By Paulinus Nsirim
On May 29, 2021, Governor Nyesom Ezenwon Wike will celebrate the successful completion of six years as the Governor of Rivers State and commencement of the penultimate lap of his final mandatory two terms as the number one citizen in charge of the Treasure Base of the Nation.
The last six years of Governor Wike’s administration have flown by with astonishing speed, but one enduring constant in the passing years has been his bold, firm, courageous, determined and unwavering commitment to selfless and patriotic service.
Many still remember those turbulent days post May 29, 2015, when Governor Wike, confronted with a State where virtually every sector had collapsed, simply rolled up his sleeves and knuckled down to the business of delivering the dividends of democracy and getting Rivers state to start functioning again.
Governor Wike hit the ground running from the first day he assumed office in 2015, fixing roads and bridges, re-organising institutions and establishments, opening up clamped down spaces like the judiciary and courageously mending a broken, dysfunctional, dystopian and deliberately abandoned State.
The roadmap to kick-start the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Rivers State had been laid down in the inauguration address on May 29, 2015 and in the typical charismatic, all action fashion which has defined his administration, the Rivers Governor, who was appropriately christened with the sobriquet “Mr. Projects” by none other than Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, less than two years into his administration, has not only shamed his critics, he has silenced the opposition and transformed the landscape of Rivers State in the last six years.
A dispassionate summary of Governor Wike’s administration will confirm that virtually every sector in the state has been positively impacted since May 29, 2015 and the definitive testimony of his dedicated, visionary and progressive leadership was showcased in two phases, when Rivers State shone brightly on the global map for three weeks.
From December 21, 2020 – January 16, 2021, as eminent citizens of Nigeria joined him to commission projects in 11 Local Government Areas of the State.
This unprecedented development coming at a time most leaders both in the country and globally used the COVID-19 pandemic as excuse for non performance, has not only become well referenced in the developmental narrative of the country, but has left many social commentators across the country, gushing with sincere conviction that the only person who can realistically beat the impressive developmental record which Governor Wike has set so far, is Governor Wike himself.
Two major talking points have stood out in the last six years of the administration, which have defined his impressive leadership style and the brilliance of his strategic administrative acumen on the home front and at the national space.
The first is that Governor Wike has consistently insisted that his administration will protect the welfare and interest of every Rivers indigene and only the best will be good enough for Rivers people.
The second is that he has become arguably the only Governor in Nigeria who has displayed sincere brotherliness, strategic brinkmanship and encompassing accommodation across political divides.
He has also exhibited the courage and boldness to speak truth to power, challenge national policies and decisions which tend to exploit the people, thus standing out as the most articulate fearless voice of the opposition.
To achieve the first talking point, Governor Wike has engaged the services of best international and indigenous construction firms and it is no longer news that most of the legacy infrastructural projects are being handled by renowned world class international and indigenous construction firms with the prime German construction consortium, Julius Berger, at the top of the list.
Of course, the delivery of quality projects to the people of Rivers State has become synonymous with Governor Wike’s administration in the last six years.
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 economic lockdown and the noisome buzzing by a clique of jobless, disgruntled and confused opposition in the State, one important fact which even his critics will reluctantly admit is that the construction of amazing infrastructural projects like roads, bridges and jetties, is not a one day job.
Quality projects require careful planning, expert handling and many months of hard work to ensure that they are delivered to specification to serve the people for a long time. This is what Governor Wike has accomplished with class, panache, tremendous success and a lot of goodwill and appreciation from Rivers people who have been enjoying and will be the ultimate beneficiaries of these projects.
In protecting and defending the interest and welfare of Rivers people, Governor Wike became a legendary example for his fearless commitment to always stand on the side of the people as their champion and his humane and benevolent spirit especially for Rivers people has been unparalleled in the last six years.
His compensation to victims of electoral violence, arguably the first and only Governor to have done this in Nigeria, is well gazetted. He has also provided resettlement packages for displaced communities in the state, given financial support to families of officers and men who lost their lives while in active service; he also recognized and rewarded academic and creative excellence.
Indeed, the story of the last six years will not be complete without mentioning that Rivers State celebrated her 50 years golden jubilee anniversary in 2017, with a month long programme of events including projects inauguration, exhibitions, intellectual discourses, exciting social events and a carnevalesque kaleidoscope of the rich, colourful and throbbing cultural extravaganza that defines the state.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 global pandemic was another major event which tasked the strategic preparedness of many leaders to promptly respond to unexpected situations, but Governor Wike led from the front, promulgating quick response executive orders and operational directives and enforcing mandated guidelines and protocols which not only saved many lives, but set down a strategic roadmap for national adoption.
