BOOK TITLE – RIVERS STATE: GOVERNANCE, ECONOMY AND THE PEOPLE
AUTHOR – CELESTINE OGOLO
DATE OF PUBLICATION – 2022
PUBLISHERS – BIZ PAGES PUBLISHING & PRINTING COMPANY LIMITED
PLACE OF PUBLICATION – PORT HARCOURT
VOLUME – PP. 654
REVIEWER – PROF. GODWIN B. OKON
The title of the book –Rivers State: Governance, Economy and the People – seems to have been borne out of an undying passion and love for Rivers State not just because it is the author’s state of nativity but most certainly by reason of its undeniable socio-economic, socio-political, and socio-cultural relevance to Nigeria and by extension the globe in its entirety.
With its foreword by a legal icon and a man of inestimable social stature – O.C.J. Okocha (SAN) – the book attracts a badge of honour not just by mere optics but by reason of content going by the fact that O.C.J. Okocha, as a man given to excellence, would not put his name on print except it is wrapped in editorial splendour. The author on his part should be commended for his boldness in choosing a crème of the legal profession for this vestige. This boldness can only be inspired by an intrinsic confidence in the editorial content and ideological substance of the book.
The book is spread across ten chapters with each chapter exhaustively treating a distinct yet not disparate component of the entire ideological construct. When pieced together, it makes a comprehensive whole but when disaggregated it assumes the form of an unfolding scenario which leaves the avid reader with a longing to flip the pages so as to satisfy a knowledge-bound quest.
Chapter one takes a look at the socio-cultural dynamics of Rivers State. The author in this chapter demonstrates a complete grasp of the ethno-genesis, socio-linguistic links and cultural variegations of the state and its people.
The chapter begins with a conceptual overview of environment as a primal nomenclature. To demonstrate depth in knowledge, using an inferential approach, the author draws from an expansive review of cognate literature. Worthy of commendation is the fact that the resources as cited herein are not dated but current. The author’s hindsight to draw from contemporary literature also stems from the fact that he is well schooled, tutored, and grounded in philosophical adumbrations and prognostications. In-depth analysis of the geological formations and topography of the state was highlighted in this chapter. The summation as given by the author is that “… the soils of the state are organic in nature and sandy in texture” (p.22). The author further opines that:
The value of the mean thickness appreciates upward to about 45m in the northeast and over 9m in the beach ridge barrier zones to the southwest (p.23).
A geopolitical peep of the state was also given by the author. He notes that fifteen of the twenty-three local government areas of the state are upland with varying heights of 13m to 45m above sea level. According to him, the upland areas produce vastly the food consumed in the state and beyond while the riverine areas produce fishes as well as other sea foods that serve as sources of protein for the people.
The presupposition interestingly is that the state is self sufficient in terms of agricultural produce. To say that chapter one is loaded with facts and figures is indeed an understatement. The author in this regard draws the admiration of his readers by a demonstration of the fact that his knowledge base is not journalism specific but enviably vast drawing from his peroration that the “… the inter-tropical discontinuity at various locations within the year controls the temporal patterns of rainfall in Rivers State” (p.25).
Forays into the people of the state, their religion and culture were also highlighted in the chapter. Worthy of note is the fact that the author focused more on the things that bind the people rather than the things that divide them. In this regard, the author detached himself from the prism, being an indigene himself, and confined himself within the purview of objectivism which truly is the hallmark of scholarship.
Chapter two is titled- Rivers State: The story of Creation. This chapter looks at the socio-political history of the state. The discourse contextualizes the people of the state as cosmopolitan going by early contacts with the Europeans. A vivid account was given on p.47 where the author notes that:
In Kalabari, the era produced King Amakiri (Amachree I), who through the combination of rare display of political-cum-diplomatic maturity, military prowess, and commercial acumen established the Kalabari kingdom on a firmer foundation that enabled the city – state to withstand British imperialists in the second half of the 19th century (p.47).
Drawing from rich historical antecedents, the author traces the contemporary history of Rivers State to the coming of Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon. As noted by him:
Prominent Rivers people, including Chief Dappa-Briye, Chief Edward Kobani, Mr. Robert P.G. Okara, Kenite Giadom, Finimale Nwika, Mr. Wobidike, Mr. Graham Otoko, and others had signed a memorandum for the creation of Rivers State. The memorandum had support from many persons across the communities (p.62).
Consequent upon this, the author further notes that;
Gowon heeded the advice of the two men and in a nationwide broadcast on May 27, 1967, the Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, announced the creation of Rivers State, as part of a 12-state structure for Nigeria. This was also validated through the promulgation of Decree No. 14 titled: States (Creation and Transitional Provisions) Decree of 1967 (p. 63).
The historical account of the book accords a pride of place to Lieutenant Commander Alfred Papapreye Diette-Spiff by denoting him the first Military Governor of the state. In evoking imagery, which is a rare literary skill, the author describes Lieutenant Commander Spiff as a twenty-four year old naval officer from Nembe, in present day Bayelsa State.
