Amaechi’s ever-divided home front: The diehards and the refuseniks
…But the ‘super minister’ says true warriors emerge through back-stabbing, crisis
The immediate past governor of Rivers State and now two-time minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has continued to gain and build a huge national political coalition but the front he built back home seems to reel under the weight of a huge crack. Some of his topmost loyalists and kingpins of his political dynasty back home have either left him or have taken up the sword against him.
This development has however, forced insiders in the Amaechi home front to conduct a silent head count to know where the weight lies between the camp of those who left to fight him and the angels still loyal. The insiders regard the decision of those who left as an act of betrayal and this has led to the term, Judas Iscariot in the state. But, the leader seems unperturbed and may have urged his home followers not to bother about betrayals or departures, believing they were part of the process and the usual road to success, especially as is often in his own nature and destiny.
His critics however, wonder why betrayal or striving with one’s political mentor and leader or tearing away from the group would annoy him when he too did same to Peter Odili. Amaechi gets offended when it is said that he betrayed Odili, insisting he never did, but that mentor and son only disagreed over whether or not to end the court case against the party the mentor asked the son to institute and even funded.
The strife in the Rivers State All Progressives Congress (APC) which has been traced to 2014 has ensured that the party did not win the 2015 governorship election, did not contest in 2019 for any position, and cannot conduct a congress to pick the executives. The courts have played a significant part in this outcome. Amaechi closed the courts for one year before he left and this still sprinkles anger over the judiciary.
A statement floated as ‘research work’ by a team led by one of the most vocal loyalists, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, who is also a media consultant, has tried to list former loyalists who took arms against Amaechi. One such profiling run in the Port Harcourt Telegraph mentioned the following as strong pillars that left and are striving against the leader:
Wike has risen to be the Governor of Rivers State and a very bitter opponent of Amaechi. Only yesterday, he was Amaechi’s Chief of Staff and a trusted aide. Many who are close to the two men say Wike was never really loyal to Amaechi. Amaechi was rather a means to an end. Despite Goodluck Jonathan’s refusal to accept Wike as a ministerial nominee, Amaechi persisted until his supposed loyalist was sworn in. On getting there, Wike dumped Amaechi and joined Jonathan to edge his leader out of the PDP and seized control of the apparatus of leadership.
Eze adds; many people are still at a loss what reason can be proffered to support what Wike is doing to Amaechi after many years of wonderful relationship, but as a close associate and one who has worked with the duo, it is a rare privilege to expose to the world what actually caused the breakdown of relationship between these two great sons of Rivers State.
Wike is a very ambitious fellow who is ready to do anything to accomplish whatever he sets his mind to accomplish. He set up his mind to succeed Amaechi immediately he was appointed as the Chief of Staff to the Rivers State Government House as far as back as 2007and with the type of privileges and powers bestowed on him by Amaechi he felt that nothing could stop him from achieving his dream. While Amaechi was so concerned with delivering the dividends of democracy to the people of Rivers State; running the politics of Rivers State was left in the hands of Chief Wike the most powerful Chief of Staff ever in Nigeria. He apportioned political patronage to most of his cronies. In doing this, he was gradually building his own political block outside that of Amaechi. By the time Amaechi got to know what was happening, it was too late; Wike had flown away. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when Amaechi insisted that no upland candidate or Ikwerre man would succeed because it would make it beyond 16 years. He felt it would be unfair for another upland governor to emerge to the detriment of the Riverine area.
Wike reasoned that if he continued to stay with Amaechi there was no way he could fulfil his dream of becoming governor, so he decided to break away and constitute himself to the monster and terror he has become to the political family of Amaechi.
Abe may qualify as one among men whose ambition to govern Rivers State has brought him to staggering heights, and pitched him against a long-standing friend.
Records show that the friendship of both men became intense at the Rivers State House of Assembly in 1999.
Abe vigorously denies working with Wike. Wike has equally denied the allegation that he acted in cahoots with Abe to snatch victory through the courts. Many say Abe’s men have been made commissioners but he says they got such positions on their personal terms.
