Stories by Henry Umahi
IT is said that where there is no vision, the people perish. And Theodore M. Hesburgh posited: “The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”
Warren G. Bennis further said that “leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”
These quotes resonate with Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike of Rivers State, who is defined by the “quality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.”
On assumption of office six years ago, Wike came with the New Rivers Vision, which is to recreate the state and make the people to live more amply, with the provision of physical and economic infrastructure.
While campaigning for the office of governor, Wike traversed the length and breadth of the state to have a firsthand knowledge of the problems and desires of the people. Then he drew up a well thought-out and exhaustively researched programme anchored on aggressive urban renewal.
On inauguration day on May 29, 2015, Governor Wike said: As we reiterated at several fora during the campaigns, our blueprint is an agenda for hope. We pledged to offer a New Rivers Vision based on a new thinking. Our goal is to make Rivers State a land of peace and prosperity with boundless opportunities and possibilities; a place where no one is left behind because of his or her station and everyone who works hard can achieve his or her life’s dream. Please be assured that we are committed to actualize our vision and mission already in the public domain.”
Vision: To build a state that is truly united, secure, and prosperous, with boundless opportunities for everyone who in it to peacefully pursue their goals and realize their potentials in dignity and happiness.
Mission: To actualize the aspirations of the people of Rivers State for a balanced development and an enhanced quality of life for the present and future generations through responsive governance guided by the fear of God.
Wike rolled up his sleeves and began his projects revolution. The urban renewal in the capital city is massive, covering the restoration works, including underground drains, sidewalks, green areas and streetlights on most of the roads in both the old and new GRAs have been completed.
By the end of Wike’s first term, he was adjudged the best governor in Nigeria and nicknamed Mr Projects for his sterling performance in infrastructural development, economy, education, health, judiciary, sports, transport and other key sectors as he constructed and rehabilitated major roads in the state. He also delivered on priority projects such as the Port Harcourt Pleasure Park, State Ecumenical Centre, Rumuokoro and Mile one markets, Government House Chapel, and Civil Servants Quarters, among many others.
Because one good term deserves another, the people of Rivers State overwhelmingly reelected Wike for another four years. “I want to thank the people of Rivers State for showing the kind of love and support we have never seen before. We will not disappoint you. We shall continue to serve,” he pledged.
Wike also reiterated that “for us in all things, it is Rivers first, Rivers State is the measure…We will continue to stand up for Rivers State and defend her interest.”
With the people’s social contract signed and sealed, he began a massive transformation of the landscape of the state to what someone called our “new planet.”
Within three weeks of his “new” 100 days in office, he commissioned many people-oriented projects. They include Rivers State NLC Secretariat, Real Madrid Academy, Rumuwoji Market, Rivers State University, Students Union Secretariat, Ogbum-na-Abali Fruit Garden Market, dualisation of Birabi Street, Government Secondary School Ubima, Justice Ichendu (Elelenwo-Akpajo Road), Government Craft Development Centre and Bonny Street, Adaka Boro/Elliot Henry streets.
Then he flagged off multiple projects, inviting notable Nigerians to be part of the exercise. At the flag off of one of the triple iconic flyovers on October 22, 2019, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State said: “I was honoured to flag off the flyover project at 1st and 2nd Artillery junction, Port Harcourt. It is one of the three flyovers to be constructed simultaneously by Governor Wilke-led administration within 16 months. This what my brother, Wike, has promised the people of Rivers State and 70 percent advance payment has been made.”
Makinde further said: “Good roads facilitate trade resulting in economic development, but made roads mean wastage of working hours.
“Any medical professional will tell you for free that traffic congestion increases stress and leads to all kinds of stress-related ailments. Therefore, investments in roads are good. Progressive people appreciate this and celebrate it.”
The triple flyovers had a contractual life span of 16 months with a record 70 percent advance payment to Julius Berger out of the N21 billion total cost which, according to the governor, would ensure commitment from Julius Berger, devoid of bad weather and variation. Wike told the contraction giant: “We have paid you during the rainy season, so you will work during rainy season.”
Wike supervised the projects and they were completed before due date.
In February 2017, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) visited Rivers State. Apparently impressed by the quality and sheer number of projects executed by Governor Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Osinbajo declared: “I think he (Wike) deserves the title of ‘Mr Projects’. He is, indeed, Mr Projects. Rivers State is very important to us; we will cooperate with the state to develop Nigeria.”
