The headline above is based purely on the assumption that Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi is going to emerge the winner and become the presidential standard-bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the party’s convention starting in two days’ time.
Already, there are strong projections that Atiku Abubakar is going to win the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential ticket. Atiku is from the North, while Amaechi is from the South. That, of course, will go against the requirement enshrined in the PDP constitution for offices, especially the topmost one of the President, to be rotated between the North and the South.
The APC has no business, nor an excuse whatsoever, to field a northerner as its presidential standard-bearer. That will not only be hugely insensitive, but will also correctly be seen by millions of Nigerian voters as crass disregard of its southern faithful, the multitude of who believe in the party to do what is right to ensure it retains power in next year’s presidential election.
Of course, the APC, like the PDP, has made the mistake of allowing some northern politicians to purchase its presidential nomination forms. With the country hugely divided and tribal or regional sentiments becoming lauder by the day, the best way to peacefully sustain the Nigerian federation is for all its citizens to have a complete sense of belonging. And this automatically translates to the North living up to its promise and ethical obligation of allowing its southern brothers and sisters to produce the next President of this country.
One thing going for the APC is that an overwhelming majority of those who purchased its presidential ticket are from the South. But, lately, one or two persons have opportunistically decided to cash in, telling all who care to listen that, if the PDP fields Atiku as its presidential candidate and the North fields Amaechi or any aspirant from the South in the APC, PDP will easily win next year’s presidential election. According to the subscribers to this weird school of thought, this is going to be so because northerners will not vote for a southern candidate when one of their own is an alternative.
But this is a cheap, opportunistic falsehood. It is also a big insult to the North that has over the years proven itself as possessive of a large heart. The North has over the years proven its political sagacity by voting for the best candidate that has the best record in terms of uniting our diverse people of Nigeria and ensuring a more secure and prosperous nation.
In the June 12, 1993, presidential election, the North rejected the now late Bashir Tofa to overwhelmingly vote for MKO Abiola as President. Kano in particular ensured Abiola got the highest support, even when Tofa, its own indigene, was the alternative.
Why did the North support MKO overwhelmingly at that time? The reason was simply that he had proven to be a unifier, in whose eyesNigerians of all shades and colours were one and the same.
Now, why did this column, just like millions of compatriots, presume Amaechi is going to emerge as the APC presidential candidate, and that the North is going to show him massive support afterwards? The reasons are many, and surely a column such as this does not have the space to say it all.
But the reasons include Amaechi’s bigger credential in terms of proven ability to contain the most serious challenge the nation faces at present, which is national security. Writing under the headline, “The imperatives of Amaechi presidency,” Comrade Oladimeji Opeyemi correctly surmised that “Amaechi’s security architecture for the state was also second to none, as the state became a security model in the country: kidnapping, armed robbery, and cult-related activities all reduced to less than 1 per cent. Under his watch, Rivers State established and set up an integrated security network, with a central command, control, communication, computer and intelligence (C4I), a 24-hour camera system that watched over Port Harcourt City. And to close the final loop, the Rivers State Government had ordered for the delivery of two civilian security Bell helicopters before he exited office in May 2015. The slogan in his time was Rivers State, where you sleep with your two eyes closed.”
Amaechi is also so far the only presidential aspirant who has been able to have as integral part of his team two of the most successful security chiefs this country has ever produced, in the persons of General (now Ambassador) Tukur Yusufu Buratai, former Chief of Army Staff, and IGP Suleiman Abba, former Inspector-General of the Nigerian Police Force.
Amaechi himself explained that he usually took these two great men and others along for campaigns because they were security heads when he was governor of Rivers State, and they tackled insecurity together.
“If you knew Rivers State before I became the governor, you would know there were serious cases of kidnapping and killings in the state that made oil companies move away, but, in six months, I restored security.
“General Buratai (former Chief of Army Staff) was then a Brigade Commander; for six months I did not sleep. So, I said, they too would not sleep. Until they let Rivers people sleep, then me, too, I started sleeping.
“That’s why, anywhere I go for consultations with delegates, I go with Gen. Buratai and former Inspector-General of Police, Abba Suleiman, who was the Commissioner of Police in Rivers State at the time and the former Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar, who was Air Force commander in Rivers then. We were bombing them every day until they ran away,” he said.
“There is a need to move back to agriculture and move from agriculture to industrialization and manufacturing,” Amaechi explained while speaking on reworking the Nigerian economic sector.
