From Amaechi to Peterside, building on goodly foundation
“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set” (Proverbs 22:28) KJV
Next year, 2015, for Nigerians, holds a mantra, a swagger sort of oasis in a long stretch of barren land, succinctly captured in a simple phrase, a desert. The choice of the descriptive above is all symbolic, carrying with them probabilities far flung from each other. Desert illustrates closed opportunities, bearing no space for creative possibilities. On the other hand, oasis, rare spots that bear life in deserts, offers a metaphor of possibilities with full values. Travellers across deserts pray for oases, and should they find, quench their thirst and refresh their lives. Again, desert and oasis invoke a background of death and possible life, two antithetical realities man has to live in their grasp. All the idiosyncratic elements captured in the metaphor of the desert and the oasis are hidden in the year, 2015 for Nigerians.
For citizens and residents of Rivers State, Nigeria's Treasure Base, history calls, offering a rare opportunity for them to elect a governor after their heart, a leader whose pedigree appropriately, synchronises with the people's heartbeat. Theirs it would be a life-chance to choose someone familiar with the culture and contour of this blessed state. A man not a stranger to the Marshal Plan of the Administration of Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, but has been a principal partner and participant in the humble but systematic implementation of its cardinal objective, mission and statement. Next year, would Jesus Christ tarry, the Alabos, Emeres, Menes, Kings, Ezes, Nye Nwe-Elis, Amanyanabos, Senibos, commoners and all alike, in Rivers State, shall have in their hands, a rare opportunity to insist on continued economic and infrastructure development; vote for continued fiscal discipline and pole position in the financial ranking of states; will have the voice to reject all invitation to reverse the land of their nativity to the wayward ways that characterised governance until Amaechi emerged. The people shall turn their voters' card into instruments of power, to demand a continual walk on the true and vibrant pathway for their beloved Rivers. There is no doubt the people, in their choice, will prefer humility to pride, respect to coercion, transparency to dictatorship, law and order to siege.
Since October 26, 2007 when Governor Amaechi took the oath of office, Rivers State has witnessed tremendous development, graduating into a pacesetter state envied by neighbours and those afar. Like the Big Bang, the state has exploded into sanctuaries of vibrant competition for social elevation. Today, the state economy is the second largest in Nigeria after Lagos. In Rivers State today, the face of education has changed to world-class beauty; agriculture has a new meaning as the Administration has elevated it; physical infrastructure that includes several tarred roads, bridges, inter-changes and high-rise buildings, has a re-design drawn in the ink of priority; fiscal discipline now a culture, courtesy the famous Due Process mechanism, has elevated competence, quality and global standard above petty and ethnic links. Many more medical doctors have been employed in the State health facilities than ever done by previous regimes such that today the doctor-to-patient ratio has closed the huge gap hitherto. Following the boost in personnel is the turn-around Amaechi made in health infrastructure in the number of first-rate hospitals built and equipment installed. Amaechi had never been afraid of fear, one enigma that has left his traducers racing to the laboratory to possibly dissect, analyse and hypothesise on what constitutes his DNA. The recent scare brought to Rivers State by dreaded Ebola Virus Disease, EVD, revealed the more the stuff this governor is made, who with his team, confronted the disease. Today, Rivers State and her inhabitants are at rest from this scare even as Amaechi insists on high hygiene. Amaechi brought finesse into governance turning Rivers into an arena of endless possibilities. Even the governor's traducers have agreed his performance ranks second to none.
Of the lot of governorship candidates with the intent to take over from Amaechi, only Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside of the All Progressives Congress, APC, fits into this high quality assurance. Not only has he been with Amaechi from the beginning of the Administration – in fact, Peterside had been a disciple of the enigma named Amaechi farther down before 2007 – but has played both complimentary and subsidiary roles in what today goes as Rivers of Possibilities, a land of ceaseless opportunities whose ambience spreads forth abroad a fragrance and charm of warm welcome.
Dr. Peterside was the first Commissioner for Works in the Amaechi administration and so had the enormous task of reading the governor's mind and appropriately translating same into definite projects. Amaechi had been in a hurry to transform Rivers and never hid it. After diligent search, Amaechi found in Peterside, then in his thirties, the man who could carry the burden of his vision; the man who would interpret the graphics, the formulae and the calculus of the dream into life. Amaechi found in Peterside the Joseph needed to push and execute his vision for Rivers. As a man of History and Destiny, Peterside jumped into the fray, deployed those qualities that lifted him from being an ordinary student union leader to a treasure to the Administration of Chief Rufus Ada-George and the entire state. Those who would, would recall Peterside's charming participation on a Radio Rivers 99.1 FM News and Current Affairs program, Matters of the Moment, anchored then by Bon Woke and Ogbonna Nwuke, two vibrant, inquisitive and succulent broadcast journalists. Peterside, then a student leader and a young man, had been featured by the duo. Peterside, then as National President, National Union of Rivers State Students, NURSS, had spoken in the tongue of the aged but the voice of a revolutionary that ex-Governor Ada-George made a telephone call to the radio house to know “who was that brilliant and bright young man you featured on your program today?” Peterside soon had a rare honour of dining with his state governor. Destiny was yet to thrust more to him for the good of Rivers State!
