Highlights

TRACKING AMAECHI’S VP AMBITION

Goodluck Jonathan’s insistence on not talking for now about his plans for 2015 is not unexpected. It is considered the politically correct thing to do. It would be too early in the day to become a lame duck president which is what incumbent presidents of democracies become once they hit the re-election campaign trail. It would be abominably early in the day for Jonathan to become a lame duck president especially with a far from completed agenda on power and PHCN, security, the Niger Delta, the economy, roads, constitutional amendment and others. Jonathan’s transformation agenda is still in the pipeline. It is not yet clear what Nigeria is transforming to.
It is however clear enough that barring unforeseen circumstances, President Jonathan will be asking Nigerians to vote him in for another term, come 2015. Indeed, it is already taken for granted in the Niger Delta that Jonathan would be going for a second term. That is why it caused quite a stir in the region when it was alleged that the former president Olusegun Obasanjo had endorsed a Lamido-Amaechi ticket to succeed Jonathan-Sambo in 2015. Obasanjo has since strenuously denied this. History supports Obasanjo’s denial. He would have to undergo a lobotomy to endorse Rotimi Amaechi for VP; the same Amaechi whom he pulled out all stops to keep from becoming governor of Rivers State. It is not in Obasanjo’s nature to be so unstable. It would probably be a cold day in hell before Obasanjo supports Rotimi Amaechi for higher office. Still stranger things have happened.

Sule Lamido has over the years been quite close to Obasanjo, having served as his minister of Foreign Affairs before becoming Governor of Jigawa State where also, Obasanjo has been a regular guest of honor at some of Lamido’s ceremonies. In the improbable scenario that Jonathan backs away from a second term, Sule Lamido’s presidential aspiration could probably receive the support of his former boss and Lamido might be needing a rich Niger Delta state governor to boost his campaign chest. As chairman of the Nigerian Governor’s Forum and governor of Rivers State Rotimi Amaechi fits the profile.

The question a lot of people have however asked is this: why would Amaechi be nursing a vice-presidential ambition when the president who has been a friend and hails from the same zone will be up for re-election. Can he realistically hope that the Niger Delta would withdraw support from the first Nigerian president from the region and settle for a vice presidential wanna-be ? This would be a hard sell. Rotimi Amaechi has however denied nursing any such ambition. The governor, who had spoken through his information commissioner, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, described the reported political ambition as the imagination of political speculators, which has nothing whatsoever to do with him.

According to Semenitari, “the information was shocking to us here in Rivers State because the governor has no such political ambition. He does not have any plan for 2015 as we speak.

“I just think that it is the handiwork of political jobbers; Amaechi is simply focusing on ways and means of taking Rivers State to the next level and is not discussing or thinking of any vice-presidential position in 2015 as speculated.

“The governor is not also working with Lamido on any presidential issues relating to 2015”

This denial by Amaechi’s information commissioner has not quite convinced a lot of people in Port Harcourt. Even before the speculation of being Sule Lamido’s running mate, earlier speculations of a vice-presidential ambition had linked Amaechi to the Senate President David Mark and Vice President Namadi Sambo. No doubt, speculations about the ambitions of the state governor is one of the favorite pastimes of the political class in the state capital. It is a subject about which they are quite well informed.

It had also been speculated in Port Harcourt before the vice-presidential calculations went public that after his tenure as governor, Rotimi Amaechi would vie for the Rivers East Senatorial seat. Many people were convinced that he had supported Senator George Sekibo who currently occupies the seat for a second term in order to ingratiate himself with the wife of the president who hails from the same town as the senator. It was also believed that Amaechi found this agreeable because it ensured that the zoning arrangement would favor him to settle into the senate after his second term ending in 2015.
The Rivers East senatorial zone spans three ethnic groups; the Okrikas from where the incumbent senator hails, the Ikwerre from where Amaechi hails and the Etches.

Governor Amaechi’s former chief of staff and current minister of state for education Nyesom Wike had been set to vie against Sekibo for the Rivers East senatorial seat. His victory was a foregone conclusion until Governor Amaechi undercut him by endorsing Sekibo. Wike’s victory would have ruined Amaechi’s plan of holding the seat as a contingency plan for 2005 because they both hailed from Ikwerre land. It is speculated that Wike who has since become estranged from Amaechi has committed himself to stopping Amaechi from holding the Rivers East Senatorial seat in 2015.

Earlier in the year, the conflict between both men landed some council chairmen in some trouble. Governor Amaechi had suspended the Rivers council chairmen concerned for being absent at a meeting he called. Actually the council chairmen had chosen to attend another meeting called by Nyesom Wike on the same day. Amaechi’s immediate rustication of those council chairmen was a clear indication that he was not taking Wike’s challenge lightly. It is not yet clear whether Wike will get the presidential nod he needs to go head to head with Governor Amaechi. What is not in doubt however is the fact that the Jonathan camp has been watching and taking notes.

As chairman of the Nigerian Governor’s Forum, Amaech has steered in a direction that had sometimes seemed to undermine the leadership of the president. This was most notable in his outburst during the Sovereign Wealth controversy when he accused the federal government of ‘kidnapping’.. There was a clear attempt at a point to use the Nigerian Governor’s Forum as a vehicle to over-awe the president and only the refusal of certain governors like Adams Oshiomole and Godswill Akpabio broke the insurgency. When the chairman of the Northern Governors Forum Babangida Aliyu declared that Northern Governors would present a presidential candidate to upset Jonathan in 2015, the silence of the Nigerian Governors Forum chairman seemed conspiratorial. The suggestion of the Sule Lamido-Rotimi Amaech ticket has seemed like a natural progression of consequence.

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