By Gift Okpara
Former Rivers State Governor and Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi does not need an introduction. For some, Amaechi has become a recurrent decimal in their day to day discussions in the political arena.
The reasons may not be unconnected to the fact that 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, welfare and so on.
Amaechi , also promptly and aggressively confronted insecurity as if he was fighting with his last blood . He waged a war against criminality and violence.
Then, security was well funded , such that kidnappers and cultists had no hiding place. Then, youths were meaningfully engaged in crafts, sports and in agriculture .
Young school leavers were hopeful of being incorporated into the system due to prevailing job opportunities.
Importantly, Amaechi had a shift from sharing public funds to massive infrastructural development. Amaechi 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 promotion of subsistence farming to venture agriculture just to mention a few.
During his first year in office , Amaechi literally turned the state into a busy construction site due to the volume of construction work ongoing.
Some of the roads constructed and reconstructed by the Amaechi’s administration are ; 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. The Ogoni banana farm and the gigantic Songhai farm in Ebubu Eleme were standing legacies of his administration.
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 investors alike .
The Lion as fondly called by his supporters was always on his toes to deliver good governance to his people. Time to time he was moving round Rivers communities to inspect ongoing works just to deliver quality projects in other to improve on performance and governance.
For Amaechi, governance was a call to duty, nothing more. His sense of openness knows no bound, a man endeared with tremendous dynamism and ponderous intelligence. He was a cynosure of all eyes.
Amaechi’s stewardship for public resources entrusted to him were hinged on openness , truth and transparency with which the process and operations of government businesses are performed.
Amaechi focused on building a new economy that called for massive infrastructural turn around, building of a mega city , called the ‘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 course 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.
Amaechi believed in one Nigeria, and recruited over 3000 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 spotted all over the state , including the remote communities .
The purpose was to bring education closer to the people. The era when children had to travel a far distance to neighboring communities to acquire knowledge became history. Amaechi model primary and secondary schools were akin to standard university in some African countries.
Amaechi received wide spread commendation from both local and International bodies for building schools that are likened to higher institutions of learning. The schools were fully equipped with modern facilities to aide learning especially for science students . Amaechi’s 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 project he ventured in , Amaechi embarked on affordable health care delivery. His health policy also received commendation with the introduction of free medicare for all. Be you indigene or non indigene ,all you required was to work a stone throw to access the health centers and you would get treated free of charge. The specialist hospitals were there for referral purposes and no matter the nature of illness you were hopeful of getting treated for free . That was the Rivers State that I know.
Under his watch, prompt payment of workers’ salaries and pensions for pensioners were given full attention . Civil servants’ got their due promotion and rose up to their duties of providing effective services to government. This development added value to job delivery and re -ignited a robust relationship between the civil servants and government.
The eight years rule of the Lion of South-South politics and 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 public officers held positions with decorum .
For sure, Amaechi’s leadership in Rivers State brought about total development , peace and tranquility . Amaechi 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’s aim of updating the people time to time on how funds were judiciously used was targeted at keeping the people abreast with day to day happenings in his administration.
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 down-trodden 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 Parastatals 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 good 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 in all the nook and crannies of Rivers State.
Throughout his eight years reign as governor, Amaechi rescued Rivers State from rot and perpetual decay. Amaechi ensured that projects started under his tenure 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 N1billion 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 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”, he explained.
Under him Rivers State became the first to implement the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) act in Nigeria.
So, as the Lion clocks 56 on Thursday 27th May 2021, it is imperative however, to salute his courage as one who has proved his mettle in the development of Rivers State.
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”.
Let us therefore celebrate an Icon, a legend and a builder and congratulate His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (CON) on the occasion of his 56th birthday ” bash” and pray that God Almighty grants him more years ahead.
Okpara is a Media Aide to the Hon.Minister and Publisher of the Lion Magazine