By Odimegwu Onwumere
While speaking at the Night of Glory Praise and Worship Session, held at the Alfred-Diette Spiff Civic Centre Complex, Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, on December 15 2013, then Governor Chibuike Amaechi, who faced threat of impeachment from six out of 31 lawmakers in the State House of Assembly, said: “I thank God that we are all here. There are so many actions that I have taken that I could not account for, and a man of God had told me that a period like this will come, when nearly all my supporters will leave me behind, and that it will be so tough, looking as if God has deserted me, but at the end of the day, we shall triumph. It didn’t quite make sense to me as Governor, until when the battle started, it now occurred to me that a man of God had prophesied to me earlier.”
If Amaechi could survive that period, he may still have political life ahead, notwithstanding the sponsored media publications being made against him in the administration of Barr Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State, and the more less-informed persons think that Rivers State under Wike is connecting.
The viral power of media has proven how fast many people forget things and how hate-articles against Amaechi can spread and be adopted. On November 26 2013, as a man who showed that he loved his people, while justifying his decision to join the All Progressives Congress, APC, at the Port Harcourt international airport, Omagwa, Amaechi bluntly said that the interests of the oil-rich state were no longer being protected in the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP – the party that has not stopped at nothing in making sure that he was pummeled.
(Wike and Amaechi)
Amaechi continued: “Rivers State must know that for me to have taken that decision, I had looked at the general interests of Rivers people. I was not elected to lead Nigeria, I was elected to lead Rivers State and I had looked at the interests of Rivers people and have seen that these interests were not protected in PDP. I have seen the fact that we are losing our oil wells in Etche, in the Kalabari areas and that the more they continue to pilfer these oil wells, the more we will continue to lose our wealth.”
Even though that Amaechi had his excesses as a human being while on the saddle as governor, it baffles to believe that throughout his 8yrs in office, he did not achieve a single thing, project wise. That was what the Wike government wanted people to believe. The demonisation and criminalisation of Amaechi continues. He has been called corrupt and the whole country now watches him with one eye closed. That was what the Wike-media has achieved.
Conversely, we could recall that on November 5, 2013, while General Muhammadu Buhari was in Port Harcourt, he said that Amaechi was a hero and a great leader. So how come today that Amaechi was sent to ‘public prison’ of corrupt practices while in office without first being allowed to be heard by any court of competent jurisdiction?
Hear Buhari: “APC 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.”
As if that was not enough of praise of Amaechi from Buhari, the later added: “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 centers 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.”
For Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu: “Amaechi has anchored his economic program around the people of Rivers State. He has given Rivers people good education, given women and children quality health centers, built standard infrastructure. We are in Rivers State to thank you for supporting Amaechi and also urge you to persuade your governor to join the APC.”
For Chief Bisi Akande: “We are privileged to see Amaechi from time to time. We listened to the propaganda from the media that Amaechi had lost control of the State. We heard that Amaechi has no supporters. We wonder how a man who has no followers can become a governor of a state. We begin to see persecution which proves that Amaechi is very brilliant.”
Akande also described Amaechi as a leader of all leaders and enjoined him to defect to the APC. Amaechi whom the Wike government has said was autocratic did not show that in his response to all the dignitaries pleading with him. He told them: “We are a group of governors but my case is peculiar among the other governors because the president comes from our zone. I will consult our leaders including the president. The day we will take decision on where to move we will gather our people at the new stadium we are building which has 40,000 capacity. We will mobilize all Rivers people on that day to take that decision.”
On the other hand, it is annoying today, how some people have bought into the ‘Amaechi is corrupt’ matrix. One was not sure how the Rivers residents and citizens of the country took the news from the APC recently, stating that Wike had ballooned N120B in his 100 days in office. Of a truth, many people had taken that news seriously, oblivious of the power of the opposition propaganda machine in any political dispensation.
However, if people did not take that piece of news seriously and regarded it as a media harangue, is it the ‘Amaechi is corrupt’ item that people will take seriously? The media is a two way thing!
Although, Amaechi was loquacious to a fault, but he was one man who loved the so-called indigenes of Rivers State and the entire Niger Delta area to a fault. He was in the fore front in the battle that the headquarters of all the companies making their living in Rivers State or any parts of the Niger Delta, should relocate their corporate offices to the state or the Niger Delta.
Amaechi’s aim was to create employment. One of the employments that Amaechi created was to pull a whopping number of 13, 000 persons who qualified as teachers to be employed to teach in schools in Rivers State, something that Wike came and was set to rubbish.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ roundtable discussion on the Niger Delta, organised by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Port Harcourt on March 22, 2012, one of Amaechi’s worry was: “When you are going to discuss issues on Niger Delta, you must also put on the table the fact that 60 to 80 per cent of the oil companies are located outside where they extract the oil from. I asked AGIP Oil Company that same question two or three weeks ago when I met with them, and I said, you are transferring your workers from Port Harcourt to Abuja; Shell has that same problem. Shell also has a company call SNEPCO. They say they are extracting oil from offshore. Where is the offshore located? Behind Andoni Local Government Area of Rivers State. Total, for instance, has no business having its headquarters outside the Niger Delta. Mobil has no business outside the region when the huge investment Mobil has is in Akwa Ibom State.”
