Chibuike Amaechi’s Search For Rivers Indigenes Integrity

As the ticking of the clock is fast grappling with the date of the general elections in April, one is poised to retrospect to the inaugural speech of Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State in Oct. 26 after he won his case with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the court that ousted Sir Celestine Omehia. He said, “I will serve you with humility, and above all, with fear of God. I will listen to your opinion and will be guided by your views and together we will make Rivers State great again”. It was as if the governor had the indigenes of Rivers State at heart when he was making that speech. This is said because ‘I will listen to your opinion’ seemed not to bother on the plights and opinions of the non-indigenes in the state to the governor. The governor is campaigning for re-election. Undoubtedly, he has said recently that he is not a killer but arrogant (to the non-indigenes?). This is a man who once said that “I will serve with humility”.

Notwithstanding, there has not been improved economy in Rivers State that will open up job opportunities for non-indigenes in the state, except for the indigenous adults and youths who hitherto got themselves mined in the kidnapping ring. That’s not all, the less endowed among the ex-militants were once fully to be integrated. Did we not see these ex-militants at Aluu, near Port-Harcourt, where they were kept for training in various skills, went on rampage, because of lack of adequacy to their welfare?

While Ameachi has put in excellent plans by restoring most of play fields particularly in old Port Harcourt Township and has all insisted on good sports arena for the new primary school buildings embarked upon in all the LGA of Rivers State, why has he not fully integrated or incorporated the non-indigenes in his government? Indeed, Port Harcourt is surely returning to its glory state, whereas non-indigenes are left with the old gory tales of seclusion in Rivers State.

Rivers State under Amaechi-led administration, in the general sense of belonging, has not given to non-indigenes who have made Rivers State their home even before Nigeria gained independence in 1960, a sense of relevance. It is easy to know who is Igbo, Efik, Ikwerre, Ibibio, Kalabiri, Yoruba or Hausa in Rivers State, because of indigenes and non-indigenes dichotomy the indigenes left as the only option for non-indigenes in Rivers State. The non-indigenes have fettered access to the governor and several government officials, because they are non indigenes? While this happens, the Rivers indigenes have continued to salute the gubernatorial skills of one of them in the person of Amaechi.

“We are once again having the best of our time with the Amaechi-led administration. Yes, and the last we had something like this been during the Alfred Diette Spiff administration. Some forty years ago,” Rivers indigenes described the government as God ordained.

However, Amaechi’s government, has refused this government to be a continuation of the previous administration, and this is good. Amaechi is indeed an epitome of hard work, bravery, courage and determination to succeed where others failed, but not on the fully emancipation of non-indigenes? Non-indigenes are at loss as to the transformation of Rivers State since 2007 that Mr. Amaechi took power, and he doesn’t care to take a second look at his inaugural speech after his swearing in?

In the TheNEWS, January 18, 2010, in an article titled “Amaechi’s Dilemma” succinctly stated that Amaechi expresses his frustrations and his government’s failures during a chat with Rivers stakeholders and the media. Amaechi laid bare his feelings on the grim realities confronting his administration while presenting the 2010 proposed budget estimate of N429 billion to the state House of Assembly on 23 December 2009. Prominent among his worries is the drop from the state’s 2009 budget of N432.28 billion in the 2010 fiscal estimate. This is due to the reduction of revenue from the Federation Account as a result of the ceding of about 200 oil wells from the state to Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa and other bordering states by the National Boundary Commission, NBC, and the Revenue Allocation, Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission (which that of Akwa Ibom 86 oil wells ceded to her have been reclaimed by Rivers State recently, 2011).

Not only how to shore up the revenue base of the state to meet the increasing challenge of sustaining the economic profile of the state should be the challenge confronting Amaechi in the face of many multi-nationals that fled the state in the wake of kidnappings and violent attacks on the management and staff of oil companies in the state, but the plight of non-indigenes that have be left in abject penury in Rivers State. What then is the spirited efforts by the state government to rebrand the state with a view to convincing the companies that fled to return because peace has returned, whereas non-indigenes are left on their own in Rivers State?

While many groups in the entertainment industry have staged shows in Port Harcourt, starting with ‘Diplomatic Unplugged’ by Akas Baba, followed by Friends of WAZOBIA FM, ECOWAS Beauty Pageant, AY Live, ION Film Festival and CARNIRIV 2009/2010, which is the Rivers’ government’s clone of the Calabar end-of-year Carnival, nothing has improved on the side of non-indigenes as far as Amaechi-led administration is concerned. Other shows organised are CRACK YA RIBS by, ace comedian Julius Agwu, THISDAY Musical Entertainment Night, and the 2009 version of Nite of A Thousand Laughs, just to pep up Rivers State where non-indigenes are not pepped up with staunch appointments and contracts.

Since Amaechi assumed office, he has not hidden the fact that his administration has failed woefully in its bid to evacuate the quantum of refuse and other wastes generated daily in the state capital. During an interactive session with the media onetime at Government House, Port Harcourt, Amaechi repeated the woeful performance of his administration in this regard: “I can confess that since I assumed office, waste disposal has [posed] a serious challenge to my administration. But the problems are that we inherited waste disposal contractors who are mainly (indigenous?) politicians in the state who receive between N4 and N5 million monthly but hardly evacuate the refuse,” Amaechi lamented. But many Rivers indigenes wonder why the Governor is sacrificing environmental health in the state capital on the altar of political patronage of politicians who are in the corridors of power. The truth of the matter is hinged on the fact that the individuals behind the waste evacuation scheme are not those Amaechi can look straight in the face and tell them: “You are fired.” No non-indigene is in this mess, and non-indigenes will never be.