Abe claims he is still in the APC. Of late, Abe is investing more time in a campaign he hopes would restore peace to the APC in Rivers State. While some of Amaechi’s sympathisers think this may be a positive move, others who are victims of too many political snake bites say it is only a ploy to fulfil a hate-driven ambition to destroy what is left of Amaechi’s rising star and his efforts to rebuild the party.
Igo Aguma, a former Commissioner of Sports and an ex-national lawmaker is seen as the latest antagonist by members of Amaechi’s support base. Just as a high court dismissed a court action brought by Magnus Abe, and APC members in Rivers State warmed up to the idea of holding a congress, Igo headed to court.
Igo is someone who made a miraculous comeback to the Amaechi family in the APC. Some say he is just showing his true colours.
Opara’s emergence as Deputy Speaker at a time that the Ikwerres were scheming for power was supposed to be a plus. That calculation however, turned out to be a colossal error on the part of Amaechi and his friends. Opara not only turned coat, he teamed up with the likes of Abiye Sekibo, Uche Secondus, Celestine Omehia, Glory Emeh, David Briggs, Pa Wariso, etc to fight Amaechi’s ambition. He is believed to be a possible aspirant for the office of governor.
Tele Ikuru would not qualify as one of those who would lay claim to being part of the political family of Amaechi, but fate put both men together. After crossing over to the APC with his principal (Amaechi), lobbying to be Amaechi’s successor, Ikuru as deputy governor dumped Amaechi in the midst of battle and returned to the PDP. Insiders say Amaechi invested so much confidence in Ikuru against the thinking of his surrogates who included Wike at the time. But when it mattered most, Ikuru simply walked away.
During the Odili era, Secondus was one of those who engaged Amaechi in a political dog-fight. Given this background, it would be wrong to categorise him as a betrayer. Certain things later brought them together. These favours by Amaechi helped him to climb to national limelight. Today, on account of the support he gained in 2007 which exposed him at the national level, Secondus has occupied the position of acting national chairman and is currently the national chairman of the PDP with the support of Wike, another Ikwerre man.
Marcus Nle Eji
It is difficult to say when the rift between Amaechi and Marcus Nle Eji turned into a festering sour. But Nle Eji prior to 2007 was one of those who could be dubbed an unrepentant ally of Amaechi.
There are claims that Marcus provided the cover for the Abe group and Wike to cement their ties under the guise of a ceremony in honour of his new born child. Abe’s inability to secure the ticket appears to have been the final straw which broke the camel’s back.
Of all the persons accused of betraying Amaechi, Chidi Wihioka would probably qualify as one of the closest. Both hail from the Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State where he was the leader of the LGA. Both men have been in the trenches on the same side through years of political struggle. Both men have run things together. He was an experienced man before joining politics while Amaechi came in straight from the university.
While he served as chairman of the maintenance agency, something happened.
Amaechi complained publicly about Wihioka’s handling of the agency. A rift eventually developed between both men. Nyesom Wike saw an opportunity to emerge as the beneficiary and took it.
Amaechi stood with Wihioka no matter what the pressure was and insisted Wihioka was the undisputed leader of the area. Despite getting the nod to represent the area at the National Assembly, it does not appear that Wihioka was happy.
The opportunity to part ways came when Abe stepped into the roped square. Wihioka stood with Abe and turned his back to his brother and ally.
Onyeso, though insists he was never Amaechi’s boy, served in the Executive arm under Governor Peter Odili when Amaechi was Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly. Although Onyeso may not acknowledge whatever modest role Amaechi played in his political life, Amaechi had on one occasion said it would be difficult to write pages of Allwell’s political history without his name on them.
Amaechi is believed to have travelled all night to France on that occasion to persuade Governor Odili to have a change of heart. The emergence of Tonye Cole, coupled with other personal reasons further pushed Onyeso farther away from Amaechi, and set him on a collision course with his friend. Close associates claim that he has all along been sympathetic to the PDP despite his insistence to the contrary. Someone close said he has been in the PDP for a very long time. It’s now a matter of publicly declaring.
Boms wasn’t a politician when he first got the role of Amaechi’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice. But he was a widely respected lawyer who came to the table after Ken Chikere left for the National Assembly with bright ideas. Boms is now fingered as one of those from the Ikwerre ethnic extraction who allegedly betrayed Rotimi Amaechi.
