Right of Reply By David Iyofor
Before I x-ray the issues raised by Shaka Momodu’s This Republic published on the back page of THISDAY newspaper on July 21, 2017 titled, “Amaechi’s God Complex”, I should clarify that the rejoinder to the column written by one Uwikor Andrew in the back page of THISDAY on Monday, July 31, 2017 are not the views, thoughts or reaction and do not represent the views, thoughts or reaction of the Honourable Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi to Momodu’s ‘Amaechi’s God Complex’ article.
I chuckled multiple times as I read Shaka’s column of July 21, 2017, mischievously screaming “Amaechi’s God Complex”. The piece broached a number of issues, most of them largely unrelated to the subject matter, as they were mundane and pedestrian, in a curious bid to arrive at his conclusion of Amaechi displaying a God complex, which in its entirety is a fallacy. And I will prove that. I will try to restrict myself to the areas that relate and/or connect with the subject matter.
Momodu usually tries to first present his writings as an altruistic effort towards a better society. When he has his audience enamored to his seemingly noble agenda, usually in his first two paragraphs, he then goes for the kill, spewing his biases and prejudices.
And it wasn’t any different with that his backpage piece on Amaechi. Momodu started with some cliché about how visionless people in leadership positions will not allow the country make progress. He then stepped up the frenzy on how good-for-nothing leaders are idolized as gods. And he went on and on. Typical of Momodu, he was working his readers towards zeroing on Amaechi. Deliberately and with the precision of a misguided marksman, he tried to convey to his audience that leaders like Amaechi are responsible and should be held responsible for all their problems. To his base, that was music to their ears.
To be fair to Momodu, he has never hidden (at least with his writings) his dislike or even disdain for Amaechi. You just need to take a cursory look at some of his write-ups to see that he’s obsessively anti-Amaechi. He’s always fishing for fresh opportunities to take cheap shots at Amaechi. From the mundane to the utterly ridiculous, Momodu relishes in heaping abuses and denigrating conjectures on Amaechi. Even when the issue of discourse should ordinarily have nothing to do with Amaechi, Momodu more often than not, finds a way to drag Amaechi’s name into it, and turn it into another feast of Amaechi bashing.
One example that stuck out for me is how Momodu turned a September 19, 2016 column that was supposed to be about Nobel Laureate Prof Wole Soyinka into another cheap dig at Amaechi. The piece titled ‘Has The Man Died in Kongi’, which ordinarily should have nothing to do with Amaechi was turned into another vicious attack on the former governor of Rivers State.
Pardon me if I had wandered a bit into the antecedents of Shaka Momodu’s anti-Amaechi posturing. It is because to unbundle his Amaechi’s God Complex article, we need to understand the mindset and leanings (whether ideological or political or both) of the writer/messenger to fully and better x-ray his article and its underlining meaning.
Reading through Momodu’s piece, one would easily deduce that the foundation of the writer jumping into concluding that Amaechi has a God Complex is that Amaechi had boasted that one of his ‘protégés’ (Shaka’s word, not mine), Senator Magnus Abe will not be the governor of Rivers State come 2019. According to Momodu, “Amaechi has foreclosed Abe’s gubernatorial ambition as far as the APC is concerned”. How did the columnist arrive at this surprising conclusion? What is the basis of this summation?
According to the writer, “Rotimi Amaechi, one of the canonised heroes of our democracy by our Nobel laureate, was widely reported in the media recently playing the exact opposite of what democracy means.
He was reported to have boasted that one of his protégés, Senator Magnus Abe, will not be the governor of Rivers State come 2019. And to thwart the yet-to-be-declared governorship aspiration, the emperor who has no clothes is already boasting of his reach. The actions and statements credited to Amaechi are quite telling. His hubris and crude barbarism were on full display…. Recently, he was reported to have removed local government caucus leaders loyal to the senator representing Rivers South-east senatorial district. According to the reports, there has been a budding feud between Amaechi and Abe over the latter’s governorship ambition, which he is against. This is the statement credited to him in the report: ‘I have foreclosed Abe’s governorship ambition as far as the Rivers APC is concerned. If he likes, let him run to President Buhari. That will not change anything. If he likes, let him go to the First Lady, Aisha Buhari; nothing will change.’
Unbelievable! That Shaka’s basis of labeling Amaechi as having a God complex is from the rumours being spread reportedly by unnamed sources! It’s a travesty and pathetic that Momodu, who also is a journalist and editor of THISDAY on Saturday (a major newspaper title) would condescend to make such sweeping and damaging characterization of Amaechi, predicated almost entirely on rumours from unnamed sources. This is the pitfall of writing from a pre-determined mindset. A mindset that only looks for the angle that paints and portrays Amaechi in the worst possible way, even when there’s no reason to do so.
If Shaka Momodu had tried to put aside his bias against Amaechi, he would have seen that there are other sides to his reported ‘feud’ about Rotimi Amaechi and Magnus Abe in the Rivers APC. If Shaka had made minimum attempts to be fair, balanced and unbiased in his narration of his so called ‘feud’ in the Rivers APC, he would have also seen the other side and angles to his Amaechi/Abe issue. If his antecedents are anything to go by, most likely, Momodu would have also seen and read the other side but decided to ignore and discard it since it would not fit into his anti-Amaechi narrative and antecedents.
