Convoy is a 1978 American action film based on convoy trucking, and a 1940 British war film based on convoy escort of warships during World War II. It’s also a group of ships or vehicles traveling together, typically accompanied by armed troops, warships, or other vehicles for protection. In the Nigerian context, convoy is a group of state of the art vehicles traveling together with armed escort, at high speed, while transporting highfalutin VIPs on many dilapidated highways.
During the Shagari/NPN administration (1979-1983) some pretentious NPN Igbo “political strategists” thought they understood the complexities of the Igbo political culture so they appealed to President Shagari to grant Odumegwu-Ojukwu state pardon and bring him back to help in their campaigns. They sponsored massive media campaigns and emotive street propaganda beginning from 1982. Newspaper headlines concocted appeals to Shehu Shagari to “bring my son back”, “bring our messiah back”, “give us Ojukwu or there will be no elections in Anambra state or any part of Igboland”.
The Shagari/NPN led federal government soon buckled under pressure (despite protests from the apprehensive military who fought Biafra more than a decade earlier) and allowed him to come back to Nigeria. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu was pardoned and given membership of the ruling NPN. Ojukwu jumped right into politics. The NPN was so desperate to “capture” Anambra in the 1983 election and Ojukwu decided to run for the senate. Sooner than later he faced Jim Nwobodo of Zik’s NPP who was running for a second term as Anambra Governor.
On that fateful day the first “politics of convoy” was instated in Nigeria. On the Onitsha-Enugu highway, Ojukwu’s convoy was being fast-driven to Onitsha while Governor Nwobodo and his “Jim’s Vanguard” was also being fast-driven to Enugu in the opposite direction. Both armed convoys and thugs met around Nkpor and none would give way on the one-lane road. Armed bellicose police escorts and patriots on both sides cocked guns and shouted obscenities at each other. Nwobodo’s convoy won the political battle. The NPN federal government later rigged Ojukwu out of the senate seat, which was purportedly lost to a relatively little known state commissioner in Governor Nwobodo’s cabinet called Dr. Edwin Onwudiwe.
I thought I had heard the last of this road rage politics played by a sitting governor and an ex-general and leader of a defunct country called Biafra, until Saturday November 11, 2017. Exactly 34 years later, the convoys of Rotimi Amaechi, 5th Governor of Rivers State and Minister of Transportation; and Nyesom Wike, former Minister of State for Education and 6th Governor of Rivers State clashed in Port Harcourt when both armed convoys and thugs met along Trans-Amadi road, Nwaja axis in Rivers State. This clash was captured on video which went viral. The video is a disturbing tale of how a Nigerian governor and a cabinet minister flexed their muscles in a convoy of politics.
Like in 1983 politics of convoy, armed bellicose police escorts and patriots on both sides cocked guns and shouted obscenities at each other. Wike’s convoy won the political battle. Why the governors always win is open to conjecture but I surmise that they have immunity and they are chief security officers with billions of Naira security votes, not minding that their state police commissioners, who are not funded by the governors, take orders from Abuja.
In both politics of convoy exhibited in Anambra and Rivers States respectively, the Anambra people nor the Rivers people did not reap any economic/infrastructural benefit(s). The foursome on both occasions were not formulating policy by the roadsides — nobody can formulate any policy or strategy in caustic circumstances while shouting obscenities at each other. However, they were playing politics along the road amidst their exotic vehicles while their minions watched in dismay.
On both demeaning and belittling occasions, the actions of these leaders belied their high positions. Their roadside politics was/is akin to debt pyramided on top of unrealistic debt in an orgy of speculation about who was more superior — governor or ex-warlord/senatorial candidate in Anambra; and governor or ex-governor/minister in Rivers. On each occasion, the political actors knew themselves before the clash of convoys. When Ojukwu presided over Biafra, Nwobodo was a constant visitor to Ojukwu’s headquarters/bunkers; and Wike was Amaechi’s chief of staff.
In Anambra, Nwobodo wanted to retain his gubernatorial seat and ward off the strangulating Ojukwu onslaught; and Ojukwu wanted to unseat him and enthrone NPN and clinch his senatorial seat. In Rivers, Wike wants to consolidate his gubernatorial seat and diminish Amaechi’s relevance in Rivers politics; and Amaechi is still smarting from the loss of Rivers gubernatorial seat by his godson to Wike, and still fighting to remain relevant in Rivers politics.
It became obvious that no meaningful progress was made in governance during the divisive politicking that ensued in Anambra State while the Ojukwu-Nwobodo feud lasted. Nwobodo was once asked at a press conference what he was doing about the rubbish-strewn streets in Enugu, he replied: “I wasn’t elected governor to carry shit”. From political hindsight, there cannot be any meaningful progress in governance during the divisive politicking that is ongoing in Rivers State while the Amaechi-Wike feud lasts.
There is no love lost between both Ikwerre men. In virtually all TV appearances, Amaechi talks transportation for about 60 percent and descends into a diatribe against Wike for the next 40 percent. The mention of Amaechi’s name sends Wike into stark-starring madness, he vituperates about Amaechi, exhibiting bitter animosity only reserved for enemies. These hatred on both sides is now routine and anything routine is the enemy of progress. Vast network of new roads are not likely to be constructed anytime soon in Rivers State, so Amaechi and Wike’s convoys may again cross parts on any of the old Rivers roads as the politics of convoy continues.