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23.03.2009 Feature Article

A Commissioner's High-ceiling Silhouette

It is no longer news to every Rivers person that the Governor Chibuike Amaechi-led administration of Rivers State is bent to renewing the state to attain its aged-long sobriquet, the Garden City. What is news is the caliber of people in Governor Amaechi's cabinet that are helping to seeing that this Renewal Project becomes a reality. These people are not quite gluttonous with the inputs of the government into their different offices but they are rapacious to seeing that any assignment to their portfolios does not lag. What is not true is that Governor Amaechi is using the Urban Renewal Project on-goings in Rivers State to witch-hunt and hoodwink his political foes, if there was any.

When on October 25 2007 Governor Amaechi came to power after the Rivers people make a gesture to the court to give him his stolen mandate, the people were not wrong because they knew that he was going to fulfill his promises. Through the political sagacity and prudence of Prince Tonye Princewill, AC as a political party in Rivers State was able to have two functional Commissioners in the State Executive Council of Rivers State - Bar. Osimah Gina, for the Ministry of Urban Development, and a renowned politician in Rivers State, Chief Davies Ibiamu, for Special Duties. And because of Gina's uncompromising gesture to work, people nicknamed him, 'Bulldozer'.

Princewill once said. "This situation and other fortunes on our side do not in any way becloud our sense of judgment that we are the main opposition party and the major voice of our voiceless people as we have continued to criticize the government where necessary and offer solutions and suggestions on how to move our dear State forward when imperative."

Tonye Princewill is resilient and resourceful as the new man on the block of Rivers State politics. In his drive to turn around the fortunes of Rivers State and the country at large this Leader of Action Congress in Rivers State and the only child of HM King Prof. T. J. T. Princewil, Amachree XI the famous Amanyanabo of Kalabari kingdom, a renowned Scholar and first class Royal father in Rivers State has singlehandedly influenced two major investors to invest in the State (Clintoch and Silverbird).. This academician of high repute, an orator and a patriot, a charismatic politician, an outstanding philanthropist, a voice for the voiceless, a study in humility, a great manager of human resources, a fearless warrior, unassuming humanist, foresighted is a believer in a united, stronger and more viable Rivers State. His unassuming disposition is one of his advantages and a strategic weapon he uses to put off guard his political opponents as he goes about to pursue in a dogged form any course he believes in. Barrister Gina towed that resilient and resourceful line, as well.

Like his colleague in the Information Ministry of the Rivers State, who is not at all doing badly, Honourable Commissioner Ogbonna Nwuke, Barrister Gina knew his onus and he is carrying on the duty of renewing Port Harcourt which is the state's capital through the demolition exercise of illegal built houses and structures, which are built by residents as against the Master Plan of the Rivers State.

On 22nd August, 2008 Hon. Commissioner Gina publicly presented media equipment he donated to the Kalabari Kingdom at the palace of HRM King (Prof) TJT Princewill. He introduced before the place of the King of Kalabari Kingdom the members of the Rivers State chapter of Action Congress (AC) led by Eng. Tonye Princewill with him on the August visit.

He said: 'I was not mandated. I took the decision of procuring and donating these media equipment after observing the lack of them within the palace as a son of the Kalabari Kingdom'. A packet of duplicating papers, a packet of printer's ink (coloured and black ink), one set of laptop, one set of sonny video camera machine, two sets of sonny steel cameras, one M-470 radio recorder tape and roll of its tapes: for interview, one tripod stand, one printer machine, were handed over to the king. The presentations made the palace agog with thunderous ovation, except the King who expressed his just by chuckling.

The prudent admired loquacious spokesman of the King lacked words to express his happiness on behalf of the palace. The King made brief remarks after showering blessings on the Commissioner. He thanked Governor-Amaechi-led government for appointing a son of Kalabari Kingdom to head that ministry. And the palace unanimously agreed with the Commissioner that they perceived, by his explanation, that the demolition exercise was not pointed at any person but on any building that was on the waterways or built against the masterplan of the Port Harcourt city. A woman well respected in the palace was it who said that the Commissioner should continue with the good work. She said that when Former FCT Minister El-Rufai was doing the same work of demolition, people were calling him 'hell-rufai'. But go to Abuja today, it is a city of heavenlike. The King's drummer boys - two energetic boys - directed the King with the sound of the drum.

