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Rotimi Amaechi raises the bar

I am not from Rivers State but in the past two years fate has brought me closer to its governor, Dr Rotimi Azubuike Amaechi.

He was appointed Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) to ensure that Nigeria qualified for the 2010 World Cup. The committee was essential, considering the situation surrounding the Super Eagles at the time.

The threat was real that Nigeria might be missing from the greatest football ‘party’ in the history of the game. The first World Cup to be held in Africa would not be truly African without the presence of the most populous African nation on earth and the most successful footballing country in Africa. Nigeria just had to be at the African World Cup.

That’s what motivated late President Yar Adua to set up the PTF, which had a difficult and challenging task to perform, considering the crisis within the team, the lack of organisation, the uninspiring performances of the team and the lack of confidence in the coach.

We thought Rotimi Amaechi was chosen as chairman to get him to throw the resources of his State at the problems. Meeting him proved us totally wrong.

In the two years of our interaction he taught every member of that committee what leadership really means. Without question, the heart, spirit and driving force behind the PTF was Dr Amaechi. He is likeable, easy-going, spontaneous, humble and decisive. He handled complex situations with ease and proved to be articulate, well informed about most subjects and a goal-getter.

He ‘bulldozed’ funds from private and public sources and thus made the work of the PTF easy. Without Governor Rotimi heading the PTF and getting things done, Nigeria might not have qualified for South Africa 2010.

Beyond the World Cup, I have had more time to study the man and his art of governance. I have visited Port Harcourt several times in the past year and have witnessed the steady infrastructural development in the state. There is construction work going on everywhere. I have seen “Garden City” reborn slowly but steadily.

I saw hundreds of new school buildings sprout from the water-logged and oil-wrecked land mass of Rivers State. The schools are not just beautiful modern structures but are also equipped with modern classrooms, state-of-the art laboratories, well equipped information technology facilities and first-class sports grounds and facilities.

In the decades to come, I foresee a Rivers State that will be in the forefront of academic excellence, infrastructural and human capacity development.

The State whet the appetites of its citizens for what lies ahead with the hosting of the 2011 National Sports Festival. That decision may be seen by most as a mere recreational activity for the country’s youths, but those that look beneath the surface will see the greater benefits to Rivers State -- new roads, a modern stadium complex, upgraded hospitals, a new city in the vicinity of the new stadium, over 20 000 new visitors who will boost the local economy and several other intangible benefits.

Rotimi Azubuike Amaechi is an unusual man in many ways. He is simple, intelligent, devoted to his family, a teetotaler and a non-smoking, go-getting governor, who is committed to his state and the country.

What I have seen in Rivers State is a small ray of light in the vast sea of darkness around the country. It gives hope that there are still leaders with the vision and political will to take the country away from the socio-ethnic and economic precipice on which it stands.

The National Sports Festival has been a perfect advert for this man of unusual vision. He has raised the bar of sports development and education in the country.

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