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Good governors

By Donu Koghara

MERRY Christmas to all Vanguard readers. I pray that you can take a break from any stresses you are enduring and enjoy the holiday season with your families.

Let’s face it: This has been a really terrible year, both in terms of a worldwide recession that has crippled many economies and the nightmares that Nigerians have battled with. But every cloud has a silver lining; and I would like to seize this opportunity to praise the two Governors who have shone most brightly in 2009.

First on my Christmas Honours List is my Governor, Rotimi Amaechi. Now  in case you think that I am sounding suspiciously like one of the sickening sycophants I have roundly condemned  in this column in the past, let’s get one thing straight:

Nobody  is perfect. Mere mortals are riddled with flaws; and Amaechi – like you, me and every other human being on this earth – possesses a number of weaknesses and has made a number of mistakes…including his failure to reconcile with his former political family, which is headed by Dr. Peter Odili, a generous mentor who treated him like a beloved son and provided him with a powerful foundation that enabled him to overcome various obstacles and to eventually rise to the top.

Fortunately, Amaechi also possesses significant strengths and, in addition to being likeable and down-to-earth, has had a largely positive impact on Rivers State.

Every chief executive has opponents and Amaechi is no exception; and his critics tend to grumble when anyone applauds his efforts, most notably the fact that he has dynamically embarked on a huge infrastructural development programme.

Since he took over the gubernatorial slot in October 2007, he has – amongst other achievements – built several medical centres, schools and roads. And many people are delighted to watch Port Harcourt and its environs being gradually revitalised.

I have an expatriate engineer friend called Kevin. He works for a foreign company in Port Harcourt and keeps going on and on about the visible improvements that he has personally witnessed since Amaechi became Governor.

According to Kevin, many of the foreigners he socialises with share his extremely high opinion of Amaechi and think that Amaechi is “doing a damned good job.”

But Amaechi’s detractors are resolutely unimpressed.

They say things like: “Amaechi is collecting much bigger monthly allocations from the Federation Account than any of his predecessors were ever able to collect, so it’s no big deal that he is undertaking more projects than Odili and others did.”

I can understand anyone who feels ill-treated by Amaechi being reluctant  to give him credit for the work he  is  doing. But I’m a journalist, not a politician; and it’s my job to be objective – to listen to diverse viewpoints and to then try  my best to make fair judgements that are based on the facts I have at my disposal and on the “evidence” that I’ve gleaned via my own eyes and ears. And I think it is fair to say that though Amaechi’s administration HAS been more financially blessed than previous administrations, his accomplishments are not just about money.

The capacity for progress is never purely about obvious factors like how much cash one can access. It is also about subtleties like mindset and vision.

Some leaders are so selfish, incompetent or corrupt that they do little or  nothing for the citizens who depend on them, even when their budgets are substantial. Similarly, some leaders are so enlightened and so instinctively dutiful that they perform laudably, even when their budgets are pathetically small.

I have gone on project tours with Amaechi. He doesn’t stand on ceremony or play the Big Oga. He jumps onto a bus with everyone else; and he isn’t slapdash. Nor, like so many of his contemporaries, is he only interested in superficialities.

I have observed him being admirably perfectionist and doggedly hands-on. He complains bitterly about projects that are not being completed quickly enough for his liking. He expresses anxiety about any flaws he spots. He quizzes contractors and commissioners about technical details – such as drainage facilities.  He is pretty well-informed about things that a Boss like him doesn’t HAVE to know.

Amaechi behaves like a man who cares and wants to learn and  is determined to leave a solid legacy. He strikes me as the kind of leader who would have taken pride in improving our state, even if he’d only had a few paltry naira to juggle.

He is certainly using at least some of the funds he gets productively and certainly deserves to be congratulated for being a cut above most Nigerian Governors.

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