By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze
May 27th in Nigeria is not only unique, epochal, historical, memorable but special as it is the date that three great events are celebrated in Nigeria – first it marks the creation of Rivers State famous for its vast reserves of crude oil and natural gas. It was perhaps the richest and most important section of the African zone of the British Empire with two major oil refineries, two major seaports, airports, and various industrial estates spread across the land. More than 60% of the country’s output of crude oil is produced in the State. Other natural resources found within its boundaries are silica sand, glass sand and clay. The importance of this State created in May, 27th 1967 need not be overemphasised.
Secondly, May 27th is also a day set aside every year as Nigeria’s Children’s Day by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Inspired by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). 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.
Thirdly, on this special day (May 27th) also God in his infinite mercy and wisdom resolved to bless Nigeria with a unique son (Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi) whom he endowed with an uncommon wisdom, special political wisdom, sagacity and prowess that defies ordinary human understanding to attend to the political obstacles and needs of Nigeria at a time like this. With the birth of this uncommon agent of change, one can easily understand why he is so much attached to the future of most children of this nation, through offer of qualitative and free education from primary to the highest level of education and the affairs of his beloved State, Rivers during his tenure as the Governor of the State. This mystery man’s tie with the destiny of Rivers State is mysterious and different from that of any other political leader from that State. He is the only political leader so far who has played a key role in shaping and reshaping the political future of the State that shares the same birthday with him. Whilst he was born on May 27, 1965, Rivers State was created two years after – on May 27, 1967 – by the administration of General Yakubu Gowon. This, somehow, underscores why his commitment towards the emancipation and development of the state is total and unique and why Wike and his cohorts are fighting lost battle to demystify and decimate him.
So this day in Nigeria and Rivers State is marked with a lot of fanfare and as friends and associates gather to celebrate this enigma of a man let his feats speak for him. This treatise therefore is my special contribution to mark the birthday of this great son from Rivers State and the new face of democracy in our beloved nation.
BUT WHO IS AMAECHI?
Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi a Nigerian of Ikwerre extraction, an international figure of repute, a humanist, administrator par excellence, visionary, egalitarian, radical, respected, a pragmatist and exemplary leader by the grace of God clocked 53 years on Sunday, May 27, 2018. An alumnus of the University of Port Harcourt in Rivers State and was the Rivers State Speaker of the State House of Assembly from 1999-2007; Chairman, conference of speakers of State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria (1999 – 2000), Governor of Rivers State (2007 – 2015), two time Chairman of the Governors’ Forum in Nigeria from 2011 to 2015. A recipient of the prestigious national award of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) and an Associate Fellow of the United Nations Institute for Training & Research (UNITAR), Geneva, Switzerland. He is currently the Minister of Transportation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Governor Amaechi’s Humble Beginnings
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 53rd 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.
Rising from obscurity and state imposed persecutions to Limelight – the story of Amaechi
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, 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 Rivers State, rich and poor during his period as Governor of Rivers State, Amaechi said in an interview: “I grew up in Port Harcourt as a young boy, had my primary, secondary and tertiary education in Port Harcourt and so I can speak firsthand about this city. I was not from a rich home. I used to pick food from Olu Obasanjo road – Man must wack as we called it then. I hawked at different times for my parents in this city. After God, I owe my growth to Port Harcourt. 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 road. 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 and greater Nigeria. This enigma of a man whose antics and antecedents in politics of Nigeria defies proper definition as he is to most watchers of political evolution of Nigeria, the ‘new face’ of Nigerian politics, while to others he is one of the main pillars in which the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari the no-nonsense and czar of anti-corruption war in Nigeria relies upon.
Profiling Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, CON, Hon Minister of Transportation
Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who was on Nov. 11, 2015 sworn-in as Nigeria’s Honourable Minister of Transportation, was born in Ubima, Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, to the family of late Elder Fidelis Amaechi and Mrs. Mary Amaechi. University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT), Rivers State, was where Amaechi laid the foundation of his political life, participating actively in student union politics, especially in the National Union of Rivers State Students (NURSS), of which he was president, and the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). After graduation, he cut his teeth in politics as secretary of the now defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, from 1992 to 1994 he was Special Assistant to Dr Peter Odili, then deputy governor of Rivers State; member of the Board of West Africa Glass Industry as well as Risonpalm Nigeria Limited. He was secretary of the Caretaker Committee of the Rivers State Chapter of the disbanded Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) in 1996 during the transition programme of the Gen Sani Abacha junta.
