This past week witnessed a frenzy of image laundering activities ahead of the commencement of the screening of Ministerial nominees by the Senate. But the prize easily goes to the clan of supporters of former Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi, whose nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari has so far attracted the most tenacious opposition from his home state. “Rivers Progressive Front,” “Ikwerre Youth Movement Int’l,” and an assortment of former Federal lawmakers from Rivers took out lavish space to advertise their support for Amaechi, and in the process pillory those who are opposed to Amaechi’s nomination.
Former aides to Amaechi while he was Governor, as well as former Members of Rivers House of Assembly who abandoned the designated chamber of the legislature and migrated to government house, Port Harcourt, for nearly half of their tenure between 2011 and 2015, also found a voice to attack the report of the judicial commission of inquiry which recommended that Amaechi and others refund about N53 billion of Rivers’ funds.
But why is Amaechi in the eye of the storm? Amaechi himself provided one answer on August 2, this year, when “friends” and other partisan dignitaries hosted him to a sumptuous reception. Note that no other person, who became a ministerial nominee, was ever hosted to such elaborate pre-nomination reception.
On that day, at the Abuja International Conference Centre, Amaechi announced, “Let me tell you what is currently going on in Rivers State. The governor and PDP are afraid of me getting an appointment to the National (Federal) Executive Council, because that will determine what the politics of Rivers State will be.”
So, upfront, Amaechi conceives his ministerial nomination as an opportunity for self-aggrandisement, and for interloping in the politics of his home state, rather than a focus on service to the nation.
In this wise, it is significant that no other former Governor nominated as Minister has starkly stated his mission the way Amaechi did on August 2. If Amaechi has opponents across the political divide in his state, who in his right senses would allow Amaechi to cock his gun and blast them out of town? There are lingering grudges against Amaechi for jettisoning the PDP, and becoming the arrowhead of the presidential victory of the APC.
However, there is a related answer to why Amaechi is in the eye of the storm. Clearly, one would be gravely mistaken to assume that Amaechi is generating such antagonistic passion because he is “special” and must carry the cross, in order to validate his anointment. In truth, Amaechi excites such intense passion because of his imperious disposition, by which he believes his way is the only right course. As Governor, he relied on the Rivers State Tribunals of Inquiry Law to set up Commissions of Inquiry.
But when his successor did the same, Amaechi promptly ran to the courts in Rivers, seeking an injunction against the Commission of Inquiry. Yet, for more than one year, Amaechi had kept those same courts under lock and key, while he engaged in an ego contest with the National Judicial Council. The courts were reopened after Amaechi left office. In fact, it was one of the first executive actions taken by Amaechi’s successor on the very day he was sworn in.
Despite his application for injunction being rejected by the court, Amaechi shunned the Justice Omereji Commission of Inquiry. Instead, he along with a few of his uncouth aides revelled in hurling insults at the Inquiry. Amaechi approached the court because he said the inquiry was ultra vires; the court ruled otherwise.
He had also contended that the inquiry was primarily targeted at him; the court held that an Inquiry into the management of the finances of the state could never be conceived as a personal investigation. Amaechi equally complained that the 30 days given for the Inquiry to do its work would infringe on his right to fair hearing; the court held that the 30-day deadline was not sacrosanct. Yet, Amaechi shunned the Inquiry.
With the Inquiry completed, and Amaechi and others asked to refund about N53 billion, Amaechi has again threatened recourse to the courts. If he ever were to succeed in his latest voyage to the courts, legal scholars and jurists would have to find a new meaning for abuse of court process.
What is however interesting is that Amaechi and his vociferous supporters are asserting that an indictment by an Administrative or Judicial Commission of Inquiry cannot serve to bar him from public office, quite rightly so, according to judicial authority. But what happened to Rivers’ resources and assets? Why did Amaechi shun the Inquiry if he truly has the interest of Rivers people at heart?
Rivers people cannot forget in a hurry that, after eight years as governor, Amaechi did not prepare any handover notes for his successor, Chief Nyesom Wike. Ahead of the May 29 inauguration of Chief Wike, Amaechi’s agents ran from pillar to post, seeking an injunction to stop the swearing-in on the grounds that Rivers had no substantive or acting Chief Judge, even though Amaechi was the architect of that lacuna. There was no ceremonial parade review vehicle, and Rivers had to borrow one from Ondo State, for use on May 29. Because Amaechi had long since abandoned governance, Rivers was awash in filth and debt. Broken infrastructure and abandoned projects dotted the dreary landscape.
Amaechi ignored a valid Federal High Court injunction and proceeded to conduct a dubious local council election on May 23, and then immediately swore in those who were unwise enough to have taken part in the farce.
Of course, they were among the first set to be vacuumed along with the garbage that had formed hillocks on the streets of Port Harcourt.
In the final analysis, being a Minister of the Federal Republic is not a destination. How many Ministers has Nigeria had since 1999, or even since 1960? Some Ministers of yesteryears are barely recognised on the street these days. Yet, the names of some Ministers still ring a bell, because of their record of service.
Even if a person became Minister tomorrow, the job would end one day. If a person seeks desperately to be, a Minister so he can be the generalissimo of his state politics, President Buhari should be put on notice that such a person will scarcely bring lasting value to his cabinet.
One can only hope that there is no secret plot to open a new battlefront in oil-rich South-South, even as the country struggles to contain the Boko Haram menace in the North-East. This view is anchored on our national experience since the advent of democratic politics in 1999. Federal might was used to wreak havoc in the states, which in turn precipitated conflict of often costly proportions.
But, if in spite of all, Amaechi becomes a minister, Nigerians would be available to evaluate his performance, just as Rivers people today look back on the latter part of his cantankerous rule as the years of the locust.
Briggs wrote in from Port Harcourt.


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