Gowon Attempts Reconciling Jonathan, Amaechi At Port Harcourt Centenary Celebration
Former military Head of state, General Yakubu Gowon today made an attempt to reconcile President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers state as he appealed to both leaders to sheath their swords and embrace each other as an indication of an end to their bitter rivalry.
Though Jonathan was absent but represented at the Port Harcourt centenary celebrations symposium held at the Civic Centre, Port Harcourt, by his Special Assistant on Research and Documentation, Oronto Douglas, Gen. Gowon nevertheless asked the governor and the president’s emissary to exchange ‘centenary handshake’.
His words “As we gather to celebrate 100 years of the founding of Port Harcourt, I will like to take the opportunity to counsel that we all continue to work for peace and stability of Rivers State and Nigeria as a whole.
“This is because, if any part of our land is not at peace, everyone will suffer the consequences at one time or the other. It is in this regard that I especially, commend Mr. President for making out time to attend this event, which is a great opportunity at celebrating a proud heritage, while mending faces and rebuilding bridges.”
“It is in the same vein, I like to appreciate Governor Rotimi Amaechi, whose handshake with Mr. President, will not be mere ceremonial courtesy to fulfill all righteousness.
“Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I cannot end my remarks, without paying homage to the founding fathers of Port Harcourt and indigenes, and to all generations of men and women, who have worked tirelessly to ensure the development of all our beloved Garden City.”
In his response to Gowon’s call for reconciliation, Amaechi said he is willing and obedient to submit completely to President Jonathan,he however demanded ”on behalf of Rivers people, social justice.”
Below are the speeches of both Messrs Jonathan and Amaechi at the event for the record:
1. It is great to be home, in Port Harcourt, to join you all in tribute to a city, which in the 100 years since that faithful day of 30th August 1913, has done so much for so many. At 100, the city of Port Harcourt is still roaring with potentials, as it appears strongly determined to assert its well-earned position as a comprehensive industrial, entertainment and scholastic hub. There can be no doubt that this is indeed a special city; not only is it a few months older than modern Nigeria; its streets are literally paved with history, and legacies.
2. I want to thank all members of the organising committee for the excellent arrangements, and particularly, our eminent elders and leaders, Prof Otonti Nduka, Prof Tekena Tamuno, Prof E.J. Alagoa and Prof Nimi Briggs who conveyed the good tidings of this centenary celebration and the letter inviting me to be part of it. For anyone who has experienced Port Harcourt, whether as a native, a resident or visitor, it is difficult to stay away from the city without a deep sense of sentimental attachment.
3. At each and every time in its ancient and modern history, Port Harcourt or the area now known as Port Harcourt has been a melting pot: from European explorers who came in search of slaves, palm oil and trade, to modern-day venture capitalists in search of good fortune as well as job seekers from all over the nation in search of opportunities, not to talk of big multinational companies and the various ancillary concerns drawn by the allure of oil. In every sense, and to everyone, Port Harcourt has always been interesting and a force for good.
4. Port Harcourt in its first 100 years seemed to have formed a strong relationship with Oil. In the colonial period, the trade in Palm Oil dominated the economic activities of the then Eastern Region of which Port Harcourt was a part. The City quickly assumed its reputation as an Oil City as it became the centre of the Palm Oil trade. In post-colonial Nigeria, the City maintained its status as the centre of the Oil business, with the emergence of Crude Oil as the economic main stay of our great country. Whether palm oil or Crude Oil, Port Harcourt has remained an Oil City.
5. The city has transformed significantly in many ways through the years, but its unique essence as a magnet of hope for many from all walks of life has remained true. Its charm is irresistible. Its vibrancy is unmistakable. But perhaps its most valuable component is its proud, amiable, resourceful and enlightened people with their unique patois, cuisine and style. This is what makes Port Harcourt, truly Port Harcourt.