In 1999, Amaechi contested and won a seat to become a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly to represent his constituency. He was subsequently elected Speaker of the House of Assembly as well as Chairman of Nigeria’s Conference of Speakers of State Assemblies. He was re-elected into the State House of Assembly in May 2003 and equally re-elected Speaker. A master’s degree holder, Amaechi’s assumption of office as governor of Rivers State, based on a Supreme Court judgement after the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) dumped him, despite his convincingly winning the party’s gubernatorial ticket, remains a mystery to many political watchers in the country. He was a two time Governor of Rivers State and two time Chairman of Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). His unprecedented feats in the transformation of Rivers State have won him many international and local awards as well as the respect of great world and Nigerian leaders.
Amaechi was the rallying force behind mobilising the governors under PDP to support the presidential aspiration of Dr Goodluck Jonathan during the PDP Presidential Primaries that produced Jonathan as the PDP flag-bearer and during the 2011 presidential election proper ensured that President Jonathan got over 2 million votes from Rivers State – the highest by any state in Nigeria then. A misunderstood but an amiable personality; his forthrightness and boldness to stand by the truth attracts so much enemies to him, particularly those who cannot withstand his manner of approach to result-oriented feats. His numerous ‘sins’ will be highlighted later.
Amaechi, holder of the National honour of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), is a Christian of the Catholic faith where he is a Knight of St John. Amaechi was appointed Director-General of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign. The team led the party to victory in the March 28, 2015 presidential election in which a sitting president was roundly defeated for the first time. He is the incumbent Minister of Transportation.
THE AIM OF THIS TREATISE
The attempt of this treatise therefore is to chronicle for you the reader how this resolute democrat emerged from humble circumstances to become one of the shapers of modern Nigerian politics, within his first 53 years of sojourn on earth. In this regard, as a close friend who has watched him from close quarters over a long period of time, I will attempt in this treatise expose what makes him tick politically, his legacies and how he piloted the unseating of a sitting president and a political party that prided itself as the largest in Africa. The obstacles, frustrations he encountered on his way up. The betrayals in the hands of most of his most trusted associates; some of his remarkable feats and what his plans for the emancipation of both Rivers State and Nigeria are. I will divide the study into three parts for better understanding by the reader.
For avoidance of doubt, this year’s birthday colloquium that was organised by the Enlightened Rivers youths in appreciation of the impact that Amaechi made in their lives was held at the prestigious Hago Heights Event Center, Odili Road, Port Harcourt. The auspicious event witnessed the public presentation of the book titled, “The Victor -.A Hero’s Travails & Triumphs” by the brilliant Priestly Nna. The book exposes the political experiences of Amaechi and painstakingly narrates the subtle conspiracies, gang-ups and outright onslaughts against him and the frustration he suffered as a result of these machination but most importantly discusses about the sweet tastes of his victories.
Amaechi in the minds of some of his political associates
- Throwing more light on who Amaechi is, Chief (Dr) Patrick Dele Cole one of the most respected elders from Rivers State described Amaechi thus, “Be that as it may, I will not forget to appreciate the leadership of Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, while he was the governor of this State. He is the only governor that led with the interest of Rivers people. He was the only governor that made significant employment, the highest in history, one that can only be compared to the Diete Spiff and Okilo era. So, when you say we owe him gratitude, I reaffirm that we indeed owe him gratitude for being a character that is people oriented. Paving way for the employment of 13,000 persons, can only come with that price of servant leadership. However, I will also not restrain from reminding him that, 2019 is an acid test for him. He must by all means necessary of expected end, bring to pass, a replicate or bested legacy to the State: No good leader excels absent of leaving a better leadership behind him.”
