Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Rivers State governor gave the reason why he decamped from his party - Peoples Democratic Partty (PDP) and joined All Progressives Congress (APC) with four governors from northern Nigeria.
“The President and I have no personal quarrel, it’s important we put that in perspective. All the issues were issues that affect Rivers people, were issues that affect Nigerians and I am a Nigerian, I have to address those issues...he is my President and I respect him. I respect his office, respect him as a person, respect the fact that he is older but then as an elected governor of Rivers State, I have the responsibility to lead Rivers State.
“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 have 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.
“If you look at what is going on, the Federal Government is not able to fund the states anymore. They say oil theft but oil theft is not enough reason for which we cannot fund ourselves.
“The governors met on Monday and decided that we must meet with the APC leadership and when we met with the APC leadership, it was important we took a position and the position we took is for the good of our democracy and to ensure that Nigeria moves forward. We can’t continue the way we are. The picture painted by the PDP was as if we were begging to come back to PDP and issues were not being looked into, issues were not being resolved and it’s important that we resolve it one way or the other.”
•Govs threaten to stop funding police, seek removal of Rivers CP
•Atiku, lawmaker, commissioner flay attack
Anti-Amaechi protesters stormed the Port Harcourt International Airport Tuesday as four northern governors arrived Rivers State on a solidarity visit to the state’s embattled governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi.
THISDAY gathered that the governors: Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, Alhaji Sule Lamido, Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, and Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako (rtd) of Niger, Jigawa, Kano and Adamawa States respectively, were scheduled to take off from Abuja with Amaechi.
However, due to flight problems, Amaechi arrived Port Harcourt first. But on arrival, he met a crowd of protesters, mostly members of the Grassroots Democratic Initiative (GDI), a youth movement loyal to the Minister of State for Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, and the executive members of the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The protesters were carrying placards condemning the visit of the governors, saying it was another attempt by Amaechi to fritter away the resources of the state to the north. One placard read: “Join Your APC Let the People Decide”.
As Amaechi was waiting for the other governors to arrive, the crowd milled around the gate of the VIP lounge, while some pro-Amaechi supporters also mobilised to the airport.
When Aliyu, who was the last to touch down, joined his colleagues, the governors drove in a convoy out of the airport. However, it was when the convoy, led by an armoured personnel carrier (APC) got to the gate of the VIP lounge, that the crowd of protesters left the gate.
Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu
Some of the protesters pelted the convoy with stones, thus shattering the windscreens of some of the vehicles.
On reaching the Government House, the four governors held a closed door meeting with Amaechi at the end of which they issued a statement, saying their visit was to ascertain the things they had heard about the threats to peace, security and democracy.
The statement signed by the four visiting governors said: “We are pleased to notice the peaceful atmosphere in town and that people in the state are going about their normal businesses and that the governor and government are in charge.
“This is especially reassuring as opposed to the organised protest by a handful of persons at the Port Harcourt Airport when we arrived.”
They said after interacting with Amaechi and other persons, they were convinced that the police were partisan in their handling of the crisis in the Rivers State House of Assembly.
“Having interacted with our colleague and other persons, we are shocked at the role of the police in Rivers State and condemn its clear partisanship in the show of shame that took place at the Rivers State House of Assembly,” they said.
Although they said they were troubled by the development in Rivers State, the governors commended the House of Representatives for “its proactive leadership in the crisis” and also the Senate committee’s thoroughness in addressing the matter.
The governors called for the redeployment of the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Joseph Mbu, and threatened to stop funding the police if people like Mbu remained in the service.
The statement continued: “We wish to call on the Inspector General of Police (Mohammed Abubakar) to hearken to the voice of reason and immediately redeploy and discipline Commissioner Mbu. His actions smirk of unprofessionalism and political partisanship, which is unbecoming of his office.
“With the way the police is being used and abused, and with officers like Mbu in the force, we do not see the need for state governments to fund an antagonistic police and may be forced to reconsider our position on the financial contribution of the states towards the funding of the Nigeria Police.”
They said with the action of the police in Rivers State, it had become imperative for the call for state police in the ongoing constitutional amendment.
