By Paulinus Nsirim
Media scholars and polemicists have since concluded, and rightly so too, that the media, over the years, have been globally acknowledged as the watchdog of the society.
Therefore, their information-monitoring roles have been considered a sine qua non for democracy and good governance.
With the progressive consolidation of our democracy, good governance has become more imperative and yet critically measured.
Periodic situations of dwindling resources caused either by unexpected natural occurrences or sadly by the retrogressive policies of inept leadership have imposed great hardship on the masses.
Luckily for us, there are still a few good men at critical points in the country, delivering courageous, strategic, articulate and progressive leadership.
This group of leaders is determined to sustain the delivery of qualitative and enduring legacies to maintain our hope in democracy as the best form of government.
One of those few leaders is Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike and we are happy that the media, that watchdog of the society, even against the backdrop of thinly veiled autocratic censorship, are recording the achievements of this extraordinary leader, for posterity.
Thus it was that between Sunday, June 6, to Wednesday, June 9, 2021, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), comprising members as well as the state and national executives, converged on Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, for their third National Conference, with the theme “The Media, Insecurity and National Unity.”
Governor Wike, the Special Guest of Honour, represented by the Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr. Ipalibo Harry-Banigo, declared the conference open, while the keynote address was delivered by the Governor of Abia State, His Excellency, Okezie Victor Ikpeazu.
The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, was represented by the Director of NTA, Port Harcourt Network Centre, Abosede Adebayo, while the chairman at the opening ceremony was the distinguished legal luminary and former president of Nigeria Bar Association, Onueze Okocha, SAN.
One of the key highlights, which hallmarked the power-packed three-day national conference, was the comprehensive projects tour by the national president of NUJ, Comrade Chris Isiguzo, and members of the NUJ.
This was to prove to the journalists, as chroniclers of good governance, that what they had been hearing and seeing about Rivers State were not audio or newspaper prototype projects like some detractors had been desperately misleading Nigerians, but verifiable and functional legacy projects.
The project tour was incorporated as part of the conference activities and they had visited in split groups, a number of projects sites undertaken by Governor Wike in Rivers State.
The journalists inspected completed projects, including the Mother and Child Hospital, the Real Madrid Football Academy and Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma Judges’ Quarters, among others, as time would permit.
Of course, the NUJ members had cruised across some of the new legacy flyovers that adorned the capital city and the exclamations of awe and wonder they gushed as they beheld them spoke volumes for the architectural beauty and construction excellence that Governor Wike had delivered to his people.
At the end of the tour, a visibly overwhelmed and pleasantly astonished team of journalists in their unanimous verdict described Governor Wike as a pride to Nigeria’s democracy. They also noted that, by redefining governance, Governor Wike practices democracy in action.
Corroborating what has now become generally accepted and greatly admired by many as the core extraordinary attributes of Governor Wike, the views of national and state executives and members of the NUJ, was captured first by national president of the NUJ, Isiguzo, who stated unequivocally that the 1999 Constitution bestows on the media the responsibility to hold government accountable to the people and having placed the projects side by side with the expectations of the populace, it is obvious that Governor Wike’s investment in critical infrastructure will remain as lifelong empowerment tools for the people.
“We were at the Mother and Child Hospital. We took time to look at the facilities there. That can easily be said to be first of its kind in the country. At the much-talked-about Real Madrid Football Academy, where you are going to train the young ones, and they have good facilities. At the moment, they have also offered admission to 140 pupils.
“That’s also to catch them young and I want to believe that by the time this kind of resources are continuously invested in sports development, Nigeria, in just a matter of time, will gain its pride of place in the sporting world.”
National president of National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Ladi Bala, said the projects she had seen were entirely unique, unprecedented and very uncommon in the country, especially the Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma Judges’ Quarters, which stands as first of its kind in Nigeria.
“Its serene ambiance will surely translate into enhancing the productivity of judges of Rivers origin. I believe that democracy is at work in Rivers State and, for Rivers people, I want to congratulate them and to say this is the true reflection of what democracy should be across board.
“I want to call on other governors across the country to borrow a leaf from what the governor of Rivers State is doing. Wike is working and we are very proud of what we have seen here.”
National internal auditor of NUJ, Muhammad Tukur, described Governor Wike as a committed leader with the vision of uplifting the standard of his people.
Vice-chairman of NUJ, North Central Zone, Chief Wilson Bako, commended the quality of the various roads and flyover bridges constructed in the Port Harcourt metropolis to make the city a tourists attraction, while the vice-chairman of NUJ in Jigawa State, Larai Musa, said she has confirmed all that the news media had carried about Governor Wike and his project mantra and asserted that it is leaders like that that are needed at the national level.
Chairman of Oyo State Council of the NUJ, Alhaji Ismail Ademola Babalola, asserted that the Mother and Child Hospital and the Real Madrid Football Academy are part of projects Governor Wike is using to secure a productive future for youths of the state because they meet global standard, while Ikechukwu Ordu of the Enugu State Council of the NUJ advised other political leaders to emulate Governor Wike in the way he was providing the dividends of democracy to Rivers people and changing the fortune of his state.
