I have said it repeatedly that Nigeria will NOT make progress as long as we continue to elevate visionless people, viz. plunderers, profiteers, gangsters with their manifest tendencies into positions of authority and leadership. Unfortunately, we idolise these good-for-nothing leaders as gods; people who are totally bereft of progressive ideas and lack the wherewithal to lift society up the scale of human progress and whose only claim to power is their manifest lack of qualification for public office. They ordinarily should be on the fringes of society but who through a combination of regression of social values, sheer indiscipline, corruption of the sacred calling of leadership, godfatherism and the amount of violence they could boast of, have seized the mantle of leadership and then proceed to do incalculable damage to not just the psyche of the people, but demonstrably, the physical progress of their states and country. They fritter huge resources at their disposal away on mundane projects, and in pursuit of their personal ambition. Nigeria has become a thriving paradise for gangsters – a lawless jungle of corrupt profiteers and political godfathers who have held the people hostage, or perhaps whom the people have allowed to hold them hostage.
The latest in the tragic soap opera called Nigeria is the drumbeat coming out of the Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Rotimi Amaechi, one of the canonised “heroes of our democracy” by our Nobel laureate, was widely reported in the media recently (note: the report has not been denied) playing the exact opposite of what democracy means.
He was reported to have boasted that one of his protégés, Senator Magnus Abe, will not be the governor of Rivers State come 2019. And to thwart the yet-to-be-declared governorship aspiration, the emperor who has no clothes is already boasting of his reach. The actions and statements credited to Amaechi are quite telling. His hubris and crude barbarism were on full display. And he owes no one any apology, neither do some of us. Recently, he was reported to have removed local government caucus leaders loyal to the senator representing Rivers South-east senatorial district. According to the reports, there has been a budding feud between Amaechi and Abe over the latter’s governorship ambition which he is against. This is the statement credited to him in the report: “I have foreclosed Abe’s governorship ambition as far as the Rivers APC is concerned. If he likes, let him run to President Buhari. That will not change anything. If he likes, let him go to the First Lady, Aisha Buhari; nothing will change.
“In my capacity as the leader of the APC in Rivers State, Abe cannot be the governorship candidate of the party in Rivers State in 2019. Abe has no character. I hear the executives of about 15 local government areas are already working for him. I will see how far they can go.
“I am the only one that can determine who gets the party’s ticket in 2019. Suddenly, Abe has become something else in the party because he won his senatorial election. Was I not governor for eight years? Was I not speaker for eight years?
“I remain the leader of the APC in Rivers State. Even if the 23 LGA chairmen of the party support him, it will not change anything.” Amaechi also warned that he would suspend any party leader that is supporting Senator Abe’s candidature for 2019. Please read again this statement coming from Wole Soyinka’s hero of democracy: “I am the only one that can determine who gets the party’s ticket in 2019” Wow!! Can you beat that? What haughtiness! What impertinence! What a conceited fellow! I am appalled at the conduct of this Soyinka’s pseudo hero of democracy. Now he tells us Abe doesn’t have the character to be governor, the same person he pulled all the stops to help get elected senator as recent as December last year. If in Amaechi’s world, Abe doesn’t have the character to be governor, should such a person qualify to be a senator of the federal republic? When did he realise the man doesn’t have character? This same Abe was once appointed by Amaechi as the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) when he was the governor of Rivers State. Now Amaechi wants the world to believe that Abe suddenly has no character and is therefore not suitable to be governor? Wonders will never cease! Why was such a man suitable to be SSG under Amaechi for four good years?
But the truth is, Amaechi’s latest salvo against one of his own fits into a familiar pattern. In his war of attrition with Governor Nyesom Wike, Amaechi has said so many unprintable things about his successor: Wike is a thug, he can’t speak English, he doesn’t dress well, etc. Wike is a thug, he appointed him Chief of Staff, Wike can’t speak English, he made him the director general of his campaign organisation, he doesn’t dress well and went on to nominate him for ministerial appointment. Come on Mr Amaechi. Is it that anytime he falls out with his loyalists, he suddenly realises they are bad people? Why is everybody who has worked with him now bad? Is it because they are trying to come out of his shadow? Wait a minute – reading every word attributed to him in describing others was like listening to a man describing himself. Now, if you place a mirror in front of yourself, who would you see staring back at you? Yourself of course.
The man who made a show of carrying the cross of crucifixion on Good Fridays, is now the boastful leader who must be obeyed.
If you think all this is made up, read Amaechi’s former Chief of Staff, Chief Tony Okocha’s reaction to his sack: “They just removed me (as the leader of Obio/Akpor caucus). I was removed because I support Abe. The removal is just to confirm that APC belongs to one man. The man is turning it into his private estate.” Will Amaechi also tell the world that Okocha doesn’t have character?
Amaechi craves loyalty of his aides and all those he claims to have made, but can’t give the same to those who made him. How does that sound? Nearly all who hear this would laugh. The story of former Governor Peter Odili and Amaechi looks like a distant memory now. From a personal assistant to Dr Odili when he was a private medical practitioner, he was railroaded into the state House of Assembly when Odili contested the 1999 governorship election. And he was made the speaker for eight years under Governor Odili. He proceeded from there to become the governor for another eight years with the curious judgment of the judiciary he now antagonises regularly. A man who didn’t contest an election was “elected” governor by the Supreme Court judges. Those who have their paths cleared by the benevolent spirit should not forget to be humble, so said our legendary Chinua Achebe.
