No doubt, the occasion of the 42nd Anniversary of the creation of Rivers State requires not merely an appraisal of the past, challenges of the present and projections into the future, it also requires a critical probe of the person on the driving seat of governance.
This becomes even more imperative when viewed from the circumstances of his ascendancy to power as Governor of Rivers State viz a viz his early pronouncements on the policy direction of the administration.
Yet less than two years in office, but conscious of the fact that the age now attained by the state requires more than the dangerous gambles of a political adventurer, one expects that Gov Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi appreciates or should appreciate not just the enormity of the task before him but indeed the urgency that addressing the many crucial needs require.
It is in this light that this writer wishes to probe into Amaechi’s immediate past few months, to know if actions thus far taken make him a politician or a statesman. To do this, let us quickly capture in what moral garbs each is clothed, the key distinguishing features being that while timid and interested politicians think much more about the security of their seats, the statesman think about not just the security of his state and country but also plans for the next generation, as enthused by Thomas Babington Macaulay in a speech before the British House of commons in 1842.
Such politicians, as distinct from statesmen, play to the gallery, very easily bend to the claps and cheers of the moment and regale in the euphoria of a success coated in ephemeral illusions. Not so with the statesman who at the risk of political popularity venture into area with immediate pains but greater gains for the future.
Where does Governor Rotimi Amaechi fit in all this? What has he ventured to qualify him either as a politician or a statesman?
After an indepth look, quite a few must strike a critical mind like mine. These are re-inventing the once glorious garden city years of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital and its attendant immediate pains of demolitions upon demolition; the creation of no fewer than 155 Modern Health Centres all across the state and complemented with Doctors’ and Nurses quarters; an equal number of model schools to replace the rot and decay that have for years, characterised public schools; large scale infrastructural development and most importantly the bold attempt to build a Greater Port Harcourt City. In all these attempts, can be found, in good measure, the steel determination of one, earger to make not just a difference in the lives of men, but indeed a near mortal impression into the future, all geared towards the common good of many, not a few.
However, since all other projects are visible and at various stages of completion, the one that actually must determine Amaechi’s qualification as a statesman rest in his bold decision to plan for a better Rivers State by addressing the vexed one-city status of the state. In this, does this critic found enough reason for qualification as a statesman and not a politician easily given to the praise of the moment.
Perhaps the accruing benefits and other supporting efforts at leaving behind a more secure and prosperous Rivers State will help make the point even better.
The Greater Port Harcourt City, when, completed will impact positively on the lives of the people of Rivers State in a lot of plausible ways. Let me quickly list a few from the standpoint of a Development Economist and not an Engineer, my first love. It will, among others: Reduce the congestion in the premier Port Harcourt city.
It must be understood that whenever the designed traffic capacity of a road has been exceeded, there is no magic which either traffic wardens or the road marshals could perform to stop the build-up of hold-ups. This fact is evident on our Port Harcourt roads, many of which were designed for fewer vehicles by our erstwhile colonial masters in the 1950s. Past expansions or the widenings of these old roads have also long exceeded their R.O. Ws (Right Of Ways), but regrettably, not all the equally old houses on both sides of the roads can be destroyed for meaningful road construction. The only rational solution to the congestion problem therefore, is the expansion of the premier Port Harcourt city, much like the Greater London, Greater Paris and West Jerusalem, as distinct from the premier East Jerusalem (the old city) to name just a few. Also. a room or a flat meant for a family of two or three people are often overcrowded by squatters or extended families. This . type of congestion is not limited to houses in the Waterfronts and Diobu areas, instead, it’s observed all over the premier Port Harcourt city. Thus, the idea of Greater Port Harcourt is visionary, and we should salute the boldness of Gov. Amaechi.
Create shelter for the ever-increasing population of the premier city
As we all know, increase in Port Harcourt-city population is mainly from three areas – influx of job seekers from the whole Nigerian federation, rural urban drifts, and increase in crude birth rates because of better medicare. If the Greater Port Harcourt could be delivered with affordable homes, then, the people of the State would have less worry and devote more of their time and resources to production activities. Thus, the Greater Port Harcourt is likely to promote economic growth.
Provide healthy and modern living environment
Happily, since Rivers State government is working out a scheme whereby the indigenes of the state are given preference or assisted to buy greater percentage of the houses in the Greater Port Harcourt, then the premier Port Harcourt city could be de-congested, and this would lead to improvement in the health conditions of the people, otherwise, the status quo would remain the same. How the Rivers State government handles the post-construction phase of the new city would to a very large extent also determine it’s usefulness to the people.
Our investigation shows that well over 50% of the houses Gov. Odili’s administration built are owned and occupied by non-indigenes of Rivers State.
We trust that Gov Amaechi will not toe such path but excel, by first pleasing the people of the state.
Create modern infrastructure
The Greater Port Harcourt with wide good roads complete with shoulders and drainage systems would appreciably reduce traffic hold-up and flash flood problems, among others. Also, networks of pipe borne water and electricity would service residential homes, companies, and the public. The unnecessary expenses borne in sinking water boreholes and buying of generators by private individuals and corporate bodies would be things of the past, besides, stand-bys and delays which companies suffer due to power outages would be drastically reduced. All these would have positive impact on the state’s economy and so raise the standard of living of the people.
‘Attract potential investors to the state
Potential investors both from Nigeria and the rest of the world would be attracted to the Greater Port Harcourt, replete with modern amenities and open spaces. Such a salutary development would give the state a new economic footing in the down-stream oil sector other than the present up-stream activities of exploitation of the crude oil and selling it cheaply through exports. Encouraged by uninterrupted water and power supplies, down-stream oil sector companies (companies that use the crude oil as raw material to manufacture other products would mushroom in the new city because of the availability of oil in Rivers State. The GDP of the state and indeed that of the Nigerian federation will surely increase.
Create employment opportunities
Thousands of jobs would be created for the unemployed, besides the technological diffusion the constructions of the new city would have on our workers.
Shows good leadership and commitment to service
Gov. Amaechi has demonstrated a high level of leadership and commitment to service through his relentless efforts in many areas. We have not had it so good in any previous administrations.
What then is my analysis of the security situation in the state today viz-a-viz what obtained in the eight-or-so years, before Amaechi since no meaningful development can take place without real peace, not that of the grave yard?
Gov. Amaechi’s zero tolerance to militancy and youth restiveness in Rivers State, more especially in Port Harcourt metropolis, will help the economy grow. This is because the inherent profit motives of private individuals that trigger off economic activities which in turn create wealth in any mixed economy, as ours, strives and strifes, paraphrasing Adam Smith’s 1776 time-tested and the honoured economic theory. In contrast, the enthronement of youth restiveness and its sustenance throughout the two terms of former Gov. Odili’s administration, and without once thinking of the negative effects, such would have on the economy presented the regime as an example of a as a politician, and the cruel type; for, while politicians think of the next election, statesmen think of the next generation – James Freeman Clerke.
Amaechi is indeed thinking of the next generation because it is now abundantly clear to all that he knows, “An ounce of experience is weightier than a pound of knowledge. “Who can forget so soon the kind of hell in the eight years of Gov Odili. This is why many, like me believe that Gov Amaechi is just the answer to our problems as evidenced from his track records especially the discretion to build the Greater Port Harcourt City.
Dr Wakama is also a Civil Engineer and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Trojans Eng.Nig Limited, PH