Former Rivers State Governor and Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi may not necessarily need an introduction to many people and the reasons may not be unconnected to the fact that, other than being courageous and fearless, Amaechi delivered good governance when he governed Rivers State between 2007 to 2015.
Amaechi, recognized that his primary function as the Chief Security Officer as enshrined in the nation’s statute book, was to provide adequate security for the people and to maintain absolute law and order. In addition to that was the massive provision of the basic necessities of life such as water, health care and so on.
To ensure the protection of Rivers people, Amaechi promptly and aggressively confronted insecurity as if he was fighting with his last blood . He waged war against criminality and violence such that—kidnappers and cultists had no hiding place, the youth were meaningfully engaged in crafts, sports and in agriculture, and graduates were hopeful of making ends meet due to prevailing job opportunities at the time.
Importantly, Amaechi had a shift from sharing public funds to massive infrastructural development. He built bridges and roads including a world-class stadium which had the capacity to create wealth, jobs etc. Amaechi also systematically tackled social and physical security through the promotion of agriculture on a sustainable level.
During his first year in office, he literally turned the state into a busy construction site due to the volume of construction works embarked upon. Some of the roads constructed and reconstructed by the Amaechi’s administration were: Dualisation of Elekahia road, dualisation of G.U Ake road, construction and dualisation of the Trans-Amadi road, dualisation and expansion of Ikwerre road, construction of Obiri Ikwerre Inter-change, construction and dualisation of the Owerri/Airport road which is a federal road among others.
Again, Amaechi’s passion in diversifying the state economy through agriculture recorded huge success. Fish farms were built-in some local government areas of the state, including the Buguma fish farms. Also, the Ogoni banana farm and the gigantic Songhai farm in Ebubu Eleme were legacies of his government.
When Amaechi held sway, Port Harcourt— the garden city was a place to dwell in. It was a place to behold, it was a safe haven for investors and non investors alike.
CRA as fondly called by his supporters was always on his toes to deliver good governance to his people. Time to time he drove around Rivers communities to inspect ongoing works just to deliver quality projects in order to improve on performance and governance.
For Amaechi, governance was a call to duty, nothing more. His sense of openness knew no bound, a man endeared with tremendous dynamism and ponderous intelligence. He was a cynosure of all eyes. Amaechi’s stewardship for public funds entrusted to him were hinged on openness, truth and transparency with which the process and operations of government businesses are performed.
He focused on building a new economy which called for massive infrastructural turnaround and building a mega city known as ‘Greater Port Harcourt ‘. The establishment of a world-class education system that ignited human capital development through oversea scholarship will not be forgotten in a hurry. Non-indigenes resident in the state had no cause to worry as they fully benefited from Amaechi’s benevolence.
For Amaechi, there was nothing like a non-indigenous status and there was no segregation at all levels. He believed in one Nigeria and recruited over 3,000 non- indigenes into the state work force. In one of his visits to the Ignatius Ajuru University, PH, Amaechi was told about the school fees disparity for Rivers and non-Rivers students. Consequently, he reversed the payment and pegged the fees at flat rate for all and sundry.
Amaechi’s model primary schools are built-in all local government areas of the state, including the remote communities, with a purpose was to bring education closer to the people. The era when children had to travel far distances to neighboring communities to acquire knowledge became history and Amaechi model primary and secondary schools could be compared with some universities in the Western countries.
Amaechi, also received wide-spread commendation from both local and International bodies for building schools that could be likened to higher institutions of learning. The schools were fully equipped with modern facilities to aid learning especially for science students. His education policy “Education for all is the responsibility of all”, was key to his administration’s mission statement.
Amaechi was poised to providing free and quality education for his people. He said, “Bring the child to school naked we will provide school uniforms, bags, sandal, books including computers for every child”.
Just like every other projects he executed in the State, Amaechi embarked on affordable health care delivery. His health policy also received commendation with the introduction of free medicare for all. Once you are resident in the state, all you required was to walk a stone throw to the health centers and you would get treated for free. The specialist hospitals were there for referral purposes and no matter the nature of illness, one was hopeful of getting treated for free—That was the Rivers State that I knew during Amaechi’s era.
Also, during his time, prompt payment of workers’ salaries and pensions for pensioners were given full attention. Civil servants got their due promotions and rose up to their duties of providing effective services to government. This development added value to job delivery and reignited a robust relationship between the civil servants and government.
The eight years rule of the Ubima-born politician was a memorable one.Frankly speaking, it was the period underdevelopment paved way for development, it was the period when democracy was enthroned in all parts of the state, it was also a period that political appointees held positions with decorum.
For sure, Amaechi’s leadership in Rivers State brought about total development, peace and tranquility as he drove Rivers State to a new destination with sincerity and fairness.
His modus operandi in governance was open, such that people could access his administration with ease. His penchant for transparency and accountability translated into so many visible projects he built while in office. His accountability theory was anchored on prudent spending of funds.
Amaechi also embarked on ‘town hall meetings’, with the aim of updating the people time to time on how funds were judiciously used to improve on their lives.
Amaechi’s government in Rivers State was a participatory government. Everybody was carried along in the scheme of things. The accountability forum provided ample opportunity for the people, especially the downtrodden to rub minds with the governor one on one and chart the way forward for a better Rivers State.
Amaechi’s priority was to uplift the people from poverty. At the accountability forum, Amaechi would direct all Commissioners and Heads of Government Agencies and Parastatal to appear before the people to give account of how they ran their respective offices with a view to improving on governance in line with the open policy of government which had no hidden agenda for the people of Rivers State.
All political office holders who served in Amaechi’s tenure were put on their toes to deliver on their assignments. I dare to say that, Amaechi undoubtedly at the time ran the most responsible government in the country and his projects were greeted with accolades by all.
Throughout his eight years reign as governor, Amaechi rescued Rivers State from rot and perpetual decay and ensured that most projects started in his tenure were completed while few were 90 percent completed before he left office in 2015.
It was in Amaechi’s tenure that the state introduced a compulsory savings of about N1 billion monthly in her reserved fund for the rainy days. Amaechi was confident that the compulsory monthly savings which amounted to about N19 billion at a point was utilized for projects execution.
Amaechi at one point said, “While saving the One billion Naira monthly, I knew that there could be a time when the economy of the country or state will be challenging, so, I started saving the money in our reserve fund. The approval of the 19 billion Naira by the Rivers State House of Assembly from the reserve fund will help us to complete our projects”.
In his tenure, Rivers State became the first to implement the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) act in Nigeria.
So, as the Minister clocks 54 on Monday 27th May, 2019, it is imperative to salute his courage as one who has proved his mettle in the development of Rivers State.
Also, it is expected that well-meaning Rivers people, friends and well-wishers of the former governor would come out en masse to the Aztec Arcum event centre located at the popular stadium road, Port Harcourt on the 27th May, 2019 to celebrate an icon, a legend and a builder.
This is so because Amaechi, as a true leader has not only shown capacity in leadership, he has also translated his vision into reality as noted by an American scholar, Warren G. Dennis, ” Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality”.
On this note, I therefore, congratulate His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (CON) , the Ochi Aliri 1 of Ikwerre , on the occasion of his 54th birthday and pray that God Almighty grants him more years ahead.
Gift Okpara writes from Abuja, Nigeria.