They added: “Events in Rivers State have again brought to the fore the question of true federalism and the need for institutions derived from constitution be allowed to function without undue interference.
“As federating units, we must be allowed the space to guarantee our people sustainable development as provided by the constitution.”
The governors called on well-meaning Nigerians to call on all political actors to diffuse the tension and stop “actions capable of overheating the polity and derailing our nascent democracy”.
Expectedly, the attack on Amaechi and his guests elicited reactions, one of which was from former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who urged actors in the Rivers State crisis to tread with caution in their conduct to avoid endangering and derailing the country’s democratic journey.
Atiku described the escalating situation in the state as unhelpful, and advised that leaders of whatever hue be given the respect they deserve wherever they go. He reminded politicians to be mindful of “our political history” in all that they do.
He said he was still vividly reminded of the chain of political crises that had disrupted democracy in the past.
According to him, politicians should not push their luck too far by placing impunity above the constitution for selfish gains.
The former vice-president warned that this kind of political rascality should not be tolerated at the expense of governance and service delivery issues crying for attention.
Also, the federal lawmaker representing Andoni/Opobo-Nkoro Federal Constituency of Rivers State, Hon. Dakuku Peterside, described as barbaric, sadistic and dangerous the hiring of thugs and ex-militants by desperate Rivers politicians to deliberately embarrass the northern governors who were in Port Harcourt to pay solidarity visit to Amaechi.
“When did we degenerate to this Hobbesian and primitive state?” the lawmaker asked.
He warned that those fanning the embers of discord must be ready to reap the whirlwind, adding, “They should reflect on the events of the Western Region parliament in Ibadan that eventually led to the end of the First Republic and the disputed Ondo State election in 1983, and decide if this is the path they want to go.”
He expressed concern over the indifference of the police in the attack. “I wonder why the police in Rivers State under Commissioner Joseph Mbu chose to play politics with the safety and security of the people of Rivers State and tarnish the image of Rivers people.”
In her reaction, the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, said members of GDI had mobilised hoodlums to disrupt the visit.
She alleged: “Wike had boasted after the failed impeachment attempt at the Rivers State House of Assembly that he would set Rivers State ablaze and render it ungovernable. This portends grave danger and has far-reaching implications for our fledgling democracy.”
However, in his attempt to explain away the incident at the airport, Mbu rather glibly said: “The airport is a public place and it can therefore be accessed by anybody or groups of persons.”
In the protesters’ defence, the Secretary General of GDI, Mr. Samuel Wanosike, also alleged that members of the organisation had embarked on the protest because the resources of the state were being siphoned to other states by the Amaechi administration.
“There was a peaceful protest at the airport. GDI was not the only group at the protest. There were other women and youth groups there but the GDI was more prominent.
“We are protesting because Rivers people are tired of northern governors coming to take away our resources. Our people are not happy with Amaechi,” he said.
But while the crisis festered, one of the Wike-backed lawmakers and self-acclaimed “new speaker” of the Rivers assembly, Hon. Evans Bipi Bapakaye, Tuesday insisted that he was the de facto speaker of the state legislature and had not been impeached by his colleagues as claimed by some media organisations.
Bapakaye, who was a guest at the State House, Abuja dinner organised for delegates to the African Union Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Other Related Diseases on Monday, said a quorum was formed as over 23 lawmakers were present when he was elected.
Only five of the lawmakers believed to be in the opposition in the House supported his emergence as speaker. The constitution, however, requires two-thirds of the members of the House to remove a speaker and elect a new one.
Giving glory to God and the people of the state for the opportunity given to him to serve, Bapakaye said: “Of course, it is not contestable, I remain the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, because I have not been impeached. A motion for impeachment was placed on the speaker and I emerged as the new speaker and I have not been impeached.
“I want to thank God Almighty for making it possible for me to serve my people once more.”
The self-acclaimed speaker also attacked Amaechi for his role in the assembly fracas, saying: “The only regrettable thing was the governor coming to the hallowed chamber to supervise the beating of my honourable colleagues.
“It is so sad. A governor of a state bringing down all the security apparatus in the Government House including his ADC (aide de camp) and CSO (chief security officer) to beat duly elected honourable members in the hallowed chamber.”