Anyone who has visited Enugu State will fully understand why Ugochukwu Chukwudieke, from Enugu State Council of the NUJ confessed that she was completely overwhelmed by what Governor Wike has done in providing the flyovers at Okoro-Nu-Odo, Rumuogba and Rebisi, delivered within a short space of time.
She also observed with the eye of someone who lives in Enugu, the emerging architectural beauty and practical ease of traffic which the GRA junction flyover, Orochiri flyover and Oro-abali flyover, all of which have reached advanced stages of completion, will provide, when they are delivered.
The agglutination of these media voices is not only historically definitive, but resonates stridently with the multiplicity of voices which have been consistently unwavering in capturing and reporting the exceptional achievements of Governor Wike in the last six years, in the media Constituency.
Rivers watchers will recall that one of the earliest media award bestowed on Governor Wike, was the New Telegraph Newspaper Man of The Year 2017 Award.
Mrs Funke Egbemode, the then Managing Director and Editor In Chief of the Newspaper, had said that the Award was in recognition of the Governor’s outstanding achievements and activities in office and in particular, his rising profile in the management of state resources, projects execution, massive construction of roads, renovation of general hospitals and schools in the state, which were some of the considerations that placed Rivers State at the top in the stiff competition.
Other media awards from reputable National and Continental Newspapers and other media establishments for Governor Wike include: The Sun Newspaper, Independent Newspaper, African Leadership Magazine, United Kingdom, the Authority Newspaper, Hallmark Newspaper, all of them conferring on him the distinguished Awards of, “Governor of the Year” or as the “Best performing Governor in Nigeria”, and echoing the same excellent sentiments about Governor Wike’s developmental strides and accomplishments.
Silverbird Group also gave him the Extraordinary Personality of the Year Award for 2020.
He also bagged the Daily Independent Newspapers Infrastructure Gov-ernor of the Year 2020 Award, while only recently the Rivers State Governor got the Blueprint Newspapers Governor of the Year Award, in the company of former President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who was bestowed with Icon of Democracy in Africa Award.
A select delegation of the Nigeria Guild of Editors were in Rivers State in October 2020, for an on-the-spot, fact finding, verification mission of some of Governor Wike’s reported projects and at the end of an independent tour of the projects, this is what the Chairman of the Guild, Mustapha Isha said:
“Anytime I come to Port Harcourt, there is always a new project on-going. Flyovers are being constructed, existing roads are being expanded, and new roads being built. This is your second term and you’re maintaining what you said that you will work until the last day of your tenure. You have zeal and passion in handling issues of Rivers state, from COVID-19 to issues of security,” he enthused.
Indeed the place of Governor Wike in the annals of the media was best captured by Silverbird Creative Development General Manager, Jacob Akinyemi Johnson, when he led his management team to confer the “Extraordinary Personality of the year 2020” on Governor Wike.
He said the award is to let the Governor know that he is doing a fantastic job for the people of Rivers State and Nigeria and his actions have not gone unnoticed.
“Your boldness made you the first prominent Nigerian to raise the alarm over the atrocities of the now disbanded SARS. And you also spoke against the politicisation of security. Now your forthrightness in telling the truth to power including the presidency when you think things are going wrong, is worthy of emulation. You did not hesitate to commend when necessary also. And on political issues, you are not afraid to tell even your own party, the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) the whole truth when necessary. “
“There are very few Governors like you who walk the talk and there are very few Governors like you who have the passion and are not sentimental. You say things the way they are and you also say the things that you believe in.
“So we sat back and we said the person we can think of this year is your Excellency Nyesom Ezenwo Wike
“Also in the area of projects, the last time I was here, you were referred to as Mr. Projects. Now you have been elevated to Mr. Quality Projects.
“You promised on the day you were sworn in for second term that you will work for Rivers State people to the very last day and you are living up to that task. Seven bridges in a record period of time and all these were embarked upon in 2020 when the country and indeed the entire world were greatly impacted by the COVID- 19 pandemic, but you still delivered.”
There is no doubt whatsoever that despite the dubious, misleading and often desperate and delusional propaganda spewed by the fractured and dwindling opposition in the state and their hirelings of detractors, the reports of the amazing and superlative projects delivery of the Rivers State Governor, continues to grab the top headlines nationally in the media and silence his detractors at home.
The 3rd NUJ National Conference, in Port Harcourt has come and gone and once again, it has afforded the globally acknowledged watch dogs of the society, a first hand opportunity to perform their information monitoring roles in reporting the reality on ground, as Rivers State continues to transform in the unfolding kaleidoscope of amazing development, under the visionary, determined, focused and progressive leadership of an extraordinary man, who believes and is fully committed towards ensuring that the resources of the people work for them and only the best will be good enough for Rivers people.
• Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State