By EZE CHUKWUEMEKA EZE
Trying to capture the picture of the sham that is called the 2015 general elections in Rivers State, South-South of Nigeria, I lacked the words to capture what happened but Dictonary.com came to my aid with the word ‘macabre’, which it defined as gruesome and horrifying; ghastly; horrible. The elections in Rivers State is the kind of stuff you read about in a James Hardly Chase novel and even the Africa Magic films could not have done anything near the horror that took place in Rivers State on March 28th and April 11th, 2015, during which 19 human beings were murdered like chicken and some beheaded.
As I was contemplating about these elections after watching several of the PDP victory celebrations on most of the television networks in Nigeria, my mind went back to one of the key actors (RT. HON. CHIBUIKE ROTIMI AMAECHI) in these actions who once stated that the 2015 elections in Rivers State is all about him and his feats in Rivers State. I started to wonder what type of chance this Amaechi and his party, APC, have against the type of seasoned bulldozers and betrayers, all conjuring and accomplished politicians that I saw backing Chief Nyesome Wike, the Governor-elect, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In my wonderment, I researched on the mystery behind this man (CHIBUIKE ROTIMI AMAECHI) addressed in some quarters as the Lion of the Niger Delta Politics and came to the conclusion that it was too early for the PDP to start any form of celebration because their chief opponent in the person of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is a person that is gifted in turning the table when it seems highly impossible to do so. It is my findings about the past struggles and successes of this consummate politician that I intend to share with you. After the presentation, you can then understand why I said that it was too early for Chief Wike and his group to embark upon any form of celebration.
In my studies, Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia, came to my aid with the appropriate word to describe this man whose impact in the politics of Nigeria is infectious: ‘Audacity’, which it described as boldness, bravery, courage and daring.
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, a British politician, was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and from 1951 to 1955. Widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, a historian, a writer, and an artist. He is the only British Prime Minister in history to have received the Nobel Prize in Literature, and was also the first person to be made an Honorary Citizen of the United States. According to this great man, “There is no limit to the ingenuity of man if it is properly and vigorously applied under conditions of peace and justice.”In another breath; he stated: “Battles are won by slaughter and manoeuvre. The greater the general, the more he contributes in manoeuvre, the less he demands in slaughter.” After tasting great wars and the results of diplomacy this great statesman declared and I quote, “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.”
Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi was born in Ubima, Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, to the family of late Elder Fidelis Amaechi and Mrs Mary Amaechi. University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) in Rivers State was where Amaechi laid the foundation of his political life, participating actively in student union politics, especially in the National Union of Rivers State Students (NURSS), of which he was President, and the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). After graduation, he cut his teeth in politics as Secretary of the now defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State from 1992 to 1994. He was Special Assistant to Dr. Peter Odili, the then Deputy Governor of Rivers State, and also a member of the Board of West Africa Glass Industry as well as Risonpalm Nigeria Limited. He was Secretary of the Caretaker Committee of the Rivers State Chapter of the disbanded Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) in 1996 during the transition programme of the General Sani Abacha junta.
In 1999, Amaechi contested and won a seat to become a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly to represent his constituency. He was subsequently elected Speaker of the House of Assembly as well as Chairman of Nigeria’s Conference of Speakers of State Assemblies. He was re-elected into the State House of Assembly in May 2003 and equally re-elected Speaker. A Master’s Degree holder, Amaechi’s assumption of office as Governor based on a Supreme Court judgement after PDP dumped him despite his convincingly winning the party’s gubernatorial ticket, remains a mystery to many political watchers in the country. By May 29th, 2015 Amaechi would have spent eight years as Governor of Rivers State. He is currently Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). His unprecedented feats in the transformation of Rivers State have won him many international and local awards as well as the respect of great world and Nigerian leaders
Amaechi was the rallying force behind mobilising the governors under PDP to support the presidential aspiration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan during the PDP Presidential Primaries that produced Jonathan as the PDP flag-bearer and during the 2011 presidential election proper ensured that President Jonathan got over 2 million votes from Rivers State – the highest by any State in Nigeria. A misunderstood but an amiable personality; his forthrightness and boldness to stand by the truth attracts so much enemies to him, particularly those who cannot withstand his manner of approach to result-oriented feats. His numerous ‘sins’ will be highlighted later.
Chibuike Amaechi holds the National honour of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), is a Christian Catholic and a Knight of St John. Amaechi was appointed the Director-General of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign and led the party to win the March 28th Presidential election of Nigeria in which a sitting President was roundly defeated for the first time.