6. This, after all, is the city of a multitude of talents and heroes: distinguished academic titans like Professor Ebigberi Alagoa, Professor Tekena Tamuno, Professor Nimi Briggs; great writers and leaders of thought: Gabriel Okara, Elechi Amadi, Kenule Saro-Wiwa; legal luminaries: Nabo Graham Douglas (SAN) Justice Karibi Whyte rtd, Justice Mary Odili, and O.C.J Okocha; great sports personalities: Monday Sinclair, Adokiye Amaesimaka, Richard Owubokiri, Jossy Dombraye, Abu Yahaya, I.K. Eze, Samson Siasia, Jackson Bide, Macaulay Apah, and Mercy Akhide; accomplished artists and cultural workers: Rex Lawson, Ola Rotimi, Hilda Dokubo, Geraldo Pino, Daniel Wilson and more recently, Duncan Mighty, among others.
7. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I could go on and on reeling out a list of who is who, including my Vice President, Architect Namadi Sambo who lived for a while in this great city.
8. Our Port Harcourt has always opened its doors and welcoming hands to all and sundry, scholars, market women, business tycoons, poets, writers, musicians, public servants, politicians; it is in every regard a city of possibilities and a land of hope where neither tribe nor tongue constitutes a barrier to the fulfilment of dreams. It is no secret that Port Harcourt is the city that helped shape my life and by the special grace of God, I now serve you as Nigeria’s President.
9. The city is the product of the contributions of many hands and many ideas and the process of its making and growth is certainly still on-going. In this regard, I would like to encourage present and future leaders of Rivers state, and especially, the city of Port Harcourt to pay special attention to the many scenic and historic endowments of the city, especially the many rivers and creeks, the old historic buildings and the landmarks that gave Port Harcourt its well-known sobriquet as theGarden City.
10. Cities are physical entities but they are also strong emotional constructs, and so it is that in the case of Port Harcourt, those who have been privileged to live within its borders or encounter it in the course of their life’s journeys, remember it with fondness and nostalgia. Some call it “Pora”, or “Porta”, “Pitakwa”, while others call it “Port” or “PH” for short. Whatever Port Harcourt means to you, it will always remain one of our nation’s treasured cities. We should do everything to support its rise.
11. Permit me to recall my early attachment to this great city. I began life in Mile 1, Diobu from where I had to go to work in “Town” as a Preventive Officer in the Customs and Excise Department. Our means of transportation was the city’s many buses and taxis. I would trek to the road and wait for the next bus going my way. The bus conductors ever so energetic and agile would jump out of the bus even before it came to a stop shouting “Borokiri”! “Borokiri”!! We all boarded in a hurry trying to beat the early morning rush to work.
12. As the bus travelled through the many other bus stations, the conductor will shout at the top of his voice “Education dey?” Then it was the turn of “UTC”, “Leventis”, “Loco”, “Station”, etc. We would pass the surrounding city landmarks: the tall and majestic Point Block; the hugeSecretariat Buildings, the Old Post Office, PABOD among others. In later years when travelling through the city, we listened to Radio Rivers and the news in Special English by Boma Erekosima. This was the journey of the Port Harcourt worker.
13. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, you may have noticed that I did not add the word “late” when I mentioned Boma Erekosima’s name. Great men and women, who excel in their chosen fields, always live on in our memory forever. That is why Rex Jim Lawson, that pioneering, inspiring Highlife musician also remains evergreen.
14. I want to thank the many leaders, who by circumstances of duty have helped to make Port Harcourt what it is – Sir Lewis Viscount Harcourt, after whom the city was named; Alfred Diete Spiff, the pioneer military Governor of Rivers State, and several military administrators and Governors to date.
15. I would also like to specially recognize and pay tribute to Harold Dappa Biriye; Senator Obi Wali; Prof Claude Ake, Melford Okilo; Isaac Adaka Boro; and Nwobodike Nwonodi (SAN), whose tireless and hardworking widow, Judith Nwonodi is a member of the organising committee. The leadership and sacrifices of these great Nigerians continue to inspire millions to do what is good for our country and our people.
16. Let me also thank generations of members and managers of the Port Harcourt Club, the Port Harcourt Boat Club, the Port Harcourt Golf Club, as well as numerous Socio-Cultural Organisations, the many Villages and Towns’ Associations and Unions, Traders, Tourists and Adventurers, for their continued belief and support for the growth of Port Harcourt.
