The sentiments heaped on Amaechi that night were effusive, with Vice President Osinbajo describing the guest of honour as a person worthy of emulation. Others eulogised the former Rivers State governor for the role he played in ensuring victory for the APC in the last general elections, especially the presidential polls. Rotimi Amaechi was Director General of the Buhari Campaign Organisation, a position he got after he was apparently passed over as nominee for the Vice President slot.
But amid the torrents of eulogies, no one could satisfactorily explain or justify why such a galaxy of VIP guests were out to dine and wine in honour of Amaechi. The APC had long since celebrated its landmark electoral victory and President Buhari is inching towards his first 100 Days in office, although with an approval rating that is a far cry from the euphoria that swept him to power. Before he left office as governor on May 29, Amaechi had also staged a book launch in Lagos, to celebrate his tenure as Rivers State Governor. The Lagos event was equally well attended with the usual partisan crowd.
However, on August 2, Mr Amaechi did not disappoint in inadvertently disclosing the rationale for the social reception hosted in his honour in Abuja. It was to muster support as a counter measure to any move intended to block his nomination for a federal appointment. If other APC stalwarts in the other 35 states were to be hosted to similar ostentatious receptions, to garner support for their ministerial nomination, the cost would be enormous and the very idea itself runs contrary to decency. It’s worrisome that, while the Buhari administration is trying to enunciate a regime of frugality, some persons are spending lavishly to polish Amaechi’s image. As has been his tendency in the past couple of years, Amaechi, at the reception, disparaged immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan, dropping the innuendo of suspected graft in the high claims for fuel subsidy during Jonathan’s administration. Amaechi also went after his successor as governor, Chief Nyesom Wike. “May God not give me the kind of ambition of Nyesom Wike; he can sell anybody,” Amaechi was reported as saying at p.5 of The Nation newspaper of Tuesday, August 4, 2015. Amaechi further said: “Let me tell you what is currently going on in Rivers State. The governor and PDP are afraid of me getting an appointment to the Federal Executive Council because that will determine what the politics of Rivers State will be. They know that the current President abhors corruption and the only way they can stop me from getting the appointment is to associate me with corruption. The people that know me in Rivers State know that I don’t like money…And I expect them to defend me that I don’t like money.”
“I chose the path of honesty and truthfulness. You cannot catch me doing such a thing,” Amaechi said at the reception, painting himself as a saint, while demonizing Jonathan and Wike. Well, Amaechi was Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly for eight years and governor for an equal duration. He knows the paper trail for government transactions, in particular the release of funds. Problems arise where due process has not been followed, or where on closer examination a transaction is manifestly fraudulent, or the circumstances of the transaction and payment are questionable. For example, a consulting firm suddenly appears; it is given a job without tender and payment is directed to be made to the firm, even when in all reasonableness the firm could not have executed the job within the timeframe and for the huge sum it’s being paid.
Again, as stated earlier, the jury is still out on Amaechi, and he needs not cry wolf. After all, a clear conscience fears no accusation. The abandoned Port Harcourt mono-rail project tells a gripping story about the Amaechi years as governor and likewise the still-born Karibi Whyte Specialist Hospital. President Buhari, it’s said, is intolerant of corruption, as he would not shut his eyes to red-hot evidence against a guy who has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Above all, President Buhari has given firm assurance in recent interviews that no one, including members of the ruling APC, would be spared if found to be corrupt. Time will tell what granite-solid evidence will emerge as to the management of public resources by the immediate past administration in Rivers State.
BY EVARISTUS DOUGLAS