Now that I have stated the political life of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Roimi Amaechi, let me now come to the main treatise of this study, which is to unravel the mystery and political struggles of this misunderstood politician in Nigeria and how it will affect the outcome of the 2015 macabre elections in Rivers State.
An outsider to the politics of Rivers State may conclude that the odds are against Governor Amaechi and APC as a political party to succeed in Rivers State. However, after closely watching and studying Rt. Hon. Amaechi, I have come to the conclusion that this man does not achieve his political feats on a platter of gold but through the hard way and most of the time through the law courts. It was the disillusionment I noticed in some Nigerians regarding what happened in Rivers State that informed this attempt to expose or rather unravel the hard road that Gov Amaechi must to go through in his political journey and I wish to declare that the 2015 macabre elections imbroglio cannot be an exemption.
Signs of the mission of Governor Amaechi in the politics of Nigeria started when FEDECO, the then electoral umpire, announced Barr. Uche Okwukwu of the defunct APP winner of the State House of Assembly election of the Ikwerre Constituency in place of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of PDP. Amaechi contested this at the then Election Tribunal and the Court of Appeal and won and was subsequently sworn-in as the member of State House of Assembly representing Ikwerre Constituency. This began his political struggles through the courts. Reacting to this, Barr. Uche Okwukwu stated: “Yes, I contested against the present Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. Like I said, the Court of Appeal said I didn’t win and I should not be in the Rivers State House of Assembly. So, as a lawyer, by my training, I have since accepted the verdict of the court, particularly, when you do not have the right to appeal beyond that point.”
In 2003, Governor Amaechi came up with another feat through the courts. When the National Assembly moved to hijack the legislative functions of the State House of Assembly as enshrined in the constitution, he led his colleagues to take the matter to Nigeria’s Supreme Court and the court gave a judgment that the control and supervision of local government is the prerogative of the State House of Assembly.
When the PDP national leadership undemocratically decided to suspend Governor Amaechi from the party without any sound reason on 27th May, 2013 and was to follow it up with expulsion, he resorted to the courts once again to stop them from taking any further step on his case until he decided to join APC. The suspension of Amaechi from the party was agreed during an unscheduled and unusually early morning meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party at the residence of the then National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur. The meeting commenced at 8:00 a.m. and came two days ahead of the regular meeting of the NWC, which normally holds on Wednesdays. It was also three days after Amaechi beat the odds with his re-election as chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). He had been allegedly opposed by the PDP Governors’ Forum (PDP-GF) ahead of the election.
The governor’s suspension was hinged on what the party described as his refusal to order the reinstatement of members of the Obio Akpor Local Government executive who were suspended from office on the orders of the Rivers State House of Assembly upon allegations of corruption raised against the LG executive. Hours after the suspension was announced, the party at a press conference said that it had constituted a committee headed by Mr. Joe Gadzama, SAN, to probe allegations raised against Amaechi. Other members of the committee were PDP National Legal Adviser, Victor Kwon; Inalegwu Onche, Friday Nwosu, Udorji Amedu, Ola Kukuyi, Wakil Mohammed, Yusuf Jangwe, Mrs. Bola Doherty, Mr. Tanimu Adamson and Anicho Okoro as Secretary.
Reacting to his suspension during an interactive session with youths of the state, Amaechi asked: “Who has power to suspend Obio/Akpor council? Now you see political witch-hunting; it is so ridiculous, my party must rise above political witch-hunting. The Governor did not suspend Obio/Akpor council, I hope you know. My power is to dissolve and remit it to the House of Assembly, but I have not done that yet, what the Assembly has said is ‘we are investigating corruption’ then the party says we should not investigate corruption, is that fair?” He went further to state that the NWC issued a press statement to suspend him without any invitation and fair hearing. His words: “I was not invited by the National Working Committee of PDP, I was not given fair hearing. What I heard was ‘why did I refuse to reinstate the suspended Obio/Akpor Council executive? Who suspended them?’ His questions received the enthusiastic response of the youths who chorused: “The Rivers State House of Assembly.” Again the governor asked, ‘who has the power to investigate Obio/Akpor council executive?” The youths again replied: “The State Assembly.”
It was this suspension of Governor Amaechi from PDP not minding all that he did to uplift the party that started the decimation of PDP and its reduction from a ruling national political party to an opposition regional political party.
