Wike And The New Face Of Rivers State

Wike And The New Face Of Rivers State

Monday, February 6, 2017 12:07 am


Kanayo Esinulo

By Kanayo Esinulo

There was a time it was when Port Harcourt, once the Garden City of Nigeria and a town where I had my secondary school education in the early sixties, was to be avoided and dreaded because it was too dangerous and insecure to have anything to do with. There were aAngry young men that thought, and still think, that the God-given resources of their land, were not improving their conditions and properly used in the development of their state and the Niger Delta region. In their view, and they have their reasons for thinking that way, their elders, both living and dead, either out of sheer cowardice or too much devotion or commitment to pan-Nigeriana, had allowed and watched helplessly the total exploitation of the resources of the area in favour of other far-flung regions, especially Abuja, for far too long, without the balls to ask the important questions.

That was one of the principal reasons, if you ask me, why the young men decided to challenge the system that has kept them and their area squarely down and severely underdeveloped. What did they do? They took up arms and started shooting at any body and anything, that, in their view, represented obstacles to their desire to control and significantly be part of the decisions to allocate the huge resources that come from their land. Their desire and message was simple: the Nigerian establishment must deliberately create the necessary environment for us to benefit from the vast crude and gas resources of our land.

Development experts always say, with some measure of authority, that no meaningful development takes place when violence, insecurity and political uncertainties take over the land. This may have, and remember that I have used the word ‘may’, compelled Governor Nyesom Wike, on assumption of office on May 29, 2015 to, first consider getting the remnants of the militants, still with their fingers on the trigger, to please cease fire, surrender their guns on agreed terms and watch how he would turn things around to the benefit of everybody and everywhere in Rivers state. That was the first necessary step that the newly-sworn governor took, if he must concentrate on the tedious task of restoring the glory of the state and the enviable beauty of the city of Port Harcourt. Then, he ordered that potholes on the streets and roads of Port Harcourt and other satellite towns should be tackled by local engineers and contractors to make for easy motoring and traffic flow – something that was becoming ‘scarce commodity’ in the state.

That done, Wike and his team began to look into the huge infrastructural deficit in Rivers state and what could be done to open up more towns and hamlets by reconstructing existing roads and constructing new one, completing on-going projects that were inherited, rehabilitating bridges and doing new ones, renovating schools and colleges and generally creating the necessary environment for new investments and foreign capital. These deliberate measures, well calculated, are beginning to produce immense results and the good old Rivers State is now gradually, but steadily, returning to its glorious past and old reputation as first-choice destination for conferences, seminars/workshops, tourism and investment.

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike

The old fears engineered by militancy are disappearing, the confidence-building is continuing and the restoration of hope and promise, which were some of the critical campaign promises of Governor Wike, are being addressed and pursued with commitment. It is not just that fears and thoughts of insecurity in the state have disappeared, but that things are beginning to look up, are beginning to happen, and the good old and safe Port Harcourt that we know and cherish are returning.

Could this be the reason why government agencies, companies and big businesses are choosing, or rather preferring, Port Harcourt as the safe and appropriate centre for their annual general meetings, conferences and important seminars/workshops? The Nigerian Guild of Editors, the Nigerian Institute of Architects, the Rotary Club International, in relay, recently held their annual conferences and meetings in Port Harcourt, a city once regarded as a leper because of the anger of some young men agitation for regional autonomy. Two, the near total conversion of Rivers State into a veritable construction site, with every senatorial district benefiting from projects, has helped in procuring two nicknames for Governor Wike in the state, as he is now popularly referred to as ‘’ Mr. Project’’ or ‘’Mr. Infrastructure’’. The decision to tackle the decay in infrastructure, by the Wike administration, was, I was told by an insider, is deliberate and calculated.

Interestingly, as the construction sites became common site and massive, and the news about what is happening to Rivers state landscape became louder, some important and influential newspapers in the country decided to go and take a look at what was really happening. After due assessments, comparisons and intelligent evaluation, some of them thought that it would be a good idea to, individually, decorate the governor of Rivers State with the award of ‘’The Best Performing Governor of the Year, 2016’’. That is the genesis of the awards from some newspapers which Wike would be receiving from this week.


Could this be the reason why government agencies, companies and big businesses are choosing, or rather preferring, Port Harcourt as the safe and appropriate centre for their annual general meetings, conferences and important seminars/workshops? The Nigerian Guild of Editors, the Nigerian Institute of Architects, the Rotary Club International, in relay, recently held their annual conferences and meetings in Port Harcourt, a city once regarded as a leper because of the anger of some young men agitation for regional autonomy. Two, the near total conversion of Rivers State into a veritable construction site, with every senatorial district benefiting from projects, has helped in procuring two nicknames for Governor Wike in the state, as he is now popularly referred to as ‘’ Mr. Project’’ or ‘’Mr. Infrastructure’’. The decision to tackle the decay in infrastructure, by the Wike administration, was, I was told by an insider, is deliberate and calculated.

Soon after the decision to decorate Wike was made known to him, his personal joy and excitement were fully captured, it seems, by what he told a visiting team of newspaper executives who came with the good news: ‘’ This award will spur me to do more for the people of Rivers State. This award is not for me. It is for the entire state. If the people of Rivers state did not give me the opportunity, through their mandate, it would have been difficult for me to be given Nigeria’s Governor of the Year, 2016’’.

Indeed, Rivers state governor, Wike, has come a long way in politics: As a grassroots politician, he was two-time Chairman of Obio Akpor Local Government Area, Chairman of Chibuike Amaechi Campaign Organisation, Chief of Staff of Government House in Amaechi’s government and at the national level, Wike was the Supervising Minister of Education until he resigned to contest for the governorship of Rivers State. In less than two years of his occupation of Brick House, another name for Rivers state Government House, Wike has really turned things around for good in the state. And his new slogan at public gatherings and conferences of ‘’Projects and projects and more projects’’ is beginning to catch on.

And now the Wike unhidden magic: he is carrying the people along, making them part of the project of ‘getting our Rivers State working again’. Chief Austin Opara, remember him: He was the Deputy Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives in Abuja between 2003 and 2OO7. At a public gathering in Port Harcourt recently , Opara acknowledged that ‘’the administration of Wike has restored hope, confidence and trust in our people and in the institutions of governance in our beloved state. Once more, our government is impacting positively on the mass of our people and they are feeling it’’.

The new revenue profile of the state improved significantly through its Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, and the Wike administration is religiously deploying it in executing its campaign promises to Rivers people. And, the Wike team has devised ways of knowing how the people feel about his programmes, policies and projects – an almost fault-free channel for gudging public opinion and perception. He says it loud that he has monitors who advise on what Rivers people are saying and feeling, and based on that, Wike acts immediately; one such body he relies on is the Rivers Elders Consultative Council.

But Wike has had his own share of political challenges and deliberately constructed obstacles in the course of this journey. The opposition party in the state, APC, sometimes want to jolt and put the Wike administration on its toes by denying that ‘’nothing is happening in Rivers State, the governor and his team are advertising what does not really exist on ground, and when has the patching of potholes constitute construction, reconstruction or rehabilitation? It is all huge noise making’’. This may have engineered some newsrooms to go out there to fully investigate who was accurately informing or misinforming the Rivers public. The result of those investigations and inquiries is the awards ‘’The Best Governor Governor of The Year’’ which Nyesom Wike would be receiving in the days to come.

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