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PDP is handling the Amaechi issue wrongly

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IMAGE: Azuka Onwuka »

The Peoples Democratic Party and the Presidency of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan have made Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State more popular in recent times over the Nigeria Governors’ Forum chairmanship election. As the crisis deepens, the PDP and Jonathan have allowed Amaechi to be the “actor”, while they have made themselves the “reactors”, thereby giving the former the advantage. Being the pacesetter, Amaechi has the advantage of planning his actions, while the PDP and the Presidency always seem to be taken by surprise. And it is not good for the image of the PDP and the President.

Even though the Presidency has denied it on many occasions, it is an open secret that there is no love lost between President Jonathan and Amaechi. The apple of discord is the 2015 Presidency. As the Chairman of the NGF in the past two years, Amaechi is viewed by the Presidency as using that strategic position to work against the interest of Jonathan. It is rumoured that Amaechi has the ambition to be the running mate to the Jigawa State Governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido, in 2015 in the PDP. Jonathan is also rumoured to be interested in running for re-election in the PDP in 2015.

At the end of the NGF election, it was announced that Amaechi beat Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State by 19 votes to 16. But a faction led by Jang propelled by Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State immediately claimed the election was rigged and insisted theirs was the authentic NGF, based on the earlier endorsement of the governors. In a swift reaction, the PDP suspended Amaechi for not reinstating the suspended Obio-Akpor Local Government chairman in his state.

The PDP made a grave mistake in the first place by accepting to participate in the election for the chairmanship of the NGF. When the party produced its candidate for the position and asked Amaechi not to re-contest, and he refused, those in support of the PDP’s position should have insisted that no election would take place unless Amaechi obeyed his party. If Amaechi went ahead, they should have staged a walk-out and declared their own candidate as the authentic chairman of the NGF, warning governors who recognised the other faction as risking being treated as agents of sabotage and insubordination.

But having participated in the election, it was tactically wrong for the pro-PDP or rather pro-Jonathan governors to claim that the election was rigged. The group should have insisted that it rejected the election on the grounds that such disregarded the party’s directive.

Someone would ask, should the PDP decide who should be the chairman of the NGF? Yes. Why? The breakdown of governors and their parties in Nigeria shows that the PDP has 23 governors, the Action Congress of Nigeria six; the All Nigeria Peoples Party three; APGA two; CPC one; and LP one. So, why should the PDP not decide who should be the chairman of the NGF? If the majority shareholder of a company decides who should be the chairman or chief executive officer of a company, but some members go against that directive and elect someone else, the majority shareholder can annul that decision, sack or penalise the defaulting directors and go ahead to appoint the chairman or CEO of his choice.

In 1996, the United States used that principle to deny Boutrous Boutrous-Ghali of Egypt a second term as the secretary-general of the United Nations. When the first term of Boutros-Ghali was drawing to a close as the first African secretary-general of the world body, the US made it clear that it did not want him to return. Africa shouted no. Ten Security Council members, led by African members Egypt, Guinea-Bissau and Botswana, sponsored a resolution backing Boutros-Ghali for a second term. However, the US vetoed it but said that it would allow another African as secretary-general but not the Egyptian. Mr. Kofi Annan was subsequently presented and elected to replace Boutrous-Ghali.

It sounds autocratic, but that is the way such things are. That is why it is said that he who pays the piper calls the tune. Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, sang about it in his song, Beast of No Nation: One vote equals 100 votes. It is not in every situation that the one-man-one-vote principle applies. If that were the case, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala would have become the president of the World Bank last year. But again the US said no.

Even though it is convenient for many to see Amaechi as doing the right thing as a “democrat”, one would wonder what would happen if a Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State starts working against the political interest of his party and Chief Bola Tinubu, the leader of the ACN; or if a Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State starts working against the CPC and Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd), the leader of the party. Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State handled such a crisis with the equanimity of a wise man when it was rumoured for many months in 2010 and 2011 that he was not in good terms with Tinubu. There were fears that Fashola would not be returned as the candidate of the ACN in the 2011 elections. In spite of all things, Fashola never took any action that confirmed that rumour. He continued to maintain that nothing was wrong between him and his godfather. Fashola eventually got a second term and that crisis died.

It is sad that the Presidency and the PDP allowed this Amaechi crisis to get to this state. Amaechi is one of the leading lights of the party. He is also smart in his dealings. He ensured that it was the Rivers House of Assembly that suspended the chairman of Obio-Akpor Local Government Area, even though we all know that he was the one beating the drum to which the lawmakers were dancing. It was therefore wrong-thinking for the PDP to suspend him based on the direct action of the House.

Amaechi has packaged himself as the victim in the whole crisis, while the President and the PDP are seen as the oppressors, and he is getting the sentiments of the public. He also has the advantage of being in the second term of his administration. In addition, the Constitution confers immunity on him. Only the House of Assembly can remove him, but he has the majority of the members on his side.

Even though he has the constitutional right to seek to be a vice-president in 2015, working against the interest of his party-man and President as well as a fellow South-Southerner, as is being alleged, cannot be called an act of good faith. Many would say that there is no morality in politics, but there are some basic standards. We always cite the US as a model when it suits us, but refuse to cite it when it does not suit us. In 2008, the then Senator Barack Obama contested the presidential ticket of the Democratic Party with two other fellow and senior senators: Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. They made fun of him as inexperienced during the campaigns. But when he won the nomination, he appointed Joe Biden his running mate. And when elected president, he made Hillary Clinton the secretary of state. That effectively made these two to bury their ambition for the presidency in 2012. Nobody from the Democratic Party came out to contest the ticket with Obama that year. The implication was that from 2008 to 2016, Biden and Clinton would suppress their presidential ambition. By 2016, Biden will be 74, while Clinton will be 69, perhaps far too gone in age to run for office. But they had to sacrifice that for their party.

In contrast, Amaechi is young. In 2019, he will be just 54 years old. Working against the interest of his party and the President may win him “accolades” from non-members of his party, but it is doubtful if it will bring him any political capital. He may end up being frustrated out of the PDP.  He may then join another party, where he will discover that things are not that “rosy” and grass not so green. Then, he will run back. By then, he would have made himself politically irrelevant. He should ask former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, former Governors Orji Uzor Kalu, James Ibori, Timipre Sylva, etc, their experiences. Chinua Achebe put it succinctly: “It is praiseworthy to be brave and fearless, but sometimes it is better to be a coward. We often stand in the compound of a coward to point at the ruins where a brave man used to live.”

Article Credit: Punch Newspaper

Updated 6 Years ago

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