By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze
It has become customary, since 2008, that I must pen one or two treatise(s) to celebrate the birthday of Rt. Hon. Dr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, erstwhile Governor of Rivers State and incumbent Minster of Transportation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. To the glory of God, I have been doing my best to keep alive this idea and custom since then till date.
With his 56th birthday at hand, series of topics came rushing to my mind, of which the most important was to expose to the world the inputs and impact made by this man to actualise the Presidency of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Another key topic that came up was to examine the great feats of this man during his golden reign as the Governor of Rivers State. As I was trying to settle down on any of these topics, another topic presented itself and that was; how Amaechi turned around the fortunes of the rail system in Nigeria. As if this was not enough, some of the elders from different sections of the country sent in text messages that I should do something for this year’s birthday celebration on Amaechi and the 2023 Presidency.
Though several materials on each of these topics aforementioned have been assembled but after many thoughts, I decided to honour this man that has made his mark as an astute, visionary and respected political leader of our nation during his 56th birthday with this piece which I titled, “Amaechi At 56: Celebrating An Enigmatic Architect Of A New & Secured Rivers State!… Excerpts From Eze’s New Book!
Though this man is an enigma so writing on him on any issue most of the time is always challenging but having been with him all these years it gives me a lot of joy to unearth to the world some aspects of his political life hitherto unknown. So, as you travel with me on this particular journey, it would be left to you at the end to pass your judgement if justice was truly done to this topic or not.
The idea of writing on this piece stems from the current security challenges facing Nigeria and what were the strategies adopted by this enigma to arrest similar security situation that was the issue in Rivers State before him Amaechi assumed the reins of administration in Rivers State as the Governor from 2007 to 2015
Excerpt from Chapter Four of the book titled, “Amaechi: His Feats, Inspirational, Revolutionary Leadership Style & Its Impact in Rivers State & Nigeria”.
Eze’s Book on Amaechi
RIVERS SECURITY SITUATION UNDER AMAECHI AND WIKE
It was Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside, former Director-General of NIMASA, former Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on (Downstream) Petroleum and 2015 All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial candidate in Rivers State, immediate past DG of NIMASA who stated in an article titled ‘How to tackle insecurity in Nigeria’: “Security, law and order are the major preoccupation of any government. Once a government gets this priority right, it has made the very first right step. Growing insecurity on the reverse side is the first sign of a failing state.”
Petersides’s view on security tallies with that of poet and political philosopher, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who had stated: “The three great ends which a statesman ought to propose to himself in the government of a nation are 1. Security to possessors, 2. Facility to acquirers, 3. Hope to all.”
Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi concurred by stating: “Government must not be for one section of the society. It must be for the rich and the poor, emphasising the upliftment of the poor…”
With the above quotes, the main aim of this chapter of my book is to unravel the insecurity and security challenges facing Rivers State in Nigeria, particularly now that Chief Nyesom Wike, the Governor of Rivers State, in his recent interview with The Sun newspaper described his mentor, benefactor, and predecessor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi’s eight years administration in Rivers State as wasted years. It not only behoves on those of us who witnessed these eight years to actually put the records straight and avoid the misconception before the public domain envisaged by the said interview.
Based on this challenge of putting or straightening the facts, my continuous efforts to appraise and review the activities of the enigma they call Amaechi, the indefatigable former Governor of Rivers State and incumbent Minister of Transportation, with much emphasis on his eight years tenure as the Governor of Rivers State becomes imperative. I will in this chapter use insecurity to further establish that Amaechi’s administration was not a waste, as being postulated by Wike and his cronies.
In doing this, I will present the insecurity episode during the period of Amaechi’s administration and how he curtailed the menace; and how Wike created the current insecurity in Rivers State, and, for you the reader to judge if his eight years was a waste or not.
With the above, let me therefore state that the main point of this attempt is to review the strategies adopted by the Rivers State Government under the watch of Rotimi Amaechi in tackling the menace of insecurity in Rivers State, prior to his assumption of office on 28th October, 2007 and how Wike, the incumbent governor, instead of adopting same, created the ‘Rivers of blood’.
