Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, is the newly appointed Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications. In this interview in Port Harcourt, he spoke about the scorecard, security, style of governance, projects of Governor Nyesom Wike among others.
What can you say about the scorecard of Governor Nyesom Wike?
I make bold to say that Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, is one man, who was prepared for governance. He was completely prepared to be governor of Rivers State. Why did I say so? He was a two-time local government chairman. He was chief of staff, he was a minister before he became governor. He is not the type of politician that would tell you that my people said he should come and run. He was properly equipped and prepared for this assignment. And in proving to the people that he was prepared for governance, he launched the New Vision Blueprint, which showed the roadmap of his administration. I would like to show you exactly the major priorities of this New Vision Blueprint – open and accountable inclusive governance, security of lives and property, administration of justice, education, healthcare delivery, agricultural development, roads, drainages and transport infrastructure, housing development, provision of water, energy, security, jobs creation and communal empowerment, women development, youth development, sports, recreation and tourism, environmental protection, urban and rural development, social welfare services. Within the last four and half years, Governor Wike has, being guided by this New Vision Blueprint, touched all sectors of the economy. Little wonder, he has continually received local and international awards. Within his first 100 days in office, this second tenure, he commissioned projects for three weeks. None of his contemporaries did anything within that period. He has consistently said, “This my second tenure will be like the first tenure because I won’t slow down”. And of course, with what is already happening, you know, recently, he did a groundbreaking for three flyover projects in Port Harcourt. Three flyover projects that would be completed in 16 months at the cost of N21 billion. And, he didn’t just sign the contract, he also paid 70 percent. A contract that had been paid 70 percent is almost completed. And in this present economic climate, only a patriot, who has come to redefine governance, can embark on such an ambitious project. And that is why he is a rare gem of a leader.
What can you say about his (Wike) style of governance?
Governor Wike, is a strategic thinker. He, not only thinks strategically, executes projects strategically. That is why if he awards a contract, he ensures that contract is done according to specification. He is not a governor that would write a vision and stay back in his office. He goes where it is happening to see that from the beginning to the end, it is done according to what he has envisioned. He is a man of the people. He is a grassroots politician. He ensures that everybody, no matter your class, is part of governance. That is why, even after this last election, he extended the olive branch to the opposition because he is a statesman. A lot of politicians, because of bitterness and rancour that accompanied the last election, would have ordinarily said, “okay, he had won”. But, he didn’t say that because he is a statesman. That was why, immediately after the election, he extended the olive branch to the opposition. He says clearly, “elections are over, it is governance now. I am governor of Rivers State, not a particular section of people, or political party. It is rare in a clime, where people say “the winner takes it all”. Governor Wike is not that kind of leader. He is out to run an all-inclusive government. And he is a man not known to speak from both sides of the mouth. He is very forthright. He is a leader, who makes promises and keeps them. If the governor tells you that he is going to do something, be rest assured it is done. He doesn’t make empty political promises. He doesn’t embark on white elephant projects. That is the kind of leader he is.
What is your reaction to the alleged concentration of projects in Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas?
You live and do business in Port Harcourt. You know that is not true. The governor has spread projects across the 23 local government areas of Rivers State. The Unity Road started by Governor Peter Odili, has now extended to Andoni Local Government Area. It has extended to Opobo. For the first time, since that ancient city was founded, it was last year (2019) that people could drive to Opobo. There is a road from Saakpenwa to Bori. It is not Obio/Akpor. It is not PHALGA. In fact, because the governor is a people’s leader, that project is supposed to end at Bori. He has directed that the project should be extended to Kono Waterside. The sand-filling projects ongoing in the riverine communities, the internal roads, in Abonnema, the zonal hospitals. In fact, when the Kalabari community visited him before the New Year, he said the road linking Tema and Ifoko, will soon be flagged off. That’s not Obio/Akpor; that’s not PHALGA. That is besides economic empowerment programme that is for the youth and women in this state. His Excellency is novel in so many things he does. He introduced a revolving loan for medical practitioners in this state. It is not for Obio/Akpor and PHALGA people alone. The scholarship he has awarded to all medical students at PAMO University is not for Obio/Akpor and PHALGA people alone. So, people, who carry out that narrative, are just trying to score cheap political point, because His Excellency is detribalized. And he has shown that in various policies and programmes he has executed in this state. Even in political appointments, he has shown a fair balance across the 23 local government areas in the state.
