I finally met with Professor Tam David-West. The date was 10th April 2011. The venue was Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State. The time was 1pm. This meeting was after many failed schedules by Prof.that we would meet anytime he was in Port Harcourt. Albeit, I was happy that this meeting finally held, because I kept hope alive, due to the many fatherly apologies from him,on the initial deadlocks for us to meet.
Remember that Professor Tamunoemi Sokari David-West was born on August 26, 1936 in Buguma, Kalabari, in the present day Rivers State. He has had a long and distinguished career as an academic, virologist, civil/public servant and administrator. He was educated at a number of universities around the world; beginning with the University College, Ibadan, now University of Ibadan, 1956-1958; Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA, 1958-60 (B.Sc); Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, 1960-62 (M.Sc); and McGill University, Montreal Canada, 1964-66 (Ph.D).
He started his teaching career as a consultant virologist and senior lecturer at the University of Ibadan in 1969. He was later appointed professor of virology, at the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, in 1975. He has served Nigeria in several capacities, beginning with his appointment as Commissioner for Education and member of the Executive Council of Rivers State, 1975-79. He has been appointed a member of the 50 man Constitution Drafting Committee setup by the Federal Military Government under General Murtala Muhammed in 1979. He also served the General Muhammadu Buhari military government as Federal Minister of Petroleum and Energy, from 1984 to 1985. Professor West was retained as a federal minister by the General Ibrahim Babangida regime after the palace coup that removed Buhari. January 1986 until September 1986, Professor West served as the Minister of Mines, Power and Steel in the Babangida regime before he was dropped during a cabinet reshuffle. Following disagreements over matters of conflicting interest, he was jailed for one year by the Babangida junta for allegedly accepting a gold wrist watch as bribe, from a foreign business man, while he was petroleum minister. Though that decision was said to be controversial and a plot by the junta to humiliate David-West. Today, Professor Tam David-West has not hidden his voice on issues pertaining Nigeria. He continues to be a prolific critic-writer.
The first time to see Professor David-West was at the just concluded campaign tour for the re-election of the Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, at Asari/Toru and Akuku-Toru Local Government Areas in Kalabari Kingdom of the state. Though, I hadn't the opportunity to meet with Prof David-West. But Amaechi received a major herald as some heavyweight politicians and academics from the region publicly declared support for the him. Chief A.K Horsfall, Alabo Graham Douglas, Chief Ombo Isokariari, Chief Ebenezer Isokariari, Justice Karibi Whyte among others, but most especially, Prof. Tam David-West, said they gave their support for Amaechi.
Professor David-West stated that his open support for Amaechi dwells on his performance and achievements in the state in less than four years. In his own words: "I do not belong to any party and they say I am controversial, I agree, but I have come to campaign for Amaechi, I support him because of what he has done in Rivers State, I support him because he is focused." Meanwhile, there was a speculation that Governor Amaechi dared his opponents to a public debate on the state's economy following insinuations of financial impropriety in his administration by some opponents before the botched April 16 governorship election was shifted.
Professor David-West and I have been glued together through calls and text messages since 2007, after he read my article with the title, “The Story Not Told Of Amaechi” published in The Sun, Thursday, August 9, 2007. This was when the load for Amaechi to claim his stolen mandate by the People’ Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was on Amaechi’s head, not shoulder.
In that article, I posited that there is nothing that a man could do to his concubine’s child that the child would call him daddy. And the man could be trying all he could to please the child, but for the fact that enmity is greatest at home, the child would not call him daddy.
I said in that article that the matter between Governor Celestine Ngozichim Omehia and the former Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi was the subject of discussion. The later had been on the altar of political calumnists being butchered with swords of words. I said that it seemed that nobody wanted an explanation from him but only to tell him that he bit the past governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili – the finger that fed him. But Amaechi’s political demagogues forgot the axiom: Let my son be greater than me. The prayer of every father. Excerpt of that article is as follows:
“The media was awash with stories of how Odili employed the former Speaker, after his graduation, six years later. Amaechi’s traducers have gone as far as telling us how he was studying abroad from home when he was Speaker. Again, they have told us how he ate in Odili’s house, licked the plate with the tongue. Inshort, they have told us how Amaechi was conceived, born and where his umblical cord was planted. But no one has told us how Amaechi on his own part helped Odili when he was governor.