17. The Federal Government acknowledges Port Harcourt’s unique place in our development. We are resolved to continue to contribute to its development and the upliftment of the conditions of its people, and other Nigerians. The old, narrow Port Harcourt gauge rail system which was developed in 1916 to enable the smooth transfer of coal and other raw materials for export from Enugu and other parts of the Eastern Region, and which has been abandoned for so long, will soon be restored and operations will commence as soon as the Eastern corridor is fully rehabilitated.
18. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the Federal Government is providing infrastructure to enhance the quality of research and instruction at the University of Port Harcourt, the state owned Ignatius Azuru University of Education and other institutions in this city.
19. The Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF) skill acquisition centre along Airport road estimated at a cost of 15 billion naira will be completed in the second quarter of next year. The centre will focus on human capital development in the area of ICT and other diagnostics for heavy duty equipment. The Federal Government is also committed to modernizing the Port Harcourt International Airport and upgrading it to befit the status of this great city.
20. I believe however, the greatest asset of Port Harcourt is its creative youth. This extensive volume of human potential requires an endless stream of space and opportunity so that they can help build the city, the state and our nation. We must sustain the re-orientation of our youth, to deepen their sense of commitment to the noble values of hard work, selflessness and discipline. The Federal Government will continue to collaborate with the state and local governments to ensure that our youths receive their due. To our young persons, I say, you must be prepared to learn and work hard. We must continue to secure the peace, and tranquility that gave Port Harcourt its homely and comforting character.
21. This city has done so much and means so much to all of us. I congratulate the traditional, religious and community leaders and all the good people of Rivers state in general, on this epic occasion of Port Harcourt centenary.
22. Even as we celebrate, I have observed with pains that the struggle for political space in recent times is creating unnecessary tension in this city which has served all of us so well. I believe that this is not the best that Port Harcourt deserves. We can all as fathers, mothers and leaders do more to intervene and help douse the fire of partisan differences, in order to preserve the peaceful glory of Port Harcourt. This city will always be home for me, and I believe, for millions of others as well.
23. I thank you for the very warm welcome you have accorded me and my entourage.
24. Happy Centennial Birthday, Port Harcourt … I thank you all.
A SPEECH DELIVERED BY RIVERS STATE GOVERNOR RT. HON. CHIBUIKE ROTIMI AMAECHI, CON AT THE OCCASION OF THE PORT HARCOURT CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS SYMPOSIOUM ON THURSDAY NOVEMBER 7 2013 AT THE CIVIC CENTRE PORT HARCOURT
Today I am filled with excitement and feel truly honoured and particularly blessed to be sitting as Governor of Rivers State at a time when our beloved city Port Harcourt commemorates a hundred years o f its founding. The celebrations today are an announcement that our city has come of age in a different way. One hundred years of growth albeit in fits and starts is a testament of the enduring nature of our city and the burst of life it continually gives to those who live here. Port Harcourt has remained the city that everyone who visits makes home.
Like the theme of the symposium “Port Harcourt City, Past, Present and Future” suggests, this is a time to celebrate our history and culture. It is also a time of remembrance, reflection and most importantly a time to project in terms of development of how Port Harcourt should look in another fifty to a hundred years.
As we celebrate this historic moment we must with much thankfulness pay tribute to the men and women who have served and worked assiduously to frame the canvas on which we now paint. May I use the opportunity of this special occasion to on behalf of Rivers State Government congratulate the hardworking men and women who cut the forests and paved the way for our city a hundred years ago. Chief of these is our own respected Chief Jonas Happy Elemuwa Nwuke, the first black provincial commissioner for Port Harcourt whose significant contributions to the development of the city include the development of the Trans Amadi Industrial layout. He it was who lowered the Union Jack when the British left in 1960. Along with Chief Nwuke, we remember the various mayors and administrators who handed over the baton to our most visionary first military governor of old Rivers state, HRM King Alfred Diete-Spiff, the Amanyabo of Twon brass, and his team of able and the men and women who served in that pioneer government of our state, for setting the pace and pathway for development in Port Harcourt. Posterity has judged them fairly and today their works continue to speak for them.
