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GODSWILL AKPABIO: The Count Down

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(Part 1)

  1. Introduction

Godswill Akpabio, Hon. Minister, Niger Delta Affairs has dominated the news so far in 2020 for all the wrong reasons. The Corona Virus Pandemic is only slightly ahead for obvious reasons. Why has Akpabio been so controversial? Indeed, the President deserves an international award for his uncommon patience with Akpabio given all the embarrassment caused to his administration. Of all the Ministers in Buhari’s Cabinet, Akpabio stands out like a sore thumb and is currently tasking the President’s restraint. Why is decorum so difficult for him to maintain? In the recent past, he operated as Lord and Master; oppressing the Akwa Ibom people mercilessly and absolutely without question.

 

A simple matter of constituting a new Board for the NDDC was made to look impossible to achieve. The President of Nigeria forwarded names to the Senate for approval as required by law. The names were duly approved. Then Akpabio came up with this whole idea of Interim Management Council! Why was it considered impossible for the Senate-approved Board to undertake the Forensic Audit? Okay, this had been overtaken by events? The first IMC prepared grounds for the Forensic Audit. Then the Acting Managing Director, Dr. Joi Nunieh was sacked for reasons now emerging as her refusal to accept juju oath-taking! The new IMC headed by a Professor and former classmate of the Honourable Minister is in charge now. He also fortified the IMC with the addition of two persons, thus making it appear as though Dr. Nunieh was not the issue but the need to expand and be more representative. How has that helped accountability? There is the issue of US$200 Million left in the Dollar Account of the NDDC y the Nunieh led IMC. It has been depleted now. Then there is the perennial issue of the Headquarters Building. Some N16 Billion has further been spent against Government regulations. Again N40 Billion is reported to have been spent on unauthorised disbursements! And then, as if to tender some defence, the new IMC claims to have spent N22 Billion as against the N40 Billion alleged. What a defence?

 

  1. Questions

The IMC was designed to prepare grounds for Forensic Audit and then quit. Technically speaking, having transmitted the relevant documents to the Auditors, the IMC ought to have been dissolved and a permanent, independent Board sworn in. Some of the questions now begging for answers are:

 

  1. a) What difference does it make if the NDDC-IMC spent (misappropriated) N22 Billion Naira in 3 months and not N200 Billion? How does that exculpate the IMC from the allegations of irregular selective payments for jobs not cleared by the Forensic Audits? Is it not shameful that while the Minister goaded the IMC to make selective payments for jobs not cleared by the forensic audit, it failed to meet recurrent obligations to students on NDDC scholarships in foreign institutions?

 

  1. b) Is it not an affront to the anti-corruption crusade of the Buhari Administration for the IMC to have made selective payments for the NDDC Headquarters building, supply of Lassa Fever kits, etc. when these projects had not passed through the integrity test of the forensic audit?

 

  1. c) The directive of the Minister that substantial payments be made, including the payment of N22 Billion conceded by the management, for whatever purpose for jobs not cleared for payment by the Forensic Report; does it not compromise the outcome of the Audit and undermine the authority of the President over this Minister?

 

  1. d) The Audit process, having been sabotaged by the Minister and the IMC and caused embarrassment to the President and the National Assembly, what measure of punishment does the Minister deserve in the circumstance?

 

  1. e) In the light of the Minister’s implication in some of the contracts, whether it makes sense to insist that he should continue to supervise the project?

 

  1. f) Concomitantly, whether the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should continue his perceived policy of restraint in the face of this barbaric rape of the NDDC, the only interventionist hope of the Niger Delta Region till, what now amounts to eternity?

 

  1. 3. The Essential Akpabio

Akpabio is a very ambitious person. He had shown ambition from his days in Secondary School. In the University of Calabar where he read Law, he showed promise as the Speaker of the Students Union Parliament. He leveraged on all these in his Political career. He is also a Schemer of dangerous proportions. He would identify his target and eliminate every obstacle to that achievement. He would use Machiavellian tactics to arrive at his destination. He has always had the ambition to become the President of Nigeria. Some of his buildings in Uyo, Lagos and Abuja are fashioned to evoke prestige, in his quest to become the President of Nigeria. From those who have worked very closely with him, he is intellectually lazy and acts on impulse. His miscalculations are always disastrous. He has no stamina for long suffering, independent project conception or any long term planning. His quest for gratification and vain-glory is legendary. How else does anyone rationalise the fact that he is the only Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a Chief of Staff, just like the President? Even the Vice President has no Chief of Staff! Upon the demise of Abba Kyari to the dreaded Corona Virus, Akpabio flew a kite. Dubious publications emerged from all corners of the Social Media suggesting or in some cases nominating Akpabio to succeed the late Chief of Staff to the President. He overrated himself! He does not believe anybody else exists. He recoiled under the backlash. His Social Media boys changed tactics and abandoned the inglorious campaign. His close associates are steadfast and insist that he will still take a shot at the Presidency but would settle for the Vice Presidency in the hope that an opening by some providence, might open for him to emerge as the President. Surely, he needs money for the endeavour. Who does not know that it costs billions of Naira to get close to the Presidency?

 

  1. Some Insights

Akpabio’s idol was Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Of course for the wrong reasons! Tinubu is well known to be a builder. He is loved by his people for his peculiar Human Capital Development. Tinubu has produced a few Governors in Lagos and elsewhere. His foundation membership of the APC, long-suffering and influence in the Party is respected. Akpabio is a Gate-Crasher to both the PDP and the APC. He reigned as Emperor of Akwa Ibom and installed Governor Udom in spite of the violence that characterised the 2015 General Elections. He expected Udom to kotow to him in every respect and thereby compromise good governance. Udom disappointed him there and is the source of the unending friction between him and the Akwa Ibom State Governor. Akpabio’s appointment as a Minister was God-sent. His means of vain-glory and ostentatious living was almost extinct.

 

Akpabio’s penchant for scandalous upward revision of contracts is legendary. He started what is now a monumental waste of Akwa Ibom State resources in the name of The Tropicana Project. The project was originally estimated to cost N33 Billion. As at 2012, He had revised it upwards to a whopping N120 Billion! He knew all along that the project was a white elephant conduit pipe never intended for delivery. He awarded the contract to an entertainment company with no engineering experience.