For matter of clarity, Rivers State is the hub of oil industry in Nigeria and very rich in hydrocarbons from which the nation draws its major revenue. And, because it was confronted with key security challenges especially the challenges of illegal bunkering, piracy, kidnapping and armed robbery, this attempt becomes exigent.
To Rotimi Amaechi, “inability of elected leaders to provide adequate security for the citizenry is an impeachable offence. The first offence governors commit is when they are unable to provide adequate security for the people. This is because the first oath taken by elected leaders is to protect life and property. It is the responsibility of the government to provide security for the people.”
THE CHALLENGES AND CAUSES OF INSECURITY IN RIVERS STATE
One of the major forces behind the menace of insecurity in Rivers State was class challenge. Lady Dorothy Alison captured this aptly when she stated, “The horror of class stratification, racism, and prejudice is that some people begin to believe that the security of their families… and communities depends on the oppression of others, that for some to have good lives there must be others whose lives are truncated and brutal”.
Affirming the truism by Lady Alison, former Governor Amaechi enthused, “When we took over the reins of governance in the State we met a situation where people were being given cash, but we decided to take the extreme position of not giving money to people, but doing projects that would impact positively on the lives of the majority of our people”. This stand of the Amaechi team to stop the method which was the practice hitherto of sharing State funds to some seasoned politicians and groups who in turn used it to sponsor militia groups that constituted security challenges in the State is the philosophy upon which he centered the fight against the menace of insecurity. The decision also created enemies for him because it was a channel of income to some politicians.
Apart from class challenges as postulated above, insecurity in Rivers State was occasioned by greed for power; empowering and arming our youths with sophisticated weapons in order to undo political opponents in the State. Another great influence of insecurity was the wickedness of the politicians in undermining the future of the youths and misuse of public funds and the common patrimony of the State. Instead of investments that would create jobs for the teeming youths, the funds were distributed amongst cronies and relations.
THE TYPE OF RIVERS STATE INHERITED BY FORMER GOV CHIBUIKE ROTIMI AMAECHI!
According to records, Port Harcourt, the State capital of Rivers State that Amaechi inherited, was more like a war zone or aptly put a jungle where the fittest determines the fate of the lesser humans. It sounds pretty surprising but not unexpected that the city of Port Harcourt, a once very glamorous city, was ranked among the three most dangerous cities in the world by then. The human resources unit of New York-based Marsh & McLennan Cos. had ranked Port Harcourt with Baghdad, Yemen’s capital of Sana’a and Khartoum in Sudan, as the world’s most dangerous cities. Going by the ranking published by Bloomberg, Port Harcourt ranked with Baghdad as one of the world’s most dangerous cities for foreign workers as criminal gangs and militia groups seeking greater control of energy revenue step up attacks.
Ahamefula Ogbu, a Journalist with Thisday Newspapers, described one of the scenes in the State at this period in these words; “Rambo could not have done better. With automatic rifles in their hands and hate, revenge, and murder hanging around their necks, warring cultists took Port Harcourt, Rivers State, by storm yesterday for the second day running. Pandemonium broke out as residents ran for safety. It was sorrow, tears and blood. At the end of it all—or, more aptly, at the interval, for no one knows the end yet—15 persons had been dispatched to their early graves’ and true to this unsung prophet nobody knew the end as the next few days saw about eighty innocent souls wasted by an agitation uncommon to our people in the Niger Delta.”
While my late friend and brother, Mr. George Onah, reporting for Vanguard Newspaper captured Port Harcourt before the assumption of office by Gov. Amaechi in these words; “For many residents, the capital of Rivers State, hitherto the Garden City where life was lived to the fullest, is no longer the place to live in as rivers of blood flow ceaselessly following an unending siege by militants, kidnappers, cultists, and criminals of other hue.
Violence in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has gone full circle and the guns are still booming. The casualties are piling, even as blood of defenceless citizens’ flow endlessly. Neither the Police nor the government has answers to the brigandage. Security outfits do not have official figures, record or reliable estimates of casualties in the Rivers State orgy of killings.
