By Iyke Obi Durumba
Lately I noticed Rotimi Amaechi is becoming more and more identified with Igbos. His name is getting to be associated more with Igbo matters nowadays. Even some of his followers on Facebook appear to have embarked on a subtle projection of the Igbo side of his image. I noticed and just smile. Discussing 2023 in 2020 may seem like jumping the gun but social media trends and some powerplay within the ruling party compels a look at certain political dispositions.
Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is from Ubima, an Ikwerre community in Rivers state. For those who don’t know, the Ikwerres speak a language which is a variant of Igbo but one of fallouts of the Civil War (including the Abandoned Property issue) is a state of estrangement where Ikwerre people generally hated to be called Igbo and declared themselves to be…well, Ikwerre. Any Igbo person listening to the Ikwerre dialect will laugh at this of course, but who are you force an ethnicity on anyone?
To me, if the Ikwerre say they’re Igbo, they must be welcome as brothers. My people say giri giri wu ugwu eze. We also say anyukota mmamiri, ya gba ofufu. Added to that, we firmly believe in onye aghala nwanne ya. But if Ikwerres say they’re not Igbo, by all means, we should accord them that respect. You cannot force Igboness on anyone. Heck, you cannot force ethnicity on anybody. What does ethnicity matter, you say? Well, here you see it. Oftentimes, the affairs of individuals throw up larger issues which have been unresolved for ages.
So it is against the background of the Ikwerre being (or not being) Igbo controversy that I begin to view Amaechi’s recent Igbonness with some cynicism. I just wonder, has this Igboness always been latent or is it a recent development? Is it natural (the way Peter Obi’s or Enyinnaya Abaribe’s are) or is it a means to an end?
Let us do some rudimentary calculations … in his party, the APC, it is expected that the Presidential ticket will move South in 2023 and so this throws the battle open to every potentate in that party who comes from the area. That is if (a big IF) the Northern Muslim hegemony does not present another candidate under the cover of ‘it’s an open democracy’.
Now, in the South, the party is strong in the South West (five states out of six) and have one state each in the South East and South-South. Because of the turnkey role he played in 2015, Rotimi Amaechi is generally liked and recognized in APC North. In the North Central, one or two Governors owe him big. The calculation which will aid his marketability is that he will carry his South South region along, use his Igbonness to galvanize the South East (which I see signs of) and with the support of the North, he can win the Presidency on APC ticket. Also, his appeal in the North will be broad, Christian and Muslim.
If you ask me, that is very feasible…depending on who he is running against.
Who will he run against? First, within his party. Bola Tinubu is certainly eyeing the top job, he has been eyeing it forever and 2023 will be his best chance considering his clout within his APC structure. It will be a foregone conclusion that he will win majority SW delegates votes in the primaries if he can settle with Fayemi, Fashola and co. In terms of his marketability as a candidate, while many Northerners respect his clout and political stature, I can tell they are deeply suspicious of him and his motives, religion notwithstanding. They’d even rather an Atiku to a Tinubu. For the SE and SS, forget it, those areas are simply NOT fertile Tinubu grounds. Forget it! However, he has bullion van loads of money, so who knows? Delegates at primaries certainly react to cash as hungry lions react to fresh meat. Cash-wise, Amaechi has been Speaker of oil-rich Rivers State 8yrs, Governor 8yrs and Minister 8yrs by 2023, he also has deep pockets but Tinubu has nearly the whole South West as his war chest. So money for money, it will be a close call.
If Amaechi emerges APC flag bearer, who is he likely to run against in 2023? Either Atiku Abubakar (again?!) or Peter Obi. For both, it will be complicated.
First, Atiku has a wide network all over the country and can manage to sway a good number of those fellow Northerners who absolutely hated his guts in 2019. Added to his South East and South West votes, he will beat a Bola Tinubu who will be emasculated by distrust in the North and reciprocal non-acceptance in the other two regions in the South.
If Peter Obi is PDP candidate, a lot of emotions will come into play on ALL sides and the outcomes will be unpredictable. His proven capacity will take the backstage and his Igboness will be the issue. That’s how today’s Nigeria will react, most unfortunately. Trust me, if the contest is between Rotimi Amaechi (APC) and Peter Obi (PDP), the major campaign issues would be who is more Igbo than the other (refer opening paragraphs of this article) and a lot of important issues will be swept under the carpet. Many non-Igbo voters will be looking out for who is less Igbo to vote for while Ndi Igbo will seek a combination of capacity and Igboness. The clincher will be numbers – with the present political (and INEC) configuration, Amaechi as APC candidate will beat Peter Obi as PDP candidate.
What of Amaechi (APC) vs Atiku (PDP)? Between those two in electoral contest and with the regional acceptance analysis made so far, whoever has more access to security agencies (yes!) will win.
Amaechi has good chances of becoming Nigeria’s President if some other factors fall into place for him. I shall be discussing those factors in subsequent articles.
Caveat: This is a practical appraisal, not an emotional or ideological treatise. It is an essay on practical realities of Nigeria’s politics so do not come here to shout emotional slogans or ideology. If you want to know my dream Nigeria (if there’s any country like that), I can help you with an essay to that (several on this Timeline).
This is an exercise in the real, not the ideal. Be guided.