So, after all the hype as the “Lion of Ubima” in the past eight years, Rotimi Amaechi will end up as a rain-beaten kitten at the twilight of the Buhari administration. True, that little feline is known to be at its most disoriented condition when its luminous eyeballs are, for instance, caught in the headlights of an approaching vehicle. At that critical moment, its vulnerability is stripped bare, often grounded in helplessness, unable to haul itself from possible annihilation.
After the crushing electoral defeat of his puppet Tonye Cole in Rivers last weekend, we saw Amaechi in that helpless kitten moment. His congenital lack of grace shone forth. He grew venomous and unguarded. He equated his electoral humiliation by Nyesom Wike as yet another evidence of “leadership failure” across the country. He described President Muhammadu Buhari as “a failure” who retained Professor Mamoud Yakubu as INEC chairman despite the “objection of some of us”.
Like the proverbial canary, Amaechi literally sang while fielding questions from a battery of reporters who sought his view after the electoral umpire declared him a loser for the third time in his deluded aspiration to be crowned as the monarch of Rivers politics — first in 2015, then 2019 and 2023. In other words, he has lost elections in Rivers in three election cycles, back to back. What a pity!
But truth be told, Amaechi, like a punch-drunk boxer, has not healed from the trauma of losing his biggest dream: APC presidential ticket last year. He had been assured by his political witch doctors to be the “khalifa” (heir apparent). He even went to Daura, Buhari’s hometown, to “chop” a chieftaincy as “Amana” (The Trusted One). But all the gaudy costumes counted for nothing when APC delegates eventually gathered at the Eagles Square last year to pick the flag-bearer.
Unable to conceal his malicious animosity for the man who humbled him at the APC primaries (Asiwaju Bola Tinubu), grumpy Amaechi resorted to the fallacy of ad hominem. But he only sounded confused and pathetic. One, he said Yakubu’s appointment was influenced by someone close to Tinubu, as if the law says whoever becomes INEC chairman must be an extra-terrestrial being who’ll be unrelated or unknown to anyone. But it is a cheap lie by a frustrated man. In any case, the same Yakubu was INEC chair in 2019 when Amaechi, as “super“ Transport Minister, appointed himself the Director General of the Buhari Campaign. So, why didn’t Amaechi object then if truly he is a “principled man” he wants us to see now? It is the antic of a conflicted man.
Of course, those weaned on the diet of iniquity are often the ones who view others by the low standard they were nurtured. Amaechi thinks everyone is like him who operates in a universe of low ethics. Tonye Cole, the man he was packaging to become Rivers governor in 2023, is widely known to be his “business partner”. Already, Wike is hunting both of them for sundry “sins”. Once upon a time, Rivers owned a gas turbine. It was built by Dr Peter Odili. Like the biblical Prodigal Child (what the Yoruba call “akotileta” or “Omo oni na kuna”), Amaechi allegedly sold the state asset for a whopping $370m to Sahara Energy owned by Tonye Cole towards the end of his second term. But Wike claims what was left in the state account he met in 2015 was only a little over mere $100,000! This is just one of the grave charges preferred against Amaechi and Cole before a Rivers court in an ongoing suit.
Now, in Amaechi’s worldview, that Yakubu worked as Executive Secretary of TETFUND when Wike was Minister of State (Education) was enough reason to suspect him of bias for Rivers PDP against his anointed in APC colours. But wait a minute — Tinubu is APC. So, is Amaechi also suggesting that Yakubu is promiscuous: bedding PDP and APC concurrently? Of course, that is the logic of a confused man.
That Amaechi has suddenly turned against Buhari, the man who was generous to him by allocating him a “juicy” portfolio for seven uninterrupted years, did not come as a surprise to those who have followed his career as “government pikin” in the last twenty-four years. He suffers from what psychologists call an entitlement mentality. The same Buhari he now abuses recklessly had also indulged him by turning a blind eye when Amaechi went around Rivers State for seven years as Transport with truckloads of soldiers, bigger than the contingent a President travels with. Well, maybe his anger started when Buhari refused to grant his prayers to return as Transport Minister after he lost at the APC presidential primaries in June 2022. The story is told that he desperately begged for a reappointment. But in vain did he grovel.
