By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze
“A misunderstood but an amiable personality; his forthrightness and boldness to stand by the truth attracts so much enmity to him, particularly those who cannot withstand his manner of approach to result-oriented feats.” – EZE
It has become customary, since 2008, that I must pen one or two treatise(s) to celebrate the birthday of Rt. Hon. Dr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, erstwhile Governor of Rivers State and incumbent Minster of Transportation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. To the glory of God, I have been doing my best to keep alive this idea and custom since then till date.
With his 55th birthday at hand, series of topics came rushing to my mind, of which the most important was to expose to the world the inputs and impact made by this man to actualise the Presidency of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Another key topic that came up was to examine the great feats of this man during his golden reign as the Governor of Rivers State. As I was trying to settle down on any of these topics, another topic presented itself and that was; how Amaechi turned around the fortunes of the rail system in Nigeria. As if this was not enough, some of the elders from different sections of the country sent in text messages that I should do something for this year’s birthday celebration on Amaechi and the 2023 Presidency.
Though several materials on each of these topics aforementioned have been assembled but after many thoughts, I decided to honour this man that has made his mark as an astute, visionary and respected political leader of our nation during his 55th birthday with this piece which I titled, “Amaechi @ 55: the man, his feats, travails & vision for an industrialised and modernised Nigeria”.
Though this man is an enigma so writing on him on any issue most of the time is always challenging but have been with him all these years it gives me a lot of joy to unearth to the world some aspects of his political life hitherto unknown. So, as you travel with me on this particular journey, it would be left to you at the end to pass your judgement if justice was truly done to this topic or not.
PROFILING THE MAN, AMAECHI
Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi a humanist, administrator par excellence, visionary, egalitarian, radical, a respected, pragmatist and exemplary leader, was born on May 27, 1965, in Ubima, Ikwere local government area of Rivers State. He is an alumnus of the University of Port Harcourt in Rivers State. He was twice the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly (1999-2007); Chairman, conference of speakers of State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria (1999 – 2000), Governor of Rivers State (2007 – 2015), and two-time Chairman of the Governors’ Forum in Nigeria from 2011 to 2015. A winner of several awards including the Commander of the Order of the Niger, CON, he is currently the Minister of Transportation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria an office he can proudly state of occupying on two occasions.
Amaechi was the rallying force behind mobilising the governors under the then Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to support the presidential aspiration of Dr Goodluck Jonathan during the PDP Presidential Primaries that produced Jonathan as the flag-bearer and during the 2011 presidential election proper, he 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 enmity to him, particularly those who cannot withstand his manner of approach to result-oriented feats.
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. He was appointed the Director-General of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign in 2015 and successfully led the then opposition Party to victory in the March 28, 2015 presidential election in which a sitting president was roundly defeated for the first time in Nigeria.
In his capacity as the Minister for Transportation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he has redefined the transportation system in Nigeria with gigantic and unique feats uncommon in the rail system in the country. His plot to link up most key State capitals in Nigeria through rail system is a feat that has changed the thinking of many Nigerians towards the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari of which he played a pivotal role to influence his victory both in 2015 and the 2019 general elections.
He successfully led the Presidential Campaign Organization of President Buhari to victory again in 2019’ a feat unobtainable in any party of Africa for an individual to lead a Presidential Campaign Organization to two victories back to back.
Amaechi’s Humble Beginning:
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 55th 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 names are playing out in the acts and arts of politics in Amaechi’s life.
Despite his great show of love to former President Jonathan, Amaechi was subjected to monumental humiliation by the Jonathan’s Administration. A few examples suffices: The plane of the Rivers State Government under the watch of Amaechi was grounded for no just cause, the PDP Structure in Rivers State was taken away from him, and his election as the Chairman of NGF duly certified and acknowledged worldwide was annulled by ex- President Jonathan and his cohorts. As if that was not enough, Amaechi was suspended from a party he so much loved and spent so much to build. Indeed, if not for divine providence, he would have been illegally impeached by five legislators in a House of 32 members; a Police Commissioner by name Mr. Joseph Mbu was posted to supervise his dethronement; Mbu was to haunt, insult and abuse him publicly, calling him a despot. What is more, some ex-Governors that came to visit him were stoned by Wike’s boys! In the eyes of Nigerians, Amaechi stands as a great man while in the eyes of those haunting him at home, he is a persona non grata.
