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A Call To Reason: Rivers State

By George Fubara Tolofari
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“Conscience is an open wound: only truth can heal it,” Usmanu Dan Fodiyo (1754-1816)

In the interest of posterity and generations yet unborn, I have decided to put pen to paper and make my views known on issues surrounding the last eight years of the Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi’s administration in Rivers State. In doing this, I am not oblivious of all the issues both false and true that have already been put in the public domain. But I believe I owe it as a duty to myself, my children, Rivers people and indeed the entire nation to put things in their proper perspective. I hope that in doing this, I will ignite an honest and intellectual debate devoid of mudslinging and name calling, a debate that will center on the issues that affect our people.

As someone that has been closely associated with Rotimi Chibuike

Amaechi having spent eight years with him in the Rivers State House of

Assembly and also having served as a commissioner in his cabinet for

eight (8) years, I believe I owe posterity this write up and I do this

with every sense of responsibility. People that know me across the

political divide in Rivers State know that I do not speak flippantly.

In doing this, I know I might be opening up myself and my service to

Rivers State to a vicious attack but in the interest of the truth and

nothing but the truth, I believe this is a necessary price to pay.

The Chibuike Amaechi Administration: Philosophy and Vision: The

Chibuike Amaechi’s vision was centered around the principles of

liberal democracy with emphasis on public social programs that will

help in bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. Maybe, as a

result of his social background, he deemed it necessary that the state

should play an intervening role in providing social amenities that

will otherwise be beyond the reach of the poor and less privileged. It

was this philosophy that drove the revolution he pioneered in the

education sector in Rivers State. It remains on record that until his

administration, Rivers State has not seen the quality and type of

schools he succeeded in building across the length and breadth of the

state. The schools provided an opportunity for children of the less

privileged to know what it is to school in an ideal environment. He

followed this up with a scholarship program that sent thousands of

Rivers Students and even non-indigenes resident in Rivers State to all

parts of the world in furtherance of their education.

His political liberal social philosophy could also be seen in the

set-up of the Rivers Micro finance Agency (RIMA) with a mandate to

helpgalvanize SME’s to boost the state’s economy. In doing this,

Amaechi was driven with a passion to uplift the position of Rivers

people and the state.
Infrastructural Development: It is on record and the facts on the

ground show that the Amaechi administration added more kilometers to

the Rivers State road network than any other administration before

him. His strategy was driven by the need to open up the state for

economic development. Even his adversaries can attest to the fact that

in his administration Rivers State was described as one huge

construction site. I doubt whether any resident of Rivers State can

truthfully say that in one way or the other his or her life was not

touched or made easier by the construction of these new roads.

Other aspects of his trail blazing initiatives include the advances in

agriculture (farm settlements), the primary health centers and other

development initiatives scattered across the length and breadth of

Rivers State.
The Rivers Monorail Project: So much falsehood has been put out in the

public domain about this project. However, it remains on record that

the decision to embark on the Rivers Monorail Project was a collective

decision taken at the Rivers State Executive Council meeting during

the first tenure of the
Amaechi administration and the facts regarding this project are all

still domiciled with the Rivers State Government. The issues with

regards this project is quite clear. As part of his efforts to develop

the local economy, Chibuike Amaechi realized that there was a need to

lay the structures and framework for a new city; it was on that basis

that he initiated and commenced the Greater Port Harcourt Project.

Coupled with this was the realization that there was a need to develop

Port Harcourt as a number One business destination in the South-South.

For this to be done, it was important that Port Harcourt should have a

well-defined transport infrastructure network with the capacity to

link all parts of the city. This was the philosophy behind the

commencement of the Monorail Project. It initially started as a PPP

(Private Public Partnership) but due to the global financial meltdown

of 2008 the PPP partners pulled out and the Rivers State Government

took over the project. I want to place it on record that everything

with regards to the Rivers Monorail Project was handled in line with

international best practices and
procedures. All the firms and consultancy firms engaged with the

project are world class firms. I was the supervising Commissioner and

I stake my honour and integrity as a true Rivers son on this fact.

There was never a time in the course of the project where Amaechi as

Governor interfered in any matter whatsoever relating to the project.

