By OBINNA EZUGWU
Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, after months of hesitation, at the weekend, declared his intention to run for president in 2023, joining officially, an already long list of aspirants who have thrown their hats in the ring, both in the All Progressives Congress (APC), the country’s ruling party, and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition party desperate to return to power.
The minister of transportation and former governor of Rivers State, it’s now established, will battle the likes of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Lagos State governor; Yahaya Bello, Kogi State governor; Rochas Okorocha, former Imo State governor; potentially, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the country’s vice president, among others, for the APC ticket, and while it may not be obvious yet, the odds are in his favour to emerge candidate.
Although Bola Tinubu, former Lagos State governor, is easily the most influential of the aspirants in the ruling party, BusinessHallmark had learnt that he is not among those in President Muhammadu Buhari’s list of choice candidates, even as Aso Rock power brokers are said to strongly opposed to his candidacy.
Among those favoured by the president, according to sources, are former president, Goodluck Jonathan, who was heavily linked with possible defection to the APC weeks ago; Mr. Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) who is also being heavily linked with possible presidential run, and Amaechi, who BusinessHallmark understands, is presently the person with brightest chances of the three to secure Buhari’s nod.
While Jonathan was said to have been heavily considered at some point, it is understood that the choice of him have been shot down considering that he is not a member of the ruling party and opting for him would anger several stakeholders, particularly in the South West. It is for similar reasons that the prospect of an Emefiele power bid is also said to have become problematic.
Although he was said to have been favoured by the president at some point, it is understood that many party stakeholders, particularly governors, have kicked against him, insisting that he is not a member and could not be trusted, and have succeeded in persuading the president to drop him. On the other hand, Amaechi who was a major financier of Buharis campaign in 2015 and both men have remained close ever since, is said to be, at the moment, the favoured candidate.
Feelers suggest that Buhari, said to be uncomfortable with the southeast, is keen on Amaechi whose aspiration he allegedly believes would also address the heightening quest for Igbo presidency, a quest many opine cannot be ignored outright given the prevailing situation in the country.
“The idea is that Amaechi will serve the purpose of an Igbo president,” noted a top APC chieftain who prefers not to be named. “Of course, it is common knowledge that he is close to the president and has his trust.
“I understand that Buhari is not comfortable with having a southeast candidate succeed him given the situation there with regard to the agitations. Amaechi on the other hand, is from the south-south, but is Igbo. So, with him I don’t think the Igbo will have reason to say he is not their own. It’s going to be delicate for them.”
Perhaps, with this in mind, Amaechi has of late been making strong case for his Igbo identity. In an 86-page document, his pitch for the APC ticket which leaked a fortnight ago, Amaechi sufficiently addressed the question of his Igbo identity, while encouraging the APC to consider the Igbo in 2023 in the interest of justice and fairness.
In the document titled, Qualified to Serve, Amaechi argued that, “My birth names are Igbo names Chibuike Amaechi. I am an Igbo man. Let no one deny me my Igbo heritage, birthright, ancestry, please!
“Unless you want to be sectional and deny the Igbo people. I have made myself clear repeatedly, that I, Chibuike Amaechi from Ikwerre, am an Igbo man. Our people are Igbo people.”
The minister in the document, urged his party, to look towards Ndigbo for the 2023 presidential ticket.
“As APC prepares to conduct the primaries to choose the partys flagbearer, they must pay attention to all the geopolitical factors at play.
“Understandably, there is a strong push for power to shift to the South in 2023 and specifically to the Igbos. Igbos have not been at the centre since the Second Republic more than 40 years ago, when late Alex Ekwueme was Vice President in the Shehu Shagari Administration. Not surprisingly there is loud agitation from the Igbos that they should have their turn to lead the government.
“Other groups are also pleading the case of the Igbos in the name of equity and the stability of the country. Leader of Pan Yoruba sociopolitical group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, has warned that Igbo should produce the president in 2023 election, if Nigeria hopes to enjoy peace.
“The Association of Arewa Community in Igboland has also urged Nigerians to consent to an Igbo becoming the President of the country in 2023.
