He is, certainly, not a war general. Yet, he has fought and won many wars. He commands a large battalion of troops, but he owns no gun, let alone knows how to fire a shot. With an uncommon huge war chest and a seemingly impregnable political fortress, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is, no doubt, a political generalissimo dreaded in the war front, but loved and admired on the home front. He walks and works where many others dread. He is like a proverbial cat with nine lives, standing firm and resolute in the face of onslaught.
The way and manner Wike navigated his way through to the Brick House in 2015 and the outcome of the just concluded elective convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abuja, where his favourite candidate, Prince Uche Secondus, dusted a truck of political juggernauts to emerge the National Chairman of the main opposition party in the country, bear eloquent testimony to Wike’s status as a political general of immeasurable hue.
Wike is not a known gadfly who courts unnecessary controversy, yet, he doesn’t run from fights, neither does he give in to compromised diplomacy. He is, in fact, averse to undignified silence. He keeps quiet when necessary and thunders when the need arises.
With an almost intimidating posture, a unique croaked voice and nimble pantomime that often send jitters down the spine of his critics and political adversaries, Wike is imbued with a measured personality of an activist. In politics, he is a personage you ignore at your own peril.
A grassroots politician, lawyer and outstanding administrator, Barrister Wike was born on December 13, 1967 to the family of Reverend and Mrs Nlemanya Wike of Rumuepirikom Community in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State. He holds degrees in Political and Administrative Studies as well as Law from the University of Port Harcourt and Rivers State University of Science and Technology, now Rivers State University, respectively.
After a brief legal practice in Port Harcourt, he ventured into the murky water of politics where he makes his mark as a consummate politician. Twice, he was elected as the Executive Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area; first from 1999 to 2002 and later from 2004 to 2007.
As council chairman, Wike redefined local council administration with iconic projects that stood him out among his peers. The pioneering role he played in the area of national security and primary health care earned him the best performing council chairman in Rivers State. He also served as deputy Chairman of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) and was later elected the President of the Association.
Wike was a known political ally of the former Governor of Rivers State and now Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, until 2013 when the duo parted ways. . He was Amaechi’s political foot soldier and last man standing prior to Amaechi’s inauguration as a governor in 2007. He was also the Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt during Amaechi’s first term in office and indeed, the Director-General of Amaechi’s re-election campaign organisation.
Wike became the Minister of State for Education on July 11, 2011 and subsequently emerged the nation’s Supervising Minister of Education following a cabinet shake-up on September 12, 2013. Within the short period he presided over the nation’s education, Wike instituted fundamental programmes that sold him out as a man with great passion for the downtrodden.
The creation of access to quality education for about nine million Almajiri children in Northern Nigeria, construction of basic education and vocational training schools in the South and special girl-education schools for less privileged children in 16 states of the federation are some of Wike’s enduring legacies as a minister.
In 2014, the Rumuepirikom-born politician did the unusual and the unexpected. He left what many considered as certainty for uncertainty. He jolted the nation with the news of his resignation as a minister, obviously to enable him jostle for the governorship of his State. Against all odds, and after a awesome gubernatorial election, punctuated by months of unprecedented political intrigues, horse-trading, unfavouable political permutations and bitter campaigns, Wike emerged as the fifth democratically elected governor of the State, thus succeeding another Ikwerre man in the Brick House. The combination of Amaechi’s incumbency factor and upland/riverine politics which many thought would be Wike’s albatross was, however, insufficient to stop the people’s political general.
And since he assumed office on May 29, 2015, Governor Wike has redefined governance in Rivers State. Besides being a good manager of men and materials, he has turned the State into a huge construction site, with all sectors of the economy receiving excellent touch.
In less than three years, the approval rating of Governor Wike has soared up. Thanks to his developmental strides in the area of physical infrastructure which earned him the appellation of ‘Mr. Projects’ from no less a personality than the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. Many institutions and bodies have also recognised the giant strides recorded by Governor Wike in the last two and half years.
At the last count, Wike has received not less than eight outstanding awards for his developmental strides in the State. These include The Sun Newspapers Governor of the Year Award, for two consecutive years, 2016 and 2017; New Telegraph 2017 Man of the Year Award; Authority Newspaper Governor of the Year Award; Daily Independent Newspaper Man of the Year Award, and the recent United Nations Global Human Settlement Contribution Award conferred on the governor in the far away United States of America.
For instance, while conferring The Sun Newspaper 2016 Governor of the Year Award on Wike, last year, the newspapers’ Managing Director, Mr. Eric Osagie, said, The Sun Governor of the Year Award “is bestowed annually on state governors whose quality leadership, achievements and priceless contributions to national development have generated dividends of democracy as well as inspired hope for a better Nigeria.”
Osagie recounted that, “at the last count, more than 80 roads, aside bridges and jetties have been rehabilitated, reconstructed and constructed. Work is on-going on the construction of about 35 new roads spread across the three senatorial districts of the State.”
The Sun boss summed it up that “it is for these uncommon but silent efforts of your government to improve the quality of living among your people that The Sun has deemed it appropriate to celebrate your Excellency.”
This was last year. And the approval rating is still soaring by the day.
The Rivers State Chairman of PDP, Bro Felix Obuah sometimes in May, this year, said that apart from the pioneer administration of Diette-Spiff, no regime has bequeathed as much legacy projects to the State as Wike’s government.
While Wike’s critics may be allergic to this assertion, what is incontestable is the fact that whenever the history of Rivers State is written, the name of Nyesom Ezenwo Wike will surely occupy a good space.
Today, the Rumuepirikom-born frontline politician who has dominated political discourse in Rivers State nay Nigeria in the last three years is 50 years old today!
While Wike continues to savour the birthday euphoria and felicitations from millions of Nigerians including politicians and captains of industry, nothing perhaps is more rewarding and exciting to a consummate politician, astute leader and governor of an oil-rich State on his golden jubilee birthday anniversary than the recent victory of his man Friday at last Saturday’s PDP elective convention in Abuja.
The victory was, indeed, the icing on Governor Wike’s 50 years birthday cake. Happy Birthday, Mr. Projects.
By: Boye Salau.