Barrister Osimah Gina has bagged many awards - internationally and locally. He has addressed people and has also delivered lectures in many quarters on how to manage the ENVIRONMENT. The United Nations Habitat office in Abuja, Nigeria, is one of the organizations he has addressed

A four man fact finding delegation from the UN-HABITAT Commission to Port Harcourt Monday 16th March, 2009 hear his view on the Demolition Exercise, is one such organizations he has addressed. The team led by Professor Johnson Bade Falade was shocked of the plethora of achievement the Hon. Commissioner has achieved in his course for duty in Rivers State.

The first hand statement by Prof. Falade was thus: 'We were in the Honourable Commissioner's office to get facts and explanations relating to the ongoing Urban Renewal and development Control Exercise of the Ministry and the State Government. The visit was not antagonistic, but to verify claims and accusations of government's insensitivity and abuse of the rule of law in its ongoing demolition exercise, brought to the organization by the National Union of Tenants, for a balanced and purposeful report for the way forward. I must commend the State Government on its effort at transforming the State. My gratitude is one, at the openness of the administration and the Hon. Commissioner's ability to provide all the necessary documents and the needed explanation to facilitate our job, and we will not be biased in our report.'

It is no news that Barrister Osima attended the World Urban Conference in Nanji in China last November. This experience has also, undoubtedly given him an edge in the planning and execution of the Urban Renewal Policy of the Rt. Hon. Amaechi led administration. According to Prof. Falada, 'There is great need for the Commissioner to attend the next World Urban Conference slated for Rio De-Jenero Brazil in April, 2010.'

Reacting, Barrister Osima said, 'I will like to reiterate all the same that the Urban renewal Exercise of the Ministry has its legal backing from the Physical Planning and development Control law No.6 of 2003. This law is not aimed towards victimization of any individual or group of people, but to properly regulate development and bequeath to the State a sustainable decent habitable and business friendly environment. Urbanization being a global phenomenon and process of replacement, imposition and modernization for true social re-orientation and development has its own challenges no doubt. These challenges and task before us are not only assiduous but is the goal the Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi led government is contending with, in its ongoing urban renewal programme, which is geared towards correcting the heinous wrongs consciously perpetuated by individuals and government alike, in the built environment which has not only deprived the State and its people of needed social infrastructures and its prided Garden City glory, but has effectively defaced and distorted the painstakingly outlined Master Plan of the capital city, Port Harcourt and its environs. The Ministry of Urban Development is therefore saddled with the onerous task of removing illegal, offensive and contravening structures, controlling development, recovering road setback for utility and beautification and urbanization of the city, is as to be expected engaging several complains and petitions from within and outside the State. As a democratic and people oriented government let me reiterate that the government in carrying out this exercise, has deliberately and consciously sensitized and involved various stakeholders, including Landlords and tenants in decisions and that government has paid adequate compensation for structures it intends to acquire for public purpose in its Urban renewal Exercise. Such acquisition are made in complete agreement and support of the owners, who are even given the rare privilege to get the services of private valuers and attorneys, an indication that government does not carry out any secret deals or plans to victimize its citizens as we are in government to serve the people.'

Expressing the confidence Rivers people have in the Commissioner, the Publicity Secretary of Rivers AC, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, said in a recently call that Governor Amaechi should reshuffle his cabinet thus, 'On our part as the governor's partners in progress, we are expecting extra five slots in the new cabinet that will eventually emerge. Our man, Osimah Gina, has set up a very high standard in the state, and has shown determination in his pursuit for urban renewal. Since our party is very impressed with his performance, we have represented his name and that of his Special Duty counterpart, Chief Daves Ibiamu, with three others as our nominees for appointment as Commissioners.'

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), Oyigbo, Rivers State. 08032552855. [email protected]

Odimegwu Onwumere
Odimegwu Onwumere, © 2009

The author has 586 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: OdimegwuOnwumere

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