May I also pay my resects to the Late Melford Okilo, who amongst other things established the Rivers State University of Science and Technology in Port Harcourt, as well as AIG Fidelis Oyakhilome who signed the edict to establish the Rivers State school of basic studies. It was also Oyakhilome who noting the importance of agriculture he also introduce the school to land programme which not only increased agricultural input in port Harcourt, but also afforded young school leavers the opportunity to learn and farming.
Former Governors Anthony Ukpo and Ernest Adeleye deserve our respect and appreciation for inaugurating the provisional council of Rivers State polytechnic and signing the edict establishing same school respectively, while we acknowledge today the roles played by my predecessors Chief Rufus Ada George and Sir (Dr.) Peter Odili in elevating face of Port Harcourt and expanding the City.
The city of Port Harcourt means different things to each one of us as we have had different experiences. But one thing that is clear is that our city is very dear to all of us.
I grew up in Port Harcourt as a young boy, had my primary, secondary and tertiary education in Port Harcourt and so I can speak first hand about this city. I was not from a rich home. I used to pick food from Olu Obasanjo road – Man must wack as we called it then. I hawked at different times for my parents in this city. After God, I owe my growth to Port Harcourt.
I am quite nostalgic about what the city of Port Harcourt used to be. It was popularly called the garden city because of the order that characterized our houses built in beautiful well-planned layouts and the greens and open spaces all over the city. Pot Harcourt was also serene and had a peaceful mien which explained why many people preferred to holiday in Port Harcourt. You could leave your doors open to visit a friend in another street and return to still find your belongings intact. We would walk from Diobu to Borokiri. We used to climb trees to watch football at the temporary stadium.
How many of you remember that we used to dance nwa otam in Bonny or Opobo or when we couldn’t go to either place we would go to Iloabuchi Street to watch the dancers. Those of you from places like Ikwerre would remember our regular “wake keepings” during burials. You could go from wake to wake confident and assured that you would get food to eat. Nobody was afraid. Nobody worried. Our Port Harcourt was a city bubbling with life, where to be called a port Harcourt boy didn’t only mean that you had swag, like our youth will say today, but meant that you were responsible, responsive, respectable, intelligent, sociable and found dignity in any career path that your choose.
The residents of Port Harcourt people were admired even when they went out of the state because they were hard working and had pride in their culture and of course we had all the oil companies around, doing their businesses without any iota of security challenge. But one day we woke up and our city had changed. Some people masquerading as Niger Delta militants began to maim and kill with the support of politicians. The Port Harcourt we used to know gradually changed from its grace and position of honour to a gory situation. There is no well meaning resident of the old city of Port Harcourt who does not strongly desire that the city return to its original status.
An assessment of the crux of the matter would show that at the root of most of the crisis was poverty, although in some cases greed as well. This explains why the present administration from 2007 till date has made and implemented clear urban renewal policies to return the city of Port Harcourt to the garden city it used to be. I know that we may have forgotten the demolition exercises undertaken by this administration in our first tenure and even till now. This was not done to witch hunt anybody for whatever reasons, even though some persons perceived it as such. It is important to note that the port Harcourt that we are going to leave behind will be far better than the Port Harcourt that we met in 2007.
Besides our removal of illegal structures on the right of way, the State government has done so much in terms of road construction; this job is still on- going as we can see in parts of Port Harcourt. The old Port Harcourt Township is wearing a new look in terms of roads and drainages as well as the construction of several sports facilities in the area.
As we speak the State government is reconstructing all roads and drainages in D/Line. My honest assurance to the residents of Diobu is that these efforts will be replicated in the area. Government has also constructed several bridges within the city of Port Harcourt to ease movement and reduce traffic congestion. The end advantage of all of these efforts is a boost to the economy of our State, which we are already witnessing.
I do not intend to bore you with the achievements of this government. The fact is that is why you elected us. To govern and to deliver to you infrastructure that is functional. We have pledged to serve you with humility and render transparent and accountable stewardship even as we strive to better the lives of our present and future generations.
On behalf of the present administration, I wish to firmly promise that Port Harcourt will surely be better by the close of this administration to the glory of God and the well being of our people and those who come to Port Harcourt to do business. Our dream will be a global destination for tourism, investment both local and international business.
I therefore urge us to sustain our sense of hospitality and friendship.
Long live Port Harcourt
Long live Rivers State
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
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