By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze
Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the Governor of Rivers State, is one of the most misunderstood, admired, hated, loved, criticised, discussed and controversial governors in Nigeria today. Criss Jami, an author, musician, poet, essayist, existentialist philosopher, and founder of Killosopher, must have had Governor Amaechi in mind when he stated: “It’s not about going around trying to stir up trouble. As long as you’re honest and you articulate what you believe to be true, somebody somewhere will become your enemy whether you like it or not.” The fact remains that this man who stirs up trouble like a hobby has a lot of enemies today not of his own making but just because of his forthrightness and no-nonsense approach to issues.
Amaechi in the eyes of his Detractors
For the avoidance of doubt, this attempt is not about some of Governor Amaechi’s feats in the administration or governance of Rivers State but rather meant to critically examine the stand of most of his critics who feel that he is very abrasive, arrogant, uncouth and abusive in most of his actions. To most of this class of people, they have accused Governor Amaechi of not only playing God but of also attempting to impose his will on those who cross his path. To these people, Governor Amaechi is arrogant, power drunk, evil, possessive and a stumbling block to their political agenda. Dr. Lewis Akpogena, a Christian Devotional Writer/Minister, Education Management and Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, captured the feelings of those in his shoe who will like to paint Governor Amaechi with the most deadliest and unbecoming words after all attempts to seek one favour or the other from Governor Amaechi failed. He wrote in one of his recent articles titled ‘Rivers 2015 Governorship: Why the Christian Community will vote PDP Candidates and not Nyesom Wike or Governor Amaechi’s APC’: “For the re-election of Dr. Peter Odili to the extent that it caused division among Christian groups. Prior to the emergence of Sir Celestine Omehia as Governor and thereafter, the problem is not lack of praying Christians but the extent it has degenerated. In the case of Governor Rotimi Amaechi he only consults and uses the Church and political pastors/prophets as and when he needs them to the extent that he abuses, derides pastors and hypocritically claims God being behind his enthronement in one hand and on the other hand denigrates the Church institution and priests that are divine custodians/voice of that enthronement. Hence the confusion he is today as predicted in some of my features.”
When you critically read through Dr. Akpogena’s thesis and his recommendation of which party to vote for or not, you will start wondering if he is not the one actually playing God. Assuming, as he recommended, that Rivers State should neither vote for PDP if Chief Wike clinches the party’s ticket nor for APC under the watch of Governor Amaechi, then which party is Dr. Akpogena recommending for Rivers State people to vote for? This alone shows how far some so called men of God and politicians can go to vent their anger on a man who has been doing his best to better Rivers State than he met it. Dr. Criss Jami after studying the likes of Dr. Lewis Akpogena admonished Governor Amaechi thus: “At first, they’ll only dislike what you say, but the more correct you start sounding the more they’ll dislike you.”
Having watched this misunderstood politician for about seven years and read a lot about him, I feel compelled to unearth the true nature of this vilified man based on some of my encounters with him to enable the reader draw his or her own conclusion on who this man is truly is.
Who Really Is Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi?
Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is an indigene of Ubima in Ikwerre, Rivers State, whose birth came after the first anniversary of the declaration of Nigeria Children’s Day, 27th May, 1965. A Master’s degree holder and a recipient of the national award of Commander of the order of Niger (CON), Amaechi was the first Nigerian to be the Speaker of a State House of Assembly for a whopping eight years and later became Chairman of Conference of Speakers Forum, an umbrella body of all Speakers of State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria. His assumption of office as the Governor of Rivers State was mysterious and defies every political understanding as PDP, the political party to which he belonged at that time, dumped him after convincingly winning the governorship ticket during the party primaries – until the Supreme Court restored him as the Governor of Rivers State. By May 2015 he would have spent eight years as Governor. He is currently Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum. His unprecedented feats in the transformation of Rivers State have won him many international and local awards, as well as the respect of great leaders both locally and internationally.
He was the rallying force behind mobilising the governors under PDP to support the presidential aspiration of President Goodluck Jonathan during the PDP Presidential Primaries that produced Jonathan as the PDP Flag-bearer. During the 2011 presidential election proper, Governor Amaechi ensured that President Jonathan got over 2million votes from Rivers State – the highest by any State in the country. A misunderstood but an amiable personality, his forthrightness and boldness to stand by the truth attracts so much enmity, particularly from those who can’t withstand his manner of approach.
