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Of Amaechi, 2023 and Igbo quest for president, By Mideno Bayagbon

An Eye on Politics by Mideno Bayagbon

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By Mideno Bayagbon

Email: [email protected]

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WhatsApp only: 08055069059

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Last week, we took a look at the return of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, his quest to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari and the hurdles ahead of him.

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In passing, we mentioned two other possible contestants for the position, in the persons of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Transportation Minster, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi.

We also mentioned that, among the possible contestants in the All Progressive Congress (APC), it appears it might be a two-horse race between the two contending factions in the party: the Bola Tinubu supporters and the tendencies that support Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi.

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And oh, there is also the mafia around the presidential villa! But then, both Bola Tinubu and Rotimi Amaechi may decide or could be persuaded not to contest as the race unravels.

Nevertheless, for now,  it is a given that each bloc will present contestants for the position and fight tooth and nail to enthrone their man/woman as the party’s candidate for the 2023 elections.

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The projection for now, if the party zones the Presidency to the South, is that we may, for instance, see a Bola Tinubu contesting against a Rotimi Amaechi; or an empowered Vice President Yemi Osinbajo against a Rotimi Amaechi, or a  contestant from that bloc.

Pundits agree, however, that it is still too early to concretely predict what the contest will eventually throw up. But that, however, has not precluded them from building possible scenarios.

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One of such scenarios is that the Transportation Minister, who has been in the room of political power since 1999, will vie to be considered as the candidate of the APC for the 2023 presidential elections.

Recall that the young Rotimi Amaechi at about 33 years emerged the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, a position he held for eight years. On that platform, he became the Speakers’ Speaker as  chairman of the group of Speakers of the 36 states. As a two-term governor of Rivers State, he also became the Chairman of the powerful Governors Forum.

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In the past six years of the Buhari administration, which he helped midwife, twice as DG of the Buhari Campaign Organisation, he has held sway at the significant Transport Ministry.

His national political reach can, therefore, be said to be extensive, cultivated and well-grounded.

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The younger elements in the North are said to be very comfortable with, and favourably disposed towards him; and indeed would love to have him succeed President Buhari.

Apart from the politicians of the Governor Ganduje tendency, who support Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s aspiration, it appears a huge number of the political elite, especially those who came together to ensure the enthronement of President Buhari in 2015, think Amaechi is the kind of young, vibrant leader the nation deserves at these trying times.

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Also, for his role in helping Buhari defeat his fellow South South President, Goodluck Jonathan, they are willing to go the whole six miles with him.

His Northern support base is further cemented by the fact that the North can present a strong vice presidential candidate which would protect the interest of the Northern elite while assuaging the fears in the South about the vaunted Islamization agenda of some elements of the Buhari regime.

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According to those who speak about drafting him into the race, Amaechi can also stand as a bridge to unite those who want an Igbo man to be the next President of Nigeria and those who think the South, by the unwritten principle of rotation of the Presidency between the North and South, should present the candidate to succeed President Buhari.

Amaechi is an Igbo man from Ikwerre in Rivers State – although when convenient, some Ikwerres claim they are not Igbos but “a distinct people of South South geopolitical zone”.

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Standing against him, should he jump into the fray, might be politicians of core Igbo states and some elite who say Amaechi does not approximate their dream President of Igbo origin because, by Nigeria’s peculiar geographical bastardisation, he is from the South South and not any of the South Eastern states.

It will be interesting to see the stand of  Ohaneze and IPOB  in these arguments. They have always claimed the original geography of South East, predating the horrendous Civil War, as the home of the Igbos.

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Particularly, the Ikwerres and Aniomas of Delta State have always been regarded by them as core Igbos. But  then, this is Nigeria brand of politics. Observers are already betting that the closest the Igbos will get to the Presidency of Nigeria in 2023 is in an Amaechi vying. To this school of thought, he will be more acceptable to the North and to the rest of the country as a hybrid South East and South South candidate.

This group of Igbos, who might oppose him, are apparently not going to be the only obstacle. There are also some elements of the Ijaw ethnic group and some South South leaders who still begrudge him for standing with Buhari against President Goodluck Jonathan. And then, there is the trouble within the APC in Rivers state!

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Observers are agreed, however, that Amaechi’s fight with Governor Wike is of no significance in him emerging as the candidate of the APC and even in a General Election. They forecast that there is no way Wike can stand in the way of Amaechi emerging in APC and succeed. They acknowledge he will try several tactics to throw spanners in the works in a bid to frustrate Amaechi’s emergence.

Nevertheless, Amaechi is believed to have a decent record as a Governor with many of his admirers pointing to some major infrastructure projects he built across the state, including the model schools and hospitals.

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Some opine that Wike’s also bullish infrastructure drive is a positive effort to” match Amaechi”, according to the latter’s admirers. Even the unfinished projects like the tram lines, still resonate in the minds of some.

He is credited with efforts to establish rotation principle in Rivers State governance, without which, his native Ikwerre people would continue to dominate the politics of the state.

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It is believed that despite seeming appearances his Ikwerre people, who are the dominant ethnic/linguistic group in Rivers State, are behind him and that when the chips are down they would queue behind their son. They predict that Amaechi will not be the Obasanjo of 2023, without a home base, as some speculate.

Of course, he has to find a way to douse the rancour among the South South leaders in Buhari’s government. There is currently no love lost between them.

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From Godswill Akpabio, to the Deputy Senate President,  Senator Ovie Omo-Agege. From Chief Timipre Sylva, to Festus Keyamo; from Adams Oshiomhole, to Amaechi himself –  there is seemingly an undeclared war of attrition fueled by a quest to be the only fish, or indeed the main fish, in the South South ocean branch of Nigerian politics.

This is something I had earlier called the “curse of the South South leadership” – everyone wants to be the leader and none wants to be a follower. Amaechi has to find a way to build a solid coalition which will propel his victory in the Niger Delta states. He already has a lot of allies in the mould of ex-Speakers, Governors, and so on.

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And to another critical issue of Nigerian politics! Many are worried that he may not have the financial engine room to canvass for the position. As many suspect, and as  Amaechi himself claims, he  is relatively a “poor man” when compared to some of the people who may be interested in the same position.

We hear he has only one house to his name and a poultry farm in Rivers State as his only known investment. So, many wonder how he will be able to finance the primaries, running against financial power houses like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in the race.

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As he has often postulated in the media space, he “does not like money!”  But like money or not, he needs a lot of it to be able to make any impact on the campaign trail should he venture into it. Which perhaps explains his alleged reluctance.

Most observers, however, are of the view that it is just a matter of time before Rotimi Amaechi throws his hat into the ring.

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The same groups who want him, it is claimed, are already dropping subtle words in his favour around Aso Rock. They are said to be, however, waiting patiently  for the man they want and are ready to campaign for, at a convenient time, which they hope is soon,  to signify his interest  in vying for the office.

This, however, has not stopped political jobbers from springing up from every corner of the country. The drums are starting to beat loudly across the nation but will, or should, Rotimi Amaechi enter the presidential arena to test his strength and luck?

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