With a stamp of history dogging his footsteps, Minister of Transportation, and immediate past governor of Rivers State, Mr Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is again in the eye of the storm only months away from the dusts and tempest that swirled around his nomination as a minister. It has been his lot in his tumultuous sojourn in politics.
His name was a recurring decimal by two “wounded” Supreme Court justices John Inyang Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta who accused him of multiple attempts to influence their judgments in the governorship elections in Ekiti, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, and Abia states. The finger pointing left a sour taste in the mouth and reinforced the many run-ins he has contended with through his nearly three decades in politics. As if prompted by Pallas, the Greek god of war craft and campaign season, Amaechi has in full luminance literally soared in Angel’s coven, wrestled with the winged Ariel, made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible. He walks with the universe on his shoulders and makes it look like a pair of wings. His struggles underscore the eternal injunction by former American president Abraham Lincoln “That things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”  Above the shards of his limitations and battles lie a strained make-belief; a full moon, and inexorably the ultimate man of the stead. Amaechi, in a manner of understanding, draws immense strength from his name – Chibuike – which literally translates to ‘God is my power’. This sinew in his nomenclature has been prodigiously amplified in his political life, and oftentimes, he emerged like the phoenix, which rises from its own ashes. From an ordinary beginning in the wetlands of Ubima, in Ikwerre, his transcendental political activism birthed in the last quarter of his odyssey. It came with a bang, a mellifluous din that is often described in local political parlance as meteoric, and wrapped with Pablo Picasso’s words that “Action is the foundational key to all success.”  In 1988, when he was the Public Relations Officer of Pamo Clinics, owned by Peter Odili, his benevolent  but now estranged godfather, nothing in the calculations of bookmakers then penned him down as the strong man of Nigerian politics and the ‘divine fruit of the vine’. By 1992, when Odili was the deputy governor of Rivers state, his role as his Personal Assistant evidently waltzed him through the motions of teeth cutting, and cleared his path for the eventful journey through bumps, undulations, curves and the straightway. A journey that has brought him fame and infamy, sadness and joy, and a striking rhythm of rancorous peace.
Like a little acorn
Apparently armed with George Bernard Shaw’s “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself”, Amaechi set out to confront the world.  With courage as his only armour, he plied the speed lane in palpable risks. He dared the hawks of officialdom and grabbed thorns with bare hands, trouncing the uppity. An emerging colossus was on the way.  A little acorn was set to blossom into a huge oak. A vast oasis of a mixed hope and despair was being sprung. In 1999, a legion lawmakers positioned themselves for the seat of speaker of the House of Assembly. They had the wherewithal; affluence, contacts and were politically miles ahead of him.  He, however, took refuge in the words of General George Patton of the United States Military Academy – a man who thrives in crisis,- that “ daring is wisdom and the highest part of wisdom.” He latched on to the back of Odili like in the proverbial mother- monkey tale and left his challengers behind in a trail of dust. He seized the gavel. That marked the first major step. And it was steady, surefooted. He wore the speaker’s garb for eight unbroken years in the warm fangs of governor Odili. And in came the first major test of his political will. It arrived resplendent in nuances that tended to upturn nearly two decades of ingratiation with his godfather. A test that sought to cut the essentials that held them together and cast him out on a groveling altar of incipient greed. Leaning on Patton’s golden rule of war which stipulates “speed, simplicity, boldness” he stretched further his hands to succeed his boss. But his emergence as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the 2007 Rivers State governorship elections came with “K leg”, according to then president Olusegun Obasanjo. His cousin, Celestine Omehia was a draftee to his yearned sweet orchard. Faced with this sudden challenge, Amaechi retreated into initial passive resistance, but eventually launched a full blown legal challenge even as he took a harried flight to Ghana. Entreaties and an eventual expulsion from the party to break his will cut no ice. He relied on the fog of war, which works both ways. He ran with Patton’s enduring qualities of a great leader, which has one common thread running through: boldness. His fascinating approach was to dare the lion in its den. And he won.  On October 26, 2007, in a landmark judgment, he was pronounced the governor by the Supreme Court in an election he did not participate. The prognosis of war had just begun. An armada of adversaries coalesced into a formidable opposition.   He took them on. He was tactically aggressive (loves a fight), had strength of character, steadiness of purpose, energy, good health, and acceptance of responsibility. Darts were thrown at him from all angles. And he soaked them all in, in his assiduous climb up the ladder. As the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, he transformed the association into a fortress of opposition, a veritable alternate presidency at odds with the leadership policies of the federal government. His bid for re-election for the seat attracted fierce fireworks of opposition from his traducers. For the faint hearted, he had shot himself in the foot. But his big heart egged him on. He forayed on, taking the Sovereign Wealth Fund, SWF and the re- election bid of then president Goodluck Jonathan to an untidy heap. The assaults and verbiage on him intensified with Jonathan’s wife Dame Patience leading the offensive. He was perpetually in the trenches, at war with all and everything in his disfavour.  He was bruised, battered, but his head was unbowed. And to finish him up, spirited attempts were made to take away the leadership of the party in the state from him, his aircraft was grounded, police intimidations and simulated street marches against him were the order of the day. A state of anarchy shrouded in killings by cultists was on the upswing. Again, he lived up to the billing, often outsmarting his ‘predators’ even in the media war and the public court. A generalissimo was on the loose, daring everything and everyone and sparing nothing. With the intensity of heat enervating, he leapt out to Canada. Note the sound of the morphology in Ghana and Canada. On return, he petulantly told a delegation of the Catholic Archdiocese of Port Harcourt led by the Archbishop that he would never give up. “I’ll   contest re- election as NGF chairman. God is with me.”  And indeed he did.
