By Paulinus Nsirim
“The leader sets an example. Whether in the army or in civilian life; the other people in the organization take their cue from the leader not from what the leader says, but what the leader does.”
– Collin Powell
Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has no doubt become one of the most admired and referenced political figure in the country today.
His charismatic mien and outspoken advocacy in the face of perceived marginalization and criticism of even some activities in his own political party, have positioned him as a true champion of the people.
Fearless, courageous, pragmatic, articulate and very conscious of his rights and constitutional authority in every situation and circumstance, he has emerged over the years, as a modern leader whose all round capacity and dynamism has astounded many.
His tactical audacity has often flummoxed adversaries, his strategic acumen has wrong-footed opponents. He always seem to anticipate measures and counter measures before they unfold and his administrative astuteness has set him apart as a visionary leader whose navigational compass has already configured futuristic challenges.
Today, he has put in motion, a developmental blueprint that is pointing Rivers State in the right direction and positioning her to embrace the future with assured preparedness.
There is a saying that nothing good comes easy and the journey of life is not for the feeble-minded. It takes only men and women of great determination to reach and attain their goals and this succinctly defines Nyesom Wike’s academic and political accomplishments.
Nyesom Ezebunwo Wike was born into the Christian family of Revd. and Deaconess (Mrs.) Nlemanya Wike, from Rumuepirikom community in Obio/ Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State. He is a complete Ikwerre son and proud Rivers man and had his early education in Rivers State before proceeding to study Law at the Rivers State University. Today, he is a recognized legal luminary and a distinguished Life Bencher.
In the political terrain, Nyesom Wike, after a brief working period in private legal practice, embraced his true leadership calling and started from the very scratch, when he contested the election as the Executive Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, with the return of democracy in 1999.
He won the election and was re-elected for a second term as a result of his phenomenal performance which was so remarkable that he transformed and positively re-positioned the Council into one of the most productive and dynamic local government Councils in the country.
By the end of his tenure as Chairman, Obio-Akpor Local Government had fully and proudly taken its pride of place and transformed into a beehive of commerce and other post modern trappings, in what has been described by many as the golden years of the Council.
He then moved up to the bigger political space from Local Government to the State level to play a key role in the post-Sir Peter Odili tenure.
Those who understood and followed the politics of Rivers State at that time, were fully aware of the vision of Sir Peter Odili and what transpired in the succession battle to take over from him in 2007. Suffice it to say that when the electoral and legal dusts finally settled, the anticipated balance was eventually achieved and it is germane to note that Nyesom Wike played what many have come to accept as an unparalleled pivotal role in achieving political stability in Rivers State in that turbulent season of succession; a story which has still not been fully written for posterity.
By virtue of his admirable administrative savvy in office and immense political stature, he was appointed Chief of Staff during the first tenure of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi’s government.
Indeed, the unprecedented role and sacrifice Nyesom Wike made to resolve the 2007 governorship debacle, stabilize the leadership and sustain the Rivers political structure in the eight years that followed the election in the state, still remains largely unsung.
It was arguably in recognition of his impressive efforts and contributions, both as a staunch party man and an unflinching stakeholder in the promotion of the Niger Delta political advocacy and also to have a trusted ally in the Federal cabinet, that President Goodluck Jonathan appointed him as the Minister of State(Education) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on July 14 , 2011.
Wike became a full Minister, though initially in an acting capacity, of the Education Ministry, from September 2013, when the substantive Minister Prof. Ruqayyah Ahmed Rufa’i, who was appointed on April 6, 2010, was relieved of her position. He discharged the duties of his new portfolio with great efficiency.
However, the build up to the 2015 general elections and especially, the Governorship election in Rivers State with the attendant highly combustible succession situation that emerged, required greater courage and extraordinary tactical and strategic political brilliance to confront and surmount it.
Bitterness, laced with provocative and acerbic language had already been injected into the once peaceful political ambience of Rivers State.
In the words of Sir Winston Churchill, one time British Prime Minister: “One ought never to turn one’s back on threatened danger or try to run away from it. If you do that you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching you will reduce the danger by half. Never run away from anything”.
The world will always stand still for those who take responsibilities and while those that take responsibilities will stand to be counted, those who choose to sit on the fence and do nothing will have their names consigned to the wilderness of history.
