Looking for a prophet honoured at home and abroad? Then, you have found one. His name: Barrister Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, the Rivers State governor whose acronym is NEW. Since hitting his political limelight, as Chairman of Abio/Akpor Local Government Area, Wike has moved up steadily and focused on his mission to be the real change.
Love or hate him, Wike, since embracing politics and public life, has certain qualities nobody can ignore – courage and outspokenness. But what is more visible in the last two years is that he has clearly been consistent in the pursuit of excellence while not allowing distraction, manufactured and sold to the public, by his traducers to distract from the goals he had set out for himself. For this reason, many elect to misunderstand him. For the same reason also, some global organisations, which go after substance and reward efforts to make positive impact on society, chose him to receive it global prize for sustainable development.
The group is none other than the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is waiting for October 31 to award Gov. Wike its prestigious ‘Global Human Settlements Sustainability Awards’ for 2017.
According to the SDG office, Wike will be officially conferred with the award on the said day at the United Nations headquarters in New York, United States of America.
The award comes as a feather on Wike’s rising profile and a crown on his efforts to challenge the limits in the development of Rivers, which, arguably, in the eight years preceding his election as governor, did not witness much investments in the housing sector. Wike is showing his is a mind tied to the pains of the poor.
The letter conveying the good news to Wike said in part that: “This Award is for the governor’s investments in the development of urban renewal programmes, housing and projects that improve the living conditions of less -privileged persons.”
It also stated that, “Wike is being recognised for his great commitment and contribution to sustainable cities in Rivers State.” The letter also eulogised Wike for “developing infrastructure in settlements in different parts of the state and ensuring that people have access to basic amenities.”
The above lines speak volumes about Wike’s leadership in the state as well as his desire to ensure that no one is left behind in the quest to guarantee shelter for Riverians and hand them a liveable modern city, which infrastructure will meet global standards.
The award is a further confirmation that despite a seeming nasty opposition, Wike has remained focused on pushing to deliver the promises he made to people of the state.
This is not the first time Wike’s style of governance and feats would attract awards to him.
Last year, The Sun newspapers singled him out as winner of The Sun Governor of the Year, in its prestigious awards to distinguished Nigerians. He had also been similarly honoured by The Independent and The Authority newspapers, among others.
While receiving the awards, he assured that they would spur him to achieve more. And true to type it did. The outcome is the new recognition from a UN body.
Although they may not say it, some governors are learning from Wike. They have begun urban renewal projects, which seek to transform towns in their states into modern cities. These ndicate that Wike’s activism on infrastructural development is catching on. I am sure that many other governors will seek his input on urban renewal strategies in their states.
What makes the current honour to the Rivers State Governor extraordinary and somewhat instructive is not just that it is coming from abroad, but that Wike could wring it out at a time the nation is facing huge economic challenge and most states are dogged with negative stories of not just being able to execute projects but also owing their staff arrears of salaries.
Certainly, many would expect that the award would not just be a crown but a challenge to Wike to further his campaign to alter the status quo and change the living condition of the poor. It is also a challenge that should keep him focused on some of the promises he made to the people while campaigning to become governor of the state.
During the campaigns in 2015, Wike was seen walking very dirty streets and markets. He visited shanties that are not considered good for human habitation by international standards. Such shanties made of corrugated iron sheets, dehumanise the human being and make life not worth the effort. Wike made a promise to positively impact on them.
By pursuing an urban renewal programme, therefore, Wike is holding himself accountable to the people and also making them realise that governance is not always about the elite. He has put the masses into his governance calculations and delivering impacts that will change the narrative on Rivers State.
Truly that, indeed, should be the spine of governance. Those who govern ought to also look at themselves, embark on peer review and use lessons learnt to further whatever impacts they intend to deliver in helping lift a segment of society out of poverty. That is the lesson that Wike is delivering. That is also why, of the 36 state governors, he was spotted from the UN headquarters, as someone whose time in office is positively impacting on the poor much more than it is doing on the elite.
Interestingly, Wike is of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a party which did not promise to deliver change, but is graciously doing better in that regard than All Progressives Congress (APC), which election mantra was change. It says to the rational mind, that those who boast much, often deliver little.
People of Rivers State are witnesses to the fact that their governor has delivered to them the Iriebe Medium Housing Estate, Rivers Quarters at the NNS Pathfinder, Quarters for Junior Staff of the DSS and facilitating the improved investment in housing by private investors.
Those are part of reasons Wike is singled out for honour. Beyond the above, the governor is acclaimed for investing in land reclamation/sand filling in Asari-Toru, Degema, Akuku-Toru and Port Harcourt Local Government Areas.
These may not seem huge to the regular critic, but when weighed against impacts they have made on the life of the people, then, the reality comes down clearly. It comes as indication that investment made by people of the state with their thumbs is paying off. Of course, it is still morning for Wike. The days ahead present him opportunity for more developments. He sure still has a lot in his kitty for the state.
For his supporters, the strong message his achievements in the last two years have sent is that he will coast to his second term with less hassle. His second term, I believe, will, beyond being a stamp of approval and a thank you, serve as a green light to push the redevelopment of the state beyond opposition’s imagination.
Wike is on a roll. He is moving on without looking back. He sure has learnt lessons on how to satisfy the desires of the people. The mandate they gave him pushes him to do more. And he will do more. I have no doubt that the SDG award will open the floodgates of other such awards.
• Oladipo is a public affairs commentator