By Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
I have met and interviewed Mr. Chibuike Amaechi on several occasions. The last time we talked was in Providence Rhode Island during one of Achebe’s Colloquiums. My goal at that interview was to present Governor Amaechi with facts that I thought would make him understand that children born in Rivers State should be seen as natives of Rivers State. At the time Rivers State was fabulously rich and was sending indigenes abroad for further education, an Amaechi’s initiative. I argued that if an Owerri man doing business in PH has a child born in Rivers that the child is a Rivers State indigene and that without doubt his grandson also born in Rivers State should be by any definition a Rivers Stater, for that would be three generations. We were at the point where he was about to see my logic until one of his aids interfered with our discussion and spoke to him in Pidgin English which I did not understand. At that point he started to equivocate. We agreed to continue at another time which never came.
Before that I had met Mr. Amaechi in PH during my last three visits to the city to dedicate three Blood Banks that we had donated to the state hospitals. As the only Nigerian in the Safe Blood Africa Project, the sponsors of the blood donation effort, I had interest in the former Eastern Nigeria which was how most of the Eastern Nigeria states got three or four blood banks (all Nigerian zones have now received at least one blood bank). Governor Odili was very much interested in the work we were doing and constantly hosted us as he was also a fellow Rotarian. In each of these visits Mr. Amaechi displayed qualities that attracted my team’s attention and we predicted that he would go high in Nigerian government.
Things started going south when Mr. Amaechi’s rivalry with Odili, Wike and surprisingly Jonathan deteriorated to name calling. Some people think that Mr. Amaechi’s ambition was the cause of the problem. He wanted to succeed Jonathan as president or to be the Vice President at the least, people speculated. I for one did not see “ambition” as a bad thing for one without ambition cannot go far enough.
Mr. Amaechi’s problem was that he did not understand two basic facts of electoral politics:
*All politics are local.
*Politics is a game of numbers.
The concept of politics being local was introduced by my former US representative and Speaker of US House Mr. Tip O’Neal. He made the mistake of playing national politics while ignoring his Cambridge constituents and lost. His father thought him the lesson that he must first secure his base before venturing outside. You must ask Uncle Joe for his vote. You cannot assume it. Mr. Amaechi did not learn this lesson or did not apply it when he began to think of national politics.
Mr. Amaechi also did not understand the meaning of “politics is a game of numbers” when he started thinking that an Ikwerre man is not Igbo. Smart politicians know that one must increase his base, in this case Mr. Amaechi could have built a very strong relationship with all ethnicities around Rivers state: the Igbo, Ijaw, Ibibio, Efik, etc. instead he courted and won the affection of the Fulani and was perhaps responsible for Buhari’s presidency by providing him access to Rivers’ State enormous treasury to the detriment of his neighbors.
His quarrels with his mentors, Wike, Odili, Jonathan, etc. and his dis-association from the Igbo may be the reason for his not having a single person in the Rivers state government now. A condition that has diminished his access to the presidency. Mr. Buhari has noticed that he is a lonely man crying in the wilderness. PMB wants numbers.
Mr. Chibuike Amaechi is a young man still so all is not lost yet. He only needs to rethink how climbed the tree and that will help him in his effort to climb down. A starting point could be to make peace with his mentors, to re-integrate himself into the Igbo society and avoid the type of lecture he received from Mr. Nwodo, the President of Ohaneze Ndi Igbo last year. He can still argue that Ikwerre is different from Nsukka/Wawa, from Anambra, from Imo, from Aniocha, etc., because all these different people hold on to their individualism and fight against each other but know when to hold their fires.
I am confident that Rotimi can be rehabilitated.
If he so wishes.
(Aduba wrote from Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A)