By. Ogbonna Nwuke
A time comes when men roll out the drums in celebration of others whose imprint on the sands of time cannot be readily ignored.
It may be that such mortals who walk the path of excellence, or who aspire through life to change the circumstances of their birth eventually climb dizzying heights.
It may even be that such mortals come upon a new age of realization like the Prodigal son did, and men are compelled to celebrate them in respect of that which turns them into a new leaf.
Yet, comes a time when all who are born remember when they first arrived planet earth.
In a sense, birthdays represent a process of transition. While man adds one new age to a lifespan on earth, for instance, one year is surreptitiously removed from the number of years allowed for his existence on earth by nature.
It doesn’t matter if, in pursuit of overriding dreams, one makes it big. What matters is that people, when the time comes, are able to recall their birthdays.
Some celebrate these times. So, they plan well ahead and tinker with ideas that could best make the celebration of their date of birth a memorable one.
They cannot afford the luxury of such celebrations. Neither can they understand the need to, given their slim resources; nor afford a strange culture of celebration that was not part of an upbringing in early life.
Those close to great achievers gather in their numbers to celebrate their hero, associate, relative and friend. For the unsung, the date of birth simply glides through or is completely drowned by worry, want and poverty.
For those able to celebrate and those who don’t, the birthday of a life time provides à rare opportunity for sober reflections.
In truth, when those who by sheer hard work and a stroke of nature’s benevolent smile make it up the ladder to the top celebrate, it is usually time to catalogue their giant strides; time to capture those rare memories that have made life worth living.
For the unsung who have no stars to guide and no one to mark their day, the occasion of their birthdays turn out to be time to look in the direction of heaven. Time to ask why benevolent spirits didn’t crack their kernels; time to reflect on opportunities lost and desires that have remained a mirage.
Such is the nature of life and the composition of society that it is difficult to say where the thin line which separates success from failure lies.
After all, men were not born equal. So, some are astonishingly rich while others fall within the realm of those largely categorized as common men.
Some are greedy, wicked and mean while others are kind hearted and ever willing to lend a helping hand.
This is perhaps the beauty of society. The fact that we talk in terms of the rich, those endowed with some effort who fall within the middle class and the poor who depend on alms and other kinds of support to scrap through life. The fact that by the nature of Nature itself, these classes found in different strata in a rational society that has become compartmentalized and specialized have clear roles to play.
At times, in some climes like Nigeria, mortal man has to scavenge for a morsel of food to eat.
Others who reside in the same society don’t. They have so much to waste while hunger deals a cruel blow on the less privileged.
All said, not all can be hunters of great fortune, beneficiaries of an unfolding civilisation, or pioneers of commerce and industry.
This may very well explain the notion of the weak and strong links of a chain. Linked together, the chain is strong, difficult to pull apart and resilient. When torn apart under pressure, the presence of the so-called weak links which exist in a chain becomes easily discernable.
Those who engage in a tug-of-war would probably understand this phenomenon better. They know why some are victors and others losers.
In my father’s Kingdom, there are so many mansions. Those are not our words. They are the words of the Son of Man who was born in a manger many years ago and whose teachings remain relevant to this day.
It is proof perhaps, of the differences that exist in the way men are placed, up or down the ladder of society. A veritable explanation why some literarily own big and magnificent places of abode while others dwell in shanties and “L-shaped” structures, the type that Nigerians describe as “face-me-I-face-you” buildings.
Perhaps, no day reminds man of the great strides that he has made, the many rivers he has crossed, or the shipwrecks and the great falls than the remembrance of the day he was born.
For Rotimi Amaechi, the day of his birth would be here pretty soon. Close associates of one of the most famous men in Nigeria today are already falling over one another in a bid to celebrate him.
I understand that a colloquium is being planned as part of activities to mark his birthday. I have heard that movers and shakers from across Nigeria are primed to deliver speeches that capture the real
essence of the occasion.
They include the rather controversial Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El Rufai who kept the Abuja masterplan intact, a one time Senator and Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Senator Mamora Okorunnimbe Adeleke, Prof. Owunari Georgewill of the University of Port Harcourt and Barrister Bele Tariah, a beneficiary of Amaechi’s scholarship.
The organisers think that the speakers would use the opportunity to discuss a man who has made, and is still making, contributions to the development of the nation; a man who has risen from grass to grace; and a man who in many ways is an enigma.
Amaechi must count himself lucky. Not many are as blessed as he. But most Nigerians hope that the occasion of his birthday would be a rare chance for the Ubima-born politician and administrator to re-assess himself.
His adversaries point to his perceived arrogance. They even accuse him of being plainly rude, suggesting when they find it convenient, that a stream of successes strewn along his path is gradually beclouding his judgment.
His friends murmur about what they perceive as an emerging brickwall; an artificial hedge which now stands as a barrier between Amaechi and the free flowing communication they once shared.
There are those who refer to him as the problem of Rivers politics. Amaechi has loved Rivers State with a passion; contributed to the growth of the state and refused to look the other way in matters that affect the ordinary people.
