Rivers State often presents interesting political spectacle. It has done so over the years, especially since the current democratic dispensation. Chief Peter Odili, first Governor in this era, was said to have literally lifted Rotimi Amechi immediate past Minister of Transport from political infancy to stardom. He rose from the ranks as an aide to Odili in his days as Deputy Governor, and moved into the Rivers State House of Assembly, where he was two-term Speaker. The battle to become governor may go down as his toughest till date. He scaled the hurdle and became governor in 2007 after the Supreme Court gave the landmark ruling that he was the duly nominated candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, although power brokers substituted him with Celestine Omehia’s. The apex court handed him victory even when he did not stand for election because votes belong to the party not the candidate. In those heady days, when the sharks even wanted his head, Rotimi took refuge in Ghana, a secret only know by few while his foot soldiers led by Chibudom Ezenwo Wike held forthe. Amechi returned to mount the saddle.
The turns and twists of politics have spun Wike and Amechi to political foes. I have watched their rivalry with keen interest because both men are dyed in the wool politicians who got each other’s back in the past. Both men are made of sterner stuff. They are very stubborn such that non is backing down or backing out in their battle for the soul of Rivers State politics. Their political difference dates back to 2013 when Amechi was two years away from rounding off his second tenure as Governor. Wike had his eyes on the gubernatorial seat but Amechi did not want him there. But against Amechi’s wish, Wike emerged governor. Details of that emergence would constitute critical parts of books which I expect from both men on their political trajectory in Rivers State and beyond. Amechi is a graduate of English and Literary Studies while Wike is a lawyer, academic careers that should predispose them to write lucid details of their political, and vicariously, the political evolution of Rivers State in their dispensation.
They both took their rivalry to the Abuja in the wake of the Presidential primaries. It is instructive that they both came next to the winners of the Presidential primaries in their parties. Amechi had pitched his tent with the ruling All Progressive Congress while Wike has remained with the People’s Democratic Party. Both men gave a good account of themselves. They would have raised the bar in their battle for supremacy had both emerged candidates of their parties. They were trounced by bigger forces.
Wike was apparently betrayed by an ally, whose allegiance to his region was higher than his alliance with Wike. Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto, also an aspirant, pulled the rug off Wike’s feet with a last minute withdrawal and open endorsement of Atiku Abubakar which saw Wike’s hand, inches away from victory , lowered in an election where the trio were front runners. Politicians should not flinch at betrayal given their acceptance of the vice as a virtue in their trade. Wike was hit by a man for whom he stuck out his neck in 2015 at the party’s primaries. Amechi and Wike were seconds away from breasting the tape of victory which would have seen them as the major candidates in next year’s presidential elections.
They have both returned to Rivers State to lick their wounds, and rekindle their rivalry over control of Rivers State. Amechi has the short end of the stick given that Wike has not allowed his followers win any elective office in the state. Amechi may say his ministerial job in Abuja hardly allowed him play grass root politics. Now he has no excuse. They have returned to the trenches. Rotimi nAmechi has pitched his tent with Mr. Tonye Cole, the major investor in Sahara Energy, to mount the saddle as Governor of the state when Wike steps down having completed his tenure. The point to be made is that Wike has largely controlled the politics of Rivers State.
Amechi may want to make a last dich effort to wrestle power from Governor Wike who is bound to step down. Amechi has largely been unable to assert himself in the power equation in Rivers State. Stepping down from ministerial position gives him ample time to play local politics in Riversr, and perhaps, make better impact as a force to reckon with in determining the fortunes of his followers in the state. Wike is the rock on his path. Amechi has not successfully helped anyone to win elections in Rivers State in what I call the Wike dispensation in Rivers State. Situations maybe even more precarious now that he would seem to have no patronage to dispense, having stepped down from the ministerial post in contrast to Wike’s continued hold on power and patronage. Amechi also battles on many fronts given that another political ally, Senator Magnus Abe, has gone into the trenches against the former minister who he has described as very authoritarian and obstinate, never allowing contrary opinions to thrive. Abe has ditched the ruling party, perhaps in reaction to Amechi’s continued refusal to support his governorship bid. Abe Insists that he would contest that election is spite of Amechi’s anger against his bid. We await how that pans out.
But Amechi’s latest battle is Wike’s move to revisit the report of a Commission of inquiry he instituted to examine Amechi’s activities as Governor. Amechi had gone to court to stop his predecessor from probing into his activities while he was Governor. He fought the matter up to the Supreme Court, but all the courts, from high to Appeal Court and the Supreme Court dismissed his case for lack of merit. Now Wike wants to implement the Judiciary Panel of Inquiry report , given that the Supreme Court has dismissed the former governor’s appeal.
Amechi says Wike is progressing in error because, according to him, while the Supreme Court agreed that the Governor has the powers to probe his predecessor , the findings of the panel ought to be handed over to ICPC, EFCC or the Police. It does not seem that the Rivers State Government has done that. Again, Wike alleges that Tonye Princwill’s Sahara Energy has 50 million dollars belonging to Rivers State for which there was no clear evidence of work done to deserve the said payment. Are these mere political vendetta or genuine efforts to recover state funds? Time will tell. For now, the die is cast.