By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze
On the 27th of May, 2019, Rt. Hon. (Dr) Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, erstwhile governor of Rivers state, incumbent Minister of Transportation and the undisputable leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South-South region of Nigeria, will be celebrating his 54th birthday.
According to the organisers of this year’s birthday celebration, which theme is “The Role of Exemplary Leadership in Governance”, the Obi of Onitsha, His Royal Majesty, Igwe Nnnaemeka Alfred Achebe, CFR, MNI, will be expected to chair the epochal event, while the keynote speakers have been carefully selected: H.E. Nasir El-Rufai, the Executive Governor of Kaduna state; Senator Olorunnimbe A. Mamora, the Managing Director of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA); Prof O. Georgewill of the University of Port Harcourt; Barr. Bele Tariah, a beneficiary of Rt. Hon. Amaechi’s Undergraduate Scholarship Scheme; and Hon. Nancy Stephens, former Deputy Mayor of Port Harcourt local government area (PHALGA) will moderate the epochal event.
Though the great minds mentioned above, expected to speak on the theme are all well qualified and very capable to do justice to it, however having followed the politics of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi these past thirteen years, I will be doing a great injustice to the world if I fail to bring to the fore what made this enigma of a man, not only unique, but a true example of what leadership is all about.
To assist me achieve this, Israelmore Ayivor, one of the greatest critical minds that ever lived on this planet earth stated “Leaders decorate the world: they live exemplary life and make the world better than they found it”.
What else is the best way to describe Amaechi, whose life only depends on how not only to better the lots of those that cross his path, but to ensure that he gives out his best in any assignment he is charged with?
My great Philosopher Israelmore Ayivor, with Amaechi still in his mind, further highlighted, “service introduces you to the leadership throne. Service to mankind is the vision on which leadership is mounted. You serve and in your service, you train more leaders by becoming an example”.
Amaechi is the epitome of humanity and selfless service.
As if my lecturer, Ayivor, has not been able to describe Dr. Amaechi very well enough and throwing more light on the inability of any writer to actually dissect this living legend, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbanjo (SAN), once stated “Ameachi is also a man of big ideas and very insightful, he understands how to live long in the hearts of men.
His education policies in Rivers state and all of those children he gave real hope and opportunities to will always keep him alive in their hearts as he will be remembered long after he has left this earth.”
In the same vein, Admiral Murtala Nyako, the erstwhile Executive Governor of Adamawa state, once challenged me and said “Chief Eze, don’t mind the simplicity and unassuming nature of this man (Amaechi); he is the most influential politician we have in Nigeria today”. Amaechi epitomises what a true leadership is all about.
The Main Aim of This Treatise
The main aim of this attempt therefore 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 Channels TV, compared his regime with that of his mentor, benefactor and predecessor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi.
It not only behoves, but becomes imperative for those of us who witnessed both the eight years of Amaechi and four years of the regime of Governor Wike to present the correct records accordingly.
In doing this, I will present the security episode during the period of Amaechi’s administration and how he was able to curtail the brief moment of menace, then write of what has become of the regime of Governor Wike and leave it all for you the reader to judge.
With the above, let me therefore reiterate once again that the main treatise 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 the 28th of October, 2007 and how Wike, the incumbent governor, instead of adopting the model Amaechi used to tackle insecurity in the state is playing politics with the peace of Rivers people.
For purposes 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 is embarked upon.
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 animals. 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 to 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 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 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 every 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,” Meyer explained.
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 are far as the public can 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 which Meyer would not disclose its location for security reasons, employs the C4I urban surveillance cameras watching over the city and active 24hrs of the day in Port Harcourt and environs.
The interactions between the seen and unseen infrastructures, according to Meyer, account for the recent 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 last year. “These measures have been working well and while the public may not know, it has lead to several arrests and we have gained convictions against suspects on account of the improved network”, he emphasized.
Supporting the views of Hon. Chief Peterside and Engr. Meyer, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Chibuike stated,. “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 said the helicopters; costing $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 and commence operations in January, 2013.
