I do not think that anyone one has dealt a more harmful blow to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) than Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State. Just imagine that Amaechi was still in the PDP and see what I mean.
Although every politician that left the PDP to join the All Progressive Congress (APC) in January 2014 had individual reasons for dumping the PDP, the endless battle between President Goodluck Jonathan and Rotimi Amaechi provided a convenient justification for his exodus from the ruling party.
The problems between Jonathan and Amaechi started shortly after the 2011 elections in which the latter’s oil rich state gave Jonathan the highest votes cast by any state. Keen observers would situate the initial problems in the public altercation between the Wife of the President, Dame Patience and Amaechi during one of her visits to Rivers State where she also hails from.
In reaction to what she considered to be injustice to her Okrika people, Madam Jonathan was said to have snatched the microphone from the governor as the governor was about to explain some of the development programmes of his administration which would lead to the demolition of a school. There has been no love lost between the parties since that incident.
As the problem festered, Amaechi got more confrontational with the President. He is among those who designed the mismanagement of national resources toga with which the Jonathan administration now seems to be identified with all over the world.
He has repeatedly accused Jonathan’s government of mismanaging the economy, leading an unaccountable oil and gas sector, taking a number of oil blocs from the states and more, all suggesting that the government was irredeemably corrupt. In addition to this, the Rivers Governor led other state governors to oppose plans by the Federal Government to institute a Sovereign Wealth Fund.
For all these reasons, the PDP refused to contemplate a second term for Amaechi as head of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum. When the party failed to convince him to back down from his ambition, it hatched a plan to split the group. And the forum has remained split since May 2013. This, to my mind marked the point of no return in the relationship between Amaechi and the PDP.
By this time, he had acquired the image of a leader of those who want to be seen as progressives desirous of change within the ruling party. After several attempts to resolve the conflict within the party, the aggrieved PDP members formed what they called the New PDP and eventually joined the APC.
Amaechi took two immeasurably important things from the PDP, when he left the party. The first is the fact that the PDP will not get the volume of votes it garnered in 2011 even if it wins in Rivers State. And the second is the enormous war chest which the PDP may claim it does not need but would have loved to be out of the hands of the APC
Although Amaechi has denied being a sponsor of the presidential campaign of his party, observers insist that he has invested billions of Naira into the campaign to remove Jonathan from office. A point which his party also unwittingly suggested when it recently raised the alarm that the federal government planned to freeze the accounts of its sponsors.
Garrulous, blunt and fearless, sometimes to the point of recklessness, Amaechi has at one time or the other accused the PDP of all sorts of infractions, one of which is the alleged deployment of N6b by the federal government to buy the support of Christian leaders from all over the country as well as the plan of the PDP to rig the polls.
And because he is a reporter’s delight, Amaechi gets generous coverage from the media, while sustained confrontation with the President would make most of his comments about the President and his party pass without much scrutiny from the general public
Even if the PDP refuses to accept it, making an enemy out of Amaechi alongside people like Dr Bukola Saraki is one of the reasons why it is paying so much to return to power in 2015 and why unlike previous years, the party cannot say with any iota of confidence that it will win when Nigerians vote on March 28.