With this driving mantra in mind, Nyesom Wike voluntarily resigned as the Minister of Education to contest for the Governorship of Rivers State under the PDP and take charge of the structure that would eventually save the State from the fate that would have befallen it, just like he did in 2007, to uphold the clarion call of “Rivers First” in all considerations.
Nyesom Wike is loved by his people. That is why he has metamorphosed into an unstoppable movement and in the titanic electoral battles that was waged for the soul of Rivers State in 2015 and 2019 respectively, he came out triumphant in the governorship elections.
It has rightly been pointed out by discerning analysts and Rivers commentators alike, that Governor Wike met an economy that had been bruised and battered, by the time he took over as governor on May 29, 2015, and all he has done since that day, has been to unlock the economic potentials of Rivers State and attract investors back to their once-beloved Garden City.
He has set about his task with a single minded determination and firm leadership to re-organize the security architecture, which had so nearly been completely mortgaged, re-order the socio-political and infrastructural priorities and transform the landscape of Port Harcourt with marvelous infrastructural aesthetics befitting a state capital.
Rivers State has gradually been positioned in the last five years as a dynamic and competitive modern hub for the vissicitudes if the present and the challenges of the future.
Governor Wike’s second term started with the same verve, zeal and committed focus which defined the first term and things were moving smoothly, until the deadly coronavirus broke out as a global pandemic that destabilized the whole world.
Many leaders are still grappling with this challenge but Governor Wike has displayed courageous, pragmatic and focused leadership, not only in the management of the Covid-19 situation, but particularly, with the numerous projects that are either ongoing or completed in the State.
Five years into his tenure, the urban renewal programme in the capital city and indeed the interconnectivity across the length and breadth of the State is progressing amazingly.
In addition, the brilliant economic module of strategically concessioning major government owned assets to willing and capable private investors, which had already started with the Afam Cassava processing plant, is a critical futuristic component that is already on stream and will create massive jobs for the youths and unemployed.
By a combination of unshakable commitment and an unwavering visionary drive to ensure the delivery of excellent legacy projects, the infrastructural development of Rivers State is inclusively holistic.
Contrary to the notions and misleading opinions of critics, who have not traversed the State to actually see things for themselves, a transformational and aesthetic metamorphosis is actually taking place all over Rivers State, which will unravel fully with time.
Governor Wike has already confirmed that his administration will not leave any abandoned project when his tenure comes to and end in 2023.
In the political arena, Governor Wike has also transformed Rivers State into the political headquarters of the South South geo-political zone. Port Harcourt, the capital city hosted two very successful Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) Congresses and has been the home for the reconciliation of many internal party conflicts.
He has also contained the opposition with deft and political brinkmanship and the way he has astutely supervised the affairs of the PDP has ensured that all the elections and Congresses in the state have been smooth, peaceful and rancour free.
There is definitely no contesting the fact that Governor Wike is a trail blazer who is building for the future and actually leading from the front. He is a promise keeper and he has kept his promises, worked hard and achieved so much more with far less resources, while providing first-class socio-economic infrastructure.
He has also kept the State and businesses safe and secure, despite the unexpected outbreak of Covid-19 and the contrived attempts to frustrate and create diversionary situations, both by internal and external forces.
His administration has remained firm and focused on this progressive trajectory, with a constant pledge to recommit to work harder and deliver greater development to Rivers people.
Like Governor Wike himself said in his inaugural second term address to Rivers people on May 29, 2020: “We know it is not going to be easy given the very poor state of the national economy and the spinoff effects on ours. But, tough times like this call for unity of thought, unity of purpose and unity of actions; believing in ourselves and in our ability to overcome all the challenges that confront us as a State and as a people.”
Indeed the story of Nyesom Wike, is the unfolding narrative of a man who, in the last half a century and counting, has not only become one of the iconic living legends of Rivers State, but is today, the Dike Ohna Ikwerre, a title reserved only for heroes, warriors and patriots of the great Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality.
Governor Nyesom Wike is a devout Christian and is happily married to Her Excellency, Justice Eberechi Suzette Wike. They are blessed with children.
There is no doubt that as he celebrates his birthday today, even his critics will agree that he is indeed a trail blazer in every sense of the word.
Happy Birthday Your Excellency
• Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State