How then can a good intention translate to evil? Why should ideas that are noble run into a brickwall? Who gains from these misconceptions? Why?
Could there be something wrong in his approach? As he dons a new age, are there lessons he can learn from all these?
Only Amaechi can tell or attempt answers to these questions. He would need, in the process to look seriously inwards.
Amaechi may be what his opponents say he is. He is human and humans are fallible. He could be a man thoroughly misunderstood by those who have crossed his path.
Given his previous antecedents, it is possible that a twist in what is perceived as the reality on ground in Rivers State, advanced by fast spreading falsehood and rumour, appears to have fueled a high level of misunderstanding.
I have seen Amaechi cry in appreciation before the Lord’s alter, outstretched in humility on the floor. I have seen him flare up like a raging fire, his eyes bulging in their sockets like those of a villain in a Hollywood film.
I have seen him pursue his belief with a passion that is second to none, seen hope and a burning commitment play the role of delivery vehicles.
Not to allow room for those emotions that are driven by mood swings; not to appreciate the impact of extreme stress which turns an otherwise peaceful person into an aggressive being; is to miss some of the changes that increasing pressure brings.
Outspoken and irrepressible, it is not difficult to understand why Amaechi’s traducers hate him with such a passion. How can a man be so blunt as a politician and expect to survive in a country such as Nigeria?
The fact that Amaechi rarely deploys diplomacy as a weapon; rarely hides a zero tolerance for corruption and all forms of manipulation; and rarely controls his emotion when faced with things that negatively define the character trait of our nation; is sufficient to earn him strong and powerful enemies.
The near child-like innocence that he exudes, his bluntness on issues of great interest, have similarly earned a string of new and powerful friends; friends who believe that the views that Amaechi holds are what a new Nigeria needs to heal, rediscover itself and move forward.
Controversy could be part of those spices that shape life in so many ways. But controversy is not definitely what Amaechi needs at this time. Most Nigerians, including me, hope Amaechi would take note of this.
There is a future out there that is beckoning; a future that promises to take him to commanding heights; and a future he cannot afford to compromise in any sense.
Amaechi needs to see this clearly. In doing so, he must step away from controversy and allow the tendency that allows one’s blood to reach boiling point to simmer down.
From his victory at the Supreme Court when his mandate was denied in the PDP, through his days as a performing governor of Rivers State, to the birth of the commonsense revolution which is gradually moving Nigeria forward, Amaechi has transformed into a child of destiny.
One may have a great destiny and yet fail to be a man of history. The conspiracies of the elements and the radiating forms of the cosmic which play friendly roles at times, and introduces negative influences in other times, determine the pace of man’s journey.
But history appears to be calling. It appears to attract the man, Amaechi, to the hallway of records like a magnet. It may be that he has grace placed upon him by his Creator. It may be that Amaechi has prayerfully prayed his way through life to a point that heaven has refused to rest.
We may never know where his ship would berth, or understand the nature of the treasures that lie therein until the ship has come to shore.
As the Minister of Transportation, Amaechi has put in so much to see that Nigeria runs once again on rail tracks. Railway lines are emerging everywhere. Such a development brings a beacon of hope and progress to keen watchers of the transport sector. Experts say the advent of rail transportation would relieve our roads of the burden they bear at the moment, reduce some of the gridlock that stares us in the face in major port cities because of haulage trucks that convert roads to parking lots, and grow the economy.
A Ghananian Minister said recently that he was yet to see the dynamism and energy which propels Amaechi in any man. Surveys that are being conducted by pollsters say Amaechi has done far better than other ministers in translating the purpose of their appointment to positive action. Even the Chinese with whom he has worked these past few years think he is driving the process with profound vigour.
The rail lines are taking on more passengers and cargo as a result. Fast moving trains are becoming part of the excitement of the local people in the Nigerian hinterland where they reside. These are proof of the dedication of a Nigerian mind that has a clear zeal to contribute to the transformation of our great country.
There are people who want Amaechi to move beyond the Ministry of Transportation in the Buhari administration. They argue correctly that he has what it takes to be the new SGF. Others point out that being the President’s Chief of Staff would be the best icing on the cake.
Right as these lines of thinking may be, these thoughts may not fit in properly into the ‘history model’ that nature has defined for Amaechi.
Amaechi, in my view, should take the ongoing development of Nigeria’s rail lines to a point where it becomes totally irreversible. This would guarantee his place in history and shape a destiny, beyond his grasp, that is waiting in the wings.
I hope that this birthday would bring Amaechi exceeding joy and happiness. I pray that he would engage in a self appraisal process that would redefine the man that he is.
I don’t know if I would be there to watch Amaechi celebrate, but as one of the men in this life-time that I have ever given my loyalty, let me wish him a happy birthday.
Nwuke, a former member of the House of Representatives was Chief Press Secretary, Commissioner of Information and Commissioner, Commerce & Industry under the administration of Governor Rotimi Amaechi