I have asked before but got no answer. I am asking again hoping that someone out there will provide a rational answer. What does Governor Rotimi Amaechi really want? I have been unable to answer this question and even more puzzling, his close aides and confidants have also been unable to give me a clue as to what the combative governor really wants. While I cannot claim to know much about him on a personal level, his presentations in the media have given me some insights into what could possibly be the underlying force(s) driving this man.
I must admit, we have to give something to Amaechi, even though he lacks oratory prowess, he has been able to build a network of influential friends across major segments of the society, from pro-democracy activists to powerful men of letters, media practitioners, right up to labour unions and even influential lawyers who wilfully look the other way when the demons in him run amok as they so often do. It is puzzling how he has been able to do this despite his abrasive style and legendary lack of discipline and self-restraint. His garrulous and thoughtless nature has sometimes earned him applauses where a strong rebuke was required. He loves the headlines his combative and war-like utterances generate. Governor Amaechi’s ability to attract attention when none is needed never ceases to amaze keen observers of our politics. Though this seems to be working well for him going by the sympathy he has attracted, it is rapidly losing its shine and gaining notoriety. The Amaechi persona not only confounds many onlookers, it has gradually earned itself the sobriquet of the enfant terrible of the APC.
Ever since he led five governors (including himself) out of his former party, the People Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Amaechi regularly throws darts at either the PDP or the president. It is now such that every day, Amaechi opens a new line in his war of attrition against his former party.
After he spectacularly lost out in his attempt to make his protégé the chairman of his new beloved APC in June, many expected him to become more circumspect following lessons he might have learned. But he only went on a hiatus for a brief moment and then returned to the trenches. Few months after, he was humbled and taught another bitter lesson in tactical but practical politicking when he was schemed out of the race for the vice-presidential slot of his party after he had allegedly spent a fortune bankrolling the party’s activities.
According to the grapevine, while all the schemings were going on, the party leaders were said to be very uncomfortable with Amaechi as running-mate to Buhari. His quest was laughed off as a non-starter in a high-wired political game. The leaders were said to have conferred among themselves and came to the conclusion, that this ‘man’ that does not respect anybody and has exhibited so much rascality at the national level can never be trusted with such a high office. As they say, the rest is history. But who won’t come to the same conclusion anyway? Who would want to risk a bet on him to be of good behaviour when his DNA wreaks of trouble?
At the end of the day, Amaechi was only found worthy, perhaps for some value, to be the Director-General of the Buhari Campaign Organisation where he will have enough opportunity to throw darts and hurl insults at his regular targets – the presidency and his former party.
After his appointment was announced, according to media reports, most of his aides tried to pressurise him not to accept because his party was seen not to have repaid his sacrifices towards its building and funding. He eventually accepted, albeit, reluctantly to avoid sending the wrong signals.
In Governor Amaechi’s first media outing in his capacity as the Director-General of Buhari Campaign Organisation, he acted true to type. Watching him on television, one could not help but pity him. Perhaps, he appeared too early on television after the disappointment he suffered over the running-mate issue. The man was mixing-up sequences of events, mixing-up figures and practically lying on TV; it was a depressingly disastrous outing for him personally and for his principal, Buhari, as the moderators of the programme kept correcting him. It was a very pitiable show for the governor.
In another press conference last week to brief newsmen on plans and modalities he would deploy to ensure victory for Buhari in the February election, he dabbled into a very sensitive area – the military, all in the name of politics. Again, he was behaving true to type. Amaechi endorsed, on behalf of the Buhari Campaign Organisation, the right of soldiers to protest, not understanding that to protest in Nigerian army is mutiny. It was a great disservice to the country and the military – the final frontier of our unity.
If he was out to score a political point, he ended up scoring a very cheap own goal going by the barrage of condemnations that have trailed his unguarded deployment of his tongue. It is shameful that Amaechi does not know that to protest in the military is tantamount to mutiny. It is the same in most parts of the world. By endorsing protests by soldiers, he is directly endorsing mutiny. And were it under a military rule headed by despots like General Sani Abacha or his present principal, General Buhari, he would have been in handcuffs by now explaining some points to those ruthless goons in the Directorate of Military Intelligence.
Instructively, most of the soldiers being court martialled by the military are not being tried for protesting, rather, most of them are being tried for cowardice, refusal to fight Boko Haram, assisting the enemy and abandonment or fleeing from their duty post.