Soon as Amaechi hanged the portfolio on his neck, Peterside traversed the length and breadth of Rivers State as Works Commissioner at the peril of his safety, supervising ongoing projects and initiating new ones. The state became a big factory of construction site. Open claims have been propounded by viable voices in the state that the Rivers State Ministry of Works witnessed the volume of projects as were executed under Dr. Peterside only in the days of Military Administrator Alfred Diette-Spiff.
What then is Dr. Peterside bringing on the table? Simple! A Roadmap to Wealthanchored on the laudable legacy, programs and projects Amaechi has introduced. Peterside has said, “On my honour, I shall build on the legacy and development projects embarked upon by the Governor Chibuike Amaechi Administration”. These include, but not limited to, robust education with dynamic manpower and unassailable infrastructure. Thanks be to God that Dr. Peterside knows the value of education having, through the grace of God, achieved its highest certification. While others parade Toronto and Let-my-people-go degrees, Dr. Peterside humbly carries the products of academic hard work and thorough research.
What else is there for him to inherit? Sound economy rated AA by global watchdogs. Growing economic base buoyed on regular power supply. New political culture based on open and free speech. Nationalism practiced at home where both natives and residents are treated equally with no line of apartheid. Governor Amaechi sees every resident as a member of the Rivers community. Amaechi deliberately allotted employment quota to non-indigenous applicants when in 2013 about 13, 210 new teachers were employed. Recently, he declared flat school fees for all students in tertiary institutions owned by the Rivers State Government. No more discriminatory lines between 'indigenous' and 'non-indigenous' students.
Peterside has a re-branding logo that will catapult Rivers to the next level. He brings a dictum of, Greater together, a brand logo that emphasises the fruits of peace, elevates harmonious relationship among the state's communities, and abhors violence and oppression. Only the candidature of Dr. Peterside provides a continuity of ongoing projects in the state. Only his candidature guarantees that the recently employed classroom teachers, medical doctors and others will retain their jobs after May 29, 2015. No other candidate, except Dr. Peterside, presents the Ogoni, the Etche, Ijaw, Ikwerre, Ekpeye, Obolo, Igbani, Abua, Ndoki, Degema, Ogba, Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Europeans, Chinese and others living and engaging in massive investments in the state, with the opportunity to express their limitless potentials to creating a conducive atmosphere for prosperity.
2015 would be that year for the natives and residents of Rivers State to turn their back on that governorship candidate whose coarse voice resonates nothing but the hidden agenda to turn Rivers State into a den of hooded silhouettes, a territory of monsters reeking in revenge and odour of blood. They have vowed that if they ever took control of the seat of power, they would reverse all the economic and infrastructure milestones achieved by Amaechi and his team. They have vowed to cancel the employment of those 13,210 classroom teachers and send them into the labour market. They have vowed to shut down those world-class schools built by Governor Amaechi and his team across the 23 local government areas in the state. They have vowed to stop work on the Greater Port Harcourt City Project and consequently, shut down the massive Adokiye Amiesimaka Sports Complex at Iguruta Eli. On their list also to cancel are ongoing projects. Not done, they have vowed to return the Streets of Port Harcourt to the days of the hawks when motorists and other road users worked much and took little home. Obio Akpor Boys, notoriously empowered by their master, turned the streets into a slaughter slab where vehicles were hijacked freely, drivers pummelled and extorted, private car owners seized and imprisoned until hundreds of thousands of Naira were paid. The terror and horror those young men imposed on the citizens was such that even the equally notorious Aba Boys – those lawless commercial drivers who ply Aba-Port Harcourt route – would prefer to discharge their bewildered passengers at Eleme Junction or Oyigbo, than encounter those Obio/Akpor Boys. Life on the streets was that bestial, brutish and darkly until Amaechi's emergence. In short, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Rivers State has vowed that if their candidate was elected as governor in 2015, Rivers State will fall into an eclipse.
What then is the only option for the people? Go for the man in whose tenure security, continued development, employment, improved healthcare and all the condiments that promote viable, social interaction will grow. Dr. Peterside offers that environment because he believes in greater, together.
Bekee Anyalewechi, who lives in Port Harcourt, is a media aide to Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside, the APC Governorship candidate in Rivers State