Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has always been rugged and dogged and seems to always come out of his political fights unscathed with his adversaries being made to continually lick their wounds. His ability to always bounce back after all seems to have been lost confounds even the most optimistic of his die-hard supporters.
In 1999, his position as the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly was shaky as his opponent, Uchenna Okwukwu took him to court. Amaechi lost the case and it seemed the nunc dimitis had set in for the then 34 year old politician who had earlier been personal assistant to Peter Odili while the latter was the Rivers State Deputy Governor and special assistant on student matters to Rufus Ada George. Hope came for the Ikwerre born former student leader when the appeal was upturned in his favour and he went on to become a two time chairman of the Speakers forum at a time when his then colleagues were being yanked off like flies.
In 2006, he was clearly the favourite to succeed Dr. Peter Odili. He had been loyal to him for close to two decades and had paid his dues in the game laden with high wire intrigues. Like the pundits predicted, he won the party primaries with an extremely wide margin and then the unexpected happened. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on a visit to the state said his victory had a ‘k-leg’ and an overnight substitution of his name was done with his cousin’s Celestine Omehia replacing his. Odili was forced to turn his back on his loyal godson as an open or tacit support for him would spell doom for his much vaunted presidential or vice-presidential campaign which was gaining momentum at the time. Amaechi was now clearly on his own as many of his friends and allies jumped ship hearkening to the age long maxim that in the game of politics, there are only permanent interests and not friends or foes. He and his family were forced to seek refuge in Ghana when his usurper cousin held sway in Brick House, Port Harcourt. Ironically, the present Governor Nyesom Ezebunwo Wike who is now his arch enemy stood by him and was his Man Friday in his bid to get justice done. October 25 was a water shed day in the history of both the judiciary and politics as he was declared Governor even though he didn’t physically contest the elections.
His eight year was marred with controversies as he battled Jonathan till he did the unthinkable by not only defecting to the then opposition APC but led the onslaught against the agenda to kick out Jonathan by being Buhari’s campaign director. Getting him to stand before the Senate to be screened as a minister obviously in compensation for his role was akin to getting an elephant to pass through the eye of a needle. There was a damning petition against him by the Integrity Group bordering on financial impropriety and gross misconduct while he was the state’s helmsman. His name was passed over thrice with different theories being bandied around. Some opined his grouse with Wike was what was responsible, others held that public opinion will swing against him and would make Buhari who had sold himself as an anti-corruption crusader to withdraw his name like he did to Alhaji Musa Ibeto, former Deputy Governor of Niger State.
In the end he was the first to get screened on October 22, 2015. His dressing was different from his usual attire with his making reference to it as he said he was dressed for peace. The minority leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio fired the first salvo when he said the PDP Senators would refrain from asking him questions as they had not had the time to study the report brought against him. After all this weeks? What were they possibly doing? Was it all planned as Amaechi was once part of them? The Senate Leader, Ali Ndume wanted him to take a bow and go since he was a former legislator albeit on the state level. His opinion was greeted with many cheers from some of his colleagues but Saraki insisted on his answering some questions.
He cleared the air on the panel report and said he was never indicted by it and got the chamber roaring when he said he had never taken a bribe in his life as he defined the hydra-headed monster of corruption. He harped on the need for a diversified economy with great attention being paid to agriculture and solid minerals. He expressed his grief at the high cost of doing business in the country and reiterated the need for more stable power supply. If made the Minister for the Niger Delta, his first task would be to complete the long abandoned east-west road as it was an economic gateway for the country as a whole. He made a surreptitious support for a state police as he never saw the Rivers State Commissioner of Police for three years while he was Governor which makes a mockery of the constitutional provision that designates the Governor as the chief security officer of the state. I expected one of the senators to ask him why he shut down the law courts for well over a year as that action casts doubts as to whether he truly believes in the rule of law. It shows his lack of conflict management skills and how would he possibly manage the corruption and crisis ridden bureaucracy which he is being touted to head?
His grilling which lasted for about fifty minutes was more of a soft landing for him as the questions were not as power packed as one would have expected since his nomination generated so much dust and controversy. Its sure that his confirmation is a done deal if his antecedents are anything to go by. He has crossed the Rubicon. We just hope he concentrates on his job and doesn’t get distracted in another needless battle with Wike as he sometimes allows his emotions get the better of him.