 

  1. Lamentations of Akwa Ibom People

It is heart-warming that some Akwa Ibom persons and groups have lent their voices against the embarrassment caused by Akpabio to our dear Akwa Ibom State and the Federal Government. Is he the only Minister? Akwa Ibom people have been thoroughly humiliated by the financial improprieties discovered under his watch at the NDDC. The impression was already being spread that the scrutiny of the interventionist agency was being masterminded by non Akwa Ibom persons and groups solely to insult the Akwa Ibomites. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of the sponsored articles by persons and groups affiliated to Akpabio make that suggestion. Some even imagine that Akpabio is the only Minister that can reasonably emanate from Akwa Ibom State. What insult! We have had Ministers from Akwa Ibom in the past and they made us proud. There is nothing sacrosanct about Akpabio and his office. There are fantastic materials from which the President can make his choice of Minister from Akwa Ibom State and they will deliver.

 

  1. Proclivity for Violence

This subject has become imperative in the light of Dr Nunieh’s personal safety alarm raised specifically to the Inspector General of Police. She warned that Akpabio should be held responsible in the event of any danger to her person. This should not be discounted as pedantry. There is a frightening pedigree. What is more, the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) had issued a warning by their publications of the 7th May, 2020 to all those distracting Akpabio from his ministerial role to steer clear or continue at their peril. The threat did not go unnoticed. Akpabio was Governor of Akwa Ibom State from 2007-2015 (8 years). Under his watch as the Chief Security Officer of the State, it was pure hell. The following scenarios played out:

 

  1. a) Senator John Udoedehe. He contested the Governorship elections in 2011 under the ACN against Governor Akpabio. He was one of the first victims of Political intolerance. So many of his supporters were hounded down and killed in Uyo and Ikot Ekpene where he had gone for his rallies. He was subsequently arrested in Abuja and arraigned at the FCT High Court on trumped up charges. These facts are in the public domain and available on the internet.

 

  1. b) Chief Sunny Udom, the Director-General of the APC Governorship aspirant in Akwa Ibom State, Hon. Umana Okon Umana was the target of political assassination in his office. He held a press conference on Thursday the 8th May, 2014 in which he highlighted the fact that one of the assassins lost a finger in the process of indiscriminate gun shots. Some security agencies to which the incident was reported had dismissed the report as mere armed robbery by the local Police. There was no condemnation or any interest by Akpabio the Governor. The APC candidate was then his immediate past Secretary to the State Governor.

 

  1. c) Albert Ukpanah, a well-known opponent of Governor Akpabio’s 2015 Senate ambition was strangled to death in his residence in Abak, Akwa Ibom State on the 5th of March, 2014. The Government did not show any interest and the matter went cold.

 

  1. d) In December, 2013, Hon. Umana Okon Umana himself was the target of hired assassins when he received threats at his Uyo residence. It is instructive that contemporaneous with that threat, His Excellency, the then Governor ordered the withdrawal of his security details. This was widely reported in the press. That matter was promptly reported to the Police in Uyo.

 

  1. e) Her Excellency, Mrs. Comfort Ewang: wife of a former Military Administrator of Ogun and Rivers States, Group Capt. Sam Ewang, was abducted by kidnappers who reportedly demanded that her husband rescind his decision to contest the 2011 elections. She was released after her abductors had secured a heavy ransom.

 

  1. f) Madam Philomena Udonwa, a retired civil servant; a grandmother of over 70 years, and mother of a Singapore based Marine Engineer and Governorship aspirant, Iniekong Udonwa, was kidnapped. Her son was shot at, in a failed assassination attempt, but escaped with bullet wounds. Once again, the kidnappers allegedly demanded that Engr. Udonwa rescind his bid to contest the 2011 Elections as a pre-condition for his mother’s release. Madam Udonwa was not lucky after-all. She was abused, murdered, stripped naked, and abandoned on a lonely rural road.

 

  1. g) Mr Mike Eduok, the brother of the former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Nsikak Eduok, was kidnapped, over his brother’s perceived opposition to Akpabio’s tyrannical governance, pre 2011 elections.

 

  1. h) Barr Umo Udonwa, slated to take over as the State PDP Chairman, was murdered in shrouded circumstances. He was a close ally of prominent members of the opposition to Akpabio.

 

  1. i) Elder Paul Inyang, a PDP stalwart also billed for the State PDP Chairmanship, was shot dead in the premises of his church. Inyang was the associate of the opposition duo of ex-Governor Victor Attah and Senator Udoedehe, on account of Akpabio’s high handed administration of the State. It soon became clear that Elder Inyang had shifted his political allegiance after he began to hold meetings with key opposition members. Clearly, Paul Inyang’s murder was not unconnected with his allegiance to the opposition.

 

  1. j) GENERAL EDET AKPAN: a former NYSC Director and prominent Akwa Ibom son, was kidnapped after a reported disagreement over sale of shares of Universal Energy Resources (Akwa Ibom indigenous oil servicing company) of which he (Akpan) was Chairman. The General was in Church and other innocent worshippers in the church premises were murdered. He was released after a ransom was paid and subsequently relieved of his office.

 

  1. k) OKUIBOM RJ OBOT: The most senior Ibibio monarch on earth was gruesomely murdered in his palace.

 

  1. l) THE EKPENYONG BROTHERS. Engr. Emmanuel (aka Submarine) and his brother Matthias (aka Mbota), were murdered in the family quarry site. Knowledgeable sources claim the brothers refused to sell. Fabian (the surviving sibling), was framed for the murder of his brothers by the State Government, after he had identified two of the actual killers. He was detained for several months and later released for lack of evidence.

 

  1. m) Dr Chris Ekong, an Economist and University teacher and former Commissioner for Youth and Sports, and later Economic Development, was framed for complicity in a kidnap case, detained for over two years but later discharged and acquitted of the charges. He was a subject of relentless persecution.

 

We have taken pains to demonstrate the infamy that was the lot of the Akpabio Government. It is, in the circumstance, unwise and indeed stupid to ignore any sign of threat to violence as raised by Dr. Nunieh.