Even the number of deaths during the Nigerian Civil War had a consensus of informed opinion on the number of deaths, on both sides, which hovered, realistically around 600,000 and below. But the rapidity of casualties in the onslaught by gunmen on Rivers State cannot simply be pigeonholed. The currency of killings is alarming and the growth of the economy of the state is heading for the deep”.
The pattern of the crime ranges from kidnapping of expatriates and children of wealthy parentage, to outright violent robbery. Cultism and political vices equally occupy a frightening position on the crime chart. The volatile atmosphere appears to have annulled whatever achievement of the peace and reconciliation committee of the government”.
As if both Ogbu and late Onah did not capture the picture correctly, Okey Ndibe, a respected opinion leader on national issues in Nigeria in his article during this period published by the Sahara Reporters, one of the leading online media on Nigerian political activities titled; ‘A blood soaked city’ described the happenings in Rivers State then in these words; “That the once idyllic Port Harcourt was now a scarred place, a war zone, a city soaked in blood; the city under siege with thousands of citizens displaced; that its once quiescent boulevards and avenues were now ruled by marauding militiamen and by the fierce soldiers deployed to dislodge them. Sudden death by bullet was now a generalized hazard for the city’s trapped and hapless residents.”
Affirming the unfortunate state of Rivers State then, an icon and Prince of Niger Delta Politics, Prince Tonye Princewill, in an interview during this period stated thus, “Rivers State, when Amaechi took over was a garrison state. Now that things have changed, people refer to him, like they do to Fashola, as a performing governor though the only difference between the two is that Fashola had a foundation in Tinubu but in the case of Amaechi, it was not so!”.
STRATEGIES ADOPTED TO ADDRESS THE MENACE OF INSECURITY
According to Noam Chomsky, “The U.S. international and security policy … has as its primary goal the preservation of what we might call “the Fifth Freedom,” understood crudely but with a fair degree of accuracy as the freedom to rob, to exploit and to dominate, to undertake any course of action to ensure that existing privilege is protected and advanced”. The fact remains that it seems that former Governor Amaechi on assumption of office adopted this US security policy in tackling the menace of insecurity in the State as he went out exploiting all means humanly possible to arrest this ugly trend. Apart from declaring war on all the militia groups in the State and refusing any form of dialogue or negotiations with them, he ensured that the security organs in the State were well motivated and trained to tackle the menace of insecurity in the State.
Explaining further on how former Governor Amaechi handled the security challenges of the State at this period, Dr. Dakuku Peterside stated as follows, “When I had the privilege of serving in the government of Rivers State under the leadership of Governor Amaechi, I observed that he placed high premium on security because he believed that security was the foundation upon which progress in every other facet of development depends. This is aside from government’s proactive disposition which drew substantially from intelligence gathering, surveillance and the fact that law enforcement agents could reasonably predict potential crime with near perfect accuracy.
Another interesting aspect of the Rivers model is the deployment of technology. Without sounding immodest, I can confidently say that the state’s security network is driven by excellent modern technology. Rivers was the first state to acquire a mobile scanning van known as back scatter. Around the Port-Harcourt metropolis, there are Gantry Scanners at strategic entry locations in Onne- Eleme Road, East-West Road, Choba Road, Oyibo Road, Ikwere Road, Aba Road and Mbiama Road among others”.
Throwing more light on the postulations of Peterside, a security expert and CEO, MPD Security Systems, Engr. David Meyer, stated as follows, “The first step we took in Rivers State was to raise capacity among selected police personnel, over 200, through local and overseas training in Israel and other parts of the world on modern crime fighting techniques and intelligence gathering”. Working with modern gadgets and substantial logistics including an Israeli trained concealed weapon detecting dog, these crossbred police team had since been strategically placed at main outskirt check posts witnessing mass movement in and out of Port Harcourt City. Others lead a number of metro patrol teams responding to security emergencies around the town and environs. These were as far as the public could see.
