THE MASKED DANCE OF ANYAEKWEE NSIRIMOVU
On August 19, 2011, Mr. Anyaekwee Nsirimovu, the Executive Director of the Institute of Human Research and Humanitarian Law (IHRHL), a Port Harcourt-based non-governmental organization, took virtual space on Sahara Reporters to attack the Rt. Hon Chibuike Amaechi Administration on all scores. He summed up his hateful commentary by writing off the numerous and laudable strides of the present administration as “Fruitless and Wasteful Expenditure of Public Funds”.
The Executive Director's online commentary was a rehash of the accusations adopted by some governorship candidates and professional critics in Rivers state. Ordinarily one may not have responded to the vituperations of Nsirimovu but for the fact that a lie often repeated might well soon sound believable even to the originator of the baseless tale.
So lets take on the issues. Nsirimovu describes the over 900km of roads being built across the state as something that would benefit only the “ruler and fellow gang leaders at the expense of the citizenry”. He refuses to see any good in the administration's efforts to construct five fly-overs (and still counting) to help accelerate traffic flow in a fast-growing city, the determination to build about 520mw of electricity (with 280mw already completed and another 180mw nearing completion), a feat acknowledged by even the blind. With a target of enthroning perhaps Nigeria's first uninterrupted power supply system in any state, the Amaechi administration is building up the power reserve and has accepted the proposal by the Mutiu Sunmonu committee to make power available in homes in Rivers State by end of 2012. By the way Mr. Sunmonu is Chief Executive Officer of Shell Petroluem Development Company. Yet Nsirimovu says the administration is embarking on a self-serving mission.
Maybe he is right. Governor Amaechi is determined to ensure that every person in Rivers State can have access to affordable health, education, infrastructure and water. In addition he is committed to ensuring food security and economic advancement of Rivers people. Add to that his determination to reflate the economy of the state and it is clear that he is truly a Rivers man whose first assignment is the progress of his home state. That most certainly should qualify as selfish and self-serving in Nsirimovu's view.
But there is more to show, Rivers state has since launched a programme that would create a farming hub anchored on the Songhai farms model in Porto Novo. The Songhai farms in Bunu Tai Local Government Area, is already actively changing the face of the area. Besides the 105 youth trained at Port Novo, some of whom are still working in the Bunu farms, the farmers and traders in the area have access to improved seedlings and enhanced training. Other components of the farm revolution include a 20,000 ha oil palm plantation, a Cassava Initiative that would cue into the Dutch model, a 3000 ha banana plantation and a 600,000-bird poultry farm never seen in Nigeria before now. The cassava initiative would create at least 20,000 jobs by end of 2012.
While the farm has become a major attraction drawing positive comments from Nigerians from all walks of live in and around Rivers State, our own Nsirimovu is blinded by misdirected hatred.
Nsirimovu recklessly talks about 300 pupils per school, which is totally false as each primary school is built to accommodate 480 pupils. More importantly, the administration is replacing 1000 dilapidated schools that accommodated 10,000 pupils with 750 model primary schools that will accommodate 11,000 pupils. The pupils would study in a world-class environment with appropriate sanitation (16 toilets per school) hard copy and e-libraries, sporting facilities, sickbays, and well-spaced classrooms. This is a transformation that has earned the state consistent awards in UBE implementation and best state in primary education by the Federal Ministry of Education amongst many others.
Indeed on a visit to one of these schools, ambassadors of the more developed countries expressed amazement that a state government could be so visionary. Some of them admitted that even in their home countries, the Rivers state model primary schools would stand out as iconic. Yet all that is “no matter” to Nsirimovu. Construction work is progressing steadily in the model secondary schools, 24 in all, one in each local council area. Each school will accommodate 1000 students. The students would sleep two in a room, 25 in a class, in an all-boarding facility that ensures that all the teachers are quartered in fully furnished apartments.
Nsirimovu speaks about the demolition of old UPTH. He is right. Government has explained this as it has explained its plans to build a mother and child specialist hospital in the same location. But has he seen the 100 functional primary health care centres in all the nooks and crannies of the state, with 60 others under construction? Is he aware that primary healthcare is critical if Rivers state and indeed Nigeria is to meet the MDG's four, five and six? Thankfully Governor Amaechi is a governor committed to transparency and open government. As a result he keeps Rivers people abreast of his plans and actions. Everyone knows that having properly tackled primary healthcare, the Amaechi administration is focusing on secondary and tertiary healthcare in this second tenure. We may be taking small bites but certainly these are filling bites.