More wars
Amaechi had in the thick of the melee with his hounds confided in a political associate that he has never lost any battle from the moment he sets his hand on the plough. So far, this has come to be the single strand of truth in his battles. To foist his own surrogate on his new party was swift and easy. But to get him to win the election and succeed him as governor came with a stiff resistance and eventual failure. His friend, later turned foe, Nyesom Wike was his nemesis. In all his political battles, Wike has turned out to be his bitter- sweet stallion. He was the avant-garde in his grueling war to be governor. He is also the handy cudgel in the affront to dishevel him.  Both men’s ‘ambition is of sterner stuff’. Not that he underrated him. In fact, Amaechi threw in his all into halting his ambition to succeed him as governor. Rivers State turned into a theatre of the absurd. Tough talk, criminality, tension and blood pounded the state and put the frightened citizens on the leash. As Wike’s forces came harder, an obviously exasperated Amaechi let off his guard, screaming that his opponent had soiled his hands with blood in order to outdo him. Under tension and trepidation he intoned: “They killed and made sacrifices to win. God abhors it.”  Wike had to gather the top hierarchs of the clergy in his church to explain his own side of the story and indeed made a surfeiting show of it. The tale lengthened and added more glitz and colour. Amaechi was walloped.  But he had emerged a force in his new party, the All Progressives Congress, APC and deployed every imaginable arsenal to outwit and send Wike packing. The sitting of the Election Petitions Tribunal was moved to Abuja. The chairman of the tribunal, Justice Pindighi was removed and replaced in questionable circumstances.  Grandstanding, blackmail, untoward antics and intimidations were alleged to have been brought to bear on the judges. Amaechi won in a clean cut. At the Appeal level, it was an easy ride. The paradox of Amaechi was this: Though, a Wike victory seemed inevitable at the onset, his snatching of the victory at all odds was a remote possibility. He thought only of victory – victory at all costs. Winston Churchill during World War 11 kept a reminder in his office at 10 Downing Street. Next to his desk blotter was a cardboard sign with the words of Queen Victoria: “There is no pessimism in this house, and we are not interested in possibilities of defeat. They do not exist.” The same rankles in the breath of Amaechi today. Winning is everything. Defeat is not an option.  With this mindset, the loss of his candidate Dakuku Peterside at the Supreme Court sprang forth more wars. Heads must roll. Those who did it must be reined in. The spectre of the sword of Damocles loomed large for nine months. And in the end, a devious raid on the homes of judges was unleashed by the Department of State Services, DSS. Armageddon had been let loose on the kingdom of justice. Amaechi was having a crooked laugh in his corner. It was not long when the laughter dried up in his throat. He had been hemmed in a hemlock. His name was on the lips of the judges as they squealed and squirmed. Two of them said his fingers were in the soup pot. He was fingered as the sole interloper, the mindless talebearer, the unbigoted name dropper, the whispering eagle that swooped on them in the secret dark hours demanding victory in Abia, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Ekiti states. The stakes in all that mattered had been lowered. The speck in his eyes had turned to a log. The courts from inception had been a super bowl, the smart card would have been on Wike, and Amaechi’s finest hour would have been routing Wike with ignominy. Amaechi can win even by dying.
The hand in the cookie
Although he is not addressed as a national leader of the APC, he is much more than that. He has the ears of the president and in more ways has demonstrated it. Despite his huge contributions to the electoral victory of President Buhari in the 2015 presidential elections including ceding two Bombadier private jets to the campaign, he was apprehensive when the president dithered in making him a minister. Buhari preferred him to sit out like Bola Tinubu as a leader of the party while having his nominees in government.  The president was wary of talks and petitions against him over his stewardship in Rivers State, including the report of the judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by Wike. In the initial calculations of the president, turning a blind eye to the avalanche of alleged corrupt practices against him will paint a tar in his anti- corruption war. This was to be cast aside in the rampaging winning binge of the minister. Even the report of his probe is stone dead and perhaps buried. As a veteran of political wars of sorts, he is held in awe and respect even among the cabal in the corridors of power. There are some loose talks about his quantum relevance in 2019, should Buhari seek re-election. Unconsciously, Amaechi has wriggled into the president’s inner kitchen cabinet with most policy directions especially in the pursuit of the adversaries of the government and the stability of the government at his behest. He works in tandem with the DSS boss, Mamman Daura. A source at the Presidency described him as “the most powerful minister at the moment.” To rub it in, Amaechi now dresses in the robe of an Ikwerre king, even when he did not don the garb as a governor with more than 10 chieftaincy titles. According to the source, “his carriage, mien and activities hardly depict him as minister. He sees himself much more than that.”
The new battle
Celebrated scientist and inventor, Albert Einstein in a famous saying emphasized that to soar above others in any game, “you have to know the rules of the game and you have to play better than anyone else.” Amaechi is obviously on top of his game, to borrow a cliché most suited for the times. He understands that the toughest crisis is the greatest opportunity. He understands the essence of power and its logical sense. The judges may just have begun another flank of war. Amaechi in all his streams is no stranger to it. To be rustled up, dirtied and bruised is not on the top card of his instincts. To win or lose may not even count now. But the scent and shrill drone of the falconer reigns in the distant horizon as a new war is let loose for the bountiful reaper. The shape and texture of the unfolding war will post a message of a man whose life-long politics drips in arsenic war, more wars, and more wars.


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