The Wike Factor In Peace Building And National Cohesion

Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen (stooping), laying the foundation stone for the Rivers State Judges’ Quarters in Port Harcourt. With him are R-L: Wife of Rivers State Governor, Justice Eberechi Suzzette Nyesom-Wike, Governor Nyesom Wike, Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Emmanuel Aguma (SAN.), Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice Adama I. Iyayi - Laminkanra and other personalities .

Exactly today, 57 years ago, the British Union Jack was lowered, and in its place, the Green-White-Green Nigerian Flag was hoisted; to mark the end of colonialism and imperialism in Nigeria, unarguably, the most populous country in Black Africa. This event marked the end of an era and the beginning of a new epoch.
Indeed, a-not-too pleasant chapter in the country’s history had been closed while a fresh one, full of hope, optimism and high expectations had opened, on October 1, 1960.
And Nigerians, both at home and in the Diaspora were ecstatic. The joy of independence cascaded through the sky and swept through the firmament like the rising morning sun.
The people were really excited. They, therefore, clinked glasses. They backslapped one another. And a new song burst out through their lips. It was truly melodious. The reasons were quite obvious. It was freedom at last; ostensibly because the time for the people to run their own affairs and take their collective destiny in their own hands had dawned. Independence was sweet.
That was probably because, as it were, “Though tribes and tongues may differ, in brotherhood, we stand”. That was 57 years ago; when that familiar refrain rang a note; and permeated into the consciousness of Nigerians.
But then, even as Nigerians again celebrate the independence of the country today, how has the country fared in terms of achieving peace, brotherhood, unity and national cohesion? Not many would agree that we have actually fared well in this respect. There are still pockets of agitations here and there, sweeping across the political landscape. The people are still singing in discordant tunes.
This is, perhaps, because true bridge builders, Nigerians with nationalistic fervour, across all divides and persuasions of our national life, particularly among the political class, are in short supply.
Yes, if, indeed, there are such Nigerians in the country today, obviously, they are very minute. Because, they are seemingly endowed with special qualities and attributes, which make them stand out among the motley crowd.
And these special Nigerians, so to speak, attract other citizens irrespective of cultural backgrounds, creed, political affiliation and tribe to themselves, like nectar attracts insects and birds.
Distance is, therefore, never a barrier. Language is insignificant. Political leaning constitutes no hindrances. Their political tentacles and goodwill are spread across the horizon, for the benefit of all.
Little wonder, then, several Nigerians flock around them and fall over heals in obeisance, not necessarily as a mark of servitude and cowardice, but as a symbol of love, affection and admiration; and even appreciation of their good deeds.
And since the country does not have a suffice of this special breed of Nigerians, it is not, therefore, for nothing that some persons still see Nigeria as a mere geographical expression, where the unity of the country is still put to question, due mainly because majority of the citizens are still held captive by socio-cultural, political differences and other primordial sentiments. Even as we celebrate today, the general consensus is that Nigeria is not yet a nation.
Thus, to knit the people together in the spirit of oneness and brotherhood; and to forge common alliances, to promote peace, unity and national cohesion; particularly, for the purpose of achieving the true goal of nationhood, in keeping with the dreams and aspirations of the founding fathers of the country have become very difficult, if not a near impossible task. This is even 57 years after breaking forth from the colonial shackles.
However, this is where the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike comes handy in the current political dispensation. Beneath his boisterous swagger, underlies uncommon and disarming simplicity, which lends him easily to Nigerians of all shades, irrespective of geographical boundaries, religious differences and party affiliation. Governor Wike has proved that he is a special political breed by his words and actions.
Some may even attribute his sterling political qualities in successfully navigating the country’s murky political waters over the years to his vast political experience and intimidating political profile and exposure. Yet, it is beyond these.
Wike first came to the political limelight in 1999 when he was elected the Executive Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State and was subsequently elected the Deputy National President of the All Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON). And on his second term, between 2003 and 2006, he became the National President of the body, by which platform he interacted with the 774 Local Government Chairmen in the country on issues that affect the politics and policies of Nigeria. Besides, he distinguished himself as the best performing local government chairman in Rivers State by embarking on iconic projects.
It would be recalled that Wike served as Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt between October 26, 2007 and May 28, 2011 and was on July 11, 2011 appointed and sworn-in as the Minister of State for Education, before becoming the Supervising Minister of Education following a cabinet shake up on September 12, 2013 during the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan administration.
His appointment as Minister took him deeper into the mainstream of Nigerian politics and further exposed him to the intricate web  of national politics.
Interestingly, Wike’s election as the Executive Governor of Rivers State in April 2015, has been phenomenal. As soon as he was sworn-in as the sixth democratically elected Governor of the State on May 29, 2015, he hit the ground running and has never looked back since then, even though he met a chaotic situation on ground.
