An Odumegwu Onwumere’s article tagged “The Heck About Amaechi’s Public House Experience”, shouldn’t have appeared in the public media. The write-up, however, have cast a harsh light on the Odumegwu Onwumere favourite governor and friend; before now. If it’s very painful for you to criticize your friends – you’re safe in doing it. But if you take the slightest pleasure in it, that’s the time to hold your esteem. Friends and good manners will carry you where money won’t go. It is said; moments of kindness and reconciliation are worth having, even if the parting has to come sooner.
Mr. Odumegwu Onwumere has written a fine, highly readable, and fair-minded but sympathetic biography of one of the most prudent governors of the Niger Delta states: Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. While Mr. Onwumere himself held Amaechi in the highest regard and made the dependable Amaechi’s former commissioner, Mr. Ogbonna Wuke his senior subordinate and commander of his respect in the herald of the governor’s legal struggle, the ex-speaker found his reputation tarnished after the EFCC saga by jealous Odili rivals including Obasanjo who disliked Odili’s politics and resented his criticisms of some of his command decisions.
Before he turned Rivers’ governor; Mr. Onwumere and his literal works offer a fairly comprehensive and balanced treatment of Mr. Chibuike Amaechi’s career that effectively demolished some of the more unfair criticisms of the same Rotimi Amaechi as a politician, and in particular takes apart the challenges (that emerged in post-amnesty controversy) that Mr. Celestine Omehia, not his arch-rival Abiye Sekibo, had been the candidate in whom Obasanjo had placed his most reliance and trust (although for a more critical, but still unfair and highly biased record).
Reading Odumegwu’s herald editorial titled “the story not told of Amaechi’ before August 2007 one would understand why there is need for Odumegwu to soft-pedal his criticism against Amaechi regime. Odumegwu was the forerunner of Amaechi’s reign as a governor after the later’s church pastor. As someone who passed through my school of thought, Odumegwu is a disciplined fellow, but understands that sometimes the easiest way to solve a problem is to stop participating in the problem.
Amaechi, of course, is a great leader, but he never pretended to be perfect, and Odumegwu, in daring to criticize certain aspects of Amaechi’s tactical operations, is neither a threat to a post-supreme-court judgement, , the legal court that installed Amaechi, that became so important in building a post-amnesty Rivers State.
The Amaechi government fell asleep at the wheel in the drive against positive-minded Ibo people. Ibo as a tribe didn’t do enough to weed out few elements of sycophants who refused to cease their anti-brotherly bile. Onwumere didn’t do anything at all, from what we can see, to halt his long-due positive contribution in the prosperity of Amaechi regime as well as that of Rivers People. Someone who visits may feel that Mr. Odumegwu Onwumere is a Riversman. He has lived and drank the bile of typical kalabari-man. There is no equivalence in this notion.
No sane person could look at how Mr. Odumegwu was sidelined and conclude that one side is as bad as the other. They are not. Amaechi’s close allies and their bigotry and tribalistic problem is worse but, one would not feeble arguments against such because, it is the one that has a minority of sycophant fans condemning pro-people contributions as long as it come from the corner of an alien–Ibo man.
Rightly so – who does Amaechi refers to aliens. According to my chat with Mr.Onwumere He lamented it was a bitter utterance that Mr. Governor used against him. If I am to defend; this matter on the grounds is a political statement and therefore, technically, they are correct) whereas discrimination is divisible hate and therefore illegal.
As Gov. Amaechi demonstrates, the post-legal struggle, in deifying the Onwumere pen-power in support of his bid to become governor as at that time, it requires a scapegoat, a “Judas”, upon whom the blame for betrayal and humiliation could be heaped. As both Tonye Princewill and Mr. Ogbona wuke who fought the same course with Mr. Odumegwu were milked and greased for a job well-done, does it mean that Mr. Odumegwu should be dumped for the fact that he is not indigene? How many indigenes came were fierce to write the same way Mr. Odumegwu wrote without thinking the fear of arrest? How many indigenes can remain defiant to speak for Amaechi, the way Mr. Odumegwu did as at that time. Does it make any sense? To sideline to show tribal clone cannot make difference. After all, how many tribes can we boast of, when it comes to Rivers state affair?
In the Elizabethan period, people were evidently free to choose and live where ever they wanted to. A tradition which must have given birth to many settlements, without the resentment of the aboriginal inhabitants. In Igboland for example, Migrant farmers and fishermen from Nupe, Igala and Jukun settled peacefully amongst the locals, which is why some 35% of the present Anambra state communities, trace their origins to Igala. In the middle-belt and Yoruba hinterland, one would still find such families and communities that were of different origins.
So the question is: From whom did Nigerians of today inherit ethnic hatred? Certainly not from their forefathers. Therefore, the lack of finesse, ethnic and intra-ethnic tolerance could rightly be said to be precipitated by the modern political parameters, enmeshed not really in the service of humanity, but materialism.
Evidence have shown, that political upheavals associated with ethnicity have in most cases, in their aftermath, positively reshaped their victims’ world view. The racial ideologies of the pre and post war Germans differ a lot, attesting to the fact. But, the last Nigerian civil war, and the routine ethnic massacres have all failed to change the mind-set of Nigerians. This is very sad, happening in a nation that boasts of the highest number of intellectuals in Africa. Such unabated ethnic jingoism, would continue to make the Nigerian nation-hood look like a “Rwanda” in waiting.
A closer look at the other African nations would indicate that they have fared better than Nigeria in this regard. Black South Africans, by virtue of their turbulent history, or otherwise have been so lucky to have a different political mind-set, entrenched rather, in black national consciousness. Quest for a South African president of this or that extraction was no longer necessary. To the extent that a South African of Nigerian Igbo extraction, got elected to the National Assembly for that matter. What a good start!
And in this post-amnesty cause narrative, Mr. Odumegwu Onwumere became the critical key or turning point upon which all else hinged, as though the outcome of a thousand April 2011 gubernatorial campaigns in Rivers State mobilizing millions of men, fought over five months across a vast local government, was reduced to nothing (even if that had been true) . Ogbonna Wuke alone could be blamed for Onwumere’s failure at Amaechi corner. It was the politics of Reconstruction and Onwumere’s place in that political struggle that largely shaped what became the dominant Amaechi’s narrative about the battle of Brickcorner, and the meaning of that defeat in the larger destruction and humiliation of his Candidacy.
I have advised Mr. Odumegwu Onwumere to shed his sword, but Amaechi’s treatment of this issue, and disprove of a stated idea of “his government is not for the Alien” should be revised. Politics never end one day and the reputation of a politician is his sand-footing. Mr. Onwumere is brilliant, and deserves attention not only from those interested in Rivers politics but at your well-done style, just for the interest of the relationship between politics, historical memory, the historical record, and the writing of history.