Somehow, the former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice has clearly shown preference for the emergence of Senator Abe as governorship candidate, and worked tirelessly to ensure that happens. He has been less abusive of his former boss. There is no indication that he is planning to leave the APC, but most Abe sympathisers have covertly joined the rank and file of the PDP, which is presently in power in Rivers State.
Tony Okocha hails from Wike’s LGA and they were keen political enemies, such that Wike tried his best to stop Okocha from becoming his successor as chief of Staff. Amaechi insisted. Now, Okocha is with Wike. Like Wike, Okocha has apparently fallen out of favour with his boss. Incidentally, Okocha has been accused by core Amaechi loyalists of betraying the man who trusted him so much and gave him a role to play as a highly placed personal aide.
We cannot confirm if Okocha has returned to work with Governor Wike, but the last time we checked, he was one of those driving the Abe hunt for the governorship ticket on the platform of the APC.
Why did they break bones?
Eze and most diehards say those who left seem to be those who benefited most and can no longer hold back their ambitions to become governor or something far bigger. They decided to search for greener pastures outside the leader’s field-range. To do that, bones needed to be broken.
Quoting Laz Dambara, a prominent son of Rivers State and a stakeholder in the politics of Rivers State: “According to my brief research, the bottom line is jealousy and ego to take over political leadership from Amaechi at all cost.”
Jackson Omenazu, described by Eze as one of the most brilliant sons of Rivers, stated, “Though the truth remains that Amaechi empowered crass conservatives while preaching and practicing liberal welfarism ideology. Tell me how they will they not betray him? I have said severally that no conservative can be totally loyal to a liberal welfarist ideology personality like Amaechi, never. What brought them close is the spoils of office. All I will tell Amaechi is that life is a school, let him learn from this.”
Eze said a man he calls Prof, in his own submission stated, “I can say from a very neutral position that only ideology keeps people together for long. I dare say that if ideology is not the gum, then loyalty will be a function of grab-opportunism. Wherever it comes from, loyalty can only shift gaze. It will now be a matter of what you can get and who offers higher yield. Politics of ideology left Nigeria a long time ago. So, if interests match, loyalty grows up. When not so, loyalists migrate to green pastures. It’s not only with Amaechi.
“The bottom line is that almost every follower wants to end as governor. Even if you give them other positions, they think you were only preparing them to be governor. Any time this expectation fails, they hit out at whoever they see as cause of the failure. It’s happening all over the country. People do not come together to build ideologies and platforms for good governance but bridges to power, money and wealth. Nothing more!”
But, according to Dike Princewill, “The real problem erupted when people started nursing ambitions that were creating schism in the party that was in dare need of repositioning. CRA’s only advice then was that there had to be a party first before ambitions could be realised. Let’s know when the rains started in order to seek proper shelter. This is the same advice that Atiku Abubakar has recently canvassed in order to reposition the PDP ahead of the 2023 elections. If there was discipline in the rank and file of Rivers APC at that time and CRA, the leader’s advice was heeded; the party would have been a winning machine. Vaulting ambitions made reasons to take flight. Sad!”
Eze said always highlighting those who left or who fight Amaechi looks like the leader was not attracting new followers or that the former ones were not there. “When a team trusts someone to be a leader, it increases the team’s commitment to team goals.”
This Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) and recipient of the Federal Government 1992 National Productivity Merit Award has from 2003 to 28th May, 2015, represented the Ikwerre/Emohua Federal Constituency and was later in 2015 elected a senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria representing the Rivers East Senatorial District in the 8th Assembly. He sleeps, dreams, eats and propagates the principles of Amaechism.
Dakuku Adolphus Peterside is a key and influential member of the Amaechi political team and termed to be one of the most loyalists of this team. He is also seen as one of the most educated politicians from Rivers State and an alumnus of University of Port Harcourt, Georgia State University Atlanta and Harvard. He was the Rivers State APC Governorship Candidate in 2015 general election and is currently the Director General of NIMASA and first Nigerian to head the African Maritime Industry. Many however, say it is not clear how he would have reacted if he was in Abe’s empty shoe.