The indefatigable and indomitable Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi recently started another legal battle but this time with the National Judicial Council (NJC). Like other cases involving Governor Amaechi, this case is unprecedented in the annals of judicial adjudication and Nigerians are watching with keen interest to see how he may win it.
Based on the Federal High Court ruling approving Justice Peter Nwoke Chukwuma Agumagu as the Chief Judge of Rivers State, Amaechi supervised his formal swearing-in ceremony. However, after few days, the NJC came up with a verdict suspending the newly appointed Chief Judge, this again is unprecedented in the history of appointment of Chief Judges in any other State in Nigeria.
Before his appointment as the State’s new Chief Judge, Justice P. N. C. Agumagu was the first ever President of the Rivers State Customary Court of Appeal. He is an administrator, a former state High Court Judge and the seventh the new Chief Judge of Rivers State.
On 27th March, 2014 – to the shock of both the Governor and close watchers of events in Rivers State – the NJC suspended Justice P. N. C. Agumagu from office and directed that he should, within four days, explain in writing why he should not be sacked as a judicial officer. The Council, which took the decision at the end of an emergency meeting in Abuja, said it suspended the Rivers CJ over his failure to abide by the Oath of Office he took to uphold the Constitution and Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
According to Acting Director of Information at the NJC, Mr. Soji Oye, in a press statement: “At its 10th Emergency Meeting, which was held on March 26, 2014, the National Judicial Council under the Chairmanship of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Aloma Mariam Muktar (GCON), considered the purported appointment, confirmation and swearing-in of Hon. Justice P. N. C. Agumagu as the substantive Chief Judge of Rivers State on March 18, 2014.
“In the meantime, Council in exercise of its powers under Paragraph 21 (d) of Part 1 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution has suspended Justice Agumagu from office as a judicial officer with immediate effect.”
Reacting to all the brouhaha, a UK-based Social Commentator, Emeka Reuben Okala, stated, and I quote: “I join other Nigerians to congratulate the articulate Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, on the battle well fought and job well done on this issue. In all of these, Amaechi clearly stands on the pedestal of truth and that’s the magic behind his countless victories. Keep the flag flying, Mr. Governor, you are clearly on the right side of history. Kudos! To Justice PNC Agumagu, I say congratulations! Your appointment as the Chief Judge of Rivers State is richly deserved. Knowing you as I do, the Judiciary under your leadership will have a lot to benefit. We look forward to your good services.”
On his part, Nebukadineze Adiele, a well respected online Social Commentator, stated as follows: “The idea that a customary court judge could not be appointed a Chief Judge of a state was thoughtlessness taken too far. The NJC shamed itself by practically dictating to the governor as to who to appoint CJ. Kudos to Amaechi for standing firm on his belief and for trusting the judiciary into resolving this matter. His tenacity over this matter is a public service to other governors and future governors. A timid governor would have buckled when pressured from all angles to not appoint Justice Agumagu as Chief Judge of Rivers state. I am both a fan and a critic of Chibuike Amaechi – I support him when he gets things right and I get on his case when he goofs. On the appointment of Justice Agumagu as Rivers state Chief Judge, Governor Chibuike Amaechi showed tremendous courage under fire and his action will remain as revolutionary (over judicial appointments in Nigeria) as the circumstances he overcame in becoming governor. That the most senior judge in the state should have been denied appointment into the Chief Judgeship, simply because he was a customary court judge, would have been blatantly discriminatory, stupid, and legally not justifiable. There are instances when one cannot help but admire Chibuike Amaechi’s confidence and convictions. This is one such instance.”
As the serving Governor of Rivers State, Amaechi caused his Attorney-General to challenge the transfer of some oil wells from Rivers State to Akwa Ibom State. The Supreme Court eventually ruled in favour of Rivers State in that case.
A lot of articles and statements were written following the ‘k-leg’ episode that was the outright hijack of the 2007 PDP gubernatorial ticket from Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi ahead of the 14th April, 2007 election in Rivers State. This occurred despite his landslide victory at the primaries where he clinched 6,527 of the 6,575 possible votes while seven other aspirants that included political heavyweights like Hon. Chief Austin Okpara, a former Deputy Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives; late Senator Martin Yellowe; Pawariso Horsfall; and Mr. Chris Orji shared the remaining 48 votes amongst themselves. Amaechi’s name was subsequently forwarded to the INEC on December 14, 2006 in compliance with Section 32(1) & (2) of the Electoral Act 2006. INEC thereafter duly published Amaechi’s name as the gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers State.