Beyond public view, as part of Rivers current long-term vision of security, Meyer pointed to underground application of ICT-aided security hardware and software helping the police to sense and react to security situations with dispatch. This network of technology managed by experts from a hub location which Meyer would not disclose for security reasons, employed the C4I urban surveillance cameras watching over the city and active then 24hrs of the day in Port Harcourt and environs.
The interactions between the seen and unseen infrastructures, according to Meyer, accounted for the security operatives swift bursting of some of failed organized crime operations, including an attempted raid of a bank in the Mile 4 area of the city. He said then, “These measures have been working well and while the public did not know, it led to several arrests and we have gained convictions against suspects on account of the improved network”, he had emphasized.
Supporting the views of Hon. Chief Peterside and Engr. Meyer, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Chibuike stated then thus; “We have done a lot about security. We are doing more. Before we came to office, kidnapping was a serious challenge. We have dealt with it substantially. We are finishing December, 2012 without a single report of kidnapping or armed robbery. We have specially trained policemen handling security. Barring any unforeseen circumstance, any moment from now, the Rivers State Government’s security web would be two surveillance helicopters stronger, laying the foundation for a standing air wing to give the state 24-hour security coverage.”
He said the helicopters; costing almost $30m (N4.5bn) with surveillance cameras to fly all over the city of Port Harcourt and other parts of the state would arrive at the end of December (2012) and commence operations in January, 2013. He stated that Rivers then had in place a technology reliable for tracking criminals and their hideouts. But sadly, Chief Nyesom Wike and former President Dr Jonathan ensured that these helicopters never arrived Rivers State until sometime in 2017.
The former Governor who is a major proponent of State Policing postulated, “If we have State Police, Rivers would be able to train its police the way it wants. It would not have suffered the loss of those 500 policemen it trained. Most states are spending a lot of money improving the police which are not under their control. States can use the same resources to fund their own police. Only those with something to hide are afraid of State Police.”
The impacts of the Rivers of Peace Under Amaechi
The results of the peaceful state of Rivers State under the watch of Gov Amaechi had resulted not only to attraction of foreign investments but during this period Port Harcourt was the haven of both international and national championships. Apart from hosting one of the best organised editions of the National Sports Festival ever in Nigeria, the School Sports was hosted by the State including the Police Games. Port Harcourt apart from Abuja and probably Lagos was the only State to have hosted US-Nigeria bi-National Conference. The city during this golden period hosted the Miss ECOWAS Beauty Pageant, Pan African Parliamentary; Garden City Literary Festival, hosted CARNRIV involving several foreign countries to showcase the rich culture, potentials and beauty of her people, the Dr Claude Ake Memorial Lecture series, Rivers State Investment Forum and Governor’s Interactive Session with Rivers State Youths amongst several other meets the city had hosted to prove its acceptability as the most peaceful and progressive city in Nigeria.
Kudos of course must go to Alh. Suleiman Abba, the then Commissioner of Police and former Inspector General of Police, for his commitment and no-nonsense approach to crime in the State; the then Brigade Commander, the Air force Commander, and Director of SSS, for their commitment in ensuring that Rivers State was recovered from the hands of hoodlums! Kudos also goes to the then Secretary to the Rivers State Government, Barr Magnus Abe.
Wike’s reckless ambition and the creation of a deadly atmosphere succinctly captured as ‘Rivers of blood’
Chief Wike’s ambition to succeed Amaechi as the governor of Rivers State (which may be shocking to most political watchers) started from his days as Chief of Staff to the then Governor Amaechi. The fact remains that while Amaechi was busy providing dividends of democracy to the people, Wike, on the other hand, was busy undermining Amaechi and using all the connections and goodwill of the Rivers State Government not only to station his men in strategic positions in government, but to empower most of them financially through award of contracts, initiation and other means. He tested the ground of his ambition when he was appointed as the Director- General for the re-election of Amaechi as governor of Rivers State in 2011. It was a position he ensured that only his men were appointed to strategic fields to serve as key mobilisers at the grassroots level. By the time he was appointed minister of state in the Ministry of Education, based on the recommendation of Amaechi to Dr. Jonathan, Wike went further with his gubernatorial ambition plot by forming the Grassroots Development Initiative (GDI), a political pressure group he used to deceive the public, that it was formed to assist in the re-election of then President Jonathan. In fact, the outfit was formed to pursue his gubernatorial ambition. He used the outfit to formally recruit his foot soldiers for the battle ahead. Under our nose, this body was heavily financed and motivated, and its presence was established in all the constituencies of Rivers State.