 

CHIEF JACOB ESHIET

Chairman, Akwa Ibom Solidarity Front

267, Oron Road, Uyo

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COLUMNISTS

Back on the beat, after defeating COVID-19

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By: Gboyega Akosile                                                             

Thank God I am back at my duty post! I returned to work today, Wednesday, August 5, 2020 after several weeks away, battling the monstrous Coronavirus.

It began with a feverish condition on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. I usually don’t joke with my health so I stopped at a pharmacy on my way home, got an anti malaria drug with some paracetamol and I used it as recommended.

I must state here that I have never completed a full dose of any malaria treatment or drugs before getting back on my feet in my adult life, never! In fact, you would have to remind me sometimes before taking my drugs because I would have felt well after taking the second dose. This time, I completed the malaria medicine yet there was no improvement. By Thursday (July 2) evening and Friday (July 3) morning, my health condition had started to deteriorate. The feelings gradually moved from headaches to severe body pains and cold. Same day, I had a responsibility to organize a media briefing for my boss. I didn’t raise the alarm just yet because everybody was wary of everyone else, especially if you showed any signs of illness. But the truth is I was sick, terribly sick.

I told my wife on Thursday evening that there was a need for us to get tested for COVID-19. I convinced her that we needed to clear all doubts. She understood clearly, knowing it may not be out of place that I had been exposed to the virus, especially now that Lagos was experiencing rise in community spread.

We drove straight to the Yaba Infectious Diseases Hospital on Friday morning and in less than an hour; the very efficient Lagos health workers in charge of sample collection and testing attended us to.

Although he was not ill and showed no signs of COVID-19, I encouraged my driver to join us for the test. We left for Marina to continue with the day’s official activities. While Mr. Governor was briefing and responding to questions from journalists, I stood there on the beautifully tendered State House lawn shaking from within. I could feel that my legs were wobbling from inside my bone marrow. Not even the beauty of the grass, which I usually admire, could calm the way I felt.

I remember how much I tried to keep more than two metres away from some colleagues who had come to me for some clarifications on issues or points raised by Mr. Governor. Since I was not sure of my status, I needed to take responsibility by ensuring that nothing was discharged into the atmosphere from my side.

I waited till the end of the press conference, managed to move towards my boss but ensured that I didn’t move close to him. In that socially distanced position, I informed him of my state of health and his response was direct, “have you gone for another test?” He asked because he had mandated his entire close aides to go for COVID-19 test on two or three occasions. He has also done the test repeatedly, just for everyone to feel safe around the office. I answered him in the affirmative, “yes sir, I just did this morning. Results should be out on Sunday.” He then said I should go home for a couple of days. I thanked him and I left the State House.

No sooner had I left the State House than the real symptoms started in fearful proportion. To be honest, I was scared. I had never felt that way before in my entire life. Driving from Marina to Ikeja felt like travelling from Lagos to New York. The vibrations and other bodily pains I experienced that day can’t be described here. I rolled from one end of the vehicle to another. All I remember was my driver’s voice, saying “epele sir (sorry sir)”. It was excruciating! By the time we got home, my eyes had turned red, with the retinal looking the other way. My wife took over immediately as the resident nurse. She was scared too but she summoned the courage and took charge. She insisted we went to the hospital. We did. I told the doctor that I had gone for COVID-19 test but he said he would place me on another round of malaria treatment.

I took some shots that evening, repeated them on Saturday morning and evening. I went again on Sunday morning but there was no remarkable improvement. By Sunday evening, our COVID-19 test results were sent to me via email. My worst fear stared at me in the face; we all tested positive for Coronavirus – my wife, driver and I. I immediately called my driver to inform him. Clearly he was asymptomatic because as at that time and up till the time of writing this piece, he had no symptoms. Life has been normal for him. Nonetheless, I insisted that he should self-isolate at home for 14 days and not go about infecting other people.

I duly informed my principal and then called my direct boss, Mr. Tayo Ayinde, the Chief of Staff to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who immediately made arrangements for my treatment. The doctors called in and asked that we isolate at home. They tutored me on all the protocols, most of them I was already familiar with, having been part of the communication team on Lagos State Government’s response to COVID-19.

Case management started and in two days, I had lost my sense of smell, taste and every symptom that comes with COVID-19 had fully manifested in me. Trust me, it was not a particularly pleasant experience.

In eight to nine days of medication, the initial pains and discomfort started to disappear. I began to experience a new lease of life. My SPO2, which is a small device used in checking the flow of oxygen in a patient’s system was back to normal. BP was good and body temperature returned to normal. This time, I could attend to work related issues. I started working from home.

Recall that three of us tested positive and one was asymptomatic. My wife too showed some symptoms from Monday, July 5, so she was placed on same medication. While I improved, her condition took a downward turn; her oxygen level was below the acceptable limit of 95! At first, it fluctuated between 90 and 94; sometimes it would hit 95 so I was hopeful. Her Blood Pressure was also irregular. The value was inconsistent; sometimes good, at another time bad.

On Tuesday, July 14, her SPO2 went down to 88! That was when it dawned on everyone that she had to be evacuated to an isolation centre. She was taken to the Onikan centre, where she received some of the best treatment that COVID-19 patients in the United States of America are looking for. I don’t get scared easily by anything or situation. This time, I was very scared. I thought the worst phase of my life had come when after three days of her admission, she had not responded well to the treatment. She neither called home nor picked her phone. Everyone was worried.

Thanks to the Lagos State Government, the Ministry of Health, the health workers; doctors, nurses and drivers, among others who ensured that my wife, like all the other patients that were brought in under very terrible conditions returned home with joy.

After spending five days, we started to connect again via video calls.

Since I was not in the isolation centre, the closest was when I took her birthday cake there for a symbolic celebration; I could only rely on her experience, which she described as wholesome.

I decided to touch on my wife’s experience to draw attention to the fact that people do not necessarily die of COVID-19. You lose people to complications from underlining ailments. Unknown to us, my wife had a silent case of pneumonia and had some blood clot related issues. And since she had not fallen sick, these conditions never manifested in any form. Everyone in the house appeared healthy and truly so until the COVID-19 incident.

