By Tony John, Port Harcourt
Chairman of Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State and former Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Mr Samuel Nwanosike, in this interview spoke on Governor Nyesom Wike’s administration among other issues.
What is the secret behind the transformation of Ikwerre council headquarters after decades of neglect?
Well, the secret is simple; the desire to satisfy our people and prove to them that a promise made can be kept. It is a demonstration that young men, if given an opportunity, can contribute to growth of democracy in Nigeria. It shows that if you believe in a thing, you can make it work. My team and I decided to make the sacrifice of starving ourselves, having sleepless nights and making sure the five-point agenda we made to our people, via our political campaign in 2018, were fulfilled. We proved to them that politics is not a joke. It is a very serious business because it has to impact positively on the lives of people.
The local government election would be this year. Are you intending to come back?
Let me use this opportunity to thank Almighty God for the privilege He gave me to serve the first term and the grace He has bestowed upon us with the resources including men and women, He brought before us that led to our success story. Yes, our people from the 13 wards in Ikwerre LGA, have been calling us, my team and I, to continue the good work we are doing for the second term, because we have the constitutional right to offer services to our people again. So, I am using this opportunity to formally accept that call. And now, RSIEC has rolled out its timetable for election; my team and I are willing to serve Ikwerre LGA again and contribute further to the things that are still yearning to be done. Even our second term would not be enough to finish the work that needs to be done. We believe at the end of our second term, by God’s grace, He would have groomed other people that would take over the baton from us and continue the race of good governance.
Recently, you were accused of borrowing over N1 billion to execute projects. Tell us your own story.
There was nothing like that. The problem we have in this part of the world is, when people failed to plan, they forgot that they had planned to fail. To a lot of people, they think the third tier of government is a joke. Third tier government is not an avenue where people will not work and collect salary. Or, some leaders would stay in the comfort of their houses and hotels, pay salaries and allow rodents and grasses take over the council headquarters, without directly impacting on the people, either by growing the local economy, or by making sure that there is peace and security in the local environment; or, by being part of the team to groom up-coming generation. Whether you like it or not, the local government system, by the drafters of our constitution, deliberately said that the local government system should be the government closest to the people. It is an important government that brings rural people to the system. A lot of people believed that local government system cannot work. That was why they believed that I borrowed N1 billion to execute projects. I am telling you there is no iota of truth in that allegation that we borrowed a billion naira plus for projects. The question is, from which bank? Which financial institution would lend such amount to a local government? Yes, we took a facility (100 million) from Zenith Bank to build our administrative block; and we must be specific. We took another N50 million from Zenith Bank to assist in the landscaping and renovation work we were doing because we have vault in our project account that we deliberately saved from the Federation Account and from our Internally-Generated Revenue (IGR). We created a Project Account and each month, we save N20 million. With the IGR, we had to put everything together. As I speak, we have paid out the N100 million. It is just a few fraction of the N50 million that is remaining. By end of January this year, we would have been free from any encumbrances. Like I tell people, before the primaries of 2021, Ikwerre LGA would have paid off the 50 million we took. We thank God Almighty for giving us this opportunity to serve our people. That which God said would happen in Ikwerre LGA, has happened. Sometimes, we wonder how we were able to achieve all this because, in the cadre of revenue allocation from the Federation Account, we are almost second to the last. But, when it comes to work load, we are third to the highest. After PHALGA and Obio/Akpor, the next is Ikwerre Local Government. We have over 1,200 staff.
Let us look at Governor Nyesom Wike’s administration and the transformation that has taken place in last five years in Rivers State, particularly Port Harcourt.
Wonderful! It is wonderful and extra-ordinarily exceptional. Governor Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike has come to prove and show Nigerians that, if you have love for your people, you will give your “all” for them. That is what he has demonstrated. I would say what the governor is doing beats the imagination of many states’ governors in Nigeria. The urban renewal that is taking place is like a magic to us. Sometime ago, I said Governor Wike has turned Port Harcourt like London. And tongues started wagging. An English Language allows such a contrast speech to be made, especially when you want to lay emphasis on the achievement of a man. Check out the standard of roads and bridges, the contractor (Julius Berger) handling the projects. We thank God Almighty for giving us a leader and governor in person of Nyesom Ezebunwo Wike, who has made this work for us. We are asking God to continue to give us leaders like Nyesom Ezebunwo Wike. We all know how he started. Nobody believed he could succeed. In fact, somebody who had governed this state before bragged that he would want to see how Nyesom Wike would be able to pay workers’ salaries. Today, the governor is not only paying salaries, he is paying workers’ arrears. Recently, he offered 5,000 jobs to unemployed Rivers people.
You were a former spokesman of the PDP in Rivers State and very popular. Are you bothered by the crisis in PDP at the national level?
It is politics and I join forces with Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezebunwo Wike, to frown at it. To me, there is no crack.
From 2021, drums for 2023 elections would start to sound. What you are seeing or hearing is alignment and realignment. But, what we don’t like is people who are supposed to be playing the opposition politics, are abandoning their responsibilities and playing to the gallery. You don’t go and paint pictures that Mr. A is your problem; Mr. B is your problem, when you have a problem to solve. Nigerians are yearning for change; Nigerians are yearning for a leader that can position the country well; solve the ravaging insecurity, economic crisis, create jobs for our unemployed people, give us hope to live as Nigerians and citizens; make the country reclaim its status of “Giant of Africa”, so that we can be bold to tell about ourselves. What is happening in our party is that some people are laying blames to those who are genuinely committed to the progress of rebuilding our great party.