In the last six years, Governor Wike’s regional importance and growing national stature as a political titan, a visionary game changer and a developmental leader, has grown in leaps and bounds. He has also transformed Port Harcourt and Rivers State, into a buzzing matrix and solid base for the resolution of political conflicts and a bastion for results oriented, functional leadership against the backdrop of a progressively dysfunctional and administratively dystopian national leadership.
His robust intervention as Chairman of the PDP Governorship campaign council, and the pivotal role he played in settling the political logjam that nearly disrupted the peace in Edo State earned him exceptional praise.
He has been resolute and firm both physically and symbolically, in his support for his friends and colleague Governors. It is on record that he has been bold and pragmatic in reviewing security issues regularly to address spontaneous secessionist and other unlawful tendencies, through the deployment of strategic templates which have often been adopted at the national level.
The three weeks blitz of projects inauguration, which witnessed an outstanding array of Governors, political leaders and national statesmen, cutting across partisan and geopolitical divides, who Governor Wike attracted to Rivers State as Special Guests, to perform the commissioning ceremonies, has been rightly regarded as the most exciting and audacious defining moments of the last six years.
The carnivalesque atmosphere and the pomp and celebration that greeted Governor Wike and his array of special guests, coupled with a robust display of the rich cultural heritage of the diverse peoples in every community and local government they visited to commission the projects, were ample testimonies that Rivers people were quite in support of the commissioned projects.
The praises and encomiums showered on Governor Nyesom Wike by these eminent leaders and statesmen who all spoke their minds honestly and with great candour, was summarized in the words of Senate Minority leader, Enyinna Abaribe.
He said: “Today, I have seen that you’re the real talk and do person. That you have been able to bring eminent Nigerians to come and be commissioning projects that you started and completed, since December 2020, is something that is unprecedented in Nigeria. Let me also say that you are an ambassador, a role model and also a shining light of PDP in Nigeria. Some people are angry that Governor Wike is commissioning roads every day.
“They should wait until he starts commissioning schools, hospitals then comes back to unveil the fly overs one after the other. When they continue to look for excuses in the Federal Government and we come here and see how you are doing your own thing without looking for excuses, we know that somebody like you cannot be left alone in Nigeria. We must all continue to support you,” Senator Abaribe stated.
The Commissioning spree of legacy infrastructural projects was in addition to other people oriented initiatives, including those in infrastructure, health, education and social welfare, many of which will be unveiled and inaugurated as part of events to mark the sixth anniversary celebration of Governor Wike’s administration.
With the successful delivery of the three multi-billion-naira iconic legacy Flyovers at Rebisi, Okoro-nu-odo and Rumuogba, which have been described as architectural wonders to behold, Governor Wike, like the astute, pragmatic craftsman that he is and acting on expert advise, has commenced the construction of six more connecting Flyovers at strategic points in the state capital including the flyover bridge across GRA junction and accompanying dualization of Ezimgbu (Mummy B) road, the second flyover at Rumuola to compliment the existing one and the construction of another flyover at Rumuepirikom, all necessitated by increasing vehicular activities and traffic jams at some entry points in Port Harcourt, which has become a buzzing cosmopolitan hub.
Apart from roads infrastructure, significant progress and impact have also been recorded in other areas too in the last six years.
In the area of healthcare delivery, the mother and child hospital is ready for commissioning. The Braithwaite Memorial Hospital (popularly known as BMH) was upgraded, completely equipped and converted to the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, which is not only reckoned as one the best in the country, but has got accreditation by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, for specialist programmes and the training of medical students
To stop medical tourism, the Rivers State Government has approved contract for the construction of Sir Dr Peter Odili Cancer and Cardiovascular Diagnostic and Treatment Centre that will be completed and furnished within 14 months, by Julius Berger Nigeria Limited.
The judiciary has been fully restored in Rivers State, a task which Governor Wike has devoted exemplary commitment towards accomplishing from the first day he assumed office six years ago. The Courts are fully functional now, beffiting Judiciary buildings have been erected, serving and retired Judges in Rivers State and of Rivers origin, some of who had been an endangered species not too long ago, have now been fully restored to their pride of place.
Governor Wike, who is a proud Life Bencher has even extended his benevolence to the Nigerian Law School, Yenagoa, by pledging to construct two new hostels that will accommodate 900 students each and also build a 1,500 capacity Multi-Purpose Hall at the school.
