Yesterday, Governor Nyesom Ezebunwo Wike’s landmark achievements got an international recognition in far away New York, United States of America.”The Best Governor, Grassroots Development In Nigeria Award’ conferred on the Rivers State Governor by the United Kingdom based Africa Leadership International Magazine bears eloquent testimony to Wike’s uncommon development strides in Rivers State in the last 16 months of his administration.
Like a proverbial gold fish that has no hiding place, Wike’s stewardship in the last few months has caught the fancy and admiration of many Nigerians including members of the opposition parties.
Yesterday’s international recognition was therefore the icing on the cake of a man who has been variously described as an actualiser, ‘talk-and-do governor’ and a grassroot politician.
In the last 16 months of his stewardship as the Rivers State governor, Wike has left no one in doubt that he is a good testament to good governance especially the judicious application of lean resources. Besides his direct connection and interface with the ordinary people on the streets which makes him a man of the people, the Rumuepirikom-born politician has positively touched the lives of Rivers people through his uncommon transformation of the State.
What perhaps made Wike’s achievements more noticeable and outstanding was the state of hopelessness Rivers State had become before the present administration came on board. Besides the State’s economy that was in shambles, and a comatose social infrastructure, poverty was also pervasive. No thanks to a litany of abandoned and unexecuted projects, backlog of workers’ salary arrears, the captive state of the State’s legislature and judiciary for an unprecedented period of over one and half years and a huge debt left by the immediate past administration in the State.
In spite of the parlous state of affairs he inherited and the paucity of funds occasioned by the dwindling federal allocations to the State, Governor Wike has continued to keep his promises to the electorate. Today, Rivers State has regained its status and commanding heights among other States in the country. Hope, the common elixir, is also gradually returning to Rivers people.
One area that obviously keeps Wike ahead of other governors is ROAD INFRASTRUCTURE.
In spite of the near empty treasury and a huge debt inherited from his predecessor, the governor has turned Rivers State into a huge construction site. Besides the Operation Zero Pothole progamme which has seen to the delivery of more than 130 roads in Obio/Akpor, Eleme, Port Harcourt and Oyigbo, the Works Ministry under the Wike administration has delivered 150 kilomeres of roads in the last 15 months. The more than 100 roads are spread across six local government areas, while many more will soon follow. Most of these were strategic roads and bridges that were abandoned by the previous administration but which are of huge benefit to Rivers people.
Within the first seven months in office, Wike’s administration completed two federal roads that are critical to economic development of the State, namely: the NPA Industry Road and the Eleme-Onne junction section of the East-West Road.
The Igwuruta-Chokocho-Okehi highway which is another federal road is near completion and expected to be commissioned before the end of this month. The 6.6 kilometre highway serves as a link to two local government areas of Ikwerre and Etche, but had been abandoned for decades.
The State roads are not left out. The Iloabuchi-Eagle Island Link road that was abandoned by the last administration was completed and commissioned in January, this year. The road serves as a major link between Mile One in Diobu area of Port Harcourt and Eagle-Island, and also connects other parts of the State such as Agip, Ada George and Rumueme. It has since decongested traffic on Ikwerre Road.
Same goes for Abuloma-Woji Link road. The road which is worth N13 billion was also completed and commissioned by Governor Wike in January, this year.
Other abandoned road projects completed and commissioned by Wike’s administration include Oyigbo Market Road, Abonnema-Obonoma Link Road with a new bridge, first phase of the NLNG-Nkpogu Road and the first phase of Odili Woji-Akpajo Link road. The second phase of both the NLNG – Nkpogu Road and Odili-Woji-Akpajo Link road is currently undergoing construction and expected to be completed soon.
Meanwhile, the dualisation of 16 km Sakpenwa-Bori-Kono Road which straddles three local government areas of the State is on-going. Ditto for the East/West-Airport (Prof Tam David West) Boulevard; the Igwuruta-Etche Road, the Trans-Amadi Industrial Layout Road, Elelenwo-Akpajo Road, Rukpokwu-Eneka Road, Rumualogu-Alakahia Road, Rumuolumeni-Iwofe Road, Elioparanwo Road, Elimgbu Road, Nkpolu-Rumuigbo Road, Rumuagholu-Oroigwe Road, Ozuoba-Rumuosi Road, Ozuoba-Rumuokparali-Choba Road, Igbogo-Choba Road, Ogoni/Andoni/Opobo Unity Road, the Kalabari Link road and Nkpogu-Trans Amadi Link Bridge, Woji-Elelenwo bridges, among others.
Contrary to allegation by a frontline member of the opposition party in the State, Senator Magnus Abe that the Sakpenwa-Bori Road does not meet international standard, the road, according to Governor Wike is being constructed by the CCECC, an internationally recognised company that executed the Abuja-Kaduna Light Rail Project. The road which traverses three local government areas in Ogoniland and also leads to Opobo-Nkoro and Andoni Local Government Areas, when completed, would boost economic activities in the State as well as assuage the sufferings of users.
Meanwhile, work has commenced on the completion of the Kpopie-Bodo City Road which was allegedly abandoned by Senator Magnus Abe after allegedly collecting over N4 billion from the immediate past administration in the State .Other strategic areas that have received attention of the State government in the last 16 months are the Kalabari Land Reclamation that is meant to rejig rural development, the Marine Jetty at Okrika that facilitates marine transportation and economic activities in the area and the Port Harcourt Pleasure Park.
The construction of the on going multi-million naira Pleasure Park in Rumuola by a construction giant, Julius Berger Plc, was initiated by Wike to provide Nigerians, especially citizens and residents of Rivers State with a world class recreation facility. It is scheduled to be completed in December, this year.
Education is another sector that has received a boost under Wike’s administration. The governor’s passion for quality education has led to the completion of the Model Primary School at Rumuodomaya, the Law Faculty Complex of the State-owned University of Science and Technology (RSUST); the establishment of College of Medical Science at RSUST, procurement of science equipment and examination materials for senior secondary students in 247 schools in the State, and the payment of outstanding debt owed Ambassador Nne Kurubo Model School, Eleme by the last administration, among others.
Meanwhile, the Wike-led government, in a bid to develop a world class educational system in the State, is currently undertaking an upgrade of 11 old secondary schools in three senatorial districts in the State. The upgrading is meant to restore full boarding system that ceased in the 1980s. Work has since commenced at Government Girls Secondary School, Rumuokwuta and Birabi Memorial Grammar School, Bori which are among the pilot schools selected for the re-introduction of boarding school system in the State.
Governor Wike hinted of the vision behind the remodeling of the 11 schools and the re-introduction of boarding system in the State.
“Our people deserve the best. Therefore, we’ll give them the best education. We are developing a boarding school system that will produce students who can compete globally,” the governor said.
At the same time, the Wike-led administration is about to commence the rehabilitation of technical schools in the State.
According to the Special Adviser to the Governor on Technical Education Matters, Prof. Israel Owate, the rehabilitation of technical schools such as the Government Technical School in Trans-Amadi, Government Craft Centre on Aba Road and the newly established School for Craft and Vocational Training at Port Harcourt Primary School in Old GRA would soon take off.
The decision of the State government to revive these schools is in fulfillment of Governor Wike’s promise to rejig technical education in the State, as well as arrest the dwindling level of technical manpower in the State and Nigeria in general.
Governor Wike also facilitated the upgrading of the Rivers State College of Arts and Science to a polytechnic via the executive bill he sent to the State House of Assembly. The bill has since been passed and the college is now a full-fledged polytechnic.
Water Supply. This is another sector that has received a revival pill under Wike’s administration which inherited only two percent functional water supply facilities in the State. To change this trend, this government set a target to increase functional water supply in the State by 80 percent, and has massively invested in it.
The State government started with the construction of five water schemes in five local government areas of the State, while also upgraded some of the existing ones.
Also recently, the Wike administration commissioned a 50 km network reticulation water project located at Alasa and Agbonicha booster stations to boost-water supply in the areas. In the same vein, the rehabilitation of water scheme in Okrika Aleto is on top gear.
The State government has also entered into partnership with the European Union, UNICEF and other agencies for the provision of potable water in Opobo town, Kalaibiama and Nkoro in Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area, and in Abonnema, Kula and Abissa in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area.
Health. In the area of health, Wike has left no one in doubt that health is wealth. He has established a framework for equipping major General Hospitals in the State. His government has awarded contracts for the rehabilitation of General Hospitals in Abonnema, Ahoada, Ikwerre and Isiokpo, while the health centres across the State are also receiving government attention.
Under Wike, the new phase of the Integrated Medical Industries (IMI) is near completion with all the necessary facilities and equipment fabricated by manufacturers in Europe.
According to the governor, the IMI project when completed, would create 3,000 direct and indirect jobs in the State, as well as conserve foreign exchange and stop the importation of some key medical consumables.
The new phase of the medical company is expected to be the biggest in the country with the capacity to produce one billion syringes and other vital medical equipment that will stem the tide of importation and give Nigerians access to high quality medical services.
As part of efforts to boost health service delivery in the State, Governor Wike recently inaugurated the Rivers State Private Hospitals Intervention Scheme. The scheme is to assist private hospitals to provide, quality healthcare for the people of the State. The first phase has 25 private hospitals owned by non-indigenes as beneficiaries.
Security: Being his primary responsibility to the people of Rivers State, Governor Wike does not take the issue of security lightly. Although there was heightened sense of fear and anxiety in the State, occasioned by high wave of kidnapping, cultism, armed robbery and assassination prior to the present administration, the trend has considerably changed since Wike took over the affairs of the State, last year.
Besides assisting the security agencies in tackling crimes and other related activities, through provision of operational vehicles fitted with modern communication equipment for the police, the State government has also taken the war against crimes to the criminals’ den
Recently, the State government took the war against kidnapping, cultism and other crimes to a new level by demolishing property allegedly owned by some kidnappers. Governor Wike also offered amnesty to kidnappers and cultists who would submit their arms to security agencies and commit themselves to honest living.
To give legal backing to the fight against cultism in the State, the governor sent an executive bill to the House of Assembly. The bill which sought an amendment of the Rivers State Secret Cult and Similar Activities (Prohibition) Law of 2004, has since been passed into law, and will serve as a legal instrument to ensure that culprits, apart from being subjected to the prescribed penalty of jail terms, will also forfeit to government, all their properties acquired through acts of kidnapping.
Today, Rivers State is safe both for social and economic activities. Night life is booming in Port Harcourt and its environs, while economic activities have been at a peak, resulting in the rise of internally generated revenue of N5 million under the immediate past administration to the present N10 billion per month.
Several events that took place in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital in the last few weeks, such as the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) Conference, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Convention, under peaceful atmosphere and without a record of kidnapping, murder or assassination have confirmed Governor Wike’s remarks that the tagging of Rivers State as insecure and unsafe for economic and political activities by the opposition is a farcical political contraption.
Workers’ Welfare: At the time Governor Wike assumed office, the State civil servants were being owed three months salary arrears. Within the first one month of his administration, Governor Wike cleared the backlog of the arrears. His government is also up-to-date in payment of salary.
It was in appreciation of the governor’s love for the State civil service that thousands of civil servants in the State staged a rally on Thursday, January 28, 2016 in Port Harcourt, to celebrate Wike’s electoral victory at the Supreme Court.
Governor Wike has also succeeded in other sectors, such as housing where his government has completed over 50 units of two and three bedroom flats at the Iriebe Housing Estate; Judiciary where he initiated the construction of the on-going new ultra modern Law Centre for the NBA at the cost N498 million, as well as the re-construction of the Federal High Court.
Wike’s achievements in the last 16 months have attracted wide applause from many prominent Nigerians, including some key opposition members in the country who visited the State to witness, first-hand, the definition of good governance.
The Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, while giving testimony after inspecting some projects embarked upon by Wike’s administration, recently said, “Any person from any part of Nigeria can come here and reside with access to the good things of life. I have seen street lights, good roads and vibrant economic activities everywhere with new houses springing up. Government is working here.”
The Deputy Senate President was not done yet. He added that “Governor Wike has restored faith in government as far as Rivers State is concerned. In other places, people are losing faith in government. Here in Rivers State, you can see the dividends for the votes cast for the PDP.
“I believe that once other States emulate what is happening in Rivers State, Nigeria will be better.”
Hundreds of lawyers, who were in Port Harcourt towards the end of last month for their national convention also testified to good governance in Rivers State. The lawyers under the auspices of NBA, took the time off to inspect some of the projects executed by the Wike government, such as the NBA Law Centre, Federal High Court, Dr.Nebo Gram-Douglas Faculty of Law at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, Pleasure Park, second Nkpogu Bridge, Elelenwo Akpajo Road and the second Woji-Akpajo Bridge. They commended Governor Wike for the pro-people projects and particularly for executing projects that promote legal practice in the country.
Key members of the opposition party are not left out in the commendation of Governor Wike’s stewardship. A frontline leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Governor of Sokoto State, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal could not hide his feelings after commissioning some of the projects completed by Wike’s administration. While unveiling the refurbished and expanded Okrika (ATC) Land Jetty in Okrika town, Tambuwal who was the immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives, described Governor Wike as a man of the people.
“I see that Governor Wike is a man of the people who is committed to the development of the State,” Tambuwal said.
The Best Governor Award conferred on Wike in far away New York, yesterday, is a confirmation that the vote of confidence recently passed on the Rivers State governor by over 300 frontline editors from all mainstream and online media organisations across Nigeria was not in error.
The editors who were obviously held spell bound by the level of unprecedented infrastructural development they saw in the State, and the level of security measures put in place, came to the conclusion that Rivers State is a safe haven, contrary to the salad of lies and half-truth being dished out by members of the opposition party in the State.
“Based on careful observation of the state of affairs in Rivers State, the Guild commended the government and people of the State for the level of security and infrastructural development, as well as for the step being taken to promote agriculture in the State,” the NGE stated in a communiqué.
Given several commendations the governor has received in a couple of months from various stakeholders including a vote of confidence recently passed on him by 29 political parties in the State, there is no doubt that Wike is not just a leader of the opposition party in the country, he is a testament to good governance and of course, a shinning advertisement for his Peoples Democratic Party.
The “Best Governor, Grassroots Development in Nigeria Award conferred on him, yesterday in New York, United States is, therefore, a well deserved honour that should be celebrated by all Rivers people.
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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