The road to the 2015 general elections was nonetheless filled with uncertainty. Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration had consciously or unconsciously lent itself to a floodgate and avalanche of aggressive attacks and politicking at the hands of the opposition. It was the effectiveness of those attacks and the political advantage which they afforded the opposition that resulted in the defeat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led government at the center.
In Rivers state, the then Governor Chibuike Amaechi’s perceived arrogance had incurred him a sour relationship with the first family at Aso Rock. His failure to handle the situation with the desired wisdom pushed him further into political romance with a moribund opposition in dire need of pecuniary transfusion. Although they might not have liked Amaechi for the disrespectful manner he approached his ‘fight’ with former President Goodluck Jonathan – Africans place greet value on the culture of respect for elders and authority – they embraced him, albeit with hungry focus on the financial fortunes he carried along. Being the Governor of Rivers state – about the richest state in Nigeria – Governor Amaechi could single handedly provide funds needed for a strong, fortified, and virile opposition. He jumped at it. For a man once loved by his people, celebrated by the society, and adopted by then first family, but who, suddenly, found himself like a fish cast out of water, without friends and colleagues, because he was already an anathema in the PDP, it was a relief, even if it amounted to emptying the Rivers state treasury in order to have a place to belong, it was worth it. He had friends again. Amaechi became uncontrollable. Rivers state became his personal enterprise. He did what he liked and said what he cared.
Even institutions were not spared from Amaechi’s political macabre. He was likened to the cricket who, while roasting in the fire, was boasting to put out the fire by his burning fat. His arrogance was not limited to Rivers state alone. Apart from picking fights with colleagues like Babangida Aliyu of Niger state and Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom state, he joined issues with Comrade Adams Oshiomole of Edo state. It was also rude shock to watch his manner of observing protocol at Sokoto when he was a guest to Gov. Wamako’s opening ceremony of the Sokoto State University.
The occasion was almost another gathering for the Chieftains and leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In observing protocols, he had referred to the Sultan of Sokoto with a careless ease, “…Sultan, you are there now”. May be he did not notice the hush that fell on the crowd at that moment. With such reckless manner, one could be tempted to believe that Amaechi was being tolerated because they needed him to ‘fight his brother’- the then President Jonathan, and also his money to keep oiling the political machinery of the opposition. An Hausa proverbs says, “you cannot conquer your enemy if you do not plant an insider in his domain.”
The people of Rivers state are enlightened, they are politically aware and very patient. They know that the gubernatorial election would soon come around. That would be where to expose their minds about his excesses. The high point of all these is the adage, “if an individual cooked for the community, the community could exhaust the meal, but if the community cooked for an individual, it would amount to suicide should such an individual insist on finishing the meal.”
Of a truth, Chibuike Amaechi could have passed for a humble man. He has always, and very naturally too, shown the right attitude as God fearing, with great devotion to his Christian faith. I personally enjoy watching him in his ‘wholesale’ worship mood in Churches and devotional grounds – as he would get engrossed in his favourite hits like “Otu a ka Chineke anyi di… Agidigba o! Or, Buchi’s gospel reggae hit, “It is well, it is well, in the name of Jesus …” But his desperation to prove himself a political overlord had unwittingly exposed him to fifth columnists, political jobbers, and opportunists who, in serving their personal interests, pushed him further to attract to his character the picture of arrogance and disrespect. His albatross was in the controversial manner he embraced the opposition. He was not driven by any sound ideological principles. He ran there for cover. That was why the stake holders, leaders, and great men of Rivers state did not follow him. They merely left him with the “crowd”- and the crowd has no particular identity. Little wonder why he later made an open expression of regret, when he accused the then Governor of Niger state, Babangida Aliyu of deceiving him into leaving the PDP.
Barrister Ezenwo Nyesom Wike’s emergence as the flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Rivers state gubernatorial race was a great relief. He was seen as a better man, more grassroots friendly, amiable and more acceptable to the people. They saw in him a man who did not politick to divide the people of Rivers state along ethnic lines as Chibuike Amaechi’s political desperation tended to do. That was why the people of Rivers state voted massively for Nyesom Wike. And that is why all the leaders and stake holders in the state were excited and enthused with his electoral victory. They are solidly behind their new governor.
Earlier on, the governorship campaigns in Rivers state clearly defined and delineated the pattern the real voting would follow. Nyesom Wike’s campaign strategy showcased him as the man to beat. He knew his people and also knew what he was prepared to do for them. He trekked from house to house with his team of supporters. As a grassroots man, Wike did not merely ‘talk’ his campaign, he ‘walked’ it; and the response of the people at the polls clearly demonstrated their choice for him.
