By Emmanuel aziken, political editor & Emeka Mammah
Former president Ibrahim Babangida, Speaker Aminu Tambuwal of the House of Representatives, governors, members of the National Assembly, prominent traditional rulers, elder-statesmen are among leading lights of the society scheduled to grace today’s investiture of Vanguard’s Man of the Year award.
The award is to be presented to Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State who was selected upon exemplary leadership in governance as demonstrated in the rapid mobilisation of public resources towards legacy projects that touch the ordinary man.
The first runner up for the Vanguard Personality of the Year, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, managing director of Access Bank, is also to be honoured in recognition of his visionary steps ahead of the competition in the banking industry. He is also being recognized for his salutary efforts in steering the affairs of the Presidential Task Force on the Verification of Fuel Subsidy Payments.
Both men came on top of other strong nominations that came for consideration for Vanguard Personality of the Year which was announced on January 1, 2013.
Entrance into today’s event at the Eko Hotel and Suites is strictly by invitation. The event is, however, to be broadcast live on the network channels of AIT, Silverbird, Channels, and the public broadcaster, NTA.
Governor Amaechi’s choice of Vanguard’s Personality of the Year was a near unanimous decision for Vanguard editors who were moved by the passion and drive with which the governor has attended to the improvement of the lots of every strata of society in Rivers State.
In choosing Governor Amaechi, consideration was taken of the numerous infrastructural projects initiated by the governor which helped to address long standing complaints about life in one of the oldest capital cities in the country, Port-Harcourt. But even beyond that, editors were moved by the passion and drive of the Amaechi administration to touch the citizenry with human capacity building projects, notably in the areas of education and agriculture.
Despite his sometimes blunt political visage, Governor Amaechi has won the admiration of friends and foes for his administration’s projects many of which, have become benchmark for many other governors in the country.
The 500 model primary schools built in the first term of the governor, of which 250 have been fully equipped and commissioned, have altered the negative drift from public schooling in the state with many private schools losing pupils to the government funded model primary schools.
The schools equipped with state of the art libraries, teaching facilities, playrooms, auditoria, and dispensaries are easily comparable to the best in many parts of the world.
Each primary school is also equipped with ICT facility, basketball pitch, volleyball pitch, a sick bay and nursery playground.
The 24 model secondary schools also equipped with the best facilities including laboratories, boarding facilities with two pupils in each room (en suite) are built with finesse that would put many universities in the country to shame. Remarkably, the schools are free open to the rich and poor with free feeding, uniforms among others. According to the governor all a student needs to come with after admission is the clothing he or she is putting on at the beginning of the school year.
As a way of ensuring sustenance in standards, the state administration has opened the secondary schools to the management of a foreign education consultancy, Educomp Solution.
In the area of healthcare, the Amaechi administration in its first four years, fully built and equipped 160 primary health care centres in all 23 local government areas. The government has also opened a state of the art hospital in Port-Harcourt, named after one of the state’s leading lights in the area of medicine, Prof. Kelsey Harrison.
The administration’s achievements in the area of agriculture have also been revolutionary even though, hidden from the eyes of the urban dwellers.
Besides four fish farms in Buguma, Andoni, Opobo and Ubima and a 100 hectare banana farm in Ogoni which is projected to be expanded to 250 hectares, the government has also established an integrated farm modeled after the Songhai farm in Porto Novo.
The Rivers model of Songhai is about 20 times the size of that in Porto Novo and integrates livestock, arable farming, fishery, snail farming and poultry.
The administration has also established a 2,000-hectare farm in Etche with a total available land space of 3,000 hectares. The farm is projected to cost $140 million and is being established in conjunction with a foreign technical partner and it is expected to have 300 farming houses which would accommodate 300 farming families living and working in the farm.
Remarkably, the farm projects some of which were established with foreign technical partners contributed significantly to the reduction of criminality given the high emoluments offered to farm hands some who go home with six figure salaries monthly.
Given the recognition his achievements have elicited from far and near, Governor Amaechi in an interview was asked to name what he considered his most important projects.
“All of them are important. Education is the most important based on the reasons I have given. But I think if you do not have road network to move goods and services you would not be able to run the economy because you need to run the economy by providing good road networks.
People have been complaining of traffic and the reason is not because there are too many cars, but it is because the roads are not enough. We are building more roads and expanding existing ones.
“There is a road that would take you from the heart of town to the airport and, even though it is not up to 17 kilometres, it would cost us about N200 billion. I do not have that money, but, if I do not do it, Aba Road would continue to be the major trunk road into the city and we will continue to have traffic crisis. So, we need to deal with the issue of road network.
“Health is also important if we have to govern people. If the people are not alive, you cannot govern any person. So we have to provide quality healthcare. But, basically, the most important is education.”
Aig-Imoukhuede’s day of honour too
Also to be honoured today is Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede, a man of far reaching vision whose steps have set standards for others in his chosen profession.
But his efforts did not come without challenge, but in all, Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede successfully navigated the several obstacles that consumed many of his contemporaries. Besides laurels in his core competence in banking, Aig-Imoukhuede is also a member of the Federal Government’s Economic Management Team.
Given his sterling efforts, it is not surprising that Aig-Imoukuede was picked by the administration to do the job where many angels supposedly wouldn’t have dared. As chairman of the Presidential Task Force on the Verification, Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede brought an unusual commitment to his job where neither friend nor foe was spared in the audit of the public purse.
Speaking to Vanguard ahead of today’s award, the banker revealed how he has adapted the management skills of one of the world’s most watched personalities, Alex Ferguson, manager of English premier league side, Manchester United Football.
“I was a fan of Alex Ferguson before I became a Man U fan. In fact, I wonder when the coach changes what will happen as inevitably it will change. But I am a fan of his man management, his approach to leadership. I have read every book that have been written about him or that he has written himself.”
Other role models for the banker are Fola Adeola, Lamido Sanusi. Of Sanusi, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Aig-Imoukhuede said:
“The strength of conviction that makes a man do the right thing or do what he believes is the right thing even in the face of what you can call overwhelming odd is something that I have learnt from him.”
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