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GOVERNOR CHIBUIKE AMECHI AND THE POLITICS OF ROAD CONSTRUCTION

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The legal drama which ushered in the Gov. Chibuike Amechi's government was a short one compared to what finally became the lots of Govs Fayemi and Aregbesola of Ekiti and Osun states respectively. Many thanks are due to our late president Yar'adua who in spite of all odds, maintained that his government would respect the rule of law. Without the order and given the scenario we had been used to, the governors' disposition would have been a mere dream.

Right from the first and faithful Sunday after his swearing in as Governor, l was ear piece away from the Liberation Ministries aka EJA FORCE were he went for his first thanks giving service. The governor had used the opportunity to chronicle his journey to his dream. He told of how God used the General Overseer of the Church General Odede Stephen to inform him many years earlier that he would be the next governor of the state after Dr. Odili. Then, he was the speaker of the states House of Assembly. I enjoyed every bit of his story in suffrage in far away Ghana , as told by the man himself. He spoke of his disappointment with friends, churches, political associates and even his mentor. I felt the pain on his behalf, but then the glorious moment had come and like the children of Zion Psalm 126, he was like those who dreaming dreams. The entire message that day was filled with emotion. That was how in public glare, the journey to “Brick House” started.

Mrs. Adesuwa Onyenokwe of “ONE ON ONE” programme is a very smart lady of substance in and outside NTA – Nigeria Television Authority. Just a few days after the governor took the oath of office, she was on hand to drag the governor to the podium – l think with a view to getting the governor vent his anger on his real or perceived enemies. I watched the programme also, and for real, Dr. Tony Iredia the retired Director of NTA who would get water out of stone in his interviews would not have done it better. But vintage Amechi would not disappoint. Specifically asked if he would probe his estranged boss and mentor former governor Dr. Peter Odili, he said he would not and as a matter of fact he too, was a part of the government despite not having any executive capacity. Further, he let it be known that most of those agitating for the probe were the beneficiaries of the same government in more ways than most. Asked if he would mend fence with his boss, he told his hearers that his boss was in the know and infact advised him to take the legal steps which ushered his winning. Agreeing that as in father and son relationship, there could be disagreements here and there, it was impossible for there to be disrespect. I smiled. Then the big question on his relationship with deposed Gov. Celestine Omehia? The pragmatic governor said that the two warring executives are first cousins whose parental homes are even side by side. What are the plans of the governor having spent eight years in office as the speaker of the state house of assembly? Gov. Amechi dished out his blue prints most of which are now history in just three years of his reign of power. He wanted the world to know that Rivers State is an Oil rich state and would prove same with visible projects of various kinds. In education, he promised to merge the schools, take over primary schools from the local government and improve the staff strength among others; in the health sector, new hopes were raised then in the judiciary, his primary constituency which also brought him to power, he promised to leave no stone unturned. All these today have become history.

Gov. Chibuike Amechi has, since he became the chief executive of the state, handled all government issues very business like more so, a man in a haste. But there is spanner in the works and these constitute a clog in the wheel of Rivers progress and they are capable of derailing the vision of the man of hope. The error must be corrected so that the man in the street would praise almost eternally. I am yet to confirm the stories making rounds in the state that Lubrick Construction Company is saving the state government about 40% in construction cost of all the road projects it is handling. But l am always very delighted every time l pass through all of the companies construction sites. I feel proud that one of our own; a Nigerian of Niger Delta extraction is in charge of the good job going on in the state and only comparable with those of Julius Berger. Of all the major road constructions going on in Port Harcout. See, we complain of almost everything in Nigeria but not all are as visible as road. We may not have Electricity, but we can manage because we have l pass my neighbour as generating set to charge our phones; Water resources may not give water and we manage because we have individual bore holes in our neighbourhoods; we may not even complain about health because we can afford the chemist shop irrespective of the drugs being NAFDAC compliant or not. But we cannot make our own roads! Yet the road contractors have failed the state, despite leaving “Rivers Money for Rivers People” I heard the governor say that 90% of Rivers contracts would go to Rivers people. Can that be the case today? The decision was ok for a start but with time is the same good news? Almost all the roads in Port Harcourt but Aba Road and Ikwerre road were in very deplorable state. All commuters and vehicle owners tearfully plied the roads in anguish until the messiah in Amechi arrived. In split seconds, contracts were awarded in billions for almost all the existing roads in the cities. In the course of doing the right thing, the governor has incurred the wretch of many home owners whose building stood in the right of way and as they cursed, many did not remember that they violated the city plans.

Suddenly, Tippers, Dredgers and labor to mention but few became scarce and hold ups and crawling movements became the order of the day as virtually everywhere became construction sites. Within six months, the entire city of Port Harcourt became born again. Everywhere you turn, it was new road. At last we had something like had happened in Donald Duke's Calabar then In Godswill Akpabio's Uyo and now have in Chibike Amechi's Port Harcourt . The reclamation of Garden City was in the making. The Ada George by Iwofe Road , St John axis Eliopranwa road Ozuoba Egbeu, Ogbogoro everywhere you look at, the roads were clear and smooth. The only alternative to good road is good road and after many had lost their vehicles, here at last are good network of roads.

But like every other thing, roads have to be tested as they like others have life span. Roads ought to have a span of al least twenty five (25) years. But given the corrupt system we operate, we give it that a new road should at least out live the government which constructed it. But that was not to be in Port Harcourt . The rains had hardly arrived when all the beauty gave way.the rains of 2010 came like Hurricane Katrina or Tusnami of sort. Over night, everything was swept away. Was it a dream? What's gwam (apologies to Ras Kimono). No one is giving any explanation. Not the ministry of works. We are back to square one only less than one year of the facelift. No that cannot be! Where are all the contractors? The government is silent. Is it that no government officials pass these roads today?

In Nigeria we play the politics of winner takes all. So it is the PDP which won the election we have to blame for the bad jobs. But don't the contractors pass through these roads? What crosses their mind each time they themselves have break down on some of these roads?

It is ok that the government gave most of these jobs as a means of empowerment programme or political patronage. But have seen that they jobs were definitely below standard and knowing that public opinion is at the peak in out cry against the contractors, why cant the government in it bid to save its face, call all the contractors to order and instruct them to go back and mend the roads and let them be passable once more. The rains have not arrived this year but time is short.

Your Excellency sir, time is of essence. We cannot play politics with the roads and therefore live of citizen you have sworn to protect. It will please your Excellency to pay special attention to these roads sooner than later as they may stand in the way of voters if nothing is done now. A stitch in time saves nine.

Mike O. Akpati is a Public Affair Analyst based in Port Harcourt .

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Articles by Mike O. Akpati