Where Did Chibuike Amaechi Go Wrong? (3) By Uche Igwe

Uche IgweI am grateful for the comments you have sent me so far on the second part of this article. It is just to do my best to say the little I know about these issues to set the record straight. I am prepared to challenge those with a different account of these events to put it out for Nigerians to judge. Let me comment about those who have criticized governor Amaechi because they believe that he is not genuflecting enough to his elder brother the President. I must say that it is proper for a governor to respect his President. One office is higher than the other. However Nigeria operates a federal constitution and under it, power is shared between the national government and independent federating units. Although the situation on ground is less than ideal but that is the law. There is no basis for anyone to suggest or imply a boss or master – servant relationship therein. If a governor chooses to make a President his political master, that should be at his own volition and his sole prerogative. There is nothing in our law books that says it is mandatory.
About the rumoured ambition that Mr. Amaechi wanted or wants to be Vice President, I think he has responded to that allegation severally. For me the whole rumour was created by those who felt that the best way to sustain their relevance is to amplify the disaffection between the President and the Rivers State Governor. Nothing more. In my view, whether that is true or false is immaterial as I see nothing unwholesome or criminal in having an ambition. Anyone who is qualified can contest for the office of the President, it is not treasonable felony the last time I checked our statue books. And so if Governor Amaechi decides to contest for Presidency and his party nominates him, why not? In 2010, here in the United Kingdom, Ed Milliband even contested against his own elder brother David to become the leader of the Labour party. Democracy is all about competition therefore no one should demonize ambition. Furthermore the President should be willing to test his popularity beyond renting crowd from one city to another. If Amaechi or anyone has something better to offer Nigeria, we should encourage him or such persons by allowing them to compete. If the person defeats the President, why not? Indeed many prominent people I have spoken to in the Niger Delta feel that the region may be better off under an Amaechi Presidency. Though they say it in low tones for fear of being ‘punished’. That is a dominant feeling all across the region as at today. But People are afraid to come out public because they do not want to be counted as the persons who voted against ‘our son’.
Now let me dwell a bit on Amaechi’s tenure as the Chairman of Nigerian Governor’s Forum (NGF). Observers say that it was one contentious period that worsened his relationship with the President. I agree. Some of us think that the Governor’s decision to retain NGF headship was not particularly helpful but rather exposed him undeservedly. It did not impact much in Rivers State rather it took him away from the state frequently. Some observers opine that it was the beginning of his distraction after a very productive first tenure. Do not get me wrong, the Nigerian Governor’s Forum (NGF) is a great organisation. In fact a federation like Nigeria with a very strong centre requires another level of pressure platform for robust policy engagement and to offer some checks and balances here and there. Such a platform will be helpful for states to compete positively, replicate good practice and provide peer review over one another. NGF was already growing in that direction under Governor Amaechi’s leadership but the Chairman might have things a bit too personal. I attended some of their meetings in Washington DC when they were exploring partnership and useful capacity building opportunities with National Governors Association of the United States of America. However somewhere along the line, the NGF sort of went off track. They became too political and probably too confrontational. The Chairman of NGF mistakenly combined his role as Chairman with that of Publicity Secretary of the organisation. He was always in the media announcing the decisions of the organisation and unwittingly became the face of the perceived antagonistic posture of NGF – at least in the eyes of federal government. In truth Amaechi was as guilty as Godswill Akapbio or Peter Obi or Olusegun Mimiko in all matters relating to NGF as most of their decisions were taken collectively but Amaechi merely announced their conclusions.
Today the NGF has been effectively factionalized, some say “jangalized” The opportunities for positive competition and collaboration among states provided by that platform might have diminished. It means that arbitrary deductions of revenues from states governments can now go on unchallenged. Many states are undergoing serious financial challenges and some are even finding it difficult to pay salaries but who do they complain to? So many positive projects that would have resulted from interstate cooperation have been stalled due to seeds of discord sown amongst states. For instance I remember the BRACED Commission – an initiative of the governors of the south-south which was founded to promote socio-economic development in the region. As soon as the political conflict between the President and the Governor of Rivers State broke out, such efforts came to an abrupt halt. The same with other inter-state collaborative efforts in security and information sharing. For instance he slow cooperation of the federal government is not unrelated to why the quantum investments so far made by Rivers State government in the power sector is yet to yield commensurate benefits for citizens. Monies that were spent by the state government on some important federal roads in the state are yet to be refunded and so such funds cannot be freed to complete other projects. The federal government continues to deny Rivers people what is due to them on several fronts. All the militants who were chased away from Port Harcourt have all returned to the city under the guise as PDP stakeholders. Naturally the frequency of armed robbery and kidnapping have started increasing once again. All these things are being orchestrated just to punish one person, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. What a shame! Where did this man go wrong?
Uche Igwe wrote from University of Sussex. You can reach him on [email protected]

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