Amaechi spits fire over Saturday’s Rivers election

It is not only in the United States that election campaigns seem to be heated up this season. It is also happening in Rivers State, where elections will be held to different posts on Saturday.

Former governor and now federal minister, Rotimi Amaechi has called on Rivers State people to come out and vote to shame ex-President Goodluck Jonatha who is perceived to be the godfather of the current Governor, Nyesom Wike.

Amaechi is reported to have made this statement at a town hall meeting at Afara community. He also told Rivers voters that them coming out to vote would also shame Jonathan’s wife Patience and governor Nyesom Wike himself.

Amaechi, who is called the ‘Lion of Ubima’ by many of his political supporters is seen to be involved in a proxy battle with the current governor, who is also an Ikwere man like him.

Interestingly, when Amaechi was governor, Wike was a minister. Now that Wike is  governor, Amaechi is a minister.

A win for APC will be seen as a sign that Amaechi has snatched back control of Rivers State politics. Amaechi effectively lost control of that when he stepped on Patience Jonathan’s toes in the last administration through some of his policies. At that time the political structures of Rivers State were handed over to Nyesom Wike by the Jonathans. That has been the case till now.

Nyesom Wike on his own hand will be facing a fight for his political life, and he has so far won most of the battles fought, like his governorship victory at the Supreme Court. But these elections about to be held  are fresh elections and the Jonathans have been swept out of power. The PDP has been reduced to being a regional party.

The APC could use ‘federal might’ to make things very difficult for Wike and his PDP on election day. For instance, if as rumored, the security agencies are positioned to block all exits from Rivers State Government House, which is the current nerve centre of PDP in the state, it would be very difficult for Wike/PDP to coordinate things on that day.

President Buhari has promised to make those that have been fomenting violence against the APC members in the state pay. If some APC leaders use that as an excuse to instigate arbitrary arrests of PDP leaders in the state, they will be choking off the strategic life blood of Rivers PDP. If that happens, then Wike can only win if he can truly command the loyalty of Rivers people.

If that happens, then Wike can only win if he can truly command the loyalty of Rivers people. Whether he has won their unalloyed support or whether what we have been seeing all this while is just window dressing, we shall soon  know as Wike and Ameachi, two Ikwerre brothers, slug it out by proxy.

But one thing should please stop. The killings going on in the name of politics. Even in the United States, with all the verbal darts being thrown about by candidates like Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and fired up ex-candidates like Mitt Romney, we have not heard of any political assassinations.

Maritime University And The Niger Delta

“We are not going ahead with the university project (referring to Nigeria Maritme University (NMU), Okerenkoko), proposed by NIMASA because we have an institution in Oron, we have Nigeria Institute of Transport Technology, Zaria and we have the Nigerian College of Aviation in Zaria, which we could upgrade to a university status and NIMASA is proposing to build a new one.”

With the above words, Minister of Transport Rotimi Amaechi announced the stoppage of the Nigeria Maritime University, the first maritime university in Nigeria, which was conveniently cited in the Niger Delta, the region with the largest coast line in Nigeria.

The Niger Delta people who comprise many ethnic groups, including the Ijaw, Igbo, Ibibio, Efik and many others, has for centuries felt a great sense that their resources are being taken away from them by outsiders. They’ve have had such feeling, sometimes rightfully, and sometimes wrongfully that something that belongs to them is being taken away from them.

During the time of Jubo Juboha also known as King Jaja of Opobo, the Niger Delta had a serious quarrel with the British over access to the palm oil trade which the foreigners wanted to take away from them. The quarrel led to the death of King Jaja, and ultimately the Niger Delta lost that access. We may all be familiar with the story of Isaac Adaka Boro, who fought the Federal Government in the 1960’s because the Niger Delta felt they were losing out.

During the time of General Abacha, the Niger Delta, in this particular case the Ogoni People, felt rightfully that the fertility of their lands were being taken from them through uncontrolled and unpunished oil spillage. The struggle then, led to the death of Ken Saro Wiwa, a great Ogoni activist.

