With the abysmal failure by Chief Nyesom Wike the Tribunal sacked Governor of Rivers State in his one single futile project: to run down his predecessor, mentor and benefactor, former governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi which he has carried out so religiously since he was erroneously declared the Governor of Rivers State at the expense of over one hundred souls of Rivers State APC members slaughtered during the last elections in Rivers State in a bid to install him as the Care-Taker Governor of Rivers State. Observers of the politics of Rivers State could have noted that since his assumption of office as the Governor of Rivers State on May 29, 2015, he has only emphasised and embarked on carrying out this sinister single agenda by throwing caution to the wind and there is nothing in the book of propaganda, dirty politics, blackmail and falsification of records that Chief Wike has not employed and deployed in his desperation to drag Amaechi’s name to the mud. Apart from commissioning a commission of inquiry with one sole agenda: investigate, condemn and find Amaechi guilty and, if possible, arrest and imprison him and to his chagrin this kangaroo Commission could still not found Amaechi culpable or wanting in all aspects of its investigations. Wike went ahead in his frustration to issue a white pepper indicting Amaechi of corruption without any recourse to the findings of the Panel of Inquiry set up in this regard.
Not satisfied, he sponsors damaging and satanic documentary on Africa Independent Television (AIT); sponsored publications such as advertorials, columns, editorials and Op-Ed articles in major international, national and local print media; sponsored personality discussion programmes in the electronic media and sponsored special documentaries for television and radio through independent groups and organisations; all aimed at disparaging Amaechi. All these ploys aimed at presenting Amaechi not only as a corrupt personality but a non-performer during his tenure as the Governor of Rivers State; with hope of retiring him from politics or national limelight and rubbishing his efforts in bringing to reality the All Progressives Congress (APC) government at the centre.
Though God, President Buhari and the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria have thrown to the dustbin all the efforts of Wike in his futile adventure to rubbish Amaechi by screening and confirming him as a Minster of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; I have in various write-ups defended the administration of Amaechi and in that regard, as an insider, I wish to use this forum to present Amaechi’s feats in the education sector during his tenure and leave the reader to judge, if Amaechi was a success, or failure as Wike and his misguided collaborators are trying to state.
Educational Revolution under Amaechi
On assumption of office the Amaechi-led government declared a state of emergency on the education sector and completely took over the payment of salaries of primary school and junior secondary school teachers, hitherto the statuary function of local governments, to ensure that education takes its rightful place in the scheme of things. This intervention cost the state government N800 million monthly, to pay salaries of primary school teachers. To further strengthen and ensure qualitative education in the state, ex-governor Amaechi signed into law five bills brought for his assent by the State House of Assembly. Among them are the Rivers State Universal Basic Education Amendment Bill 2012 and the Rivers State Senior Secondary Schools’ Board Bill 2012. The then governor was upbeat while signing into law these bills, including the one on social services levy recently passed by the Rivers State House of Assembly. The government targeted building 700 model primary schools with 500 completed – each with 20 classrooms costing about N116 million each and equipped with ICT facility, modern library, science laboratory, football field, basketball pitch, volleyball pitch and nursery playground. These model primary schools were built to the standard of the United Nations as obtainable in developed parts of the world.
The State Government also built 24 model secondary schools across the 23 local government councils in the state, well-structured and fully-equipped with modern educational, recreation and boarding facilities, with standard housing for teachers’1B, of which one was recently commissioned by the former president of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. These secondary schools have been referred to by some observers as universities. What Amaechi said about his mission: “We knew that the problem of the state was basically education, the state of our quality of education was abysmal and we knew that the quality can only improve if we take over primary education.” He expressed concern over what local government councils were doing with the money meant for this purpose. Rivers State under Amaechi introduced the study of ICT in the model primary and secondary schools. According to Dame Alice Lawrence-Nemi, then commissioner for education, whose word was a law on issues of education in the state: “The introduction of ICT in our schools was to enhance technological development of our students in the state. The world is a global village and the need to embrace technology at an early stage is essential in the intellectual development of the students. I am proud that Rivers State is the first state in Nigeria to introduce the study of ICT at the primary school level. All the schools in Rivers State today are equipped with ICT facilities with internet connection, as the state is eager to make all her pupils and students to be technologically ahead of their counterparts in other parts of the country.
“Our candidates Rivers State are ICT-compliant and write external examinations like WAEC and NECO. Today, I am proud to state that technology has eased learning in our society as our students can do their assignments on the internet. Today, Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST) is leading the way in technological drive in Nigerian universities and has shown Nigerians how ICT can easily be used to enhance learning and administration process in the academic environment. All these are to the credit of the great revolutionist of our time – Rt Hon Chibuike Amaechi,” Lawrence-Nemi enthused.