On assumption of office, Wike’s case was seemingly pathetic, in that he was elected on the plafform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was firmly at the driver’s seat in Abuja. This was coupled with the fact that he inherited an empty treasury. For others, that was enough to constitute a stumbling block. But not for him. Indeed, he has shown that he was not condemned to be a local champion, by simply restricting and confining himself to the affairs of Rivers State and the people.
Even though no extra financial largesse and goodwill were coming from the Federal Government to bolster his tall infrastructural development ambition for the state, Chief Wike chose to pursue people-oriented programmes and policies that have ultimately made Rivers State a destination of choice today, in keeping with the NEW Rivers Vision of his administration in less than three years in office. NEW is simply an acronym for Nyesom Ezenwo Wike. Everyday, several Nigerians and foreigners visit the State because of the Wike phenomenon.
The projects executed by the Wike administration dot the skyline in the state, including those that are ongoing. Besides, the administration’s logistic support to security agencies, particularly the police, the judiciary and other governmental agencies has assisted in no small measure in promoting peace and security in the state. The Amnesty Programme of his administration has helped in reducing criminality in the state to the barest minimum.
To put paid to insinuations that Rivers State is not safe, the Wike administration has hosted several national and international retreats and conferences, and by so doing, is able to build bridges of friendship across different frontiers both in the country and beyond. Organisations like the Nigeria Bar Association, the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), Rotary International, the African Bar Association (AFBA), among others have held their annual conferences in Rivers State.
Due mainly to Governor Wike’s friendly disposition and broad-mindness, devoid of politics of bitterness, several politicians have visited him at Government House in Port Harcourt including those in opposition political parties. Twice, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had come calling for the purposes of inspecting and commissioning projects executed by the Wike administration. Prof. Osinbajo is of the ruling APC.
It was on one of such visits to the State that the Vice President nicknamed Governor Wike ‘Mr. Projects’ at Government House, Port Harcourt, after inspecting several monumental projects executed by the present administration.
Other APC big wigs like the Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, among others, had acknowledged Wike’s broad-mindness and development prowess when they visited the state.
Ngige described political parties as vehicles to specific destinations where leaders are empowered to enthrone development, stressing that the existence of political parties should not affect the delivery of development projects.
Wike recently played host to some top shots of the PDP including former President Goodluck Jonathan, Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, Senate Minority Leader and former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio, former Abia State Governor, Senator Theodore Orji, among others.
Former President Jonathan who visited the State in March, this year said Wike’s outstanding performance has become the common story across the country, saying, he has been hearing about the works of the governor for sometime.
The encomiums poured on Governor Wike and his administration are unarguably made possible by his endearing persona, which transcends parochial proclivity, that  has in no small measure become a strong factor for forging peace and national cohesion in the country.
It would be recalled that on June 27, 2017, Governor Wike paid a Sallah visit to the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III in far away Sokoto State, to felicitate with him and other Muslims on the Eid-el-Fitr celebration. The reception accorded him during the visit was not only unprecedented but also instructive.
While harping on national unity, Governor Wike used the opportunity to restate that Rivers State believes in the oneness and unity of the country, stressing that irrespective of religious differences, all Nigerians must ensure that they work for the unity of the country.
In response, the Sultan had this to say, “we shall continue to work for the unity of this country. This shows that we are one family in Nigeria. We serve our Creator by serving humanity. I was very pleased to see what is going on in Rivers State in terms of construction and projects”.
On September 18, 2017, a delegation of the Northern Governors Forum led by its Chairman and Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima visited Chief Wike in Government House, Port Harcourt to thank him for the urgent steps he took in nipping in the bud the crisis that erupted between members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and some Nigerians from the North in Oyigbo Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The Governors who were visibly elated, commended Governor Wike for his strong commitment towards national unity.
The delegation which had Katsina State Governor, Rt. Hon. Aminu Bello Masari, Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Kebbi State Governor, Senator Atiku Bagudu and Plateau State Governor, Mr Simon Lalong said, “Governor Wike, we are mightily proud of you.  We are mightily associating ourselves with you. Nigeria is greater than political differences. We belong to one political family and that is the Federal Republic of Nigeria. You believe in the Nigerian Project. For that, we remain eternally grateful”.
While calling for the enthronement of peace building measures despite the challenges facing the country, the Governors stated that no interest should be greater than the country.
Of a truth, since coming to power in May, 2015, Governor Wike’s body language and actions have portrayed him as a true nationalist, who does not discriminate against Nigerians by reasons of their ethnic nationalities, religious differences and political inclinations. Thus, carving for himself the image of a true national figure, bridge builder and promoter of peace across States and the country.
For example, his state-wide broadcast on September 15, 2017, in the wake of the IPOB saga in Oyigbo actually went a long way to douse tension and restore peace in what would have possibly degenerated to ethnic conflagration.