Obviously, Amaechi was taking liberty of his immunity and the freedom of democratic practice to stretch his luck, perhaps too far. Politics should not be played with national security. It is precisely for reasons like this that the country has not been able to defeat Boko Haram. There is nowhere in the world where a protest is tolerated in the military when a country is under terror attacks that undermine its integrity. The import of Amaechi’s prescription is so profound that it blurs the boundaries of decency, politics and national security. In his desperate attempt to undermine the government in power and score cheap political points, he sadly does not know that his prescription has no other name but incitement – a red line that should never be crossed. Unfortunately, Amaechi will say anything and do just anything to be seen as bold and courageous. He defines it as “speaking the truth.” But fortunately, not many are fooled by this rather dangerous escalation of the political ante.
Recently in Abuja, Amaechi threatened that should his party lose the upcoming presidential election, it would form a parallel government. Of course there is nothing a like parallel government in a presidential democracy and if Amaechi studied his books properly, he would have known that this is impossible. But coming from somebody like Amaechi who is one of the forces in APC today, it is not out of place to think that the party’s leadership may have had some form of discussion of possible options open to them in the event that they lose at the polls. It is possible that this was mentioned in passing and not necessarily given a serious thought. But Amaechi being who he is and as careless as ever, let the cat out of the bag- to the embarrassment of his party. And I dare say the leadership of the party may not be happy with Amaechi’s utterances but are now caught between the rock and a hard place. This brings to mind one other issue: what has happened to all those useless self-appointed human rights groups and those patently biased constitutional lawyers who pretend to be defenders and custodians of our sacred democratic values? They have all kept mute, no word of caution or rebuke came from them as Amaechi ran rough shod with his utterances. It’s as if their watchdog role is meant to defend Amaechi or his party any time their interests are affected.
In the coming weeks, Amaechi will surely bring about more embarrassments for his party and gradually, the man once seen as an asset would become a liability.
No doubt, Amaechi needs some professional counseling to rein-in his penchant for making unguarded and reckless statements, especially for someone holding the exalted office of a state governor. He also needs some tutulage on the values of self-restraint. But too bad, he has carried his personal indiscipline, lack of decorum and total disrespect for institutions of state into the public space. He has desecrated practically every institution in his Rivers State and now wants to do same to the armed forces. The judiciary that helped him to office on very curious and spurious grounds, even when he did not partake in an election in the first place has been run aground in the state. No institution is too sacred for him to attack all in the name of politicking.
While I do not begrudge him in his fight to protect his political space, one expects some measure of maturity and civility. Rivers State has so many schools with thousands of students. They watch their governor on TV and read about his conducts in the newspapers. Unfortunately, there is nothing ennobling to learn from him except the exhibition of rascality which Amaechi has elevated to a state art. The fear here is that our young impressionable students may begin to see Amaechi’s bad behaviour as a model of sorts to emulate. It is time for Amaechi to take a second look at himself and his conducts and step backwards from the path that he is treading. It is not too late to make amends. The office of the director-general of a campaign organisation is not an office meant to hurl insults or make inflammatory and careless statements. Its primary objectives are to deal with issues for his candidate and evolve winning strategies.
It will be recalled that sometime last year, he led the executive arm of government to the Rivers State House of Assembly to engage in a brawl with some legislators accused of attempting to impeach him. A free for all fight broke out with apparent danger to his own life, thereby, putting his security aides under a lot of operational pressure. Immediately after the incident, he put a different narrative in the press until recorded video footage showed that he was the aggressor.
Amaechi’s unending tirades and attacks against the president do not attract any serious attention anymore as many now dismiss him because he has become too predictable. Many always seem to know what he would say at any point in time – attack either the PDP or Jonathan. After he defected alongside other governors, for months on-end, he kept explaining why he left the PDP and gave different reasons to the extent that we could not even remember which of the reasons made sense.
His utterances appear to be symptomatic of deep psychological psychodramatic conflict raging inside him. He is like a man who though regrets an action within him, puts up a brave face to create the impression that all is well, hence the need to constantly defend his defection in public and the attacks on his former party.
After investing heavily in the APC, financially and otherwise, in the hope of getting the running-mate slot, his best reward was the head of the Buhari Campaign Organisation. And his first outing showed that it was not a well thought-out decision by the APC leadership. It is even a miracle that a serving governor accepted to serve in such a capacity given the competing demands of his state, which should take up all his time.
The tragedy of Amaechi’s situation is that the problems besetting his people have remained unsolved. While he dissipates valuable energy in pointing fingers of none performance at the federal government, his own performance measured against the vast resources at his disposal is less than impressive. As we speak, several local government workers in his state claim that they are yet to be paid their salaries.
He hardly sits down to attend to the numerous problems facing his people, instead, he junkets around the country in pursuit of his own personal political career while deceiving and misleading the people that what they see is actually not what they see, but what they hear. One is forced to pause and ask, is this the change that his APC talks about?