I am a true Rivers State man and proudly so. I believe that Rivers State money should be judiciously used for the benefit of all who reside and do business in Rivers State. As Speaker, adequate provision was made for the development of the state. It is my intention, God willing, that during my tenure as governor, sustainable foundation will be laid for the development of this state and the improvement and welfare of the citizens. This is my solemn pledge to my people”, Governor Amaechi on speaking on his mission as Rivers governor.
For those who do not know or know little about the governor of Rivers State, this piece may be interesting to them. Governance in Rivers State should not only be of great concern to the government at the federal level, it should be the interest of conscious citizens owing to the fact that it is the centre of oil and gas activities which hold the economy of Nigeria today.
Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is that name which has got a memorable stand in the history of Rivers State. It is becoming a name which history will have to contend to compare, not only in Rivers State and the South-South geo-political zone, but in Nigeria as a whole. This is not an avenue to match the performances of governors. But little should be explored to clarify facts.
I was one of those field workers in journalism who were in Rivers State between 2003 and early 2009. Those who dwelled in the state during these years would need little or no effort to comprehend the events that characterised life itself in the first place, then business activities whether of government, individual or corporate. These years were one of the harrowing periods in the history of the state. The period was the peak of temptation when Rivers people and residents looked at one another in fear and despondency just as captured in “The Casualties” by John Pepper Clark, and wondered when peace and development would return to the state.
However, Amaechi’s successful journey to Government House, Port Harcourt remains a wonder in Nigerian politics. It should be an episode every faithful politician must recall. Amaechi was so loyal to his then master (Odili) to the extent that he preferred to disobey the supreme order of the then lord of Nigeria (Obasanjo). He was quite aware of the roles Odili played in his life. It is true that Amaechi’s history in politics cannot be complete without reference to Odili. That he knew this fact very well, he dared Obasanjo with the highest level of wisdom to save Odili from presidential hammer and humiliation.
Amaechi suffered because he saved Odili’s position. K-leg in the Nigerian politics can only be associated with Amaechi’s political life when Obasanjo concluded to deal with him and deny him his God-ordained position as the then governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Obasanjo gathered the powers that could be on earth in Nigeria and staged a war against divine will. Odili was Obasanjo’s boy and preferred to forsake his then only begotten son because of transient power. Remember, Amaechi was ready to sacrifice his precious blood for Odili.
Do you know what it means to say no to a sitting president in Nigeria? It is like digging one’s grave alive. Obasanjo fought and lost, though he still persists. Odili, in fear of Obasanjo’s sledgehammer, fought and lost. Omehia fought and lost. Soberekon and other candidates of diverse political parties have fought and failed. What is the singular lesson in all these? It is clear that, as it has always been, one with God is majority. If God says yes, no one can challenge God’s decision.
In December 2006, after the primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party which saw Amaechi triumphant in the state, some acclaimed powerful people gathered and perfected their ploy to deny him. Although, it was widely reported that Odili backed Amaechi at the primaries, the Abuja force eventually overpowered him and thereafter, he yielded to throw his weight behind one of his then kitchen cabinet members, Sir Celestine Omehia who was crowned the PDP flag-bearer far in Abuja, against the desire of Rivers people.
The state continued to witness civil disturbances until the 25th and 26th of October, 2007 which will ever remain green in the history of Rivers State. The Supreme Court returned Amaechi’s stolen or denied mandate. It was at the time the man who was nationally and globally recognized as the Rule of Law was presiding over the affairs of Nigeria. It was at the time former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of blessed memory lived. Rivers people rejoiced and things began to change positively.
After his mandate was divinely returned to him, Amaechi revealed that throughout his struggle to reclaim his mandate for Rivers State, no single casualty from political violence was recorded. He promised that his administration will initiate a process of genuine reconciliation with all aggrieved parties and interest groups. This has been corroborated by many prominent citizens of the state and the nation.
To achieve this goal, he formed his cabinet basing the appointment of commissioners, members of advisory councils and special advisers on merit. He took special interest in bringing the opposition parties on board. Here, he brought the leader of the then greatest opposition group, Prince Tonye Princewill of the Action Congress who has contributed immensely in the struggle to revive the state economically, socially and culturally. The calibre of people like Hon. Magnus Abbey, Alhaji Sani Okiri and Ogbonna Nwuke in Amaechi’s government is a blessing to Rivers State.
Unlike in the past where the state assembly had it very hard to operate independently, Amaechi has allowed the honourable members of the state’s hallowed chamber to do their job. The state judiciary has never enjoyed their job better than now. Budgets are implemented, bills to better the state are duly and timely signed into law, the cleansing of the state has, as regards war on militancy, kidnapping, corruption, indiscipline, environmental de-sanitation has reached enviable level. Public Procurement Bill, Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Agency Bill, Sustainable Development Amendment Bill and Rivers State Reserved Funds Bill are few to reckon with.
Due process is strictly followed in government businesses. Attention is seriously being given to the building or rebuilding of markets, Independent Power Project (IPP), roads, and the Port Harcourt metropolis which is reclaiming its nearly lost glory as the home of hospitality and gardens, are on top gear. Relationships with the civil servants, the legislative and judiciary arms of government, civil societies, journalists, traders and even village dwellers is quite cordial. Amaechi is the man in the eye of his people.
The successes of great men are more trumpeted by their contemporaries. A four-time Minister of the Federal Republic, Chief Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas cannot hide his feelings with the tremendous developments in Rivers State of today. Hear him describe Governor Amaechi, “Rotimi Amaechi’s administration is the greatest thing that has happened to Rivers State since 1999. He is humble; he is intelligent; he is a Port Harcourt boy that grew up in the Diobu and Borokiri areas; so he knows and understands perfectly well the yearnings of the Rivers state people.”
He continues, “There is no dichotomous divide amongst the people. He is bent on developing the state; you can see that the roads are on; the waterworks are on; and everything is being done to resolve the epileptic electricity situation. There is rule of law; there is now prudence where there used to be financial recklessness, and confidence among the Rivers people has been restored. He has demonstrated unprecedented honesty and uprightness; I believe that his fear of God is giving him wisdom with which he is doing his works”
Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River state once confirmed that the new face of democracy in Nigeria is Amaechi, owing to his provision of good governance in Rivers State. Said he, “I see change and hope in Rivers State; I see Rivers state providing basic amenities to the people; I see Rivers state overcoming the environmental challenges, and I see Governor Amaechi making a name for himself.”
As for the revered elder statesman, Prof Tam David-West, Amaechi has made history and has institutionalised accountability, transparency and discipline in the life of Rivers people.
Journalists are not left out of the trains of admirers who hold Amaechi and his leadership style very high. In his assessment of the new dawn of development, a veteran journalist and media consultant to Prince Tonye Princewill, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze boasted, “If the essence of governance is to provide basic amenities for the people of the state and to alleviate the poverty level of the citizenry, then this selfless, humble and visionary revolutionist called Amaechi has definitely been sent by God to take the Rivers state to the next level of development. What Amaechi has achieved is great”.
With all these achievements and assertions, there can be no hiding the truth that one good turn deserves another. Rivers people must insist that Amaechi continues for another tenure to ensure that more giant developmental strides come to the state. 2011 to 2015 would be another blessed period for Rivers state under Amaechi, for those who can see, hear and reflect.
Ajah is an Abuja-based writer on good governance.