The Wike administration has also performed exceptionally well in the promotion of security and protection of lives and property in the state. The Rivers State Government has relaunched the security outfit codenamed C4I, to compliment the “Operation Sting” security platform and Governor Wike has regularly upgraded and supported all the security outfits, with necessary equipment and incentives, as a further step in the robust, pragmatic strategy and holistic approach of the administration to strengthen the security architecture of the State.
The State Government also took the bold step to set up the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency (RIVNESCA), created through legislation, with a mandate to function as a community based intelligence platform, designed to encourage and consolidate an effective security synergy between the security agencies and communities.
What Governor Wike has consistently harped on however, is that powerful politicians should stop politicizing security, while the leadership of the agencies themselves, should try as much as possible not to get themselves involved in the murky waters of politics at the detriment of the people they are supposed to be protecting
In the area of Education, the strategic intervention of the administration since it assumed office, in the restoration, upgrade and expansion of secondary schools across the State, has continued with remarkable results. Funds have been released regularly for the comprehensive restoration and upgrade of scores of dilapidated secondary schools across the State, including: renowned schools like Enitonna High School and Government Comprehensive High School, Borikiri in Port Harcourt Local Government Area.
The Rivers State Government in February 2021, released the sum of N16. 6 billion for the upgrade of facilities at the Rivers Sate University (RSU), with N9 billion (N3 billion devoted to each of the new campuses) to serve as take-off grant for the establishment of new campuses of the institution in Ahoada, Emohua and Etche Local Government Areas. This will facilitate the construction of faculty buildings, hostels, offices, libraries, auditoriums, lecture halls and address other needs required for the campuses to operate maximally.
This is a landmark development in the history of the institution which has maintained one campus since its establishment in October 1980 and with the establishment of the three campuses, the communities where they are sited will be opened up for consequential development and economic activities. It will reduce the rate of unemployment in the state.”
The state government also released N7. 6billion to enable the College of Medical Sciences of RSU establish the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of Clinical Sciences and Pathology Building, which in turn has now enabled the college to fully commence its programme leading to the award of Bachelor of Medicine, and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) and also strengthened accredited department and those due accredition at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH).
In the area of scholarship schemes, the State Government has established a scholarship scheme for Rivers indigenes studying at PAMO University of Medical Sciences to provide Rivers children and other Nigerians access to medical education in the state and assist in reducing the gaps in the doctor to patient ration in the state and country.
A pilot scheme with 500 students has already commenced and the State government under the visionary leadership of Governor Wike, is very confident that in the next few years, Rivers State will play a major role producing medical manpower in the country.
Infact Governor Wike himself reiterated the importance of the institution at the 4th Matriculation ceremony of PAMO University of Medical Sciences, on Friday, May 21, 2021, and added with pride that the State government was very impressed with the founder and Pro-Chancellor of PAMO University, Dr. Peter Odili for the establishment of the institution that has developed within a very remarkable time, to become a center of excellence in medical education with adequate capacity to produce medical doctors, pharmacists, medical technologists, and other healthcare professionals for the State and the country.
Agriculture has also been boosted in line with the administration’s promise to refocus on agricultural development, the Rivers Cassava Processing Plant, with guaranteed off-taker opportunities for over 3000 local cassava farmers, and inspiring capacity to stimulate the cassava revolution in the State and related industries and create thousands of direct and indirect jobs for Rivers people is now fully operational.
In Sports, the state-of-the-Art Real Madrid Football Academy has been commissioned by the Minister of Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare and is now fully operational.
Rivers State owned football teams, Rivers United and Rivers Angels were gifted with the most sophisticated, technologically savvy team buses, the best in West Africa. Salaries of players and officials have been fully paid up and mouth watering incentives have been provided regularly to motivate team performances towards ultimate victories in other sporting endeavors, including the Schools Sports program and commendable support for other sports like Basketball, Hockey and Wrestling, amongst others.
Governor Nyesom Wike has equally enjoyed a robust relationship with the Labour Unions in the last six years, building a Labour House for the Nigeria Labor Congress, NLC and inaugurating the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Secretariat Building, which was built by the Rivers State Government. It is also on record that despite the devastation of COVID-19 pandemic, Rivers State is one of the few states paying salaries fully and promptly and very soon, Rivers Youths will be engaged in the 5, 000 jobs promised by the administration.
