Although he enjoyed
the massive support of Rivers women during the 2015 electioneering process, yet it was not quite obvious what the State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike’s intention for the women would be, given the attitude of previous political leaders towards the women even after using them to achieve their political ambitions.
However, Governor Wike’s choice of a female running mate in the first instance, signalled a ray of hope to women in Rivers State. This was further authenticated by his resolve, on assumption of office, to swear in two female judicial officers, Justice Daisy Okocha and Justice Christiana Nwankwo as the Acting Chief Judge of the State and Acting President of the Customary Court of Appeal, respectively
Nevertheless, his words, “Our blue print recognizes the roles of women and we will concretise that role and ensure that our women continue to grow and grow to prosperity”, still did not mean much to Rivers women. They were no different from the usual words of past leaders and politicians.
Surprisingly, the difference between Governor Wike’s statement to women and those of past leaders of the state, suddenly became glaring as his vision for the women took less than a year to unfold.
Fortunately, women development featured prominently in his priorities. His NEW Vision made obvious provision for empowering Rivers indigenous women as well as women resident in the state through concrete initiative to build strong families and play key roles in developing the state.
No doubt, His Excellency’s resolve to include women in his government is not only an acknowledgement of the feminist strength in governance, it is also a strong faith in the perceived women’s potential to deliver developmental dividends to the society.
Governor Wike is described at different spheres as a women-friendly governor. His commitment to the welfare and empowerment of women was captured in the 2018 budget for which he said “women empowerment is very key to the development of the state, that is why we are investing resources to uplift women”.
To match his words with visible actions, just within the year 2018, Governor Wike provided a business development scheme worth N500million for Rivers women. The fund, which is said to be domiciled at the state’s microfinance bank (RIMA), is managed by the Ministry of Women Affairs. The empowerment scheme, the governor stressed, was strictly to assist the women to develop small-scale businesses.
The Wike administration has continued to empower and work with market women in the state. On Friday, November 18, the Office of the Deputy Governor organised a market outreach programme for the Rivers East senatorial district at the Rumuwoji playground.
The Deputy Governor, Dr Ipalibo Harry Banigo has said that in this phase, traders drawn from markets in the Rivers East Senatorial District would be supported to boost their businesses while traders from the Rivers South East and Rivers West would have their turns soon. Free medical screening and presentation of gifts to over 300 women were highlights of the occasion.
In sustenance of its objective of empowering women in business, Access Bank Plc through its ‘W’ Academy in partnership with the office of the Rivers State Governor’s wife also organised a capacity building workshop for female business owners in the state within the period under review.
The ‘Womenpreneur Business Workshop’ was the second edition of Access Bank’s empowerment program in line with the other unique offerings and initiatives that are deployed to the Bank’s female customers under the ‘W’ initiative.
The objective of the ‘Womenpreneur Business Workshop’ was to provide a discounted and practical capacity building program that will equip female business owners to thrive, especially with the current economic realities in Nigeria. Interestingly, the Governor’s wife, Justice Eberechi Suzzette Nyesom-Wike, sponsored 238 women under the RivEthics Project.
Politically, the gender friendly disposition of the Governor Wike, was further highlighted in the local government elections held in June. He deliberately opened up the political space for women to participate actively and contribute their quota in the development of the state. Thus, in the last local government polls, 23 women emerged as vice chairmen which is unprecedented in our political history.
Wike has actually demonstrated that his administration holds women in high esteem, hence the need to use them as key players in governance. He sees the repositioning of Rivers women in three dimensions; economic, educational and political. One of the strategies he has mapped out for their eventual turnaround includes the construction of a state-of-the-art women development centre. The complex, he explained, is a way to encourage women capacity development and stamp their mark as major contributors to the governance of the state.
Meanwhile, at the dawn of the year 2018, Rivers women had trooped to the Government House in Port Harcourt to declare their support for the governor to continue for a second term in office. In their solidarity message, they declared to follow their endorsement with massive rural and urban mobilisation of all groups to vote overwhelmingly for Governor Wike in 2019.
The women, in their thousands, drawn from the 23 local government areas, marched from Mile One to Government House, celebrating Governor Wike and creating awareness on his achievements.
High point of the occasion was the presentation of gifts by the women to the Rivers State Governor.