Not many Nigerians considered the possibility of General Muhammadu Buhari ever becoming the President. The tribe of the die-hard doubting Thomases failed to reckon with the man who stood staunchly behind the dream of the CHANGE that was to come the way of Nigeria.
While some of his political colleagues were still weighing their options whether or not to leave the PDP, former Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State had long made up his mind to move to the APC with or without them. And as soon as he got there, he “locked” his eyes on Buhari as the one who should fly the party’s presidential ticket even though the party had not begun the process of choosing its flag bearer.
Therefore, for Amaechi, it was Buhari, Buhari, Buhari. Amaechi threw his heart and mind right into the project. The Rivers State Lodge in Abuja practically replaced all other earlier places of party meetings as party faithful trooped in and out on daily basis.
The first major challenge in delivering Buhari was the inability of the APC to agree on him as a consensus candidate. The problem dragged until the party decided that primary should be conducted. Amaechi strongly felt that left on his own, Buhari will not emerge as the flag bearer. He joined others to build a coalition that will deliver Buhari at the primary. The process did not only deliver Buhari, it was adjudged a spectacular success by Nigerians. Given his big push role in the emergence of Buhari as the APC flag bearer, Amaechi was logically picked to be Director of the Buhari Campaign Organization.
Meanwhile, as Amaechi was busy pushing the Buhari project with all he had, things were smoldering in his home state of Rivers. The state’s branch of the PDP had parted ways with Amaechi way back in 2013, opening him to fighting on many battle fronts simultaneously. His defection to APC blew the confrontation wide open.
He was accused of illegally moving a PDP mandate to the APC.
The Presidency descended on Amaechi like a ton of bricks by trying to scuttle his re-election as the Chairman of the Governors’ Forum, distorting the security situation in the state and using the state PDP branch under the leadership of Nyesom Wike, the current governor of the state, to take on Amaechi in an open warfare.
Amaechi was, therefore, torn between the deteriorating situation in Rivers and helping to deliver Buhari and APC at the centre with the likely consequence of losing the state to the PDP. Amaechi knew that winning both battles would be an uphill task but he was iron-willed to take a shot.
Meanwhile, the battle to deliver Buhari and APC at the centre was both contentious and acrimonious. It was perhaps the most hate-filled campaign in recent memory. There was clear risk to the life of Amaechi from the South-South as he was considered a ‘traitor’ who was planning to ruin the chances of a Niger Delta’s son and his own ‘brother.’
Despite the odds, Amaechi trudged on not knowing exactly what the outcome of his efforts would be. He was confident that given a level playing field, Buhari would win the election.
Amaechi hardly had time to support his state’s APC in their feisty battle over the elections there- even with a personal approval rating of over ninety percent. He appeared to have put most of his hope on ensuring a Buhari-win. He rightly believed that Rivers people were ready for change, but grossly underestimated how desperate his enemies – within APC and PDP – were.
Buhari won the March 28 presidential election. But he lost Rivers more to official mischief. In what turned out to be a bloody and vicious election, Amaechi’s people ‘lost’ all senatorial seats, House of Representative seats, House of Assembly seats (except one) and the gubernatorial election. It was a huge price that Amaechi had to pay just to ensure that Buhari wins at the centre.
Amaechi had delivered as a Campaign Director the first ever opposition victory in a presidential election in a spectacular manner, but he had become a broken man having lost everything in Rivers. He did it for the sake of his country. He bagged a red card so his team could win.
As Amaechi licks his wounds and carries the burden of his trauma, speculations as to what will be his role in the President Buhari’s government will continue to be a topic for both political and academic discourse for a long while to come. Nevertheless, no matter what that position may be, Amaechi will continue to carry some deep emotional scars and remain the man in a silhouette, a shadow in the mix of national sacrifice.
Philemon Doro Adjekuko is a development economist and consultant based in Abuja.