• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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Thanksgiving turned into race: Secret excitement in Rivers before Amaechi declared for presidency

Defection rumours: Amaechi not about to quit APC – Ally

The world gathered to witness a ‘thanksgiving’ in Port Harcourt at the Adokiye Amasiemaka Olympic Standard Stadium that Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi built before he left office as governor, but they ended up seeing a racing minister who did 400 metres round the field.

This flagged off the Race to Aso Rock, a declaration for the 2023 presidential election, ending months of speculations on whether or not the former governor of Rivers State would run or not.

Many clogs were seen to be thrown into the wheel of his declaration, topped by an Act of Parliament barring political appointees, especially ministers from voting at party primaries, conventions or even seeking office without first resigning, something said to be contrary to sections of the 1999 Constitution that gave all citizens full right to pursue political offices.

Many felt that clause was crafted between Port Harcourt and Lagos to stop one man, Rotimi Amaechi. The clause, 84(12) was taken to court and was apparently shot down, albeit temporarily, to pave the way for Amaechi and others. Yet, fear persisted in some quarters that that ruling would be challenged at the Supreme Court, a scenario that created more fears, should the clause be shot down at the apex court.

It would simply nullify any action taken by anybody in the interim. Probably to steer clear of such risk, the convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC) chose to select almost all the national officers by consensus, thus evading voting.

The next was how such persons as Amaechi would declare for elective positions while still serving in appointive position.

In the heat of all that, the Rivers State APC chapter fixed a ‘thanksgiving service’ at that stadium. Speculations were high whether or not Amaechi would attend. Soon, that became clear; he would. Next was that he would use the platform to declare for presidency. That one looked far-fetched.

What was the reason for the huge doubts over his declaring? Many said the president was not giving signs of who he preferred to hand over to. In that case, many said such preference would be either Ahmed Bola Tinubu or any of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo or Transportation Minister Amaechi.

It was believed that Tinubu moved fast to preempt such nod going to any other person and told Buhari point blank he wanted to succeed him. He went off and declared.

Read also: Race to Brick House in PH: Rivers APC seems to learn 2019 lesson as 10 guber aspirants endorse unity document

Soon, some quarters said Buhari’s mind had not been decoded, meaning that nobody knew the anointed aspirant. This, plus other signals, now left the oil dangling between Osinbajo and Amaechi. Each however, played the good son by never jumping the father. They remained loyal and hard working waiting for the father to call and say, go ahead and declare. In the meantime, several intrigues and gimmicks emerged around the country especially against Amaechi. These rather intensified the suspicion that the Transportation minister may be the one, else, why would everybody seem to take new negative interest in him?

Secret hints

Some 48 hours to the Port Harcourt thanksgiving, many things started going wrong against the planned event; news came the stadium may be locked against the APC, some local councils quickly announced ‘sit-at-home’ order from 6am to 2pm to ensure delegations would not find vehicles to travel to Port Harcourt.

On the other hand, those with ears to the ground near Amaechi’s feet said they had hint Amaechi was hanging around expecting the drop of anointing on his head. By Friday evening, one popular writer, analyst, crusader, publisher, and investigative journalist who goes by the appellation of Media FBI shouted on her social media handle that the anointing had just dropped. This led to social media buzz and uproar in pockets of corners in most parts of the Niger Delta where the Rivers former governor had die-hard supporters. It also led to a frenzy of attacks and insults in some other quarters such as some groups warning against the president imposing any candidate on them. These are people that endured ‘imposition’ of national party chairman, who allowed consensus to be enshrined in the Electoral Act Amendment 2022, and many other forms of impositions.

People began to make contacts and calls to confirm if it really meant what they understood it to mean. They seemed to get affirmative answers.

So, when he arrived and began the race round the stadium, the crowd exploded in ecstasy. They realised that a Race was to follow the race. And it did. So, if oil (anointing) truly dropped the previous evening, and Amaechi was now tearing down 400 meters, was it not easy to conclude that he would declare and that his declaration had the nod of the chief tenant of Aso Rock?

All these made the ‘thanksgiving’ to be double thanksgiving; both for the good of the past and the good to come. The past they said was escape from court cases that a faction of the party in the state always used since 2019 to hang the party on tree poles. The future looked like they could now occupy the Government House in Port Harcourt and could also attempt Aso Rock. This was the cause of the hallucinations leading to exhilarations in the Garden City.

Amaechi: ‘Forward with courage’

Amaechi’s journey in life can be summed as a journey of courage. He has always told of how he slept in his father’s chemist shop in Diobu with six other siblings and always rewashed one set of clothes while at the Uniport. He had fought for the rights of students and faced obstacles.

After university, he walked about in search of perching ground until an elder took him to Peter Odili (medical doctor and head of PAMO Clinic) on Aba Road where he began his life. Odili wanted to penetrate Ikwerre politics but the entire area was controlled by a juggernaut, Sergeant Awuse. Amaechi, the fearless youth, took up the task of wresting Ikwerre from Awuse.

By the 1999 election, Odili won governorship but Amaechi failed to the Rivers State House of Assembly. It took the tribunal to upturn Uche Okwukwu’s victory in the APP to PDP. Amaechi was sworn in as Speaker as was promised the Ikwerre. He made the most of that sensitive position to become Speaker of Speakers in Nigeria for eight years. He also became head of the Odili political dynasty, which also brought him both good and bad will.