When Martin Luther the Augustinian monk was summoned on April 17th, 1521, by Pappenheim, the marshal of the empire to appear before the emperor and states of the empire to find out two things: “First, is Martin Luther wiling to confess that the books which have been circulated under his name are his?” “Second, is Martin Luther ready to renounce these books or part of them?”
Rotimi Amechi, the executive governor of Rivers State, 'a man under the iron heel of the presidency', is currently being summoned by the the Rivers State political neophytes to appear before Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Dame Patience Jonathan, both has continue to make Rivers State ungovernable for Rotimi Amechi. Rotimi in Yoruba translates ‘The Lord Is With Me”, taking a close look at Rotimi Amechj’s political footprints, he has continue to conquer his enemies along his path with fire.
Why has Rotimi Amechi become the most vilified governor? Theories, theses, permutations, and political maneuverings has been adduced. From the unfounded rumored vice- presidential bid, to his alleged supporting a Northerner candidate for presidency in 2015, and disobeying Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on his re-election as the Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum [NGF], an for privately addressing Rivers State people over the row between
Bayelsa and River States, in the wake of the sudden take over and ceding of oil wells belonging to the Rivers People to Bayelsa State, kindly remind President Goodluck Jonathan that, Nigeria lost close to $7 billion dollars to crude oil theft with Bayelsa State, GEJ home state accounting for about 87 percent of the crude oil thefts in Nigeria.
And as Martin Luther replied; "Unless therefore am convince by the testimony of scripture, or by the clearest reasoning - unless I am .persuaded by means of the passage I have quoted - and unless they thus rendered my conscience bound by the word of God, I cannot and I will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand! may God help me! Amen."
If all these allegation against Rotimi Amechi are fabricated and woven around him to intimidate, coerce and to humiliate him, he should have his conscience bound by the word of God. In his commentary on the Book of Galatians, Martin Luther, the Augustinian monk wrote, "There must be people in high office, of course. But we are not to DEIFY them! The president, governors, NASS Members, the teachers, the scholars, the preacher, the traditional and religious leaders, father, mothers, and the person whom we are to love and revere, but not to the extent that we forget God, "Lest we attach too much importance to the person, God leaves with important persons offenses and sins, sometimes astounding shortcomings, to show us that thee is a lot of difference between any person and God."
Frankly, 'Table Talk', Nigeria politics is filthy, stinking puddle, full of the wickedest wretches in the world. Rotimi Amechi is being tried by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, his wife; Dame Patience Jonathan, Peter Odili, Nyeson Wike, River State COMPOL, and host of others, Rotimi Amechi is now caught in a violent thunderstorm as he walked through the rough terrain of Nigerian politics, would he be terrified? As Rotimi Amechi appear before PDP 'Diet Of Worms', in conformity with PDP rules and constitution by God's mercies, kindly conjure the president, his wife, Rivers State COMPL, Peter Odili, Nyeson Wike, and others to listen graciously to the defense of a because which you are assured is just and true!
Because you desire to see your days flow on peaceful and happily!
Taiwo Lawrence Adeyemi.
Cells:+234  701-224-8573.
+234  816-950-3218.
• Group not meeting Monday, says Amaechi
• Tells Jang: ‘Stop impersonating me’
• Jonathan’s wife denies plot to unseat Rivers helmsman
AS the crisis in the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) worsens, Rivers State Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi Sunday declared that the group would not meet Sunday .
Amaechi’s position is contrary to that of Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang who has fixed a meeting of the NGF for Monday.
Both Amaechi and Jang are each laying claim to the chairmanship of the NGF.
In a statement Sunday, Amaechi asked Jang to stop impersonating him. He said on June 15 and 16, reports in the media credited to Jang announced that he had called for a meeting of the NGF.
According to Amaechi, ordinarily, he would have ignored these reports as he does not imagine that as governors who hold the people’s mandate through the democratic process of free and fair elections, they would do anything to impugn their integrity.
In the statement issued in Port Harcourt Sunday, Amaechi, however, explained that as chairman of the NGF, elected by his colleagues to safeguard their integrity and that of the forum, it had become imperative for him to request that Jang remain within the confines of decorum and cease to impersonate him and to stop parading himself as NGF chairman.