Let’s look at security. What steps did the governor take to curb insecurity in the state?
We thank God for the collaborating efforts of all the security agencies in the state. But, you see, this has happened because he has given leadership. He ensured that the security architecture of the state was overhauled through the launch of Operation Sting. And that Operation Sting has brought all the security agencies under one umbrella. There is strategic cooperation amongst security agencies; so that, if something is happening in PHALGA now, because of the linkage, the person in Asari-Toru will know. And, because the governor also stands out as one governor that has given highest support to security agencies, he enjoys the support of heads of security agencies in the state. And, so, the collaboration between the Rivers State Government and security agencies is second to none. It has helped to reduce the incidence of crime in this state. Governor Wike is pursuing a development agenda that would make Rivers State a destination of choice because we have the right leadership; we have the infrastructure. Here is the headquarters of hydrocarbon industry. We have two seaports, we have an international airport, we have a culture that is second-to-none. His vision is to make Rivers State a destination of choice. And of course, what is happening already, Turkish Airline, Ethiopian Airline, they are flying to Port Harcourt now. You know, people don’t understand; if you are a regular traveller, you will know the import of Turkish and Ethiopian Airlines flying to Port Harcourt. What that means is that, if they were not coming here, you go to Abuja or Lagos when you want to travel abroad. We have the biggest supermarket in West Africa. A few months ago, Gap Nigeria Limited, a big company was opened at Rumuolumeni. That company will also be selling domestic gas in the state. If the right environment is not there, that company will not be opened here. If you go there and see the capital intensive projects of the company, you will know the right environment is here. And that is what the governor is doing for the people of the state and Nigeria.
What is the secret behind the developmental strides of the governor?
The secret is the passion to govern. The governor repeatedly says, “as a patriot, I will protect the interest of Rivers State and Rivers people. When you have the right attitude, when you have the right vision, and you are passionate to serve; you are a selfless leader. When you are selfless, the things you can do are enormous. It is those who are selfish and self-centred that don’t get results. But, if you are selfless, and you are passionate to serve your people, you do great things. The governor has the desire to leave a worthy legacy for posterity. And he is pursuing that agenda with all his heart.
As the state Information and Communications Commissioner, how do you plan to drive public communication?
First of all, I want to thank the governor for finding me worthy to occupy this exalted office and to say that my appointment is a vote of confidence on journalism profession. For everyone in the media in Rivers State and Nigeria, it is our opportunity to show the governor that he made the right choice. So, I am going to ride on the goodwill of my professional colleagues. I am going to run an open government in driving public communication in the state. I will employ the traditional media and online social media side-by-side, to drive policies and programmes of the state. One thing that is going to happen now is that, journalists have a man, who understands the terrain. This is not the first time I am driving public communication for the state. I served three governors as Chief Press Secretary. As I understand the terrain, know the nuances of the job, I am going to bring my wealth of experience to bear on this present assignment to ensure that journalists in Rivers State and Nigeria, get the right information at the right time. And, of course, they now have a bridge builder. The relationship between government and media will not be the same again because you now have a bridge builder, who will link the media with government. So, it is a new dawn for us as journalists. I am really excited and l am looking further to us in the media, showing the governor the remarkable difference between other appointments and this one, because it is for us to justify that he made the right choice.
Finally, sir, what do people expect from this government in the years ahead?
All-round rapid development because, you know the governor said, this second tenure, will be like the first. So, all-round rapid development. If you listened to the 2020 budget, you would see that education, agriculture, economic empowerment, healthcare delivery and development of infrastructure will be given priority attention. So, judging from that, it is going to be a kind of massive progress and development for Rivers people.