FRONTLINE Niger Delta region oil pro- ducing Rivers State, hosts leading multi- national oil companies as well as the larg- est oil and gas infrastructure in Nigeria is truly the treasure base of Africa’s second largest oil producer. Nigeria’s economy is heavily dependent on oil and gas export earnings [90%]. It is not always gloomy in the Niger Delta. Oil producing states benefit significantly from the natural resource endowments of their land. A constitutionally guaranteed 13 per cent derivation payable to oil producing states has put them ahead of other states in terms of financial resources. Rivers State is the most important of all oil pro- ducing states. Although the third largest oil producing state, it derives enormous resources from taxes, as the host of the highest number of oil multinationals and oil and gas infrastructure in Nigeria. The state also has the largest population of all the Niger Delta coastal states due to the numerous economic opportunities that abound within its borders. Nigeria’s political culture thrives on a corrupt pa- tronage system of crass cronyism; there- fore, Rivers State is very important in the power equation at the highest level of government. Whoever governs this very important state is very influential and powerful in the politics of Nigeria. This explains why democratic elections in Rivers State are usually intense and sometimes violent.
Rotimi Amaechi, former governor and current minister of transport, proved the importance of Rivers State in national politics in the 2015 presidential elec- tions. Amaechi was the man, who led the revolt of five PDP governors, which led to the break-up of the then ruling party. His boldness and political astute- ness endeared him to millions of Nigeri- ans across the country but alienated him from his people on the home front be- cause the man he worked against, former president Goodluck Jonathan is a son of the soil. The needless disagreements be- tween Amaechi and the first family, were as a result of the former president’s little understanding of the Nigerian political space; an area in which Amaechi had a clearer understanding. The minister of transport lived yesterday in order to ex- ist today. He looked beyond Goodluck Jonathan, the first Niger Delta president of Nigeria, as the ultimate destination of the Niger Delta people. Unlike so many Niger Delta politicians, who became regional ethnic champions because one of their own was president, Amaechi remained faithful to the broad alliance that was the PDP, by maintaining a na- tionalistic posture and outlook without falling for the immediate but temporary gains of sectionalism. He refused to com- promise his position, as the governor’s forum chairman on sectional consider- ations, by being fiercely loyal to his col
leagues and pressed hard for the imple- mentation of the resolutions of the body, which were sometimes in conflict with then Goodluck administration and when resisted, was defiant in a manner, which his kinsman perceived as disloyalty; if not outright despise. Amaechi was also not ready to tolerate the meddlesome- ness of then ebullient and provincial first lady, Patient Jonathan; a dame no man could tame, not even her husband.
However, Amaechi’s main adversary and nemesis will emerge from behind his own shadow; Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, his closest political ally, confidante and nominee into the Federal Executive Council [minister of state, education]. Wike is a man of proven ability in grass- roots politics of Rivers State. He was like the field marshal of the Amaechi political family. Like most Nigerian politicians, Wike was driven by personal ambition for power. The only problem in this case was that his ambition to be governor was not going to fit into the equation of his leader’s permutation of power rota- tion in Rivers State. Amaechi, as then political leader of Rivers State, openly expressed the desirability of the gov- ernorship seat to rotate to the riverine area of the state after his tenure termi- nates. Wike, who, like Amaechi, is from the upland area of the state, was nursing the ambition to be governor. Amaechi’s position on moving the seat of power in the state to the riverine areas was not to spite or shortchange Wike, but was only fair and consistent with PDP’S inherent zoning and power rotation pact. Driven by the burning fire of his political ambi- tion, Wike, who came to terms with the reality that he might stand no chance un- der the leadership of Amaechi, suddenly, in a deft move pitched his tent with the first family. Goodluck Jonathan, who was also nursing the ambition to become president a second time; an ambition which he suspected Amaechi might not support on account of the understand- ing that power should rotate back to the North, found a natural ally in Wike. Both men were united in their personal am- bition over the common interest of the collective interest. This alliance further aggravated the dispute between Amae- chi and the first family. Wike knew too much about his former boss and ally. He knew his weaknesses and his strength and was able to deconstruct and demys- tify him at the highest echelon of power.
