Amaechi: My Own House Rent!

by Odimegwu Onwumere

It was commendable to note that the ebullient Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State had on 4th March 2011, in Obio/Akpor, directed the state Accountant-General to use his February salary to pay the tenement rate of the campaign office said was owned by the governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Dr. Abiye Sekibo. Amaechi’s perceived pity for this gesture was to allow the Sekibo to have a ground and contest the gubernatorial race coming up in April in the state.

We have heard that the building housing Sekibo’s campaign office was sealed off last on February 23, 2011, by the Obio/Akpor Local Government Council. This was attributed to the owners of the structure’s inability to pay the tenement rate for four years.

I was surprised to hear that at 4th March, Amaechi had not paid himself for the month of February. Or, is the state Accountant General his savings? There are things that need more explanation, like the governor’s February salary. Is the Accountant General also holding the salaries of the civil servants in the state?

However, Amaechi’s re-election and the way he has been going about it shows he needs a level-playing ground for all political parties. This is whether his hand was in the closure of Sekibo’s campaign office or not, but he has insisted that he had no hand in the closure of the Sekibo’s campaign office.

Whether the ACN in the state had reacted or not, what remains of benefit is that Amaechi has made it open that he knows nothing about the ACN’s episode.

Did the ACN in the state say? “Let Amaechi tell Rivers people his salary in a month, for him to have asked the Accountant-General to use his salary to pay the tenement rate.”

Did the party also say? “Amaechi must stop deceiving the people and should own up that he ordered the sealing off of Dr. Abiye Sekibo’s campaign office, because he is jittery over the ACN governorship candidate’s popularity.”

Whichever, February 23, 2011 will remain indelible in the mind of Sekibo that no man rules his people or becomes a statesman from a farland, when a magistrate court in Obio Akpor Local Government area of Rivers State ordered the closure of his campaign office.

Notwithstanding, if Amaechi had ordered the Accountant General in the state to pay for Sekibo’s closed campaign office, perhaps to score cheap political goal, what about the many people in the state who have been ejected from their houses by their landlords because they could not pay their house rents? Is Amaechi just simply playing to the gallery that he has no right in the state to whittle down the high cost of house rents in Rivers State?

I like Amaechi and have not said evil about him before, but he should cross examine himself if his emphasize on paying for Sekibo’s house rent was not excessive in his words and a badly chosed political strategy over his opponent. Was that not really out of place?

Is Amaechi not aware about the allegation that the rich, landlords and property owners in Rivers State for so many years have refused to pay tenement rate to the government but no one have seen that their rents went to high heavens, let alone, the court coming to seal their houses. And is the issue of building more model schools if voted into power not a displacement of political priority on the part of Amaechi? What is he talking about developing manpower for those ones already in the face me, I face you houses, where Amaechi always said he lived?

I see know reason people were saying that Sekibo campaign organization should thank Amaechi for his magnanimity rather than trying to weep up unnecessary sentiments. We already know that sentiments don’t win election but visible performance, like paying for Sekibo’s house rent? Although, we know that Amaechi cannot be jittery over the once ‘runaway’ Sekibo for obvious reasons.

While Amaechi pays for Sekibo’s campaign office, the payment of tenement rate for one man cannot make the ‘Rivers State meltdown’ common. People are suffering with excuses of financial restraint. What actually made Sekibo not to be able to pay for his house rent? It is the same inability to put food on the table by many able bodied men because of the ‘Rivers State meltdown’.

The truth is, economic situation is actually affecting the Rivers masses, and the already poor ones are the most hit. The cost of living in the state has increased considerably.

Rivers masses live below poverty level. Many can hardly afford one good meal a day. If Amaechi does not know, he should make a research, and be shocked about the mammoth crowd of people complaining about the high cost of living in Rivers State.

I must tell him that many people in Rivers State have no choice because even death these days in the state, is also very expensive. With the high cost of living in Rivers State, does Amaechi want us to die in the village? Maybe, Amaechi will, very soon, be happy to seeing family members relocating their beloved ones to the village in order to cut costs of living and dying in Rivers State.

In Rivers State today, I am seeing a state where, from the moment a loved one gives up the ghost, the family starts paying through their noses. Would by law, the body taken to a registered coroner to determine the cause of death? Like in Lagos, I noted that General hospitals have coroners, and a ‘token’ of N50, 000 is paid for each corpse, after which a death certificate is issued. For those who decided to use a private coroner, they will be charged N20, 000 for a death certificate. Na wa o! For those like Amaechi who can afford it and pay for their fellow politicians, it is a chicken change.

It is before uncommon in the city of Port Harcourt to see neatly dressed people hustling in the day time and sleep in shacks and under flyovers in the night. In the Tide of June 2010: A young man of about 30 years of age made a frantic attempt to climb the gate of one of the oil companies in Port Harcourt. Despite his appeals and explanation of the purples of his visit, the gate remained shut against him. He was wrapped in a tangle of misery and self pity. In his utter frustration, the barred visitor said he no longer blames people who go into crime as an option for life after facing untold hardship and a rejection from the society.

The paper stated that his predicament represents the collective frustration of many people who throng into Port Harcourt, the Garden City of Nigeria, to reap of its supposedly blooming prospect, but meet a situation of gloom and despair. Port Harcourt remains the delight of many Nigerians and offers irresistible attraction because of its strategic location and prime objective, especially in the oil and gas industry? (But not in the empowerment from the government?).

In that paper, it may interest Amaechi to note, like the story of the youngman who could not access the gate of the oil company, most people that move into the city to eke out a livelihood wrestle with the elusive ghost of cost paradise dreams as hardship stare them in the face. They however bare the strains of struggle and live out their lives in the status they are consigned by fate. Some seek artificial means of enhancing their status symbol and participate first hand in the luxurious indulgence and other trappings of city live. To this category of people, crime proofs the most worthwhile option of clearing the bumps on the economic highway.

“A one room apartment in the city can be afforded at N5, 000 a month, while a self-content apartment is given within the rates of N130 to N150, 000, depending on the location. For many residents of the city, expensive accommodation is out of view. The major thing is how to put food on the table on daily bases.”

“To avoid the prying eyes of the city land

lord over their rent demands, many residents of the city, choose to live in the slums and cluster settlements in make shift apartments where about six to seven persons live in a room. They stalk out daily for survival and retire home to sleep vows in the improvised accommodation.”

“One of the worst victims of the biting hardship in the city are civil servants, especially those of the lower cadre. A civil servant who spoke with The Tide On Sunday but will not want his name in print said he finds it difficult to feed his family because of the high cost of living in the city. The civil servant, a middle aged man married with three children, said he had to device a means of coping with the harsh economic realities so that his family would not starve to death.”

“My salary can not pay my children school fee and feed the family well. What I do is that I established a small business for my wife to do, my wife is a petty-trader and it is from there that we eat, I also get my daily transport fare from the proceeds of the little business, my salary is just to pay the children school fees,” he lamented.

And here is Amaechi using his February salary to win cheap political publicity when majority of the residents eat what they see, not what they want, let alone, paying for the exorbitant tenement rate in Port Harcourt. Amaechi, my own house rent has also expired!

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