However, I will indulge him and reproduce here the other side to his Amaechi/Abe ‘feud’ as reported in several national newspapers and online news outlets. I will generously quote from the report in his paper, THISDAY newspaper of Sunday, June 25, 2017. In a report titled, “Abe’s Ambition Responsible for Rivers APC Crisis, Says Party Chief”, the article reported that: “A beclouding governorship ambition of Magnus Abe, the senator representing Rivers South East was at the heart of the crisis in the state’s chapter of the APC, a chieftain of the party who pleaded anonymity has said. The party chief believed to be quite close to both men revealed that the real issue between them is that Abe wants Amaechi to ‘anoint’ him as the Rivers APC gubernatorial candidate. Abe wants to be governor. That’s fine and good. But it is his desperation and the underhand tactics he is now using to get Amaechi to support and ‘anoint’ him as the Rivers APC candidate for the 2019 governorship elections that is causing all these problems between them.
“The party chief contended that Amaechi refused to ‘anoint’ Abe or any other APC aspirant that was interested in running for governor in 2019, because Amaechi’s position as the Leader of the party in Rivers State is that everyone with ambition to run for any elective office should hold it, keep it and work to build the party first. Amaechi made it clear that for the whole of 2017, rebuilding and re-strengthening the party should be the focus and goal of all APC members, and not campaigning for any elective office, whether openly or surreptitiously. That it’s a bit too early for campaigns.
“He advised that at the appropriate time, every aspirant could then come out and campaign openly and that all APC party candidates for all elective offices would emerge through the laid down process in the party’s constitution for the emergence of party candidates.”
The report went on to say that some persons not pleased with Amaechi’s position started distorting and leaking details of private caucus meetings within the party. “They were not just leaking but were also twisting the details from these meetings, most times, completely concocting and fabricating comments and ascribing these statements to Amaechi just to serve their ulterior agenda,” the THISDAY report quoted the unnamed party chieftain to have said.
Let me be clear. It is irrelevant whether I agree with or disbelieve the contents of the two reports (Momodu’s own and the one I just quoted), which were basically sourced from unnamed sources. Whether Shaka Momodu, you, the reader or I believe or don’t believe the contents of the reports is immaterial to the discourse. The point I am making here is that it is tantamount to journalistic heresy for Momodu, a journalist, title editor and back page columnist for THISDAY to completely ignore and disregard the other side, its angle and arguments because it doesn’t suit and fit into his established anti-Amaechi trajectory. This is his heavy moral burden that erodes credibility.
The other point Momodu raised that may remotely be considered to have any bearing to his Amaechi’s God Complex unjustified hypothesis, is the quote he attributed to Amaechi’s former Chief of Staff, Tony Okocha, and the supposed removal of certain leaders from what Shaka called APC Local Government Area caucuses in Rivers State. Let’s clinically look at these Shaka’s postulations.
Again, if Shaka Momodu had opened his eyes, mind and narrative to all the sides in Rivers APC, he would have seen, read and known that what Amaechi did was simply making a few leadership changes in his personal political group in about four or five LGAs in the 23-LGA Rivers State. No more, no less. This Amaechi personal team has nothing to do with APC-recognized party structures at all levels, and that APC party leadership structure was not touched and still remains intact in the state, from ward to state levels.
Perhaps, if Momodu was not cloistered on going on another Amaechi-bashing voyage, he would have heard, read and included in his piece, the widely reported statement of the Rivers State APC chairman, Davies Ibiamu-Ikanya on the few changes Amaechi made in his personal political team in the state. Ikanya was then quoted in several newspapers (including THISDAY) and many online news outlets as saying that “Amaechi is making some changes in his personal political group, team or caucus in the state. It is his right and prerogative to make any leadership changes within his own political team, group or caucus. Amaechi created the caucus, team or group, appointed its members and leaders and so can make any changes he deems fit with this his personal group, team or caucus. But we must emphasize that these changes by the Honourable Minister of Transportation within his personal political team, group or caucus have absolutely nothing to do with the party leadership structure and does not affect the party leadership structures at all levels in the state”.
Okocha, who Momodu gleefully quoted, was removed and replaced as the leader of this Amaechi personal political team in Obio-Akpor LGA. Even in the same quote that Shaka abridged, Okocha admitted that Amaechi appointed him caucus leader and so has the right and powers to remove him. Okocha like every member and leader of this Amaechi LGA groups serves at the pleasure of Amaechi, who appointed them into the groups. They were not elected neither is it their family inheritance. And they all know and acknowledge this simple fact. It beats me hollow, how this translates to Amaechi having a God complex. Can’t a man make changes in his personal political group again? The spur of the moment, emotional outbursts by Okocha (he has not openly denied it) cannot and will not change the facts of the matter.
In my view, everything else raised by Momodu in that God complex piece cannot be connected in any way to his faulty God complex theory. They completely lack substance to trigger any robust discourse on the subject matter. They were Shaka’s usual cheap jibes, mundane and pedestrian personal attacks at, and on Amaechi. I will not condescend to go that route with Shaka. I refuse to share in his moral burden. Just because Shaka does not like Amaechi’s face or does not share or agree with his political views and ideology, is not enough reason for him to unjustly turn Amaechi into his regular punching bag. It’s not enough reason to cherry pick what suits you and your narrative and ignore the other sides and angles in a public political discourse. Again, that’s a moral burden I do not intend to share with Shaka. The Amaechi I know will not apologize for how he looks; neither will he apologize for his political views, ideology and stance.
• David Iyofor is Rotimi Amaechi’s media aide