As Amaechi I know celebrates 57 - By: . | Dailytrust

As Amaechi I know celebrates 57

Rotimi Amaechi
Rotimi Amaechi

By Eme N. Ekekwe PhD.

 

“For what is a man

What has he got if not himself

To say all the things he truly feels

And not the words of one who kneels…”

Paul Anka, in the song, My Way, which was sang and popularised by Frank Sinatra

 

Those words paint the picture of a man who speaks his beliefs with conviction and no apologies; of a man who is passionate, bold and courageous in giving form to his beliefs and ideas.  Demand of me to name a contemporary Nigerian politician who has these characteristics and more, and I will readily name Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. Those are some of the enduring traits which I have, for as long as I have known him, associated with the former Speaker of then Rivers State House of Assembly, former Rivers State governor, former Hon. Minister for Transportation and now an aspirant for the office of the President of the Federal Republic.   

I have known Chibuike Amaechi since his days as an undergraduate student at the University of Port Harcourt.  Then, he was a leading light in student unionism.  I knew him to hold strong progressive opinions but he was always clear-headed and realistic.  I recall one of the critical moments then when the real Amaechi stood up for what was fair and just.  In the course of the students’ union election of that year, it became apparent that the ethnic bogey would topple everything: it was the only weapon the opposition could effectively deploy against the frontline candidate.  Those who thought an Igbo – never mind he was from the state – should not be leader of the union were hoping that Amaechi would throw his considerable influence behind them.  But he quickly saw the injustice in what was to be and gave his unequivocal, clear and direct support to the embattled frontline candidate who went on to win.  That early in his career, as demonstrated in this instance, Amaechi’s conviction in the justice of the situation trumped over pressure to do the wrong and yield to the convenience of sentiment. 

The Amaechi I know is a man who has held fast to certain principles: loyalty and respectfulness, justice and fairness, humility, compassion, courage and forthrightness. Where he changes his position on issues, it is because he encountered superior facts.  To be sure, he hardly does so out of convenience but on reasoned conviction.  The man is uncompromising with his opposition to oppression and injustice, insincerity and treachery.  

The Amaechi I knew then is essentially the same Amaechi I see today.  Considering the severe security challenges in Rivers State when he took office as governor, and the steady hand with which he routed the cult groups and criminal elements, one feels confident that he understands that if Nigeria is to survive, the state must effectively reclaim the ungoverned spaces taken over by groups of foreign and local bandits and terrorists.

The Amaechi I know is very passionate about social welfare, the nexus between his compassion and his vision.  He understands that without creating employment, widening and deepening the positive advantages of education as well as skills acquisition, and bringing the benefits of healthcare to the grassroots, security would not be assured.  Insecurity would still be feeding on illiteracy and ignorance, joblessness and hopelessness.  Merely throwing arms and money at insecurity does not solve the problem so long as the fundamental causes are unattended to.  

As governor, Amaechi ensured that at the same time as his administration was denying safe haven to cultists and criminals, it was also building the economy, reinforcing the education foundation and recruiting into the public sector, especially education, to deny insecurity the pool of hungry, angry and despondent youth from which it found recruits.  The bold and novel steps to boost education and agriculture created hundreds of new jobs.  The detailed redesigning and reconstruction of primary and model secondary schools as well as primary health care facilities in local governments and communities turned the state into a massive construction sight. 

One of the abiding characteristics of the Nigerian ruling class is its anti-intellectualism and intolerance of ideas and debate – unless the ideas came ready-made from donors or the World Bank.  Amaechi is happily free of this trait.  When he made education top priority under his administration, he was not playing to the gallery. He is a self-confessed lover of books and ideas. He still finds time to read!  Amaechi’s administration supported the annual Book festival in Port Harcourt.  He not only dutifully attended them but he also participated actively in the discussions that were not always pro-government.  Under his administration, Port Harcourt was named one of the Book capitals of the world.

As Rivers State governor, Amaechi showed that he had a holistic vision and a plan for its implementation, based on what was provided in the State’s Master Plan. Each of his major projects derived from his vision of a safe, economically strong state with an educated and skilled workforce able to leverage the advantages of the expanding infrastructure. Care was taken to ensure equitable spread of all development aids across the local government areas.  One could see a leader planning today for a greater tomorrow.

Amaechi is not without his critics and some of them are justified.  However, some of the critics mistake for arrogance his outspokenness and low tolerance for incompetence; they see him as disrespectful and intolerant.  I must say that this is far from the Amaechi I know.   But then that is the lot of a man who has few guiles and who prefers to call a spade by its proper name.  He can be brash, yes; but disrespectful, certainly not.  The fact is that when he sets his mind on a goal, he gives it his best – sometimes at the risk of stepping on toes. He strictly distinguishes between the personal and official relations. 

Amaechi has a high sense of loyalty.  Some people achieve high office and abandon old friends as they embrace new ones.  Not the Amaechi I know.  He stands by old friends.  It is in relating to them and to those who remind him where he is coming from – the poor and weak – that his compassion comes to full play. 

As I felicitate with him on this birthday anniversary, I hope he continues to be steadfast in standing for justice and equity, for hard work with fair returns. 

Happy birthday greetings, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi! As the Igbo say when they see what is commendable in anyone, Jide nk’i ji!!

 

Ekekwe is a Professor of Political Science

 

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