The boy Amaechi was named CHIBUIKE (“God is all Powerful”) and “ROTIMI”, an abridged version of “Oluwadurotimi” meaning “the Lord stands by me”, while AMAECHI means “who knows tomorrow?” What a combination of names in one person all stating the greatness and omniscience state of God! Today all these meanings in these names ‘Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi’ have come to play in the acts and arts of politics associated with this man who drinks controversy as any normal man drinks tea. An alumnus of the University of Port Harcourt, Amaechi’s vision and commitment towards the emancipation and development of Rivers State is unparallel and not in doubt. He deserves praise if we are to consider his unique style of leadership and what has achieved since assuming office as Governor of Rivers State.
Examples of what his critics call abrasiveness
On why he shunned Nigeria’s centenary celebration: According to the governor, he stayed away from Nigeria’s centenary’s celebration in Abuja in order to get even with President Goodluck Jonathan whom he said failed to honour the invitation to 100 years anniversary of Port Harcourt last year. His words: “When they asked me why I did not attend the celebration, I said five prominent Rivers men left here to go and invite the President. When they approached me that they wanted to go and invite the President, I said, ‘don’t bother your head, the President won’t come’. They said ‘no, not after he has seen us. They (Rivers indigenes) are seated here: Justice Karibi Whyte, Prof. Tekena Tamuno, Prof. E.J. Alagwa, Chief Agbaru and Prof. Nimi Briggs; and they went. They were very well received by our President and they were very impressed. They came back to my house that day in Abuja and they told me that they met with the President and I was excited. Everybody in the Federal Government told me the President would come (for the Port Harcourt centenary). The President did not come. So, I told them that I would not go to (Nigeria’s) centenary because Port Harcourt turned 100 and the President refused to come even though he grew up here. I said I would not go to Nigeria’s Centenary in response to his (Jonathan’s) refusal to come for Port Harcourt Centenary. I did that not because I wanted to disrespect the President. I respect him for his age and his achievement in the society. I thought that the Federal Government should have respected and honoured that invitation.”
To his critics and to PDP in Rivers State, Amaechi should have stomached the ungentlemanly conduct of Mr. President and attended the centenary event of Nigeria but that is not Amaechi; he is not a pretender and will prefer to voice out his problem than keeping quiet in the face of obvious wickedness.
The Current Political Macabre Dance in Rivers State
To most of his critics, Amaechi is the cause of the rift between him and Mr. President but the fact remains that Amaechi is totally innocent of what he is accused of as it is only a governor who hates his state so much that will keep quiet while the oil wells of the State are ceded to other States and the Federal Government insists that no Federal project would be sited in the State. Not minding all these and contrary to all the threats and molestation of his person by the agents of the Federal Government, Rt. Hon. Amaechi is the only governor in Nigeria that gave a slot in his State Cabinet to President Jonathan till date. Mr. Charles Okaya, a nominee of Mr. President, is still the Hon. Commissioner for Chieftaincy Affairs till date. No other person been so vilified will be in position to do that if he is not a godly man, contrary to wrong assumption by his critics.
On the possibility of resolving his challenges with Mr. President, Governor Amaechi stated: “To resolve whatever may be our differences, I will put a caveat; I said there are some old men in Rivers State who can make me move from APC to PDP because they will never tell me to move to PDP if they are not convinced that it is the right thing to do. This means you can’t influence them with anything rather than what is right for Rivers State and Nigeria. They are here; they know themselves and they have been part of the struggle in a very quiet manner and they support me. My prayer is that God will continue to bless all of you.”
Amaechi’s True Nature
No matter the assumptions of those who feel that Governor Amaechi is the devil incarnate, the truth of the matter or rather the challenge of Governor Amaechi is his boldness in the face of impunity and orchestrated unconstitutional manoeuvres currently going on in Nigeria and the unfortunate stand by most of his critics that he should keep quiet in the face of impunity and support a myopic political clique that has held the nation hostage and is about liquidating our common patrimony. But Amaechi is not the type that keeps quiet in the face of injustice, intimidation or threat, no matter the odds. The mistake by most of his opponents is under-rating him when it comes to political engineering or strategy. He has to the chagrin of these people proved to be not only a sagacious political strategist but also a person ahead of his political peers. Prof. Wole Soyinka, a Nobel laureate and world renowned author in his famous book ‘The Man Died’, exposed Governor Amaechi in his famous quote when he stated: “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.” Prof. Soyinka is so admired by Governor Amaechi and is one of the few Nigerians that Gov. Amaechi listens to on crucial issues of national importance because of his well respected disposition.
Examples of the True Nature of Governor Amaechi
1. The forgiving nature of Governor Amaechi as exemplified in his invitation of General Olusegun Obasanjo to Rivers State after all the pains the General caused him.
