It was the campaign posters of Rotimi Chibike Amaechi and Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, all over the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, that brought discussions on the possible presidential candidacy of Amaechi in 2023 to the front burner. The posters, which did not have the logo of any Nigerian political party, had the face of Amaechi as President, and El-Rufai as the Vice President respectively.
Interestingly, Amaechi himself has remained quite modest over his chances of becoming Nigeria’s next president. Speaking on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics, he said “only God knows Nigeria’s next leader”.
The former Rivers State Governor subsequently parried every effort to draw him into making revealing comments. He consistently insisted that he is focusing on his job as a minister under President Muhammadu Buhari and would not like to be distracted. “I am still the Minister for Transportation and only God can tell who will be the President of Nigeria in 2023,” he insisted.
However, one area that gave a strong hint to Amaechi’s veiled interest in 2023 was the firm backing he gave to the call for the All Progressives Congress (APC) to respect the zoning formula agreed upon at the formation stage of the party. It is obvious that zoning the presidency to the south, as speculated by most APC faithful, could favour his candidacy to some extent.
The minister agreed with the submission of Babatunde Fashola, his counterpart in the Ministry of Works and Housing, that the ruling party should honour the previously agreed zoning arrangement on the rotational presidency. It was reported a few months ago that the Minister of Works and Housing had advised the leadership of the ruling APC to honour the agreement reached at the formative stage of the party on zoning the presidency to the south. Fashola was the first APC leader to reveal that there was indeed a zoning agreement between chieftains of the party in the past.
Born 27 May 1965, Amaechi served in oil-rich Rivers State as Governor from 2007 to 2015, and Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly from 1999 to 2007.
He was born in Ubima, Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, to the family of the late Elder Fidelis Amaechi and Mary Amaechi. He had his early education at St. Theresa’s Primary School from 1970 to 1976. He earned his West African Senior School Certificate in 1982, after attending Government Secondary School, Okolobiri. Amaechi received a Bachelor of Arts degree (Honours) in English Studies and Literature from the University of Port Harcourt in 1987.
He completed the mandatory National Youth Service Corps in 1988, and thereafter joined Pamo Clinics and Hospitals Limited, owned by Peter Odili, where he worked until 1992.
In 1999, he contested and won a seat to become a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly to represent his constituency.
He was subsequently elected as the Speaker of the House of Assembly. Amaechi was elected the Chairman of Nigeria’s Conference of Speakers of State Assemblies. In May 2003, he was re-elected as the Speaker. In 2003, when the National Assembly moved to hijack the legislative functions of the State House of Assembly as enshrined in the constitution, he and his colleagues took the matter to the Supreme Court.
In 2007, Amaechi contested and won the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) primary for Rivers State gubernatorial race. His name was substituted by the party, an action which he challenged in court. The case eventually got to the Supreme Court. He became Governor on October 26, 2007, after the Supreme Court ruled that he was the rightful candidate of the PDP and winner of the April 2007 Governorship election in Rivers State.
He was re-elected for a second term on 26 April 2011. In August 2013, Amaechi was amongst seven serving governors who formed the G-7 faction within the PDP. In November 2013, Amaechi, alongside five members of the G-7, defected to the new opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and became director-general of Muhammadu Buhari’s presidential campaign.
In 2015, following Muhammadu Buhari’s election, Amaechi was appointed as Federal Minister of Transportation. In July 2019, he was re-nominated for ministerial appointment by President Buhari.
Amaechi holds the national honour of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).
Many analysts find it hard to decipher why Amaechi would be thinking of the presidency since he cannot get the ticket based on the zonal arrangement because the south-south was the last to get it before Buhari’s emergence.
It is vital to note that the APC as a party is currently divided into antagonistic blocs in perpetual conflict with one another. At least three major but veiled blocs exist: the Lagos group, with Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu as the arrowhead; the Abuja/Kaduna group, with Attorney-General Malami and Mallam Nassir el- Rufai as the arrowheads; and the third block is made up of splinter groups of resistant elements in each of the APC structures in the 36 states. Sometimes they align and they are quite potent in the local politics of most states. In terms of control of organs of government, the Abuja/Kaduna group has the upper hand. With the last appointment of sole administrators in the party, the group is in firm control of both the presidency and the party. The Abuja/Kaduna group has fortified its camp by attracting high-calibre PDP leaders across the country through a combination of lobbying, juicy offers, and, maybe, threats. One of its greatest achievements is the ability to cut the PDP by its head. Many governors and senators have been hooked.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan, expected to be the PDP’s most iconic opposition figure, has virtually fallen into this tempting net held by the ruling party, with a 2023 ambitious offer.
It must be noted that one trend has emerged in the ongoing shadow boxing. The Abuja/Kaduna group is also reported to be employing the “Maradonic” tricks espoused by the former military leader, Ibrahim Babangida, who separately promised several aspirants the presidency but kept his game to his chest. The Kaduna/Abuja group appears to have reached out secretly to many aspirants in the South. The advantage is that it keeps the bees busy while the principal has enough time to consolidate power. Pundits believe they most probably must have reached out to Rotimi Amaechi.
It is speculated that the plot is to set up as many potent southern candidates as possible against each other, paving the way for a more formidable north to call the shots. If this is true, is Amaechi falling headlong into this trap? What chance does he have on the presidential chessboard come 2023? Just as he stressed, only God knows who will be president in 2023. Others can only act or watch as events unfold.