Amaechi was ambushed and refused entry into Ekiti by military personnel acting on orders from above and was made to turn back and return to Akure where his chartered aircraft was parked but was chased and rounded by armed soldiers and security personnel in Odudu, Ondo State. According to the captain who led the operation, he had orders not to allow Amaechi entry or exit.” There was also an attempt later made to detain him at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, when he went to felicitate with the then new Emir of Kano, HRH Alh Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
Wike’s single agenda as Rivers State Governor
Chief Nyesom Wike’s single agenda after using presidential power to snatch power in Rivers State but unable to destroy Amaechi, was how to drag Amaechi’s name in the mud in order to frustrate his nomination or appointment as a minister both in 2015 and 2019. In this regard, he sponsored a satanic documentary on Amaechi aired on Africa Independent Television (AIT). This satanic documentary was part of Wike’s propaganda war against Amaechi, for which he earmarked billions of naira in his wicked plot to destroy and decimate the person and character of Amaechi.
Other propaganda tools planned and deployed during this period, in the war against Amaechi, include sponsored publications such as advertorials, columns, editorials and Op-Ed articles in major international, national and local print media; sponsored personality discussion programmes in the electronic media and sponsored special documentaries on television and radio through independent groups and organisations.
This insidious plot by Wike includes commissioning a team made up of persons within and outside Rivers State to ‘initiate, formulate and contrive false damaging reports bordering on alleged corrupt practices by Amaechi, which were circulated to individuals and institutions within Nigeria and abroad with a view to damaging the incorruptible character and rising profile of Hon Rotimi Amaechi, in order to blackmail and put pressure on President Buhari not to appoint or reappoint the former governor into his government. These cooked reports to the shock of many Nigerians were sent to the Senate and presented through one misguided Senator Thompson Sekibo, which the Senate referred to the Ethics Committee of the Senate, thus causing the delay in Amaechi’s screening and confirmation as a minister. Amaechi has through both the immediate past Secretary to the Rivers State Government, George Feyi, and the Commissioner for Finance, Dr Chamberlain Peterside, and others denied any form of corruption against him by Wike and his cohorts.
Wike did not stop at these but went further to set up Justice George Omereji Panel, to investigate the administration of Rt Hon Chibuike Amaechi as a ruse to indict him in a pre-determined enquiry. Though the panel did not find any wrong-dealing or corrupt practices by Amaechi, Wike went ahead to issue a white paper indicting him of embezzling the sum of N53 billion. Many thus wondered how on earth someone in his right senses could describe funds withdrawn with the approval of the legislature and spent as prescribed by the state budget to be missing. Wike, in his desperation to stop Amaechi’s appointment as a minister, resorted to dancing naked in the market place.
But as God would have it, and contrary to the expectations of Chief Wike and his gang of miserable ingrates, their ferocious campaign to blackmail, disparage and portray Amaechi as a very corrupt person unfit to be appointed as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, failed to achieve the desired objective. Thus, on September 30, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari went ahead to list and submit the name of Chibuike Amaechi along with those of 20 other great Nigerians as ministerial nominees to the Senate for confirmation.
And to the shock and chagrin of Wike and his cohorts, the Senate, after three sittings on the ministerial screening of the ministerial nominees, screened Amaechi on October 22, 2015 and formally confirmed him on October 29, 2015. He was subsequently sworn-in with the 35 other ministers on Wednesday, November 11, 2015, by President Buhari, who as a further mark of confidence in the Lion of Niger Delta assigned to him the strategically important and dearest ministry to him, the Ministry of Transportation.
Even after five years in the saddle as the Governor of Rivers State, Wike is not relenting in his hurt against Amaechi. He has successfully using some misguided elements in APC both within and outside the State to scuttle every plans for APC to have a structure in the State of which climax was denying the party to field any candidate during the 2019 general elections. No day passes in his maladministration of Rivers State that he fails to mention the name of Amaechi in the negative.
Nigerians can now attest that Amaechi stands today as the most vilified, investigated and persecuted politician in Nigeria for his bravery, patriotism and commitment to work for a better future for our country.
Why Amaechi joined APC
The desperation of the PDP leadership to completely destroy Amaechi led to his departure, alongside seven other PDP governors, to form the New PDP, with five of them later joining the mega opposition political party, the All Progressives Congress. Explaining why he joined APC, Amaechi said: “Unfortunately, recent events within the PDP have given me reason to reconsider our collective interest as people of the South-South and, indeed a Rivers people. At various times, as the one whom you gave your mandate, I had cause to complain about the marginalization of our state and our people, despite our huge contribution to the national coffers and our unflinching commitment and support for the ruling PDP. While the political and economic importance of Rivers State cannot be contested, we continue to hold the shorter end of the stick.
“A few instances may suffice: Our demand that the Federal Government return oil wells belonging to Rivers State to us has gone unheeded and has been treated with levity under this administration. Rather, our oil wells have been ceded to Bayelsa, Abia and Akwa Ibom states. Even after we got a judgment that the oil wells were wrongly ceded to Akwa Ibom State and should be returned to us; only dry wells that were no longer producing oil were returned.
