•By EZE CHUKWUEMEKA EZE•
On the 4th of February, 2019, by 11:45pm, while planning to close for the day, Sir Ngo Martyns-Yellowe, one of the key political stalwarts from Rivers State, media guru, author, publisher and a seasoned bureaucrat, called to alert me that President Muhammadu Buhari is billed to visit and address Rivers people on the 11th of February, 2019, and considering my position as the encyclopaedist on issues pertaining to the politics of Niger Delta region of Nigeria, said “I plead with you to put up a treatise on the person of President Muhammadu Buhari and his relationship with the region, particularly as it affects Rivers state and the 2019 general elections. I am very convinced that you are capable and can help at such a short period”. Based on this clarion call by this great mind, below is the outcome of of his suggestion.
Not minding that I am a member of the media committee charged with the responsibility of publicising this epochal visit of Mr. President to Rivers state, I was motivated and energised the more in embarking upon this task after the call from this great son of Rivers State, Sir Ngo Martyns-Yellowe.
This article will also critically examine how Rivers State produced a genius of a son; Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who marshalled an opposition political party to defeat a very powerful ruling political party that, prided itself as the largest party in Africa. That the involvement of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi was all that was required in turning this giant of Nigerian politics (Buhari) into a winning candidate, after three failed attempts will also be examined and discussed.
PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI:
Let me as well highlight that President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, was born on the 17th of December 1942 in Katsina state, Nigeria and raised by his mother following the death of his father, Hardo Adamu, when he was only 4 years old. He got to grow in a very large family considering the fact that he was the twenty-third child to his father.
For his education, the boy Buhari who would grow to rule Nigeria, both as a military man and a civilian, attended the Katsina Model School and later the Government College Katsina (then known as the Katsina Provincial Secondary School).
He began his military journey at the age of 19 when he joined the Nigerian Military Training College (NMTC). The institution was later renamed the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA). He has also gone on to get more education from other institutions, including the Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot, England.
He was at various times Military Administrator of the defunct North Eastern state (now Borno and Yobe states) from July 1975 to February 1976; Federal Commissioner of Petroleum and Natural Resources from March 1976 – June 1978; and Head of the Federal Military Government from 1984-85. He later became Chairman of a major interventionist initiative; the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). A respected elder statesman and one of the few celebrated saints in Nigeria and the only Nigerian who has contested for president of the country three consecutive times, Buhari won on the fourth attempt. His first shot at the number one position was in 2003, against President Olusegun Obasanjo during his second term. In 2007, he ran against Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua (now late) and in 2011, he contested against Dr Goodluck Jonathan – all of the Peoples Democratic Party..
MY ENCOUNTER WITH AMAECHI OVER BUHARI
On August 25, 2013, by 6 am, as I was concluding my usual morning prayer session and packing my things to leave Port Harcourt to see my family that left Yola due to the menace of Boko Haram, Rt Hon Chibuike Amaechi, my principal, called me through Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, then Rivers State Commissioner for Information and said: “Chief Eze, I have a serious national task for you, but decided to call to find out from you first if your past political background can cause you to renege on the task.” I told him, “Your Excellency, you called me because you know that I have not disappointed you in the past and I don’t intend to in the near future.” So he told me to wait for further instructions.
On September 7, he sent for me and on arrival to the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge at Abuja the nation’s capital, I had a breakfast meeting with him that lasted for about thirty minutes and Amaechi would not allow me enjoy my meal as he continued to sing: “Buhari! Buhari! Buhari!! He’s the only solution to the challenges of Nigeria, which is corruption.” As if he was not done with “Buhari!”, “Buhari!”, “Buhari!”, he embarked upon another issue, President Jonathan is a history-maker: he will make history as the first sitting president to lose power. After the breakfast, he asked me to see Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who was then Secretary of the newly-formed New PDP that came into being when G7 governors comprising of Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers) – with former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar, with some senators and PDP chieftains left the Eagle Square venue of the PDP National Convention to Yar’Adua Centre to have their own convention, where they expressed their reservations about how the party was being run.
I later met with Prince Oyinlola and Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, the National Secretary and Chairman respectively. And on September 9, 2013, I was announced as the National Publicity Secretary of the New PDP (nPDP). I became confused when I was told that other governors and chieftains of the new party wanted to recruit a very visible personality to man the office of the National Publicity Secretary (NPS) and Amaechi insisted that if the new party needed a person that would create the immediate awareness the party needed at the short time available for the party, the only Nigerian that could achieve that was one Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze who is currently in Port Harcourt. His colleagues gave in. When I walked into their midst, it seemed they had expected to see one huge and domineering personality. Their facial expressions gave them away. After about two weeks, they were pleading with me to slow down a bit, asking Amaechi where and how h fished out such a fellow.