He said that there was only one chairman of the forum, duly elected by a vote tally of 19: 16 on May 23, 2013.
“For the avoidance of doubt, I as chairman of the NGF have not called for any Governors’ Forum meeting for Monday, June 17, 2013. The only meeting scheduled for Monday, June 17, is a meeting of all governors with His Excellency, President Goodluck Jonathan, scheduled to hold at 9.00 p.m. at Aso Rock Villa. All governors should please ensure attendance at this meeting with Mr. President”, he said.
“I wish to re-assure my brother governors that this storm shall pass and we all will be re-united as one family committed to our nation’s unity and supporting Mr. President in his vision for a Nigeria that safeguards the rights of all its citizens to good governance and democratic norms. Governor Jang is my brother and friend and I harbour no ill-feelings against him, but it is important that he stops this impersonation, as it could threaten all the good work we all have done together,” Amaechi said.
Amaechi said he wished to remind Jang that there is a legal action that has been instituted against him by Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State from parading himself as the chairman of NGF. According to him, as leaders elected by the people, Nigerians are closely watching them.
“We must comport ourselves according to the dictates and principles of democratic and lawful practices and norms,” he said.
Amaechi’s allegation of impersonation against his Plateau State counterpart is a continuation of the controversy that has dogged the NGF chairmanship election conducted at the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge, Abuja, on May 23, in which incumbent chairman of the forum and Governor of Rivers State, Amaechi, was declared winner with 19 votes against 16 votes scored by his counterpart, Jang.
The Director-General of NGF, Ashishana Okauru, declared Amaechi victorious, a declaration that has been challenged by some members of the forum who alleged that the result was not a true reflection of what transpired.
The once influential NGF has since been split into two factions, sequel to the rejection of Amaechi’s re-election by supporters of Jang, on the ground of “profound” irregularities in the election. On the contrary, they pronounced Jang as the actual winner of the disputed election while Amaechi insisted he won “fair and square.”
Shortly after the election, Amaechi was suspended from his party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), by the National Working Committee (NWC) for alleged disobedience to the state chapter of the party in his state.
A committee of the party led by Joseph Gadzama (SAN) was set up to look into the alleged infractions by Amaechi, who, in turn, has alleged a “political witch-hunt” by the party. The latest twist in the tail in the crisis rocking the party is the court action instituted by Fashola on behalf of pro-Amaechi governors.
The action was aimed at stopping Jang from “parading himself” as the chairman of the NGF, even as some pro-Jang governors took time at the weekend to brief the media in Abuja and Lagos to shed more light on the continuing crisis.
In the writ of summons filed by a former Attorney-General of Lagos State, Prof. Yemi Osibajo (SAN) and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), Fashola asked the court to declare that Jang is not competent to be called the elected chairman of the NGF. He claimed that a record number of 35 state governors participated in the controversial election that returned Amaechi as the NGF chairman. As a result, the plaintiff (Fashola) is praying the court to stop Jang from parading himself as “the elected chairman of the forum in any manner whatsoever and however.”
Fashola said he would rely on the NGF’s registered constitution when the trial begins. He wants an order of perpetual injunction restraining both Jang and Okauru, their privies and agents.
All the pro-Jang governors were also joined as defendants in the suit, which could be a long-drawn legal battle between the two factions over who will control the NGF, once a united pressure group with common interests.
Meanwhile, the First Lady, Patience Jonathan, has denied reports linking her visit to Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, with alleged plans to unseat Amaechi.
A statement from her Special Assistant, Media, Ayo Osinlu, said her visit was strictly in line with her position as a promoter of goodwill among all segments of the country, noting that it had no link with whatever political activity going on in the state.
Besides, disturbed by the violence in some parts of the North, members of Arewa Defence League (ADL) yesterday said that the crisis ravaging the northern region was politically- motivated to destabilise the region ahead of the 2015 general elections.
The President of the group, Malam Murtala Abubakar, in a statement in Kaduna said: “We wish to alert the nation, particularly the North-West political zone, to the sinister motives by the Presidency through the national executive committees of the People Democratic Party to cause major political crisis in the region in order to achieve blind ambitions of those who want to subvert democratic principles to cling to power despite their poor records of public office.”
