Port Harcourt, the Riv
ers State capital, is agog for its official conferment with the prestigious World Book Capital City, WBBC, title for 2014 today by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO. The ‘Garden City’ was selected as the 2014 World Book Capital by UNESCO on July 11, 2012.
Port Harcourt was chosen for the quality of programmes it presented in promoting books and reading and for being home of many literary giants like Gabriel Okara, Elechi Amadi, late Ken Saro-Wiwa and late Ola Rotimi, among others, whose works were largely influenced by the prevalent culture of the Niger Delta people and the issues relating to their existence as Nigerians. The title will be held for one year (April 23 to April 22, 2015).
Project Director of the Port Harcourt World Book Capital 2014 and founder of Rainbow Book Club, Koko Kalango, disclosed to journalists that World Book Capital would present a unique opportunity for Port Harcourt and the state to make history.
She commended the Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, for reviving reading habit among children in the state and promoting quality education. She said the occasion would expose Rivers State to the world.
“We should not be known for oil, for violence and negative news. In the midst of challenges, a seed has been sown in this city. After Prof Wole Soyinka’s Nobel Laureate award, this is the second most important thing that has happened in our literary life.
“This programme has the potential of changing the landscape of our history forever, especially with the current revival in the education sector in the state driven by His Excellency, Governor Amaechi,” Kalango said.
A Rivers State-born internationally acclaimed writer and author, Captain Elechi Amadi, appreciated the occasion and attributed the choice of Port Harcourt for the WBC title to the series of literary festivals jointly organized by the Rainbow Book Club and the Rivers State Government which had held for the last five or six years. According to him, the festival featured international authors like Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Ama Attah Audu, Kofi Awunor, Gabriel Okara, among others.
“To be nominated to host the world is a great honour. So naturally people will be excited and they will wonder what is in Port Harcourt that attracted this kind of recognition? You noticed in the last five to six years, we had this Rivers State literary festival every year; we used to invite international authors like Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Wole Soyinka, Ama Attah Audu and Kofi Awunor.
“All these people have been coming, so we’ve got the world interested in the literary activities going on in the country. And, of course, the writers in Port Harcourt have been showcased to the world. I am one of them,” Amadi declared.
As excitement of today’s celebration attains fever pitch, flowing through the literary public in Port Harcourt, Nigeria and across the globe, Amadi was elated that as host, Rivers State and Nigeria at large stood to benefit immensely from hosting the event.
“Rivers State and Nigeria stands to benefit. You know we will hold the hosting title for a year. So obviously, this will galvanize the federal government to pay more attention to literacy on the availability of books and libraries.
“With this Port Harcourt World Book Capital project, we believe that during the year a lot will happen. There could be fall-out that we cannot imagine.
“During the year, we will intensify whatever we are doing to highlight literature, to highlight Port Harcourt as a city of reading citizens and also to highlight Nigeria as a country striving for greater literacy,” Amadi explained.
The Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, is not left out from the excitement that pervades Port Harcourt over its new status as World Book Capital City for 2014. The Rivers State Chairman of the Association, Mr. Obinna Nwodim, said the privilege of hosting the World Book Capital would further enhance the objective of the body which is to promote literature in Nigeria.
“It is a major boost in the promotion of literature and it will go a long way in sensitising people on the benefits of reading. As a writer, you derive joy when people read your books. So, it is basically for literary development, not only in Port Harcourt but throughout the length and breadth of Nigeria. So, I want to describe it (WBC) as a watershed in the literary development of our society,” Nwodim stated.
A university don and lecturer in the English and Literary Studies Department, University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Nkem Okoh, applauded the whole idea of the declaration of Port Harcourt as World Book Capital for 2014. He said the choice of Port Harcourt would create an awareness and sensitisation that without reading we would go nowhere. He commended Governor Rotimi Amaechi for investing heavily in books and described him as a “book” and “reading” governor.
“For me the whole idea of Port Harcourt World Book Capital 2014 is a great idea. Because before now people would always tell you that Nigerians don’t read. But now that it is coming to Port Harcourt, there will be the awareness and sensitisation that without reading we can go nowhere.
“If you look at the whole programme, I know it is Rainbow Book Club but I know that the government is heavily involved. Irrespective of what people say, this governor is a reading governor. He is a’ book’ governor. Apart from the tourism aspect or influence, the name of Port Harcourt will be projected.
