In previous articles, I pointed out that His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi’s tie with the destiny of Rivers State is mysterious and different from that of any other political leader from the State. He is the only political leader so far who has played a key role in shaping the political future of the State who shares the same birthday with the State. Whilst he was born on May 27, 1965, Rivers State was created two years after on May 27, 1967. This, somehow, underscores why his commitment towards the emancipation and development of the State is total and unique.
Another unique aspect of this great leader from Rivers State is that he shares the same date with the day on which Nigeria celebrates the Children’s Day. Inspired by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Federal Government of Nigeria decided in 1964 – a year to the birthday of Amaechi – to set aside the May 27 every year as Nigeria’s Children’s Day. On this special day the whole Nation celebrates the Nigerian Child and the Federal Government declares a public holiday for schools across the country. The day is usually marked with fanfare, featuring dances, singing by children in colourful dresses and youth parades considered by many as the highlights of the day.
WHY AMAECHI IS AMAECHI
The family of Amaechi in Ubima, Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, was on May 27, 1965 blessed with the birth of a son who unbeknownst to all would become a force to reckon with in Nigeria’s political firmament even before his 49th birthday. He was named Chibuike, which means ‘God is all Powerful’ and Rotimi, an abridged version of Oluwadurotimi, meaning ‘the Lord stands by me’, while Amaechi means ‘who knows tomorrow?’ Remember the popular phrase, what is in a name? One does not need to be a sage to know that all the meanings embedded in his name are playing out in the acts and arts of politics in Amaechi’s life.
Amaechi, as he himself has unequivocally said on several occasions, was not born into opulence. As a child his family experienced real hardship and he admits going through several challenges that have helped to shape his perception of life. His determination to ensure equal access to education for every Rivers child and bridge the gap between the privileged and underprivileged children in the state is unprecedented. Whenever the occasion demands, he (Amaechi) would not hesitate to point out that though he came from an underprivileged background, his was a modest family that inculcated in him the virtues of honesty, humility and sheer doggedness to succeed.
To give an insight into some of the experiences he had to go through in order to be educated and which perhaps may very well be the reason behind his passion to provide free education for all children in the state, rich and poor, Governor Amaechi said in a recent interview: “I don’t know how many people in my cabinet that could have experienced poverty like I did. I grew up at No.18, Chibu Street. I moved from there to Nnamdi Azikwe. Later, I lived with one of my friends in one of the creek villages near Port Harcourt. And I knew that my parents suffered a lot. With tears, they were looking for money to pay for my school fees, buy me uniforms, bags and all that. When I was in the university, I used to tell the girls that ‘none of you looked at my face because I was wearing one shirt, one pair of trousers almost every day with a sandal’. On Fridays, we would wash it and we wouldn’t move out at all on Saturday to enable it dry; Sam Okah and myself. Then it would dry on Saturday, but on Sunday, we were back to life; wearing the same shirt and the same trousers. How many of those in the cabinet passed through that?” This is the pathetic story of the man that is driven by unquenchable passion for a better Rivers State.
Amaechi became Governor of Rivers State in October 2007, after his previous position as Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly from 1999 to 2007. He successfully sought re-election as River State Governor on April 26, 2011.
An alumnus of the University of Port Harcourt, Amaechi is resolutely committed to ensuring that education is received without much burden in terms of finance to parents and guardians, as exemplified in the free education policy of his administration, including the provision of free uniforms, free sandals, free books, free hand bags and free tuition in the primary schools, while in the secondary schools, the government offers free uniform, free bags, free books, free boarding and free sandals. This may well be his own special way of living up to his birthday which coincides with the Children’s Day!
By all intents and purposes, Amaechi’s massive investment in education that includes free education and overseas training for scholarship students clearly shows his love for a better tomorrow for children, as there is no gainsaying the fact that education is the bedrock of development of any society. Today, his investment in education in the State stands out in the country. The awards the State has earned in this regard bears this out.
