Like every other one,
today’s “Democracy Day” in Rivers State marks yet another milestone in the annals of the 48 years old State.The only difference, perhaps, would be in the level of antagonistic campaigns that preceded the election which produced NyesomWike as the new Governor of the State.
Born on August 24, 1967 to the family of Reverend and Mrs.NlemanyaWike of Rumuepirikom, Community, Rivers State, NyesomEzebunwoWikeholds degrees in Political and Administrative Studies as well as Law. After a brief stint with private legal practice, he ventured into politics.
He first came to political prominence in 1999 when he was first elected Chairman of Obio-Akpor Local Government Area (LGA) of the State. Many feel that this office was what he used to redefine and exhibit his brand of governance.
Little wonder that he was re-elected at the expiration of his first tenure in 2003, making him the first Chairman to serve two consecutive tenures in the richest LGA of the State, and also gave him the needed boost for further administrative roles.
While in office as Chairman, Wikeserved both as Deputy President and National President, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), the umbrella forum through which all the 774 Local Government Council Chairmen in Nigeria interface and interact on issues affecting the Politics and policies of Nigeria, and was later elected the President of ALGON. He also represented Africa as a member of the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Local Governments Forum.
In the simplest of terms, Barrister Wike distinguished himself as the best performing LGA Chairman in Rivers State, mostly because he embarked on iconic projects that re-defined administration at that level, and set the pace for his successors.
As National President of ALGON, Barrister he played a pioneering role in national security and primary healthcare, leading all LGAs to commit themselves to high level grassroots development across the country.
There is the widely held belief that his performance in office as Chairman at a time the out-going Governor, Rt. Hon. ChibuikeAmaechi, served as Speaker of the State House of Assembly for the same period, was their closeness, which further thickened while Amaechi took refuge in Ghana to fight for his Governorship that was almost denied him.
When Amaechi appointed him Chief of Staff on assumption of office as Governor in October 2007, it only amounted to a confirmation of how close they were. And when out-going President Goodluck Jonathan appointed him Minister of State for Education in 2011, many also another extension of the relationship. This was however amidst concerns that the jolly ride between the two dogged politicians was headed for an explosive dimension, as later events confirmed.
Prior to his appointment as Minister, there were muffled discussions here and there, including government circles, that Wike was becoming too powerful for the comfort of the Governor, who, like Wike, was said to be eying a seat in the Senate at the expiration of his second tenure.To many, therefore, Amaechi’s recommendation to the President for Wike’s Ministership was a deliberate ploy to check his (Wike’s) hold in the politics of the State, which seemed to have attained mammoth size.
Though the extent to which this is true can only be confirmed by the two dramatice personae, the upliftment to a ministerial office seem to be the leverage Wike required to not only transfix, but also nurture the foundation of his aspiration to govern the State.It came in the guise of the Grassroots Democratic Initiative (GDI).
No sooner had it come on stream than the GDI entrenched itself in all 23 LGAs of the State, with very active officers at all levels of governance. By the time some others who were also contemplating to aspire for the governorship position started comprehending where GDI was headed, the opposition in the fold of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the State had gotten wind of it and clearly broken away.
With a rock-solid strength at the grassroots, all that was required for mission to be accomplished was a deliberate and tireless campaign strategy that kept the populace on their toes regarding a new trend of politicking that Rives State experienced for the first time.
Meanwhile, the opposition, APC, also came up with an advanced type of door-to-door campaign, which saw Governor Amaechi going as far as plating the hair of a girl as a means of showing concern. As appreciable and novel as this act was, it came rather late, as developments revealed.
Close observers of the political scenario in the State expressed the belief that the Governor’s unique door-to-door campaign strategy alongside others would have yielded the desired result if the pain of the common man in the state, especially civil servants, had be given a humane face.
But as events turned out, it not only culminated in constituting the greatest un-doing of the APC governorship aspirant, Dr.DakukuAdolPeterside, who many confess to be a gentleman, but also gave additional impetus to what resulted in an overwhelming vote for PDP in the State at both the Presidential/National Assembly and Governoship/State Assembly elections in March 28 and April 11, 2015 respectively.
For the first time in the history of the State, campaigns were taken seriously. Amidst the violence and enormous challenges that confronted the two key political parties PDP and APC), they painstakingly resorted to drawing up strategies and travelled to the nooks and crannies of the state wooing the electorates.
This was quite new compared to the years past when politicians never had time to take campaigns to the people at the rural communities, and even when they did, it was without seriousness. This time, the candidates deemed it necessary to go down to the grass-roots for votes, an act which pundits say was warranted by the fact that all the key players in both parties knew each other the way the tongue knew the teeth.
As Wike ascends the governorship throne today, it is definitely going to be another phase of his political carrier, which comes with its own challenges that will be further made difficult by the present chaotic political situation of the State being in the opposition for the first time since its creation in 1967.
This is in addition to all the 23 LGAs being controlled by APC leadership that may be spoilt for war in order to retain their positions as Chairmen and councillors, with expected ample support from the Presidency.
Two things that may stand the in-coming government in good stead within the State are the fact that people are still angry over a lot of things that have been done in their names that have caused more havoc to them than good, and that the State will be having one of her respected daughters in the fold of Dr.Ipalibo Harry-Banigo as Deputy Governor.
A retired Civil Servant, who had occupied key positions up to Permanent Secretary, Dr.Banigo constitutes a point of solace to the Civil Service, more because she is seen as a mother who would do everything possible to take care of her children even in the most difficult of situations.
Though she is coming in as a politician, most of the populace seem unanimous in feeling that Civil Servants in the State would have a breath of fresh air, different from the last sixteen years when they have been reduced to feed from crumbs from illegitimate children.
Her declaration of “Rives State Civil Service on My Mind” in her facebook recently further buttresses this stance. So does what she said about “prompt and regular payment of salaries before the end of the month, Prompt and regular payment of pensions and gratuities, Prompt and regular release of overheads and imprest to ministries and Extra-ministerial departments, Regular training of all categories of workers in the civil service, as well as Prompt and regular payment of State contributions to the reformed pension scheme”.
Others areProvision of working materials and furniture to civil servants,Provision of befitting working environment for civil servants, Payment of Christmas bonus along with December salaries, regular conducting of interviews and promotion of civil servants, Employment of near extinct cadres like Environmental health officers and other such cadres that are almost extinct in the service, andPromotion of in-service trainings and study leave among civil servants.
The implication of today’s swear-in of Governor NyesomeWike and his Deputy, Dr.Ipalibp Harry-Banigo is that Rivers People now have another opportunity to make an assessment of yet another political leadership. Expectations are expectedly high. The question that readily comes to mind is if this administration will reasonably amount to uhuru for the populace.
For the Deputy, how she can convince her principal to think like a Civil Servant to be able to appreciate the peculiar problems of the average Civil Servant is believed to be what may constitute a quagmire to her.