Nigerians knew that virtually all the 36 states governors in Nigeria were shaken by their House of Assemblies except Rivers State. And who was the brain behind this stability? Amaechi.
Amaechi was respected among his colleagues that even when they plan evil against Odili at Amaechi’s back, none of them could summon the courage to say it in his presence. Amaechi was a beacon to the government of Rivers State under Odili. And Odili saw this and was always eating and washing hands with Amaechi, including his family members, outside the Bricks House.
If today, Amaechi is perceived to be a traitor, as many people have taken him to be, then who is the traitor’s mentor? Odili. Since Amaechi served him for years according to Amaechi’s ‘newspapers biographers’.
Amaechi’s political traducers labeled him a traitor just because he was stoic in the pursuit of his mandate that was brazenly taken away from him under the auspices of his master, Odili. Odili that meant well for Amaechi? Who could be beaten that would not cry!
We all knew that Amaechi won the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) primary elections that was held in December 2006. And the question now is, since it was said that Odili meant well for Amaechi, at least by employing him, what has been Odili’s opinion on the game of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ shown to Amaechi? Odili is in Abuja.
What was the help that Odili rendered to Amaechi that one cannot drink and rest the cup? Was Odili paying Amaechi’s salary more than he was paying other employees when Amaechi was in Pamo Clinic? Did somebody not help Odili? At least we all knew that one time Governor of Rivers State, Chief Rufus Ada George helped Odili in no little way when he was governor. But what happened to George when Odili became governor? That is a story for another day.
Well, what one expected from the political analysts, stakeholders, elders forums, the good people of Rivers State et al were not seen. They were supposed to work out a niche by all means necessary to see that the two bothers, Omehia and Amaechi are settled than casting venoms, vituperations and vilifications on one person, Amaechi. Even if they have tried to reconcile them and it did not work, they should continue to try. At least there could be people that Governor Celestine Ngozichim Omehia listens to, likewise Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. We know that they are moguls, but at the home front, they could still be talked to, being first cousins.
When Omehia was recently proclaimed winner of the case with Amaechi by the Appeal Court, Omehia’s supporters in Nigeria, precisely in Port Harcourt, went wild, drank to stupor and caused a lot of social unrest. But the question is, if Omehia won the case, has he won the peace?
Even if Omehia may be pretending to be at peace, calling many Catholic Churches prayer groups and Pentecostals alike, we still believe that ‘blood is ticker than water’, except if now, water is ticker than blood.
Omehia should stop listening to the yes-men around him whose stock-in-trade is to create an avenue as bedbugs to the state’s treasury. Omehia should understand that if Amaechi had won in the Appeal Court, his today’s praise singers would, without bathing an eyelid, swam over to bearth their with Amaechi.
This was how it happened in Anambra State, when Governor Peter Obi went to court to claim his mandate that Andy Uba ‘forcefully’ took, Obi was called many names because Andy Uba was in power. The same people who called Obi names are now praise singers of him,saying that Obi is the best thing that ever happened to the people of Anambra State.
The human nature is dicey. Human beings set pace at the waking of the drum and stops at the slumber of the drum. By all means, Omehia and Amaechi should reconcile. They should know that the problem before them was caused by a group of people in the PDP who may have not wanted their mutual relationship to continue.
Where two elephants fought it is the grass that bears the brunt. Omehia and Amaechi should know how to find the object that fell inside the stream with the leg. Because, according to a poet, "Slavery unabolished is that of the heart".”
Not only Professor Tam David-West called after the article was published, but Nigerians at home and in the diaspora were rattled. Prince Ogbonna Nwuke when he was the Press Director of Amaechi shortly after the later won in the court called me and invited me to his office at the government house, Port Harcourt. He thanked me, and even said that he would take me to Amaechi for my role in the struggle in seeing that justice came Amaechi way, but that promise is yet to be fulfilled three years after.
Today, what battles and baffles me is the unflinching love Professor Tam David-West has shown me for just that article on Amaechi, even though that I have written many articles buttressing reasons Amaechi should be supported. Sometimes I wonder that if I had written that article on David-West, he would have mentioned me to the world. It is annoying that instead Amaechi whom the ‘fightings’ were meanrt for his defence will remember the people that fought and have been fighting for him David-West loves dearly, he is busy saying that the Rivers money is for Rivers people, and the non-indigenes in Rivers State are ‘aliens’.