By Stephen Agochi Okodudu
When recently the Daura Emirate in Katsina State turbaned Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, CON, as the Dan Amanar Daura (translated to mean the Trusted One of Daura), those of us who have known and associated with him longer knew that the investiture was not for political expediency but one borne out of objective assessment of his persona. The fundamental attribute of the person of CRA, as he is fondly called, is that he is very trusting and by extension, those who understand the meaning of trust in any relationship cannot also help but also trust him. I am one of those who can vouch that it is this attribute of trusting and being trusted that has seen him this far in his political and public service career.
I have known CRA since 1983 when we enrolled as undergraduate students at the University of Port Harcourt. While he was in the Department of English and Literary Studies in the Faculty of Humanities, I was in the Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences. Both Faculties were and are still largely housed in the same building. We took general courses (GES) together.
We stayed in the same Nelson Mandela Hostel throughout and graduated from the university in 1987. His comportment was one who was always comfortable with even the little he had. This is because although he did not present as one from a privileged background but he did not allow that to limit his circle of friends. He interacted freely with all. In all the years of our being undergraduate students, it was impossible not to notice CRA’s presence. He was active in students’ union activities and rose to become the National President of the National Union of Rivers state Students (NURSS). I was then very active in campus journalism as Editor, External Affairs of the University of Port Harcourt Mirror Newspaper from which I rose to become the Editor. He was always a delight when we interviewed him. What is now seen as his no-holds-barred frank answers to questions of national interest did not start now. It is second nature to him. He has always been one who speaks his mind on issues.
During our days at the University of Port Harcourt, he was a relentless advocate for student’s rights. If he believes in anything, he goes headlong into trying to realise such an objective to the extent that, way back then, it was known to all that if you do not want any job done the way it is legally defined, then don’t assign it to Amaechi. He often sacrificially carries out his own side of any bargain and expects that others should also do so. He is a very trusting person.
When it should be expected that trust begets trust, unfortunately, in our clime, most people take such trust for granted. But CRA also does not suffer fools gladly as he will stop at nothing at ignoring such individuals without nursing any harm to the person. What is often regarded as his incapacity to read the intention(s) of people he draws close to himself is because he has this childlike disposition to trust without reservations. This is why, I believe, when erstwhile close associates take his trust for granted, what in the political space is known as betrayal, though he feels it as any human being would, but he often quickly shrugs it off. I also believe that he is able to do so because I now find that he is not only deeply religious but also understands the duality of human nature. Chibuike Amaechi is an empathetic and dutiful leader. He is conscious of the fact that leadership is a serious business because the lives and circumstances of many are in his hands. As Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, he stamped his personality of service to humanity on that arm of government. Apart from ensuring cordial relationship between the legislature and the executive, under his watch, quality legislations were passed into law. A fitting memorabilia of his leadership to Rivers State is the iconic State House of Assembly Complex that is still better in aesthetic presentation than most of such complexes of its generation or those built even recently.
As Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon Amaechi played by the rules. He turned the entire state into a construction site. There is no community in the state that did not benefit from government projects in education, agriculture, health, scholarship or even security architecture. Prior to his assumption of office through God’s grace, Rivers State was notorious for militancy and other forms of criminality. But through his creative and calculated leadership, CRA was able to make the state become antiseptic to the brigands. They were driven underground and the state regained its monopoly of managing the security and welfare of the citizenry.
When he was appointed Minster of Transportation, after what was unarguably his epic political battle of his life with the Federal might at the time, not a few rather uniformed individuals poked their noses at those of us whom they knew were close to him that after all his struggles, including being the Director General of the Presidential Campaign, he was only rewarded with the appointment to manage motor parks. They were to swallow their vomit later on when vintage CRA took charge and brought all the parastals under his ministry to limelight. His effort in the rail sector alone has earned him the name “Mr. Connect Nigeria”.
This, in addition to the quality achievements recorded in the maritime sector under his watch has been unsurpassed since Nigeria began as a sovereign country. As a result of the unusual bad press that the University of Port Harcourt, his alma mater was getting at some point, I was appointed Acting Vice Chancellor. When I went to see him about my appointment, he was very emphatic that I should “go to the University and restore peace there”. For the one year that it pleased God for me to be in that position, he was always ready to assist in the peace building project he had charged me with. Part of this commitment came handy when I requested him to deliver the “Founder’s Day lecture” which he readily accepted despite his very busy schedule in February 2021.
Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is a quintessential gentleman. He is a workaholic. He knows and appreciates the meaning of friendship and remembers most of his acquaintances by their first names when he meets them even after many years of losing contact with such individuals. My experience of the premium he places on friendship was when I took ill in 2009 and I needed fund to fund my treatment. I was watching television and saw that he was on a live political engagement in Calabar, Cross Rivers State. I did a text to him thus: “Rt. Hon, this is a matter of life and death. I have been ill and I need to raise fund for hospital bill in India”.
Just as I sent the text, even while the occasion was going on, he replied: “Come to Government House tomorrow”. Although I was not too sure of seeing him the next day, I trusted my luck and went. He assisted me and for which I have remained eternally grateful to him. I have come to realise that were it in his powers CRA would not want to see anybody suffer. Contrary to opinions held in some quarters that he is a stubborn person, those of us who are close to him know well that this is far from the truth. The point to make is that he is a strong willed person and takes whatever he believes in very seriously. However, if you desire that he changes his position on any issue, you must also have very convincing argument and be ready to confront him with your point of view. Sadly, this is what most of his associates are unable to do believing that whatever they know to be alternative views should be self-evident to him even when they are not able to tell him so.
At 57 years, CRA has achieved so much that the sky now appears to be his stepping stone. This is why all his well-wishers, including yours truly, have been praying that his quest for the presidency of Nigeria is realized. The prayer is not for him to become President of Nigeria because of gains to close associates but because I am convinced an Amaechi presidency will be an asset to Nigeria.
Happy birthday Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi.
•Professor Stephen Agochi Okodudu Fnim, Fnasa, Fosha is former Acting Vice Chancellor, University of Port Harcourt