“As a people, we shall continue to support the unity and peaceful co-existence of all ethnic nationalities and work towards actualising our collective aspirations for a just, inclusive and progressive nation. The state government shall not tolerate any attack by any group on other Nigerians living in Oyigbo or any part of the State”, he said.
Respect For The Office Of  The President
Inspite of belonging to the opposition PDP, Governor Wike has tremendous respect for the Office of  President Muhammadu Buhari. He hardly maligns the President or reduces his office to nothingness, as others in his shoes are wont to do.
The Governor vividly demonstrated this when in late August this year, he joined other personalities to receive President Buhari at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, on his return from medical vacation in the United Kingdom beyond the wildest imagination of political observers in the country.
Giving an insight into his action, Wike said he was at the airport to receive President Buhari because the President was for all Nigerians, irrespective of political parties, stressing, however, that he continues to disagree with the policies of the Federal Government, especially the faulty fight against corruption.
While reacting to this sheer gesture of the Governor, the Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Dr. (Mrs) Ipalibo Harry Banigo described Wike as a man with the heart of gold.
She said, “contrary to erroneous belief in some quarters that the chief executive holds animosity against the President, the governor has no personal problems with him. It is Governor Wike’s fierce defence of the interest of Rivers people that is often misconstrued by those who do not mean well for the state as fighting with the President.”
The Deputy Governor emphasised that those who are close to Governor Wike know how compassionate he is, especially when it comes to the issue of health.
Beyond this, many who know the Governor believe that the gesture was a demonstration of his zeal in promoting national unity and cohesion instead of encouraging unnecessary animosity in the polity.
Adherence To Rule Of Law
Governor Wike has, beyond all these, demonstrated that he is a stickler to the rule of law, as he does not believe in settling political scores outside the purview of the judiciary. He has shown in words and actions that he is an unrepentant advocate of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
While declaring open the African Bar Association (AFBA) conference in Port Harcourt recently, the governor said his administration places high premium on the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
Besides, his administration sees the judiciary as a veritable avenue for ventilating grievances and amicable conflict resolution mechanism. For this reason, the Wike administration has tremendously empowered the judiciary. It recently bought cars for Magistrates and Judges in the State. The Judges’ Quarters project is under construction in Port Harcourt. The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen was personally in the state to lay the foundation stone for the project.
Also, Governor Wike has constructed a befitting secretariat for the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) in the State. Even in the face of setbacks, he has always urged the people to have confidence in the judiciary.
When Governor Wike assumed office, law and order had broken down in Rivers State and the wheels of justice completely grounded as all the courts were under lock and key by the previous administration which had been interfering with the independence of the judicial arm of the government. For well over a year, the entire state court system was shut down. The administration of justice was brutally violated and thousands of people were left in a quandary, as suspects were denied bail and human rights abused.
But as a matter of urgency, which has become Governor Wike’s trademark, he ordered the immediate reopening of all the courts, re-establishing the rule of justice of the state; and invariably the rule of law.
The extreme rot he met was not only in the system but also the structure that housed the system. The Federal High Court bequeathed to the Governor Wike administration was in a gross state of disrepair and deemed unbefitting of a key strategic state like Rivers State. He, therefore, commissioned the construction of a new ultra-modern High Court complex that would accommodate six court rooms, as against the three former court had.
It is a three-floor edifice with each floor accommodating two fully air-conditioned courts. Each of the new courts has the capacity to sit twice the number of what the former court rooms could. Attached to each of the courts are offices for the judges and the secretaries.
Also attached are evidence rooms and cells for both sexes. The new ultra-modern court building boasts of an elevator, water treatment facility, a brand new power generator and a new 300 KVA transformer replacing the old 100 KVA transformer that was met on ground.
Besides, the Wike administration is currently re-modelling and reconstructing the Federal Court of Appeal along Moscow Road in Port Harcourt and constructing the National Industrial Court complex in Port Harcourt. All these, to a great extent have shown and demonstrated the governor’s passion for the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.
Commitment To Democractic   Ethos And Responsible Opposition
At the outset of his administration, his mandate was a subject of litigation and the governor patiently waited as the case passed through the Election Petition Tribunal, the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court, which revalidated his election as Governor on January 27, 2016.
Also, as one of the arrowheads of the PDP National Caretaker Committee led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Wike had supported the legal battle between Makarfi and erstwhile National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Modu Sheriff until victory was subsequently achieved at the Supreme Court. Indeed, he has been a rallying point for the opposition PDP and a strong voice at the state and national levels. Little wonder, then, PDP governors in the country, particularly in the South-South and South-East see him as a formidable force.
There is no gainsaying that Governor Wike has through his good works promoted inter-state and inter-cultural ties and cooperation across the country.
Just recently,  members of the South-South and South-East Governors’ Forum stormed Port Harcourt where far-reaching decisions were reached on issues affecting the two geo-political zones.
Indeed, Governor Wike’s commitment to democratic ethos is never in doubt.