Playing into Amaechi’s Hand By Nasiru Suwaid
There is this widely held belief in Nigeria, though some people believe it is a universal reality, describing and depicting any altercation between individuals of higher standing in the society with those that are beneath them, either in age, stature, hierarchical placement in the community or financial status in life, you just never win seem to win against such type of an opponent. As the Late Mallam Aminu Kano had often sermonized during the heady days of the second republic, in any of one of those moments of political preachments atop the drum, he would usually quip and say; Nigerian politics is like the local wrestling, in which you win by overturning your opponent and pinning him on the ground, to celebrate an evident victory achieved, but he quickly admonished, that upon putting the political adversary on the floor, you should never raise your leg and place it on top of his stomach, in the usual chivalry of stomping an opponent as a triumphant gesture of conquest. Because, with a little loss of concentration, the next moment could be him on top of you and a scent of victory could quickly turn into a scene of monumental defeat.
This is the reason why when Rivers state political crisis began, I deliberately ignored it by taking scant interest in the selfish battles of supremacy, except from the curious perspective of a student of politics and with a viewpoint of looking at things only from the strategic angle of that unwritten code of political brinkmanship, which enables a political gladiator to take calculated risks against a leadership aspiring colleague, in fact, to seemingly concede defeat, solely for the purpose of having a famous victory in the end.
Actually, what I was interested in all the back and forth in the two sides of the political conflict, was not who won the first battles or even which party got the upper hand in the short run, but who best strategizes for the long run and indeed landing the ultimate prize in the 2015. Descriptively, what I was specifically interested on is the group that does the overturning and pinning of the opponent on the ground, but most importantly, could the stomping on the stomach occur and will the leg be allowed linger awhile, as to allow for that momentary lapse of concentration. Fortunately for the president but unfortunately for his political strategy, this is exactly what has happened in the politics of the most important state in the Niger-Delta.
The president through his Minister of State for Education Mr. Nyesom Wike, took away the party from the governor and every instrument of federal power from the state’s chief executive, most especially, the pleasure and privilege of being a chief security officer of a state, who gets to control the police and its coercive instrument of state authority, thus nearly rendering him redundant politically. Then the gloating began and the open proclamations about the defeat of an opponent, who cannot even give executive order to his state police commissioner, because the state’s chief police officer would rather see himself as not answerable to the governor. This could have been the end of the contest of supremacy, except for the fact that the personality, who was thought as hopelessly ineffective, still retained the control of his House of Assembly, while maintaining the loyalty of the significant membership of the National Assembly from his state.
This two instrumental organs of operative democratic governance, ensured and insured Rotimi Amaechi’s security of tenure, as well as the ability to set a path for confronting a presidential traducer, with the state assembly shielding the governor from any attempt to impeach him, while the federal lawmakers protected their junior state brethren on the task undertaken, as well as on what accrues to the state in terms of federal funding. As such, while the Abuja politicians where celebrating clipping the wings of the local champion in Port Harcourt, a crisis of acceptability erupted at Wadata Plaza, where a group of governors under the direction of Ameachi, refused to recognize the leadership of the national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, when the supporters of the president chose to fractionalize the Nigerian Governors Forum into factions, just to spite an adversary they love to hate, his angry governor peers simply frittered the party into a division of two opposing blocs, thus for the first in the history of the Africa’s largest ruling behemoth, the disunity within the ranks of the party in power became so self evident and the power of its principal leader whittled down against a chain of dissenting defectors.
As of now, for a president who inherited a controlling power in the National Assembly, he is now struggling to maintain a simple majority in the parliament. In the lower chamber of the House of Representatives, the biggest party Africa is now only a minority, fearful of what happens in the next coming periods of legislative agenda, wondering whether its principal officers would be forced to wear the tag and swear the new toga of minority leadership, within the operative parliamentary rules in effect, because, you just cannot lose a sitting majority and expect the reward of having higher number of elected representative delegates to the assembly. From the upper chamber of the Nigerian parliament, despite no clarity on who belongs to what in of terms party membership, what is a clear reality is that the People’s Democratic Party controls the Senate, at least in the loyalty of the majority of its membership.
However, after what happened last week in Rivers state, when a serving senator of the Federation was openly assaulted by the Nigerian police, the equilibrium has suddenly shifted, as the primal law of self and selfish institutional preservation takes effect, because, while Magnus Abe is an opponent of the president, a national politician but most particularly, a local operator within the context of Rivers politics and a fair game in the destructive exchanges which defines political differences in the state. Unfortunately, in the context of the Nigerian systemic norm, he is also the representative of an institution, which has the motto and the mantra of equal peers of a distinguished chamber, a kind of a close knit group of individuals, who are very jealous of their privileges, even if they hardly care about their other constitutional responsibilities. Thus, any attack on one of them is akin to an intrusive invasion against all, which will at the very least, leave the legislative agenda of the seeming attacker in peril.
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