As Minister of Transport, Amaechi was seen as the man who correctly saw tomorrow in his everyday bid to save the Nigerian nation from catastrophe. If the Federal Executive Council, chaired that week by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had approved Amaechi’s request for some basic security equipment to be installed in our trans, the incident two months ago, where a Kaduna-bound train from Abuja was attacked and some of the commuters killed and kidnapped, would not have happened. But then not all leaders are imbued with the wisdom to foresee danger and move to avert it. Some of them are only good at playing cheap politics. And so Amaechi’s memo was shot down. And not long after that, what the then minister wanted to avoid happened. And the cost to the nation is unquantifiable.
The year 2023 is too crucial for Nigerians to allow themselves the liberty of taking chances and going for people in whose actions and statements, they have repudiated Nigeria. One of the leading challengers to Amaechi in the APC is reported to have categorically said he does not believe in one Nigeria. In an interview with Thisday newspaper, as published in its edition of April 13, 1997, Bola Ahmed Tinubu very unambiguously said he does not believe in one Nigeria. Anybody in doubt could simply google and see the evidence.
In contrast, such was Amaechi’s belief in one Nigeria that in all the positions he held, from speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, to Rivers State Governor and later presidential campaign DG and minister, people around him were always a composition of a mini-Nigeria.
At a time there was a consensus among a large spectrum of Nigerians that Muhammadu Buhari was the messiah Nigeria needed, Rotimi Amaechi aligned with progressives across the national political divide, especially those in the North, to support Buhari, even when a fellow south-southerner was president and was seeking another term of office. Amaechi campaigned for General Obasanjo at the beginning of the current republic, at a time some of the leading aspirants in both APC and PDP were engaged in tribal politics.
The other major issue Nigerians are concerned about is the economy. But one only needs to take a glance at the transportation sector that Amaechi superintended for almost seven years as minister to see that he holds the greatest potential to boost our national economy and move it from its present state of woes. Also in his distribution of economic resources, the former minister has clearly shown his ability, more than any other aspirant, to share resources as equitably as possible, without using companies associated with him to be the collectors of revenue and engaged in other funny things.
Then the third issue: national unity. Rotimi Amaechi has always proven his love and belief in Nigeria and its serious potential to become a just and egalitarian society where all its component parts will have a sense of belonging. The North is not looking for a president who will develop it at the expense of the other component parts. All that the northerners want is a firm believer in one Nigeria who will derive its diversity to huge advantages for all.
All presidential aspirants can make statements to that effect. But who among them has proven it in real terms? Whose words, in the entire field of about two dozen aspirants in the APC, can be taken as the truth and his assurances taken to the bank as guarantees? The answer is that only Rotimi Amaechi is such a person.
Delegates, especially of the APC, have a collective duty to ensure only the best is chosen by them, as the destiny of this country will be decided by their action (or inaction). There are stories about moneybags with bullion vans wanting to buy off all the delegates with stolen funds. But the delegates need to ask themselves: where is all the money coming from, and long after the convention, by which time they must have spent the money used to compromise their conscience, where would Nigeria be?
Surely Nigeria is too big to be handed over to the one who does not believe in its unity, or the one who is busy using his present post in pursuit of narrow religious agenda. Or even the one who has proven that public office is to be used to the advantage of only his people. One of the aspirants from the North included in this year’s budget, a nasty provision for an airport to be cited in his senatorial constituency, even when there are airports in neighboring states that have not yet been able to attract any passenger traffic. We cannot as a nation afford wasteful manager of scarce resources with tunnel-vision. Nigeria of 2023 cannot survive such a scenario.
The answer to the above poser is therefore that without a shred of doubt, northerners are going to overwhelmingly vote for Rotimi Amaechi if the APC delegates make the right decision to elect him as the presidential flagbearer of the party. With the assured support Amaechi is going to get from the North, including inheriting President Buhari’s assured fourteen million voters, the next president of Nigeria is without doubt going to be the Rivers State-born man of intense integrity, Igbo by tribe, who has been tested and trusted.
But if the delegates allow for the highest bidder to carry the day and fail in that simple but critical duty to millions of Nigerians, they should know that Nigerians would most likely reject the APC. And there are other serious candidates waiting in the wings. And Engr. Rabi’u Kwankwaso of the NNPP is one of them.