I challenge anybody who holds a contrary view on the standards of the

project to invite the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), The Council

for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) or any other

local/international engineering regulatory body responsible for

standards in public transport infrastructure projects to conduct an

independent assessment of the engineering standards of the Rivers

Monorail project.
It will be dangerous for us as a people to belittle our dreams and

ouraspirations with regards to development and live in four (4) and

eight (8) year cycles of developmental progress. Amaechi did not

start the Rivers Monorail to complete it. In starting, he laid the

framework for a major public transport infrastructure project that has

the capacity to jump start the Rivers State economy and position the

city of Port Harcourt as a major destination for business. If I might

ask; who built the London underground rail network? Who built the New

York subway network? Who built the Heathrow airport? As a people we

must resist the temptation to believe that major infrastructure

projects are tied to the life cycles
of administrations. We must have the courage to insist that succeeding

governments do not kill the collective dreams and aspirations of our

people but that they continue the march towards industrialization. The

assets belong to the Rivers people, the monies spent belong to the

Rivers people, and we should not politicize infrastructure

developments. It doesn’t matter who takes the glory just let it be

done. The monorail is still an on-going project.
The Judicial Commission of Inquiry: A cardinal principle of any

democracy is the respect for the rule of
law. Closely associated with this, is the principle of fair hearing. I

am of the opinion that a situation whereby initiators of a judicial

inquiry have already arrived at decisions on issues before the said

inquiry and have put out statements in the public domain that show

their conclusions on such issues, then it no longer becomes a

commission of inquiry but an “inquisition”. For instance, the present

Governor of Rivers State as the Minister of State for Education in a

publication in the Nation and Thisday newspapers of Monday October

13th 2014 in pages 4 and 54 respectively said “There is one death trap

they call Monorail. Yes, we know that one day, we must die, but with

the monorail I am seeing there, I will not take such risk. The

monorail is a death trap”
In the light of such statements and numerous others on the project,

what sense does it make for one to expect any form of fair hearing in

a panel constituted by the same individual, in an atmosphere and

environment created by an incoming administration that has already

painted the out-going administration as corrupt? One cannot expect any

justice from such a commission. Events from the commission sittings

already confirm this as seen in the denial by individuals of

statements credited as having been made by them at the commission

sitting and reported in the media. For me the pertinent

issue is, Amaechi has left a lot for the Rivers commonwealth. What do

we do as a people with these things?
What is the present status of the Amaechi schools? What is the status

of the Greater Port Harcourt development plan? What is the status of

the primary healthcare centers? What is the status of the program for

skills acquisition? What is the status of the Rivers Monorail project?

What is the status of the thousands of kilometers of road network

added to the state?
These questions and many more are begging to be answered. Generations

unborn will not need judicial commissions of inquiries to answer these

questions. The questions will be answered based on the realities they

see on ground. As a people we do not have all the time in the world.

Our state economy is built around oil and gas. The price of oil is on

a downward spiral, we need to begin to act and think outside the box.

This is a time for big ideas. We do not need ‘these’ distractions.

Amaechi’s Place in History: So much has been put out and so much has

been spoken about Amaechi. However, some pertinent issues need to be

raised and addressed against the back drop of facts;

Who is the real Rivers man? Who is the real betrayer?

Is it the Rivers man who fought endlessly to ensure that the rights

and commonwealth of the Rivers people are preserved? Who refused to

turn the other way when the oil wells of Rivers people was

surreptitiously taken and given to others? Is it the Rivers man who

had the courage to say that his people deserve better under an

administration led by someone his people saw as ‘their own’?

Definitely, that is the real, true Rivers son.
It is my belief, that at the end of the day history will be fair in

her assessment of Amaechi as a person and as a man of big ideas who

had the courage to challenge a system of injustice meted out against

his people by a cabal who acquired power in the name of a people who

had been long deprived and had paid a great price for the well-being

of the nation state but who were forced to put up with all sorts of

marginalization all in the name of “At least, he is our own”.

Amaechi’s name definitely will continue to generate a lot of emotions

but one thing there would always be a consensus about, is that he

never corruptly enriched himself in any way or manner. On this, the

judgement of history will always be constant.
Any fair and objective assessment of the Amaechi years will place him

with the likes of Dappa Biriye, Adaka Boro, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Alfred

Diete Spiff, etc.
‘May history vindicate the just’ I have done my bit.

George Fubara Tolofari , writes from Port Harcourt

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of George Fubara Tolofari and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."