Buhari and Amaechi’s relationship is ordained by GOD
By the time I put both President Jonathan and the PDP leadership, under my uncle Alhaji Bamanga Tukur (as both of us came from Adamawa) on edge, security organs were all over the place hunting for me and other key actors of this new movement. We became the new bride of political groups in Nigeria, mostly PDP and the then main opposition political party, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
In carrying out my task, what was always ringing in my head was: Buhari! Buhari!! Buhari!! Earlier echoed and re-echoed by Amaechi. To pave way for the smooth ascension to the presidency was to work with other leaders to point to Nigerians not only lapses, but the sins of Dr. Jonathan. Within three months, Jonathan knew that he had created another Amaechi, and his days as the President of Nigeria were truly numbered.
The fact remains that when it comes to believing in the abilities of President Buhari, I am yet to see anyone who can rival Amaechi. His love for Buhari and strong belief in his ability to take Nigeria out of the woods is like an obsession.
I can still vividly remember how Amaechi predicted Buhari’s emergence as President during the early days of APC and long before the issue of who would fly the party’s flag came up. When on 9th September, 2013, my appointment as the National Publicity Secretary of the defunct New Peoples Democratic Party was announced to Nigerians, the only brief I received was the 30-minute encounter I had with the then Governor Amaechi..
During that encounter, he kept repeating that whenever Gen Buhari (rtd) accepts to fly the flag of the emergent mega opposition political party in the country, the unseating of President Jonathan and PDP would become a reality. I was deeply impressed by his strong belief in Gen. Buhari. It was based on this that I went boldly into the field and with the cooperation of the G7 Governors and other leaders of the New PDP; we were able to dismantle what was the famous and largest political party in Africa, PDP.
AMAECHI’S SECOND TERM AS BUHARI’S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN ORGANIZATION DIRECTOR GENERAL AND THE OBSTACLES
On January 3, 2018, both local and international media organisations were awash with the news of the appointment of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi since December 2017 as the Director General of President Buhari 2019 presidential campaign. That marked the strongest indication that the Nigerian leader would seek re-election in 2019.
Immediately after the announcement of Amaechi’s appointment some APC stakeholders reportedly opposed to the re-appointment of Rotimi Amaechi as President Buhari’s campaign Director General for the 2019 re-election bid moved into action. They argued that as a sitting governor and chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) when he held the position of Director-General of the Buhari Campaign Organisation in 2015, Amaechi had enormous power which is not so now that he is just a member of Cabinet.
But they failed to understand that majority of APC governors; ministers and members of the National Assembly were already working with Amaechi to advance the re-election of Mr. President.
One of the reasons Amaechi was being opposed is this rumour that he has a presidential ambition in 2023 and that as Buhari’s campaign manager, he would leverage on the connections.
Although, in the unfolding scenario, Amaechi’s major concern is to prospect for Buhari’s re-election, yes, an encore, yet the possibilities of a repeat performance of the 2015 victory are great and likely to be pervasive, other things being equal, otherwise, the situation may be dicey. Nevertheless, Amaechi is certainly a rampart for effective prosecution of Buhari’s re-election battle.
32 REASONS WHY PMB AT TIMES IS ADDRESSED AS A SON OF NIGER DELTA REGION:
- Sitting and construction of the Federal University of Transportation in Ubima, Ikwerre council area of the state: The university to be built by China Civil and Construction Company (CCECC) is part of the federal government’s efforts to develop qualified manpower that will manage the many railways facilities across the country and other transportation facilities. Apart from the Univserity of Transportation in Rivers State, a similar university had earlier been approved to be sited at Daura, Kastina state.
- Completion and commissioning of the International Wing of the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa in Rivers State.
- Construction of an industrial park, which benefits from start to completion and inauguration, would be enormous to Rivers state and her people, to be sited on 10,000 acres of land on which the complex, an envisaged city on its own, would stand.
- The Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval of contracts of N47 billion for road projects in the country, including redesigning and reconstruction of the Aba/Port-Harcourt section of the Enugu/Port-Harcourt Expressway.