Apart from retraining teachers, the government employed 13,000 teachers from the 20,000 shortlisted for interview, out of the over 45,000 teachers that applied – a feat uncommon by any other government in Nigeria. Rivers under Amaechi offered scholarships to over 2,000 students in Nigerian higher institutions, and spent about N5 billion on her students in foreign institutions. The state embarked upon building a world-class university, which when completed will turn out well-equipped graduates that will hold their own in any field. In the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, the Amaechi administration was building a hostel that will accommodate about 6,000 students, and accommodation for all the lecturers of the university that will be ICT-compliant. It is important to point out here that the Rivers State Government is among the few in Nigeria that offer free education and free health delivery to its people, but stands apart as the only state offering free education, free sandals, free books and free uniform in Nigeria. About 500 new primary schools have been built in 350 communities across the state.
Port Harcourt as UNESCO World Book Capital 2014
Apart from the above, Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State of Nigeria, played a historic role when it hosted the US-Nigeria Bilateral Commission on October 16 and 17, 2012, thereby becoming the first city outside the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to do so. This event is a top bill in international rating and the strategic relevance of the Gulf of Guinea area makes the meeting in Port Harcourt even more important. The United States Deputy Secretary of State and two Assistant Secretaries led the US delegation. On the side of Nigeria, the US-Nigeria Bilateral Commission is viewed with seriousness, especially by the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) led by Amaechi. It would be recalled that UNESCO, moved by the revolutionary feats of Amaechi in the education sector, crowned Port Harcourt the 2014 World Book Capital City in April 2014, beating ten other great cities that include Oxford in England and Moscow in Russia. For this to be achieved against all odds and challenges simply demonstrates that Amaechi was a visionary and focused leader who has received accolades in this regard by world leaders. His administration has, in addition, promoted overall United Nations activities in the South-South geo-political zone, through the provision of an outstanding facility that can house over 15 UN agencies in Port Harcourt. As a result, there are five UN agencies in Rivers State at the moment; and more are expected to follow in due course.
Port Harcourt’s reign as World Book Capital 2014 began with the handover by Bangkok at an impressive ceremony at Hotel Presidential in the Rivers State capital. Dignitaries at the event included former Governor Amaechi, former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar; Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka; UNESCO Director-General, Ms Irina Bokova; former World Bank Vice-President, Africa, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili; wife of the former Governor, Dame Judith Amaechi; Engr Tele Ikuru, former
Deputy Governor of Rivers State; Rt Hon O.D Amaechree, then speaker of State House of Assembly, members of Rivers State Executive Council, senators and members of the House of Representatives from the state. This feat by Port Harcourt in becoming the very first African city south of the Sahara chosen as World Book Capital based on public voting, beating ten other great cities that include Oxford in England and Moscow in Russia, is commendable.
Another giant step taken by the Amaechi administration in the educational development of Rivers State was the construction of new 20-classroom blocks’ model primary school, to commemorate the status of Port Harcourt as the current World Book Capital. Known as World Capital City Model Primary School, the edifice is located in Port Harcourt Township and was already furnished and operational with commencement of classes for the 2014/2015 school year. In addition to classrooms and teachers’ offices, the model school is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities like demonstration science laboratory, library, ICT, sick-bays and reception class. The former commissioner of education stated that construction of the 20-classroom blocks was necessitated to address the issue of out-of-school children in the state. The state government embarked on this project to ensure that every child in the state has easy access to the free education policy of the Amaechi-led administration. The project is in line with the Education for All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) vision of providing access to all children of school age by the year 2015. Samples of the 20-classroom blocks are built in all the 23 local government areas of the state, which include demonstration science laboratories aimed at giving children the opportunity to visualise what they are being taught in class. The introduction of laboratories is in line with the new national curriculum, which allows children from four years and above to be exposed to science education early so as to better understand science courses in the future. The demonstration class is where the teacher demonstrates for the pupils what they are learning. It makes teaching and learning easier for the teacher and the pupils.
“Also Home Economics will be demonstrated in the Lab. The essence is to teach the pupils the basic ways of cooking, personal hygiene and general home-keeping. The schools are well equipped with books and e-books. The State Government is using the medium to promote reading culture among pupils and students. Every school has reading period and pupils are made to pick a book. Each pupil will summarise the book during book reviews at the end of the period.”
