On October 26, 2007, the Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly from 1999 to 2007 , after what I will describe as his “political bizarre” cum calculated injustices meted out to him by the then Rivers State chapter of his ‘political family,’ the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and after five months of legal battle at the Supreme Court of Nigeria, reclaimed his stolen mandate from his cousin, Barrister Celestine Omehia, the then governor of the State.
Immediately Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi took over the saddle of leadership as governor of Rivers State, progressives both in Nigeria and in the Diaspora heaved a deep sigh of relief. Observers became optimistic and synonymous in thinking that a ‘political Moses’ has finally emerged in Gov. Amaechi to pilot the state to the promised land.
On October 26, 2009, the governor marked his two years in office. While some people were busy singing his praises, others had contrary views of his leadership style. This writer. as a stakeholder and unbiased justice activist, takes a critical look into the performances of ministries and establishments under the strict supervision of the governor. They arc x-rayed, constructively criticised, and commended.
Education, Health, Works and Security: Frankly speaking, these areas have recorded tremendous achievements across the state. However, Hon. Dakuku Peterside, the Commissioner for Works should put more efforts to ensure that some of the numerous road projects under construction at strategic locations in the state are completed to ease free flow of traffic in the city. Hon. Peterside is a hardworking commissioner but the Rumuobiakani. Mile 4. Ade George/Iwofe, Choba. G. U. Ake, and Rumuokuta/Igwuruta Roads, amongst others might rubbish his effort if measures are not taken to ensure that contractors handling those projects complete them urgently. According to Gov. Amaechi, Hon. Peterside’s ministry has so far consumed N 133 billion (the highest of all the ministries). If those road projects fail, Rivers people will hold him responsible. Other ministries are also trying to score above average in two years. When the governor came on board, security situation in the state was nothing to write home about but today, Rivers state is relatively peaceful.
Justice, Finance, Budget/Planning, Lands and Survey: These are strategic ministries and are doing their jobs professionally. However, the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General should carefully advise the governor on his waterfronts’ demolition programme. He should be made to understand that as someone who benefited from judicial sanity, matters filed in courts of competent jurisdiction against the state government should be strictly obeyed to the letter.
Information, Agric, Youth Development, and Water Resources Community Development: These ministries are more or less invisible as far as unbiased criticism is concerned. The governor should reshuffle or sack them a part from the information commissioner who just came on board. The information ministry might soon record tremendous changes taken into account the profile of its current commissioner. The commissioner should ensure that privately-owned media based in Port Harcourt give true picture of what transpires in government. Before now, there was no bridge between government information managers and the privately-owned media. That gap must be closed. More important are the conditions of government-owned media houses. They are completely dead. They need new/modern equipment. As a first step, the new commissioner must strive to ensure that in her time, The Tide Newspapers was brought back to life.
Transport, Environment and Urban Development: These ministries are very sensitive. The commissioners in charge of them are hitherto battling to succeed. While the transport sector is trying to introduce sanity on our roads, its urban counterpart is on ground to ensure that illegal structures in Port Harcourt are demolished. Governor Amaechi through the urban ministry has ensured that people’s houses were carefully enumerated and adequate compensation paid before demolition commenced. This effort is commendable but he should prove the people wrong by first of all putting up structures at the UPTH, Njemanze, Cultural Centre in Port Harcourt Township and Rainbow Town demolished by him. Some public affairs analysts are of the view that the state government should channel its developmental programmes to areas that are crying out for urgent attention. The environment ministry is below average for now. Of certainty, flood is making nonsense of the government’s urban beautification programme, critics say that without end. In fact, I see it as a tactic to unduly favour political associates. Despite the ever-busy attitude of refuse contractors, most areas in the city are hitherto very dirty and terribly stinking. What baffles me is that apart from the environment ministry, sanitation authority is also there. At times, I wonder what the functions of that establishment are because millions of naira are sunk into it yet refuse are dumped indiscriminately all over the city. The front view of Okrika lodge adjacent to Rivers State Library is disheartening. That alone speaks volumes of the inefficiencies of both the environment ministry and sanitation authority. Barr. Kingsley Chindah and Nnamdi Wokekoro have huge task. The task is to return Port Harcourt to its garden city status. I believe that was why Governor Amaechi appointed them. Governor Amaechi should as a matter of urgency, send an “anti-littering and indiscriminate refuse dumping bill” to the Rivers State house of Assembly. The bill should clearly spell out severe punishment for anybody caught dumping refuse indiscriminately in Port Harcourt and its environs. This writer was in Calabar when former governor of the state, Donald Duke inaugurated its ‘Operation Clean Cross River State.’ Strict laws were put in place to discipline offenders. Rivers State government should introduce a weekly general sensitization programme where sanitation/health officers will interact one-on-one with residents in nooks and crannies of the state. A lot of improvements are needed for them to achieve their essence. Having said all these, it will not be out of place to say that despite the shortcomings, they are changing the face of Port Harcourt city, remembering how the state was when Governor Amaechi came on board.
Sports: Professionally speaking, this is one area that leadership is lacking. Despite the fact that tax payers monies are sunk into the ministry, the sharks and Liberation stadia are in shambles. Maintenance is completely zero especially at the Sharks stadium. Inside the Sharks stadium is extremely dirty and stinks beyond one’s imagination. This writer has done a personal investigation round the stadium and can say authoritatively that where the mobile policemen sleep is worse than Nigerian police cells.
RSSDA: Governor Amaechi is working hard to re-shape the future of rivers students through that agency but the level of its transparency is in doubt. The recent 2009/2010 Overseas Scholarship aptitude test conducted at the Rivers State university of Science and Technology (RSUST) speaks volumes of the agency’s transparency. There are elementary manipulations going on in that agency. Some days after the attitude test at RSUST, a friend of mine told me that the agency had released list of 500 names via their website out of the 18,000 candidates they invited for the examination. I decided to log on to the RSSDA’s official website to investigate the authenticity of the names. Behold the Nigerian factor – politics came in. I was shocked when I noticed that a name with the surname “Briggs” was filed under Degema Local Government Area (DELGA). Let the management of RSSDA investigate how that came about. Parents of children under the RSSDA’s scholarship scheme in various high standard schools across the country have been crying foul. They said the RSSDA, through its contracting firm – Development and leadership Institute (DLI), intimated them of government’s willingness to assist them with either soft loans or empowerment programmes to help bring up their other children. One of the beneficiaries (names withheld) alleged that the DLI gave them forms to fill and return same which they did in due time but lamented that since they returned the forms last year, the DLI and RSSDA had kept them in the dark. He said whenever they approached the DLI, they were told that the RSSDA was delaying the process. He said the DLI told parents that they will be visiting their wards twice annually but that too was done only once last year while nothing had been said concerning this because such things if ignored can dent its good intention. Political jobbers/sycophants should better allow the governor to help children of those whose parents/guardians are not connected directly or indirectly to government house.
RSMA: The Rivers State Microfinance Agency should carry out public enlightenment campaigns so that Rivers people will be abreast with its modus operandi. Its essence is to grant soft loans to indigenes of the state, but with little or no adequate information, that purpose would be defeated. RSMA should use Port Harcourt-based media to quickly sensitize members of the public on convenient means of accessing the loans. A good number of people do not even understand that word “microfiance”. For now, it will not be wrong to say that RSMA is well conceived but still acts below belt.
Madoboye is Rivers State Director of Programmes of Niger Delta Coalition Against Violence (NDCAV).