- Dredging of Port Harcourt Seaport and provision of navigational aids for Escravos, at the sum of N13 billion.
- Commencement of the implementation of the Ogoni clean-up exercise and the execution of the multi-billion naira Bodo/Ogoni-Bonny Road project, which when completed “would open up the economic potentials of the Niger Delta region beyond the shores of Nigeria, all in Rivers state”.
- Completion and commissioning of the International Wing of the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, as monumental, historical, an example of the president’s faith-keeping and love for the people of the state and the entire Niger Delta region.
- President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has started the release of over one trillion naira owed the Niger Delta Development Corporation (NDDC) by previous federal administrations, including the administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to assist the body complete most of its projects in Rivers state and other states in the Niger Delta region.
- Rivers state benefited from the unprecedented allocation of over one hundred and twenty five billion Naira (N125 billion), out of the N8.612 trillion-appropriation bill presented by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, November 7, 2017 to the National Assembly to fund capital projects in 2018 in the Niger Delta region.
- Rivers state benefited from the N53.89 billion earmarked for the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and N71.2 billion for Niger Delta Development Commission for capital projects, also to benefit from the budgetary allocation for the Niger Delta amnesty programme retained at N65 billion, with the budgetary allocation of N17.32 billion earmarked for the completion of the East-West Road.
- Rivers state benefited from the Maritime University located at Okerenkoko in Delta State, with N5 billion budgeted in the 2018 budget for its formal take off. This is a University aimed to assist in the development and emancipation of the Niger Delta region.
- To demonstrate the seriousness over the full implementation of the Ogoni clean-up exercise and the execution of the multi-billion naira Bodo/Ogoni-Bonny road project, budgetary provisions were all made in the 2018 budget, which when completed, would open up the economic potential of the Niger Delta region beyond the shores of Nigeria, all in Rivers state.
- The APC-led federal government, apart from the above-named projects, embarked upon the following projects: the Calabar-Lagos Rail Line that cuts across Rivers state, the renovation/reconstruction of both Enugu-Port Harcourt Road and the West-East Road, the renovation of the Afam Power plant in Rivers state, resumption and reconstruction of the Enugu-Port Harcourt rail line, among other projects. PDP governments abandoned all these projects. Appointment of sons and daughters of the region into key and crucial ministries and agencies.
- PMB’s administration also ensured that indigenes of the region are placed on full academic scholarships so that they can have access to quality education with monthly stipends.
- Under PMB’s administration, approvals for the establishment of modular refineries across the nine states of the Niger-Delta and a total of 38 licenses have been issued, covering high-scale refineries of 50,000 to 250,000 barrels per day.
- About 10 of the modular refineries have secured their permit to construct and two of these 10 refineries are already under construction, and were completed by the end of 2018 under the Buhari-led administration.
- The Buhari-led administration has ensured the resumption of construction works on abandoned projects awarded to different contractors across the Niger-Delta since 2006, including the all-important East-West Road.
- The President Muhammadu Buhari administration set up the presidential initiative to boost agriculture and industry in the 9 states of the Niger-Delta and Enugu, an initiative to revamp moribund industries in the region and to also inject new life into the agricultural sector.
- The Buhari-led administration has completed six cassava-processing plants in Bayelsa, Rivers, Abia, Ondo, Cross River and Imo states.
- Under the President Buhari administration, more than 700 youths and women have acquired skills in different areas of business, trade and craft.
21.130 youths in the Niger Delta were trained on poultry, aquaculture, crop production and were given N1 million naira each by the Buhari-led administration.
- In the Niger-Delta region 214 women who specialize in poultry and snail production were given between N350,000 to N500,000 each by the Buhari-led administration.
- 198 women and youths in the Niger-Delta region were trained on ICT & business hub, poultry & fish production under PMB’s administration.
- 60 youths from the Niger-Delta region were also trained on assemblage and repair of phones under President Buhari’s administration.
- Under PMB’s administration, no fewer than 275 youths in the Niger-Delta region have benefitted from the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) and its joint venture agro skills acquisition through the Green Rivers Project Scheme.
- Under the Buhari-led administration, the Presidential Amnesty Programme engaged ex-militants and youths from the impacted communities in formal education, vocational skills acquisition and empowerment schemes.
- Under President Buhari’s administration, the N120billion Bonny-Bodo road project was flagged-off by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
- The Vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo paid a visit to the Niger Delta region, where he met with their elders and engaged them in discussions that restored peace to the region.