Governor Amaechi as a true Christian who fears God and in the spirit of the word of God as contained in Matthew 6:14-15 – For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you – confounded both his opponents and friends when he invited General Olusegun Obasanjo, the former President of Nigeria, to Port Harcourt to commission some of the projects that have been completed by his administration. When they learnt of the invitation, the response of residents of the oil-rich state was that he (Obasanjo) would not honour the invitation. They reasoned that the former President would not be Amaechi’s guest considering the role (K-leg theory) he played in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) substitution of Amaechi with Celestine Omehia as the party’s flagbearer for the 2011 governorship election. But to the shock of everybody, Amaechi was at Port Harcourt International Airport on Monday, February 17, to welcome Obasanjo. An arrogant and unforgiving person could not have invited a fellow who ensured that he lost his ticket and was forced into exile but Amaechi did that by this act.
According to Obasanjo during this trip, “I have come with my delegates, I have heard, I have seen and I have come to declare. Seeing is believing and what I see, I believe and what I believe, I will talk about. What we have seen in the rural areas of the state, the infrastructure is worth believing and is worth declaring.”
During the two-day visit, Obasanjo on day one commissioned the following projects: G. U. Ake Road, Okporo Road (East-West Road) Elekahia Rumumasi Road, 3.6km; Ken Saro-Wiwa Road, 2.4km; Model Primary Health Centre Akpajo, Eleme, Ambassador Nne Kurubo Model Secondary School, Ebubu Eleme, Songhai Farm Bunu Tai off Bunu Afam Road, Model Primary School, Ban-Ogoi; Banana Plantation Farm, Tai; and Afam Power Station.
Among the ones he commissioned on the second day were one mini football stadium, two basketball indoor halls and athletes hostel, five tennis courts/volley ball court and spectators’ stands, the Rivers Monorail and St. Andrew’s Model Primary School, Mile One, Diobu, Kelsey Harrison Hospital and Buguma Fish Farm Asari/Toru Local Government Area. Interestingly, all the projects were started and finished by Amaechi. Read more on the visit of General Obasanjo to Rivers State at http://dailypost.ng/2014/02/17/rivers-obasanjo-clears-air-k-leg-comment-made-amaechi-2007/
It will be unfair to describe a fellow with this type of character as being abusive and uncouth as been postulated by some of his critics.
2. Encounter with Gov. Nyako
One event that continues to make me laugh whenever I read some of the funny comments on Governor Amaechi happened when I was with him at the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja sometime in November 2013 exchanging ideas on some sensitive issues pertaining to the defunct New PDP, of which I was then its National Publicity Secretary. On this day, His Excellency Admiral Murtala Nyako, the Executive Governor of Adamawa State, came in and met us. Listen to what Gov. Nyako said about Amaechi: “Chief Eze C, don’t mind the simplicity and unassuming nature of this man; he is the most influential politician we have in Nigeria today.” Was Gov. Nyako wrong or those misguided politicians that see Amaechi as the devil incarnate right? Be the judge.
3. When AC Leaders first met with Gov. Amaechi in 2007
This is another event that exposes who Amaechi truly is. On this day, I was summoned out of the UCH Ibadan where I went through a surgical operation with the stitches still on my body to moderate this meeting at the State Executive Council of Rivers State. After we all were seated, Governor Amaechi came in with Prince Tonye Princewill, who had midwifed a partnership of the defunct AC and the PDP Government. I started with the introduction of our leaders and ended with introducing myself. At the mention of my name, Governor Amaechi stood up from his seat and shouted three times: ‘GOC! GOC!! GOC!!!’ and ended it with ‘General Officer Commanding’ before pleading with me to sit down based on my health challenge at that time. I wonder which other Governor in the stature of Gov. Amaechi could do this just to acknowledge someone whom he feels fought so much against the then illegal PDP in power in the State under the watch of Sir Celestine Omehia when Amaechi was forced to go on exile. Details of this event will be captured in my book coming out very soon.
