The dismal track record and performance of many current Nigerian leaders offer no opportunity to give any credit to any politician in this modern day Nigeria. Their litany of sins makes it difficult for anyone to extol the virtues of a few good ones. Anyone caught giving credit to any politician is often regarded as a political jobber or labeled a sycophant who is looking for a meal ticket.
Those Nigerians who refuse to see anything honorable in many of our politicians have genuine reasons. Collectively, we have all witnessed and continue to witness the rape of our beloved country by the 21st century Nigerian politicians and can rightly maintain that over 95% of the people in this elite “industry” are corrupt.
In the past twenty years, politics has replaced oil and gas as the most powerful industry in Nigeria. Even some proprietors, who built viable businesses on their own, have abandoned their businesses for politics. They reasoned that government money is free and if others can take it without any accountability why not them? For example, a typical business person who has accumulated a sizable wealth in buying and selling, has quickly figured out that the next best investment for him or her is not in diversifying into a new product line, but to run for political office or sponsor a candidate, whose successful election will usher in his or her own “national cake” in the form of free government money.
The result of this unchecked, reckless squandering and rape of the national economy has led to the failure of at least 24 out of the 36 states of Nigeria. These failed state governments are broke, bankrupt and unable to pay salaries to their workers. They lack the minimal reserve to operate any organs of the state, including the funds needed to keep schools, hospitals, and other facilities, open. In the midst of widespread abject poverty being experienced by the indigenes of these 24 states, a few individuals within the elite class continue to enjoy their lives in well-publicized, unconscionable opulence. This elite class unashamedly flies first class while travelling all over the globe with their families and friends flaunting their loot in choice hotels, resorts, and mansions which they own in important cities of the world.
It is against this backdrop that the name Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi comes to mind. As a lone ranger wailing in the wilderness, he foresaw that Nigeria was heading into a failed state and took it upon himself to sound the alarm. When Governor Amaechi began to warn the rest of the nation that Nigeria was drifting away as a rudderless ship, he was met with fierce opposition from every angle, particularly from the beneficiaries of the looting. The fact that Gov. Amaechi’s kinsman, former President Jonathan, was the very object of his criticism earned him more hatred than any individual should have to bear. Gov. Amaechi was vilified and castigated for calling out President Jonathan, his own South-South “brother.” To his credit, Gov. Amaechi’s willingness to call out President Jonathan for the unchecked excesses of his government was a remarkable virtue that endeared the man to this writer.
In my book, former Governor Amaechi is a detribalized Nigerian who is courageous enough to stand up for the truth. He did the unthinkable in a country littered with tribal mine fields where the rule of thumb is to protect your tribesman even when he is 100% wrong. He spoke truth to power particularly when it was most uncomfortable to do so. Notwithstanding that he is from South-South where former President Jonathan hails from, Governor Amaechi warned Nigerians about the excesses of the federal government and maintained the quest for sanity in the spending of the ruling PDP-led government. First, as a member of the PDP, Governor Amaechi sought change within his own party. He remained loyal to PDP while urging them to change course. When he failed to convince the members of his old party to reverse the dangerous trend of abusing the economy, he aligned with other progressive elements in the country to work for change. Whether you like or hate Governor Amaechi as a person or his approach as a politician, it is now quiet evident that he had at least 24 reasons for his fight against the former government of impunity in Nigeria. With 24 failed states that needed bailouts during the last administration of PDP, any objective mind can see that Governor Amaechi has left a positive legacy in the Nigeria polity.
While the final overall impact of Amaechi’s action will be left for posterity to judge, the preliminary results have shown that financial lawlessness is gradually declining, at least in the views of many average Nigerians. A news report about Nigeria on October 23, 2015, by Ulf Laessing of Reuters, captured these current feelings:
“Many Nigerians support Buhari’s cause to fight graft. Most people in the country struggle to make ends meet while globe-trotting elite has enjoyed an oil bonanza.
To the delight of many, foreign airlines are reporting a slump in first-class bookings as high-rollers take care over displays of wealth, and noticeably fewer private jets jostle for space at Abuja’s airport.”(Reuters)
The jury is still out on the young administration of President Buhari. However, one thing that is clear is that the bleeding from the open trauma called Nigeria has stopped while we wait for the President to dress up the wound. Because Governor Amaechi was part of the effort to elect President Buhari, his confirmation last week as a minister is a step in the right direction. Frankly, it makes sense to bring Gov. Amaechi into the current administration to contribute his fair share in the furtherance of the effort he began. In Igbo parlance, the title Ochi agha (the General) should always go to the person who is leading the war. It is the only way to match one’s action with one’s deeds. Governor Amaechi has earned the right to become an integral part of the current administration. Anything less is an injustice. Governor Amaechi deserves a big seat and a loud voice in President Buhari’s administration as one of the leaders in the effort to restore probity in the Nigeria polity.
Dr. Chris Ikeanyi, Los Angeles, California