Oji Nyiemenuate Ngofa
Oji Ngofa is a son to a no-nonsense chief who was a renowned teacher, unionist, politician and one-time state chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) who later became a commissioner for education in Rivers State. Ngofa, now an ambassador, on 14th July, 2018 became the first Ambassador of Nigeria to Netherlands to host his visiting President. President Muhammadu Buhari was on a state visit to Netherlands. An orator, a speaker extempore, speech writer, and a grassroots mobilizer, Ngofa is regarded as one of the great pillars on which the political camp of Amaechi rests.
Sam Sam Jaja
Sam Sam Jaja (PhD) is said to be an awesome fellow; intelligent, and humble. The Rivers State-born astute sports administrator is a fearless and courageous fighter with a cause who will never lose focus of his desired ideal ideas actualised in any course he believes in.
He is currently the chairman of the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital Board. He is a diehard and key member of the Think-Tank Committee of Amaechi’s Political Camp.
The professor is an assuming leader and one of the eggheads of the Amaechi’s political camp who was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari on 31st December 2017 as the Chief Medical Director (GMD) of University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital. He is doing marvelously there. Before his appointment as the GMD UPTH, he was a Senior Lecturer and Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist with the University and the Hospital, respectively. On assumption of office he ensured that he worked with the best brains in the hospital in order to ensure that his transformation agenda was successful. The Hospital under his watch has become a centre of excellence and a Referral Centre.
George Tolofari (PhD) was two-term member of the Rivers State House of Assembly and two term Commissioner of Transportation in the state during the eight-year tenure of Amaechi as the governor of Rivers State. He is among those who are ready to lay down their lives on any issue pertaining to Amaechi. He has been a faithful and trustworthy leader that has stood by Amaechi not minding all these plots to undermine him in the politics of Nigeria. According to him, “Most of us weathered the storm during those infamous days of OBJ’s K-Leg saga. We made it possible that Odili couldn’t impeach him. It seems it is those that betrayed him that have continued to enjoy publicity to the determent of those of us who started this project. Some of these relationships dated back to over 20yrs ago.”
Tonye Patrick Cole
Tonye Patrick Cole is an international figure, world acclaimed businessman and entrepreneur extraordinaire. He is co-founder and former Group Executive Director of Sahara Group, an energy conglomerate with operations spanning the entire energy chain in Nigeria and neighbouring West African countries to East Africa and beyond.
Eze wrote: “This was the man planned by APC to make Rivers State a paradise on earth but enemies of Rivers State ganged up to deny Rivers this unique opportunity during the last general election in which he was to fly the Flag of APC.”
Chidi Julius Lloyd
Chidi Julius Llyod (PhD) stands as Rivers State longest, most influential and controversial leader of Rivers State House of Assembly ever since the creation of the state. He is described as extraordinarily bold, intelligent and an orator who ought to be decorated with national honours for the risk he took to safeguard democracy. Eze wrote, “If not for the risk this gentle giant took with few others to wrestle and dislodge the five lawmakers that were about to swear themselves in, the discussion about Amaechi and his political dynasty would have been a thing of the past. He lectures at the Department of Private and Public Law, Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Enugu campus. He is still studying abroad despite his many degrees.
Sokonte H. Davies (PhD) is said to be a silent and result-oriented mind, a humanist and philanthropist extraordinaire, administrator par excellence and currently the Executive Director, Marine and Operations of NPA. He is a great grassroots mobiliser, and an influential member of the Think-Tank Committee of the Amaechi Political Team.
Tonye Princewill, a Nigerian investor, politician, film producer and philanthropist. He prides himself as the Prince of Niger Delta Politics and Initiator of the Broom Revolution in Rivers State when he became the Action Congress gubernatorial candidate in the 2007 general election in the state and in 2015 became the Labour Party candidate before rejoining his brother, Amaechi. Today, he is one of the great pillars of the political camp of Amaechi.
Onwunari Abraham Georgewill
The professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology is an erudite scholar, a respected administrator, author of repute with several publications to his credit, outstanding scholar; which main vision and mission is to turn the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT), Rivers State, to one of the most viable and leading institutions in Africa. He is a believer and propagator of the ideals and principles of Amaechism.