Abubakar criticised what he called “the undemocratic manner the national executive committees of the PDP announced the suspension of the executive governor of Sokoto State, Aliyu Magatagarda Wamakko, from the party”, saying that “it is the beginning of series of events designed to instigate political crisis between and among political gladiators in the region against themselves in order to divert their interest from challenging the incompetence of the incumbent President.”
He said: “We are aware that if the plots succeed, it will give the Federal Government the excuse to pronounce state of emergency in Sokoto, Kebbi, Kano and Jigawa states and thereby use soldiers during the 2015 general elections to rig the outcome of the elections if at all the elections is allowed to hold.
“We are delighted to note through our consultations with stakeholders in Sokoto State that greater majority of the party members and sympathisers condemn the suspension and described it as act of impunity while the state chapter and North- West zonal Secretariat of the PDP had come out strong to distance themselves from the action of the national executive committees.”
The recent outbreak of a political quarrel between Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State and political interests obviously inspired by President Goodluck Jonathan is an unfortunate development for Nigeria’s desperate search for a political order based on democracy. In less than a fortnight, federal aviation authorities have grounded Governor Amaechi’s brand new official executive jet with a litany of spurious bureaucratic excuses. Almost simultaneously, an Abuja high court has delivered a politically toxic and legally dubious verdict, ceding control of the ruling PDP in Rivers State to an anti-Amaechi party executive.
In a choreographed series of consequent maneuvers, the new PDP executive in the state has quickly issued a series of directives to both factional party faithful and even the elected government of the state. The undisguised aim is to antagonise the sitting governor of the state and create and atmosphere of confusion. In tow, the Nigeria police command in the state has behaved in a clearly partisan manner that leaves no other conclusion than that it is out to protect the anti-Amaechi forces. It has taken over the premises of a duly constituted local government and overrun the premises of the State House of Assembly. As if that is not enough, the police have reportedly withdrawn police security from a sitting local government chairman for daring to openly express support for Governor Amaechi.
These developments came in the immediate aftermath of a series of Abuja meetings between the president and a selection of governors in a bid to convince them to avoid re-electing Governor Amaechi who may be seeking a second term as Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum sometime in the near future.
Taken together, these events and actions indicate clearly that Mr. Amaechi’s recent political troubles are coming directly from the presidency in Abuja. The footprints are all too familiar: presidential political displeasure with a governor followed by the unleashing of the instruments of the federal state to intimidate and harass the offending governor; EFCC, spurious allegations of wrongdoing, the use of the security apparatus to partisan ends, the recruitment of political jobbers and miscreants to create confusion, compromises of the judiciary to obtain court judgments that will justify a forcible takeover of the administration of the state… This seems to be the path that the Jonathan forces are treading on the Amaechi matter.
Beyond this repugnant show of Abuja might, however, the Rivers State situation has implications that go far beyond the immediate egos and personalities in conflict.
Unless it is checked now and effectively too, a number of tragic consequences await the nation.
Party elders in the state have expressed their displeasure at the turn of events. Labour has sounded a note of warning. Students and youth of the state and the nation have indicated that they will defend Amaechi. The ordinary people of Rivers State are unhappy that their recent developmental gains may be lost if anything untoward happens to Amaechi. A critical majority of governors of both the PDP and the opposition parties have weighed in on Amaechi’s side. An otherwise localised development looks set to aggravate tensions in a nation already beset by numerous national security threats. This must be avoided.
The PDP, which secured the highest single state vote tally in Rivers in the last election, is likely to lose the state. If Rivers divides up between the PDP and the new powerful opposition, the president’s hope for a 2015 re-election will present a factionalised Niger Delta home base. Invariably, the support base of the party could cave in as politicians in the South-west, the entire North-east and North-west are fast alienating themselves from Jonathan. The South-east is a toss up as the region is yet to be convinced that their massive support for Jonathan in the last election has yielded any significant dividend.