It is very important to conduct comprehensive medical checks, even if it is once in a year. If we had known this earlier, perhaps our experience would have been less traumatic when COVID-19 came calling.

Without sounding immodest, Lagos State Government is a model State on the COVID-19 response in Africa. Special thanks to Mr. Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu who built excess capacity in readiness for the pandemic. This has helped the State to manage the effects of the pandemic since it broke out.

COVID-19 is not a hoax, it’s very real. Use your face mask  wash your hands regularly, use sanitizer and please keep to the social distance protocols.

Now I am back on the beat, what have I missed?

Akosile is the Chief Press Secretary to the Lagos State Governor.

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Pendulum: Tribute to the Parakoyi of Ibadanland, Bode Akindele

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BY DELE MOMODU

Fellow Nigerians, one of Africa’s greatest business icons, Sir Chief Labode Oladimeji Akindele (OFR, KJW, JP), was buried in his hometown of Ibadan, Oyo State, yesterday. In a country where history is no longer a priority, many Nigerians may not readily remember the name and the man as he died at the ripe age of 87, though he never retired from not his business and the limelight that he hugged so tenaciously in his heyday. But, trust me, if you’re talking of old money, good business and good character, here was a colossus, a giant amongst men physically and literally, who was committed to mother earth in a classy but understated ceremony, engendered by the COVID-19 pandemic and the physical and social distancing guidelines that it has spawned all over the world.

But for the unfortunate pandemic ravaging the world, Sir Chief Bode Akindele’s funeral obsequies would have been a global affair starting from the Commendation Service held in Lagos on Tuesday till the funeral itself on Friday in Ibadan. He deserved it because he worked assiduously for it. You will see the justification for my assertion in the course of my story about this enigmatic Yoruba chieftain and national and international business mogul and monumental philanthropist. During normal times, this would have been a burial of a titan, a farewell of monumental proportions that would have had the movers and shakers of Nigerian society in full attendance. The earth would have moved and trembled at the might of those who had come to pay their last respects to this great elephant that had fallen. It was not to be, but nevertheless, as was befitting of such a great man Chief Akindele still went out with a bang notwithstanding the prevailing conditions.

I was proud and delighted to be invited to join his close family members, associates and friends at the popular Methodist Church, Agbeni. It was for good reason. I have been a chronicler of the great man for a couple of decades. I have known Sir Chief Bode Akindele for close to 20 years. I was honoured to have been welcomed into his inner circle so warmly and was privileged to have had unrestricted access to his homes and offices in Nigeria and England. We enjoyed good food and exotic wines every time we had the opportunity of meeting. Our favourite at his home in London was always a sumptuous meal of Amala accompanied by Gbegiri and Ewedu otherwise known as Abula (an Ibadan all-time favourite and delicacy), with an array of rich assortment of meat and fish dishes as supporting cast. What do you expect from a proud Ibadan man, one of its wealthiest sons ever? I have never met such a man who loved his background and upbringing and glorious heritage so passionately. Despite being surrounded by a motley crowd of expatriate staff, everyone knew him and referred to him as an Ibadan son of the soil. You could see the glint in his eyes whenever he spoke, so copiously and eloquently, about his town, one of Africa’s biggest cities. He was innately still that Ibadan boy and was acutely aware of it and happy about his rich culture.

The first comprehensive glimpse of his life as a global player in the world of business was the launch of his autobiography, I DID IT GOD’S WAY, on his 70th birthday some 17 odd years ago, as well as his first major interview which he granted the Ovation International magazine. During the session he had with me and the Editor of Ovation International, Mike Effiong James, we met an accomplished man in all its ramifications, a humble and God-fearing gentleman, a man at peace with everyone and his Creator. Due to space constraints, it may be difficult to encapsulate all of Chief’s adventures in a life spanning 87 years plus in one article. I believe a compendium of books would not do him justice. He is a veritable resource material for historians, social commentators, welfarists and economists alike.

He was no doubt a silver-spoon kid with his father, Pa Laniyan Akindele, being the Chief Tax Officer of the Ibadan Native Authority, the equivalent of the Chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue today. His mother, Alhaja Rabiatu Adedigba Akindele, was a wealthy textile dealer and was the first woman to travel to Mecca in the whole of Ibadan. According to Chief, the journey took two and half years to complete and she returned in 1953. In those days “the only means of transportation to Mecca was first by train from Ibadan to Kano and then from Kano on camels through the Sahara Desert to Mecca…” What a scenic journey and vibrant experience that would have been for a young woman.

Despite his pedigree as a member of the privilegentsia, he attended primary and secondary schools in Ibadan and Abeokuta, before taking overseas courses by tuition in Secretarial skills, Accountancy and Business Management. He was determined to build his own career rather than rely on family fortunes. In those days, children of rich men and women were immediately co-opted into the family business rather than be encouraged to get an education. Akindele was fortunate that his father was a top civil servant who knew the value of education.

Once he completed his education Akindele took to business like a fish to water.

His business acumen was phenomenal. He knew it was better for him to gain experience in the unfolding business world that the British and Europeans were introducing to Nigeria. The years 1952 to 1956 saw him navigating and meandering his ways through the labyrinth of commercial enterprises including U.A.C Limited, as a Trainee Manager, Ibadan Traders Association Limited as Personal Assistant to the Managing Director, Ibadan Bus Services Limited as Assistant Accountant and as Under-Secretary of the Western Nigeria Union of Importers and Exporters (Inc.).

However, it was right from school that his entrepreneurial spirits and skills first germinated and flourished. According to Chief Akindele:

“When I was in primary school, I used to do a little trading… Whenever I was going to school, I would just throw a packet of sugar or something in my bag. I would sell it to my school mates and teachers. So, I was making a little money. Later on, as I advanced, I would buy business journals, and write to merchants, who would send me things like shoes and so on and I would sell to both school children and teachers. When I got to secondary school, I decided to upgrade it.

I made a deal with my mother, who was a trader in dried meat, called Kundi, from the North, to send me quantities of Kundi instead of my school fees and allowances. So, I would resell the meat and make extra money. Later on, we agreed that ten packets of Kundi would cover all my fees, so I asked her to send twenty to sell for her. She agreed to send me the meat, but I had to return the entire principal to her and keep only the profit to myself. I had to comply strictly with the conditions of the contract in order to keep that business going. You can’t do otherwise with my mother.