Nsirimovu laments the taking over of financing of the Clinotech Tower by the government. This seems rather incongruous to me, as many have hailed this move as quick thinking and right. While I am almost tempted to spill the beans on government's plans for the 1000 bed hospital, I will be guided by the fact that it may make sense to keep Nsirimovu guessing for just a few more weeks until the baby is born. But it may be worth reminding him that Rivers State is one of the states in the south – south zone noted for its low private-sector capacity to build public infrastructure, hence the need for state governments in the zone to be proactive.
Being proactive has helped Governor Amaechi bring back the good old Port Harcourt city. I am sure that Nsirimovu and his cohorts have also forgotten so soon the fact that only five years ago, he could barely go to his office or conduct his business without fear of militancy. Clearly with all its faults, friends and foes have scored the Amaechi administration high in the area of security and restoration of peace in Rivers State.
And even now, the Amaechi administration is rebuilding all the roads that were built in the last 50 years. All roads in the Port Harcourt township area, built by colonial Britain and which had no drains are currently under reconstruction with drains being built.
Also all the roads in the inner city, high density Diobu area are being reconstructed with drainage systems into the Ntanwogba creek and from there to the sea. This same situation is ongoing in the D-Line area of Port Harcourt. All of this is of course without prejudice to the completed roads like; Oginigba, Old Aba Road, Elekahia Road, Station Road, Rumuokwuta/Rumuola and the Rumukwurushi interchange (more popularly called the Eleme Flyover) The Mgbuoba/NTA road which Nsirimovu speaks about is still under construction and will be completed by end of October, while the Olu Obasanjo Road is also progressing quite well. The Amaechi government is deliberate and painstaking as it adopts total solutions to ensure that whatever infrastructure it delivers to Rivers people will be enduring and stand the test of time.
But the most ridiculous of Nsirimovu's allegations is the claim that
“This governor have (sic) operated under a situation that lacked effective participation, transparency and accountability.” His comments are curious. Participatory democracy provides for the parliament to represent the people and a cabinet to attract experts. This is intact in Rivers State. Transparency requires a budgetary system where figures are declared twice in a year, but Governor Amaechi does that six times a year. He has introduced town hall meetings and stakeholder engagements to reach every segment of the state, including those in the rural communities.
Nsirimovu betrayed his hate and hurt when he speaks about “since he (Rt. Hon Amaechi) arrived the state from the Supreme Court”. There may be those who feel offended by the landmark verdict of the Supreme Court that restored hope to Rivers people, but such people are bold enough to announce themselves as politicians and interested parties in the dispute. It is however, deceptive, un-ethical and unpardonable for one to hide under the guise of human rights activism or civil society while being in fact, a partisan politician with obvious interests. When a referee is also a player, it is bad for the opposing team.
In an era when building a megacity is hailed as futuristic and right on target, Nsirimovu writes off the Greater Port Harcourt City project. He says it “is simply aimed at expropriating farmlands from rural communities, decimate livelihood with fiat”. I worry about the thinking behind such commentary. Would this great advocate of the masses rather that our rural communities remain in a time warp? Shouldn't he be advocating for inclusion of these communities rather than asking that they remain without development. Were the lovely cities of London, New York, Paris and even Lagos and Abuja, where Nsirimovu often visits and may even have his abode left as rural, would they be called developed? Such thinking as he propounds in this piece is worrisome, suspect almost, as it leaves one wondering if the piece was just what some literary critics call “arts for ass sake?”
Again, Nsirimovu's cry against the contributory Levy is outlandish. Well-meaning persons have seen reason in this strategy to ensure sustainability of government's programmes and plans, but Nsirimovu is rather angry that the business community is helping to develop his state, and calls a lawful levy ,“extortionary”
He insists that Governor Amaechi must fight corruption but refuses to notice the various legislations like the Public procurement law, and the fiscal responsibility law that are designed to institutionalize transparency in the state.
But the final show of Nsrimovu's ignorance is when he speaks about the Rivers State bond. He says that the bond is between
N500Bn and N1trillion. Such show of ignorance is unacceptable. The state is asking for a total of N250Bn and this is no strange phenomenon. Rivers State is the only state in the South South that has not taken a bond. Lagos state with its robust economy has been to the capital market twice and it has not been politicized. Criticism is a good thing but deliberate mischief is truly distasteful.
The Amaechi administration is focused and determined to install an economy and a social system that would launch the state to an enviable position of reckoning globally. Despite Nsirimovu and other such distractions, the administration is open to constructive advice and well-meaning persons have made useful inputs. But beyond all that Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is his own worst critic, striving consistently to ensure that he does not betray the trust reposed in him by the good people of Rivers State. While, Amaechi is neither infallible nor omniscient, he can lay claim to an honest desire to serve Rivers people and leave behind a proud legacy for posterity.
As for Nsirimovu, one can only hope that he would be man enough to show his true political interest, rather than masquerading as a patriot and social critic.