“In the specific case of the Soku oil wells, despite a decision reached that the monies should remain in an escrow account till all matters concerning it are resolved, the Federal government continues to pay neighbouring Bayelsa State the revenues meant for Rivers State in a classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. It is indeed noteworthy that we have made several representations formally and informally on this matter.
“A second instance is the total absence of federal presence in Rivers State. The ‘National Good Governance Tour’ provided a good opportunity for the Federal Government to showcase its presence in Rivers State. The tour, if nothing else, proved that there was not much to show in a state that is the cash cow of the federation. The East-West Road remains abandoned, work has been deliberately slow on the Port Harcourt International Airport, the third busiest airport in the country, while all airports started along with it have long been completed and commissioned. The Bonny-Bomu Road that leads to the only functional liquefied natural gas project remains uncompleted. In the midst of all these, our administration went ahead to fix federal roads to the tune of N103 billion. Several representations and letters after, not one kobo has been repaid. The Federal Government is actively discouraging investments in Rivers State.”
Unseating a sitting President, a feat that positions Amaechi as a unique leader in Nigeria
When on 9th September, 2013 my appointment as the National Publicity Secretary of the New PDP was announced to Nigerians the only brief I received was the 30 minutes encounter I had with former Governor Amaechi. During that encounter he kept repeating that whenever General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) acceptes to fly the flag of the emergent mega opposition political party in the country, the unseating of President Goodluck Jonathan and PDP would become a reality. I was deeply impressed by his strong belief in General Buhari. It was based on this that I went boldly into the field and with the cooperation of the G7 Governors and other leaders of the New PDP; we were able to dismantle what was the famous and largest political party in Africa then.
At the time five out of the seven Governors joined APC formally and during the APC Convention, erstwhile Governor Amaechi and with the help of others, General Buhari was duly elected as the flag bearer of APC. In appreciation of his key role in making Buhari the Presidential Candidate, he was duly appointed to head the Campaign of Buhari and his feat in ensuring that Buhari was duly elected as the President of Nigeria will forever resonate in the country’s history.
Amaechi and the wrath of his people
Apart from the fact that Amaechi may have incurred the wrath of his people and some vested powerful interests in Niger Delta, by spearheading the defeat of their brother (Dr Goodluck Jonathan) who performed so woefully as president of Nigeria, Amaechi supported and promoted a northerner and a Muslim against his Christian brother. To them, he must be destroyed by any means possible. But these people failed to understand that undermining Amaechi will ensure that the South-South does not have a strong voice in the administration of President Buhari.
Chief Nyesom Wike, sadly, allowed himself to be used as a tool by former President Jonathan, his wife, Dame Patience Jonathan, and their collaborators in their blind ambition to destroy Amaechi, whom they saw as a threat to their continued plundering of the common patrimony of our nation.
The third factor was the gathering or unification of those that saw Amaechi as a threat to the realisation of their political ambitions in Rivers State.. The last, but not the least, was the ambition of Chief Nyesom Wike to govern Rivers State, which many never knew until it was too late to stop him. It was his ambition and readiness to provide himself as a tool for the realisation of the goal – which was to destroy Amaechi by any means – that united all these other groups. They embarked upon this project with zeal without knowing the end but, knowing what future portends for Wike, Amaechi and Jonathan, I did my best to dissuade them from this unwarranted struggle; but Wike and Jonathan refused to see reason. The result was the failure of Jonathan to survive the 2015 general elections.
How Amaechi became the rallying point for the decimation of PDP
John Maxwell and General Montgomery must have had Amaechi in mind when they stated respectively that, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way” and “My own definition of leadership is this: The capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence”. These quotes by these great men simply attest to the ability of Amaechi to conceive the way and mobilise Nigerians to send packing a party that prided itself as the largest and biggest political movement in Africa. How he achieved this uncommon feat is stated below.
AMAECHI AND HIS LEGACIES IN RIVERS STATE
Though, I have done a lot of articles on Amaechi and his feats in Rivers State but let me bring a great mind and juggernaut in the history of Rivers State, AKANIMO, ETUKUDO SAMPSON to give us his own insight in this sector.
According to him, “Since the creation of the state in 1967 by the Yakubu Gowon military administration, no administration in Rivers has built the kind of high profile primary and secondary schools as well as health facilities the Amaechi administration undertook in Rivers. The schools made nonsense of the commercially-driven private schools in the state.
