“Conscience is an open wound: only truth can heal it,” Usmanu Dan Fodiyo (1754-1816)
In the interest of posterity and generations yet unborn, I have decided to put pen to paper and make my views known on issues surrounding the last eight years of the Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi’s administration in Rivers State. In doing this, I am not oblivious of all the issues both false and true that have already been put in the public domain. But I believe I owe it as a duty to myself, my children, Rivers people and indeed the entire nation to put things in their proper perspective. I hope that in doing this, I will ignite an honest and intellectual debate devoid of mudslinging and name calling, a debate that will center on the issues that affect our people.
As someone that has been closely associated with Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi having spent eight years with him in the Rivers State House of Assembly and also having served as a commissioner in his cabinet for eight (8) years, I believe I owe posterity this write up and I do this with every sense of responsibility. People that know me across the political divide in Rivers State know that I do not speak flippantly.
In doing this, I know I might be opening up myself and my service to Rivers State to a vicious attack but in the interest of the truth and nothing but the truth, I believe this is a necessary price to pay.
The Chibuike Amaechi Administration: Philosophy and Vision: The Chibuike Amaechi’s vision was centered around the principles of liberal democracy with emphasis on public social programs that will help in bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. Maybe, as a result of his social background, he deemed it necessary that the state
should play an intervening role in providing social amenities that will otherwise be beyond the reach of the poor and less privileged. It was this philosophy that drove the revolution he pioneered in the education sector in Rivers State. It remains on record that until his administration, Rivers State has not seen the quality and type of schools he succeeded in building across the length and breadth of the state. The schools provided an opportunity for children of the less privileged to know what it is to school in an ideal environment. He followed this up with a scholarship program that sent thousands of Rivers Students and even non-indigenes resident in Rivers State to all parts of the world in furtherance of their education.
His political liberal social philosophy could also be seen in the set-up of the Rivers Micro finance Agency (RIMA) with a mandate to help galvanize SME’s to boost the state’s economy. In doing this, Amaechi was driven with a passion to uplift the position of Rivers people and the state.
Infrastructural Development: It is on record and the facts on the ground show that the Amaechi administration added more kilometers to the Rivers State road network than any other administration before him. His strategy was driven by the need to open up the state for economic development. Even his adversaries can attest to the fact that
in his administration Rivers State was described as one huge construction site. I doubt whether any resident of Rivers State can truthfully say that in one way or the other his or her life was not touched or made easier by the construction of these new roads.
Other aspects of his trail blazing initiatives include the advances in agriculture (farm settlements), the primary health centers and other development initiatives scattered across the length and breadth of Rivers State.
The Rivers Monorail Project: So much falsehood has been put out in the public domain about this project. However, it remains on record that the decision to embark on the Rivers Monorail Project was a collective decision taken at the Rivers State Executive Council meeting during
the first tenure of the Amaechi administration and the facts regarding this project are all still domiciled with the Rivers State Government. The issues with regards this project is quite clear. As part of his efforts to develop the local economy, Chibuike Amaechi realized that there was a need to lay the structures and framework for a new city; it was on that basis that he initiated and commenced the Greater Port Harcourt Project. Coupled with this was the realization that there was a need to develop Port Harcourt as a number One business destination in the South-South.
For this to be done, it was important that Port Harcourt should have a well-defined transport infrastructure network with the capacity to link all parts of the city. This was the philosophy behind the commencement of the Monorail Project. It initially started as a PPP
(Private Public Partnership) but due to the global financial meltdown of 2008 the PPP partners pulled out and the Rivers State Government took over the project. I want to place it on record that everything with regards to the Rivers Monorail Project was handled in line with international best practices and procedures. All the firms and consultancy firms engaged with the project are world class firms. I was the supervising Commissioner and
I stake my honour and integrity as a true Rivers son on this fact. There was never a time in the course of the project where Amaechi as Governor interfered in any matter whatsoever relating to the project.
I challenge anybody who holds a contrary view on the standards of the project to invite the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), The Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) or any other local/international engineering regulatory body responsible for standards in public transport infrastructure projects to conduct an independent assessment of the engineering standards of the Rivers Monorail project.
