A lecture delivered at the second conference of the People’s Media Limited by Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Con, Governor, Rivers State and Chairman Nigeria Governors’ Forum at the Ladi Kwali Hall, Sheraton, Abuja.
The invitation to speak was a bit confounding to me as it reeled out names of important men and women who will grace this occasion. The topic also appeared difficult and rather general. There was the need to streamline the topic. I therefore decided to speak on “The Metaphor of Change and the Politics of 2015.” My view of course is that while this is similar to the general theme it is somewhat more specific and focused.
To deal with the idea of change, one must first chronicle what is to be changed. Nigeria, a nation amalgamated in 1914 by a crusading colonialist with economic motivations was granted an unwilling political independence on October 1, 1960.
Nigeria has a chequered political and economic history which ranged from a “democratic election” that saw the emergence of Alhaji Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as ceremonial President to the government. Nigeria’s political and economic history is beset with ethnicity, corruption, poor and weak or lack of institutions, glorified by poor leadership. In the 60’s Nigeria was blessed with some quality leadership like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, amongst others. The colonialists left behind a (Westminster system of government) which embraced a bit of federalism to accommodate different ethnic and religious interests.
The different ethnic, political, religious, economic and the growth of corruption led to Nigeria civil war after the coup that had the principal officers of government assassinated. The coup and the assassinations were seen as ethnically motivated and led to a counter coup, which in itself resulted to a civil war. This was after a protracted negotiation between the two leaders of the Nigerian nation and the emerging Igbo nation. An estimated over one million persons died in the war. Several Nigerians leader were killed during the coup that ushered in the leadership of General Aguiyi Ironsi, most of which were of the northern extraction. Soldiers of Igbo or Eastern extraction led the coup. The counter coup itself and the insurrection that followed led to the killing of southerners in the North.
The resultant civil war ended in 1970 and the counter coup had thrown up Yakubu Gowon as Head of State. The Army had become involved in civil and political administration. With the impunity and command control structure attached to the military, corruption and dictatorship grew in the Nigerian polity and became the common reason advanced by the military marauders and economic scavengers for the frequent coup d’états and the change of government. This was the basis on which General Gowon was over thrown in 1975. General Murtala Mohammed was killed in 1976 after a few months in office. And after General Obasanjo emerged, and organised an election that ushered in democracy and Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
They also made different contributions at development especially the governments of General Olusegun Obansajo and that of General Yakubu Gowon. The short-lived General Mohammed Buhari was focussed on anti corruption. For this reason and more it was quickly set aside. The regime of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babaginda ushered in development, economic and political reforms. It took us through different phases of democracy, had unsuccessful coup attempts to dethrone him. The regime created states like that of General Gowon. It had a dramatic exit that led to a brutal regime of General Abacha. Abacha mostly characterized by corruption and human rights abuses after a palace coup that took away the brief regime of Ernest Shonekan.
The death of General Sani Abacha ushered in the Government of General Abudusalam Abubakar whose presence we are enjoying today. One of his greatest achievements is transitioning the country to a democracy with Rtd. General Olusegun Obasanjo returning to governance. He calmed and stabilized a country in turmoil from the brutality of an Abacha who wanted to return as a civilian dictator in the name of democracy and election. We have since then had three democratically elected presidents.
A common feature that characterized the different governments is corruption in varying degrees. The fight against corruption was given a serious thought under civilian administration of Obasanjo. He instituted the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) as a corruption-fighting agency despite the fact that there was in existence a Nigeria Police who has as one of its responsibilities fighting corruption. Nigeria as a country had abandoned its progress in Agriculture development and Agrarian economy for and economy driven by oil revenue.
The oil revenue itself enhances the development of an army of looters. John Campbell the one time America Ambassador to Nigeria in his book “Nigeria Dancing on the Brink” had this to say,
“Throughout the post-civil war period, the self-enrichment of individual military officers was made possible by immense oil revenues combined with weak institutions of governance with little accountability to the public. Militarization and centralization of government authority went hand in hand, power in Nigeria became much more centralized than its “Federal” label would indicate.”
Like was said earlier, corruption is not a repository of the military alone. The politicians were also experts at it. We had earlier reported the institutionalization of the fight against corruption through a state agency fro the first time in the history of Nigeria by President Obasanjo. The degree of progress that was made may be open for debate especially as it was alleged that he used the same agency to go after his political opponents. John Campbell continued in his treatise,
“Where he created anti-corruption agencies, he used them against his own political enemies. Nevertheless, their establishment bodes well for the future if they evolve into mainstay for the political enforcement for the law.”
The progress made in fighting corruption began to erode under President Yar Adua. His short-lived region cannot be assessed in this wise. Currently in the present regime of President Goodluck Jonathan corruption appears to have been institutionalized. A whopping sum of twenty billion dollars is alleged to have been missing. The stories of both fuel and kerosene subsidy are not anything to behold. It smears of corruption and rottenness. The aviation bulletproof saga remains unresolved. The Shell Malabu story is a macabre dance. The response of the regime to corruption is to imprison those exposing corruption. The impunity in corruption is extended to the punishment of those who fight corruption. The removal of the Governor of Central Bank is unconstitutional. Constitution means nothing to the current government. What we see is the re-emergence of civilian dictatorship, but enough about corruption.
Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, says his administration’s agenda of improving on the well-being of the less privileged is a responsibility placed on him by God. Governor Amaechi said this recently when the Baba Aladura and Prelate of the Eternal Sacred Order of Cherubim and Seraphim Worldwide, His Most Eminence, Dr. Lazarus Anumba Onyeleonu, visited him in Government House, Port Harcourt. Represented by his deputy, Engr. Tele Ikuru, the Governor declared “every decision of this government is geared towards improving the lives of the poor, through the provision of facilities in Education and Healthcare.”
The Chairman, registration of business places implementation committee in Rivers State, Mr. Johnny Soye Lulu-Barango has charged all Local Government Area coordinators to be of good conduct. Mr. Lulu-Barango made this known recently in a meeting with all the Local Government Area coordinators of Registration of Business Places in his office at Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Block B, Secretariat Complex, Port Harcourt.
He warned against bribery and any form of corruption from any officer and urged all the coordinators to desist from acts that will project the Government in bad light. The Chairman stressed that on no account should any coordinator or any staff issue photocopy demand notices to any business owner, enjoining all business operators in the State to cooperate with the officers of the Ministry.
Mr. Lulu-Barango urged all business operators in the State to work in accordance with the law establishing the implementation of Business Premises Registration. According to him, registered business premises will only pay for their renewal, while new ones will pay for registration of their business places and advised all business operators in the State not to pay any cash to field officers pointing out that such payment, should be made in designated banks.
The Rivers State House of Assembly has condemned in its entirety the recent killing of over forty students of Federal Government College Borno, Yobe State by suspected Boko Haram Sect. The condemnation formed part of the House resolution on the address presented to the lawmakers by the Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi where he reflected on the degenerating state of security in the country. The lawmakers while condoling with the families whose loved ones lost their lives, called for speedy actions from the Federal Government to bring lasting solution to this attack on innocent citizens of the country.
Speaking during the plenary session, Hon. Victoria Nyeche representing Port Harcourt Constituency I, said “the address is sad as a mother, the slaughter of innocent children in the country by the Boko Haram insurgents has proved that there is no security in the country”. Hon Nyeche stressed that the progress of any nation cannot be estimated on the level of infrastructural development rather its ability to secure lives and properties, “despite the amalgamation, the Centenary celebration has not shown that we can protect the nation” she said.
The social mobilization committee members in Obio/Akpor Local government Area have been advised to monitor the immunization exercise build to commence from 1st - 4th March, 2014. A retired Health Director, Mr. Amakoapuye Amachree drafted by the Rivers State Primary Health Care Management Board to handle immunization programmes co-ordination for the Board in the Local Government Area gave the advise during a meeting with members of the committee recently.
Mr. Amachree stressed the need for children to be immunized and appealed to all parents to take their children to the nearest Health Centre and other designated health posts in their communities for vaccination against Polio.
He noted that children need multiple doses of the oral vaccines to develop full immunity to this incurable disease and called on parents to avail the children the opportunity.
The spokesman of the committee, Mr. Amadi Godspower thanked the people for coming and appealed to his members to work hard to make the exercise a success.