“For me it is a great idea for Port Harcourt to be called a World Book Capital. And don’t forget that this is an event that people vie for every year. And last year it was somewhere but this year it is right here in Rivers State, right here in Port Harcourt,” Okoh said.
The university don outlined the economic benefits of the occasion and said book sellers and publishers would have a field day selling their books. Besides, Okoh stated, the occasion would also witness an influx of visitors into Port Harcourt.
“Certainly, if you are a book seller or publisher and there is a display, it is certain of course that people will buy. There will be influx of visitors whether from abroad or other cities into Port Harcourt and that will be good commerce or business,” Okoh stated.
However, the senator representing Rivers South Senatorial District, Senator George Sekibo, bemoaned the dying reading culture in schools and society at large. Sekibo, who is an emerging writer with five books to his credit, recalled that in his days, the reading culture was strong and students were challenged to think. But today, he said, there was a huge difference.
According to the senator, the conferment of World Book Capital on Port Harcourt would not make anyone to read or write if there was no determination to do so. He challenged UNESCO to celebrate young authors since the works of older ones were already known.
“The reading culture is not the way it was when were young. When we were coming up the way we read there is a difference with that today. So, I don’t think by conferring the title on us will make us to read or write. Writing itself requires determination… I think they should celebrate young authors,” Sekibo suggested.
Brandishing the theme: “Books: Window to Our World of Possibilities”, this year’s celebration focuses on ways to better disseminate the culture of the written word and guarantee access to it by everyone.
Arnold Alalibo/Sogbeba Dokubo
Nigeria At 58: Anything To Celebrate?
Nigeria clocks 58 years today as she gained her independence from the British colonialists on October1,1960. Fifty-eight years down the road, how has the nation fared? Is there anything to celebrate? Our correspondent went to town to get the views of a cross section of Nigerians and their responses are as amazing as they are interesting. Exerpts.
Hon Awaji –Inombek Abiante, House of Representatives member for Andoni Opobo/Nkoro
What are we celebrating? Are we celebrating constant power or free education? Our contemporaries have gone ahead of us. If you look at countries that started like us, many of them have left us behind. At 58, Nigeria is now the world capital of poverty. If really we are going to celebrate development, which one have we seen? Is it for the attainment in respecting the rule of law?
For us, if we cannot have an honest leadership recruitment process, then, we cannot be celebrating anything. In the last elections, we had reports of vote-buying. Is that progress?
To my mind, the independence anniversary calls for reappraisal and sober reflection, and rededication for better foundation.
Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe (Ijaw Leader)
Well, there are lot of things to celebrate. Over the years, there have been several attempts to disintegrate the country, but it has failed, secondly, seemingly, we are alive, thirdly, we are moving towards democracy, even though what we have now is still military democracy. The America we are seeing today is over 200 years and Nigeria is just 58. So despite the crisis, we are still alive.
We are moving from a poorer nation to an average one, looking at our population and we are able to feed our people.
“However, there is need for improvement. Our democracy and political system is not yet mature. We should see politics as service, we must not see poltics as self gain, and for self enrichment. We should ask ourselves what we can do for our nation. We should rather move our economy from public to private.
We should also think of restructuring the country, so that every section can move to contribute to nation building. Restructuring is the way forward in this country. Our security architecture also needs to be changed. It should be spread in such a manner that every part of the country will have a say in the security apparatus of the country. If we can do all these, then our country will change for the better.
For me, this year’s independence anniversary celebrations should be reflective. We have to look back and see how far we have come as a nation. There is a saying that ‘when you look at your neighbour, you will know what God is planning for you.
So, the question is: who are we looking at? You cannot really achieve much if you don’t have a goal. When it comes to the comity of nations, other nations that are developed and are where we aspire to go should be our model. Today, people from Dubai and the United Arab Emintes are no longer going to America. When you get there today, you will discover that at a time in their history, they were looking at America and today, they were able to achieve something close to America. Today Americans are visiting United Arab Emirates. Even we Nigerians leave our country to go visit Dubai. Unfortunately, these are countries that we were better than in the 60s and 70s, but today, they have gone past us. In the 50s and 60s, people were riding on camels there, but today it’s no longer so because they had a vision and pursued it.
The problem we are facing today is because we don’t pay attention to history. Some of the mistakes we made before, today, our politicians and leaders are still making the same mistakes. Things that are happening today had happened before. We have to learn from history. So for me, we have to do a reflective celebration this year.
“Nigeria at 58, to me we have done well having sustained democracy for 19 years. It’s a pointer that the country is making headway. But more needs to be done among political elites who by their quest to grab power have thrown the country into a chaotic situation.
“The present administration headed by President Buhari has actually not performed creditably. The reasons are that the administration has actually not reached out to the people, and there is practically non-human capital development in the country. That is the more reason why there is tension among the citizenry.
“In the first place, Nigeria is an independent nation, and that is very key, but the persons who celebrate must have a good reason to do so. You know celebration is associated with two things, joy as against kill – joy. Now if you look at the masses, the question I would like to ask is “are the masses happy? Even if you go to the North, some Northerners are not happy. So many of their people have been killed and anybody in mourning cannot be happy.
“Now let’s come to the area, where civil servants have been agitating for salary increase, that too have not materialized. And as you the workforce in Nigeria has greater percentage of the population. These workers also have children in higher institutions and primary schools. If you go to some families, to eat three square meals has become a problem. So many children, those families who have managed to train their children out of school, their children don’t still have jobs and they keep on feeding them – for such families, there is nothing to celebrate.
“For the civil servant whose dream of acquiring new minimum wage, it has not materialised, so for civil servants I don’t think there is anything to celebrate.
“Now if you look at the political atmosphere, the only people who don’t have retirement age are politician. If my grandfather was alive today, as a politicians he would have gone to pick intent form to contest election even at the age of 74. These are the things we are talking about while referring to the youths as leaders of tomorrow. Forgetting that for anyone to be a leader of tomorrow, he or she must undergo tutelage or training, and given a sense of belonging. But you discover that it is not the case in Nigeria. All we see around are old people, who don’t want to leave the political stage, instead they are prepared to adjust their age, in order to perpetuate themselves.
Comrade Opi Erekosima, Rivers State Chapter Chairperson of Radio, Television Theatre Workers Union
I want to join my voice with many other well-meaning Nigerians to congratulate the country as we clock another 58 years. Whether we like it or not, there is every need for us to celebrate. Despite the challenges before us which I see as obstacle, we can surmount, these are things that can make us stronger. I want to congratulate Nigeria for clocking 58 years at least for the first of life. You will really appreciate life when you visit the hospitals and the mortuary. And every Saturday, you hear obituary announcement, at least, that’s when you will appreciate life.
So I have every reason to say congratulations, first to myself and to Nigerians, then to the nation and then to my state. Yes, we are approaching another triumphant entry, I am talking about the 2019 elections and tempers are rising. Nigeria right now looks like a pot that’s boiling and someone needs to open the pot to see what the content is. So whatever the content is, I want to appeal to everybody to be calm. We need to be patient and hardworking.
Godwin Oruigoni, Civil Servant
As far as there is life, there is something to celebrate, even as an individual, you will discover that as you grow old, you see people celebrate life even when they don’t have anything to show with the belief that their tomorrow’s maybe better than today. That’s the same picture we are putting Nigeria into.
Yes, there are a lot of pitfalls and people’s expectation of the country is not what it’s supposed to be and that is why a lot of people are not excited to celebrate. However, if we don’t celebrate, it will look as if we have lost hope as a nation.
So we are celebrating to keep faith that no matter the pitfalls stemming from bad leadership, poor economy and infrastructure, we are still hopeful.
“As a Christian “we are expected to believe that our tomorrow will be better. We are not looking at the indices but we are looking at our potentials. Before this government came on board, there was so much hope, but today we are disappointed.
So we believe that it’s much more than the indices we are seeing now. For me, I believe that at this point in time, there is more God can do to change Nigeria for the better.
Dr Isaac Mieiamuno-Jaja
My opinion will be based on the Scriptures. The Bible says in every situation, we should give thanks to God. At 58 years of our independence, the country may not have arrived to the level everyone may have aspired to be. So in all, every good thing that has happened, some people have lost and in every bad thing that has happened, some other people also gained. On the totality, Nigeria has not gotten to where it supposed to be, but that does not mean that we have not made progress in some areas.
If for nothing, at least Nigeria is at peace and that is enough for us to be happy and thank God.
“So in thanking God, there is nothing like low key and high key thanksgiving and I believe that we must thank God in all fullness, especially for the life that we have. There is every reason to thank God for our independence, the issue of low key and high key does not obtain.
Nigeria @ 58: The Journey So Far
Nigeria’s journey to independence came to fruition when on October 1, 1960 the British colonialists granted her request to be independent. Since then, the country’s development has been described by many from different perspectives all through the emergent Republics and actions of politicians.
On the whole, rather than see the country’s existence to date as development, many prefer to view it as mere “moving on”, because, as they are wont to put it, “there’s nothing tangible to show for it, only suffering”. To what extent this is true, is dependent on who says it. A cursory look at Nigeria’s political history puts a lot of what the country is going through under perspective.
At independence, or on attainment of the First Republic, the dominant political parties were Northern People’s Congress (NPC), led by Sir Ahmadu Bello, National Council of Nigerians and Camerouns (NCNC), under the leadership of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Action Group (AG) led by Obafemi Awolowo and Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), with Malam Aminu Kano as its figure-head.
These parties were in control of their regions and areas of dominance. For instance, the Ahmadu Bello-led NPC was in firm control of the North, save for areas controlled by Aminu Kano’s NEPU. It is the same way that Azikiwe’s NCNC held sway in the Eastern part of the country, while Awolowo’s AG was in charge of the Western Region.
Some of the parties did well for their regions in such areas as infrastructure, education, and commerce. It is important to note here, for instance, that the benefit of Awolowo’s free education policy for the people of the old Western Region is still being reaped till date. The reason is that the people of the region embraced the policy and sent their children abroad to be educated. The result is that currently in Nigeria, the South West Zone has the highest number of educated people.
Awolowo also used proceeds from the sale of cocoa, which his region had in abundance, to build the first television station in Africa and the famous Cocoa House in Ibadan.
One notable snag in the politics of the period was the inability of the political parties to embrace unity and avoid electoral violence. This led to the first military coup of January 15, 1966: a group of young officers led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogu toppled the government of Tafawa Balewa, who was Prime Minister, while Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was President in the parliamentary government the country operated at independence. Following the coup, Major-General Aguiyi Ironsi became the first military Head of State.
Ironsi’s rule was cut short as it lasted for only six months, following a counter-coup staged by mostly officers from the North who believed that the first coup was one sided in favour of the South-East.
A young Colonel Yakubu Gowon was then elevated to the rank of General and became the second military ruler of Nigeria. He remained in power until August 27, 1975 when he was overthrown by another group of officers led by General Murtala Mohammed.
General Mohammed’s reign was short-lived as he was assassinated in another bloody coup. But the coup was aborted and Murtala Mohammed’s second in command, General Olusegun Obasanjo took over the reins of leadership and continued with the transition programme initiated by his predecessor in 1976. The transition was to put in place a civilian government in 1979, and also move the nation’s capital to Abuja.
Obasanjo successfully implemented the return to civil rule in October, 1979, which led to the emergence of the Second Republic, with an initial five political parties being registered: National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Nigerian People’s Party (NPP), Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Great Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP), People’s Redemption Party (PRP), and later Nigeria Advanced Party (NAP).
The NPN emerged as the ruling party after the elections with Alhaji Shehu Shagari becoming the first Executive President to be elected under the Federal Republic. This period witnessed some level of stability following the alliance of the NPN and NPP in a government of national unity. Although this alliance packed up later, the NPN still won in the 1983 elections. But no sooner had NPN won than the military struck again, this time under the leadership of General Muhammadu Buhari. The coup brought General Muhammadu Buhari to power on December 31, 1983.
Buhari’s government was toppled in another coup led by Brigadier Sani Abacha, which brought in General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangia (popularly called IBB) in August 1985 as Head of State.
One major innovation Babangida brought in his tenure was to change from multi-party system to two-party system with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican Convention (NRC) setting the motion for the Third Republic.
The subsequent election that resulted from Babangida’s transition programme in 1993, though adjudged the “freest and fairest” elections Nigeria ever had, was annulled for reasons best known to the government then. The presumed winner of the elction, Chief Moshood Abiola, popularly called MKO Abiola, was not inaugurated as President.
Shortly after, the military set in motion another return to civil rule, following which the PDP won the 1999 elections to commence the present Fourth Republic, which set the record as the first time a civilian government handed over power to another civilian government.
So far, President Olusegun Obasanjo, who emerged the President of the Fourth Republic, had served two tenures of four years each and there had been Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan, and currently, Buhari.
In analysing the country’s political growth since independence, political analysts are of the opinion that what all the political parties in power seem to lack is ideology.
Two scholars stand out in this instance: Dr. Emmanuel Onah and Dr. Ferdinand Ottoh, both of the Department of Political Science, University of Lagos.
According to them, “the political parties have no ideologies. They do not have a guiding principle to run their affairs”.
Otto, for one, is of the belief that it is this lack of ideology by political parties that has played out in the recent massive defections from one party to another.
“If we have ideology-based parties, it will be difficult for politicians to leave their parties for another. Instead, members would remain in their parties to remedy any challenge or problem to make the party stronger.
“The defections are for selfish reasons, and what we are witnessing is not healthy for our democracy. Some politicians, unfortunately work to satisfy their selfish interests”, he said.
On his part, Onah said multi-party system is good, but having 90 parties to contest an election is outrageous.
According to him, “it makes the system uninteresting because the big parties will certainly swallow the small ones. I think it is better to have two or three strong parties that should have strong national base and ethnic or religious influence”, he said.
This level of selfishness has no doubt transcended to all facets of the country’s being, so much that every other consideration seems to supersede the show of patriotism to the nation, which is the essence of governance.
In looking at economic development, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, while stating the importance of budget in the economic life of a nation, was quoted by Observer in 2015 as seeing budget in the light of it being “the roadmap to our future. It outlines government revenue and expenditure for a given fiscal year”.
From the perspective of the layman, the budget is what guides a government in what money is available, what amount should be spent in what sector, and at the end of the total amount what is earmarked as expendi-ture? This means that care would be taken to plan and execute it. Anything less is likely to spell doom for a country. The question therefore is how has Nigeria fared in this wise?
An idea of the answer to this question can be imagined from the experience of 2017 in Nigeria: Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo signed the nation’s Appropriations Bill into Law on June 12 in 2017. This was well over five months into the 2017 financial year. What this means is that for over five months, the government was spending funds that were not appropriated.
Interestingly, this misnomer is not new to Nigerians, even as it runs contrary to the dynamics of modern development which weighs heavily on effective planning and management of resources in the attainment of development objectives. This no longer happens in developed climes.
In fact, in most developed countries, the time span from the start of the preparation of budget proposals by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to the enactment of the Appropriations Act before the beginning of the financial year takes at least 12 months and there are defined time limits for each of the milestones in the budget process. This is currently not the case in Nigeria. The result is that monies are often spent at will, and later “retired”.
What this means is that, unlike budgeting in the private sector, which relies on free-flow of information between consumers and producers, with price signals reflect consumer preferences, customer satisfaction, and supplier costs and producer performance, while competition eliminates poor performers and shifts resources to those entities that improve efficiency and elevate utility, in the public sector, governments generally use past funding levels to determine future resource allocation.
In doing so, they virtually do not consider reflecting on preferences, satisfaction, or performance of the previous budget. This has no doubt given room to avoidable profligacy, and encouraged corruption, which seem to be the only truly developing phenomena in the country.
To counter this trend, and hence be seen serious in developing its economy, Nigeria needs to, among other things, adopt Performance-Based Budgeting to checkmate unnecessary and unwarranted spending.
Religion in Nigeria’s political space has always been with the country right from its inception as a nation in 1960 when the British colonialists handed power to Muslims.
In their paper titled, “Religion in Nigerian Political Space: Implication for Sustainable National Development”, Ntamu, G. U. , Abia O. T. , Edinyang, S. D. , and Eneji, Chris-Valentine Ogar captured it thus:
”Given the philosophy of Islam as a complete way of life for Muslims, Islam has always been closely attached to politics in Nigeria, especially in the Muslim dominated north. As alluded above, the British government duly recognised this fact in their dealings with the northern Islamic societies and explored it to legitimise their colonial rule in the region.
“Oyegbile and Abdulrafiu, (2009) observed that after the 1914 amalgamation of Nigeria and emergence of indigenous national politics, Islam has effectively represented a source of ethnic identity, group unity, political mobilisation, de-mobilisation, regime legitimisation and de-legitimisation in the country.
“As a result of this, the northern Hausa-Fulani therefore see themselves as the off-springs of the Sheikh Uthman Dan Fodio, representing the epitome of the Islamic holy Jihad and a product of an enviable Islamic socio-cultural history.
“Based on this, the popular Hausa-Fulani Muslim cleric, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, asserted that Islam has a cultural and religious affinity with its members, thereby providing ‘many common cultural elements’ that united the people of the region who become adherents together (Human Rights Watch, 2005, Ihedirika, 2011 and Okune, 2011) thereby empowering them to be politically cohesive and formidable and using same for political mobilisation.
“It is however popularly held that the north were absolutely been held in contempt because of its unique historical, religious, cultural and political antecedents (Akaeze, 2009). Thus, Islam has since been conceived to be synonymous with the North in the political matrix of the entity called Nigeria”.
The result is that this has set the pace for religious politics in the country. The fact that political parties are still formed based on religious (geographical) divides, and efforts are still being made deliberately to balance positions within political parties along religious divide only confirms religious politics in Nigeria. Another way to note this is deciphering the origins of most top government functionaries.
Religious politics has in Nigeria’s 58 years proven to be a key factor of under-development as it encourages people being appointed to positions of trust just for the reason of them being of the same religion as the President, without recourse to their competence. It has also comes to play in political leanings in which incompetent persons are handed positions for which they have little understanding of.
The late playwright, Chinua Achebe summed it up in his book, “The Trouble with Nigeria”, when he said the county’s problem “is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land, climate, water, air, or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to their responsibility, to the challenge of personal example, which is the hallmark of true leadership”.
Consequently, the state of Nigeria’s pitiable socio-economic development has been a direct consequence of the actions and inactions of the leadership class that has managed the affairs and wealth of the country since independence. The result is that at 58, Nigeria is still yet to find her fit as the acclaimed “Giant of Africa”.
The situation is such that the numerous achievements of Nigerians the world over are greatly dwarfed by the bigger picture of the country, even as countries still respect individuals who have genuinely excelled in their fields of endeavour.
As Nigerians mark 58 years of nationhood, therefore, one key factor that should never cease to bother their leaders is how the country can truly allow the Rule of Law to take its rightful place: How can Separation of Powers be made functional? And, when shall the people truly enjoy their resources?
These are the banes of Nigeria’s development.
Wike: An Agent Of National Cohesion
With the passage of time, the familiar refrain, “though tongues and tribes may differ, in brotherhood we stand”, may long have been forgotten by many Nigerian citizens.Yet, a few, into whose consciousness this has permeated and still rings a note, have continued to uphold our unity in diversity as the basis on which our collective independence was signed.
For such ones, issues of peace, brotherhood, unity and national cohesion come tops in their daily decisions. They are found in virtually every geo-political region of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Here in the South-South, when it comes to forging common alliance to promote unity and advocacy for cohesiveness, especially among a people already fragmented by religious, linguistic and cultural disparities, one name stands out.
His Excellency, the Executive Governor of our dear Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, has remained a personality driven by the goal of nationhood, in keeping with the dreams and aspirations of the founding fathers of our great nation.
Chief Wike’s passion and drive for national cohesion dated back to the year 2003 when he was elected into the national presidency of All Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON). This opportunity provided him the leverage to interact with 774 local government chairmen across the country. Their deliberations on issues affecting the politics and policies of the country, no doubt, may have constituted a springboard upon which the nationalist fervor in him was stimulated.
Amazingly, his appointment years later as a Minister of Education, precisely in 2011, took him deeper into the mainstream of Nigerian politics. This further elicited the nationalist potentials in the governor believed to have been incubated in his early years in local politics. His footprints in Nigeria’s political landscape are living testimonials.
Governor Wike’s ministerial portfolio did not only launch him into the national political theatre, it also signalled the dawn of his ministry as an agent of national cohesion. It is therefore, significant for providing a window through which the long-incubated nationalist tendency in Mr Governor was hatched.
As the country’s education helmsman, Chief Wike explored the role of education in fostering peaceful and harmonious coexistence as well as unity. He held many expectations for the education sector. Thus, constructively and holistically, he drew plans for implementation and helped midwife and breathed life to the sector.
His faith in the school as an instrument to raise an ideal labour force for the country’s manpower requirement, seasoned leadership for its bureaucracies as well as refined citizenry for an enlightened social order, made him to embark on a massive investment in teacher education.
Wike’s detribalised posture manifested in his execution of Almajiri Education Programme (AEP). Irrespective of whether a place is Islam –prone or not, Almajiri schools were established in all the geo-political zones of the country. This did not only serve as integrative mechanism, it created an atmosphere of homeliness for a folk which ordinarily was alienated by religious disparity.
The extent to which he used education for the purpose of national integration is a remarkable indication of his desire and willingness to foster ‘‘one Nigeria.’’ This is because he realised that the country was in a real crisis situation that could only be resolved through education.
Even as a state governor, Wike has continued to build bridges of friendship across different frontiers both within the country and beyond. His administration has played host to several national and international retreats and conferences. They include the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), Rotary International , the African Bar Association (ABA) just to mention a few.
The Governor’s flare for national cohesiveness has earned him many encomiums which are absolutely devoid of flattery as is common with people in power and their psycophantic fans.
To further buttress his passion for national unity, Governor Wike delved into sports development which he describes as a string that binds all Nigerians together with no visible political party as a rallying force, having very crucial impact in our lives.”
The Governor believes that inspite of our political differences, there is always no differences among Nigerians when it comes to sports. For this reason, he said “whoever wants this country to be united will always support sports”
His choice of sports development as a unifying factor, did not only earn him a local recognition by the national and Rivers bodies of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN),he was also honoured by the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) in Brussels, Belgium, where he presented a paper on “Peace and Progress through Sports in the Niger Delta”
The governor’s recognition was hinged on his consistency in raising the bar of sports matters as well as effectively using sports as a veritable vehicle to fast track communal growth along the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and engaging a booming but restive youth populace.
During his investiture as the national patron of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), by its National President, Alhaji Saidu Abubakar, he said “ I believe it does not matter which party you belong to, what matters is to promote the image of Nigeria and its unity.”
In his demonstration of the spirit of oneness (Espirit de Corp), Governor Wike extends his scepter to all irrespective of party affiliation, religious and ethnic differences. Leaders and renowned personalities in rival political parties have at different occasions been invited to inspect and commission projects executed by his administration.
It would be recalled that on June 27, 2017, Governor Wike paid a Sallah visit to the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III in faraway Sokoto State just to felicitate with him and his caliphate members on the Eid-el-fitr celebration. The reception accorded him during the visit was not only unprecedented but also instructive.
While in Sokoto, the governor was quite unequivocal on his stand on national unity.
September 18, 2017 witnessed a delegation of Northern Governor Forum led by the Governor of Bornu State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima to Chief Wike in Government House, Port Harcourt, to express their gratitude to him for what they described as an urgent step he took to nip in the bud, the crisis that erupted between members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra(IPOB) and some Nigerians from the North in Oyigbo Local Government Area of the State.
Again, the visiting governors commended Governor Wike for his strong commitment towards national unity. Their words, “Governor Wike we are mightily proud of you and to associate ourselves with you. Nigeria is greater than political differences. We belong first and foremost to one political family, and that is the Federal Republic of Nigeria. You believe in the Nigerian project, for that we remain eternally grateful’’.
Most importantly, Governor Wike’s state wide broadcast in the wake of the IPOB crisis in Oyigbo will forever be remembered for not only dousing tension in the air, but for also restoring peace in what would have possibly degenerated to an ethnic squabbles.
His words,’’ As a people, we shall continue to support the unity and peaceful co-existence of all ethnic nationalities and work towards actualising our collective aspiration for a just, inclusive and progressive nation’’, clearly demonstrates his zeal in promoting national unity and cohesion instead of encouraging unnecessary animosity in the polity.
In all, Governor Wike’s verbal expressions, body language and actions in his political life, summarise him as a rare breed, bridge builder, ambassador of peace, above all, an agent of national cohesion.
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