“Later on, after leaving school, I started importing sewing machines. At that time, the Japanese were very unpopular. It was long after the end of the second world war and their goods were regarded as second class. What the Japanese did was that they copied Western technology. At that time, Singer sewing machines were being sold for 32 Pounds. The Japanese wanted to penetrate the African market because they knew that Africa was where people could afford highly priced high-quality goods. I wrote them that we had a company that could help them popularise their goods in Nigeria. So, they wrote back to me. I asked them to send a sample for me to show to people. They replied that they would be delighted to do that if I could pay half the price of the machine. They would take care of the freight. I saw that as a good opportunity.

“The school I attended trained us very well in commercial subjects. I calculated that I would sell the machine for about 21 Pounds. So, I sent them 7 Pounds 10 Shillings and they sent a brand new sewing machine. Though it was assembled in Japan, there was no difference at all with the Singer sewing machine. I invited the big tailors to see the machine; I sold the machine for 14 Pounds. I sent the 14 Pounds to two other companies who wanted to send me samples. When the time came that I figured that the machine was getting popular, I raised the price to 21 Pounds each. So, the two that came were sold for a total of 42 Pounds.

“In those days, 42 Pounds was a lot of money. I put the whole 42 Pounds back into the business. I was the first person to introduce Japanese sewing machines here…”

Chief Akindele did not rest on his oars and rely solely on selling sewing machines. He realised at an early stage that diversification was necessary for any successful entrepreneur. He therefore decided to also go into the business of electrical fittings like fans and so on. At this time Chief Akindele had also established the Oke’Badan Brothers & Company (Produce Merchants) in Ibadan but later moved its headquarters to Lagos sometime around 1961 to 1962 because he felt Ibadan had become too small for the massive dreams brewing in his fertile and fecund mind. In Lagos. It was in Lagos that he founded his flagship company, the Modandola Group with a beautiful office at one of the choicest locations in Lagos at the time, 27-29 Martins Street, at the top of the African Continental Bank one of the prime Nigerian Banks of the 1960’s.

The business of produce merchandising was big but delicate. Many of the big names in it ended up incurring huge debts which sent them into liquidation and bankruptcy. Chief Akindele decided very early that this would not be his portion. He embarked on a lot of research and discovered the loopholes. For example, “the controlled produce included palm kernel, cocoa, palm oil, and some others. It was in these areas that big money was being made, but also, businesses were failing. However, there were more than two dozen other uncontrolled produce like gum Arabic, coffee, chilli, shea nuts, and so on. In his own words, “I decided that there must be somewhere out there in the world where these things are needed. I began to write. The first deal I got was for shea nuts. It was needed in Japan and Denmark and they said they wanted some…

Then, I added chilli. I sold it all over England. Also Gum Arabic… Just before the civil war (1967-1970), I had grown relatively big. I had sixteen branches in the North, where I collected produce…”

To be continued…

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Aso Wenah: Unveiling Unsung philanthropist, force behind the Amaechi School of Politics and philosophy

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By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze

  Preamble

Some heroes such as Hon. Asondu Wenah Temple are unsung, for the mere fact that they focus on doing what they are doing so as to achieve specific results for others while playing down on issues pertaining themselves. When it becomes imperative that I unveil to the entire world Hon. Aso Wenah, one of the most trusted aides and allies of Rt. Hon. Chibhike Rotimi Amaechi, the erstwhile Governor of Rivers State and incumbent Minister of Transportation, two great quotes from two great minds came to my mind: Maya Angelou with Hon. Wenah in mind stated and I quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”. This great Amaechi disciple whose principle of life is stewed in living his life for others is in tandem with the belief of Maya Angelou.

Orison Swett Marden on the other hand while emulating Maya Angelou described this great but unsung son of Rivers State thus, “There is no investment you can make which will pay you so well as the effort to scatter sunshine and good cheer through your establishment”. Asondu is a fellow who believes that you can only be helped when you help others out of their problems.”

One of the unique principles of Amaechi as a seasoned administrator is his belief in building the youths of Nigeria and assigning to them responsibility to prove themselves as the future leaders of this country. He exhibited it through his educational policy where he not only approved scholarship but sponsored most of them to study professional courses outside Nigeria. Amaechi also craves for younger ones to enjoy what was not possible for him; unlike many leaders who find it difficult to see younger ones enjoy what eluded them.

The fact remains that Amaechi, no matter the thinking of anybody, is an Institution as far as Nigerian politics is concerned; a man who out of nothing but by divine grace and influence has become a rallying point for the unity, greatness, and brighter future for Nigeria and Nigerians.

In order for us to understand and appreciate the impact, import and role that Hon. Asobdu Wenah has played and is playing in making this Institution (Amaechi) one of the most remarkable and outstanding Political Institutions in Nigeria one needs to explain how Amaechi is an Institution.

The Main Aim of this Treatise

An Institution is assumed to mean a place or schools through which leaders are trained to enable them occupy sensitive leadership positions in their place or places of work or country. In Nigeria particularly in Rivers State there exist such an Institution that have trained and turn out great and creditable leaders that it will be out of place for us not to expose such a school and the force and forces behind its greatness. That is the main aim of this treatise.

 

First, How Is Amaechi An Institution?

Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, a humanist, administrator par excellence, visionary, egalitarian mentor, radical giant, a respected pragmatist and exemplary leader, was twice the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly (1999-2007); Chairman, Conference of Speakers of State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria (1999 – 2000), Governor of Rivers State (2007 – 2015), and two-time Chairman of the Governors’ Forum in Nigeria from 2011 to 2015. A winner of several awards including the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), he successfully led the Presidential Campaign Organization of President Muhammadu Buhari to victory both in 2015 and in 2019, a feat never before achieved in any party of Africa for an individual to lead a Presidential Campaign Organization to two victories back to back.

In his capacity as the Minister for Transportation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he has redefined the transportation system in Nigeria with gigantic and unique feats uncommon in the rail system in the country. His plot to link up most key State capitals in Nigeria through rail system is a feat that has changed the thinking of many Nigerians towards the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari of which he played a pivotal role to influence his victory both in 2015 and the 2019 general elections.