He stated that Rivers now has 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 few weeks ago 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 has resulted not only 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 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 bie 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 2nd Dr Claude Ake Memorial Lecture, Rivers State Investment Forum and Governor’s Interactive Session with Rivers State Youths amongst several other meets the city has hosted to prove its acceptability as the most peaceful and progressive city in Nigeria.
Kudos of course must go to Alhaji 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, Director of SSS for their commitment in ensuring that Rivers State was recovered from the hands of these hoodlums! Kudos also goes to the then Secretary to the Rivers State Government now a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dist. Senator Magnus Abe whose office then was coordinating and spearheading this onslaught against insecurity in the State.
Wike Ans His Own Type of Rivers State
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.’
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/
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.
Kennedy Friday, a social commentator, in one of his presentations then Stated thus: “They were killed and beheaded in Ula-Upata community in Ahoada East Local Government Area. After that, their corpses were set ablaze! In this 21st century, this bestiality happens every day in parts of Rivers State, almost unchallenged.
Insecurity is at its most rampaging level. Oh God, what is happening to Rivers State? We have this very dire challenge and people look the other way and pretend that all is well. This barbarity happens every day in one part of the state or the other. When will these killings stop?”
In the words of Ibrahim Modibbo, a social commentator based in Abuja: “Not even under the evil and satanic regimes of Mobutu Sese Seko, Emperor Fidel Bokassa or legendary Idi Amin of Uganda did we see such a fascist regime that displays optimum barbarism and primitive parochialism as in Rivers.
The state is currently buckling under the full weight of a heartlessly ravenous political brigand, where life has lost its meaning and value. A cabal that swims in obscene opulence has made political power to be so critical to its survival that any opposition that stands on its way, even if it’s a fly, must be crushed with a sledge hammer.
I am, therefore, not surprised that opponents are now hunted like a game: with many beheaded, clubbed to death or buried alive like chickens.”
Jimitota Onoyume, Vanguard Newspaper Correspondent, reported on May 17, 2016, how 5 cops, 6 civilians were butchered in Rivers. According to him, “Mortal fear has seized the people of Rivers State since last week when armed marauders murdered five police officers, including a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Muhammadu Halidu, and six civilians at Okobe in Ahoada West Local Government Area.
The rampaging gunmen laid ambush for the police officers, attached to the 30 Mobile Police Force, code-named 30 MPF, Bayelsa State, on their way back from a national assignment in Yobe State and stole their rifles, after snuffing the life out of them.”
Reacting to the ugly scenario, Senator Magnus Abe stated: “But the point I want to make is that there are reasons here in Rivers State why we should not and cannot celebrate democracy day. Just yesterday, somewhere in Ahoada, I hear over eight people were killed, including the oldest man in the village.
As we speak now, in my own village, boys are going around with guns; nobody slept last night. I was told they even chased somebody to a church, and macheted him right there in a church, with people scampering for safety. As we talk now, in Luawii and Kapnyo, several people are dead, houses burnt… You know, all over… Yesterday, a friend of mine stopped at a fuel station at Rumoula to buy petrol, and while at the filling station, some people brought out guns and robbed everybody, right there in Rumuola. This is what is going on all over Rivers State.
In such circumstances, do we really have much to celebrate? The first responsibility of government is the maintenance of law and order. If people are free and safe, they can look for water, they can look for light, they can look for food. But they cannot look for security if they’re not safe. So, I think the governor should really do something to address the issue of security in this state. And until he does that, there is really nothing to celebrate in Rivers State.”
The socio-economic impact of the insecurity challenges
Who else could explain the economic impact of the insecurity situation in Rivers State more than Hon Rotimi Amaechi, who threw light on this while speaking at the Annual Lagos Traffic Radio Lecture Series in Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.
He accused the incumbent Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, of driving away investors from the state due to growing insecurity and crime, which had led to the plunging of the internally generated revenue (IGR), from N8 billion to N4 billion. His words: “Do you know that people are now migrating away from Port Harcourt?
When I was the governor of Rivers State, nothing like that happened. The crime rate in the state has now increased and the IGR dropped. As the governor, the IGR of the state was N8 billion. And that was why I have often advised Nigerian public office holders not to play with figures. Due to the crime rate in the state, people have started migrating away from the state and the IGR has dropped to N4 billion.