4. Levels of governance in Rivers State
Rt. Hon. Amaechi has followed the following procedures or levels of governance in administering Rivers State: 1. STATE EXCUTIVE COUNCIL – This body comprises the Governor, the Deputy Governor, all the Commissioners, Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Chief of Staff to the Governor, Head of Service, Administrator of GPHCDA, DG BOPP and Special Adviser on ICT. Not minding that Governor Amaechi is the head of this Council, he made it a policy that major policy decisions of the Government are not implemented without recourse to this Council. 2. INTER-GOVERNMENT BODY – This is a body that comprises both members of Rivers State Executive Council, Traditional Rulers, stakeholders and opinion leaders in the State. Governor Amaechi takes any major issue that may come from the State Executive Council for the consideration of a larger body for direction; so where has Governor Amaechi gone wrong to be given uncomplimentary names just because of politics. 3. TOWN HALL MEETING – Governor Amaechi was among the first to establish the Town Hall Meeting as an aspect of governance in Nigeria. During this meeting he takes governance to the doorsteps of the rural dwellers where they make inputs on the type of projects they need to guide the government in preparing its budget. With a Governor with this type of setting where can we say that he is abusive and arrogant? 4. KITCHEN CABINET – This body though unseen but very influential in determining the direction of governance in Rivers State is made of with few key members of the Cabinet, some few stakeholders and technocrats both within and outside the state. This body at times meets either in Lagos, Ghana or any other place it deems fit. 5. RIVERS STATE FORUM – This body that comprises most Traditional Rulers, past Leaders and the meetings are usually beamed live to enable very citizen of the state to phone to ask questions or make comment on how the state is governed. 6. The last but not the least is GOD. This body comprises GOD, Governor Amaechi and his wife, Dame Judith Amaechi, with God presiding. Most of the major issues, particularly the knotty ones, are subjected to this body for final approval and once approved; it will be very difficult changing the opinion of Governor Amaechi. If I may ask, could one with this type of mindset be rightly termed arrogant and abusive by nature? I wonder o!
5. Amaechi drives Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and Chris Ngige to SSS Office in Abuja
Governor Amaechi was so mocked particularly in the social media for – according to his critics – stooping so low to drive the duo of Mallam Nasir el-Rufai and Senator Chris Ngige to the SSS Office in Abuja when Mallam El-Rufai was invited to throw light on some of his utterances on the state of our nation on January, 27, 2014. How come the same governor who has been accused of high-handedness in some quarters stooped so low to drive a fellow Nigerian when he has thousands of drivers at his beck and call? Read more of his driving of El-Rufai to the SSS Office at http://saharareporters.com/gallery/photonews-elrufai-amaechi-and-ngige-storm-sss-office-abu… I am not surprised that Gov. Amaechi drove el-Rufai beased on what I know about him. For example, when he saw me stranded some few weeks ago in a street of Port Harcourt on his way to the airport, he broke the law of convoy to drive me to the airport. So I get confused when some misguided and misinformed people just want to paint this man in a borrowed robe.
6. Meeting with FOPP
One other encounter that endeared this unassuming and humane personality to me has to do with the plea during a courtesy call on the Governor on 11th July, 2009 by the Forum of Organised Opposition Political Parties (FOPP) to reappoint Chief Davies Ikanya into his cabinet. This is an encounter I will never forget in my life. I reminded the governor about this incident during his free ride to me to the airport few weeks ago. FOPP in Rivers State under the leadership of Prince Tonye Princewill then the leader of Action Congress (AC) had about 45 other opposition political parties as members and during this event; contrary to any known protocol, particularly when the governor had concluded his remarks, I interrupted him and stated, “Your Excellency, Sir, you have addressed all the issues we have presented to you but it seems you are avoiding our request that Chief Dr. Davies Ibiamu Ikanya who was dropped from the State Executive Council be reappointed into the Council.” At this interruption, the hall became so quiet that a pin so dropped would be heard. Up till today certain power brokers in the state are yet to forgive me for this boldness which I don’t know from where I got such strength to interrupt a governor of the calibre of Rt. Hon. Amaechi. After few seconds when both the governor and every other person in the Rivers State Executive Council Chamber had recovered, Amaechi asked, “Is Chief Eze’s request okayed by the members of the Forum?” and all chorused yes and the governor there and then approved the reappointment of Chief Davies Ikanya to his office as Commissioner for Special Duties. In the eyes of any sound man, no governor could accept such radicalism if not for a humane and a listening governor like Amaechi. Read more of this encounter at http://www.modernghana.com/news/226952/1/governor-rotimi-chibuike-amaechi-meets-with-forum
Indeed, based on my encounter with this man these past seven years, I have enough evidence to present to prove to the entire world that this man is being wrongly presented in some quarters. Other issues that intrigue me relate to the few days I followed him to worship in the Church in the Government House, where the governor acts as a Manservant to the presiding Reverend Father. I wonder how many men of his stature could act in this manner. The few days I decided to follow him to eat at the Government House, the way he welcomes both the low and the mighty proves that we still have people who truly know what it takes to be a servant leader.
