Rivers State is 50 years today. May 27 2017 is also the day the world celebrates the Children’s Day.
On this day, in May, 1967, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), the then Head of State and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, created Rivers State among 11 others, thus, dismantling the old regional arrangement.
In his speech, on that day, Gowon said, inter alia that the “creation of states is the only possible basis for stability and equality” in the country.
For Rivers people, it was the climax of anti-minority agitations by the emerging leaders in the region who used popular platforms like the Rivers Chiefs and Peoples Conference (RCPC), Rivers Leaders of Thought (RLT) and the Niger Delta Congress – a political party founded and led by the Late Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye, to achieve their goal.
Popular platforms like the Rivers Chiefs and Peoples Conference (RCPC), Rivers Leaders of Thought (RLT) and the Niger Delta Congress – a political party founded and led by the Late Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye, to achieve their goal.
Fifty years down the road, Rivers people, both well-meaning and pessimists will ask, how well have we fared? Are our achievements worth the celebration?
As we join the government and people of Rivers State in commemorating this epoch, we affirm the appropriateness of the celebration. Since 1967, several milestones have been achieved from one administration to another. At the national level, Rivers State has remained the anchor of a united Nigeria and a critical partner in its overall development. Rivers State has supported Nigerians from all states with her God-given resources.
Beyond attaining and celebrating her unique identity and culture nationally and internationally, Rivers people have a voice in the way they are governed and have dismantled the shackles of ethnic domination. It is also to the people’s eternal joy that Rivers State has since given birth to another State (Bayelsa).
Indeed, there have been challenges, including marginalization from the Nigerian federation, despite being sustained by the Rivers State resources; policy incoherence and somersaults and the huge disparity between cummulative federal and state earnings and the level of development in the state, among others.
These challenges, we believe, are not weighty enough to vitiate the wisdom in this celebration.
It is instructive that while unveiling the logo for the celebration, the state Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike stated thus: “Over the past 50 years, we have travelled quite a marvellous journey. We have made significant progress, no doubt, but we have also made mistakes and lost valuable opportunities”.
The Tide believes that the Golden Jubilee celebration will, among others, afford the Rivers people the opportunity to take stock, inspire a new direction to build a prosperous and happy State and remain on the path of attaining the goals set by the founding fathers of the State.
Yes, in the past 50 years, the State, like the rest of Nigeria, depended largely on revenue from oil, to the utter neglect of local industries and other revenue sources.
It is instructive to note that 50 years after creation, Rivers State is still a one-city State, as Port Harcourt which is the State capital, remains the only township.
Life-threatening conflicts, instigated by political, chieftaincy and kingship squabbles and cult clashes are still pervasive in the State, while potentials in the coastline State and culture and tourism and much more have remained largely unexploited.
But it is our joy that things are now gradually taking their right shapes as Governor Wike marks his second year in the saddle.
In two years, the governor has initiated an infrastructural transformation that has diminished the tenure of some of his predecessors.
Accepting a destiny-imposed role of the Golden Jubilee Governor, Wike has kept faith with his electoral promises to the people of the State by initiating legacy projects that would impact on the State’s development, fifty years hence.
To draw inspiration from the past and put the State on the path of sustained economic growth, the Golden Jubilee anniversary is billed to honour founding fathers and distinguished contributors to the development of the State, as well as unveil the 50- year strategic economic and social development plan for the State.
While The Tide welcomes these developments, it is pertinent to recall the adage that says, “a hungry man is an angry man”. It is not for nothing that a South-West governor embarked on “stomach infrastructure” for his people.
Therefore, the new path to re-inventing Rivers State must emphasise job creation, youth empowerment schemes, continued commitment to sustained peace and stability and provision of social amenities, including potable water and electricity, to drive economic growth in the State.
As we join in this celebration, we are encouraged that, given the courage and the political will of the present leaders to blaze the trail for a better society in the next 50 years, the dreams of the founding fathers of the State would be realised.
Meanwhile, we congratulate Rivers children and other children across the world on their day, because without them, there would be no future.
As they celebrate, today, we call on all governments around the world to address some of the challenges that face children such as preventable diseases, child abuse and child kidnapping, among others.
It is regrettable that the Child Rights Act of 2003 which defines a new child protective system and permits for opportunities was only implemented in 23 States including Rivers, while some States had ignored the Universal Basic Education Act of the 2014 which makes education of the Nigerian child free and compulsory.
The violation of these Acts is responsible for the high rate of child labour, cultism and illiteracy that are prevalent among the children’s population in the country.
We hope that the Senate’s move, last Thursday, to domesticate the Child Rights Act in 13 States where the law had not been domesticated and its insistence on total compliance will become added impetus to the total and comprehensive application of both the Child Rights Act and the Universal Basic Education Act in all States of the federation.
Today provides yet another opportunity for all Nigerians to reflect on how to guarantee a safer and better society that would promote the realisation of their full potentials. Enjoy your day, children.