In Buhari’s first term, Amaechi virtually hijacked all the key positions zoned to the South-South. He handpicked the NNDC Chairman, heads of NIMASA and NPA, etc. He obviously expected to inherit the presidency after Buhari. As we know, when spoilt brats don’t get what covet, they instinctively resort to tantrums. After May 29, Buhari should brace for worse invectives from the spoilt upstart from Ubima. Here is a guy who has not done anything else in life other than contesting elections and growing a big tummy from public trough.
He did even worse to the man who gave him a headstart early in life: Peter Odili. For the eight years, he was imperial governor of Rivers, Amaechi humiliated his erstwhile “godfather”, creating a hostile climate that banished Odili to virtual exile in Abuja throughout! Yet, the same man had supported him through Rivers university and gave him his first job as admin officer at PAMO Clinic, Port Harcourt. So much so that he also met his future wife, Judith, as PAMO Clinic. The lady was an assistant to Justice (Mrs) Mary Odili.
In 1999, Odili it was who bought Amaechi form to stand in the election for Rivers State Assembly. The former not only won the governorship polls but also lifted his protege to victory, smoothed his way to become Speaker for eight years. In 2007, the then-outgoing Rivers governor also arranged Amaechi’s selection as PDP governorship candidate, only to be overruled by Obasanjo. The option left for Odili was to pick Amaechi’s relation (Celestine Omehia). Odili had naively assumed that would serve as “consolation” to his beloved boy, since Obasanjo literally held the yam and the knife as PDP’s Alfa and Omega.
Well, maybe Odili’s crime was his ignorance of an existing family feud between Amaechi and Omehia, his cousin. As Speaker, the “Lion of Ubima” had allegedly caused the arrest and detention of Omehia’s dad. The old man didn’t survive the trauma of detention as he died shortly afterward. Who dared offend the almighty Speaker again? So, making Omehia candidate was too much a slight for Amaechi to bear. Nothing had been forgotten. Nothing forgiven. No mercy.
In one word, Amaechi would not be mollified by the Omehia substitution. Once he managed to get the Supreme Court to award him Rivers governorship on October 25, 2007, even though he didn’t campaign nor vote in the election, he launched a vicious reprisal against Odili. But come 2015, Karma dramatically appeared at Amaechi’s doorstep in Wike’s image.
While he was Rivers governor for eight years, egoistic Amaechi behaved like Hitler to those around him. His SSG, Magnus Abe, was humiliated right in his home. When rumour started swirling that the latter was nursing a 2015 ambition, according to Abe himself, Amaechi stormed his home one night and growled at him, “You can’t be governor!”, right before his (Abe’s) wife. His overbearing attitude also drove Wike, his Chief of Staff, to the bosom of President Goodluck Jonathan who made him a minister and thus afforded him an escape to Abuja in 2010. When Ibim Seminatari bruised his elephantine ego later in the Buhari administration, he orchestrated her removal as NNDC chairman.
In 2015, Dakuku Peterside was the apple of his eyes. So, he made him the APC governorship candidate and when he lost, influenced his appointment as NIMASA MD. But once he felt his protege was growing too popular in Port Harcourt, Amaechi promptly clipped his wings by ensuring his tenure was not renewed in 2019. As for the governorship, he had found a new lackey in Tonye Cole.
An Igbo saying goes thus: he whose palm kernel was cracked by benevolent gods should not forget to be humble. Indeed, before fortune smiled on him in 1999, Amaechi was a nameless guy in Rivers. While his star shone, he was full of arrogance. Sadly, twenty-four years later, the erstwhile roaring “lion of Ubima” is now castrated politically and seems fated to fall down to the political wilderness. A big lesson for others.
• West-George, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Buguma, Rivers State.
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