Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi yesterday said he would have been hounded out of the country by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led government, had the All Progressives Congress (APC) lost the election.
Amaechi spoke at the public presentation of the compilation of his administration’s achievements in Lagos. The book “Dynamics of Change: The Amaechi Years” is edited by Dr Chidi Amuta and Dr Yemi Ogunbiyi.
Amaechi said he knew that he would be in trouble if change did not happen in Nigeria and was prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to make it happen.
“I knew I was going to be in trouble. Anything that would cause that change not to take place, I was ready to make that sacrifice. The federal government sent out a signal that if they won nobody should let me out of Nigeria from any airport. One day Asiwaju got angry with me. He was very angry. I went to his house with Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and knelt down, saying ‘please let’s not disagree, let’s win first and then we can disagree’.”
“I lost my passport in Ghana and went to the High Commission. They gave me a certificate but the Ambassador was given a query for doing so. I later applied for a passport and they gave me green, not red. Now they have given it to me – two weeks ago,” Amaechi said.
The governor said while his battle with President Goodluck Jonathan lasted, many of his friends either abandoned or took care not to be seen with him in public. He said he was mostly preoccupied with bringing change to Nigeria and not about what to get from the government.
“I told Asiwaju that what is important is to make a history of the first civilian coup in Nigeria when your children and grandchildren read the history with your name as one of the people who helped bring about change in Nigeria.
“I said, let us focus on the victory. I remember the day of the convention, there were so many intrigues, there will be convention, there won’t be convention, I said my leader, if we don’t do the convention we are finished, the press will say APC cannot hold a convention, lead us now, there must be convention and election. So, he turned to me and said look for Tunde (Fashola), let us go.”
The event which was well-attended by chieftains of the APC was a time of tributes and eulogies for Amaechi by his friends and colleagues. Some of those present included: APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, former interim chairman, Chief Bisi Akande and Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka.
There were also Governors Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Abdulazeez Yari (Zamfara), representatives of Kwara and Bauchi state governors. governors-elect of Kaduna and Lagos states, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai and Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.
Also there were Dr Dakuku Peterside, APC governorship candidate in Rivers, Alabo Graham-Douglas, Tonye Cole, former governors of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, Segun Oni and Niyi Adebayo. Others are: Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, business mogul and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, Bishop Hassan Mathew Kukah (book reviewer), Justice George Oguntade, National Women Leader, Hajia Ramatu Aliu, National Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Mala Buni, Senator Daisy Danjuma, Mr Jim Ovia and Vanguard newspaper publisher Mr Sam Amuka-Pemu.
Prof. Soyinka, who wrote the forward to the book –Tyranny of Courage- described Amaechi as a man of principle and strong conviction, who was willing to stand by his belief at a great risk. These qualities, he said made him to take exceptions to his own personal rule not to write any recommendations or forwards for books. He also described Asiwaju Tinubu as the “architect of change.”
Soyinka said: “The political atmosphere today, whatever you call it, change or hope, or cautious or careless hope, I recognise two individuals who led the change. One of them I call him the architect of that process, he is Ahmed Bola Tinubu. The arrowhead of the charge that led to the change is the man we are gathered here to honour.”
Soyinka decried the incident that led to the disbandment of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), praising Amaechi for standing up to his colleagues for change.
“It is basic arithmetic fallacy of governance when 16 is said to be higher than 19, something is fundamentally wrong. Governor Amaechi stood up and challenged even his own colleagues saying, let us change the orientation of the nation. Somebody once said to me to tell the young man that he was going to destroy himself that he should slow down. Of course I didn’t deliver the message.”
Bishop Kukah praised the editors of the book for the insights and ability to document the giant strides made by the Amaechi administration but noted that the book fell short on the narratives about the governor’s background and early days.
He also noted, some contradictory claims about Amaechi’s days at the University of Port Harcourt and student unionism days. Kukah also noted that the book was almost silent about the era when Amaechi was the Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly, a part he noted, prepared him for the office of the governor. He recommended the 251-page book, not for the bookshelves but as a coffee table companion.
Justice Adolphus Karibi-Whyte was lavish in his praise of Amaechi. “When I first met him, everything about him gave me a promise of a future leader, he respects age and status and analysed situations properly. I was elated when he asked me to be the chairman because he still remembers the relationship,” he said.
Karib-Whyte said the governor was key in bringing all the ethnic nationalities in Rivers State, struggling for leadership together and fostering peace in the state.
Mamora said Amaechi is a “great friend” and a fellow former speaker, he also referred to him as an “unusual governor who is simple, plain and blunt to a fault and a combination of mettle, bold and resolute.”