We are more concerned with what the people of Rivers State stand to lose from the current diversion if it is not checked. If this political distraction persists, Governor Amaechi may be forced to spend less time on governance and development and go into a political self- protection mode. There is a national consensus that Governor Rotimi Amaechi has acquitted himself most creditably both in terms of practical governance and in the delivery of social and economic development in the state. Massive physical infrastructural expansion and renewal is taking place all over the state. Investment in social infrastructure in Rivers State is perhaps next to no other state in the country. Hospitals, heath centres, world-class primary and secondary schools are being built.
Very strategically, the educational revolution that has taken place under Governor Amaechi can only be rivaled by the free education programme under the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the old Western Region. More than any other administration in pre and post colonial Nigeria, Rivers State is devoting the greatest percentage of its annual budget to education.
A relatively more accountable, more transparent and more people -responsive government has seen Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) sky rocket from less than N2.5 bn at the inception of the administration to nearly N10 bn today. Peace and order are in place while general security has brought back investors and the expatriate community in the oil and gas industry. Criminals, miscreants and militants now avoid Rivers State.
The assault on Amaechi and the NGF is likely to mortally injure Nigeria’s quest for a viable democratic culture. If Amaechi’s crime is that he is opposed to the president on a number of national issues, then we need to review our understanding of democracy. The freedom to canvass opposing views is integral to any healthy democratic culture. Even the fact of belonging to the same party does not deprive individual partisan leaders of the right to disagree on policies and issues. In the best of democratic traditions, most large political parties contain various strands and tendencies. We see the emergence of radicals like Rotimi Amaechi in the PDP as a healthy development if the party were to reform itself and align with the currents in the larger polity. The rise of a progressive arm of the PDP would be the best guarantee that the party will not be swept out of power by the oncoming gale of progressivism that is the driving force of the new opposition merger.
Even if Governor Amaechi were to challenge President Jonathan in an open convention for the next presidential ticket of the PDP, it probably would enhance the democratic credentials of a party that makes such a contest possible. For instance, the current vice-president of South Africa is on record as having contested against President Jacob Zuma in the last presidential elections. In spite of that, they have worked together in the ANC to the present point where they occupy the top two positions in the country and the ANC is the stronger for it. Similarly, Hillary Clinton waged a vicious contest for the Democratic Party’s presidential ticket against Barack Obama but ended up being one of America’s best Secretaries of State in US history and easily Obama’s greatest political asset and ally. We are not aware that Governor Amaechi has declared interest in running for any office higher than that of governor of Rivers State.
The attempt to truncate or destroy the NGF, which we see as the primary source of this face-off, is a veritable threat to Nigeria’s fledgling democracy. Every one agrees that the near absence of democratic institutions is one of the problems with our polity. The NGF is a free association of governors of the 36 states of the federation. It is essentially a trans partisan platform for governors as chief executives of their states to compare notes on development challenges, review the performance of each other as peers and reach out internationally for ideas and affiliations that could enhance governance and enlarge investment and ideas windows.
The NGF has in the recent past proved an invaluable instrument for national stability in its numerous mediatory roles in crises between the federal government and labour, between the federal executive branch and the legislature. The forum played a significant role in ensuring national survival in the grey transitional zone of uncertainly between an ailing President Yar’dua and then Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan. To a great extent, Jonathan’s relatively painless succession of Yar’dua before the demise of the latter owes largely to the NGF’s strategic intervention with the National Assembly to define and legitimise the now famous ‘doctrine of necessity’ which eased Jonathan into the presidential saddle first in an acting capacity pending the outcome of Yardua’s medical sojourn.
Since assuming leadership of the NGF, Governor Amaechi who remains a faithful PDP partisan, has enlarged the patriotic role of the NGF. For instance, the NGF under Amaechi has come to be associated with advocacy of positions on issues on which the popular masses feel quite strongly. These include an advocacy for state police, an outcry against the fraudulent fuel subsidy regime that has literally sacked the Nigerian treasury, championing a new national minimum wage regime and resistance to the establishment of the Sovereign Wealth Fund. What is significant about the NGF’s positions on these issues under Governor Amaechi’s is that where they have tended to clash with those of the federal government, the NGF has sought judicial interpretation. This is in line with the best traditions of democratic culture.
