‘Don’t Politicise Visible Progress In Rivers’

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Brig. Gen. Bright Ateke Fiboinumama (Rtd)

A retired Brigadier General of the Nigerian Army and traditional ruler in Rivers State, Bright Ateke Fiboinumama at the weekend undertook  an inspection of some  projects  embarked upon by the Nyesom Ezenwo Wike administration in Rivers State, and thereafter fielded questions from newsmen.
Below is the excerpt.
Your Majesty, what informed your tour of projects in Rivers State and what is your impression?        Amazed is the least word I can use to describe my impression, but first why the tour? While in Abuja, I recently ran into some politicians and of course, Rivers State propped up as an issue for discussion. The picture painted of the Wike government was so horrible that one would immediately conclude that the state was politically clueless, economically stagnant and in the area of security, a dangerous land that must be avoided. In the midst of the characterization of the state as a failed one, I managed to ask, what of the roads which the media reported were commissioned by several top government officials across party lines during and after Governor Wike’s 100 days in office? “All was mere propaganda”, they all chorused.
But could the  Acting (Vice) President Osibanjo who recently called Governor Wike “Mr. Project” be part of such propaganda? So I decided that once home, I would personally visit some of these projects, take photographs of them and put up a strong argument when next I run into these politicians.
Where and which projects did you touch and again, what is your overall impression?
Charity, they say, begins at home. So I started with the ATC Okrika Jetty and Pavilion before moving to the Bonny Jetty, Woji Akpajo Bridge and the Pleasure Park. Then, I moved to the Rivers State Ecumenical Centre before returning to behold the tremendous changes on the network of roads in Port Harcourt and Obio-Akpor Local Government Areas. The Trans Amadi-Garrison Road and Abuloma-Woji Link Road are visible examples of marvellous road networks embarked upon by Wike’s administration.  I also saw the Law Centre called NBA Port Harcourt House and other works within the state court premises. If I say I was amazed, I am understating the fact because I was thoroughly dazed by the amount of progress especially at a time of lean resources when some states can’t even pay workers’ salaries.
Which of the projects impressed you the most?
The investment in road infrastructure is massive and impressive. Some years ago when I visited the state, most of what I find useful today were in bad condition. Investment in this area makes real economic sense because it promotes trade and commerce. It also opens up the state better for land development which naturally attracts investors. With easy transportation, the usual additions to prices of goods and services on account of chaotic and more expensive transportation are eliminated. That is why the investment in road infrastructure makes much sense to me.
What next?
Empowerment of the Judiciary and the civil service. Before Wike’s emergence, I was aware that the courts  and the State Assembly were c1osed for over a year, while civil servants and retirees were being owed between three and five months salaries and pension, respectively.
For a government that inherited such huge bills to achieve so much within such a short while is indeed legendary. I was also told that government recently provided judges and magistrates with official cars running into more than fifty or so, not to mention the fact that workers’ salaries are paid monthly side by side the on-going development.
Another aspect of the Wike progress report is the Ecumenical Centre now’ under construction. It is not only bold and ambitious, it is people oriented and would encourage unity among Christians in the state. I have never seen such project embarked upon by a state government, especially at a time of economic downturn.
With what you have seen and heard, what is your advice to critics of the state government?
Seeing is believing. Criticism, if positively done and based on facts, is a good development but when it is based on falsehood, political vendetta actuated by malice, it becomes very dangerous to the health of any state or nation. If I was not pushed by curiosity to go on fact-finding, I would have been conscripted into the clique of critics who see nothing good in others. Because I did not only hear but also saw, I am now in a better position to defend my state and its government any other time I find myself in the circle of Abuja politicians.
What is your advice to the state government?
Remain focused. Don’t be distracted by the illicit propaganda of non-performance being peddled by those who are yet to see what I have seen but would sit idly by and criticize everything not done by them as fake or non-existent. Governor Wike should continue to pursue programmes and projects that directly touch the lives of the people and not be distracted by bad critics. Those who should know, can attest to the fact that if the opposite (propaganda) were true, the outcome of the various elections in the state would have been different.
The success of the governor’s party in virtually all elections is an attestation to the  fact that the people are happy with the government as primary beneficiaries of most of these projects. And  because the people see and feel the projects, they are not swayed by any negative propaganda that what they see does not exist. That is the beauty of visible development. If in doubt, travel and see.
What is your advice to the political class in Rivers State?
They must stop creating artificial battle ground in the state for their own selfish gain. Each time they paint the state as insecure, they fail to understand that they are shooting themselves in the feet. This is because if and when they ever succeed in getting into power, the same investors they scare away today with their campaign of fear will run farther away from them because it takes a  long time to rebrand a product dismissed as poisonous.
They should instead learn to play politics according to the rules and be willing to accept defeat after elections, rather than painting a horrible picture of the state as insecure for business.
After elections comes governance which must rise above partisanship for development, peace and progress. In such a clime, the kind of criticism necessary is a positive one with the sole intent of contributing to the development of the state. A situation whereby an opposition party sees nothing good in government but will continually paint the picture of a failed  state is a disservice to the people. It is like throwing stones into a market place. The victim could be your relation.
On a personal note, what is the transition like moving from an Army General to a traditional ruler?
Very educating and inspiring. Shortly after my retirement from the Nigerian  Army as a Brigadier – General, my people, the Abuloma Kingdom, chose me to become their King (Obeomomuodo of Abuloma Kingdom) on Saturday,  August 6, 2016. Though it is another kind of leadership from that of the  Army, all of them have to do with understanding the needs, hopes and fears of individuals, tactical discipline and leadership by example. So, I do not see myself in an entirely strange environment.
In November, last year, you held a workshop with the topic “The relationship between the king and the chiefs”. What is the impact of that workshop on traditional administration in your Kingdom?
Very positive. Life is a learning process. We will continue to explore better ways of  building capacity, encouraging transparency in leadership and with time, the people will appreciate the gains of that workshop and together work towards a better  Abuloma.
Finally, what is your vision of Rivers State in the next few years?
A progressive, development driven and economically viable one. I envision the state under Governor Wike that will rise up to its reputation as the nation’s goose that lays the golden eggs. Even without adequate central support, the Rivers State Government has done well, and I see it doing even better in the next few years.
I envision a state that will attract more investors.