Osinbajo is not alone. Many important Nigerians from all political divides are united in the assertion that Wike is, indeed, a miracle worker. Anyone who has stepped foot on the soil of Rivers State in the last six years will be marveled at the transformation of the state.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan described Wike as a good and committed leader. Jonathan said: “Our governor popularly Mr Projects is an example of a good leader, a committed leader. Whenever Wike invites me to a programme, I’m always pleased to come. What Wike has put on ground in Rivers State is what most of us will always be glad to commend him. That the whole country calls Wike Mr Projects is not an exaggeration and not political. I have lived in many areas of Port Harcourt but these days I cannot recognize the place again because of the quantum of development that has taken place.”
Former Governor of Rivers State, Dr Peter Odili, said: “I have travelled to at least 26 countries, I have never seen anything like this. God will ensure that your aspirations are realised.”
For Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Wike is a promise keeper. “We are proud of the work he is doing in Rivers State. Now, I understand why they refer to him as Mr Projects. The promise the governor made is what he is fulfilling, that is what government is all about; governance is about improving the quality and condition of our society,” he volunteered.
Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, remarked that “the governor is a consummation of excellence. He is a representative of a refiner’s fire and fuller’s soap. Refiner’s fire brings out the best. A fuller’s soap removes dirt and leaves the soap sparkling clean. I am exceedingly proud of that Governor Wike has done.”
Even the royalty are not left out of the praise. According to the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’adu Abubakar, even the enemies of progress cannot deny that Wike is making things happen. “We saw these projects with our eyes. You cannot say that this governor has not worked. Even the enemies of progress will acknowledge that something is being done,” he said.
The international community also poured encomiums on Wike. Ketil Karlsen, EU Ambassador, said: “From the images I have seen on board, this is a symbol of good governance. It is a sign of good things that can be done in the country. Key infrastructure is necessary for development of Nigeria. This is an important step in the right direction.”
But, as Americans are wont to say, they haven’t seen anything. At the time they made their comments, Wike was reloading his arsenal. What they had seen was just a tip of the iceberg. The main thing was still cooking. Then he stated firing on all cylinders.
The Wike magic is a continuous exercise. Despite the challenges of 2020, the year of COVID-19 pandemic, financial straits and #EndSARS protest, Wike made it a year to remember. He delivered profound Christmas and New Year gifts to the people.
For Wike, “Whether there is COVID-19 or not we will continue to do the work they expect us to do. At the end of the day, the virus will go and the people will be there. It is necessary for infrastructure to be put in place.
“I did say that our administration would impact every local government area in the state. There is no local government in this state that we will not go and commission one or two projects.”
Is it not said that the snake seen by one person is oftentimes regarded as a python? So, in Wike’s usual manner, he invited some notable Nigerians to come and see for themselves and commission a new set of projects between December 20 and January 21.
It was a deluge. The projects were everywhere. Again, everyone hailed the architecture and aesthetics of the projects.
For three weeks running, River State was the place to be. Personalities from the ruling and opposition parties were coming into the state to commission one project or another. In attendance for the projects commissioning spree were Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, Governor Samuel Ortom, Engr. Seyi Makinde, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, Governor Bala Mohammed, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Senator Ali Ndume, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, Senator Rochas Okorocha, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, Dr Peter Obi, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe and Dr Ibrahim Dankwambo, among others.
On December 21, 2020, Fintiri commissioned the Emeyal, Elelenwo, Ndoni and General Diriya Streets. At the occasion, Fintiri said: “It is really a rare privilege to commission landmark projects in Port Harcourt, the heart beat of the South-South. I am here on the basis that Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, the irrepressible democrat has demonstrated an uncommon vision and rare courage in working for Rivers people and advancing the unity of our country.
“Let me assure the government and good people of Rivers State that the difference that Wike is making in Rivers State is unprecedented and can hardly be equaled.”
December 22, 2020 was the turn of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State to commission the dualised Tombia Road and Street. Besides pouring encomiums on Wike for his sterling performance in office, Ortom volunteered that Wike is a friend like no other.