For those who may have forgotten, let me remind them that Amaechi’s Peace and Reconciliation Commission, headed by the highly respected late Justice Kayode Eso went on to indict Odili for the destruction of Okuru-Ama community in Port Harcourt.
Only an insecure leader constantly reminds his aides and followers who he is. What is wrong in allowing Abe to test his aspiration in the primary? Why must Amaechi insist that Abe cannot run because he has not endorsed his ambition? Is this the democracy that these “change agents” talked about? Is this what it means to be a hero of democracy? One of the attributes and virtues of democracy is free choice and the will of the people is allowed to prevail, not the hubris of one boastful individual who personifies all that is wrong and undemocratic in all of us. Amaechi even had the audacity to declare with an air of finality that irrespective of what other stakeholders of his party think or do, his will MUST prevail. This brash and colourless politician has nothing going for him except his reliance on federal might. Obviously, he has not learnt any lesson despite the fact that he has been routed several times even when the federal government had his back. The limit of that federal might was clear in the many reruns organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to save him from political humiliation.
Now, let no one be mistaken that this is about I personally supporting Magnus Abe’s rumoured ambition. It is not, because I cannot in good conscience support him. It is simply about allowing the principle of democracy to flourish. Anyone, a saint or a villain can aspire to any position that person desires in life. Let Abe present himself and his credentials and let the people decide at the polls whether he is what they want or not. Amaechi cannot appropriate the role of the people. If others don’t matter as the emperor himself boasted in that meeting, why bother to go for primary election at all? He should just appoint his preferred candidate as the APC standard-bearer and then proceed to also appoint him governor in 2019.
In the run-up to the 2015 general election, this same Abe fought on Amaechi’s side, lied to give effect to Amaechi’s cause – that he was shot in the dramatic fracas that ensued between pro and anti-Amaechi legislators in the state House of Assembly. He checked into a hospital, pretending he had been shot. Photographs showing him on a drip and pretending to be receiving treatment from gunshot wounds were widely circulated in the news media. Then he was allegedly flown in an air ambulance to London for surgery. That propaganda marshalled by Amaechi’s government then generated much sympathy for him. The problem was, like all things built on lies, everything soon collapsed when it became apparent that Abe was never shot. It was a hoax. He faked the gunshot injury to generate sympathy for himself and Amaechi. Was it not curious that Abe didn’t have faith in any of the “world-class” hospitals purportedly built by Amaechi to treat him of his purported gunshot wounds? It was such a shame!
After a couple of days in a London hospital wasting precious foreign exchange, he sneaked back into the country unannounced and quietly resumed his duties at the Senate. That was the end of the story. And typical of the Nigerian way, nobody asked him questions. The mob moved on.
As for Amaechi, instead of him to concentrate on delivering on his brief as the Minister of Transportation, he is busy trying to control the politics in Rivers State. His vision is limited to Rivers State politics; to be the godfather who decides who gets what, irrespective of the means. The man is obsessed with his supporters calling him leader. He has no vision of his brief beyond building a single/standard-gauge railway this government inherited from the last government. All his attention is concentrated on the politics of selection of candidates within his own party in Rivers State.
Aliko Dangote recently estimated that the country is losing about N140 billion weekly to gridlocks on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, Lagos, the access road to Nigeria’s main sea ports. The road is in such a disgraceful state that you wonder if our leaders are normal human beings. According to Dangote, “The economy loses more than N20 billion daily and N140 billion weekly.” This should naturally worry any serious Minister of Transportation alongside his Works counterpart. Economic activities at the ports which are under Amaechi are almost at a standstill. He has not thought of reviving and expanding the rail network into the ports to decongest the roads of killer trucks. But all he is interested in is selecting candidates for elective positions in 2019.
The country’s rail system is still a crying shame compared to what obtains in some less endowed African countries. Kenya recently inaugurated its 470km Nairobi-Mombasa Madaraka Express railway that cost the sum of $3.2 billion. The railway is supposed to eventually connect land-locked South Sudan, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia to the Indian Ocean. Anyone who has seen pictures of the modern terminus would feel sorry for Nigeria and ashamed of our leaders. The terminus is more beautiful than our airports. Compare that to Nigeria that is spending nearly $12 billion on the so-called rail modernisation and yet lack modern terminus. Our terminuses are the same old, rustic, poorly renovated, relics of colonial power, built several decades ago; a disgrace to our giant of Africa status. The rail system was allowed to completely collapse until the last administration began its revival. Now the question is: why do we spend more to achieve far less than others? The answer is simple: the profiteers who take kickbacks and “kickfronts” are the people ruling us. Shame on our leaders. It is hard not to be disappointed in our leaders each time you travel out of this country or read about other countries’ progress. The interesting thing about this rail modernisation in Nigeria and Kenya is that both are being undertaken by the Chinese. The question is, what is Kenya doing right that Nigeria is doing so wrong? The Chinese must be having a good laugh at us.
The truth here is there is more than enough infrastructure deficit in the transport network of the country to challenge and preoccupy any serious minister of transportation with a vision, ideas, and clarity of thought than to be obsessed with the politics in his state.
But were competence and qualification the criteria for appointment as minister or noise-making and the power of raw cash to finance election? And there you have it.