Aviation section.
The attempt to do battle with the Minister of State, Hadi Sirika, proved to the Minister that not all battles are won by the Lion: Hadi had the Aviation carved out as a separate ministry beyond the oversight or supervision of the Transportation Minister.
However, despite the cautionary signs from the needless confrontation with the junior Minister, Amaechi’s head continued to swell with bigger dreams. As Minister of Transportation, Amaechi ensured that he used the rail development programme to ingratiate himself to the President and Commander-in-Chief.
Amaechi’s efforts to defend the construction of a standard railway gauge from Kano to Maradi in the Niger Republic before the members of the House of Representatives rang so hollowly and deficient in sound patriotic and economic reasoning.
Juxtaposing the Kano–Maradi rail line with the Port Harcourt–Maiduguri obsolete gauge exposed Amaechi’s facetious attempt to translate President Buhari’s body language into Nigeria’s rail development master plan. Not that alone, the Lion of Ubima seemed to think that by accommodating the Niger Republic – where Buhari’s cousins are – at the expense of the Eastern rail corridor in the national rail masterplan, he would enjoy President Buhari’s reciprocal support for his presidential ambition.
All Amaechi could get as a reward from President Buhari when it mattered most, was mere, but colourful turbans as the Dan Amana Daura, which, coming months to the APC presidential primary, raised his hopes for an eventual thud on the floor like the fall of Humpty Dumpty.
That Amaechi’s big dreams would end up like a nightmare became evident on the eve of the APC Special Convention and presidential primary. When he was asked by his supporters to open his palms as other contenders were doing, the Lion of Ubima squirmed sheepishly that he could be accused of having made much money.
It became obvious that those who goaded him on during the fight with Jonathan were disappointed in him because those his former colleagues in the NGF saw the Lion of Ubima as a man who likes to keep a lion’s share to himself. And they turned their backs on him.
Also, at the APC presidential primary, Amaechi saw the emptiness of the soul-lifting adulations being heaped on him as a Lion-killer and supremo of APC triumph over PDP. He saw that he was found useful only because he was obedient to the dictates of the owners of the house rather than being ranked as a part owner.
Now, the chickens are coming home to roost as another major election cycle dawns. Amaechi’s political nemesis, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, is being courted left, right and centre by even those he (Amaechi) tried to upstage, simply because he fought against his next-door neighbour in the illusive dream of mounting the high horse.
Whatever happens in the upcoming general elections, CRA will have a lot of introspection to do. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi would have learnt that attempts to grab opportunities do not bear sustainable dividends. But, most importantly, the Lion of Ubima would have seen how easy it is to transform a dummy lion into a giant pussycat.