Testifying about Amaechi through his Media Aide, Mallam Shehu Garba, the Nigeria President, General Muhammadu, stated and I quote: “As the Minister of Transportation turns 55, President Buhari believes that Amaechi’s investments in the development of Rivers State, and current efforts in building infrastructure across the country, will always be remembered by posterity. The President urged him to stay focused on the larger picture of working to improve lives. The President also extols Amaechi for his willingness to make sacrifices and support the governing party, APC, recalling with appreciation, the major role he played in the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections, and his continuous contributions to promote peace and unity of purpose. President Buhari prays that the almighty God will position the Director General of his Presidential Campaigns for greater glory, and grant him more opportunities to serve the country and humanity.”

Other worthy minds also spoke; one of them is Prof. Nelson Brambaifa who said: “To a steadfast and energetic achiever, a serial record breaker, a higher goal setter; may your days be long and full of unprecedented achievements.”

Today in the politics of Nigeria no matter the stands of some pessimists, Amaechi with the above staggering feats is an Iroko and Institution.  Affirming this belief two great Nigerians: Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Prof.Wole Soyinka stated thus, “Rt.Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is the Commander and General of the Common sense revolution army that defeated a sitting President, he is a wonder boy!” – Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu while the otherhand the Laurent. Prof Wole Soyinka stated and I quote, “Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is the most courageous Nigerian I have ever seen, he is tactful, fearless, reliable, workaholic, honest and blunt.

While those of us that knew his capability and commitment towards raising great and astounding leaders describe him as the Lion of Niger Delta region a region comprising of about nine States and to many other Nigerians he is the Bridge Builder unites and connect the entire tribes and Sections of this country into a virile and vibrant force. Now that the Institutionalism of Amaechi is established, let me therefore use this opportunity to expose and highlight the very few Lecturers and Students that have passed through this Institution before presenting the amiable, indefatigable, unsung and gentle Registrar of this Institution, Hon. Asondu Wenah Temple.

 

Some of the Lecturers and Graduands of Amaechi School of Politics:

Though, it is difficult for one to claim to have graduated from this school that has produced many timbers and shakers of our politics both within and outside Nigeria as there is always a new dimension or area of study to most of the committed and honest students of the school. The fact remains not minding any contradictory opinion the following great minds can boast that they have made a reasonable impact on his political philosophy as they have either lectured or graduated in flying colours from the school.

 

The most remarkable figures were:

Chief Nyesom Wike, Senator Magnus Abe, Igo Aguma, Chief Austin Opara, Engr. Tele Ikuru, Chief Uche Secondus, Hon. Marcus Nle Eji, Hon. Chidi Wihioka, Hon. Allwell Onyeso, Barr Worgu Boms, Chief Tony Okocha. Though some of these great politicians who either lectured or graduated successfully have gone ahead to other political schools or established their own brand of political school totally away from the principles that were handed to or bestowed on them during their stay in AMAECHI School of Politics.

 

Others who have continued to lecture and study in the school are:

Senator Andrew Uchendu, Dr Dakuku Peterside, Ambassador Oji Nyiemenuate Ngofa, Chief Sam Sam Jaja, Prof Henry Ugboma, Dr George Tolofari, Pastor Tonye Patrick Cole, Dr Chidi Julius Lloyd, Dr. Davies H. Sokonte, Prince Tonye Princewill, Ibim Sementari, Prof Onwunari Abraham Georgewill, Prof Steve Okodudu, Hon Ike Chinwo, Dame Aleruchi Cookey-Gam, Chief Victor Giadom, Chief Asita O Asita, Dr Ibiamu Davies Ikanya. Ambassador Dr Maureen Tamuno, Aso Wenah (Registrar), Chief Kingsley Wali, Dr Oyirinda Chris Amadi (PhD), Akpobari Celestine, Chizi Nyeomasila K, Rt Hon Leyii Kwanee, Dawari George, Emma Chindah, Fubara Imangimama, James George Fuayefika, Okey Amadi,  Emeka Nwogu,  Henry Ogiri, Charles Anyanwu, Ishmael Singarr, Lawrence Chukwu (PhD), Ojukaye flag Amachree, Azubuike Byke Wanjoku, Chikode Dike, David Okumagba, Sunny Ogbowo, Achi William-Wobodo, Chris Finebone, Lucky Omenka, Zuby Dike, Reginald Okuoma, Ambros Nwize, and Kennedy Ebeku.Hon. George Ukwuomanwogba, Dr Dabota Jumbo, Chief Dr Mike Nwlieghai, Lady Christie Obiaruko Ndukwe, Barr. Forgiven Amachree, Barr Chizy Enyi, Chief Alex Wele,Hon. Ordnance Odinakachi, Prof Andrew Efemini, Barr. Achi Godwin William-Wobodo, Hon. Omenka,  Barr Enyi Chizy, Hon. Ordinance Odinkachi, Chief Fortune Oguru.

The list is long but also includes Chief Chibuike Ikenga, Dr. Victoria Nyeche, Bright Jacob, Irene Inimgba, Kieran Wobodo, Ezemonye Ezekiel Amadi, Hon. Marshall Isreal, Apostle Eugene Ogu, Nyema Wele, Wele, Theodore Georgewill, Emeka Beke, Tekena Flag Amachree, Mike Igonima, Francis Elechi, Uche Okwukwu, Nancy Ijaopo Stevens, Joe Poroma, Fubara Imangs, Henry Halliday, Chukwudi Dimkpa, Sunday Amangi, Allison Anderson, Martins Manna, Lucky Worluh, Godstime Orlukwu, Lucky Odili, Henry Odili, Gift Okere, Prof Imegi, , Bekks Dagogo-Jack, Ode ThanksGod, Batam Ndegwe, , Chris Oboh, Eric Apiah, Felix Nwabochi, Bisi Nwankwo, and Ogbonna Nwuke, Barr Isaac Ogbogbula.