By a stroke of historical accuracy, the author bridges the gap between the past and the present through an ideological symmetry by noting the fact that “as more states are created to solve the perceived marginalization of minorities, other minorities are created in the process, leading to agitations in the future” (p.79). This postulation is a philosophical masterstroke by the author and speaks volumes of his rich repertoire in scholarship.
Governance is the title of chapter three. In this chapter, the author adopts a heuristic pattern by tracing the etymology of the word – government. As shown in his discourse, the word is traced to the Latin verb – Gubern- as derived originally from the Greek – Kubernaein- which means to steer. Again, the author demonstrates literary proficiency by casting these non English words in italics. This is in line with best practices and deserves humongous commendations.
The author avers that the world over governance is the main framework for assessing the effective utilization of human and material resources for the development of a state or organization. From the conceptual overview, the author took an in-depth look at the various administrations of the state and notes that the state has had about sixteen (16) administrations that left imprints of development in the sands of time. Optimism is interestingly expressed here by reason of the reference that “… more growth and development are expected in the coming years” (p.83).
A systematic account of the various administrations with a graphic composition of their Executive Councils was given by the author. This also demonstrates resilience, perseverance, and resourcefulness on his part going by the perennial dearth in secondary data as occasioned by the unwholesome absence of databases and resources.
As an offshoot, the searchlight was also beamed on the judiciary as a statutory arm of government. A period of judicial inactivity was delineated by the author which he aptly typified as “the period of judicial hiatus.” By chronology, the author situates this period as stretching from June 2014 to May 29, 2015. In a graphic presentation embellished in rich vocabulary, the author opines that “… the judiciary, as it were, became the chessboard on which political mavericks displayed their sophistry” (p.161). The intrinsic role of traditional rulers in governance was not left out in this masterpiece. These accounts are rich, inspiring, and thought provoking.
Chapter four is titled – Issues in Rivers State Development: Resource Control, Militancy and Cultism. In this chapter, the author chronicles the interplay that marked the clamour for true federalism and how the crusade was marked by politicization and criminalization with widespread communal conflicts.
The chapter adopts a systematic approach as broken down into cognate ideological components. The first subordinate stream in the light of the ongoing discourse is resource control. In the unfolding narrative, the author took more than just a cursory glance at issues of environmental degradation. In his words:
Oil extraction and production has cost the people of Rivers State and the Niger Delta extensive ecological damage… what is worse is that environmental guidelines to safeguard the people are either non-existent or observed in the breach (p.181).
Following the first subordinate stream is the presidential amnesty programme. The author sees it as a necessitation by the growing militancy and insurgency in the Niger Delta Region. He describes the programme as a “systematic way of reintegrating the former militant and non-militant groups into the economy as an urgent priority to increase employment…” (p. 198). The author further argues that the “payment of the monthly N65, 000.00 has had the unintended consequence of making some beneficiaries larger than their communities” (p. 201).
For cultism as a sub-stream in chapter four, the author shied away from being chronologically specific as to its origins in the state but traced its beginnings to the universities as marked by the founding of the pirates confraternity. He however attributed the snowball feature of cultism in the state to pre-democratic chieftaincy tussles in the state. In his narrative, the author commended the administration of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi for setting up the social rehabilitation institute in Okehi as a way of positively engaging the youths.
As a writer of great repute, the author attempted a synthesis of the carrot and stick principle as panacea to cultism in the state. In his analysis, he espouses that “irked by the act, Governor Nyesom Wike took tougher measures to curb cultism and other criminal acts in the state” (p. 217).
In concluding the chapter, the author raised a poser as to the presence of oil being a blessing or a curse. Not minding the ideological cacophony, the author allowed his readers to draw the inference.
The political economy of the state was reviewed in chapter five. As unveiled in the chapter, agriculture had been the mainstay of the state prior to the discovery of oil. The author recalls with fond memories the prioritization of agriculture and the establishment of PABOD Food Company Limited.
In this chapter, focus was also on rural-urban migration as orchestrated by the presence of multinationals in the capital city – Port Harcourt. The account details that by 1988, the state had over 150 industrial concerns by private and public orientations.
The author notes the importance of industrialization by drawing attention to the fact that:
… If you do not create opportunities for industries to thrive where mass production will result in mass employment… the local economies cannot grow (p.281).
This narrative draws attention to a twist of fortune in the tide of events by noting that the communities are truly unproductive. In all succinctness, this twist has been described by the author as “migrant remittance dependent economy” (p.283). Worthy of note in this chapter is the fact that the author cited some of his earlier works to buttress his discourse. This besides being commendable speaks volumes of his grasp in epistemology and pedagogy.
