I had the opportunity to listen to a talk by Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi. The Governor was his usual slick and charming self. After a talk on development projects and initiatives he has undertaken in his state, he took some (often hostile!) questions from the audience.
Those who want to know more of Amaechi’s views should view the documentary about militancy in the Niger Delta I posted last year. It has an interview with him by Ross Kemp: https://maxsiollun.wordpress.com/2009/06/22/pirates-in-nigeria/
I was very impressed by his oratory and analysis of the Amaechi is a very good politician. Like a good politician he knows his audience and how to say what they want to hear. He gave a very interesting talk explaining that he met a derelict and underfunded treasury and state when he took over as Rivers State Governor in 2007. He explained his government’s initiatives in prioritizing the building of new schools and hospitals and greatly improving the security situation in Rivers State.
Niger Delta Militants and Amnesty
Obviously the audience were very interested in the Governor’s comments regarding the Niger Delta. Amaechi’s stance on the issue is well known. He regards it as one of criminality. He says of the Niger Delta militants that “80% of them are criminals”. His view was that if the government cannot find a legal means of allowing people to access Nigeria’s oil wealth, then they will find an ILLEGAL one.
For this reason he opposed the amnesty declared last year by former President Yat’Adua. However he did admit that the amnesty has worked because it has permitted an increase in oil production from 700,000 barrels a day before the amnesty to 2.2 million barrels per day today. The Governor was pleased by this as it gave him more money (from derivation royalties) for his state.
The Governor said that the militants were armed by the elite for political purposes, then used their guns for militancy after escaping the control of their political pay masters. Amaechi basically thinks that many people have exploited the sympathy and publicity of the Niger Delta issue for their own money making purposes. People in his view, tag on to it and call themselves “militants” when they are in fact criminals.
“If the government does not cater for the poor, then the rich will not live comfortably”
Amaechi refused to be drawn on whether Goodluck Jonathan should run in next year’s presidential election. A firm “no comment” was his reaction.
I was impressed by the Governor’s talk. Although some parts of his talk sounded like a party political broadcast on his own behalf, he made many salient points. He said that if the government does not cater for the poor, then the rich will not live comfortably.