Amaechi’ s Feats
I have done several articles on Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and his administration in Rivers State, published by some of the leading social media outfits and national newspapers, where I highlighted his revolution in Education, Health, Security, prudent management of State funds, Road Infrastructure, to mention but a few, and I wouldn’t like repeating or reproducing them here but one Dr. Emeka Reuben Okala, a London-based Social Commentator, captured the great feats of this man in his reaction to a well known social media jester called Ukpong Ekam. According to Dr Okala, “Ukpong Ekam, for making the above statement, it is as clear as the crystal that you know nothing about the enviable stewardship of Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi to the good people of Rivers State. I had wanted not to take you again on issues that border much on this subject-matter, but I must admit that I’m strongly driven by the urge to not give you the benefit of assumption that you know what Amaechi has done and is still doing for his people.
“Here we go:
1). Amaechi spent N105 billion to dualize federal roads such as Elele-Owerri Road, Ada George Road, a section of the East West Road, Mile 3 Road, a section of Eleme Road and many others even as the Federal Government has refused to reimburse him.
2). In Education sector, Amaechi has set a record. For the first time since the era of Diette-Spiff, Rivers and noniRivers children, including the physically challenged, read and are still studying on scholarships in the UK, US, India, Canada, Malaysia and Russia.
Two physically challenged Rivers girls made first class in the UK in June this year, courtesy of Amaechi’s scholarship scheme. The news is all over here and it made me proud! I challenge you to mention what the Federal Government has been able to achieve in the Education sector apart from Nyesom Wike’s Alamajiri School.
3). Governor Amaechi has built 350 Model Primary Schools and 23 first class Secondary Schools.
4). Amaechi recently employed 13,000 teachers in one year. I challenge you to mention any other state within the federation and, including the Federal Government that was able to achieve this particular feat for the citizenry.
5). In the Health sector, Amaechi has built 700 Health Centres. This is aside from the state-of-the-art hospital at Port Harcourt (can’t remember the name now).
6). In Sports, he built the new Adokiye Amiesimaka Sports Complex.
7). In Agriculture, he built the Integrated Agricultural Centre at Bunu Tai – an Agricultural Centre which is being used by the entire country for studies and retreats.
8). On Energy, Amaechi has completed everything needed to give uninterrupted light to the people of Rivers State, but the powers that be in Abuja has refused him permission to transmit.
9). Amaechi is developing the Greater Port Harcourt Project – a project which his administration entirely conceptualised. Our Universities have been under lock and key since July 2013. Courtesy of the Federal Government. Don’t you know what that unacceptable phenomenon portends for a developing country like ours? How would you know when all you know how to write is blah, blah. blah?
I saw the Port Harcourt International Airport during my recent visit to Nigeria and I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was an eyesore. What a shame! On enquiry I was told that Amaechi even asked to be given the permission to complete the project and later make his claims. But Abuja refused bluntly! This is aside from ceding Rivers State oil wells to Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom states.
Why is Abuja carefully killing Rivers State softly?
If I may ask: Could you tell these fora and the entire wide-world just one single Federal presence in Rivers State since 2007 in spite of the monumental contributions of the State to national coffers? Yet, you want me to sheepishly follow the crowd to say “Kill Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi!” Sorry not at my age, level of exposure, level of education, training, experience and set-belief! I have a conscience that drives me and I act strictly in accordance with the dictates of that conscience.
Amaechi may have his weaknesses (and who doesn’t), but in terms of performance, he has a lot going for him. I wonder what else I could have added to this statement of fact by Reuben Okala and sdaly this is a man dressed in a borrowed robe everyday by some misguided politicians.
To Amaechi, I hope you still remember the great Henry Alfred Kissinger, the 56th Secretary of State of the United States from 1973 to 1977, particularly his quote which you have without knowing lived all your life? Listen to what he said about you: “A leader does not deserve the name unless he is willing occasionally to stand alone”. My brother, no matter the effort by those who don’t know you to abuse your personality; be counselled by the counsel of General Olusegun Obasanjo during his recent visit to Port Harcourt when he stated, “If you are doing what your conscience says is right for the people of Rivers State, keep on doing it. Know that there is God who, if you do not satisfy Him, has the final judgment. So, do not worry about those who cannot kill the soul; they can kill the body if they like, or those who will try and pull you down; worry about God and the people you are voted to serve and your conscience.”
But if you are not okay by Obasanjo’s counsel then read 11Timothy 3: 1-4: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy. Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good. Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.”)
A cursory look at some of the issues and opinions shows that the ‘abrasiveness, uncouth, abusive’ toga does not suit Amaechi. However, let you, the reader be the judge.
Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt, and can be reached on [email protected]