Obasanjo, Buhari on Amaechi’s Educational Feats
Former President Obasanjo, who embarked on a two-day visit to Rivers State to commission some landmarks projects executed by Amaechi during his six years’ historical and revolutionary administration in the state, described some of the structures of education in Rivers as mind-boggling. The former president was so elated and astonished by the type of world-class projects he was asked to commission, particularly the Ambassador Nne Kurubo Model Secondary School at Ebube, Eleme – one of the 24 model secondary schools scattered all over the 23 local government areas of the state – which tops most of the universities in Nigeria in areas of facilities, structures and landmass. The former president shouted while addressing the Rivers State people in the assembly edifice of the school, saying that the k-leg of Governor Amaechi has been straightened. If we can recall, Gen Obasanjo (rtd) denied Amaechi the PDP ticket to fly the flag of the party in 2007 after winning the primaries of the party, until the Supreme Court reinstated Amaechi ‘as the duly elected Governor of Rivers State.’ Obasanjo went further to hail Amaechi for his administration’s developmental strides. He stated: “I came to see developments and I have seen developments and I will confess developments! What I have seen is worth declaring! The area of health, education, agriculture, sports and road infrastructure is worth declaring. When I see development I earmark, eye mark and mouth-mark.
“It is our prayer and expectation that Port Harcourt’s reign as World Book Capital 2014 heralds’ even greater days in stock for Rivers State under the watch of APC and for the entire Nigerian nation which, by the grace of God, will come under APC’s leadership after the 2015 general elections.”
President Buhari, in a statement during his visit to Rivers State on November 5, 2013, described Amaechi as a hero and a great leader: “PDP decided to target some governors that are progressives and we feel will make a difference. We seek your support through Amaechi. I lived in Port Harcourt during my military career. I was a staff officer to Gen Danjuma in 1973. Rivers State has produced great men such as professor Tam David West. 2015 will be another watershed in Nigeria. Amaechi is a great leader. We decided to come together to save Nigeria from misgovernance. We must come together and make Nigeria move forward. Amaechi has given Rivers people responsible leadership. The schools he has built will give Rivers children a better tomorrow, while women and children stand to benefit from the standard health centres he has built. He has also carried out physical rehabilitation of infrastructures in the state. People like Amaechi should join the APC to move Nigeria forward.”
International Organisations’ Comments on Education
The United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) commended Amaechi on the strides recorded by his administration in the health and education sectors. Country Representative of UNICEF, Ibrahima Fall, who described as tremendous the progress made in these sectors, said: “This is the most exciting news for every mother, for every child and for every family in Rivers State.”
In appreciation to the feats of Amaechi’s administration, the former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, stated: “The impression that I always get when I come to Africa is that these countries have enormous potential, and your country and your state (Rivers) have enormous potential and I think that you happen to have at this time in history also, a dynamic, energetic and capable leadership that can make the dreams of building up the state into a reality of life for the 5.1 million residents in Rivers State that want their lives to be of much higher and greater quality.”
In extolling this great revolutionist, the United States’ Consul-General in Lagos, Mr. Jeffrey Hawkins, told journalists: “I must commend Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State for embarking on numerous people-oriented projects and showing enthusiasm on Niger Delta issues. We are very appreciative of all that Amaechi has done. We are quite clear that addressing the issues of the Niger Delta, the challenges require focusing on things like education development, agriculture, health, all sorts of issues. And the governor was kind enough to show us, on the ground, some of the projects the government of Rivers State is working on, so we are very deeply appreciative of his support.”
I am very happy that since the declaration of a State of Emergency in the education sector by Amaechi in 2008, the sector has witnessed total turnaround: from decay to decorum. The decorum in the education sector has necessitated a surge in admissions into public schools in Rivers State, a situation that prompted the construction of 20 classroom blocks across the state. To me, this is an exhibition and promotion of excellence unequalled by any other state in Nigeria. Former governor Amaechi’s feats in the area of education that assisted in making Port Harcourt the World Book Capital City are unequalled by any African leader, either in the past or present. His administration has churned out over 500 model primary schools and 24 model secondary schools that are termed to be better than some universities in Nigeria. It has also employed about 13,000 teachers, offering free education with free books as part of a strong vision to promote and sustain activities that would make promotion of literary activities and make literacy a staple in the state’s agenda.
Finally, I must commend and congratulate President Buhari and the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for recommending, screening, confirming this erudite scholar, enigma and visionary leader of our time as a Minster of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as it would have been a disaster if Wike has succeeded in his wicked and devious plots to run down an innocent man just because of he saw to the election of President Buhari as the President of Nigeria during the last election.
It is a well-known fact that his weapon in revolutionising education was Lawrence-Nemi, a lawyer, who served as the commissioner of education. This unassuming Amazon, and definition of hard work, is a pride to her family in particular and Rivers State in general.
•Attached are some action pictures on Amaechi’s educational feats as Governor of Rivers State.
•Chief Eze is a Port Harcourt-based Media Consultant and can be contacted either through firstname.lastname@example.org