- If there is any Nigerian or anybody who knows Amaechi and his principles in and out then such a person can’t be less than Dr Dakuku Adol Peterside the DG of NIMASA and according to him, “Today is the birthday of the best mentor and leader I know of ; Rt Hon C R Amaechi . 27 years have passed since our paths crossed and you accepted me as a member of your family. Since I got to know you, you have remained a fantastic model of courage, Compassion loyalty, resourcefulness, foresight and integrity. Sir on your birthday Elima & I wish you Peace, Love, good health, long life and success in all endeavours of life”
- Another fellow who knows Amaechi in and out is Prince Tonye Princewill, the scion of the Kalabari dynasty and according to him, “We’ve come a long way together. First as distant adversaries then as friends and now as partners in a collective struggle to move our country forward in spite of forces destined to do otherwise. From a day in 2007 when I first dropped everything to see you succeed to today, I never once doubted that you are a fighter. For good. Your grace covers many. Today is not only your birthday but children’s day. Our future. May you continue to find friends who understand it isn’t about one, it’s about us all. I stand with you and rededicate my energy to see your wider family as mine. Wherever you stand, I stand. Be assured of this. Even if my mind is made bare. With you I can’t go wrong. Happy birthday my Leader. Lead us into victory.”
- Another trusted associate of Amaechi is DR SOKONTE DAVIES and to him, “It is a fact undeniable that your unprecedented developmental strides which have benefited countless people stem from your political prowess and innate passion for humanity. Your resoluteness and sagacity against all odds, your towering bravery and political heroism, only attest to God’s Abundant grace upon your life”.
- Chief Dumo Lulu –Briggs a man whose humility is infectious from the great family of the famous Lulu-Briggs known for their astounding philanthropic gestures and to him Amaechi, “There are still people in politics who are inspired by honest convictions and not by private gains or the consolidation of personal Political power. There are politicians who still stand their grounds against the undercurrents associated with the political realities of the time. Those who maintained a moral position and stood against the political status quo. One of such persons is Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. Amaechi is a man whose political life is synonymous with challenges, trials and betrayals. Whose story is plaqued with instances of hard times and blistering experience. He took all the risks, not for self-advancement but the good of society – Rivers State and Nigeria.”
- To Ambassador Oji Ngofa, the Nigerian Ambassador to the Netherlands, a warrior and to him Amaechi, “Your Excellency, I met you in the course my political struggles and you changed my political trajectory for good. You have remained my greatest source of inspiration. Your polecat Leadership, anchored on superlative vision, Courage, sagacity, Honesty, integrity and an unimpeachable commitment to the improvement of our society through the instrumentality of politics has and will always stand you out. On a day like this, I will like to be counted as one of your ardent followers to register my appreciation and wish you a bountiful happy birthday”.
- Senator Andrew Uchendu of Rivers East Senatorial District is more like a father figure in the current political dispensation in Rivers State and his words means a lot to all those who has ears. Listen to his stand on the Lion of Niger Delta Politics, “Now and in the future, we must do everything possible to protect the person called Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, because in him, we have our own Azikiwe; in him, we have our own Awolowo; in him, we have our own Sardauna of Sokoto; and in him, we have our own Aminu Kano.”
- Probably borrowing from this sage of our time, Dr Ibiamu Davies Ikanya erstwhile Chairman of Rivers State APC sees Amaechi thus, “Amaechi is a true democrat who is ahead of his time, a true Lion and hero whose political sagacity and wisdom saw us through this period of turbulent, unpredictable and unprecedented political challenges. His inputs during this period of our political history have exposed him as a leader in the mould of Zik ,Awo, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahamdu Bello and of course Aminu Kano. If he continues in this zeal and sagacity, I am convinced that his services will restore hope to our nation”.
- et me conclude this part one of this treatise with how Hon. Ojukaye Flag Amachree the new Rivers State APC Chairman sees the general in the broom revolution, a legendary sage, the game changer and of course the Ochi aliri (Defender) of the Ikwerre Land, “We are indeed very glad to have you as our own as your legacies on earth will ever remain unchallenged. You have built bridges across without ethnic sentiment as you gave all ethnic groups in Rivers State a sense of belonging. You have been a source of livelihood to many and you have made men and women of substance on earth. You were made the Ochi Aliri 1 of Ikwerre because you are a man ahead of your time. May you continue to roar and soar in Grace and good health as you live to assist mankind. We pray God to continue to guide and guard your footsteps unto eternity.”
Eze is a Media Consultant based in Rivers State and is reached at [email protected]