29 Under President Buhari’s Administration, the abandoned AKK pipeline that will enable delivery of gas from the south into the north and open up gas delivery to homes was repaired and restored.
- PMB’s Administration was able to work with the Niger-Delta leaders hence, the PANDEF group was set up which makes it easy to have a body that could engage the federal government.
- The Buhari-led administration came up with the Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialization Programme, which was aimed at addressing the exit of gas flaring in the Niger Delta region.
- President Buhari’s Administration has put up a framework for community-based participation in the protection of oil and gas pipelines, and oil and gas assets in the Niger Delta region
WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF PRESIDENT BUHARI IN THE 2019 ELECTION WITH THE GALE OF DEFECTIONS, CONSEQUENCES AND AMAECHI’S PREDICTION?
With high class politicians like Dr. Bukola Saraki, the Senate President, 36 members of the Federal House of Representatives, 12 senators, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara state and Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state having defected to opposition political parties, the question on the lips of every Nigerian is “what chances does President Buhari stand getting re-elected come 2019?”
Chief Obafemi Awolowo, one of the best leaders ever from Nigeria, in 1968, foresaw Dr. Saraki and his co-defectors and stated thus: “For the progressives to be in power, they need the support and collaboration of some conservative. After attaining power the conservative would, on their own, walk away. The progressive would now build a great party that would move the nation forward.” So the great sage prophesied what is happening currently in the politics of Nigeria about 50 years.
Speaking of the chances of President Buhari in the 2019 general elections, Amaechi said, “Nigerians will certainly reject a second looting”. He went further to state, “on those that defected at the House of Representatives and Senate, where do they come from? They come from areas that the President is comfortable. Do you honestly believe that the President will lose election in Sokoto? We are not God, but it’s one of his comfort zones.
If you bring the President on a sick bed to Bauchi and Kano, he will win and he has never lost election in Bauchi. But that is a bit arrogant on our side; we should not underestimate them. I am not God. It is only God who can say the APC will win or not. But what is clear is that if you remove the God element, I think we are prepared to coast to victory because Nigerians will certainly reject a second looting. Nigeria can’t survive a second looting. Never!”
CONCLUSION AND ENDORSEMENTS
Based on some of these great feats and concerns towards the development and emancipation of Rivers State by President Buhari the. Apex body of Traditional Rulers in Ikwerre land, the Supreme Council of Ikwerre Traditional Rulers, has unanimously commended and endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari for second term. Ikwerre ethnic nationality is one of the largest ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta.
The endorsement made by the Council through her Chairman, HRM Eze Blessing Wagor, Paramount Ruler of Isiokpo assured President Buhari of their total support, adding that the entire Ikwerre ethnic nationality with over 1.6 million voters, will deliver their votes to him come February, 16th, 2019.
The eminent Traditional Rulers also thanked their son, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Honourable Minister of Transportation for his key role in the administration of President Buhari.
Highlighting the chances of President Buhari in the Niger Delta region, Prof. Nelson Brambaifa, the newly-appointed Acting Managing Director of the NDDC summarised all that President Muhammadu Buhari has achieved in the Niger Delta region within four years thus: “Only a man who is sincerely concerned of our people’s plight and underdevelopment would go the extra mile of making funds available to inspire our development in infrastructure, welfare, and employment. I must tell Niger Deltans that to demonstrate his commitment to the people of the region; the president has begun the release of over 1.3trilion Naira owed the commission by previous governments’ right from inception. If anything, I must affirm, is the fact that this APC government has shown more commitment for the development of the Niger Delta region in its just about four years in office than, the PDP did for well over 16 years.
Niger Delta people have more than enough reasons to want to vote for President Muhammadu Buhari’s continuation in office. We all are aware the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme was billed to end but this PMB-led federal government has extended it and fought off the menacing corruption associated with it.
I recall that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, a son of the Niger Delta region, in his six years as the president of Nigeria, acknowledged that he failed Rivers state and the Niger Delta region by not embarking on any meaningful project in the region.
“Awards and completion of roads and other people-oriented projects across the Niger Delta leading to the reduction of agitations and insecurity in the region even in its waterways, are clear attestations to the goodwill of the government, which only needs our mandate in votes to continue. It is on this note that I call on the people from across the nine states constituting the region and indeed all Nigerians to turn out enmasse on the 16th of February to mandate President Buhari for a deserving second tenure in office”.
- EZE is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt