The name OCJ Okocha is a household name not only in Rivers State but nationwide. His fame has gone international especially in legal profession. He is a giant and luminary in law.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and former president of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA). The man was also a Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General in the old Rivers State. A man of many parts, humble, brilliant and devoted leader.
In this Round Table Encounter, a vintage Okocha tackled various questions from The Tide Editors on a range of issues, including his person, Derivation, State Creation, Amnesty for militants and the Law. This is the first part of a long journey.
We know you because of the interactions we have with you over the years but how would you want members of the public to know O.C.J. let us start with the initials O.C.J?
These are my initials. O stands for Onueze, C. stands for Chukwujinka and J stands for Joe. Joe incidentally is a family name which emanated from my father’s first name which is Jonathan. Some people make mistake sometime they call me Joseph.
I’m a lawyer based here in Port Harcourt at No. 71B Aba Road. I think that should be okay for introduction.
Let us know what these names really mean and if it has affected your life we know when people give child his name, the name must have relevance?
That is correct incidentally in my family we are always named by the eldest man and it happened that my grand father was the eldest man in Okocha family. So the name Onueze is the way Ikwerre man would say Onueze, Onu is mouth Eze is chief, but the way he explained it to me is that it means what God has said, the voice of God is what God ordained my father has had five daughters in a row and so everybody was praying for a boy to come along. When I come along, they now said oh! That this is what God has said, so I was named the voice of the king.
Chukwujinka is from my mother’s place Onitsha. I was born there. Chukwujinka God is holding this world Chukwujinka, and Joe as I said emanated from my father’s first name Jonathan his friends in the police used to call him Joe, so when I was born it was like this is Junior Joe.
People started calling me Joe. You cannot really say at this time in point how those names have affected my life. I have carried on by the special grace of God.
We will take liberty of your presence here; you will help us today with the history of how lawyers started accepting money for their services?
Well you know in the olden days going by the history of the profession in England there were two categories of the legal profession in the category of lawyers, yes generally there are two categories, the Bar and the Bench, but the lawyers are a body we know as the Bar. At the Bar, there are two groups of professionals, Barristers and Solicitors. Barristers were drawn from the rank of noblemen, gentle men of those olden days.
Their responsibility is to go before court and plead the case of their clients as advocates. They just go to court and stand as well as represent you, forward your case and your defence and try as much as possible to get the law to you.
In those days Barristers because they were noble men and gentle men never charged fees. And if you look at the Barristers gown worn by lawyers you will see something like a cord, the rope and behind, you see something that looks like a bag, is a relic of the bag which the Barrister uses to put his implements of work.
The way it came about that lawyers were now charging fees, was that they never charged fees, when you have done your beat for your client and he felt impressed, as you are leaving he would slip some money into that bag behind you. You won’t see it, you don’t discuss fees. That is the relics that you see in the Barrister’s gown that we as Barristers wear. But of course with the passage of time, it became a recognized profession and the profession as you all know is a calling which entitles you earn your living from it and so Barristers started charging fees.
Barristers considered it beneath there dignity to even discuss fees, so the solicitor is the first point of contact of anybody who has a case in the court.
Solicitor’s responsibility is to find a Barrister to represent you and in that solicitor who will discuss the fees not with the Barrister, but with the clerk of the Barrister. Every law firm has a clerk and in those days, the way it happened, you go to your chamber in the morning your clerk will just hand you briefs so somebody is appearing before the home base, somebody is appearing before the criminal court. That morning you just take your time, you glance through, you go to court and you stand and put forward the case.
So when, Barrister and Solicitors now became a recognized profession, fees became the order of the day. The fees as I said were settled between Barristers and Solicitors. But in Nigeria, the early lawyers we had in Nigeria went to England and those of them who became Barristers, but because they were the only people learned in law, they would practice as Barristers and Solicitors.
Those of them who studied as solicitors and could go to court and present cases. Solicitors don’t appear in the High Court in England but now, a solicitor can even appear and wear the gown. So the profession has come a long way, but in Nigeria once you have passed through the law school you are called to the Bar, by the Authority of the body of benchers. And as provided in the Legal Practitioners Act you are entitled to practice as a Barrister and a Solicitor. So Solicitor was the cadre that were usually office workers who take instructions from clients and prepare the cases. The Barrister is the Advocate who goes to court and pleads the cases.
Now in government, you have the Solicitor General, Attorney General, how do their job move?
Oh! these were statutorily done because the Ministries of Justice there was a time when we have Town Council in Colonial days the department that was charged of doing solicitor’s work. Writing agreements for government, preparing cases, while there was the other cadre which was mostly under the Director of Public Prosecutions the (PPP) were mainly the Barristers who went to court to plead cases.
So when the Ministries of Justice were formed, it was recognized that they still needed to be quite apart from the Attorney General, who is the head of the Ministry, a solicitor general. The Head of the Administrative arm of the Ministry of Justice, The Solicitor-General was an offshoot from the solicitor profession, who stayed in the office and prepared the case. The attorney general was the head of the ministry under the constitution as it is now, he is incharge of all matters that will link to prosecution of offenders, that is how the office is run, but they are now legislated on. There is a solicitor-general’s law which creates the office of the solicitor-generals, both at the federal and the state service.
They said before you get a SAN, you would be prepared to have bank account elsewhere?
That is not true.
What is the lowest SAN can have in the bank?
The lowest and this is in the legal practitioners Act, because we do not want a Senior Advocate to handle every case; there must be a chance for young lawyers to grow. A Senior Advocate is not expected to accept instructions from any matter the value of which is under 400 pounds. 400 pounds, you can now begin to do the conversion. Some people are using the exchange rate as stipulated by the Central Bank, some people are using the black market rate, but the stipulations in the law is that, a Senior Advocate quite apart from other restrictions on his ability to go to court, should not accept instructions in any matter the value of which is below 400 pounds.
In recent times, we have come to approximate that to be at some point N50,000, some have said N100,000.
You see before you become a QC in England as we become Senior Advocate here, Queens Counsel or Kings Counsel if the person on throne in England as at the time you are appointed is a man, what you needed to do is to reduce the number of cases making demand of your time and that is why you have to apply for it because it has added responsibility. It will decrease the number of cases you are handling. It will now make sure the cases you are handling are high value cases. Because as a Senior Advocate, as a QC, in civil matters you are obliged to appear with a junior and the way of charging is that you charge first amount, one third of that first amount is added for your junior who appeared with you. So anybody going to brief Queen counsel or King counsel or a Senior Advocate should accept that the fees you will pay will be higher than what you would ordinarily be paying is not only going to pay for the lawyer, the SAN or Queen counsel appearing. He will also in addition pay one third of what he has agreed to pay to that Senior Advocate to the junior, so he was supposed to make you exclusive in a way, so that Queen Counsel, SAN is not for all comers.
What made you read law?
I said to some other journalists, the fear of the mathematics led me to law. During the civil war we lived at a place in Umuahia near a magistrate court. I used to while away my time and go and stand in the court premises and just watch lawyers do their thing.
Some of them were given to all mannerism so I cultivated an interest. As you may know, my father was a policeman and all that , so when I finished secondary school in 1972 in Government Comprehensive Secondary School, we were looking through the universities prospectus syllabuses and all that. I tried to choose a course and I have my difficulties with Mathematics. Happily I ended getting C5 in Mathematics. It wasn’t my worst subject, my worst subject was Physics. I had C6. Why I got a C5 I was good in Arithmetic and Trigonometry, so I was determined not to come across Mathematics again anywhere in my future career, so looking through the only courses I had that has noMathematics, is History. No Mathematics, single honours BA History.
Economics had Mathematics, I was very good in Economics, that is what I thought I should go and read. But thinking about it I spoke to my father he said, I should learn from his experience, he was a policeman with only O levels he didn’t have any profession; he said look go and study a professional course so that if government refuses to employ you, all you have to do, put up a sign board somewhere, then start working for yourself. So I looked through all the courses; medicine has Mathematics, Architecture has Mathematics, the only one that did not have Mathematics was Law. And I remembered how I used to enjoy those lawyers with their wigs and gowns at Umuahia in those days only to get to Ife and the first year, we had Mathematics 001 Mathematics 102, so it turned out that you cannot really run away from Mathematics, so it was the fear of Mathematics that actually led me to do Law and I ended up teaching logic, logic is Mathematics 102; and then symbolic logic 001, so that was how I ended up becoming a lawyer, advice of my father and the fear of Mathematics.
As time went on, I realised that there was something about law, and my genes you know in my family, my great great grand father had always been a law enforcement officer. My great great grand father was a native court judge in the old Obio District Court. My grand father followed in that same mould, because when he became the head of the family, he also went and became a member of the Obio Native Court. Those courts in the colonial days, now they are calling them customary courts. Then my father went into the police, law enforcement too, and here I am a lawyer one sister is a judge, one brother is a lawyer, one decided to follow and he inherited all my fatehr’s books. He is a Chief Superintendent of Police now.
Sir Before we go into more contemporary issues what are the true goal, factors for becoming SAN. Why is it difficult for more Rivers people to become SAN. The impression being created is that, else where, some lawyers, helped people to pay the prescribed fees of their clients to get to Supreme Court, that would qualify you, how true it is?
Well I don’t know about the truth of lawyers paying the fees for the litigation cost for their clients is professionally unethical to do so. And |I will not agree with you that Rivers people have not become Senior Advocates. We had quite a few. Indeed, the first Senior Advocate appointed in Nigeria was a Rivers man. Dr Nabo Graham Douglas, former Attorney-General of Nigeria of blessed memory.
After him, there was also Galima Peterside, Opobo man, who became SAN. He was practising in Jos. The truth of the matter let me be frank with you is that, the cost of the major qualifications required to apply to Senior Advocate of Nigeria, you need to have met some minimum number of appearances, argued minimum number of cases in the superior courts.
High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. We were not too easily or readily exposed to those other superior courts like Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. In the olden days, the Supreme Curt used to sit in circuit. It would move from one capital of one region to the other and sit there, when it was the Federal Supreme Court, even when they had The West African Court of Appeal, it would move from the capital of one country to the other and would sit like that. But when the law was passed, that created the Senior Advocate cadre. It became important that you have to practice where all these courts were within the jurisdiction.
You see the realities of the situation is that if I have a case in the Supreme Court, and Supreme Court is in Lagos, as it was in those days, someone needs to brief a lawyer in Lagos, because if I brief a lawyer in Port Harcourt and other provincial headquarters, it means to pay, not just his transport. I will pay also not just his fees, will pay his transport, also pay his hotel accommodation and so on and so forth. So those lawyers who were in the area where those courts were located are in a vantage position.
It took a long time for us to move the Court of Appeal to Port Harcourt. When the Court of Appeal was originally created, it had divisions only at the regional headquarters. Ibadan, apart from Lagos which was the capital of Nigeria, Kaduna and Enugu. Sometime I was secretary of the Bar Association here in Port Harcourt. We made very serious effort to have the Court of Appeal Division from Port \Harcourt crated and to have the court also moved to Port Harcourt. Because when the Court of Appeal Division for Port Harcourt was created, it was still sitting in Enugu. And some lawyers used to think it was greater advantage to earn transport money, to earn hotel bill and go to Enugu to do cases.
So when Wifa became chairman and I the secretary, B.M. Wifa SAN, and I secretary, we fought seriously to move that Division to Port Harcourt and immediately, Oh, virtually no year would pass without one SAN and that court came here in 1992 or there about, 1992, 1993, Graham Douglas had been appointed SAN in 1988, 1987, 1988, when the Court of Appeal was in Enugu, but when it came to Port Harcourt, it came here in 1992 as I said before. By 1994, 1995, when I became SAN two years later Dr Osanakpo, the next year, Wifa and virtually every year now, we have two or three appointed as Senior Advocates.
Informatively for you, we have 16 senior advocates. And this is even not counting our former Attorney-General Odem Ajumogobia who is now the Minister of State for Petroleum. He was the Attorney-General here when he was made SAN.
These are the reasons for the qualification, you must have minimum of ten years post call experience. Second you must be of good character; third, you must have a good law practice. These days, they actually come to inspect your office, see how many juniors you have. Look at the library and facilities you have in your office and then you must have argued a minimum number of cases in the Supreme Court as well as Court of Appeal and High Court. These three categories, Supreme Court cases is category A, two Supreme Court cases and four courts of appeal.
Second category, category one Supreme Court. Four Courts of Appeal and six High Court cases. Because people argue that you know most of the practice is in the High Court. Court of Appeal and Supreme Court are reviewed panels to look over what has been done by the High Courts and so real advocacy is at the High Curt level, so you have those three categories, and you must qualify in any of those three categories. Now they’ve also imposed a certain fee that you must pay. When I applied for SAN, I didn’t pay anything, What you have to pay, I think is N200,000.
You also have to show that you have been a good citizen, you pay your taxes as at when due, and then that at the time of your application you are not being investigated or having been convicted or liable in a case of professional misconduct. So there are the parameters by which you get appointed as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
Creation of State taskforces, are they in accordance with the constitution?
I would say is not inconsistent with democratic culture we are trying to build. Task forces by their very nature are charged with particular task so is expected that they focus their full time and attention towards the cardinals of whatever task is assigned them. The problem which ma be … is that some of the taskforces don not understand that they are naturally bound to follow due process in carrying out of any their assignment so you may have a point when you say, these taskforces are not acting in accordance wit rule of law or due process as you say. But there is nothing inconsistent with the constitution, or with democratic principles of government decides that it want to set up taskforces in view of particular problems.
Governor Wike And The Audacity Of Accountability
On Monday, July 12, 2021, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, Govenor of Rivers State, did what most leaders, especially those elected to superintend the affairs of their people at various levels of governance, are often too scared to embrace.
This is either as a result of under perfomance or the glaring inability to impact positively on their people and area of administration.
Governor Wike boldly mounted the podium at the Obi Wali International Conference Centre, Port Harcourt and with unshakable confidence, cerebral oratory and fearless advocacy, laced with admirable aplomb, exhibited the audacity of accountability, when he presented his scorecard.
He gave an account of his stewardship, in a progress report covering the six years since he assumed office as the Governor of Rivers State on May 29, 2015.
Of course, many Rivers people will recall that the presentation of the performance scorecard had already been programmed as the culmination event of listed activities marking the second year anniversary of the second tenure in office of the Governor.
Yet, incredibly, every item listed on the activity chart, from flag-offs to inaugurations and a few other extras, had been accomplished with timely precision, performed by a distinguished cast of national and indigenous statesmen from across the geopolitical zones in the coutry and garnished with the flamboyant pomp and cultural pageantry, reminiscent of the proud, colourful, quintessential Rivers traditions.
It is indeed amazing that long after many states have forgotten how their own second year anniversaries celebration transpired, Governor Nyesom Wike was still flagging off and commissioning projects across the length and breadth of Rivers State, two months after.
As a matter of fact, precisely six weeks ago, the activities for the celebration of the second anniversary of the second term in office were kick-started, with the flagging-off and commissioning of new and completed projects and for 40 days, Governor Wike, his cabinet and his array of distinguished special guests, traversed the length and breadth of the State to either commission or flag-off various development projects cutting across different socio-economic sectors.
The global Community and the entire nation saw the phenomenal harvest of projects, including roads, bridges, education, healthcare, housing, social welfare, sports and rural development across Rivers State, as the sounds and sights of the happy and grateful beneficiary institutions, communities and people, were beamed on live telecasts.
The very fact that he delivered on every single item listed on the programme of activities, which had been drawn up several weeks before the second anniversary, was not only remarkable for the audacity and confidence of his visionary leadership, but indeed an excellent reflection and astute exhibition of what governance accountability to the people is all about.
By way of summary, Governor Wike’s account of six years of focused, determined, strategic, courageous leadership and unprecedented transformational development across the 23 Local Government Areas of the State, covered the breathtaking infrastructural revolution, golden era in health care delivery, educational advancement programmes, practical efforts in agricultural development, pragmatic rural transformation initiatives and the economic stimulus engagements.
Other areas included, strategic housing development, robust and necessary equipment, in hard and soft logistics, as well as humanitarian support to security agencies, smooth and uninterrupted administration of justice, expanded frontiers in sports development, appropriate social welfare provisions, unparalleled recognition for culture/tourism and of course the entrenchment of a peaceful, rancour free, political atmosphere, which all featured prominently, even against the backdrop of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic.
Governor Wike highlighted the fact that since 2015, his administration has delivered over a thousand kilometres of Trunk-A roads; embarked on construction of phase one of the trans-Kalabari road, simultaneous construction of ten arterial flyovers, with three already commissioned and connected the ancient coastal community of Opobo to the rest of the State and the country by a tarred road.
He further said that his administration has also transformed not less than 18 major single lane roads to dual carriage ways with street lights, pedestrian walkways and covered drains and while noting that the dualization of Ahoada–Omoku, and Egbema Omoku roads is also underway.
He affirmed that his government has reclaimed vast swathes of sand-filled land for some of the coastal communities, including Abalama, Bakana, and Kula to advance their development and also started the sand filling of 55 and 42 hectares of reclaimed land for Abonnema/Obonoma and Okrika communities respectively.
In the education sector, Governor Wike said his administration has provided over 1200 classrooms and nearly 14,000 desks to over 200 primary and junior secondary schools, all in addition to the reconstruction, furnishing and equipping of several secondary schools, including some renowned and famous ones too, with modern classrooms, laboratories, libraries, sports facilities, staff quarters and paved interconnecting road networks.
“As a result of the concrete and targeted interventions, the education system is becoming more and more effective and qualitative in the State with enrolment and transition rates of over 98 per cent, while over 80 per cent have consistently recorded 5 credits and above pass rates, including Mathematics and English in WASCE since 2015,” he said.
In the health sector, Governor Wike said his government has commissioned the 132-bed Mother and Child specialist hospital, established the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, rebuilt and upgraded the Government House Specialist Clinic, renovated existing primary health centres and general hospitals, and built some new primary healthcare centres for under-served communities.
All these and indeed many more, were succinctly and brilliantly packaged and presented in the compendium of 536 pages, which captures the fundamental achievements of the Governor in the last six years.
Central and integral to the amazing infrastructural transformation taking place all over Rivers State, is the international construction giant, Julius Berger, which has brought its globally renowned expertise, complemented by some critically recognized indigenous construction firms, in a formidable partnership with the government, to deliver quality, enduring legacy projects that will and have met all International standards.
Indeed no leader or administration could be more committed and insistent on embracing and ensuring that the courage and audacity to entrench and ensure accountability, are upheld in delivering good and responsible governance to the people.
Of course, the six years account of stewardship presentation would not have been complete, if Governor Wike had ignored his nationally acclaimed civic role and responsibility, as a Governor and concerned Nigerian, who loves our country so much and wants our democracy to survive, to once again voice his fears and concerns of many voiceless Nigerians.
He drew attention to the state of the nation, especially the deteriorating economy, the worsening insecurity, the lack of purposeful national leadership and the strangulating hardship being faced by ordinary citizens, as a direct result of the visible failure and mismanagement of our democracy and diversity by the APC-led Federal Government.
One of his and what eventually became a national concern was the nomination of Ms. Lauretta Onochie as an INEC Commissioner and gladly, the matter has been appropriately handled by the Senate to the relief of Nigerians, which it appears had listened and acted on this timely advise by Governor Wike: “Where Mr. President lacks the courage to so do, then, the National Assembly, which has a responsibility to defend our democracy must endeavour to wake up on the right side of history by rejecting her nomination.”
The other matter which engaged Governor Wike’s attention is the proposed amendments to the Electoral Act, which is now before the National Assembly and while commending the House of Representatives for affirming and reassuring Nigerians on its positive provisions in the proposed bill on electronic voting and simultaneous transmission of unit results by electronic means, he offered the following advise:
“Everyone who means well for our democracy believes electronic voting and simultaneous transmission of results has the potential to prevent the large-scale rigging of election that has become regular in our electoral system. President Buhari readily attributes his victory in both the 2015 and 2019 polls to the introduction of the novel card reader device by President Goodluck Jonathan’s Administration; yet he has been overly reluctant on the need to midwife the birth of a new, transparent, efficient and trustworthy electoral system for the country.
“Let me therefore warn that we do not need a soothsayer to tell us that to allow the old ways of doing things and much vilified status quo to continue to prevail in our electoral system as recommended by the Senate’s version of the bill would be a complete disservice to the nation and a recipe for disaster for our country.
“Again, I hope Mr. President still cares about his legacy and would therefore prevail on the APC-controlled National Assembly to give the nation an Electoral Act with positive provisions on electronic voting and simultaneous transmission of results from the unit level to prevent rigging and guarantee trust, credibility and confidence in our elections.”
On the now uncontrollable state of insecurity and insurgency across the country, Governor Wike advised thus: “The heightened degree of insecurity across the country and the obvious inability of the Federal Government to tackle this menace continues to be very troubling. Nigerians are in desperate need of relief from the daily incidents of kidnapping and mindless killings across the country by insurgents, herdsmen, bandits and militia groups.
“The APC-led federal Government must step up and be alive to its constitutional responsibility to protect lives and property in all parts of the country or admit its lack of capacity and resign before the country collapses like a pack of badly managed cards on its hands. Enough of the excuses, ineffective actions and buck-passing”.
It has often been said that accountability is the very hallmark of good governance and excellent leadership and leaders demonstrate accountability by taking responsibility over the success and growth of the people and areas they administer by resolving to own up to commitments and promises that they have made.
Being an accountable leader is not an easy task but it is essential in order to be a change agent and to deliver real value to your people. Accountability therefore means being answerable to the actions and decisions made by the administrator and possessing both the vision of a leader and the courageous sagacity and administrative acumen to execute that vision.
The accountable leaders are the ones that can take a challenging vision and make it a possibility, even when it requires asking for help when and where it is necessary. They regularly monitor and review how they are doing and take the time to celebrate wins along the way, despite the bumps that will periodically appear to delay the project.
In the last six years, Governor Wike has exhibited all the hallmarks of an excellent accountable leader both in projects delivery and governance, with his footprints everywhere across the 23 local government areas of the State, and even beyond and like the Governor himself says: “Take it or leave it, the truth is constant. There is no promise we made or project we set out to achieve that we have not fulfilled or delivered”.
But like all true accountable and transformational leaders, Governor Wike would rather leave the judgement of his performance for the people to make, even as he is convinced like many Rivers people are too, that his administration has lived up to its promises, made the desired difference and brought about the transformational changes that majority of the people had yearned for when they gladly gave their mandate and trust, six years ago.
Governor Wike captured this conviction aptly in the following declaration and pledge: “The sheer number of audacious projects we have rolled out and executed in the last two years clearly confirms our abiding promise to continue to deliver more development projects for the benefit of our State, our people and the nation until our last day in office.
“I wish to therefore assure you that there will be no let-up in our commitment and determination to deliver more projects to further consolidate the progress we have achieved in the days, weeks and months ahead.”
It is only fitting therefore to reflect on the six years of the administration of Governor Wike in the uplifting words of veteran journalist, International publisher, media mogul and indeed the doyen of post modern Nigerian journalism, Chief Dele Momodu: “Super congratulations to the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, on the extraordinary job he has done in the last six years.
“I was proud to see a Nigerian leader render account of his stewardship two years ahead of the completion of his second tenure… May the good Lord complete the massive Projects he has assigned himself in the coming months. Amen”.
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.
Wike’s Enduring Legacy Berths At Opobo
After 150 years of its existence, the ancient kingdom of Opobo, an island in Rivers State, can now be accessed comfortably by road, following the inauguration of Opobo axis of the Unity Road by Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.
The road was commissioned on Saturday, July 3, 2021 by a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustees and former Minister, Alhaji Adamu Maina Waziri.
Waziri observed how excited the people are to have a road of such high quality to drive on and hailed Governor Wike for bringing humanity to governance.
The 11.15 kilometres long and 7.3m wide road, with five bridges along the Opobo axis of the super highway, has a minimum fill height of two meters, with a maximum height of 8 meters at some points.
It was built through swamps, mangroves and some of the most difficult terrains for road construction and has a 1.5m wide shoulder on either side. It also has 18 culverts and 5 bridges with a shoulder of 1.5 metres on either side.
The road, which is an ambitious project initiated by fomer Governor, Dr. Peter Odili has connected the Island of Opobo to the rest of the state .
With the commissioning of this axis of the Unity Road, an important campaign promise which Governor Wike made to the people of Opobo has been fulfilled.
It is also important to note that with this official commissioning, the great land of the legendary King Jaja, will now become a post modern, coastal tourist attraction with viable economic opportunities open to the global Community.
The avalanche of encomiums which have poured in from Opobo indigenes, Rivers residents and indeed many of those who either watched the live pictures from the commissioning or saw the still photographs of the glistening stretch of endless shiny nylon tar all the way into the heartland of Opobo kingdom, speaks volumes.
The amazing import and impact, both historical and existential, which this completed legacy road project represents for all and sundry is better imagined than described.
Governor Wike, prior to the inauguration of the Opobo/Nkoro axis of the Unity road, had often teased, in campaign language mode, that the people of Opobo town had never driven home with their vehicles for the past 150 years, until his intervention to complete the road for them.
Typically, the confused and attention seeking opposition had swallowed the well laid bait set by Governor Wike and filled volumes of Newspaper pages and the entire social media space, with their desperate campaign to locate themselves in the glory circle.
They attempted to woefully undermine the unparalleled accomplishment of the Rivers Governor in delivering the road and then dubiously misled the public with contrived contributions of the immediate past administration to the actualization of the project.
Of course, His Majesty, the Amanyanabo of Opobo, King Dandeson Douglas Jaka, Jeki V, a King who exudes imperial majesty and regal wisdom, understood Governor Wike perfectly and it will now be written and etched forever in the annals of Opobo folklore, that it was during his reign that his people actually drove home comfortably for the first time on this super highway.
The Amanyanabo who is also Chairman, Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers, captured the historical dimensions of this legacy project, when he declared that his people will remain eternally grateful to Governor Wike for the courage, compassion and visionary acumen he has brought to leadership.
He also appealed to the Governor to initiate another land reclamation project in Opobo, to provide more land for the increasing population of her indigenes.
Governor Wike, while addressing the ecstatic crowd at Opobo, declared that the completion of the road and its inauguration is a dream come true not only for the people of the area, but especially for his administration, adding that he feels happy to have fulfilled his 2014 campaign promise to the people of Opobo.
To appropriately accord honour to whom it is due and equally address all the unnecessary and self-seeking innuendos flying around, now that the project has finally been completed, Governor Wike expressed appreciation to the administration of Dr. Peter Odili for conceiving the Unity Road project.
Governor Wike equally stressed that without the foresight of Dr. Odili, it would have been difficult for his administration to complete the Opobo axis of the Unity Road.
To further add a well deserved icing on the Opobo cake, Governor Wike directed his Special Adviser on Special Projects, in prompt response to the appeal of the King, to liaise with the Amanyanabo and leaders of Opobo on where they desire a new land to be sand-filled and reclaimed for them.
Governor Wike also urged the Surveyor General of the State to commence the process of land mapping and survey of the already sand-filled land in the area to enable Opobo indigenes to begin allocation of spaces among themselves.
It has often been said that one of the defining attributes of good leadership is the visionary discernment to provide what the people need more in their peculiar environments, rather than cosmetic, white elephant projects.
Governor Wike has exhibited an uncanny and astute visionary leadership by boldly delivering enduring projects where they will have meaningful impact instead of inaugurating projects just for cheap publicity.
The Urban Renewal Programme in the capital city, including the flyovers, the internal roads construction with drainages and streetlights, amongst others, have gradually returned the capital city to its garden city status.
It is this same astute leadership that has led to the highly acclaimed construction of some of the life changing projects like the Sakpenwa-Bori-Kono super highway, the first phase of the trans-Kalabari road, the reclamation of land in Abonnema, Obonoma and Okrika as well as the location of three new University campuses across the State.
The Mother and Child Hospital, Dr. Peter Odili Cancer and Cardiovascular Diagnostic and Treatment Centre, the Rivers Cassava Processing Company and Real Madrid Football Academy also stand out for mention.
These indeed are some of the legacy projects of the Governor Wike administration and they will remain indelible and ensure that his name is etched in the sands of time for posterity.
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.
By: Paulinus Nsirim
Dakuku Peterside: The Tragedy Of A Misguided Intellectual
Our attention has been drawn to an article titled: “Governor Wike: When facts yield to pernicious propaganda,” written by Dr Dakuku Peterside and published widely both in mainstream and online media platforms.
Ordinarily, we would not have bothered responding to the long winding, virulent and dubiously rambling epistle for the simple reason that Dakuku Peterside’s riposte was a rejoinder to a professionally crafted features piece painstakingly written by the highly respected journalist, Chief Dele Momodu, titled: “My Close Encounters with Gov Nyesom Wike.”
Of course, the title of Chief Momodu’s piece, “My Close Encounters with Gov Nyesom Wike”, speaks loudly for itself, as a narrative predominantly inspired by his personal observations and comprehensive fact-checking tours of Rivers State and several other official and informal meetings with Governor Wike in the line of duty.
Chief Momodu has quite appropriately replied to Dakuku Peterside’s vitriolic and pugnacious bellyaching, in a succinct, widely publicized and highly recommended must-read 7-point right of response.
This response has situated his original article in its proper context and in measured tones, exposed the perfidious intellectual treachery, which defines the polemics of our newfangled public intellectuals.
However, Dr. Peterside, apparently in an effort to justify his recently arrogated, self styled title as: “a policy and leadership expert”, obviously assumed against the backdrop of some recent poorly written, ordinary and simplistic essays, lacking the intellectual rigours and analytics of an “expert”, attempted to stand truth on its head, with an overdose of misleading passages, which sadly reflected the unfortunate tragedy of his present predicament and dilemma, as a misguided intellectual.
Our response has thus become quite necessary therefore in view of the risk that, as Dr. Peterside rightly observed, the danger of allowing misinformation or blatant falsehood to stand and flourish, is the irreparable harm it does to society, as such misinformation leads to the arrest of social development and alters the popular aspiration of the people.
For example, an excerpt from his tedious rejoinder, which succinctly captures this dislocated intellectual locus, reads thus: “No amount of propaganda, not even leveraging on the reputation of Bob Dee, can garnish a bad case… it is only fair that as a significant stakeholder in the development and politics of Rivers State, I am joining the patriotic endeavours of well-meaning Rivers State people to put the record straight. In doing so, I concede that in our highly politicized environment, falsehood ignored later starts looking like the truth, and with time facts become debatable. This, unfortunately, is not time for politics.”
Against the backdrop of the above therefore, it becomes imperative to properly locate Dakuku Peterside within the ambit of his present hibernation and the torpor that ultimately invokes misguided hubris on his suffocating inertia.
Unceremoniosly relieved from his recent unimpressive misadventure with NIMASA; a job for which he had little knowledge and zilch experience, but was appointed as compensation for his failed Governorship bid, Dakuku has been compelled to recline quite disconsolately to his recognized day job of Wike-bashing.
Charged with reluctant gusto and this time masquerading with the ambivalence of an omnibus self imposed title as “leadership and policy expert”, ostensibly crafted after several pedestrian appearances as a ‘Speaker’ at some makeshift conclaves during his short- lived stint at NIMASA, Dakuku’s pathetic appendage of the Amaechi Administration and pitiful lackey of the Transportation Minister, has once again been exhumed.