At the end of the gubernatorial elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) pronounced him winner. Just like most other elections, it has often been said, and underscored severally by local and international bodies, alike, that no election could be said to be 100% free and fair. There is no perfect situation. In a huge exercise like the general elections in Nigeria, where the interests of about two hundred million people are concerned, there must be room for human, technical, or mechanical errors. Despite the many assurances given to Nigerians by the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, to the effect that the Commission was fully equipped and prepared to conduct hitch free elections, there were still lapses at its doorsteps. There were INEC induced loopholes here and there. In some places, electoral materials arrived late to the centers while in some other areas, the Card Reading Machines simply malfunctioned. These were the same machines that were tested severally to convince Nigerians that they were in good working condition. The then President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his wife were rejected by the Card Reading Machines at their polling unit. Complaints are still rife that in some states of Northern Nigeria like kano, Jigawa, katsina, etc., under age children were seen voting – and the electronic media captured such scenes. But those were some of the discrepancies claimed to have been forestalled by the INEC. Those votes by the under age children were never cancelled. They must have formed part of the total count – and a candidate would have benefitted from them to the disadvantage of another.
Obioma, a public affairs commentator wrote in from Abuja
The APC and the National Assembly drama
By Olalekan Waheed Adigun
It was with great relief that I received the news of the All Progressives Congress (APC) acceptance to work with Bukola Saraki and YakubDogara as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively. This was against the earlier stance of the party when it in fact rejected both men and the entire process that produced both in the first instance. This singular act not only affirms my earlier position in my article, “National Assembly ‘Crises’: Searching Seriously”, but also shows that the party is in fact “maturing” into a ruling party after many years in opposition.
Every political party, except it is so-called, seeks to acquire political power. There is no sense in permanent opposition, though we talk of “permanent power”. Acquiring political power is never easy, but more difficult it is to maintain yourself in power. This appears to be the APC’s challenge today. Having spent so many years in opposition, it is finding it difficult to accept the reality that it is now the ruling party, no longer the “opposition” party it used to be. Should we then agree with the school of thought that the party is not prepared for power? Are we to agree that it is a “fragile opposition” as a United States’ think-thank described it before the presidential election?
Since the National Assembly drama began which reached its climax on June 9, many APC supporters (if they are not properly so-called) must have thrown caution into the air in their response to the outcome of the National Assembly leadership election. I had my fair share of insults from fire-emitting APC supporters after making my opinion public on the issue in the article cited above. Despite some of them acknowledging my earlier support for President Buhari during the elections, some of my APC comrades did not spare my “honour” as some went as far as raining curses on even the memory of my late father all because he hails from Kwara state. The most printable of all the adjectives they used to describe me were “turncoat, renegade, betrayer.”
I could only hope that all these would have ended with the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, on behalf of the party accepting the result of the June 9 National Assembly leadership. To me, this is the most mature position the party has taken since the March 28 presidential election.
The National Assembly drama has certainly revealed some things to the party and to all.
First, the APC must come to the realisation that it is no longer the same party that controls just one state (Lagos). The party is now in control of 22 states in the federation. The fact that the party did the unimaginable on March 28 shows that a lot have changed in the party’s body chemistry. It therefore must “grow” to its new reality very fast.
The utterances of the party’s spokesman, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, must reflect those befitting of a ruling party. It appears he is yet to shed off his “militant” posture he had as opposition spokesman.
Secondly, the party supporters must maintain magnanimity either in victory or defeat. The over ambitiousness displayed by some of the party supporters in the closure of the National Assembly complex in the morning of June 9; the “ban” on African Independent Television (AIT) from covering the activities of President Buhari; the alleged prevention of top ranking People’s Democratic Party (PDP) supporters from travelling abroad and the likes all attest to the overzealousness of some APC members. They need to improve on their attitudes and orientations especially now that they are in power. This point was made recently by Professor Rufai Alkali, former political adviser to President Jonathan. The APC must avoid the tendencies to condescend to impunity. This was one of the reasons PDP was voted out of power.
Thirdly, the APC must understand the culture of negotiation as a standard practice in civilised climes. You don’t get to win all the time just as you don’t lose always. The present Speaker of the United States House of Representative John Boehner, is a Republican, while President Barack Obama is a Democrat. It is no big deal even if PDP “controls” the Legislature; it is only part of the maturation process. And that reminds us, both Saraki and Dogara the last time we checked are members of the APC. The only error is that the party overestimated its own power while underestimating the chances of its rival, PDP in the Legislature. There were so many early warnings the party did not pay heed to.
The party need not be reminded that PDP relied too much on flattery, eye services and praise singing from its supporters especially during the Goodluck Jonathan years. This is one of the pitfalls the APC must avoid like a plague. There are still many more grounds to cover; more battles to fight; more territories to conquer and more elections to win with 2019 being just close by.
ADIGUN is a writer, philosopher, academic and political risk analyst wrote in from Lagos