“Chibuike Amaechi is an Igbo man of Ikwerre stock. His hometown Ubima is on the border of Imo State and the fact that Nigerias modern geopolitical map places it in the South-South region does not change the fact that Ikwerre are a dialectical group of the Igbo nation. By ethnicity, language and heritage, Amaechi is no less Igbo than a man from Abriba, Owerri, Ebonyi, Awka or Enugu-Ukwu.”
Perhaps the first pointer to the idea that the former Rivers governor is primed to secure Buhari’s backing, which would almost guarantee him the APC ticket, was when on February 5, he was turbaned as Dan Amanar Daura (trusted son of Daura), Buharis home town, by the Emir of Daura, Alhaji Farouk Umar Farouk.
Meanwhile, the minister who declared his intention on Saturday during an APC Thanksgiving at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, made a strong case for his consideration for the job.
In his declaration statement which he shared on his Facebook page, Amaechi said, “I did not come to this decision lightly. I have served our nation for the last seven years as Minister of Transportation. For eight years before that, I served as Governor of Rivers State. In the preceding eight years before that, I was Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly.
“These 23 years of service have equipped me not only with great experience in governance and public service but also compassion for the ordinary citizens of our dear country.
“After more than two decades in the public arena, I had wanted to go on holiday and spend more time with my family before charting a new course outside politics. But at 58, and a member of the generation born after independence who has seen the good, the bad and the ugly of Nigeria, I am compelled by the urgency of our present challenges to place my experience and proven capacity at the service of the nation at the highest level.
“Fellow Nigerians, I stand before you today to declare my intention and submit my application to serve as your next President.
“Those who know me can testify that I have always been a straight talker. This trait has not always made me popular, but I speak truth with conviction. So, allow me to speak the truth here today.
“We are facing some very serious challenges as a country. These are problems of insecurity, challenges of greater accountability in governance, youth unemployment and the scourge of spiraling poverty.
“These problems are, however, not the exclusive preserve of Nigeria. We live in a troubled world. The reality we used to know has altered in nearly every nation. Climate change has brought about food scarcity in some places. Population explosion has produced unusual pressure on resources and supplies.
“Poverty has become a challenge all over the world especially in the developing world. The Covid crisis has placed unanticipated burdens on the budgets of nations and put pressure on available resources. Trans border crises have erupted in unusual places and placed the internal security of many nations under pressure. We are part of the Sahel, an area of the world that is subject to frequent terrorist attacks. Let us look at our current challenges as part and consequences of these global trends.
“I admit that Nigeria’s problems did not begin today. And they will not be solved overnight. But they are not beyond the capacity of our people to solve. Fortunately, that process has already started.
“I am proud to have been part of this success story. It has been an honour overseeing the Ministry of Transportation in reviving the moribund railways, and working tirelessly to create an integrated national transportation system that will positively impact our economy, trade, employment, business, and national cohesion. Have we achieved everything we set out to do? Off-course not. Could we have done more? Undoubtedly, there is always room for improvement.
“To sustain and intensify present efforts at solving our national problems, our democracy must ensure the emergence of a leadership that is equipped with broad experience in governance to ensure stability and continuity. To sustain our democracy and preserve our unity, we need a steady hand and a passion for success in a nation that remains united to pursue prosperity for all Nigerians.
“It is this combination of experience and patriotic passion that I bring to the table. I have been in the political arena for 23 years. I have served at every level of government — local, state, and federal. I have served both as a political appointee and an elected official. I have served both as an executive — as Governor of Rivers State and as a legislator — as Speaker of the State House of Assembly.
“I do not come from a privileged background. I grew up poor. I understand how it feels to go without some meals in a day. I know the pain of lack and the agony of want. I know what it means to see your parents toil just to keep a roof over your family’s head….
“The next leg of my political journey will be tough. But I am excited to go out and engage with Nigerians from every walk of life. I am ready to go from Maiduguri to Makurdi, from Sokoto to Sagbama, from Yola to Oyo, from Badagry to Birnin Kebbi. To each town and village, I will have one message: Hope is around the corner…
“I pledge my heart, mind and soul to the task of building a Nigeria in which every child can go to school, every young person can find work or support to start a business, every citizen can travel safely around the country and sleep at night knowing that law and order prevails and every Nigerian feels included, heard, and respected.”