Apart from education, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has also made massive infrastructural investments around the state, road projects, schools, health centres, rural electrification, ongoing monorail project, rural development, land reclamation, implementation of the Greater Port Harcourt Master Plan and, most importantly, the sustenance of relative peace and security evident in the continued attraction and influx of foreign investors to the State. Amaechi stands as the only African Leader to have constructed 60 health centres, donated the same to 60 communities, a feat many within and outside the state acknowledge as the first of its kind. His astute leadership in striving for financial transparency, accountability and inclusive governance has earned the State a lot of accolades, numerous awards and recognition by international bodies and corporations, including the ability to attract a B+/AA Fitch investment rating to the state, boost economic and structural development as well as enhance content development in all sectors of Rivers State.
As Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Amaechi was Chairman, Conference of Speakers of State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria (1999 – 2000). He is currently Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), a position he re-contested last year and won. He has received the prestigious national award of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).
Amaechi bagged the Sun Newspaper Man of the Year Award in 2007 and the Compass Newspaper Award for Security in 2008. The Governor of the Year 2009 Award was presented to Governor Amaechi at the Leadership Award for Excellence – 2009 and he was the Vanguard Personality of the Year for 2012.
AMAECHI AND HIS FEATS
In describing or outlining the feats of Governor Amaechi in office, let me quote from the press statement titled ‘Amaechi, Creator of Modern Rivers State —APC •Celebrates Governor at 49’, issued on May 26, 2014 by the Rivers State Chapter of All Progressive Congress (APC). Rivers APC in the statement declared Amaechi the creator of modern Rivers State only comparable to the creator of the old Rivers State, HRH Alfred Diete-Spiff. According to the party, “This is the inescapable conclusion when one takes time to study Amaechi’s feats in the infrastructure change and revolution taking place in Rivers State today that includes creating the new Port Harcourt Mega City that has one of the best modern stadiums and other edifices only obtainable in modern cities of Europe.”
APC in the statement issued in Port Harcourt by the State Chairman, Dr. Davies Ibiamu Ikanya, described Amaechi as an icon of democracy, a role model and an embodiment of development.
The party said: “For the records, Amaechi has succeeded in rescuing Rivers State from the hands of militants, whose activities made Port Harcourt to be described as the third most dangerous city in the world as at 2007 when Amaechi took over as Governor. He has since made the city an investors’ haven and has placed Port Harcourt prominently on the international map as the first African city to become the World Book Capital.
“We are happy that Amaechi survived all the intricate plots to remove him from office by enemies of democracy parading themselves as Abuja politicians and has, by so doing, become a pillar of Nigerian democracy.
“Governor Amaechi redefined the art of politics and governance in Nigeria when he introduced free education and free healthcare programmes in Rivers State and within a space of five years created over 50,000 jobs to reduce the menace of unemployment, poverty and insurgency in Nigeria. His administration started creating employment opportunities when he assumed office in 2007 by building over 140 Primary Health Centres, 23 model Secondary Schools that can compete with any modern university in Nigeria and over 300 Model Primary Schools which created job opportunities in the State. Each of these projects attracts about 100 workers. His government has created the Banana Farms that have created jobs for over 2,000 persons, revived Risonpalm, which was dead when he came in, and it has employed over 5,000 workers. The Songhai Farm has employed over 2,000 workers, while five Fish Farms in strategic locations have been completed.
“His administration is perfecting measures to ensure 24 hours regular power supply in the state. In this regard, the Amaechi Administration was able to build 88 sub-stations which are yet to be commissioned. Through the efforts of the Administration, the State is generating 545 megawatts of electricity, and also building facilities for another 180 megawatts. Before the end of this year, there will be 715 megawatts to ensure that Rivers State and her people have 24 hours uninterrupted power supply.”