The list is endless but I will not fail to mention the following great graduates of the school: Chief Ambrose Nwuzi, Collyns Owhondah, Opubo West, Awara Biokpomabo, Kingsley Owhondah, Chikaodi Dike, Caroline Nagbo, Austin Ahiamadu, Bestman Amadi,  Captain Akarolo, Felicia Tanen, Mike Awalanta Ejire, Ngozi Yagbs Abu, Mohammed Bello Koko, Fortune Oguru, Collins Ordu,  Sydney Nyeche, Chimenem N. Wali, Barr Chizi Woko, Chief Nelson Wali, Hon Francis Eleto, Hon Emeka Woko, Ihunda Mbata, Control Asobi, Kerian Nwobodo, Bestman Amadi, Akul Georgewil, Edwin Oludi,  Dr Ugo Ugorji, Lax Damabara, Erima Peterside, Amachree, Arisky Alabere, Achi W. Freddy  Ichego, Chris Nworgwu, Peter Emejuru (PhD), Sunny Dike, Eberechi Wagbara, Chris Obasiolu, Edwin Oludi, Emeka Worgu, Eli Sogbeye, Omenazu Jackson (PhD), Dagogo Emma, Chief Eze C. Eze and  Abiye Festus.

As I said the list is endless and if I have failed to include your name here, please forgive me as the list that the Registrar gave to me is not what can be contained in a treatise like this but will surely be included in the book that will soon be released on who is who in Amaechi School of politics and Philosophy.

With these characters, Nigeria and Nigerians should wait to witness a change of fortune by the time they take their relevant positions in the scheme of things in Nigeria.

A Look at Aso and His Role as the Registrar of the Amaechi School of Politics:

Ronald Reagan one of the most outstanding Presidents of USA with Aso in mind stated and I quote, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” while John C. Maxwell in his input stated, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

We all know that the functions of a Registrar in any given Institution apart from running the administrative organ of the Institution is to formally admit, screen students for admission and prepare policies and strategies on how to make the school meets up with the ideals and principles of the founding fathers.

I will attempt in this study highlight areas in which Chief Wenah have tried to showcase his talent as one of the most outstanding Registrars of any political school in Nigeria.

Before, I go any further in this study, let me reiterate that one of the trademarks associated with this enigma and outstanding Administrator is his ability to keep the record of the birthdays of all former and present students of his school and to wish and send birthday messages to them as the occasion demands. Example of this is this message he sent to one of the Head Of Department, Dr Dawari George on his 50th birthday, “A rare breed…Calm and stubbornly upright…An HOD in ‘THAT’ Amaechi’s School…Happy birthday my dear friend Dawasco…I welcome you to the 5th floor..”

This example of an ideal Aide was put into practice during the first APC Primary to elect her Presidential Flag-Bearer for the 2015 general elections. This man who doesn’t know what sleep means whenever he embarks upon any project for the number of days that the Primary was organised was everywhere organising the Delegates to ensure that they were comfortable and to vote right.

I was privileged to watch this gentle man from a distance at Lagos and I told myself that this Amaechi knows how to raise true and capable leaders.

I will pick up other areas of this man’s endeaavours as we go further with this study and ascertain if he has succeeded in this regard or not.

 

My first contact with Dr Aso Wenah:

Though, it was fate that occasioned my admission into this great school after successfully passing in flying colours from one of the most outstanding political schools in Nigeria the Atiku Political School. My admission was directly processed by the Founder of the School, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi when he was on exile occasioned by the K-leg episode of his gubernatorial ambition under the platform of PDP in 2007. During this period, Sir Celestine Omehia was holding sway as the Governor of Rivers State but reading most of my Press Statements hitting so hard on the administration of Omahia through Dr Doris Fisher and Dr Sampson Parker, Amaechi reasoned with Dr Sampson Parker one of his foot soldiers then that “if this Eze and his Principal, Prince Tonye Princewill can be in Rivers State and issuing this type of Press Statements in the then volatile Rivers State under a PDP Government then they are the type of people that we need to work with”. By the time, God made it possible through the Supreme Court for Amaechi to reclaim his mandate as the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze has already been enrolled into this great school.

Not minding my position with Amaechi the need of formal registration need to be followed accordingly. Based on this it becomes imperative that I need to contact Hon. Asondu Temple whom I have not met or known. My contact with him was dramatic as I was expecting to see one grey head and heavy bearded man but when I met him, I told him that I need to see Chief Aso for formal registration if he is in office, I was shocked when he told me that he is the Aso that I want to see. I wonder how such a young man could be in position to manage such a great and influential school. This unassuming young man simply showcase humility in all its ramification.

 

Aso as Rivers State Liaison Officer In Charge of Lagos State Office

It is on record that since the inception of Rivers State in 1967 Hon Aso Wenah’s feats and innovative ideals and policies as the Rivers State Liaison Officer in Lagos dwarfed both the past and present officers appointed to handle that sensitive organ of government administration.

His feats earned him the title of Ambassador Extraordinary of Rivers State as he used his office to attract foreign and local investments to Rivers State. He ensured that Lagos and Rivers states maintain wonderful and cordial relationship throughout his period of stewardship.

The leading role he played to ensure that President Muhammadu Buhari got the ticket of APC during the party’s primaries held in Lagos is still evergreen in the minds of most of the delegates.

 

Aso as a Member of RMAFC

Sequel to his confirmation by the Senate, President Muhammadu Buhari on June 27, 2019 swore in Hon. Wenah Asondu Temple as a commissioner of Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) representing Rivers State together with Elias Mbam from Ebonyi State as the chairman of the Commission alongside these other Commissioners: Chris Akomas (Abia), Ayang Sunday Okon (Akwa Ibom), Chima Philip Okafor (Anambra), Prof. Isa Mohammed (Bauchi), Samuel Adaa Maagbe (Benue), Ntufam Eyo Nsa Whiley (Cross River), Andrew Ogheneovo Agbaga (Delta), and Victor Eboigbe (Edo).

Others confirmed were: Amujo Philip Ajayi (Ekiti), Maria Aniobi (Enugu), Musa Abari (FCT), Mohammed Usman (Gombe), Alhaji Ahmed Mahmoud Gumel (Jigawa), Alh. Kabir Muhammad Mashi (Katsina), Barr Umar Farouk Abdullahi (Kano), Rilwan Hussein Abarshi (Kebbi), Hon Suleiman Kokori Abdul (Kogi), and Abdullahi Shuaibu Yaman (Kwara).

