Being text of a speech by His Excellency, Right Honou-rable Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Commander of The Order of Niger (Con), Governor of Rivers State, on the Occasion of Nigeria’s 54th Independence Anniversary on October 1, 2014.
My dear people of Rivers State,
Today we have
the honour, as Governor of our beloved State, to address you on the occasion of the 54th independence anniversary of our country. We had similarly done so in the past. On each of those occasions, we had reasoned together on the status of the Nigerian Project, particularly, the status of our own commonwealth – Rivers State.
While we had found cause to say, “To God be the Glory!” there had also been reasons to call for sober reflection as to whether our country was headed in the right direction. We had expressed fears on these occasions that Nigeria was unimaginably on auto-pilot and needed our collective intervention to save her. One must confess that it is this awful realisation that has driven our actions in recent times.
Fellow compatriots, the history of Nigeria cannot be written without Rivers State, as our fathers had fought for her freedom from colonialism. At negotiations for Nigeria’s independence, the voices of our people sounded fair and firm. Where others chose to procrastinate, our progenitors chose immediacy. Where others feared the foe, our natives dared the enemy, aware of William Shakespeare’s eternal verdict – “Cowards die many times before their death.”
We have always been a people who cherish and adore their freedom. From the brave King Jaja of Opobo who showed great skill in commerce and government, to the warlord, King Amachree of the great Kalabari kingdom; from Queen Kambassa of the Ancient Bonny kingdom, a woman who steered loyalty and respect beyond the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, to Chief Harold Dappa Biriye, Dr. Paul Birabi, Eze Emmanuel Oriji, Chief Jonas Nwuke, Chief (Dr.) Obi Wali, and the fearless Ken Saro Wiwa, our land has never lacked men and women eager to take their destinies in their hands and steer the ship of state to safety.
When we came to office in October, 2007, we committed ourselves to building a Rivers State of Possibilities where none will be discriminated against. We set for ourselves a target and a goal to leave our State better than we found it. It was, indeed, a big challenge but 7 years after, we can present a commendable score sheet to the Glory of God.
My dear Rivers people, when we took the Oath of Office in 2007, insecurity was at its peak, military and police checkpoints dotted every street and lane. We were forced to raise our hands on our way home at the end of a hard day’s job. Our humanity was debased as much as our pride was assaulted. We lost our dignity as armed gangs roamed our streets, maimed and killed our children and relations at will. Their armed leaders became our lords and masters. They were Law unto themselves. The first casualty was our life, then the economy of our State, then, our hope of giving our children a better tomorrow seemed bleak. Protected by their arms, our children became conscripts in a war they never triggered. Weeping parents, disembowelled and dismembered bodies littered our communities and waterfronts. We knew as a government that we had a responsibility to protect lives and properties. We were clear in our minds that we owed it to you the electorate to fulfil our oath of office. We were not going to let any challenge hinder us. So we chose to confront the criminals who had stolen our peace. Not because we were strong, but because we loved our people. We chased them, not with arms and ammunitions, but with bravery and the boldness of our fathers. We soon made our streets safe again, life returned to our biggest city, Port Harcourt, and our communities. Our economy again began to blossom and those investors chased away began a return to our state. Today, our State thrives as Nigeria’s second biggest economy.
When we came into office, Rivers State public schools were no better than a sanctuary of the unlearned. Classrooms over-crowded. Teachers’ morale was at its lowest. Seven years later, we have changed all that. Not only have we built 500 of the best Model Primary Schools in Africa, but have carried out the largest, single recruitment exercise ever undertaken by any Nigerian tier of government since October 1, 1960. We employed 13, 210 classroom teachers. With our free education programme, we are have rekindled hope of the poorest of our people. Today, our children learn under the most cordial environment, their teachers robustly gingered to give in their best. Another 1,964 Rivers State students are overseas on the Governor’s Special Scholarship.
Our civil servants today take home their due as we have opted for fraud-free system supported by a diligent procurement process.In all modesty, our record of achievements proves our prudence. Our policy on infrastructure has been robust as we have completed 90 per cent of the Phase 1A of the Rivers State Monorail. We have fared reasonably well with our road infrastructure having completed 2 major interchanges, 2 flyovers, 25 bridges, and 5 shore protection projects. We have also completed, 890 kilometres of the on going 1,424 kilometres, of road projects across the state. In the water sector, while we await the Federal Government’s final approvals of our ADB and World Bank loans, this Administration has built 1,200 cu metres tank storage capacity, carried out 64.95km reticulation; and completed 6 water projects with 62 beneficiary communities.
Our programms in the health sector, have been of world standard. So far, we have completed 3 new Specialist Hospitals, 112 Model Primary Health Care Centres. Also ongoing are a new College of Nursing and Midwifery, an Orthopaedic Hospital, a Cardiovascular Hospital, all at the old UPTH site, and a Mother and Child Hospital. To achieve effective healthcare, aside the infrastructure, we have employed 820 medical staff, 100 non-medical staff and 218 medical emergency workers agriculture has also received intense attention with over 33,000 jobs created in this sector out of which 25,520 jobs are small holder farmers in all the 319 wards of the state.
We have also made substantial investments in other sectors for which we are beginning to see gains. Today, through deliberate policies of government, we have focused global attention on Rivers State. Today, our city, Port Harcourt, is the UNESCO World Book Capital 2014, a feat never recorded in sub-Saharan Africa. We have become the modern Venice where knowledge thrives with culture. Ours truly, is the Rivers of Possibilities.
Like athletes in a race, we are running to win. We must continue to run to breast the tape; reach the finish line strong. Our persecutions, our travails and betrayals make our resolve stronger.
This is not our farewell speech but we must salute the courage of our people and the team members in the administration. We remain grateful to our paramount and traditional rulers, elders, Federal and State lawmakers, members of the Christian and Islamic clergy, women and youth groups, civil society organisations, civil and public servants, children, orphans, widows, widowers and also those who have antagonised our genuine efforts, those who have turned our love for our state into an instrument of hate, for the various roles they have played in this course of history.
As we approach the twilight of our tenure, our resolve to build a virile state remains as fervent as it was 7 years ago. That showed in the dogged fight we put up against Ebola Virus Disease. The disease came with its dread, but to the glory of God, we defied its fangs, fought for our people and won. Though we lost two persons, one to the Ebola virus and the other to a heart condition, we have become a fact to the world that Ebola can be defeated. We salute our local and international partners, men and women for their support in combatting this epidemic. We salute the Honourable Minister for Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, who showed immense commitment; teams from the WHO, UNICEF, Doctors Without Border, Centre for Disease Control, Georgia, Atlanta, the vibrant Port Harcourt press and all medical volunteers. We owe you a debt of gratitude. The success we have recorded is a testimonial to the great things that can happen when we all work together.
By May 29, 2015 I shall have finished my course as Governor of Rivers State, but shall always bear her up in my prayers. As we prepare for the 2015 general elections, may our politicians and their followers know that a kingdom divided against self cannot stand. If we maim and kill the people we aspire to lead, whom would we then govern? Let’s run our campaigns in the best manner pursue our electioneering with respect one for another.
As Nigeria clocks fifty-four and we celebrate, may the peace of God that passeth all understanding enrich our lives.
Thank you and God bless our Dear Rivers State
Rt. Honourable Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, (CON) Governor, Rivers State.