Goodluck Jonathan found in Nyesom Wike a trusted and reliable ally. He tied his presidential ambition to the gov- ernorship ambition of Wike. In order to neutralise Amaechi and reduce his influence and power within the ruling PDP, the Godspower Ake-led Rivers State executive committee of the party was dissolved on the orders of a Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja. This order was speedily obeyed and Wike installed the Felix Obuah-led caretaker executive committee. This move effectively made Wike the leader of the PDP in the state. The full weight of ‘‘federal might’’ was deployed to support Wike’s ambition. In the ensuing power tussle, Amaechi’s ex- ercise of his authority and power, as an executive governor were undermined by federal agencies on ‘‘orders from above’’. Amaechi refused to cave in but instead led the revolt of five PDP governors to join forces with other political associa- tions to form the APC. Amaechi was the knife that ripped the umbrella. He would become Jonathan’s ultimate nemesis. He also knew so much about Jonathan and he systemically exposed the former president’s weak points to millions of Ni- gerians, who craved change. Amaechi’s rhetoric against Jonathan was perceived as an ‘‘insider account’’ and were largely held to be true. The deep purse of Rivers State was used to oil the electioneering wheel APC’s Muhammadu Buhari effec- tively. Coming from Jonathan’s region, Amaechi’s revolt was very instrumental to uniting opposition forces against the former president, which led to his defeat at the polls. Amaechi achieved his ultimate goal while Wike achieved his ulti- mate ambition of becoming governor. Jonathan lost out. The former president was fighting Wike’s war, thinking it was his.
History appears to be repeating again. The problem is that men never learn from history and will always fall victim. The Muhammadu Buhari APC-led Fed- eral Government has also enamoured the minister of transport, Rotimi Amae- chi, with the now notorious ‘‘federal might’’ to enact the impunity and abuse of power and privileges in the same manner the PDP did in the past. Today, Governor Wike is crying out his heart bitterly, shouting his voice hoarse over the systematic undermining of author- ity and powers on ‘‘orders from above’’. Some say it is the law of karma taking its course. I don’t believe in the law of kar- ma. I believe in repentance and forgive- ness and a full stop to the cycle of cause and effect. What is happening in Rivers State under the APC administration of Muhammadu Buhari, as it happened un- der the PDP administration of Goodluck Jonathan is wrong now as was then. If Jonathan why Buhari? The vicious cycle of corrupt use of power that entrenches the political culture of impunity is least expected under a government that en- joys the mandate of over fifteen million Nigerians because it promised change. Rotimi the hero of the change Nigerians were opportune to effect, should look be- yond his rival and adversary, Wike, and continue on his trajectory of a nation- alist statesman in Nigeria. His reward for supporting Muhammadu Buhari, a northern Muslim over his own kinsman, should not be the deployment of ‘‘federal might’’ in a petty power tussle over local elections. His reward should be massive development in the Niger Delta region far above what was achieved under a son of the soil in order to justify the position he took in 2015. Buhari needs to help Amaechi reconcile with his people by keeping as much as possible the promis- es made to improve the socio-economic life of the people of the Niger Delta. The inability of the Buhari administration, to take deliberate steps aimed at re-ap- proaching and genuine reconciliation in the Niger Delta, beyond tokenism by way of political appointments, have fur- ther alienated the people of the region and confer more legitimacy on Wike’s political dominance in the state. Amae- chi should avoid the mistake of Jonathan in fighting to finish his own kinsman. Buhari should prove Amaechi right, that in making democratic choices, citizens should look beyond ethno-religious sen- timents and elect leaders based on the content of their character and proven track record, by significantly transform- ing the Niger Delta landscape for good. Amaechi should avoid the slippery path of internal squabbles on the home front. In an atmosphere of extreme sectional- ism that pervades the Nigerian political culture, it is better to keep the home front united behind you irrespective of political differences. The same friends cheering Amaechi today will exploit the fault line in his home base to undermine him while using his public display of im- punity to discredit him, in the case of a power struggle that may most certainly arise within the APC.