Take this from Ortom: “There came a time when I was an outcast and my people in Benue State were outcasts. Nobody cared to visit for fear of persecution. We were like lepers in the Bible. Yet, Wike stood up and came all the way to Benue State to see how we were faring. We had over 500,000 IDPs in camps then. It was not easy to fend for these people. Wike came with very distinguished leaders from Rivers State.
“He gave us support that we never expected more than any other support, including what others did. We appreciate it and pray that such a thing should not come to Rivers State.”
When Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State commissioned Woji Road and Obagi Street on December 23, 2020, it was also praises galore for Wike. Makinde said: “Indeed, all right minded people like to identify with progress irrespective of their personal feeling towards the initiator. Development is a big part of our democracy and every project counts towards the overall progress of the nation.”
The last lap of the phase one of the commissioning was the reconstructed Aker Base Road, Rumuolumeni, now renamed Chief Orabule Adele Road, fell on the shoulder of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State. That was on December 24, 2020. He described his host as a brand, an icon, and symbol of everything good and a blessing to Nigeria. He added that the decision to use concrete pavement in the construction of the road was a mark of ingenuity considering the topography. For him, it was a function of visionary leadership.
After the Christmas break, Wike moved to the next level. While inaugurating the 10.3km Sime-Nonwa-Kira Road in Tai local government area of the state on January 4, 2021, Bala Mohammed said: “When I see the quality of this road and the community where it is sited in Ogoni land, traversing all these communities and the kind of good sermon given by the local government chairman, and even the commissioner of works, I feel elated that I am a Nigerian.
“This is so because here is a Nigerian, a governor who has been able to deepen leadership, bringing people of capacity to on board. He is even using a local contractor to bring local content. This is the kind of Nigeria we need tomorrow: People who can lead and bring people on board with quality and capacity.
“I am always happy to be associated with Governor Wike. It is not because he is the most pragmatic governor in Nigeria. It is not because he has always worn the toga of leadership. It is also not because he has always tried to satisfy his people and defied all odds. But it is because of his capacity as the face of our party, the PDP. He is the face of leadership of the governors. He has always defied all difficult terrain to be able to produce, and deliver to his people.
“That has endeared him. He is somebody who says the truth no matter whose ox is gored. We need people like that in Nigeria.”
ON January 5, 2021, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi stepped out to inaugurate the 16.6km dualised Saakpenwa-Bori Highway, which cuts across Tai, Khana and Gokana LGAs of the state. A man of few words, Ugwuanyi, however, gave a roaring applause.
“I congratulate your Excellency, Governor Wike on the accomplishment of this infrastructural milestone among others which will undoubtedly make life more meaningful for the people of Ogoni land. I understand that this strategic road project was a campaign promise that has been truthfully fulfilled. Expectedly, it gladdens the hearts of Ogoni people and reinforces their faith in our constitutional democracy.”
Former Senate Majority Leader, Mohammed Ali Ndume, on January 6, 2021 inaugurated the rehabilitated 11.53km Eleme-Afam (Oyigbo) Road, connecting Eleme and Oyigbo LGAs. Ndume said: “Governor Wike is my very good friend, a trusted leader, a very honest person. One thing we have in common is that, as a leader, you must stand out and speak the truth even if you’re alone and Wike is known for that. There is new hope for the state and he is Wike. Now, Rivers is not only becoming a Garden City again but it is becoming a Golden City. May God continue to give you (Wike) the strength.
“And from today, know that you’re a leader in this country. If you’re not a friend and a nationalist, I will not be here. Fayemi will not be here and many other APC governors. You’re one of the true Nigerians that I ever know. And if we have people like you that speak the truth to power, Nigeria would have been better off for all.
“Honestly, let me say here that Nigeria is lucky to have not only Rivers State but Rivers people. South-South, particularly Rivers people are the great people of Nigeria. What you’re giving to this country; if Rivers is not there, Nigeria will not be there.”
Former Senate Deputy President, Senator Ike Ekeremadu, took his turn to commission Abonnema Ring Road in Akuku Toru LGA on January 7, 2021. He said: “I believe it when I said that we should not be ashamed to say we are learning from our colleague (Wike) on what to do. If we need help, we must seek help from whoever we can get help from and that’s the only way we can develop.”
Governor of Sokoto State and the chaiman of PDP Governors Forum, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal commissioned the reconstructed Forces Avenue – Olumeni Harley Streets, Old GRA, Port Harcourt, on January 8, 2021. According to him, the second term mandate given to Wike by the people of Rivers State has been rewarded by Wike who he described as a bridge builder and a special gift to the country.