The state governor (Wike) now moves like chairman of a council, asking traders and others if they had paid their taxes. But when I was the governor, I don’t engage in that.”
According to Amaechi, “Migration is either voluntary or involuntary. But in the case of Rivers State, it is involuntary. They are forced to relocate from the state. The man complained that I am corrupt. But I have asked him to go to court but until today, he is yet to bring evidence forward to buttress his claims.”
1. Chief Nyesom Wike-led administration must leave aside its ego and allow reason guide its decisions at this critical point by dusting the Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi era security blueprint for the state, restart its implementation and save everybody from the ongoing needless waste of lives and properties across the State and drop his act of prevarication, stay true to his recent call for peace in the political arena and not toy with the idea of victimizing leaders of the APC who served in the Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi-led administration in the name of a guided witch-hunt called an investigation.
2. The Governor must convoke a Peace/Security/reconciliation Summit, involving key Christian leaders, traditional rulers, key political leaders, youths and women leaders, security experts and elders from all over the state. The summit will be expected to point out why the state is in its present sad situation and proffer suggestions on the ways out of it, adding that the era of paying lip service to issues of the greatness and future of the state should be ended.
3. The present status of Rivers state as home to the highest number of unemployed youths in Nigeria is not acceptable; hence Wike must revive all the industries that Amaechi set up during his tenure as the governor of Rivers state. These include the Songhai Farm, the Buguma Fish Farm and others that enabled Amaechi to employ over 500,000 youths of Rivers state and create a conducive environment for investors to invest in the State over one million jobs can be created before the end of 2019.
4. Governor Nyesom Wike should assemble key actors that assisted Amaechi during his days as governor of Rivers state, particularly the then Commissioner of Police, now retired IGP, SuleimanAbba; Ade Adeogun, and many others so that we can review and adopt some of the strategies they adopted that totally eradicated crimes and militancy in our state.
5. The governor must invite and reason with most of the key kingpins of militancy and dreaded cultists he has empowered and plead with them to assist the state in her quest for peace.
6. The Governor must dismantle the Abe led propaganda machine against the Honourable Minister of Transportation immediately.
7. The governor should once again read through his state broadcast, particularly the part where he said ‘although the present politics of acrimony and bitterness may have strayed from the noble path of the past, I still believe that we shall be better off standing and working
together for our state and our people.
I hereby direct the Honourable Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice to review all pending criminal proceedings filed against any person by the state and directly related to political activities prior to the 2019 general elections and make appropriate recommendations to me for necessary action to promote reconciliation among us’ and advise himself if the setting up of the Justice Monna Danagogo Judicial Commission on Election Violence while exonerating all PDP chieftains to try Tonye Cole, Llyod Chidi and some other APC leaders in areas he failed to win elections in the March/April polls tally with his state broadcast seeking for peace. If Justice Simeon Amadi Commission on the invasion and attack on the state’s judicial complex also tallies with the spirit of his State Broadcast.
8. “In the same vein, the Rivers state government set up a probe panel to investigate some Commissioners; Dr Chamberlain Peterside (Finance) and Dr Parker (Health) under Amaechi’s administration, I sincerely seek to know if all these steps are part of sustaining peace in Rivers State”, he quried.
With what Rt. Hon. Dr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi did to eradicate every atom of insecurity in Rivers State while holding forte the reins of governance as the Governor of that great State demonstrates nothing but capacity and a leading light as an exemplary leader of our time. This a fact that is no longer in doubt!
Touching on the need to pay an urgent attention to the security situation in the state as the reports going out of Rivers state in the last few years had been most unpleasant, noting that all sincere watchers of events in the state will agree that the turn of events since the advent of the Wike era had been a very sad and gory departure from the peaceful and secure state that the Amaechi administration ran, noting also that most of the intricate security architecture that the previous administration, under the watch of Amaechi, put in place for the peace and security of the state had been shut down by the Wike government.
In conclusion, the remains that if Wike is wise and interested to curb insecurity in Rivers State what stops him from humbly going to Amaechi for tutorial on how to govern a sophisticated state like Rivers State
Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt and can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org