It was this group that he used to dislodge over 11 key Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members that wanted to contest the 2015 governorship election under the PDP platform. Those that wanted to play games were properly beaten up and molested at the party’s national secretariat at Abuja. Before this time, Wike, based on political exigency, tactfully suppressed his gubernatorial ambition from public view. Instead, he offered himself as a tool to spearhead the political battle between Jonathan and Amaechi. He gave everything within him to execute this, with the PDP ticket as a target.
Towards creating the ‘Rivers of blood’
Recruitment of militants
Apart from creating the deadly and infamous GDI, Wike, while serving as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria paid visits to some notable former warlords from the Niger Delta, dislodged by the Amaechi’s administration soliciting their support for his gubernatorial ambition. In this regard, it was reported that he donated his six months’ salaries to Tompolo Foundation. Stanley Azuakola of TheScoop, in his report entitled, Nyesom Wike donates 6 months’ salary to ex-militant Tompolo Foundation stated: “There are reports that the Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, who is currently involved in a bitter struggle with the current Rivers Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, has donated his salary for the next six months, which amounts to about N11.742 million, to the Chief Tompolo Foundation.” Link:http://www.thescoopng.com/report-nyesom-wike-donates-6-months-salary-to-ex-militant-tompolo-foundation/Implication of the donation
An online media platform, Newsdiaryonline, which also reported the donation and its purpose said: ‘The donation by the Minister is seen as part of covert moves to consolidate plans to work with Mr Tompolo to disrupt the peace in his home state, Rivers State. This is seen as part of the plot to oust the incumbent Governor Rotimi Amaechi, who is seen to have parted ways with President Goodluck Jonathan. Reports indicate that Mr. Wike has boasted that he will deploy his wide contacts within the judiciary to recruit everyone necessary to ensure he has his way in Rivers State. No one has yet made any response on behalf of Rivers State Government to this revelation. However, reliable sources reveal that residents of the state have sighted a gradual resurgence of ex-militant groups that had hitherto taken flight from the state due to the tough stance of the Amaechi-led administration on militant activities. Most of these militants had fled the state for more accommodating havens like Bayelsa and Akwa-Ibom states, and Abuja in the face of the onslaught on criminal activities by the Rivers State Government. With the frosty relationship between the governor and Presidency, and with the controversial complacent role of the State Commissioner of Police, these ex-militants are now finding their ways back to the state.
‘Some residents who prefer to remain anonymous have expressed concern that the sudden return of these ex-militants to the state hold very ominous signs for the state, and that their intentions cannot be good.’ This fear is now loudly very imminent in Rivers State today, as residents now sleep with two eyes wide open.”
In another development, according to TheScoop publication of January 20, 2014 titled ‘Amaechi has not started crying yet’ – boasts Nyesom Wike; Segun Odeleye reported that Wike was quoted as saying: ‘We are free of any arrest; no police will arrest any member of GDI or interrupt their activities or gathering in this state. Don’t forget, it is Amaechi who was ordering police to arrest GDI members anywhere they are gathering. Now he is the one crying over arrest and disruption of APC gathering in the state. He has not started crying: the police will continue to chase them until they learn how to follow the due process before hosting any meeting or rally. Rivers State is for PDP. The best thing for Governor Ameachi is to resign and have peace, because as long he remains the governor, he will never have peace.’ Link: http://www.thescoopng.com/amaechi-has-not-started-crying-yet-boasts-nyesom-wike/
A versatile public commentator, Uche Igwe, a doctoral research fellow at Sussex Centre for the Study of Corruption, University of Sussex, titled “Of Nyesom Wike And President Jonathan’s Conflict Entrepreneurs”, described Wike as ‘a tough and undiplomatic man with a thug-minded determination and a deep-pocket that thrives in a policy of vindictiveness.’ Known as Eze Gburugburu by his admirers, the former Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government is acclaimed to be a brutal schemer who maximised his position as chief of staff in Brick House to stockpile enormous financial resources for himself. The bulkily framed politician is also someone who understands and believes in the power of money and readily deploys it as a political tool to achieve helpful and, most times, unhelpful political ends. Another former loyalist described him as ‘a merciless politician with a limitless capacity for mischief.’