“Almost two years into your second term, I believe that you have justified their confidence. You have done so exceedingly well,” Tambuwal said.
On the occasion, the national chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, acknowledged that Wike’s intervention was the first serious attention since the roads were built by the colonial masters.
Secondus’ words: “You are one of the shining lights of our party because your good works speak for itself. I don’t think another governor or governors of the other party can really compete with the governors of the PDP.
“I told you that the only way you can silence the opposition is to do what people would see. You don’t need to join issues with them on the pages of newspapers. All of them live here. They will see the streetlights shining and the beautiful roads.”
Tambuwal, who also commissioned the Bonny/Bille Jetty on January 9, 2021, further said: “It is not just about earning revenues, be it revenues from FAAC or from IGR. It is about having the grace of God in applying those revenues to the needs of the people. That is what I see here happening in Rivers State. You have done a lot in the area of human capital development. You have done a lot in infrastructural development of the state and importantly bringing back security and safety of lives in Rivers State. That is very key and that is very fundamental.”
Former governor of Imo State and senator representing Imo West Senatorial District, Senator Rochas Okorocha, who came to Port Harcourt to inaugurate the Rumuche/Rumuakunde/Ohna Awuse Link Roads in Emohua LGA on January 11, 2021, added another dimension to the event. Consider what Okorocha, an APC chieftain, said: “What brought me here today is not party. What brought me here today is love and friendship. I am not PDP, I awm APC. But the time has come when we must break the jinx of party division and begin to embrace brotherhood and friendship and be able to state what is good and what is bad. A bad man is a bad man, even if he is PDP or APC.”
He, however, doffed his hat for Wike over the Government House Clinic and Administrative Building, which he described as top class.
January 12, 2021 was the turn of former Senate President and Secretary to the Federal Governmen, Anyim Pius Anyim, to commission the Rumuekini/Aluu Road, traversing Obio/Akpor and Ikwerre LGAs. Anyim said: “Governor Wike, because you commission projects, it is certain no project will be abandoned. I am proud to identify with the progress you have made. I am proud to belong to the PDP family. It is the spirit of PDP that is at work in your government and that spirit of PDP will come to work in Nigeria.
“When I was invited for this commissioning, I did not really appreciate the magnitude of the work: the real import of the governance Governor Wike has brought to Rivers State. But as we drove down here, the impression I have is that Port Harcourt has expanded. It is only the government of the people that can expand a city to the extent that Port Harcourt has expanded.”
Former Governor of Anambra State and PDP Vice Presidential candidate in 2019, Dr Peter Obi, was the chosen one to commission the Isiokpo Internal Roads Phase 2 in Ikwerre LGA on January 13. Obi said: “Accountability in government is the most critical yardstick to determine good governance and to build the trust of the people. For recruitment into governance, competence capacity and visible performance like we seeing here should be embraced.”
Senate Minority leader and former Deputy Governor of Abia State, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, performed the inauguration of Isiodu Road in Emohua LGA on January 14, 2021. Inaugurating the project, Abaribe said that Wike had proved that he walks his talk.
“Today, I have seen that you are a 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 everyday; they should wait until he starts commissioning schools, hospitals then comes back to unveil the flyovers 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.”
January 16, 2021, witnessed the curtain fall on the second phase of projects commissioning. That day, the former Governor of Gombe State, Dr Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, inaugurated the network of roads in Boro Town.
Dankwambo, who was delighted to be part of the activities, noted that the infrastructure will definitely open up Boro Town. He said: “Development comes in several ways. From what I have seen, coming to this part of the state was very easy. Seeing the internal roads that have been constructed with drainages, is a rare achievement and very commendable.”
The “Festival of Commissioning,” as it was dubbed, also provided an opportunity to showcase the robust cultural heritage and tradition of Rivers people as groups performed with the zeal of competition to entertain the august visitors.
Apparently not ready to rest on his oars, Wike pledged: “We shall continue to focus attention to the state’s physical and economic infrastructure and ensure that we deliver fabulous roads, bridges and flyovers to connect all parts of our state to ease the movement of goods and services, enhance economic growth and accelerate the development of the state.”