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Goodwill homily for Amaechi as minister

Two of the most significant influences on this author’s journalistic career are Prince Henry Odukomaiya and Peter ‘Pan’ Enahoro. The first advocated respect for craftwork…

Two of the most significant influences on this author’s journalistic career are Prince Henry Odukomaiya and Peter ‘Pan’ Enahoro. The first advocated respect for craftwork in the trade, and the second harped on the spirit that should drive good journalism. Interestingly both masters had also served under the legendary icon of Nigerian journalism – Alhaji Babatunde Jose of blessed memory. How much credit goes to their individual efforts at mentoring this author, is left for the readers of his writings to judge.
It was Enahoro who led this author to appreciate that in any field of public service – be such in journalism, politics or even philanthropy, the public should never be taken for granted. According to him, in any service one renders to the public, the need exists to ensure that beneficiaries actually find the delivery in good taste and on their own terms, no matter how much prerogative a benefactor may wish to assert. Many readers of Peter Enahoro’s columns and other writings easily attest to that master’sdexterity in infusing elements which inform, educate and entertain in such works.
Last Wednesday witnessed what easily qualifies as the conclusion of the formation of a cabinet of ministers for President Muhammadu Buhari with the swearing in of 36 ministers and the assignment of individual briefs to them. Of particular interest was the case of Mr Rotimi Amaechi the former governor of Rivers State who was assigned the Federal Ministry of Transportation. His case enjoys huge public interest due to factors and circumstances that are already in the public domain.
One of theseis his screening at the National Assembly which met with stiff opposition,championed by the Senators from the Rivers State and who enjoyed uncommon support from the entire Senate caucus of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The latter eventually drove home their point when they staged a walk- out en-masse from the Senate Chambers, leaving behind only the Senators of the majority All Progressives Congress (APC) to clear Amaechi.
The ‘Stop Amaechi’ campaign in the Senate was triggered by a petition from a group in Port Harcourt who in turn pitched their grouse on the White Paper by the PDP Government in the Rivers State,which characteristically‘indicted’ the former governor. It was launched in the ambience of a groundswell of a hate campaign against Amaechi in the state, which has assumed fever pitch, given the impetus it enjoys from the state governor Mr. Nyesom Wike. While this column may lack the capacity to question the merits or otherwise of the White Paper, several factors have placed a moral burden on the anti-Amaechi lobby to prove that they are acting in good faith, either in the state or elsewhere.
However, it is also fair to observe that much of the blows which Amaechi is receiving today are actually the play-out of a payback dispensation, being in response to the pains which the sponsors claim to have suffered during his eight year tenure as governor.Many of the aggrieved claim to have suffered when Amaechi as governor allowed himself either by accident or design, to unlawfully exercise control over all three arms of government namely the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Difficult as it maybe to believe, that was what the Rivers State went through for at least the last two years of Amaechi’s tenure. In fact it is a fad in some circles in the Rivers State to refer to Amaechi as the governor with ‘trinity powers’.
Yet to be fair to him, Amaechi started off his tenure on a promising note, with the launch of programmes and projects which demonstrated his incisive grasp of the challenges of the Rivers State as well as the vision of where to take the state to. Nigerians cannot easily forget how the man restored sanity in daily life in the state, starting with the taming of hoodlums and miscreants who before his arrival at the Brick House Port Harcourt, had rendered the state a den of fear. The situation was so desperate that several major companies, especially in the vital oil and gas sector, relocated their strategic units from Port Harcourt to relatively safer parts of the country. That they returned with his clean-up campaign, remains to his credit.
On assuming duty as governor, he became so engrossed with the challenge of reinventing Port Harcourt in particular and the Rivers State in general that he often, personally led demolition squads to clear obstacles from hot spots where stiff resistance was expected. Admissibly his efforts paid off with dramatic changes recorded in the fields of education, infrastructure and some other areas. Against the lack-lustre tenure of his immediate predecessor Dr Peter Odili, Amaechi’s achievements made him shine like a star on a dark moonless night.
Hence many political observers are disappointed that with such bright opening, Amaechi’s tenure would later plummet in rating to the level, whereby he faces such stiff opposition from several key power brokers in the state with whom he had enjoyed robust rapport in the past.This is one of the tales that will keep the Nigerian political circuit stirred for some time to come.
It is in the light of such antecedents that Amaechi is joining the Buhari cabinet, evenas some would say, with a considerable pile of unsettling baggage. Yet that does not mean that such antecedents must predispose his tenure as a minister to a tragedy. Indeed the situation provides him the opportunity of proving to his nemesis that the Amaechi they know as governor is different from the one that is now a minister.
Such a venture should be an objective he has to engage in with urgency, and contrive a makeoverwhich will not only make even his most aggrieved foes see him in a better light, but also endear him to his new boss as an indispensable partner in progress. He will therefore need to review his entire political machinery with an add-and-drop mentality. For his own good, some old worn-out assets (cronies) who helped create the old Amaechi must leave. New ones of higher net-worth should be courted to come on board his crew. This he must do to survive the new terrain as a subordinate now, under a no-nonsense Buhari as President.
 The imperative for Amaechi to engage in this enterprise and urgently so, is self-manifest. Firstly President Buhari, driven by high expectations from Nigerians, is building an administration which is committed to the actualization of objectives with military zeal, and has no failure talesin its sights. Hence it cannot afford any tinge of animosity between Amaechi and the PDP Senators as well as Members of the House of Representatives, who will work on the national budget as well as other matters of state. Needless to state that these are waiting for their pound of flesh, given the ‘humiliation’ their party suffered in the Senate over Amaechi’s clearance.  This is just as the President will need Amaechi as minister representing the Rivers State, to serve as a bridge between the centre and that State, no matter the odds.
Hence beyond the task of driving reforms in the nation’s transportation sector, Amaechi’s brief includes that of a peace ambassador between the APC centre and his now estranged bedfellows in the Rivers PDP government and elsewhere.
If there was ever a tough brief for him, this is it.

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