It will be dangerous for us as a people to belittle our dreams and ouraspirations with regards to development and live in four (4) and eight (8) year cycles of developmental progress. Amaechi did not start the Rivers Monorail to complete it. In starting, he laid the framework for a major public transport infrastructure project that has the capacity to jump start the Rivers State economy and position the city of Port Harcourt as a major destination for business. If I might ask; who built the London underground rail network? Who built the New York subway network? Who built the Heathrow airport? As a people we must resist the temptation to believe that major infrastructure projects are tied to the life cycles of administrations. We must have the courage to insist that succeeding governments do not kill the collective dreams and aspirations of our people but that they continue the march towards industrialization. The assets belong to the Rivers people, the monies spent belong to the Rivers people, and we should not politicize infrastructure developments. It doesn’t matter who takes the glory just let it be done. The monorail is still an on-going project.
The Judicial Commission of Inquiry: A cardinal principle of any democracy is the respect for the rule of law. Closely associated with this, is the principle of fair hearing. I am of the opinion that a situation whereby initiators of a judicial inquiry have already arrived at decisions on issues before the said inquiry and have put out statements in the public domain that show their conclusions on such issues, then it no longer becomes a commission of inquiry but an “inquisition”. For instance, the present Governor of Rivers State as the Minister of State for Education in a publication in the Nation and Thisday newspapers of Monday October 13th 2014 in pages 4 and 54 respectively said “There is one death trap they call Monorail. Yes, we know that one day, we must die, but with the monorail I am seeing there, I will not take such risk. Themonorail is a death trap”
In the light of such statements and numerous others on the project, what sense does it make for one to expect any form of fair hearing in a panel constituted by the same individual, in an atmosphere and environment created by an incoming administration that has already painted the out-going administration as corrupt? One cannot expect any justice from such a commission. Events from the commission sittings already confirm this as seen in the denial by individuals of statements credited as having been made by them at the commission sitting and reported in the media. For me the pertinent issue is, Amaechi has left a lot for the Rivers commonwealth. What do
we do as a people with these things?
What is the present status of the Amaechi schools? What is the status of the Greater Port Harcourt development plan? What is the status of the primary healthcare centers? What is the status of the program for skills acquisition? What is the status of the Rivers Monorail project? What is the status of the thousands of kilometers of road network added to the state?
These questions and many more are begging to be answered. Generations unborn will not need judicial commissions of inquiries to answer thesen questions. The questions will be answered based on the realities they
see on ground. As a people we do not have all the time in the world. Our state economy is built around oil and gas. The price of oil is on a downward spiral, we need to begin to act and think outside the box. This is a time for big ideas. We do not need ‘these’ distractions.
Amaechi’s Place in History: So much has been put out and so much has been spoken about Amaechi. However, some pertinent issues need to be raised and addressed against the back drop of facts; Who is the real Rivers man? Who is the real betrayer?
Is it the Rivers man who fought endlessly to ensure that the right and commonwealth of the Rivers people are preserved? Who refused to turn the other way when the oil wells of Rivers people was surreptitiously taken and given to others? Is it the Rivers man who had the courage to say that his people deserve better under an administration led by someone his people saw as ‘their own’? Definitely, that is the real, true Rivers son.
It is my belief, that at the end of the day history will be fair in her assessment of Amaechi as a person and as a man of big ideas who had the courage to challenge a system of injustice meted out against his people by a cabal who acquired power in the name of a people who had been long deprived and had paid a great price for the well-being of the nation state but who were forced to put up with all sorts of marginalization all in the name of “At least, he is our own”.
Amaechi’s name definitely will continue to generate a lot of emotions but one thing there would always be a consensus about, is that he never corruptly enriched himself in any way or manner. On this, the judgement of history will always be constant
Any fair and objective assessment of the Amaechi years will place him with the likes of Dappa Biriye, Adaka Boro, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Alfred Diete Spiff, etc.
‘May history vindicate the just’ I have done my bit.
George Fubara Tolofari , writes from Port Harcourt