From Tony John, Port Harcourt
The Rivers State Government has described criticism of Governor Nyesom Wike’s donation of N500 million to the Government of Sokoto State over the recent fire disaster at Sokoto Central Market as ‘a reflection of who we are as Rivers people’.
Commissioner for Information and Communications Paulinus Nsirim, addressing the issue in a statement made available to the media in Port Harcourt, described criticism coming from members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as ‘very poor and sad reflection of who we are as Rivers people and our proud national image and recognition as “our brother’s keeper”‘.
The statement read:
‘As Rivers People, we have our challenges, but that doesn’t mean we have lost our sense of humanity and this is what Governor Wike epitomises with great equanimity and humility.
‘It is, therefore, with an even greater sense of deep sadness and disappointment that we read how some people described the gesture as evidence of financial recklessness.’
The commissioner noted that the government had noticed in recent times the vehemence with which APC supporters have expressed their disapproval every time the Wike administration extends a hand of friendship and support to a sister state.
He stated: ‘This is not who we are as Rivers people. The Rivers man is kind, benevolent, cosmopolitan, generous and accommodating.
‘One would have expected some of these critics who had served in government before, to be at the forefront of preaching and promoting national brotherhood and unity.
‘They ought to know better about how government operates, instead of this unfortunate display of petulance, deliberate ignorance, hate-mongering and a kindergarten attempt to align with misguided public opinion borne out of spontaneous envy and uncharacteristic resentfulness. This is a sad and imported mindset and not the Rivers spirit at all.’
Nsirim recounted that Governor Wike was moved by compassion to make the donation to help Sokoto State Government rebuild the market and rehabilitate victims of the incident, after he was conducted round the destroyed market by his counterpart, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, to see the massive destruction of over 60 per cent of the 16,000 shops, with the loss of goods worth billions of Naira.
He continued: ‘It is, indeed, sickening that against the backdrop of such massive devastation, which must have definitely affected Nigerians from every tribe, including Rivers indigenes, who are earning a living in Sokoto State, but which fortunately did not cost any life, people will proceed to ask a silly question like: “Governor Nyesom Wike should please tell the Rivers people shocked by his impulsive gesture under what subhead of the budget for 2021 he got the N500 million that he has doled out to the Sokoto State Government.
‘This is the kind of question often heard in heated beer parlour arguments by laymen and not from enlightened minds.
‘It is even more shameful that as knowledgeable as some of these people are, they would actually fall so low like uneducated, jobless street gossips and allude the kind-hearted spirit which inspired the donation, to a spurious, unfounded and baseless street rumour that “Governor Wike wants to serve as a Vice President under Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State who is being touted as the next presidential candidate of the PDP.
‘Those who were part of the looting of our dear State should be reminded how they mortgaged the fortunes of Rivers State and betrayed Niger Delta people with audacious impunity, for their own selfish political ambition.
‘In fact, they had almost succeeded in selling out the State if not for the divine intervention of God who used Governor Wike on two critical occasions, to restore the pride of Rivers State and redeem the proud identity and dignity of the Rivers man in Nigeria.’
The commissioner said Nigerians have already come to accept Governor Wike as a bold, fearless, brave and courageous leader, who is not afraid to speak his mind on any matter.
Nsirim said: ‘He is not a “cunning man” like some well-known leaders who would jump from one party to another and instigate confusion, violence and divide and rule amongst their people in order to distract them while they pursue their personal and selfish ambitions.
‘Governor Wike has sounded it loud and clear that his main preoccupation now is to govern Rivers State, defend her people and give them good governance by delivering the dividends of democracy to every local government area of the state.
‘He still has two more solid years to continue his good works in Rivers State and the recent marathon commissioning of projects which lasted three weeks, spanned across not less than 11 Local Government Areas and caught global attention, speaks volumes for his commitment to affairs of the State, rather than being concerned with national politics.
‘Governor Wike is constructing durable and amazing legacy projects in Rivers State that are not only connecting the whole of the state but also improving the welfare and standards of living of the people. Yet, the APC has the temerity to raise its voice when they should be really ashamed of the deplorable and dilapidated condition they left Rivers in 2015.’
On the issue of pensions, he declared, ‘In fact, it has become imperative to shed some light on the issue of pensioners in the State, which they have been shouting about and misleading the general public with gross misinformation.
‘Rivers people will recall that one of the very first actions of Governor Wike, when he assumed office in 2015, was to clear the four months pension arrears he inherited from the previous administration, before entrenching the regular payment of monthly pensions, which is going on regularly till date.
‘Ironically, the opposition has continued to deceive Rivers people and members of the public with the impression that all pensioners were being owed by the State Government. But, the real truth is that those who are yet to receive their pensions were under the defective Contributory Pension Scheme operated by the immediate past APC administration in the State.
‘Even the pensioners in their peaceful protest in August 2020, confirmed that Governor Wike was not the cause of their problem, but blamed the immediate past administration of the state for their plight.’