The story however took a different turn when, speaking at the presentation of the party flag to its gubernatorial candidate at the Liberation Stadium, Port Harcourt, former President and then “Emperor” of PDP, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, declared that Amaechi’s candidacy had “k-leg”. Following this outright abuse of office, the dreaded bulldog that was the Nuhu Ribadu-led Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was let loose on Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, resulting in his decision to seek legal redress for his travails. Suffice it to say, Amaechi went on self exile to Ghana and the powers that be further showed their contempt for him by selecting his cousin, Sir Celestine Omehia, who neither purchased nor filled a form, as PDP flag-bearer in his stead.
Amaechi’s vindication came with the 25th October, 2007 landmark ruling by the Nigerian Supreme Court declaring him as not only the authentic flag-bearer of PDP but also ordering that he be sworn-in immediately to replace Omehia, who had previously been sworn-in on May 29, 2007 as the Governor of Rivers State. Thus, Amaechi became the first and only person to occupy the office of governor in the country without standing for election. In explaining the ruling, the Supreme Court has since stated that it is the party that contests elections and that the PDP won the gubernatorial elections, and that, consequently, Amaechi, being the rightful candidate, should assume power as governor.
This epochal feat stands as Amaechi’s greatest input towards the growth of judiciary in the political life of Nigeria as it has become a reference case in determining similar cases in Nigeria today.
As PDP goes about celebrating their phantom victory that will be short lived, Ikanya proceeded to give reasons why Rivers APC decided to go to tribunal to challenge the declaration of Wike as the winner of an election that never took place.
His words: “Apart from being our constitutional right to challenge this monumental fraud at the tribunal, we also wish to set the records straight to avoid a situation where those who are not empowered by the people of Rivers State through their votes usurp powers that do not belong to them.
Continuing, the Rivers APC Chairman said: “We are going to the tribunal to contest the fraudulent declaration of results for an alleged election that witnessed a lot of killing, violence and thumb-printing of ballot papers in favour of PDP candidates. The result cannot be allowed to stand. Chief Wike and the PDP leadership for rigged the election in such a manner that primary school pupils would have done better Allowing Chief Tammy Danagogo, the Minister of Sports, and other PDP chieftains to be the ones to return INEC results of their various local government constituencies to the State REC and acceptance of results even where votes assumed to be collated exceeded the number of the registered voters show the level of desperation by PDP and its INEC collaborators.”
Dr. Ikanya disclosed that yet another reason why Rivers APC is going to the tribunal is to maintain the spirit of equity, justice and fairness and prevent the discrimination against the Riverine section of the State as represented by the candidature of Chief Wike represents since through former governor Peter Odili, incumbent Governor Chibuike Amaechi and now Chief Wike, power will elude the Riverine section of the State for 24 years.
“We are also going to the tribunal to save the Rivers State common patrimony from being shared on monthly basis among few PDP chieftains to the detriment of the future and development of the State,” Ikanya explained.
As I was doing this piece, I was watching the AIT showing the celebration of the phantom victory of Chief Nyesome Wike and PDP members. I wondered if those participating in the celebration were aware of the reputation of Governor Amaechi as regards his political struggles and the usual outcome after he must have been written off by the uninformed. To me the PDP victory celebration is a celebration in the moon as it will take only few weeks for both Chief Wike and his PDP followers to face the reality that you cannot cover the sun with a finger.
My optimism is not based on the obvious fact that there was no election in Rivers State – most observers, including Prof Wole Soyinka, Ambassador Endwhistle and International Observers have since confirmed that that there was no election in Rivers State to warrant a winner being declared; it is also not based on the murderous nature employed by the PDP leadership during the so called election or because of the scandalous thumb-printing, ballot- snatching or because APC has gone to the Election Tribunal to seek redress over the obvious robbery of its mandate. Rather, my optimism is based on the fact that with Amaechi’s magic wand and his political mystique, Chief Wike’s so called victory will end in a matter of few weeks as victory will surely come the way of APC. Yes, the enormous facts at APC’s disposal, the calibre of the legal team assembled by the party, and Governor Amaechi’s penchant of snatching victory from the jaws of seeming defeat after travelling the hard road, give me enough cause for optimism!
Eze is a Port Harcourt-based Media Consultant. He can be reached at ezemediaconcept08@