In May 1968, Port
Harcourt, the capital city of Rivers State, was liberated by the federal troops during the Civil War. The city was desolate and war-torn. Social life and other activities were completely grounded. Port Harcourt was deserted, lifeless and dead. Primary and secondary schools were closed down.
Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle, the “Black Scorpion” and the then General Officer Commanding (GOC) the 3rd Marine Commandos in Port Harcourt, withdrew the intellectual soldier, Captain Elechi Amadi, from the 14th brigade stationed in the Etche front and appointed him the caretaker administrator of Port Harcourt. The assignment he was given was to restore normal civilian life in Port Harcourt within one month. It was with immediate effect.
Captain Elechi Amadi, the workaholic soldier, went into action. He appointed seven persons he named “Magnificent Seven”. They were Eze E.J.A Oriji, Dr. W.T. Wakama, Chief Lekua Lah Loolo, Dr E.T. Green, Chief Nwobidike Nwanodi, Mrs. F.A. Kiri and Chief Robert Okara. They formed his mini cabinet. These people worked tirelessly as a team and within one month restored normal life in Port Harcourt.
Primary and secondary schools within and outside Port Harcourt, including County Grammar School, Ikwerre Etche, Okrika Grammar School (OGS), Okrika, among others, were re-opened. Within one month, Port Harcourt was back to life and ready for the newly-appointed first Military Governor of Rivers State, Lt. Commander A.P Diete-Spiff. Captain Elechi Amadi and his team later handed over the government to late Chief Pikibo Daniel-Kalio, the first Secretary to the Military Government of Rivers State. Immediately Captain Elechi Amadi returned to base, the 14th brigade in the Etche front, and subsequently resigned after the Civil War.
In a way, Captain Amadi and his team cleared the way for Lt. Commander Diete-Spiff to rebuild the state just as John the Baptist and his disciples cleared the way for our Lord Jesus Christ, who was sent to redeem the world.
Captain Elechi Amadi had served Rivers State meritoriously in various capacities. He served the state as Permanent Secretary for 10 years (1973 to 1983), Chairman, Rivers State Scholarship Board etc. He was among the first generation of Nigerian and African writers, authors and literary icons. He loved Rivers State so much that he remained in the state without relocating abroad as other writers of his status do. He also loved mentoring young aspiring writers and authors. This is why he set up Elechi Amadi School of Creative Writing.
On why he established the school, he said “that young authors regularly sent him their manuscripts requesting him to assist in making corrections and proffer suggestions”. Usually, he said, “they do not realise how much work their requests entail, but I do my best to oblige them. After going through some of their manuscripts, it became obvious that these aspiring authors need tremendous help in language, plot, style etc. This informed my decision to establish a creative writing school in 1990 to mentor young aspiring authors and writers”.
It is my prayer and hope that the Rivers State government will not allow the school to die. The state government should take over the school and rename it Elechi Amadi Institute of Creative Writing. It should be a centre for literary activities. A place where writers, authors and literature teachers from Africa and other parts of the globe would meet regularly to meet and mentor young aspiring writers and authors from Africa and beyond. Besides, apart from his literary works, the school is the legacy Elechi Amadi has bequeathed to Rivers State and the society, and so we must not allow the school to die with him.
Late Elechi Amadi was a distinguished and extraordinary writer and a man of many parts. He was a man of arts and science, a soldier, a civil servant and a surveyor. He was a science man who bestrode the arts world like a colossus. He was a soldier who dropped his gun and used his pen to conquer the world. These are the areas he distinguished himself from other writers and authors.
Truly, Elechi Amadi has left behind his giant footprints on the sands of time. I am proud that he was my kinsman and a Rivers man. Adieu!
Ogbuehi, a journalist, wrote from Oduoha-Emohua, Rivers State.