This is not to say that Governor Amaechi is a paragon of political beauty. It has been pointed out by his admirers and antagonists alike that his radical rhetoric does not help the popular causes he champions. Others have said that his political method requires a dose of diplomacy and political double speak in order to navigate the brackish waters of Nigerian politics and the sensitivities that drive it. But those who must do political business with Amaechi must be prepared to put up with a man who says things the way they are, driven by the modesty of his beginnings and the radicalism of his university education under the best radical intellectuals and Marxist scholars. It is precisely those who do not understand where Amaechi is coming from that have problems with him as governor.
But as an individual, Amaechi is acknowledged as frank, modest, straightforward, honest and very patriotic. Ideologically, he is coming from the left and has had to run an administration in the best traditions of social democracy. This has meant that the administration of Rivers State under him has been more people oriented with heavier investment in social infrastructure. The traditional Rivers political elite are not likely to be in love with him on this score.
In the interest of the political face-off between President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Rotimi Amaechi needs to be quickly resolved through the urgent intervention of well-meaning Nigerians. It is in the interest of both men. It is in the interest of Rivers State, the Niger Delta and indeed the nation that is beset with problems of grave strategic implications.
•Offuru and Sangotade are Abuja-based public policy analysts
Whatever may have happened to our institutions in recent years, the Nigerian media remains one of the avenues of hope in a troubled land. Our media may not be totally insulated from the moral and ideological crisis that wracks our society. But it has a history and heritage of being compulsively adversarial to negative authority. That is its redeeming feature. More importantly, our media culture has an inbuilt self -cleansing mechanism. All media that have been established to champion specific individual, partisan or divisive causes have died a natural death. So, I believe that our media is inherently nationalistic.
While thanking the Vanguard Media group for the generosity of this award as "The Person of the Year", I want to ask their permission to pass on this plaque to the people of Rivers State to whom it rightfully belongs. As an individual, I could not possibly have made the contributions that have been catalogued in the citation for the award. Our actions are only a response to the yearnings of our people. I am an errand boy on a mission designed by my people and the burdens they have borne for decades. My team and I are their servants and their mandate remains for us a sacred trust.
Our understanding of the responsibility of government is that the people who voted for us to exercise power and authority on their behalf are entitled to certain basic inalienable rights. The Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy in our constitution clearly spell out the minimal obligations of government to the people. These include the right to education, to the protection of their lives and property, to health and to decent and respectful treatment without any form of discrimination. For everyone in political leadership, this ought to be the definitive job description.
Ideologically, I remain skeptical about the growing tradition of awards and recognitions in our society. This system singles out individuals and consecrates them into mini deities as “Man of the Year”, ‘Woman of the Year” etc. When we adopt this stance, we tend to ignore the truism that the ordinary people are the real driving force of history. Let us amend that to say that the real engine of history and development is the combined energy of the people and an enlightened leadership. Let us never fail to recognize the heroic import of the small roles of our everyday people.
It is the small transporter at Iddo Motor Park who for more than two decades has moved goods and persons from one location to the other in our country not caring about the religious faith of his passengers. It is the market woman in Diobu who toils everyday to keep the flow of small essential goods in the market in return for a chance to send her kids to a local school. It is the village teacher in a bare classroom in Degema who is dedicated to ensuring that the next generation of Nigerians acquire knowledge and build a better society.
It is the doctor in the rural health centre in Ahoada whose primary dedication is to serve humanity by saving lives, one life at a time. It is the soldier in Maiduguri who has to brave the wrath of an enemy without a face in order that Nigeria remains united and peaceful. The list of uncelebrated heroes and patriots is long. But their contributions are immense. I dedicate this evening to them as well.
This is not to exclude the upper echelons of our society who are contributing their quota in creating jobs, running viable honest businesses or even the clergy of all faiths who face the daunting task of convincing the many that God still deserves to be worshipped in a trying time.
Each time I read or hear commendations of our work in Rivers State, I look out also for the dissenting voices of criticism. Both are complementary. I am grateful to those who acknowledge the difference we have made in our brief encounter with power and authority. I am even more encouraged by the voices of those who draw attention to our imperfections.
