By Emmanuel, Sunday Brown
Dear Nigerians, I express this concern in the earnest hope that you might read and see it for what it is – a clarion call. For those who would like to think this is a political campaign, you are right. But you would be wrong in thinking this was a paid reflection.
Over the past 27 weeks, I have read nearly every news article about the Minister of Transportation, the Rt Hon Rotimi Amaechi, watched every video, and followed every @officialchibuikeamaechi Instagram post, hoping to get wind of one of the most comforting news for every struggling Nigerian who yearns for a better Nigeria.
Then, April 9th came, and my first amongst a thousand wishes for my country came to pass: Minister Amaechi pledged himself to the cause of rekindling hope for a better Nigeria. With him, I have been a firm believer in what Nigeria could become.
I believe in the future of our great nation. Like me, most Nigerian youths know this but have grown distrustful of the Nigerian system to give us a fair chance in the process of healing and building our country.
We have lost faith in the Nigerian system to reward our individual efforts towards making Nigeria great. This is why we leave for other countries and will continue to leave, because here, at home, hard work does not count. We only succeed by grace.
As a boy, despite my less privileged family background, I had big dreams, of studying at one of the best universities in the world. I was born and raised in the riverine town of Ngo, Andoni LGA of Rivers State. My father did everything to motivate and keep me upright, in character and learning, through primary and secondary schools, with the shared hope that my dreams could come through with the slightest opportunity, given my hard work.
My father believed, and still believes in the endless possibilities of our dear nation. This was why he named my older brothers Nation and Destiny, in solidarity with the post-civil war slogan of unity: “One Nation, One Destiny”.
In 2009, after getting the results of my WASSC examination, I soon came to believe that my dream of university education, talk much of studying overseas, was nothing short of a delusion. I watched as my struggling parents registered JAMB for my two older brothers, while I was told to wait for them to be sponsored.
Later that year, however, my childhood friend and secondary school colleague, who graduated a class before me, called and told me that he had been awarded an overseas scholarship by the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA). He had passed a statewide scholarship examination and interview and was awarded the Governor’s Special Overseas Undergraduate Scholarship, purely on merit.
The RSSDA was an agency set up by the administration of Amaechi in 2008, barely months after he was sworn in as the governor of Rivers. The agency, whose motto is “so that no one is left behind”, was saddled mainly with the responsibility of promoting sustainable and equitable human capital development across every community in Rivers.
In Amaechi’s time, the agency awarded scholarships to about 5,000 students, 2000 of which were fully funded overseas scholarships to the UK, Ireland, Canada etc. The selection process was transparent. Every year, tens of thousands of students – indigenes and nonindigenes – would flood the Rivers State University campus to write the 30-minute life-changing test.
This was my opportunity, I told myself after hearing of my friend’s success. So I went to work and doubled my effort to prepare every day for months, waiting for the next application cycle. When the 2010 cycle came, I wrote the test with relative ease and was unsurprisingly invited for an oral interview, which I also passed, and was awarded an overseas scholarship to study at the prestigious University of Liverpool.
I could not bring myself to believe it. It had all come to pass – my childhood dream. I paid nothing; knew no one; had no political connection whatsoever. I and the rest of the 2000 beneficiaries were selected through fair assessment, regardless of ethnicity, religion, family background or political leaning.
When Amaechi inaugurated the RSSDA, he stated: “Our mission is to serve our people with humility and render transparent and accountable stewardship, anchored on integrity and good governance. We shall use our God-given resources to improve the quality of life of our present and future generations, and empower our people in a peaceful, just and harmonious society under God.”
Amaechi’s impact on the lives of thousands of rural school leavers inspired other beneficiaries of the RSSDA programme and me to cofound The Delta Rural Foundation, a nonprofit organization striving to sustain the seed of hope he planted more than a decade ago. As a charity, our main goal has been to preach hope and strengthen the resolve of children and teenagers, living in underserved rural communities, to remain steadfast in their studies and not yield to challenges they face.
Amaechi’s approach to revolutionary development in any sector has remained unchanged: build infrastructure, train/engage the needed human capital, and monitor/maintain impact. His message of hope, his courage and his audacity to achieve seemingly impossible feats was heard and felt in every community in Rivers.
In his time, more than 13,000 teachers, a record yet to be matched across Nigeria, were recruited and periodically trained to adequately staff existing public schools and the 500 additional model primary schools he built in 350 different communities. The educational revolution Amaechi championed in Rivers places him top spot to address the educational challenges Nigeria faces today.
About the Nigerian health sector, which has been ranked among the least competent in the world for nearly 2 decades, we require revolutionary leadership to help reverse the current narrative that 1 in every 5 maternal deaths in the world occurs in Nigeria.
Nothing short of a complete revolution in the health sector is needed to reverse the current narrative, and Amaechi has had his scorecard loaded in this area too with world-class primary health centres and personnel. Under Amaechi’s watch, 160 primary healthcare centres were built across Rivers State.
Previously existing state-owned hospitals were revamped and upgraded to specialist hospitals. More than 400 medical doctors and 500 nurses were employed to man these state-of-the-art health facilities. In Rivers then, access to healthcare was not only guaranteed, but it was also free. Nigerians from various states were coming into Rivers to access free healthcare services for children and the elderly.
In June 2013, my youngest sibling was delivered through a caesarian section at the Kelsey Harrison Specialist Hospital, one of the revamped state-owned hospitals during Mr Amaechi’s time. Ordinarily, this procedure would have cost my family more than a million naira, but it was free of charge. The same was with other key healthcare services, which Nigerians are in daily need of.
Amaechi is a man that has always had the interest of the common Nigerian at heart because he too has faced the challenges every struggling Nigerian youth faces today. He has had to work hard for himself and his family. He is the kind of man that hasn’t and wouldn’t forget where he comes from – the same place of struggle most of us are in today.
In one of his televised interviews when asked what to tell young Nigerians, who were planning on leaving the country in search of a better livelihood, he replied, “stay and face the challenges… Nigeria has many opportunities for you”.
Every Nigerian wants to be part of a system that can guarantee reward for hard work, for our effort. We want a transparent roadmap to the Nigerian Dream, a life without hunger and lack, free from poverty and desperation for survival, to decide what is good for ourselves as a people, and not be slaves in our own country. We want to be truly equal in the eyes of our nation regardless of our tribe, religion, or family background.
Fellow Nigerians, if I could make a wish for the millions of us, who have been struggling and still don’t have anything to show for it; if I could make a wish for that rural child that still has a dream amidst the despair; if I could make a wish for the parents, who are confused about how to set up their children, the name, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, will surely be muttered among the words of my wishes.
Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is more than a man running for president; he represents the cause of the ordinary Nigerian. Therefore, with God by our side, we shall stand by him with courage as we fight to claim Nigeria for the ordinary Nigerian. May it be well with Nigeria.