It is the same way  a large section of the Niger Delta feels today about the jettisoning of the Nigeria Maritime University by the Federal Government. They feel a morale-draining sense of loss, but it is not late for the Federal Government through Amaechi to reverse an order that is currently sinking the spirits of a people.

Why is it sinking the spirits of the people? For one thing, the maritime university is the first of its kind in Nigeria. It is the first specialized university in Nigeria.

According to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State who is a staunch supporter of the establishment of more specialized universities in Nigeria, NMU will give the right tools and   practical learning that will make graduates employers of labour, rather than job seekers.”

A  former acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Power Ziakede Aginighan listed the advantages of the NMU to include capacity building for Nigerians in the maritime industry, bringing in of direct foreign investment and the arrest of capital flight from the country, and you will agree with him that such will go a long way not only to improve the economy of the Niger Delta, but also that of Nigeria in general.

Chief Amaechi argued that NMU is not needed because there were other maritime education institutions in Nigeria, but the truth is that the other institutions are there to provide world class technical maritime education, but not the world class maritime managerial education NMU is there to provide. Both are two different aspects of maritime education which if Nigeria can train its citizens adequately in within Nigerian educational institutions, would arrest capital flight, and  improve the  economy in many facets, bringin peace and stability.

NMU’s establishment in the Niger Delta would go a long way over time to give Niger Deltans a greater sense of inclusion in the Nigerian project instead of the perennial sense of loss they have always felt.

The people of Niger Delta feel they have lost the headquarters of the oil companies like Shell, Chevron and Mobil to Lagos, a city that is not in their region when their region is the epicenter of oil production in Nigeria. For years there have been calls for oil companies to be mandated to set up their headquarters in the Niger Delta, where most of their operations are based. Those calling for this say that is the only just thing to do, and point to various economic benefits the Niger Delta has lost because those multinationals are not based there.

The people of the Niger Delta feel that they have lost their arable land and their fishing opportunities. Before the commercial exploitation of crude oil deposits started in their region, there was no pollution contaminating Niger Delta waters and killing their fishes. The lands were arable and they could easily cultivate them. But gone are those days, as oil pollution has caused serious economic devastation.

The people of the Niger Delta have an uncanny feeling that they may have lost the chance to benefit from their oil, because when oil was at a very high price, they agitated for 50% percent derivation, but got only 13%. Now the price of oil is in the downlows and no one knows when or if it will ever come up again.

The people of the Niger Delta feel that they have lost the presidency for now, with Goodluck Jonathan serving only one term as president before being defeated by Muhammadu Buhari. Yes, Buhari won fair and square,but some still feel that the fact that Jonathan who is from their area was beaten means that the Niger Delta lost.

They also feel they may have lost the amnesty programme, due to all the current uncertainty surrounding its future. In the heydays of the amnesty programme for Niger Delta militants, many Niger Delta youths, albeit predominantly those of Ijaw stock benefited immensely, and were able to travel abroad for maritime studies and return with enviable academic and technical qualifications and greatly improved economic prospects.

In fact, there is a widespread feeling among the people of the Niger Delta feel that the stopping of the Nigeria Maritime University project is a deliberate move to punish Niger Deltans for voting predominantly against Buhari in the last general elections. The Niger Delta people feel so down now, and having lost all the things I have mentioned above, they would have like to at least hold on to the maritime university – at least they would gain economically from it far into the future, as their youth gain revenue-enhancing academic qualifications from it. But they are now being told instead that they may also have lost the  university.

One of the greatest victors in world history, Winston Churchill said that in victory, there should be magnanimity, as in mercy. Let there be mercy.

It is alleged that the land on which the university was built was sold to the Federal Government in fraudulent circumstances. Let the fraud be uncovered, and let the perpetrators be punished. In fact, if absolutely necessary, let the university be relocated, but not outside the Niger Delta. They need to hold on to that university to make them feel a sense of inclusion in the Nigerian project.