We do not wish to further glorify his attention seeking, garullous verbiage, especially now that we are also aware of the devious and frenetic jostling for appointment into the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) substantive Board.
Suffice it to say that just as Chief Momodu has aptly observed in his response, Dakuku goofed in almost every paragraph of his bitter, acrimonious and conserted effort to undermine the amazing, determined and unstoppable zeal and dynamism with which Governor Wike is delivering legacy projects across the State.
It is indeed a shame that a ‘significant stakeholder’ and a ‘leadership and policy expert’ as Dakuku addresses himself in his verbose essay, is still appropriating projects meant for the welfare and wellbeing of Rivers people, to specific administrations, as though they were personal property.
Perhaps, he needs to be reminded that the railways which his mentor is gloatingly delivering were conceptualized and commenced with considerable work done on most of them by the previous Federal Administration.
The same goes for the second Niger Bridge, the rehabilitation of Airports and some of the far reaching reforms in the maritime sector. We are even embarrassed that Dakuku Peterside, who could not attract a single project or influence any meaningful value adding initiatives to the lives of his people in his many years as NIMASA Boss, can shamelessly reference the Andoni-Opobo-Nkoro Unity Road.
To even make such a pedestrian point that the Wike administration cannot complete the remaining 20 percent of the road in six years is laughable. After 150 years of existence as a Kingdom, his hometown, Opobo has been linked by road by Governor Wike.
It is even more surprising that despite the avalanche of information and authoritative clarifications in the public space about the refunds from the Federal Government, Dakuku Peterside, like a drunken analyst who has only just woken up from a delayed stupor, is only now adding his own misleading misinformation to the discussion, when the train had long left the station.
This is utterly ridiculous coming from a supposed scholar and so called ‘significant stakeholder’.
Like Chief Momodu rightly pointed out, Dakuku’s jaundiced perception of events in Rivers State, attests to the sad fact that he is no longer familiar or conversant with the reality on ground, which even distinguished members of his own party, APC have participated vigorously in, establishing the credibility of the amazing work Governor Wike is doing across Rivers State.
One needs not remind Dakuku Peterside that political psychophancy can oftentimes transform into reputational absurdity.
Indeed, Dakuku Peterside’s tirade resonates loudly in his warped translation that the curfews in Rivers State, most of which have also been necessitated by the horrendous failure of the Federal Government to stem the rife spillover insurgency and wide spread attacks by unknown forces in the land, as well as the Covid-19 lockdowns to enforce mandated protocols, aimed at curtailing community spread of the global pandemic in Rivers State, are examples of insecurity in the land.
One would not have been surprised if this was some beer parlour analysis by an inebriated critic but the fact that it is coming from a man of Dakuku’s so called scholarly disposition beggars belief. It would be a waste of time therefore to inform him that the spate of insecurity in states surrouding Rivers State has made it imperative and inevitable for Governor Wike to show bold, determined, focused and decisive leadership in order to protect and secure the lives and properties of Rivers indigenes and residents.
But perhaps, the most malevolent manifestation of jealousy and malicious angst echoes loudly and ruefully in the petty bitterness inherent in Dakuku Peterside’s conclusion, when he says: “I am aware that Governor Wike’s main signature project is the replica of the Government House that he has built for himself in his village…”. What else could be more churlish and infantile than this kind of dangerous covetousness which speaks ill of the good fortunes of one’s neighbor.
Ironically, while Dakuku Peterside is still wrapped up in the hypnosis of a past, riven with monumental failures, which he and his atrophied co-travellers have continuously attempted to repackage with half-truths, cover-ups, outright lies and distorted facts, Rivers people whose lives and communities Governor Wike had impacted and is impacting positively, have continued to shower uncensored enthusiastic and sincere encomiums on him, from Etche to Saakpenwa, Bori, Ikwerre, Kalabari and even from Dakuku’s own backyard in Opobo, when they celebrated the 150 years anniversary of Opobo kingdom.
We are however gratified in the knowledge that Governor Wike does not even have to engage in what Dakuku Peterside has so petulantly refered to as ‘pernicious propaganda’. His works in road infrastructure, healthcare, education, agriculture, human capital development and sports, speak for themselves in the 23 Local Government Areas.
Let us also notify Dakuku Peterside, that Governor Wike still has nearly two more years of his administration left and with the promise that he will impact every Local Government with legacy projects and will complete all projects he has embarked on, he has already written his name in gold in the annals of time. There is no amount of bellyaching or convoluted analysis that can alter that.
As a second term Governor, Wike is working as if it is his first tenure and Rivers people and the entire world are seeing and applauding him everyday.
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.
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