I never envisaged that after a little over five years in the service of our people, we would have built all the roads that require to be built, We were never deceived into thinking we would have provided all the schools and hospitals or empowered all our people economically. The idealism in my education sometimes drives me to dream of banishing all our problems overnight. But I now realize that the end of development challenges would be the end of history as well!
In Rivers State, we have narrowed our gaze to what we consider the strategic sectors of development. We are driving education through the raising of standards, modernization of infrastructure and curricular in order to provide the well educated work force and responsible citizens to drive tomorrow’s economy. We are driving health through an integrated three-tier approach (primary, secondary and tertiary) that brings quality health care to the doorstep of all our citizens so that they can actualize themselves. We believe that power needs to be available 24/7 to drive existing enterprises, attract new investors and encourage innovation.
We may not have achieved all that we aimed for. But there is tangible evidence that we have embarked on the right course. I believe the foundations that we have laid today will guide those who come after us towards the realization of the genuine entitlement of our people to a good life in a free society.
The challenges that we have been grappling with in Rivers State are similar with what the rest of my colleagues and the Federal Government face. I realize that Nigeria is very much work in progress. There is still so much to do to make up for lost time, for wasted years and lavished opportunities. Our highways remain unsafe. Some of our urban neighbourhoods are dangerous. Our schools and colleges rank among the worst in the world in terms of standards.
Our physical environment remains unhealthy. Our army of unemployed youth grows by the day. Our institutions of governance continue to degrade incrementally. These and other challenges are the defining signposts of our present and clear indicators of our future. These are also some of the defining tests of our democracy and the context for each of us to defend the mandate that our people have entrusted us with.
I am glad that with the help of our media, there is an increasing awareness of these challenges. At Federal and State levels, efforts are being made to address these challenges. But the enormity of it is overwhelming and more daunting than our best efforts. And available resources.
As a federation, our union remains imperfect. The drive for fiscal federalism should not abate if we are to fully realize our economic potentials. The present situation in which we governors troop to Abuja every month to pick oil royalty cheques cannot endure. We need to challenge our people to tap the diverse resources with which we are richly endowed to deliver development to our people. Accordingly, the greater resources of the federation should devolve to the states because they are the direct and immediate level at which Nigeria makes sense to the majority of Nigerians. In the areas that touch the people directly and affect their daily life such as security, infrastructure, education, health care, affordable housing, transportation etc., I believe the federal government should excuse itself. The Federal center is too far from Nigerians to be held directly accountable for lapses in the provision of things that touch the daily lives of Nigerians.
The Nigerian Governors Forum, the trans partisan platform of all our governors, which I still lead, has taken definite positions on most of these issues as well as other urgent constitutional matters. These positions are based on patriotic commitment to the principles of true federalism. They have nothing to do with personal projects or the politics of immediate convenience. And so, we remain resolute in upholding the underlying principles of our convictions within the ambit of legality and constitutionality.
The NGF remains a forum for the exchange of ideas on governance, for effective peer review, for mutual assistance and capacity enhancement among governors irrespective of party or region. As governors, what binds us is the common interest of our peoples for rapid development, not competition for political supremacy or space. The NGF was founded on the principle that in a federation, the states cannot be vassals of the center but centres for the articulation of reciprocal obligations.
In the course of running the errands defined by the condition of the Rivers people, I have also come to realize that it is not just enough to aim at building shiny new structures. We need to urgently address the scandalous inequality that is tearing our society apart. We must also aim at building a fair society. A fair society is in my view one in which access to opportunity is not limited by class, position or wealth. Our people need a society in which the son or daughter of the janitor who excels in college has as fair a chance to access available opportunities as the daughter of a senator.
Those of us who make the laws today are mostly children of the poor farmers and artisans of yesterday. But regrettably in most cases, we are using our elevated positions to shut the doors of opportunity on the rest of our compatriots. In the process, we make our families and ourselves the targets of desperate inequality and scandalous deprivation and create the insecurity and instability that haunts us. Those of us who lead today have a duty to engineer the national society away from this path of conflict and crisis.
Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is the Executive Governor of River Sate, Nigeria.