At the time of her Independence from Britain on
October1, 1960, Nigeria was largely an agrarian economy. The then population comprised nearly 70 per cent farmers who practiced their occupation at subsistence levels, producing such food crops as cassava, yam, corn, cocoyam, plantain, rice, beans, millet, vegetables and fruits.
The major cash crops cultivated at the time included cocoa, groundnuts, palm oil, cotton, rubber, cashew nuts and copra which the regional governments encouraged as these formed their major export commodities alongside solid minerals.
Cattle rearing, fishing, hunting and other forms of livestock keeping also fetched incomes.
Crude oil had just been discovered in commercial quantity and was yet to become a major revenue source for the government.
This was indeed the scenario until the early 1970s when the Arab-Israeli war in the Middle East forced an escalation of the international price of petroleum, creating the oil revenue windfall that enabled the then Federal Military Government under General Yakubu Gowon to undertake massive reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes at the end of the 30-month Nigerian Civil War.
Up till this time, the nation’s economy could still be described as upbeat with well implemented 5-year National Development Plans that saw an average Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 9.4 per cent and poverty rate of about 48 per cent.
While the oil boom lasted, successive military and civilian administrations were said to have squandered the trillions of naira that accrued to the national treasury without any form of savings. Instead, the government went borrowing whenever there was a slight fall in oil price or any downward adjustment in production quota by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
With oil revenue accounting for about 80 per cent of the nation’s budget revenues and over 90 per cent of its foreign exchange earnings, Nigerians felt it was time to abandon the rural farms and seek better paying city jobs. Consumption patterns suddenly changed as the people began to show preference for foreign manufactured food items, drinks and fashion products.
Official corruption became evident as the political leaders and their business cronies abandoned projects at will after sharing the full contract sums. These leaders also abandoned all the development programmes that were aimed at diversifying the country’s economy away from oil.
Rampant stealing, wasteful spending, inadequate investment and excessive consumption in the face of dwindling oil returns did finally bring Nigeria on its knees in the mid 1980s. And even though the initial plan to obtain credit from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for setting off her huge balance of payments deficit was later dropped, the adoption of some of the Fund’s conditionalities (including fuel subsidy withdrawal) led to the introduction of the infamous Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) by the General Ibrahim Babangida government.
Whether the austerity measures that came under SAP served the interest of the nation is difficult to say at this point but it will be safe to point out that the poverty rate continued to rise, reaching 70 per cent by the time the military handed over power to civilians in 1999.
One of the earliest major achievements of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s first tenure was the invitation of private competition in the telecommunications sector which had hitherto been the exclusive playground of the now moribund Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL). Not only has the sector witnessed a near revolution in terms of service delivery, it has also helped to create alternative sources of livelihood for many Nigerians. In fact, it is currently regarded as one of the non-oil sector units that are strongly driving the nation’s economy.
Still under Obasanjo, Nigeria succeeded in obtaining debt write-off from her foreign creditors in the Paris Club. For agreeing to pay $12 billion within one year, Nigeria’s entire debt of $30 billion which was to be paid back in 33 years along with compound interest charges was written off. She therefore enjoyed a forgiveness of $18 billion, the implication of which was that her annual GDP grew at a faster rate while her debt to GDP ratio became one of the lowest in Africa.
This feat was said to have been made possible due largely to the clout and negotiating skills of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the then finance minister and former vice president of the World Bank who incidentally is still Nigeria’s Finance Minister and Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy.
The areas that are likely to attract significant benefits to the economy are the ongoing infrastructural development where the power sector reforms have led to the unbundling of the monopolistic Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and privatisation of its subsidiaries for better generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in the country. Nigeria now has over 10 power generating companies (Gencos) and more than 15 distribution companies (Discos) while there are plans to concession the transmission company (TCN) and construct a new transmission network using the public private partnership framework.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had introduced some banking sector reforms that served to sanitise and buoy up the nation’s banking system which laid virtually prostrate in the aftermath of the global economic crisis of 2008. Its proactive intervention led to the recapitalisation of about 25 banks to the tune of N25 billion each. Added to this, was the recent nationalisation of three highly insolvent banks for which acquisition bids from interested local and foreign banks are now being considered. The newly established Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) did play a significant role in this regard.
Outside the banking industry, the CBN introduced monetary policy measures that helped to stabilise inflation at 8 per cent, down from 12 per cent in 2011. This includes maintaining the monetary policy rate (MPR) at 12 per cent for a long period. The apex bank is also pursuing an aggressive liquidity squeeze by increasing the cash reserve requirement (CRR) of public sector bank lodgments from 25 per cent to 50 per cent and now, 75 percent. This is in addition to its cashless policy.
The CBN had in the past few years also released funds for special intervention in manufacturing, textiles, infrastructure, aviation, movie industry and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
President Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation agenda is widely reported to be slowly but steadily turning the economy round. The Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), National Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP), National Automotive Policy (NAP), Gas Master Plan, YouWin Entrepreneurial Scheme, Multinodal road and rail transport system, Inland Waterways and Ports Development are some of the components of the administration’s programmes.
But even as the government is being applauded for toeing a promising path, there is no doubt that its progress has been hampered by declining state revenues occasioned by incessant labour strikes, oil theft and pipeline vandalisation in the Niger Delta and high level of insecurity as exemplified by the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency in parts of the North East.
Growth of GDP vis-à-vis increasing poverty
For nearly 24 years since 1990, Nigerians had lived with faulty representations of their country’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) had, during this period, relied on 1990 price schedules to calculate the total value of goods and services produced in the country, leading to the release of figures that consistently depicted the Nigerian economy as being among the poorest in Africa even though the annual average growth rate was reported to have risen above 5 per cent for much of the period.
This low economic classification of the most populous African country did change early this year when the statistics office recalculated the nation’s GDP for the past four years using 2010 as a new base year. The result of the exercise, as announced by the Statistician General and Chief Executive of the bureau, Dr Yemi Kale, on April 6, 2014, showed that Nigeria’s nominal GDP for 2010 was N54.20 trillion, while those for 2011, 2012 and 2013 were N63.25 trillion, N71.18 trillion and N80.22 trillion, respectively.
“Analysing the 1990 nominal series, agriculture contributed 30.3 per cent to the GDP, while industry contributed 46.1 per cent and services contributed 23.6 per cent.
According to the rebased 2010 series, in nominal terms, the share of agriculture has declined to 24 per cent. The share of industry to the country’s GDP has also declined to 25.8 per cent, while the share of services to the country’s GDP has increased to 50.2 per cent,” Kale said.
Presentation of the revised figures was said to have been witnessed by representatives of the public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy as well as those of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) who readily endorsed the rebasing outcome.
The dollar equivalent of the 2013 GDP figure which is $510 billion was also found to be higher than South Africa’s $384.3 billion for the same year, hence the claim that Nigeria has now overtaken late Nelson Mandela’s country as the largest economy in Africa, ranking 26th in the world and only a few spots to realising her vision of being counted among the world’s 20 most prosperous nations by the year 2020.
But even with all this, there still exists a puzzling contrast between the rising GDP growth rate and increasing poverty level in Nigeria.
The country’s over 7 per cent average annual growth rate for the past five years was touted to be among the highest in the world, almost equal to those of the so-called Asian Tigers. And considering that this growth was most evident in agricultural and trading activities where the bulk of Nigeria’s rural poor are engaged, it still beats the mind as to why there is hardly any visible improvement in their incomes and welfare.
In its Nigeria Economic Report of May 2013, the World Bank said, “Poverty rate remains high in Nigeria, particularly in rural areas. These rates declined between 2003-2004 and 2009-2010, although not nearly as fast as would be expected from the pace of economic growth in the country.
“While the officially reported growth rates of GDP well exceed population growth in the country, the pace of poverty reduction does not, this implies that the number of poor Nigerians living below the poverty line has grown measurable.”
The erstwhile CBN Governor and now Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, had while attempting to explain this unfortunate circumstance in Nigeria blamed it on the government’s economic policy that needs to change.
According to him, “…The economy since SAP is one that supports imported consumption and not local production, perpetuating dependency, non inclusive growth and insecurity. Why is it that the economy is growing at 7 per cent annually but the people are getting poorer? The answer is simply because growth gains are not evenly distributed. Personal income is skewed towards people in the oil industry, telecoms, high finance, stock market, real estate and yes civil servants and politicians who feed on corruption. We produce crude oil but import petroleum products.
“We have a large cotton belt but import textiles from China. We are the world’s number one producer of cassava but import cassava starch from Europe. We have a huge tomato belt in Kadawa, Jigawa and Chad Basin but are the world’s largest importer of tomato paste – from China and Italy. We can produce rice but we import rice from Thailand and India – most of it from grain reserves that have been in stock for over five years.”
The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had while commending the GDP rebasing effort cautioned against Nigerians expecting an immediate reflection of the new figures on the prevailing poverty and unemployment situations in the country. She, however, assured that the outcome will serve as additional tool for the government to tackle poverty and improve the people’s standard of living.
According to her, “Not all our ratios look good. Our revenue to GDP ratio doesn’t look that good. We have a tax to GDP ratio of about 20 per cent, which is in the range of emerging market economies, but our non-oil tax to GDP ratio is quite low at seven per cent.
“With these new GDP numbers, we are not going to look so good. Our tax revenue to GDP ratio will fall to about 12 per cent and four per cent for non-oil tax…”
It has been said that the bulk of Nigeria’s income ends up in the hands of a privileged few. Some analysts have even suggested that 90 per cent of these incomes are in the hands of less than three per cent of the entire 160 million population.
What’s more, taxation which is a veritable weapon of income redistribution has hardly been administered effectively. Tax dodging and evasion, particularly by the elite, have continued to expand the income gap in Nigeria.
Again, the clumsy implementation of the N18,000 national minimum wage by governments at all tiers has also served to ensure that earnings between the rich and the poor tend even wider apart.
The 2013 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, had attempted to draw global attention to the growing income inequality in the world, especially in the emerging market economies. But rather than draw from the message of that summit, the Nigerian delegation came back looking like people who obviously missed the point.
The Media’s Endorsement Of Wike’s Governance Style
Media scholars and polemicists have since concluded and rightly so too, that the media, over the years, have been globally acknowledged as the watch dog of the society.
Therefore, their information monitoring roles have been considered a sine qua non for democracy and good governance.
With the progressive consolidation of our democracy, good governance has become more imperative and yet critically measured.
Periodic situations of dwindling resources caused either by unexpected natural occurrences or sadly by the retrogressive policies of inept leadership have imposed great hardship on the masses.
Luckily for us, there are still a few good men at critical points in the country, delivering courageous, strategic, articulate and progressive leadership.
This group of leaders are determined to sustain the delivery of qualitative and enduring legacies to maintain our hope in democracy as the best form of government.
One of those few leaders is Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike and we are happy that the Media, that watch dog of the society, even against the backdrop of thinly veiled autocratic censorship, is recording the achievements of this extra ordinary leader, for posterity.
Thus it was that between Sunday, June 6 to Wednesday, June 9, 2021, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), comprising members as well as the State and National Executives, converged in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital for their 3rd National Conference, with the theme: “The Media, Insecurity And National Unity.”
Governor Nyesom Wike was the Special Guest of Honour and represented by the Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr Ipalibo Harry-Banigo, declared the conference open, while the keynote address was delivered by the Governor of Abia State, His Excellency, Okezie Victor Ikpeazu.
The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed was represented by the Director of NTA Port Harcourt Network Centre, Abosede Adebayo, while the Chairman of the opening ceremony was the distinguished legal luminary and former President of Nigeria Bar Association, Onueze Okocha(SAN).
One of the key highlights, which hallmarked the power packed three-day national conference, was the comprehensive projects tour by the National President of NUJ, Comrade Chris Isiguzo and members of the NUJ.
This was to prove to the Journalists, as chroniclers of good governance, that what they had been hearing and seeing about Rivers State were not audio or Newspaper prototype projects like some detractors had been desperately misleading Nigerians, but verifiable and functional legacy projects.
The project tour was incorporated as part of the conference activities and they had visited in split groups, a number of projects sites undertaken by Governor Wike in Rivers State.
The journalists inspected completed projects including the Mother and Child Hospital, the Real Madrid Football Academy and Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma Judges Quarters, amongst others, as time would permit.
Of course, the NUJ members had cruised across some of the newly commissioned legacy flyovers that adorned the capital city and the exclamations of awe and wonder they gushed as they beheld them, spoke volumes for the architectural beauty and construction excellence that Governor Nyesom Wike had delivered to his people.
At the end of the tour, a visibly overwhelmed and pleasantly astonished team of journalists in their unanimous verdict, described Governor Wike as a pride to Nigeria’s Democracy. They also noted that by redefining governance, Governor Wike practices democracy in action.
Corroborating what has now become generally accepted and greatly admired by many, as the core extra ordinary attributes of Governor Wike, the views of National and State Executives and members of the NUJ, was captured first by National President of the NUJ, Chris Isiguzo, who stated unequivocally that the 1999 constitution bestows on the media the responsibility to hold government accountable to the people and having placed the projects side by side with the expectations of the populace, it is obvious that Governor Wike’s investment in critical infrastructure will remain as lifelong empowerment tools for the people.
“We were at the Mother and Child Hospital. We took time to look at the facilities there. That can easily be said to be first of its kind in the country. At the much talked about the Real Madrid Football Academy where you are going to train the young ones, and they have good facilities. At the moment, they have also offered admission to 140 pupils.
“That’s also to catch them young and I want to believe that by the time this kind of resources are continuously invested in sports development, Nigeria, in just a matter of time, will gain its pride of place in the sporting world.”
National President of National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Ladi Bala said the projects she had seen are entirely unique, unprecedented and very uncommon in the country, especially the Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma Judges Quarters which stands as first of its kind in Nigeria.
“Its serene ambiance will surely translate into enhancing the productivity of Judges of Rivers origin.
“I believe that democracy is at work in Rivers State and, for Rivers people, I want to congratulate them and to say, this is the true reflection of what democracy should be across board.
“I want to call on other governors across the country to borrow a leaf from what the governor of Rivers State is doing. Wike is working and we are very proud of what we have seen here.”
National Internal Auditor of NUJ, Muhammad Tukur described Governor Wike as a committed leader with the vision of uplifting the standard of his people.
Vice Chairman of NUJ North Central Zone, Chief Wilson Bako commended the quality of the various roads and flyover bridges constructed in the Port Harcourt metropolis to make the city a tourists attraction, while the Vice Chairman of NUJ in Jigawa State, Larai Musa said she has confirmed all that the news media had carried about Governor Wike and his project mantra and asserted that it is leaders like that that are needed at the national level.
Chairman of Oyo State Council of the NUJ, Alhaji Ismail Ademola Babalola asserted that the Mother and Child Hospital and the Real Madrid Football Academy are part of projects Governor Wike is using to secure a productive future for youths of the state because they meet global standard, while Ikechukwu Ordu of the Enugu State Council of the NUJ advised other political leaders to emulate Governor Wike in the way he was providing the dividends of democracy to Rivers people and changing the fortune of his state.
Anyone who has visited Enugu State will fully understand why Ugochukwu Chukwudieke, from Enugu State Council of the NUJ confessed that she was completely overwhelmed by what Governor Wike has done in providing the flyovers at Okoro-Nu-Odo, Rumuogba and Rebisi, delivered within a short space of time.
She also observed with the eye of someone who lives in Enugu, the emerging architectural beauty and practical ease of traffic which the GRA junction flyover, Orochiri flyover and Oro-abali flyover, all of which have reached advanced stages of completion, will provide, when they are delivered.
The agglutination of these media voices is not only historically definitive, but resonates stridently with the multiplicity of voices which have been consistently unwavering in capturing and reporting the exceptional achievements of Governor Wike in the last six years, in the media Constituency.
Rivers watchers will recall that one of the earliest media award bestowed on Governor Wike, was the New Telegraph Newspaper Man of The Year 2017 Award.
Mrs Funke Egbemode, the then Managing Director and Editor In Chief of the Newspaper, had said that the Award was in recognition of the Governor’s outstanding achievements and activities in office and in particular, his rising profile in the management of state resources, projects execution, massive construction of roads, renovation of general hospitals and schools in the state, which were some of the considerations that placed Rivers State at the top in the stiff competition.
Other media awards from reputable National and Continental Newspapers and other media establishments for Governor Wike include: The Sun Newspaper, Independent Newspaper, African Leadership Magazine, United Kingdom, the Authority Newspaper, Hallmark Newspaper, all of them conferring on him the distinguished Awards of, “Governor of the Year” or as the “Best performing Governor in Nigeria”, and echoing the same excellent sentiments about Governor Wike’s developmental strides and accomplishments.
Silverbird Group also gave him the Extraordinary Personality of the Year Award for 2020.
He also bagged the Daily Independent Newspapers Infrastructure Governor of the Year 2020 Award, while only recently the Rivers State Governor got the Blueprint Newspapers Governor of the Year Award, in the company of former President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who was bestowed with Icon of Democracy in Africa Award.
A select delegation of the Nigeria Guild of Editors were in Rivers State in October 2020, for an on-the-spot, fact finding, verification mission of some of Governor Wike’s reported projects and at the end of an independent tour of the projects, this is what the President of the Guild, Mustapha Isah said:
“Anytime I come to Port Harcourt, there is always a new project on-going. Flyovers are being constructed, existing roads are being expanded, and new roads being built. This is your second term and you’re maintaining what you said that you will work until the last day of your tenure. You have zeal and passion in handling issues of Rivers state, from COVID-19 to issues of security,” he enthused.
Indeed the place of Governor Wike in the annals of the media was best captured by Silverbird Creative Development General Manager, Jacob Akinyemi Johnson, when he led his management team to confer the “Extraordinary Personality of the year 2020” on Governor Wike.
He said the award is to let the Governor know that he is doing a fantastic job for the people of Rivers State and Nigeria and his actions have not gone unnoticed.
“Your boldness made you the first prominent Nigerian to raise the alarm over the atrocities of the now disbanded SARS. And you also spoke against the politicisation of security. Now your forthrightness in telling the truth to power including the presidency when you think things are going wrong, is worthy of emulation. You did not hesitate to commend when necessary also. And on political issues, you are not afraid to tell even your own party, the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) the whole truth when necessary. “
“There are very few Governors like you who walk the talk and there are very few Governors like you who have the passion and are not sentimental. You say things the way they are and you also say the things that you believe in.
“So we sat back and we said the person we can think of this year is your Excellency Nyesom Ezenwo Wike
“Also in the area of projects, the last time I was here, you were referred to as Mr. Projects. Now you have been elevated to Mr. Quality Projects.
“You promised on the day you were sworn in for second term that you will work for Rivers State people to the very last day and you are living up to that task. Seven bridges in a record period of time and all these were embarked upon in 2020 when the country and indeed the entire world were greatly impacted by the COVID- 19 pandemic, but you still delivered.”
There is no doubt whatsoever that despite the dubious, misleading and often desperate and delusional propaganda spewed by the fractured and dwindling opposition in the state and their hirelings of detractors, the reports of the amazing and superlative projects delivery of the Rivers State Governor, continues to grab the top headlines nationally in the media and silence his detractors at home.
The 3rd NUJ National Conference, in Port Harcourt has come and gone and once again, it has afforded the globally acknowledged watch dogs of the society, a first hand opportunity to perform their information monitoring roles in reporting the reality on ground, as Rivers State continues to transform in the unfolding kaleidoscope of amazing development, under the visionary, determined, focused and progressive leadership of an extraordinary man, who believes and is fully committed towards ensuring that the resources of the people work for them and only the best will be good enough for Rivers people.
Paulinus Nsirim, Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State
Radio Rivers FM @ 40: The Journey So Far
It was the 16th President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln, who once said: “Let the people know the facts and country is safe”. This notable aphorism of Lincoln’s is crucial for the development of society.
Radio Rivers Two FM Stereo, as it was then called, was 40 years on May 2, 2021, following its establishment and launch of its signal on May 2, 1981. Ace broadcaster, Dafini Gogo-Abbey, signed on the new frequency modulation radio station with the call signal: Radio Rivers Two FM Stereo.
The radio station was tagged Radio Rivers Two then because the Amplitude Modulation (AM) began operation on June 1, 1978 under late Chief Olu Benibo Fubara as General Manager of Rivers State Broadcasting Corporation (RSBC) as Radio Rivers alone. It is on record that Mambo Tumbowei, later known as Elizabeth Odumo, signed on the station with the call signal: Radio Rivers.
At inception, the original plan of the founding fathers was that RSBC would serve as an umbrella body for radio and television. The late literary icon, Gabriel Imomotimi Gbain-Gbain Okara, was the pioneer General Manager of RSBC-Radio and TV together; but the television station, known as RSBC-TV, commenced operation before the radio arm. And this was largely due to the fact that there had been radio broadcasting service provided by the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) in the state.
It is pertinent to accentuate the fact that RSBC was encapsulated in the vision of the founding fathers to promote the favourable identity of the old Rivers State created from the defunct Eastern Nigeria.
Following the restructuring of radio broadcasting in Nigeria in 1978, NBC transformed to be Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) wherein the Rivers State Government inherited the personnel and equipment of the former. The personnel included the legendary Opuerembo Gloria Fiofori, Elder Goddy William, Japudiari Jumbo and Elder Walson Asako, among others.
Interestingly, this pool of staff aided Chief Fubara to actually commence broadcasting using NBC equipment at William Jumbo Street, Old GRA with the engineering and technical services at Ozuoba in present day Obio/Akpor LGA of Rivers State.
It is common knowledge that Radio Rivers AM truly promoted favourable identity of Rivers people as envisioned by the founding fathers. This was articulated through community broadcasting module where premium was attached to programming in indigenous languages as well as translation of programmes into Rivers languages.
The administration of Chief Fubara was remarkable and would particularly be remembered for sending staff for training abroad in England, The Netherlands and the United States. Specifically, Dafini Gogo-Abbey trained in the US, Eric Uzoma was in The Netherlands while Ibiye Degbani went to the UK, among other staff who benefited from overseas training. This does not in any way demean those who trained at home at the time. No doubt, such training equipped members of staff to tackle the challenges of rural broadcasting ahead.
The government of Chief Melford Okilo did build on the legacies of the regimes of Commander Alfred Diete-Spiff, Col. Zamani Lekwot and Commander Suleiman Seidu to broaden the broadcast space by introducing the rave of the moment: Radio Rivers Two FM Stereo on May 2, 1981.
While it was the first FM radio station to be established by a state government in Nigeria, the Rivers broadcast facility came after the first FM studio called Radio Nigeria Two or Metro FM Ikoyi, Lagos, established in 1977. The superior sound quality and highly-skilled professionals’ commitment to duty endeared Radio Rivers FM to many, not only in the state but across the nation.
Tribute must be paid to the founding fathers and managers who had a clear sense of purpose and vision to provide favourable identity for Rivers people through this medium. To this end, one must acknowledge the commitments of pioneer staff as well as their team spirit. The General managers and management staff included Mrs. Nguba Aspinnal, late Jonny Abasa, Ernest T. Ogbanga, late Sunny Joe, Gloria Fiofori, Dafini Gogo-Abbey, Florence Ekiye, Digi Hart, Mike Yempe, Brighton Sorgwe, among others.
Interestingly, Radio Rivers 99.1 FM was born at the time when the war of words between Governor Sam Mbakwe of Imo State and his Rivers State counterpart, Chief Okilo, reached a crescendo following the controversy over post-Biafran War abandoned property policy and non-inclusion of Imo State in the list of oil-bearing states to benefit from the derivation per centage of that time. As a result, Mbakwe never saw anything good in the administration of Okilo.
This was where the news commentaries churned out by the News and Current Affairs Department of Rivers FM radio rose to the occasion and the specialised news features of staff, particularly Dumo Oruobo, remained exquisite. The other notable writers were Oju Daniel-Kalio, Eriye Iyaye, Simon Ambakederemo of the Ministry of Information, Kudo Eresia-Eke and Bobo Brown; while literary giants like Kenule Saro-Wiwa, Ola Rotimi, Paul Naale, Elechi Amadi and Gabriel Okara were regular guests on the literary discourses hosted by Oruobo.
Speaking in a live interview tagged Spotlight on Rivers FM radio on Sunday May 2, 2021, Chief Oruobo noted that Governor Mbakwe did surrender to the fireworks from the AM and FM studios of Radio Rivers.
“Yes, Governor Sam Mbakwe caved in and pleaded with his colleague, Governor Melford Okilo, to stop the war; then Governor Okilo asked him to tell his people to stop the propaganda too,” he said.
In her remarks, Opuerembo Fiofori, who was also a guest on the live interview programme admitted that she headed a team mandated to produce the public service jingle of old after the war of words. She sang recalled the lines thus: Love Rivers State or leave alone; don’t pull her down, no no; think what you can do for her; engage yourselves in meaningful activities; no room for gossips; do something meaningful.
Additionally, it is on record that RSBC introduced News In Special English in 1984, another milestone in the annals of radio broadcasting while bridging the gap between government and the governed through programmes and translations in indigenous languages. Tamunokuro Akaluogbo anchored Arokerenime in Okrika, Billy Evans handled request programme in Kalabari, Dehkai Ema was for Khana, Nyemavuchi Ohaka and Austine Weji Akajile for Ikwerre and Francis Vibeleh for Bonalo-lobel for Gokana audience.
On account of the outstanding achievement of Radio Rivers FM, it was not only a tourist site but training centre for other FM radio stations. It is common knowledge that Benue State Radio and Cross Radio State Broadcasting Corporation (CRBC) came to radio Radio Rivers for training.
Radio Rivers accorded adequate airtime to coverage of RIVIFEST, Peoples Parliament and programme such as English By Radio while it also organised outdoor events such as Miss FM and Mr. FM. According to the former General Manager, Gloria Fiofori, Tonye Koko was the first to win Miss FM while David Ibiyeomie (now founder of Salvation Ministries) won Mr. FM, respectively.
Despite its contributions to state affairs, the authorities concerned did not replace obsolete equipment as at when due and Radio Rivers began to experience incessant off-air syndrome. Truly, broadcast equipment have lifespan and approved room temperature to function well. Worse still, the government of Dr Peter Odili directed RSBC under Sir Mike Oku, as General Manager, to vacate the AM studio’s premises at Ozuoba and handed it over to Daar Communication.
The attempt to combine community broadcasting of AM station with FM programming resulted in shapeless programming. Thus Radio Rivers at 40 requires restructuring and programme re-engineering. Similarly, the RSBC Management has been directed to vacate its William Jumbo property.
The government of Diete-Spiff established the Rivers State College of Science and Technology in 1970; Okilo upgraded it to Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST) in 1980, while Governor Nyesom Wike amended the law to make it Rivers State University (RSU) in 2017.
In the same vein, the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH) grew from a nursing home to Braithwaite Memorial Hospital (BMH) and later to Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital (BMSH) before transforming to its present status. This is the way to keep vision alive.
Edict No. 8 of 1973 governing the establishment of RSBC must be amended to enable the Corporation handle present-day challenges while effort must be made to restrict radio broadcasting through merger of Garden City Radio and Radio Rivers as well as meet deadline for digitization.
The point must be made that funding a vision is different from funding road project as gestation period and profit motive vary. Truly, Radio Rivers 99.1 FM is the voice of experience and it has the potentials to rise again.
Congratulations at 40!
Sika is a public affairs analyst in Port Harcourt.
By: Baridorn Sika
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