Editor’s note: The National Assembly has started
the screening excercise of the ministerial candidates
President Muhammadu Buhari has put on his list. Obule
Ocheyenor, the Naij.com columnist, takes a look at
Rotimi Amaechi, the former Rivers state governor and the
APC convert’s, political career, and offers his view on
Amaechi’s chances of occupying a ministerial seat.
Since President Muhammadu Buhari sent his list of
ministerial nominees to the National Assembly on 30 of
September, Nigerians, who were eagerly awaiting the
unveiling of the names, have not ceased tearing the list
apart. While some have applauded Buhari for coming up
with such nominees, others have dismissed them, saying
the list was not worth waiting for that long. This latter
group said the nominees are mostly recycled politicians,
one of whom had served as a minister over 36 years ago.
The thing with Rotimi Amaechi
Beyond the recycling issue, the list features prominent
names that were anticipated but also fell short of those
that were bandied about by Nigerians on the social
and mainstream media before it was made public. The
nominees that have thrown up a lot of contoroversies and
debates are poster boys of the APC government: former
governor of Lagos state, Babatunde Fashola, and his
erstwhile counterpart in Rivers state, Rotimi Amaechi.
There has been a plethora of unsubstantiated allegations
of corruption against them.
The Senate, whose president, Bukola Saraki, is facing
trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for alleged false
declaration of assets when he was governor of Kwara
state, is setting stringent conditions for screening of the
ministerial nominees. The Senate said this is in line with
the change mantra of this administration. One of such
conditions is that a ministerial nominee must have the
backing of at least two of the three senators from his
state to scale the screening hurdle. This is where the
likes of Amaechi may not find it easy since the senators
from his state belong to the opposition PDP, and they
have already shown that they are not favourably
disposed to his nomination.
One of the senators, George Sekibo, a PDP stalwart from
Rivers East senatorial district, demonstrated this stance
last week Wednesday when he read a petition against
Amaechi accusing him of corruption and fraud during his
tenure in Rivers state. In order to prevent the successful
screening of Amaechi, the PDP chieftain rose up to
submit the petition supposedly written by people from his
senatorial district. Senators elected on the platform of
Amaechi’s ruling party, shouted him down and the Senate
became rowdy until the Senate Chief Whip, Olusola
Adeyeye, calmed frayed nerves.
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A is for Antagonism
Vendetta appears thick in the air as the screening of the
nominees begins this week. Although the Senate
president, Bukola Saraki, has assured Nigerians that
there won’t be any witch-hunting in the course of the
screening exercise, coupled with reports that Amaechi is
lobbying the senators, it may be difficult to pacify
senators that have personal axe to grind with some of the
nominees like Amaechi who has inadvertently created so
many enemies for himself in the PDP camp.
For instance, he fought the President Goodluck Jonathan
adminstration to a standstill when the Nigeria Governors
Forum chairmanship election was rigged in favour of the
former Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau state. Also, it
would be an understatement to say Amaechi was one of
those who were instrumental to the defeat of Jonathan in
the 28 March presidential election, having been the
director general of the Buhari Presidential Campaign
Organisation. It is for this singular reason that he is a
“marked man” among some of the PDP senators.
Right now, Amaechi, easily the most villified of all the
nominees, is having a running battle with his successor,
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state, who is digging in
by the day. Soon after he was sworn in as governor on 29
May this year, Wike set up a panel to probe Amaechi’s
government. And as soon as Amaechi’s name appeared
on the ministerial list, the probe panel released its
scathing report indicting Amaechi of alleged fraudulent
sale of the state’s prized assets. The timing has been
circmspect as many believe the vindictive report is aimed
at stopping Amaeching from being confirmed as minister.
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“Buhari’s decision to put Amaechi on the list is well-
Rather than jump the gun by pronouncing some of the
nominees guilty on the basis of the petitions written
against them, senators should allow those accused of
fraud and corruption to be tried by courts of competent
jurisdiction. The trial by proxy should not suffice.
For them to have been nominated, Buhari must have seen
some qualities in them. Besides, security agencies
screened all the nominees before their names were
forwarded to the Senate.
For Amaechi, perhaps, this battle, like other bruising
political battles he had fought and won in the past, shall
also be won. Amaechi has been fighting injustice against
him for quite some time now. In 2007, he was the only
one who did not contest the governorship election but
was sworn in as the governor! The Supreme Court
handed him the governorship seat on a platter after his
former party, the PDP, fraudulently substituted his name
with that of Celestine Omehia after the party’s primary.
Omehia contested the election and won. But Amaechi
challenged the injustice all the way to the Supreme
Court. Omehia was thrown out, and Amaechi took over
and ruled Rivers state for eight years. This cat with nine
lives has another hurdle before him. Will he survive the
Mr Ocheyenor wrote from Lagos.
This article expresses the author’s opinion only. The
views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily
represent those of Naij.com or its editors.
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