Rivers State Governor, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi
Twenty-four hours with the Rivers State Governor, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, reveals his quintessential nature as he embarks on his daily routine, writes Olawale Olaleye
Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State is not a stickler for rigid protocol or official schedule, especially where the need for result is expedient. For one who has done nothing but played politics- progressive politics- since he left the university, Amaechi not only understands what governance entails, he also has the rudimentary grasp of the game of politics.
Never afraid to confront challenges, he plays his game, first to the best of his ability and importantly, to the dictates of his conscience. The rest, as he is quick to say, are the worries of non-progressive elements.
It was on a Friday, Ameachi who had not been in town was just returning from Owerri, the Imo State capital, where he had visited the day before for a function- social function it seemed. He had planned to meet with his guest journalists at the border demarcating Rivers State from some neighbouring states, essentially to “show you guys what is called injustice.”
The governor who had spent an average of N105 billion on federal roads lamented what it has been like seeking for reimbursement that may still not come for as long as he is governor of the state. This is believed to have been occasioned by the no love lost between him and the president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. But the Governor was however not surprised that a neighbouring state was recently reimbursed of its claims to federal projects even though he (Amaechi) also had the nod to go ahead with the projects.
But that was a story he later told since he had left the said adjoining border before his guests could catch up with him as he returned to Port Harcourt city that morning. However, there was not much time to waste. His day must begin in earnest and already as it is every day, some other guests on appointment were equally waiting for an audience with the governor. The day, therefore, started at breakfast table where informal discussions about the state of the nation preceded other things. This took a while as such debate usually arouses the interest of all, even non-Nigerians alike.
Immediately this was over, Amaechi went into a meeting with some of his guests who had called for official, perhaps, business talks. That took about an hour before the he decided to take his guest journalists on a facility tour and inspection of some of the ongoing projects in the state. Indeed, it turned out a very long day!
As he rode in the same bus with the journalists even though he was warned by the journalists that the bus was not bullet proof, confident that Rivers was about 95 per cent crime free at the time having gone three months without any incidence of crime, Amaechi ignored and sat on the front seat right beside the driver who obviously was driving him for the first time. Suffice it to say that a typical Amaechi drives himself, no matter the distance. But he would not dare fly a plane. Just saying!
Whilst the convoy drove through town, Amaechi drew attention to some of the roads he constructed in his first and second terms and other projects adorning the streets until the convoy arrived its first port of call which was one of his model primary schools. A classical concept- the type comparable to the standard in developed countries, Amaechi said government though targets 750 of such schools, while 500 are in the works, 264 are already completed and 100 of them functional. He pegs each classroom at 30 pupils.
Using the Elekahia primary school, Port Harcourt, as an example, the school is made up of a pre-primary classroom, a standard auditorium, football and track field, computer room, library and sick bay amongst many other features. For the Governor, quality education of Rivers State’s children is non-negotiable.
Sharing fence with the school is a model health centre- Elekahia primary health centre. From the school compound, Amaechi just walked across and paid an unscheduled visit to the clinic. In all, government, Amaechi said plans 160 of such health centres across the rural areas but that 120 of them are presently operational. Each of the health centres, however, has official quarters for doctors and other support staff for 24 hours service.
Despite being an unscheduled visit, some of the patients and staff of the clinic parted with some New Year gift from the Governor. But trust Amaechi, he did not hesitate to threaten to sack the resident doctors if they failed to live up to their billings, having not met the head doctor on one of such occasions that he paid an impromptu visit.
Conceptually, the primary health centres remain what they are called- primary- as such, no one walks into the general hospital, for instance, on account of one ailment or the other. The general hospitals are referral centres and at the discretion of the primary health operators who determine what is beyond them.
Moving forward, Amaechi while in the bus hinted of the number of bridges, flyovers and roads he had built since he assumed office in October, 2007. And by his administrative style, Amaechi does not commission projects. For him, they are deployed to work immediately on completion. The idea of commissioning is ceremonial and needless, he believes.
The next stop was at Ambassador Nne Rurubo model Secondary school in Eleme local government area of the state. Yet another mind-blowing feat that could diminish any Nigerian university structure; 24 of such are in the works- one in each of the 23 local government areas of the state and one in the Governor’s home town in Ekwere.
Already, the facilities have been outsourced to Indians for effective management and three of which are now in full operation. By formation, it requires 25 students per class and 1050 students per school. To gain admission into the school which is also a boarding house facility requires stringent process including a strict entrance examination. Out of magnanimity of the state government, two students are admitted from each of the other states of the federation.
From Eleme, the convoy drove straight to Afam power plant. There were three to four plants said to be supplying 545 megawatts. Although, the take-off is said to be contingent on some delays, the Governor has also ordered that the delays be contained immediately. To compliment the power plant are about 28 distribution sub-stations built across the state.
Thus, once the ongoing unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria is concluded and the Rivers deal also clinched, Amaechi said the state has more than what is required to sustaining itself in terms of power generation.
Visited next was the Songhai Integrated Farm, structured on 300 hectares of land. Apart from the regulars like fishing, poultry, livestock, plantations and the likes, the farm also has a feed mill where all that are required to keep the farm alive are manufactured, including also, the processing machines. The farm produces natural juices of different types, pepper, special rice, tomato and other edibles albeit in small quantities.
However, because of the initiative, Amaechi has decided to also outsource the production wing of the farm to some Americans who will bring in equipment that would enhance production in large demands.
The Oral and Dental Maxilo-facial hospital is another wonder of the Amaechi administration. A practical referral and training centre, the hospital is unique in the sense that it is the first of its kind anywhere that deals essentially with oral and dental cases, carved out completely from a regular or general hospital where every area of medicine are accorded separate units under one roof.
Of all, nothing seemed to have excited Amaechi more than the Kesley Harrison hospital. Managed by Americans, the idea, according to Amaechi is to discourage medical tourism because the equipment in the hospital is such that would compete favourably with any other in the world. That aside, it is wired in a way that in the event of any complications, perhaps during an operation or a critical medical condition, messages are sent to different hospitals in the world with whom they have affiliations on the way forward and a reply received immediately. This one project, typifies the joy of the Governor as he conducted journalists round the world class facilities.
At this point, the governor and his guests were worn out even though they snacked in-between their journey, the urge to retire home was palpable.
But just as the dinner ended at the Government House, Port Harcourt, Amaechi, albeit on a lighter note, reminded journalists that the provision for breakfast and dinner is included in security votes, hence, when issues of security votes are being discussed, they have a duty to chip in one or two words in defence.
On that note, the day ended and Amaechi who was billed to travel out of the country that night left immediately for the airport.
But the first lady, Mrs. Judith Amaechi, who came later that evening when the team had retired was not happy that the Governor did not conduct journalists round some monuments she thought were critical. She cited the stadium as an example, saying “that is one place you’d ever appreciate to have visited.” May be some other time, but hanging out all day with Amaechi was not fun; instead, it was energy sapping.