The incapacitation of the indigenes given contracts to deliver in Rivers State is the greatest Amaechi’s dilemma. Because they are indigenes, Amaechi has found it very hard to be decisive on what to do about the recalcitrant refuse disposal indigenous contractors. These guys have the attitude to messing up construction contracts given to them. Is Amaechi lamenting that his fellow indigenes have failed him in his government? He had severally lamented in many sessions that contracts worth over N10bn for the construction of the trans-Kalabari highway that would link all the Kalabari local government areas awarded by former governor Peter Odili, were awarded to prominent Kalabari sons who, after collecting 40 per cent mobilisation started raising security concerns as excuse for abandoning the project. Amaechi wondered why indigenes of a particular area could cross their hearts and stake their integrity, only for them to abandon the projects or do shoddy jobs that would not benefit their people.

Amaechi had still narrated how his government had to pay out 100 per cent contract sum to some (indigenous?) contractors building some primary schools in the state so that they could cash-in on the dry weather to speed up their job and pupils who were relocated could resume inside new school buildings. Expressing regret, Amaechi had said that, “When I drove to some of the sites, some of the schools were at the foundation stage. I had to call Alice Nimi, the Commissioner, to know what has been happening to the projects. Ordinarily, with enough money in your hand, one can complete a building within three months.”

Asked what Amaechi has been doing to erring contractors, and he warned: “No contractor can take the people’s money and go scot-free. I am not ready to go to jail for anybody. Those who abandon their contracts would be made to refund the money collected. When they refuse to comply, I will mention their names to you, the media.”

Amaechi has said that in many foras. He repeated it at Buguma, ASALGA, on 16th March, 2011, during his electioneering campaign there. However, not a few have taken Amaechi seriously because he had in the past indulged his (indigenous) political associates who toyed with projects contracted out to them. While his opponents say he does it because of his second term ambition and he needs every support from them, Amaechi had claimed he does not nurse second term ambition. But it is pretty apparent that strategies were already mapped out for that re-election project. (And here we are today).

~Odimegwu Onwumere

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1 Comment

  1. Ebi says:

    Whyl I do not think dat the quality of contracts in Rivers State should be jeopardized for the frivolous consideration of ethnicity, I however, feel dt there’s a need 2 draw a line between this and the right of non-indigenes to have a share in govt appointments(political and otherwise) and contracts frm the govt. In this light, I can hardly think of a single law in Nigeria dt directs a state to give such rights or considerations to non-indigenes. This article seems to not only undermine d ability of Rivers indigenes to excellently carry out a responsibility, but it also seems to suggest dt Rivers State is d only state in Nigeria dt considers its indigenes first in government/political appointments and in govt contracts. This insinuation is indeed, baseless.

    While it is necessary to point out dt the govt.’s choice of contractors as well as its supervision of contracts have been very poor, and contractors performance generally mediocritic, dis is not a basis for any form of inference dt Rivers indigenes do not carry out excellent work. If it is indeed true that d govt in d state awards contracts 2 only indigenes, den d primary schools so far completed in Portharcourt (which were excellently done) attest to the fact dt Rivers contractors actually do excellent jobs.
    The issue den would not be dat d contractor is an indigene, but dat d contractor has wasted govt money and is not being thrown in prison or otherwise punished for it. Dis is d same challeng facing the Nigerian State. Contracts are awarded at d federal level, but years later, dere’s nothing to show for it. D problem is not dat Nigerian contractors are being given d job to do, but dat “bad contractors”, “corrupt/unqualified” contractors are awarded contracts. Contracts are politicized- that’s d problem with Nigeria & dis is the challenge in Rivers state. If d writer of dat article wasn’t writin with d intention of casting an aspersion on d integrity and ability of Rivers indigenes in general, he/she would have realised this. This kind of attitude is wrong and should be discouraged.
    Furthermore, I’m very sure dat the state from which the writer hails is a bigger culprit of excluding non-indigenes from its political and economic affairs; for I know of no other state(perhaps except Lagos state) that has accepted non-indigenes with the level of openness dat Rivers state has. We let non-indigenes teach in our schools, work in our govt., & I even hear that we have an hausa community in Rivers state dat has become accepted as part of the Rivers community & a member has even become a permanent secretary in Rivers state. I challenge d writer of dat piece to point to such instances in his/her state of origin.
    So u c, dt article is completely uncalled for and should be utterly disregarded. Because, its motive is obviously to disparage Rivers indigenes, and to make non-indigenes feel excluded, unappreciated and unwanted.
    On the issue of bad and corrupt contractors, the govt needs to tighten up its criteria for awarding contracts, recommit itself to assiduously supervise contracts, and speedily arraign/properly punish lazy or corrupt contractors for economic crimes. To ensure dese, dere should be a regulatory framework for contracts in d state, and such framework should be implemented to d latter. This is how d government can show its commitment to the entire people of Rivers state (both indigenes and residing non-indigenes).

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