Late Sam Nda-Isaiah, a frontline APC Presidential candidate and Publisher of Leadership Newspaper, in his reaction to Wike and Jonathan’s absurdity in Rivers State in an article published by TheScoop of August 12, 2013 titled, “Why does the President enjoy the company of gangsters? stated: ‘The Minister of State for Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike, who is at the centre of the crisis in Rivers State with the clear support of the President, Goodluck Jonathan, and the co-president, Patience Jonathan, now operates above the law in the state. To worsen the joke, he has even declared for the governorship of the state. It is very hard to believe that a serving minister would make that kind of statement and still be kept in the cabinet by the President. But that has been our lot since Jonathan became President.’ Link: http://www.thescoopng.com/sam-nda-isaiah-why-does-the-president-enjoy-the-company-of-gangsters/
Given the forgoing, why should blood not flow in Rivers?
Before and during the March/April 2015 General Elections in Rivers State, it was reported that about 100 members of All Progressives Congress (APC) were slaughtered, with their local secretariats at Andoni and Okirika bombed. The live telecast by Channels TV during the shootings on the APC Rally at Okirika should be very visible on the minds of Nigerians.
During the 2016 rerun elections of April 2016, the APC’s National Working Committee, in a press statement, noted: “APC members in Rivers State are fast becoming [an] endangered species.” That was after scores of members were killed in recent weeks. The committee released a list of 32 party members it claimed had been killed by a variety of methods: “several were beheaded, others clubbed to death and one man burned alive.”
Till date, under the watch of Governor Wike, about 200 Rivers State citizens have been killed.
Though there are several other subtopics under this Chapter not included in this treatise because of lack of space fully discussed in the book like “Creation of Rivers of Blood” etc but I will like to conclude this treatise with the statement by one of the best brains on the politics of Rivers State Chief Christie Obiaruko Ndukwe in one of her numerous articles on Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimo Amaechi titled, “Amaechi: When Passion Overshadows Knowledge”
According to this Queen of the Pen described in some Quarters as the Christiane Amanpour of Nigeria because of her fearless nature and ability to discuss an issue not only intelligently but flawlessly, ”
“…While I restrict myself to issues bothering on the security of lives and properties in our nation, I won’t fail to commend the Federal Government in areas where it has done well. But what is a good Railway without security? What is a good road without adequate security for road users? And even if we have more Okonjo-Iwealas, Amina Mohammeds and Akinwumi Adesinas representing Nigeria in the global market, of what relevance would that be without the security of the people they represent back home?
The sing-song of putting square pegs in square holes ought to hit the President now. The obvious war situation in the North by Northerners against Northerners is gradually trickling down to the South with local collaborators aiding and abetting the supposed foreigners in their own homes.
Do we sit down and play politics while the country drifts into the abyss without remedy?
The time has come for stiffer measures in combating the security issues we face and only those who have proved their mettle in similar situations can be handed over the responsibility as such a time as this.
To Amaechi, I say, it’s a call to duty to help rescue the country from imminent collapse occasioned by both external and internal insurgents.
Let the miracle of Okochiri forest take place in Sambisa!”
I just pray that our eyes can be opened to understand the import of this article.
Happy birthday my brother!
Happy birthday the future of our nation!!
Happy birthday to the man with the golden midas touch!!!
My prayer for you is God to keep you alive and grant you better years ahead for better services to our nation and humanity at large.
Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt and can be reached through: email@example.com