Wright Olusegun Adekunle (Lagos), Aliyu A. Abdulkadir (Nasarawa), Ibrahim Bako Bagudu Shettima (Niger), Mr.Fari Adebayo (Ogun), Mr. Tokunbo Ajasin (Ondo), Kolade Daniel Abimbola (Oyo), Mr. Alexander Shaiyen (Plateau), Alhaji Modu Aji Juluri (Yobe) and Abubakar Sadiq A. Gusau (Zamfara) were also among the nominees confirmed for the Commission.

President Buhari, during the event which held at the Presidential Villa stated, “The mandate of the Commission is very wide and has an important for our country’s economy. The Commission must be fair and just to the three tiers and arms of government without compromising its core mandate. The officials were chosen based on their integrity and proven track records thus, much is expected from them. I appeal to the commission to work hard towards meeting government’s target of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty”.

“In my speech on June 12 Democracy Day, “I set a target for our country to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. This commitment is to further challenge the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission to rise to its constitutional responsibilities and mandate.

“I will charge the chairman and honourable commissioners to concentrate more on expanding the sources of revenue to the federation account and other non-oil sources including solid minerals, use all legal ways and means to strengthen its monitoring mechanism and block leakages of revenue from the federation account, all relevant laws and regulations on revenue collection and remittances should be fully complied with and appropriate sanctions visited on defaulters,” he said.

RMAFC was established by Decree No.49 of 1989 (now an Act of National Assembly) to handle revenue allocation and fiscal matters on a continuous basis.

The body is also responsible for fixing the remuneration of political office holders as well as monitoring the revenues accruing to the federation account from revenue-generating agencies.

 

Aso as a Grassroot Politician:

The demonstration and practicality of Asondu Temple as a grassroots politician was exhibited during the 2015 rerun elections when he begun massive mobilisation of the grassroots for the coming re-run elections in Rivers State as he took advantage of the public holiday then to reach out directly to voters in their respective houses and kitchens.

From Ogbodo to Adanta, from Alimini to Mgbu-ohara, he visited and discussed with people of various shades of opinions and political leanings in the ancient Kingdom of Isiokpo, signaling a new vigor of rural politicking. As he stepped from one house to the order, he preached the message of hope, assuring the people that very soon, they would have the opportunity of freely casting their ballots in a safe and secured environment.

He enjoined the people to remain committed and faithful, stating that between then and Feb 2016, Dr Dakuku Peterside and all APC candidates would retrieve their stolen mandates. He reminded them to keep their PVCs safe and secured.

THE TESTIMONIES OF BENEFICIARIES OF ASO PHILANTHROPIC EXPLOITS:

Aso Wenah is a wonderful, kind, quintessential character and galvanizer of the people and Servant Leadership Model. He is a generous and an unassuming personality who though very powerful but never acted as if he was powerful or famous. Some testimonies by others can help to unveil the real who does not talk about himself;-

1. Hon. Aso Built a House for Me – Mr. Chisa Ogbudu

Testifying of God’s blessing through Hon. Aso, Mr Chisa Ogbudu of Ogbodo, popularly called Go-Slow expressed gratitude to Hon. Aso for building a house for him. He told everyone who cared to listen that he was living in a thatch house before Hon. Aso ordered the demolition of the decrepit apartment and replaced it with a brand new building. He pledged his family’s commitment to the APC.

 

2 Hon. Aso Made Me a Crane Operator – Mr.Temple Wobike

Another beneficiary of Hon. Aso’s magnanimity, Mr.Temple Wobike, officially presented his Certificate of Crane Operation to Hon. Aso, who he said paid the entire bills for him to learn the skill. He said “Oga, I no know how I go use thank you; all I can say is, thank you, God bless you sir”

 

3 Even the blind can see his works:

 Hon Aso Has Been Good to Me – Mr. King Okparanta (a blind man):

Mr. King Okparanta, a sight-impaired man was almost moved to tears as Hon. Aso stepped into his parlor. He told all that he had never been abandoned as expected of Nigerian politicians, testifying that most of his responsibilities as a father such as school fees payment for his children, monthly upkeep allowance for his family, repair of his leaking roof, etc, had been borne by three hnourable men, Aso Wenah, Achi Wobodo and Chris Oyirinda.

 

4. We will support you, Aso tells Smart Esemonu’s family:

Hon. Aso has assured a family which lost its breadwinner that he will support them in their burial arrangements. He also promised to assist the bereaved wife and children in finding means of sustainable survival.

5. Am Very Proud Of You – ADA-OROSI:

An old woman, popularly called Ada-Orosi, has commended Hon. Aso for his magnanimity towards her. She said Hon. Aso bought her drugs regularly and gave her money for upkeep. She called him “Ezi Nwo” meaning, good child in Ikwerre language.

Addressing the people, Hon. Aso told them to keep praying for Ex-Gov Amaechi, Dr. Dakuku Peterside and other leaders of the APC.

He charged the people to also pray for Hon. Achi Wobodo and Hon. Chris Oyirinda with whom he has partnered to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people of the kingdom, assuring further that very soon; the three of them shall organize this year’s edition of their annual Christmas support program.

Conclusion

A man must look like his mentor. Amaechi’s legacy and contribution to Nigeria and Rivers State may go beyond what he did as a person but the kind of philosophy and leaders he would leave behind.

I must thus confess that with a character like Asondu Wenah Temple and few of the graduates of Amaechi School of Politics the future of Rivers State and Nigeria is not only very bright but will be prosperous.g

 I pray Aso not for any reason forgoes his style of leadership and his humanitarian approach to leadership as God will always guide and prepare him for higher assignments.

The fact remains that Aso is a good man with a selfless attitude and candor.

Finally, with the powers bestowed on me as the Chief Historian and records Keeper of the history of Amaechi and his politics, I hereby unveil to you and the entire world Chief Asondu Wenah Temple the workaholic and brian behind whatever it is that the Amaechi School of Politics is all about. It is now left to you to judge accordingly.

Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt and can be reached thru: 08022049770,ezemediaconcept2020@gmail.com

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