Two personae suitably illustrate Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation. These are Queen, Saran, the Bambara fictional character in the poem, Love Defeats Queen Saran and Benedict Arnold, the anti-hero of the American War of Independence, who for 20, 000 pounds sabotaged the efforts of his countrymen at West Point fort.
Amaechi’s off-the-cuff remarks at the Federal Government’s town hall meeting in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital pertaining the proposed Maritime University at Okerenko, Delta State pitted him against his counterpart, Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu. It is a common fact of history that some people, for whatever, are averse to their kith and kin, so it is not entirely surprising that the one-time speaker and governor of Rivers State seems to have a grouse against his people in the south south, therefore, will mount any challenge against their developmental inroads.
For a man that has benefitted immensely from the generosity of his south south brothers to so cavalierly dismiss their aspirations is no less befuddling like Queen Saran.
Saran, the bejewelled wife of Duga, leader of the Bambara, was taken up by the ‘virile splendour’ of Da Monzon, that she forgot the generosity of her husband; his gifts, devotion and fidelity that she had to betray him because of the appeal of the flesh and the future expectation of bliss.
An excerpt from the poem: Duga’s wife watched Da Monzon.
She was thunderstruck by his virile splendor;
it was love at first sight and her desire was so intense
that she lost all sense of proper behavior as well as her self-control.
She spent a very bad night, as her flesh
was tormented by a hunger she could not satisfy;
dark thoughts peopled her brain,
she forgot Duga’s favours,
she forgot that she was the first queen
of a state famous for the courage of its warriors
and the wealth of its citizens.
She was obsessed by one idea—
to possess Da, to hold him in her arms, to give all of herself to him;
she was lost without knowing it.
Her drunken soul plunged into darkness,
she forgot everything else,
she wanted Da at any price.
As it was with Saran, so it was with Arnold. The records show that at the start of the American War of Independence, Benedict Arnold was the archetypal American hero, who fought brilliantly surviving bravely in several tough battles.
But like they say that the tide turns in the affairs of men, by the end of the war, the famed general had taken a dangerous turn and was now in command of British troops against his former forces. It is said that Arnold was a general on the losing side who went down in history as a “turncoat” and a traitor. Embittered by what he saw as a lack of recognition of his military genius, Arnold offered West Point to the British in return for 20,000 pounds and proceeded to systematically weaken the defences of the strategic fort overlooking the Hudson River in New York State. But his plot quickly unravelled and Arnold’s contact with the British army, Maj. John Andre, was captured by American forces and hanged. Arnold escaped to a British frigate and although the British never really trusted him, he was given command of British troops. After the war, he and his wife went to England, where he died, the most famous traitor in American history.
How do these two characters differ from Amaechi? He was at the forefront of an adversarial campaign against former President Goodluck Jonathan. He not only said that Jonathan is not his brother, but has shown a marked disdain for anything as it relates to those that should be his immediate constituency. It was the very people that he has waged relentless war against that plucked him from the jaws of poverty, dressed him, and gave him the stage to become who he is today.
If the minister is not drunk on some opium of being beholden to today’s men of power, and in particular the north, how can anyone justify his summation at that meeting, which drew jeers from those in the audience. He said, “I am not against the University. I hope you people appreciate that. My argument about Okerenkoko is that the land alone is N13 billion. If you give me N13 billion I will buy half of Lagos. That N13 billion has built the university already so there is no need to spend more money.
“Let EFCC retrieve the money from them and then release them and we would build the University. I believe the Federal government has no money to continue. When we have money we would continue.
“The Minister of state for Petroleum has whispered to me that he would look for the money to continue…Minister, bring it to me and I will continue.”
Right from the onset of his ministerial appointment, Amaechi bared his fangs against the university when he declared it scrapped without going through proper scrutiny of the facts. For one, he is neither a cost analyst nor surveyor to determine the exact cost of the land. Also, he unwittingly made himself the prosecutor and judge when he arrogantly said, once the money is retrieved, the EFCC would let those behind the sale go home. What then happens to due judicial process? Which society can make any meaningful progress with strong arm tactics?
Well, Amaechi was outclassed by the Minister of Petroleum, State, Ibe Kachikwu, who showed a remarkable understanding of the sensibilities of the audience in the oil-rich Akwa Ibom State. Perhaps being an active player in the oil and gas industry, Kachikwu understands the dynamics of the development of the region that has witnessed a resurgence in pipeline vandalism and has nearly crippled the country’s oil industry.
“First, let me say on Maritime University, I disagree with the Minister of Transport.
“Any facility that is placed in the south south, we should work towards developing it. I don’t care the circumstances under which we are placed…
“It is not my position to determine whether land was valued at N19 billion or N10 billion or N3 billion. The appropriate institutions which are the court systems will determine that.
“That has nothing to do with the development of the infrastructure. As far as I know, so much has gone into that property. So much fiscal assets are being developed. We are not going to throw the baby with the bath water. We will deal with the issues, but the university will be developed.
“If he doesn’t want it in maritime, I will take it to petroleum,” Kachikwu said.
If Amaechi still has some sense left, which no doubt he still does, he should read in between the lines of what his colleague brother from the south south has told him. History is usually unkind with people who turn their backs against their people for personal advancement. Nigeria has their fair share of examples of those who have gone into infamy for how their people perceived them.
. Emenike wrote in through [email protected]

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