But not for the myopic and selfish politics in the state, if the momentum of the Amaechi administration was sustained, the raging COVID-19 pandemic would have been history in the state. Perhaps, the lesson of the post-Amaechi Rivers is that politics should not be allowed to hamper tangible development initiatives. The way to tomorrow is digital technology. The Amaechi administration was visionary on the component of his education programme. When most government offices and government functionaries in the Niger Delta were yet to get access to computers, information and technology communications dotted the Amaechi primary schools like toys. His ultra-model secondary schools were better equipped and well thought out than most public universities in Nigeria that are flooding the labour market with unemployable graduates.
Despite the perceived excesses of Amaechi when he dominated the affairs of the state as governor, there is no gainsaying the fact that he provided, and is still providing a leadership system that is tackling the hydra-headed problems associated with railway in a frantic bid to address the logistic challenges of Nigeria.
AMAECHI AND HIS FEATS AS THE MINSTER OF TRANSPORTATION
Let bring once again Sampson Akanimo known for his great mind on issues pertaining to Amaechi to come to my aid once again, “The minister is pressing on to achieve set targets even as the citizenry is already seeing considerable output with the hope that in the nearest future they will begin to enjoy the effort. The government is also in the process of dealing with all the assets that are tied to railway, that is, inland dry ports among others. Priorities are also set in the modernisation aspects of new rail lines based on needs and reliability.
His laudable projects as a minister include, Transportation University, Ibadan-Kano standard gauge rail way, purchase of 10 train coaches, construction and commercial operations on Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line, Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge railway, construction of Baro River Port, 15m capacity international terminal at Abuja airport, ongoing construction of East-West Road from Warri-Oron, acquisition of two locomotives, 10 coaches for Abuja-Kaduna Train Service and inland dry port in Kaduna, the Lagos- Calabar rail project that connects Calabar through Akwa Ibom passing through Uyo to Abia State. It connects parts of Imo State to Port-Harcourt and passes through Yenagoa to Warri and Benin City. This same project has a branch line from Onitsha through Asaba, Agborto, Warri and to Benin up to the Lagos seaport.
There is also the Itakpe-Warri train which runs from Itakpe to Aladja, near Warri. The project has up to 350 kilometers of standard gauge rolling through major important industrial bases with a host of other mineral resources that are in remote areas. The narrow gauge network will have been achieved and modernisation continues. The industrial park which will service not just Nigerians will be connecting the country’s commercial sector with other countries in the hinterland of Chad, Niger Republic and Mali will be realised. The Lagos-Kano railway will be meeting the economic and technical needs of Nigerians. This will increase locally-produced goods to a large extent and the completion of the Transportation University will focus basically on railway. The Nigerian Railway Modernisation Project Segment1 which is the Abuja-Kaduna segment of the Lagos Kano Rail (Western) corridor, was substantially completed by Amaechi and commercial operations also commenced on the line after President Muhammadu Buhari commissioned the project in July, 2016. The project has conveyed over 300,000+ passengers in its first six months of operation with only three available coaches. It is on record that the rail corridor played a critical role during the six weeks closure of the Abuja International Airport which made Kaduna airport to be used as an alternate airport for the period. With sufficient coaches, wagons and locomotives to do to-and-fro simultaneous trips, the corridor has the potential of doing close to a million passengers per year. The Itakpe-Warri project which is also a central line runs through a very important corridor in terms of exploitation of mineral resources as well as agro-allied industries in linking the oil and gas basin of the South-South geo-political zone to the North. So far, the project has been given much attention by the transportation minister, and it is one project that he holds dear to his heart. For now, this project was abandoned 32 years ago. But, on assumption of duty as a top-rank transportation minister, Amaechi has recorded a considerable milestone as far as this project is concerned.
Connecting the entire country with railway system was no project for a state but a national strategic plan.
The first modern train line to be commissioned was the Port-Aba system that runs about six time per day, rescuing most traders between both cities since the total collapse of the Port Harcourt/Aba highway.
I will conclude this treatise by using the quote of Rita Levi-Montalcini, a Nobel award winner, “If I had not been discriminated against or had not suffered persecution, I would never have received the Nobel Prize”, to encourage Amaechi that he should not be dismayed as one day Nigerians will gather to celebrate him for offering himself as a rallying point to oust an administration that never meant any good for this country.
Finally, if we critically appraise what Amaechi achieved in Rivers State and what he is currently doing in the Ministry of Transportation then Nigeria have a hope as its future no matter the odds looks great and better.
Happy birthday my brother!
Happy birthday the future of our nation!!
Happy birthday to the man with the golden midas touch!!!
My prayer for you is God to keep you alive and grant you better years ahead for better services to our nation and humanity at large.
EZE CHUKWUEMEKA EZE is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt and can be reached thru: email@example.com or 08022049770