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Countdown To The 59th Birthday Of One Of Nigeria’s Brightest Leaders – Rt. Hon. Barr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi – Seven Days To Go

By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze,

Preamble

From this day till 27th May, 2024 – the big day for the auspicious commemoration of the birth of this great Leader, I will attempt to present some hard facts from my book titled, “Amaechi: His Feats, Inspirational and Revolutionary Leadership style” to the world about the unique leadership qualities of this unassuming leader of our time. The book provides insights into the distinguishing leadership traits of Amaechi as one of Nigeria’s outstanding leaders on record.

I will present on thisday the type of Rivers State that Amaechi inherited and how he was able to tackle the monster of insecurity that bedevilled the State at the period of his assumption of office as the Executive Governor of Rivers State.

This, I believe, will help Nigeria and Nigerians to have a better grasp of the personae of Amaechi, whom enemies are hellbent on pulling down.

RIVERS STATE, INSECURITY AND THE RESCUE MISSION EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK AMAECHI: HIS FEATS, INSPIRATIONAL AND REVOLUTIONARY LEADERSHIP CHAPTER FOUR

Chapter Four

(I) 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 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.”

Peterside’ 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 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”. It not only behooves 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 called 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 that Amaechi inherited, and how he tackled it. Then, 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 premise firmly established, 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 the sake of of clarity, Rivers State is the hub of the 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.”

(2) 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 depend 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 centred 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 have created jobs for teeming youths, the funds were distributed amongst cronies and relations.

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.”

(3) The Rivers State inherited by Amaechi

According to records, Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State that Amaechi inherited, was more like a war zone or aptly put, a jungle where the fittest determines(d) 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, the war-torn Iraqi capital, Sana’a, the Yemeni capital, 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 wrecked havoc over territorial fight.

Ahamefula Ogbu, a journalist with Thisday Newspaper, 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 nobody 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.”

A friend and brother, late 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 pilling, 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 in 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.”

(4) How Amaechi tackled 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. 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.

Explaining further on how former Governor Amaechi handled the security challenge, Dr. Peterside stated, that, “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 the 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 Israeli-trained concealed weapon detecting dog, these crossbred police team were strategically placed at main outskirts of Port Harcourt City. Others lead a number of metro patrol teams responding to security emergencies around the town and environs. Those were as far as the public could see.

Beyond public view, as part of Amaechi’s 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 24 hours of the day in Port Harcourt and the 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.”,

Supporting the views of Hon. Chief Peterside and Engr. Meyer, Amaechi had remarked that, 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 foundation for a standing air wing to give the state 24-hour security coverage.”

He disclosed that the state had acquired surveillance helicopters at about to do reconnaissance of Port Harcourt and other parts of the stateHe stated that Rivers then had in place a technology reliable for tracking criminals and their hideouts. But sadly, Wike and former President Jonathan connived against these arrival of the helicopters until sometime in 2017.

The former governor, who is a major proponent of state policing, argued that, “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.”

(5) Impacts of peace under Amaechi

The results of the a peaceful state under Gov. Amaechi resulted not only in attraction of foreign investments but turned Port Harcourt into a haven for both national and international championships. Apart from hosting one of the best organised editions of the National Sports Festival ever in Nigeria, the School Sports Festival was also hosted by the state. Following them was the Police Games. Port Harcourt, apart from Abuja and probably Lagos, was the only state to have hosted the US-Nigeria Bi-National Conference. The city during this golden period, hosted the Miss ECOWAS Beauty Pageant; Pan African Parliamentary Meeting; and the Garden City Literary Festival. The regime Administration also hosted the CARNIRIV which involved several foreign countries that showcased their rich culture, potential and beauty of their 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, were also hosted.

Kudos, of course, must go to Suleiman Abba, the then Commissioner of Police, and former Inspector General of Police, for their commitments 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(name?).

Conclusion

The concluding part of this chapter deals with how Wike turned Rivers State into an unsecured State but in order not to recall about the sad history of Rivers State and spoil the mood of the incoming memorable birthday event, I hope by tomorrow present another side of AMAECHI that puts him ahead of his peers

Thanks as we all prepare to celebrate this special Gift to Nigeria come 27th May, 2024

Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Port Harcourt based Media Consultant & can be reached on: ezemediaconcept2020@gmail.com or 08022049770.

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