REACTION BY REV DR. REUBEN EMEKA OKALA ON THE APC PRESS STATEMENT ON AMAECHI
Challenges are the yardsticks with which achievements are measured, they are the tests from which pass marks are decided and awarded and they are the temptations through which victories are determined. Without challenges, the world would hardly spot a champion. Even the Bible recognises the place and role of challenges (tests and temptations) in the lives of humans, hence it created safeguards for our victories through them. Yes, no one can stand before God and expect to be declared "more than a conqueror" without fighting and winning battles and/or wars.
Yes, God uses tests to determine the maturity of His saints while the devil uses temptations to make them fall in order to disposes them of the awaiting victory. But woe betide he who allows himself to be used of the enemy in his wickedness for the conqueror to emerge.
"However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages of our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." 1 Corinthians 2: 6-8 NKJV
When the powers that be in Abuja, in their wickedness, chose to chasetise Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi left, right, front and back to make him look unpopular before his constituency in order to prepare the ground for his ultimate removal from office, I saw whose interest they were serving and warned that they would help Amaechi to become not only stronger but triumphantly victorious at the end of the day. One of my brothers and a discussant here in the forum dismissed my prediction and wise-saying with a wave of the hand. I think he is still reading. He doesn't need to be a son of Issachar to be able to read and understand the direction of the swinging of the pendulum of this political weather.
Yes, APC, because of Amaechi, is going to win Rivers State hands down in the upcoming general election of 2015 — a victory given to them on a platter of gold by PDP's haughtiness and indeed stupidity in Rivers State.
By every yardstick, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is the BEST amongst all the governors that have ruled Rivers State since its creation in 1967. His achievements are towering and have surpassed those of Commander (Rtd) Alfred Papapriye Diette-Spiff by a very conspicuous margin. Amaechi has so transformed Rivers State multifariously that his shoes have become too large for his potential successor to fit in. His resounding victories at the battles of the Nigerian Governor's Forum (NGF), Rivers State House of Assembly (RVSHA) where one Evans Bipi ignorantly declared himself the speaker with a vote of 5 against 22 members, the activities of the erstwhile State Commissioner of Police (CP), Mbu Joseph Mbu, the mischievous ceding of Rivers State oil wells to Bayelsa, Imo and Akwa Ibom states, his refusal to be cowered and humiliated by his former party PDP that inordinately expelled him and all government functionaries from the party at one fell swoop, his
refusal to bow to the whims and caprices of the NJC in the appointment of a replacement Chief Judge of the State and his innumerable legal victories in all the legal battles that aimed to remove him from office are some of the landmarks that rightly showcase him as a pivotal to democracy and the rule of Law in the Nigeria's fledging democracy.
If with all these battles and their accompanying resounding victories, Governor Amaechi is not seen as a conqueror, nay more than a conqueror, who else is?
May I seize this opportunity to wish my Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi a very Happy Birthday and Many Happy Returns!”
At this juncture, I will like to quote the great Charles Spurgeon, who said: “A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.” To Amaechi, I hope you still remember the great Henry Alfred Kissinger, the 56th Secretary of State of the United States from 1973 to 1977, particularly his quote which you have without knowing lived all your life? Listen to what he said about you: “A leader does not deserve the name unless he is willing occasionally to stand alone.”
Let me also quote incumbent American President Barrack Obama, who said: “I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we have struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We have made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have to live up to our best intentions.”
With great minds like Governor Amaechi, Nigeria is on the threshold of history and greatness by the grace of God. I thank God for giving us a Governor like Amaechi, who has proved that he is a truly patriotic and committed leader who desires the emancipation and development of his people. As Rivers APC rightly said in the press statement which I earlier quoted from, “He stands as the best product politically from Rivers State and can be crowned as the icon of democracy and embodiment of development as he has a lot to offer in building the type of Nigeria envisaged by the founding fathers of our nation. We wish Governor Amaechi many happy returns on this occasion of his 49th birthday and pray for God’s continued blessings on him as he expends himself in the service of Rivers State and Nigeria.”
Amaechi, my brother, I wish you the best possible birthday as we wait for the celebration of your golden years on earth.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to a resolute revolutionary, exceptional visionary and democrat at 49!
•Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt.