By Michael Jegede
In the words of John Calvin Maxwell, an American author, speaker, and pastor, born on February 20, 1947, having over 60 books mainly focusing on leadership to his credit, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way”.
According to Napoleon Bonaparte (August 15, 1769 – May 5, 1821), a French military and political leader, who rose to prominence during the later stages of the French Revolution, “A leader is a dealer in hope”.
The former Governor of Rivers State and immediate past Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the leading presidential aspirant on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) who turns 57 years today (May 27), has in all positions occupied over the years, proved to be an exceptional leader with the knack for producing better results.
Born into the humble family of late Elder Fidelis Amaechi and Mrs Mary Amaechi in Ubima, Ikwerre Local Government Area of River State, the ex-Transportation Minister, an unalloyed democrat and politician of high repute, has never left any in doubt about his capability to lead courageously and effectively right from his days as a student union leader.
At 57, the ex-Rivers helmsman can be said to have lived a fulfilled life worthy of emulation. An exemplary leader and distinguished reformer of note, the presidential hopeful has unarguably contributed in no small measure to the growth and sustenance of democracy, societal advancement and service to humanity in Nigeria.
Not born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Amaechi, a great man of valour worked hard with unmitigated determination to become what he is today. Speaking on what his growing up was like on the day he declared his intention to join the 2023 presidential race in Port Harcourt, the one-time President of the National Union of Rivers State Students (NURSS) had said: “I do not come from a privileged background. I grew up poor. I understand how it feels to go without some meals in a day. I know the pain of lack and the agony of want. I know what it means to see your parents toil just to keep a roof over your family’s head. I know what it is to feel the weight of expectation when you are the only one in your family who enjoys the opportunity to attend university. Subsequently, I funded the education of my siblings to be university graduates as well. I know what it is to scrimp and save and struggle.”
Erstwhile parliamentarian, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, in an interview, described the presidential hopeful as a courageous politician and detribalised Nigerian, who deserves to be given the opportunity to govern Nigeria.
Ararume represented the Imo North Senatorial District between 1999 and 2007. He said: “I have known Amaechi since the early 90s when he was with (Peter) Odilli, before Ada George became governor. That’s over 30 years now. I know him as a very young man in his twenties. I thank God for his life. I also thank God for giving him all the opportunities to serve humanity. I’m proud of him because for every opportunity he had to serve he gave a very good account of himself. He is a very consistent and reliable person. He is always loyal to friendship and invariably committed to relationship. He doesn’t abandon his friends. For the long period that I have known him, he always fights for what he believes in. And he has always been a result-oriented person.
“I’m happy that I knew him at the time that I knew him. I’m happy that we kept the relationship. I see him as my younger brother. I don’t see Amaechi as a friend at all. It is always my pleasure to associate myself with anything that concerns his family. I wish him the best in this our attempt and pursuit to bring this country focused and knowledge-based leadership. I’m giving him my support because I know that Amaechi is a courageous person. I know he doesn’t believe in tribe or religion. He believes in the oneness of this country. He is a completely detribalized Nigerian.
“He is somebody that this nation should give the opportunity to serve at the level of the presidency. And I’m sure this nation will be a better place for everybody if you give him that opportunity. That is our fervent prayer to God Almighty. We hope that on Sunday when all the delegates of our party (APC) converge in Abuja at Eagle Square, they will do the needful to give Amaechi the support that he deserves for a higher service to this nation.
“If you look at this administration, for instance, even if you don’t like the face of the president or you don’t like the face of Amaechi, you can’t deny the fact that he’s done well in the assignment given to him at the transportation ministry. No matter what impression you have of this government, you must always say that the ministry has done well with the railways, with the Lekki Deep Seaport and many other significant projects he executed. He is a tireless person. I don’t know where he derives his energy from. Maybe because he is a young man. He is indeed a good performer.”
Rejoicing with Amaechi on his 57th birthday, Prof. Lawrence Chuku, the candidate of APC for the House of Assembly election in Obio-Akpor 1 Constituency of River State, also believes that Amaechi has done much for humanity.
Hear Chuku, a Professor of Biochemistry/Molecular Biology: “Amaechi is a very honest and sincere leader, frank to a fault. He says things the way they are. And he is a man who loves humanity. He hates seeing people suffer. He hates seeing people in poverty. In fact, he is a man who wishes that all should be well with every human being. Even when you are his enemy he will wish you well. He doesn’t like seeing anybody in agony. And he is a ruthless fighter of criminality. He doesn’t tolerate ignorance. He does not tolerate indolence because he is a very hardworking man. He is a leader of the first order.”
Continuing, he added: “As a matter of fact, in Rivers State today whether APC or PDP he created 98% of the leaders. He brought life, development, industrialization and security to Rivers State. His educational blueprint and the health blueprint he had in Rivers State were superb and second to none. I don’t know how to describe Rt. Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi. He is simply a godsent leader.
“I am wishing him the very best as he celebrates his 57th birthday. I’m praying God to avail him the opportunity to rule this country. You know they say when the righteous rule the people rejoice. Amaechi ruling this country will be a great thing for all of us.”
Mr. Desire Bobmanuel, a policy analyst worked with Amaechi as his special adviser on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when he was Rivers Governor.
Bobmanuel said: “Rotimi Amaechi is a forthright person, focused, and willing to take risks for the common good. He has an uncommon courage to tackle any challenge, and is a sticker for excellence.
“Rotimi Amaechi believes in, and works towards an equitable society where all citizens have a common heritage in their common wealth. Scripture says by their fruits ye shall know them and Amaechi’s strides in pro-poor development programmes as Speaker, Governor, and Minister are evidence of his disposition towards equity in society. Amaechi is a leader’s leader.”
When Amaechi assumed office as Rivers Governor in 2007, he wasted no time in putting necessary machinery in motion to hit the ground running. And within a few months he had placed Rivers on the path of progress after successfully subduing the kidnappers, militants, cultists and other criminals whose nefarious activities at that time heightened insecurity in the state.
Driven by the passion to rebuild Rivers, Amaechi invested extensively in giving a facelift to Port Harcourt and its environs. It was he who created the Great Port Harcourt City Master Plan and conceptualized the 1000 unit Rainbow Town Estate to address the housing shortage in the state. His exploits in urban renewal development was recognized with an award by the United Nations World Habitat Organization.
Amaechi, a purposeful and resourceful leader with the Midas Touch, set up the Songhai Rivers Initiative Farm (SRIF), an integrated system of farming that combines different agricultural activities to boost food production, in partnership with the Songhai International Centre, Porto Novo in Benin Republic. Covering a 314 hectare of farmland, at Bunu-Tai/Ban-Ogoi in Tai Local Government Area of Rivers State, the SRIF is said to be the biggest Songhai farm model in Africa. Four modern fish farms at Bugama, Opobo, Ubima and Andoni as well as a Banana farm in Ogoni were equally developed by Amaechi with the sole aim of creating jobs for the people.
As he clocks 57, it is my prayer that God grants him many more fruitful years of sound health of mind and body while also wishing him victory in the APC presidential primary election holding on Sunday.
• Jegede, a journalist, writes from Abuja