In the political terrain Governor Nyesom Wike has continued to show that he’s a master of the game, having successfully held the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP together in the state, supervised a very credible congress which saw the smooth emergence of a new party executive and led to the rancour free primaries that produced all the victorious Local Government Council Chairmen and Executives for PDP in the 23 LGAs in the State.
From the analysis so far, it is quite obvious that virtually every area and sector has been positively impacted upon in the last six years. The urban renewal programme in the capital city has progressed at an amazing pace and the effort to connect and integrate all parts of Rivers State with durable legacy roads is on course.
Governor Wike has a plethora of reasons to celebrate the sixth anniversary of his tenure in office, and to commemorate this milestone, the Rivers State Government is set to flag off the Dr. Peter Odili Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease Treatment Centre and will commission 16 legacy projects, including the Cassava Flour Processing Plant, Oyibo; Mother and Child Hospital, Rumuomasi; Opobo/Nkoro Road; Odufor-Umuoye Road, Etche; Umueze-Umuogberi-Eberi Road, Omuma and the Rehabilitation Centre, Iriebe, in another projects inaguration spree, starting from Thursday, May 27, 2021.
Other projects include, National Industrial Court; Judges Quarters; Rivers State University(RSU) Senate Building; Isaiah Odolu Street, GRA; Herbert Macaulay/Nzimiro Streets; Rumuigbo Street; William Jumbo/Ernest Ikoli/Eleme Streets, Old GRA; Community Secondary Schools at Obiagu, Oyigbo and Eteo, Eleme; National Union of Rivers State Students Secretariat and Pabod Breweries/Oginiba Roads which are also billed for commissioning.
Projects scheduled for flag off also include, the Rumueprikom Flyover; Trans-Kalabari Road; Bori-Kono Road; Aluu-Omagwa Road; new campuses of RSU at Emohua, Etche and Ahoada, as well as projects at Nigerian Law School, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
Other projects are, Government Secondary School, Kpor, Gokana; Ogbunabali/Eastern Bye-pass Road; Ogbakiri Internal Roads; Omerelu Internal Roads and Abonnema/Obonoma Sandfilling; Woji-Aleto-Alesa Road; Mgbuitanwo Roads; Okochiri Internal Roads; Okrika Sandfilling; reconstruction of Government House Jetty and foundation laying ceremony of the new University of Port Harcourt Convocation Arena will also feature during the period.
The anniversary activities which will be rounded off with the Governor’s account of his stewardship for the past six years, on Thursday, July 8, 2021, is expected to attract top members of the Federal Executive Council and other prominent Nigerians as Special Guests of Honour at the various events.
One admirable factor which has remained constant over the last six years is that Governor Nyesom Wike is still greatly loved, admired and adored by the people of Rivers State as their champion today, as he was in 2015 and 2019, when he took on the opposition, both within and externally, battled them to a standstill, defeated them on all fronts and won the two elections convincingly, carrying the hopes and aspirations of Rivers people on his broad shoulders.
The scorecard of the last six year has been replete with outstanding achievements, ground breaking events and the initiation of legacy projects, which have not only transformed the landscape of the state impressively but has attracted an avalanche of awards and chieftaincy titles from home and abroad, to add to his impressive gallery of plaques and silverware.
There is no doubt that more awards and titles will be garnered by Governor Wike in the remaining two years of his administration, especially since the progressive trajectory of projects delivery will definitely continue into the last two years of his administration.
His avowed pledge that every local government area will be impacted with at least one legacy project and that he will not leave any uncompleted project behind for his successor, is cheering news for Rivers people.
Despite the very poor state of the national economy and the spin-off effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the zeal and dedication to deliver greater development to Rivers people is already evident in the work going on all over the state.
Governor Wike himself puts it succinctly: “As a government, we welcome constructive and frank criticisms devoid of politics and mischievousness, because they serve to make us better performers. At any rate, this is a time for governance, not for politics, and we welcome everyone onboard to enable us to create an environment that promotes balanced economic growth, thriving private investments and good jobs; to build a State of shared prosperity; a place of boundless opportunity for all residents; and a State we can truly call our native home, our pride, our heritage, while looking into the future with optimism.
“For us, nothing matters more than Rivers State, our people, our interests, our treasures, our enormous resources and assets, our accomplishments and our greatness. And so, as we look forward to the next few months, all I can say is that we are inspired by your continuous support and prayers to believe that our best days are ahead of us, and working together, we will surely do more to move Rivers State going forward.”
•Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State