A Call to Reason: Rivers State

By George Fubara Tolofari

“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

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