WHEN THE GODS SMILED

A sage once said that birthdays are not the celebration of the days we were born but a celebration of the fact that we have been able to conquer death by another year. It is also a celebration of the fact that we have been able to overcome numerous obstacles on our journey of life. Birthdays are also marked as victories over the forces of darkness that everyday bestride our paths in our quest to make positive impacts in this cruel world.

In Nigeria today where life expectancy is one of the lowest in the world, where the health sector is in a state of comatose, it is always a miracle if one sees it to another year. When combined with poverty, hunger, lack of shelter, ignorance, ever growing crime rate, political and economic _BOKO HARAISM, _surviving from year to year is worth celebrating. A growing up child in Nigeria has less rate of survival than his counterparts in other parts of the world probably with the exception of Somalia.

Forty nine years ago, a man was born to this nation. He was born when the nation was undergoing political crises. The Western Region was literally on fire. The Centre was interfering in the affairs of the Western Region and how to politically annex the region to the party at the Centre. We are witnessing same today. Election rigging was the worst ever witnessed in the history of the nation then. There was civil unrest in the West. Political opponents were jailed on trumped up charges. Few months after his birth, the first military coup in the nation’s history took place. Two years after his birth, the civil started. It was in this politically unstable environment that this man was born. It was also the period that the radical Adaka Boro was fighting for more devolution of power and resources control. The circumstances of his birth helped to shape his life.

On the 27th day of May, 1965, Rotimi Amaechi was born to a humble family of Elder Francis and Mary Amaechi in Ubima Town, Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State. He grew up in Diobu, the Ajegunle of Portharcourt. He was born during the period of political crises and grew up in the ghetto. He saw poverty all around him. He saw squalor. He attended a public primary school and a public secondary school. In these public schools, he saw dedicated teachers who were building new generation of future leaders.

In his days as a student in the University of Portharcourt where he read English and Literary Studies, the revolutionary in him began to manifest. He wanted change. Which better place to start than students’ unionism? He became the President of the National Association of Rivers States Students.

He worked briefly at Dr Peter Odili’s clinic before joining politics as the local government Secretary of National Republic Party (NRC) during Gen Babangida’s ill fated, ill conceived and insincere political transition. Between 1992 and 1994, he was Special Assistant to the deputy governor of Rivers State.

During Gen Abacha’s doomed political experiment, Rotimi Amaechi was the Rivers State Secretary of Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN). He remained focused and had trust in Gen Abdulsalam’s transition agenda. He teamed up with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on whose platform he contested election into the Rivers State House of Assembly. He was elected. In the House, his colleagues saw the leadership qualities in him and decided to elect him as the Speaker of the House.

As Speaker, he performed his duties creditably that his speaker colleagues elected him as the Chairman of the National Conference of Speakers. He got re elected as a member of the State House of Assembly in 2003. Members of the House expressed their confidence in him by re electing him as the Speaker of the House.

In 2007, he contested and won the PDP primaries for the governorship race. Though he won the primaries, the powers that be in his party decided to substitute his name. He couldn’t swallow this brazen injustice and he decided to fight for his rights. He never resorted to violence but used democratic means available to fight his cause. Finally, in a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed that he was the duly elected governor of Rivers State.

When Gov Amaechi assumed office, he never allowed the victory to overwhelm him rather he concentrated squarely on how to make Rivers State a better place.

Though, he had his vision and mission clearly marked out, he nonetheless called for a retreat of Rivers people to help create a road map for his administration.

The infrastructural decay smelled to high heavens. The educational system was near collapse. Insecurity was the norm. Business conglomerates were fleeing to neighbouring countries. Unemployment was high. Energy to power the various industrial estates was almost nonexistent. The task before him was daunting but a willing and determined individual can surmount every mountain on his way.

One of the first areas he had to tackle was the education sector. No nation can attain greatness when the country is populated by ignorant citizens. A leap can only be made from poverty to good living through education. Gov Amaechi lived in the slums, knows the ways of life there. What those areas apart from infrastructure was upliftment through education. The governor attended public schools and they were the best then. Not all parents can afford the exorbitant fees charged by private schools. To make education accessible to all would mean bringing back the glory days of public schools.

He rebuilt the schools and made them very attractive. The aesthetics will appeal to any child or parent. He not only built schools, he ensured that there were recreational centres too. Having rebuilt the schools, the teachers too needed rebuilding. Various workshops and seminars were organized for teachers to enable them offer their best in a twenty first century learning environment. Others were sent abroad for further training. There is no gain in building a twenty first century school with an eighteenth century teaching method. The libraries are well equipped and well stocked IT centres are also provided. Children of migrant fishermen are equally not left out. The tremendous increase in population in public schools tells the story of the good work done by the governor.

Traffic in Portharcourt in most times is very chaotic. This is due to very bad states of the roads. What the governor did and he is still doing is to expand the old roads and construct new ones to ease traffic. Flyovers were constructed in other areas. Thus, the road opposite the Airforce base has been expanded. Same applies to Rumagholu Rd and Town. Solving the transport problem in Rivers State needed a holistic approach. Transportation has to be an integrated affair through road, water and rail. Many jetties for water transport have been constructed by Gov Amaechi’s administration. A monorail is nearing completion.

When he assumed office, insecurity was very high. By sheer courage and determination, Gov Amaechi was able to rid Rivers States of cultists and criminals. Business organizations are flocking back to the state.

On energy, the governor is constructing power plants at Onne, Afam and Trans Amadi to improve power supply in the state.

His quest for justice knows no limit. Like Isaac Adaka Boro, he is asking for true democratic best practices. He is also asking for true fiscal federalism. He saw and experienced war as a child. He does not wish to witness another again. This can be avoided if there is justice, fairness and adherence to democratic principles in our national polity.

Life is not about where you are born, whom you were born to but about using your circumstances of birth as a spring board to write one’s name in gold by positively affecting lives and society. This, Gov Rotimi Amaechi has done.

In spite of the numerous challenges he has be confronting, the gods have smiled on him and will continue to smile on him. Happy birthday, Rt Hon Rotimi Amaechi!

Written By Eddy Aghanenu



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