Christie Obiaruko Ndukwe is a chief and an Amazon. She is seen as a fearless enigma, a courageous and rare gem. She is said to strike fear in the camp of Amaechi’s enemies. She is a journalist and publisher. Her passion for good governance in Nigeria made her to see to the formation of Citizens Quest, an NGO which she uses till date to bring public institutions closer to the populace.
The research team said there are many others working hard to keep the Amaechi dynasty vibrant, even if they are not listed, and hundreds more that cannot openly be listed due to the need for anonymity. However, the following were mentioned; Victor Giadom, Asita O. Asita, Ibiamu Davies Ikanya. Akpobari Celestine, Chizi Nyeomasila K, Leyii Kwanee, Dawari George, Emma Chindah, Fubara Imangimama, James George Fuayefika, Okey Amadi, Emeka Nwogu, Henry Ogiri, Charles Anyanwu, Ishmael Singarr, Lawrence Chukwu (PhD), Ojukaye flag Amachree, Azubuike Byke Wanjoku, Chikode Dike, David Okumagba, Sunny Ogbowo, Achi William-Wobodo, Chris Finebone, Lucky Omenka, Zuby Dike, Reginald Okuoma, Ambros Nwize, Hon Ike Chinwo, and Kennedy Ebeku.
The great Maureen Tamuno was mentioned along with Kingsley Wali, Oyirinda Chris Amadi (PhD), Chibuike Ikenga, Victoria Nyeche, Bright Jacob, Irene Inimgba, Kieran Wobodo, Ezemonye Ezekiel Amadi, Hon. Marshall Isreal, Eugene Ogu, Nyema Wele, Wele, Theodore Georgewill, Emeka Beke, Tekena Flag Amachree, Mike Igonima, Francis Elechi, Uche Okwukwu, Nancy Ijaopo Stevens, Joe Poroma, Fubara Imangs, Henry Halliday, Chukwudi Dimkpa, Sunday Amangi, Allison Anderson, Martins Manna, Lucky Worluh, Godstime Orlukwu, Lucky Odili, Henry Odili, Gift Okere, Prof Imegi, Aleruchi Cookey-Gam , Bekks Dagogo-Jack, Ode ThanksGod, Batam Ndegwe, Aso Wenah, Chris Oboh, Eric Apiah, Felix Nwabochi, Bisi Nwankwo, and Ogbonna Nwuke.
Others lined up include Ambrose Nwuzi, Collyns Owhondah, Opubo West, Awara Biokpomabo, Kingsley Owhondah, Chikaodi Dike, Caroline Nagbo, Austin Ahiamadu, Bestman Amadi, Captain Akarolo, Felicia Tanen, Mike Awalanta Ejire, Ngozi Yagbs Abu, Mohammed Bello Koko, Fortune Oguru, Collins Ordu, Sydney Nyeche, Chimenem N. Wali, Barr Chizi Woko, Chief Nelson Wali, Hon Francis Eleto, Hon Emeka Woko, Ihunda Mbata, Control Asobi, Kerian Nwobodo, Bestman Amadi, Akul Georgewil, Edwin Oludi, Stephen Okokudu (Prof), Lax Damabara, Erima Peterside, Amachree, Arisky Alabere, Achi W. Freddy Ichego, Chris Nworgwu, Peter Emejuru (PhD), Sunny Dike, Eberechi Wagbara, Chris Obasiolu, Edwin Oludi, Emeka Worgu, Eli Sogbeye, Omenazu Jackson (PhD), Dagogo Emma and Abiye Festus.
Eze quoted the leader to have sent down word to those grieving, thus: “Joseph would never have taken the throne without his brothers throwing him into a pit. David would have never become king without Goliath. Jesus would have never risen from the dead and brought us salvation without Judas Iscariot betraying him. Quit worrying of who is not for you. Some enemies are designed as part of your destiny. They are not going to stop you but they are going to promote you. Keep running your race.”
Some say because they are not the party in power at the state level, many have decided to lie low. Also, Amaechi makes both new enemies and friends on a daily basis. There may not be any sure way of knowing that friends today would not turn enemies tomorrow. The way forward was not unanimous; while some encourage reconciliation, some others say a divorce is best for the warring factions.