By Paulinus Nsirim
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
— John C Maxwell
By this time last year, it seemed like everything that could possibly be written or said to celebrate the birthday of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike had already been captured and widely reported in all the media platforms, print, electronic and social media.
But as it is typical of the dynamic nature of the great, extraordinary man himself, the last 365 days have unearthed a whole new vista of phenomenal and exemplary manifestations of courageous, focused, determined and pragmatic and humane leadership trajectory.
This has not only injected hope and purpose in our collective existence as a people, but has most importantly, defined Governor Wike as “A leader who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
Bill Taylor, from his seminal article: “Do You Pass the Leadership Test?” said this about leadership by example: “The true mark of a leader is the willingness to stick with a bold course of action — an unconventional business strategy, a unique product-development roadmap, a controversial marketing campaign — even as the rest of the world wonders why you’re not marching in step with the status quo. In other words, real leaders are happy to zig while others zag. They understand that in an era of hyper-competition and non-stop disruption, the only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for something special.”
Anyone living in Nigeria today would be forgiven, if he/she authoritatively declares that Bill Taylor, the brilliant best-selling author, celebrated entrepreneur, and groundbreaking thinker, must have been inspired to coin this definition of leadership after witnessing first-hand the charismatic presence and positively impactful actions of Governor Wike.
The fearless, courageous, pragmatic, articulate and very outspoken advocacy in the legitimate quest for constitutional clarity over contentious issues, which Governor Wike has displayed with competent authority, makes his leadership model iconic.
There is no doubt whatsoever that in the last six years of his administration as governor of Rivers State, Nigerians have come to embrace and admire Governor Wike’s tactical audacity, strategic acumen and the sure-footed administrative astuteness which sets him apart as a visionary leader.
Loved by his people and buoyed by the collective desire to prevail against forces which threatened to strip Rivers people of their historic essence and heritage, Nyesom Wike’s identity and crusade metamorphosed into an unstoppable movement and in the monumental electoral warfare waged for the soul of Rivers State in 2015 and 2019 respectively, he came out victorious in the governorship elections.
And it is quite a remarkable testimony to the humility and large heartedness of the man Wike that he not only recognized the courageous gallantry of the women of Ogu-bolo, who stood bravely between the bullets and ballots to ensure that the mandate was not stolen, but also deemed it appropriate to admit the casualties and offer symbolic compensation to the families of those who lost their lives in the course of the elections; something that has arguably never been done anywhere else in such a comprehensive scale, since the advent of this democratic dispensation.
The story of the last six years of Governor Wike’s administration in Rivers State, which commenced with his single-minded determination and firm leadership agenda to re-organize, re-strategize and re-order the socio-political and infrastructural priorities of the state, has undoubtedly transformed the entire landscape of Rivers State and its capital city, Port Harcourt.
With marvelous legacy infrastructural projects, ranging from dual carriage unity roads and expressways to solid bridges and flyovers, as well as state-of-the-art health, educational, agricultural, sports and other beffiting projects, Rivers State has become the reliable index for development in Nigeria.
Six years into his tenure, the robust and breathtaking urban renewal agenda in the capital city and indeed the determined drive to achieve interconnectivity across the length and breadth of the State, as well as expand the landmass of hitherto waterlogged riverine communities to provide much needed space, through massive sandfilling and land reclamation, have progressed and accelerated with amazing results.
The transformational trajectory has seen the State being re-positioned to become a beautiful, stable, safe, secure, dynamic and bustling modern hub for commerce and sustainable entreprise, as well as the destination of choice for progressive activities.
This has welcomed everybody, enhanced and fostered harmonious coexistence of all and has been hailed even by leaders of the opposition.
Governor Wike has already confirmed that his administration will not only deliver at least one legacy project in every local government area of the state, he will also not leave any abandoned project or debts behind for his predecessor when his tenure comes to and end in 2023. He is a promise keeper and a man of his words.
Intrestingly, Governor Wike’s massive influence in the political terrain is no less formidable, both at home and at the national arena. He has redefined electoral attitudes and governance responsibilities in his own home PDP and ensured that the state remains one of the most peaceful political theatres in the country.
This has resulted in the massive defection of notable and respected opposition figures into PDP, even in spite of the combustible nature of the fragmented APC and indeed, in the face of an unending yet futile diversionary opposition agenda, to distract him from delivering good governance to Rivers people.
His defining legacy at the national level has not only been to embrace the role of a vibrant people’s champion with the resonating voice of public advocacy against the unbearable mis-governance of the ruling party, but he has also emerged as the beacon and catalyst in the rejuvenation of the PDP into an intimidating force which Nigerians are earnestly yearning for.
Through him, Nigerians are putting their hopes on the PDP to salvage whatever is left of the country, after the unfortunate and hapless APC misrule comes to an end, and turn the fortunes of the country around for the better.
Celebrating another birthday of this trail blazer, who is building for the future and actually leading from the front, makes us bold to regal in the exciting story of Nyesom Wike and the unfolding narrative of a man who has not only become a living legend in his own right, but is affectionately addressed by peers and admirers as Nyerisi and proudly straddles Rivers State and beyond as the Dike Ohna Ikwerre, a title reserved only for heroes, warriors and patriots of the great Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality.
As he celebrates his birthday today, there is no doubt whatsoever, both in the minds of Rivers people and majority of Nigerians that, at last, we have been blessed with a leader who knows the way and is not afraid to show us the way and lead us all the way to redemption, in the true mould and spirit of the kind of leadership which this season and our people desire and deserve.
Happy Birthday Your Excellency.
• Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State