As a man who loved his people while on the saddle, Amaechi reiterated that if Nigeria was going to address sustainability of development, before she talked about good governance, she must talk about food. He was afraid that Nigerians must focus on providing food and providing food was not going from house to house and say take food from the leaders, the country was not socialist’s, it was providing an economic environment that would allow a man to exploit his natural resources and his ability at seeking employment and get same.
To be frank, it was only a man with an open heart that would be canvassing for the emancipation of his people in the scheme of things; a selfish man would only know himself. But in all, how many of the people calling Amaechi a corrupt person today, supported him in that move that the companies should relocate to the oil states for the creating of job opportunities?
By May 1 2012, when Amaechi was planning to employ about 10,000 new teachers as he relayed on May Day rally in Port Harcourt, for boosting the manpower in the educational sector, the ovation all over was that he was a good governor. Now, between who created the job and the person who wanted to send the teachers back to the labour market, who is corrupt in this context?
Amaechi was everywhere in making sure that the youth of the country benefited from their government, of which on October 10 2013, Amaechi charged the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, Batch ‘C’ corps to look for employment. The 3,431 members of the NYSC, who served in the state, cheered Amaechi to the brim. By October 16 2014, at the Best of Nollywood Awards 2014, Amaechi praised the Nigerian movie industry, popularly known as Nollywood, and described it as a job creating industry.
In his words: “Nigeria is a difficult country and Nollywood started as protest literature; as a movement for change. Most people went into acting because of unemployment, and Nollywood is a hero for providing work for a large number of Nigerians and helping us tell our own stories. You owe the Nigerian society the job to continue to be our hero and this time around you have to help force change in the country.”
While some Nigerians thought that Amaechi was fighting ex-President Goodluck Jonathan who allowed himself to be profusely influenced and ruined by a woman; on May 7, 2014, when the Senate Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation paid Amaechi a courtesy visit at Government House, Port Harcourt, shortly after a facility tour of Federal Government-owned parastatals and agencies in the state, Amaechi pinpointed that the insurgency, kidnapping and other social vices in the country were the resultants of poverty and unemployment.
The former governor was of the philosophy that all the problems were tailored to poverty, education and unemployment. He swaggered that farming was the easiest employment. And in making people gain employment, because a lot of people were not schooled, he established farming in the state and it did not disappoint. The ‘corrupt’ Amaechi today saw all of that and his government introduced free education and free healthcare programmes.
Hear him: “And it occurred to us that to address this problem, we need social policing, and while you are doing physical policing, you must also do social and economic policing. To do that, we started creating employment opportunities by building over 140 primary healthcare centres and over 300 model primary schools. If you visit these projects, there is no way you will not see up to at least 50 workers in each of the schools.”
Yes, the money used in building these schools might have been influenced in one way or the other, but the government was resilient to create the Banana Farms that had created jobs for over 2,000 persons. That government revived the Risonpalm; it was dead when Amaechi came, and it had employed over 5,000 workers under Amaechi. There was also the Songhai Farm that had employed over 2,000 workers, while five fish farms in strategic locations had been completed.
The Amaechi government was bent on creating employment opportunities for the Rivers residents. Wike who wanted to deafen our ears with ‘how corrupt Amaechi was’ noticed that Amaechi told Jonathan in the face that the citizens were facing excruciating hardship in his government and challenged Nigerians to take drastic measures against their leaders for failing to fight corruption.
As the president then, Jonathan did not contradict that fingering or say that Amaechi was corrupt, except as Wike wanted the world to know and believe, through his dangerous media propagandists, which was the fate of Jonathan in the opposition and Western media, as president.
Amaechi whom circumstances have always made Nigerians to believe that he was a destiny child, never ran away from political wars. On December 15 2013, Amaechi told the world that the troubles that he faced as governor (when the federal might was on him) had been foretold. He, however, confronted the world that triumph would be his own at the end. And here Nigerians are.
He made that comment, while speaking at the Night of Glory Praise and Worship Session, held at the Alfred-Diette Spiff Civic Centre Complex, Port Harcourt, the state capital. He said: “If you recall my political history, beginning from the time I was Speaker of the House till date, it has not been easy with us. We have always confronted God in prayers. History has it that, we are the only couple that became Governor without election and God has assured us that he will lead us up to 2015. I am neither a prophet nor a pastor, I am just a child of God and very soon, I will go back to God in prayers and surrender myself to God.”
On-the-contrary, this treatise should not be misconstrued that it was intended to support Amaechi or that the writer was/is a fan of Amaechi; Amaechi was/is not even ‘good’ to the writer through out his service as governor. The thesis was intended to highlight some of the achievements by the Amaechi administration that Wike and co. were using the media to churlish.
It is sad that Wike was having amazing developments in communications, collaboration and efficiencies, but on telling the world of how ‘corrupt’ Amaechi was, a man he once served as his Chief of Staff or was it Chief of Employees. It behooves Wike to leave the state with his new kinds of entertainment and media propaganda against Amaechi.
Governor Wike should know that being a governor is not about the exploitation of the status over Amaechi, but service to the people. Hence, stalking and bullying Amaechi by putting a full stop on the probe on the Amaechi government from when Wike ceased to be in Amaechi’s employ may be seen as a kangaroo probe.
Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet/Writer; he writes from Rivers State. (firstname.lastname@example.org). Tel: +2348057778358.