When he wanted to succeed Odili, more troubles came until he ran to exile in Ghana, but won from there to be sworn in as governor in October 26, 2007, after another person had ruled five solid months inside his constitutionally guaranteed eight years. He left Government House in a blaze of fire from a 2012 crisis in the state between him and his kinsman, Nyesom Wike, who was minister and wanted to take over as governor.

To be made minister, he passed through fire twice, and now, to be president, he may pass through bigger fire. First, is it possible for a Buhari anointee to inherit any goodwill to win an election? Two, will his traditional enemies allow this to happen? Is he going to wear the uniform of Igbo presidency or South-East presidency in the face of zonal rotation understanding? The bottom line however, is that he usually ever faces life with courage and seems ready to do so now. He usually ever triumphs.

His declaration snippets

He said: “Fellow Nigerians, I stand before you today to declare my intention and submit my application to serve as your next President.

“We are facing some very serious challenges as a country. These are problems of insecurity, challenges of greater accountability in governance, youth unemployment and the scourge of spiraling poverty.

“I admit that Nigeria’s problems did not begin today. And they will not be solved overnight. But they are not beyond the capacity of our people to solve. Fortunately, that process has already started.

“The current administration under the able leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has planted many good trees that will mature in the future. We have invested billions in infrastructure, human capital development and made reforms that will pay off over time in terms of socio-economic growth and stability. We have invested heavily in projects and initiatives that will secure a brighter, better future for Nigeria.

“I am proud to have been part of this success story. It has been an honour overseeing the Ministry of Transportation in reviving the moribund railways, and working tirelessly to create an integrated national transportation system that will positively impact our economy, trade, employment, business, and national cohesion. Have we achieved everything we set out to do? Of-course, not. Could we have done more? Undoubtedly, there is always room for improvement.

“It is this combination of experience and patriotic passion that I bring to the table. I have been in the political arena for 23 years. I have served at every level of government – local, state, and federal. I have served both as a political appointee and an elected official. I have served both as an executive – as Governor of Rivers State and as a legislator – as Speaker of the State House of Assembly.”

Eze interprets Amaechi declaration event

Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, one of the diehard supporters of the minister, revealed why declaration was not revealed to the masses. He said had such been revealed, the crowd would have been many times bigger and crowd control would have been difficult. Many had died the last time the place was used to host a big APC presidential rally (2019).

Eze also said the enthusiasm heralding Amaechi’s declaration was very huge and most Nigerians already look up to his slate for hope.

The versatile publicist and consultant said: “I congratulate Amaechi for this bold step and implore Nigerians to rally round him and give him all the necessary supports required to win the election to rescue the country and make it the world power that God has designed her to be.”

The party Chief hinted that with the mammoth crowd that graced the event, the Rivers State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress has demonstrated its readiness to sack the clueless administration in power in the state and the PDP which administration he alleged had destroyed all facets of public life with backlog of unpaid workers salaries, blatant denial of pensioners their entitlements, failure to implement the new salary structure approved by the Federal Government for Civil Servants, deliberate stocking of the futures of young people in limbo and leaving Rivers people in squalor without a hint of remorse.

He talked about Amaechi unveiling an 86-page brochure titled ‘Qualified to Serve’ which he said had sections and interpreted the three names of the Minister.

He mentioned courage, stamina, and resilience as attributes of the minister listed as part of some of the virtues that make Amaechi to tower above others. Eze said the brochure succinctly represents what Nigerians should expect in an Amaechi’s presidency.

Why Amaechi jettisoned private life to take up ministerial slot

Amaechi gave rare hints of what many in his inner camp knew all this while, about why he changed his mind to retire after governorship to take ministerial appointment. It was common knowledge in his camp that he was not going to take up appointment. Some few persons had been lined up to work with Buhari.

Amaechi was believed to be ready to rest, stay back and be kind of a king maker in the state and beyond and do business but partners maybe, mostly from abroad.

He revealed his reasons to do U-turn. “After more than two decades in the public arena, I had wanted to go on holiday and spend more time with my family before charting a new course outside politics.

“But at 58, and a member of the generation born after independence who has seen the good, the bad and the ugly of Nigeria, I am compelled by the urgency of our present challenges to place my experience and proven capacity at the service of the nation at the highest level.”

The crowd that Saturday applauded and rested the matter. But was that all the reason he sprang back into public office?

Deeper insiders say Amaechi must have read the dangerous signal when his state was captured by the opposition led by a man he brought up in politics but who knew the easiest method to destroy the outgoing governor.

It was gathered that he dusted up his files and chose to get into the FG and obtain some immunity in the years that enemies would occupy his home state and would seek to destroy him.

It was also said that many of his followers would be attacked by wolves and would need protection. So, if they were not in government in the state and not at the centre, it would be easy for the wolves to carry them off one after the other.

Solution! Go into the FG and fight for the followers from there. If true, this seemed to have happened.


Now that Amaechi has declared and Osinbajo has also declared, the APC has now snowballed into a triangle, though the likes of David Umahi in the South East hold a potent card despite not being anointed. When the chips are down, it would be left to find out if Aso Rock anointing is the decider or the wave for a S/East presidency, or the force of cash/clout from the West that determine the final outcome.