THIRTY DAYS IN THE LIFE OF GOVERNOR CHIBIKE ROTIMI AMECHI
The days between April 26 2011 and May 26, 2011 are just thirty days, but they are certain to remain some of the most memorable period in the life of the pragmatic Governor of Rivers State Hon Chibike Rotimi Amechi. First, he proved his accusers wrong by winning lad slide at the poll regarded as free and fair; second while waiting to be officially installed, his dexterity won him the chairman of the Governors forum and still wondering maybe how these came, he was awarded the first prize for UBE (Universal Basic Education) by the Federal Ministry of Education.
Governor Amechi is described in many ways by as many as those commenting on his activities positively or negatively in Rivers state. Some love to hate him others hate to love him but either way he is moving tornado! The man has a mind set. His idea of the new Rivers State cannot be said to be close to his chest any longer because gradually, it has started manifesting. The only governor who stood up to face his kinsmen as militants and decided to pay zero kobo for both hostage taking and security at a time life itself was more than a risk in Port Harcourt.
Right from that first and faithful Sunday after his swearing in as Governor, (l was ear piece away from the Liberation Ministries aka EJA FORCE where he went for his first thanks giving service), The governor had used the opportunity to chronicle his journey to his dream. He told of how God used the General Overseer of the Church General Odede Stephen to inform him many years earlier that he would be the next governor of the state after Dr. Peter Odili. Then, he was the speaker of the states House of Assembly. I enjoyed every bit of his story in suffrage in far away Ghana, as told by the man himself. He spoke of his disappointment with friends, churches, political associates and even his mentor. I felt the pain on his behalf, but then the glorious moment had come and like the children of Zion Psalm 126, he was like those who dreaming dreams. The entire message that day was filled with emotion. That was how in public glare, the journey to “Brick House” began after the court ruling in his favour.
Mrs. Adesuwa Onyenokwe of “ONE ON ONE” programme was the next fact finder for NTA – Nigeria Television Authority. Just a few days after the governor took the oath of office, she was on hand to drag the governor to the podium – l think with a view to getting the governor vent his anger on his real or perceived enemies. I watched the programme also, and for real, when specifically asked if he would probe his estranged boss and mentor former governor Dr. Peter Odili, he answered an emphatic NO and went further to say that as a matter of fact he too, was a part of the government despite not having any executive capacity. Further, he let it be known that most of those agitating for the probe were also the beneficiaries of the same government in more ways than most. Asked if he would mend fence with his boss, he told his hearers that his boss was in the know and in fact advised him to take the legal steps which ushered his winning. Agreeing that as in father and son relationship, there could be disagreements here and there, it was impossible for there to be disrespect. I smiled. Then the big question on his relationship with deposed Gov. Celestine Omehia? The pragmatic governor said that the two warring executives were first cousins whose parental homes are even side by side. What are the plans of the governor having spent eight years in office as the speaker of the state house of assembly? Gov. Amechi dished out his blue prints most of which are now in advanced stages in just three years of his reign and reasons he has won laurels within and outside Nigeria. He wants the world to know that Rivers State is an Oil rich state and would prove same with visible projects of various kinds. In education, he promised to merge the schools, take over primary schools from the local government and improve the staff strength among others; in the health sector, new hopes were raised then in the judiciary, his primary constituency which also brought him to power, he promised to leave no stone unturned. All these today have become history.
Gov. Chibike Amechi has, since he became the chief executive of the state, handled all government issues very business like more so, a man in a haste.
See, we complain of almost everything in Nigeria but not all are as visible as education, health, power and road. We may not have Electricity, but we can manage because we have “l pass my neighbor” as generating set to charge our phones; Water resources may not give water and we manage because we have individual bore holes in our homes and neighbourhoods; we may not even complain about health because we can afford the chemist shop irrespective of the drugs being NAFDAC compliant. But we cannot make our own roads! Yet the road contractors have failed the state, despite leaving “Rivers Money for Rivers People” I heard the governor say that 90% of Rivers contracts would go to Rivers people. Can that be the case today? The decision was ok for a start but with time is the same good news? Almost all the roads in Port Harcourt but Aba Road and Ikwerre road were in very deplorable state. All commuters and vehicle owners tearfully plied the roads in anguish until the messiah in Amechi arrived. In split seconds, contracts were awarded in billions for almost all the existing roads in the cities. In the course of doing the right thing, the governor has incurred the wretch of many home owners whose building stood in the right of way and as they cursed, many did not remember that they violated the city plans. Can somebody imagine what Aba roads would have looked like without the dualisation of Rumuola and NTA road and lots of others in the state capital alone?
People, especially political opponents have criticized Gov Amechi and his romance with Universal Basic Education (UBE). But have they given any thought to the fact that while the money had been there all these while, it took initiative to put the idea to work and produce what we have as the model schools today? Where else in Nigeria other than Lagos maybe, do we have unique school building with all enclosed facilities? Or unique court buildings and hospitals? The Peoples Democratic Party must be thankful that the K-legged Governor redeemed the state for them in nick of time.
Suddenly, yet unknown to the Governor, honour was waiting in the wing. April 2011 was to produce His Excellency as a voted chief executive in the state against the wishful thinking of other contestants. His opponents have cried foul even going to courts to challenge the victory at the poll. But before the verdict, can the contestants prove convincingly why the governor won them even in their constituencies? Where were the returning officers of the opponents even in their wards? Well, the courts have to do their bit to convince all and sundry how they could be rigged out everywhere.
Meanwhile, the golden moments for the governor arrived. Within thirty days from winning the election, it was honour galore. While he was smiling home with yet another election as the Chairman Governors Forum, he was invited to receive the first prize from the Universal Basic Education for effectively putting into great use the fund of the ministry of Education with a cash present from the Presidency of N400milliom, just a day after his birthday! To those who think that the achievement is a mean feat, they should take a look at the list of states which could not access the fund and the amount they still could not draw, and see that while other states could not claim more than N3Billion, Rivers State has paltry N675million on the balance sheet.
Leadership is difficult everywhere but l think it is much more difficult in Nigeria. We must make every effort to credit to a man when he deserves it. Governor Chibike Amechi is but one human being and is capable of mistakes, but for goodness sake, he deserves accolade now and should be honoured with it unequivocally. Sooner than later we shall see more of these honors through Road construction, Health sector, Greater Port Harcourt development, New International Market and the Judiciary etc. We need more of these honours sir.
Finally sir, your second term has taken off. All eyes are on you to fulfill your campaign promises. May your next four years be more events filled than the last.
Mike O. Akpati is a Public Affair Analyst based in Port Harcourt.
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