Another point worth noting in this chapter is the expansive review of other sectors of the economy with the oil and gas sector as the central pulse. With reflective disposition, the author raises a poser on the future of Rivers State without crude oil. This interestingly calls for brainstorming that would most certainly reposition the state in the eye of global investors as wrapped around propensities for Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). As a corollary, ideals of the Bonny-Dubai vision were played up in this chapter with medical tourism as a beacon.
Women have never been left out in the general scheme of things. It does not therefore come as a surprise that chapter six was dedicated to “Women and State Building in Rivers State. In highlighting the undeniable potentials of women, the author notes that:
Women hold the key to progress and development in any nation. How they are treated and the opportunities that are open to them can make them tools for positive change. They are a significant and indispensable portion of the population (p.333).
Factors that inhibit the optimization of women potentials were highlighted in this chapter. Historical accounts of Opobo Women Riot of 1929 were given illumination as well with a cascading on modern Rivers State women. With an approach akin to that of Yellow Pages, the author makes a list of women who have etched their names on marble in their respective fields of endeavour.
In his outline, the author notes that:
Nyesom Wike’s choice of a female, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, as his deputy and the swearing in few days after he became governor of the Acting Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice Daisy Okocha, and the President Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Christiana Nwankwo, both females, marked a new dawn in Rivers State (p.345).
The author’s analytical skills were also brought to bear in this discourse. In this chapter, the author gave a breakdown of Rivers State women’s involvement in governance. This interestingly accorded empiricism to the unfolding discourse.
Rivers State’s contributions to National Development formed the fulcrum of chapter seven. The author in this chapter gave a detailed overview of national development without limiting it to the conspectus of economic development. The argument interestingly is that national development is an all round development that finds expression in every facet of human endeavour.
The fact is clearly stated in this chapter that the state has continuously impacted the nation with its abundant human and material resources in all spheres of national endeavour. Without the fear of contradiction, the author unequivocally states here that “Nigeria’s progress among other nations has strong roots in the contributions of the people of Rivers State” (p.372). From Arts and entertainment to NAFEST enveloping the movie industry and notable personalities in the demonstrative industry, the author leaves no one in doubt as to the veracity of his postulation.
Focus also was on the Real Madrid Academy which the author foresees will change the age long perception and narrative about Rivers State of Nigeria since the Academy is sure to produce the future stars of the country.
The chapter delineates and streamlines the contribution of the state to national development along the lines of oil and gas, manpower, energy, and lots more. This approach of logical conclusion, in philosophy, is known as deductive reasoning.
Chapter eight is titled – Education: Growth and Development. In this chapter, primary and secondary education assumed the first level of focus. The author in his scholarly mien animated a paradox which cannot be wished away when objectivism is accorded its place of honour in the descriptive analysis of this most important sector. According to the author, citing Cookey (2016), “…while western education came to the area now called Rivers State before it reached most other parts of the country, the state seemed to be lagging behind in education by the 1960s” (p. 453).
The reason for this aberration was attributed to the policy of the British colonial administration which left the establishment of primary and secondary schools in the hands of non-state actors. The author was also quick to narrowcast on the way out of the woods which according to him was made manifest through the First Development plan of 1970 – 1974. The plan, the author notes, was subsumed in the notion of inalienability which saw education as a right which the Rivers State government guarantees all its citizens.
With a knack for statistics, the author recounts that:
As at 1990, there were a total of 17 pre-primary (private) schools; 1166 primary schools, 295 secondary schools, 5 technical colleges, 2 teacher training colleges, 1 polytechnic, 2 colleges of education, and 2 universities. By 2013 the number of primary schools rose by 894 (p.456).
A progressive trend was observed by the author as he notes that the administration of Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi between 2007 and 2015 committed a lot of resources to ensuring that education received a great boost in the state. Fortunately, that progressive trend was not broken even as the administration of Chief Nyesom Wike renovated over 11,000 classrooms across the state besides the renovations and furnishings of all state owned basic, secondary and vocational secondary schools in the state.
A welcome development as espoused by the author is the massive training of teachers and school administrators under the State Universal Basic Education Board. The scheme the author notes has “contributed immensely to the performances of the institutions; administratively and academically” (p.457).
As touching on tertiary education in the state, the author situates its essence within the framework of ensuring manpower development for adequate resource needs of the state in particular and the world in general.
The Rivers State University was given a primal concern in the unfolding analysis. From the status of a College of Science and Technology to that of a university, the administration of Melford Okilo upgraded the college to a University of Science and Technology thereby making it the first university of science and technology in the Niger Delta region and by extension Nigeria.
By 2017 the school experienced a rebirth from a university of science and technology to a conventional university. In his remarks, the visitor of the university explains that:
Today, Saturday, April 1, 2017 will be the last day that this institution would be known as the Rivers State University of Science and Technology… the university will henceforth be known as the Rivers State University (p. 459).
The author was also quick to note that since the renaming of the institution the Rivers State government has sustained the dedicated funding of the university which has led to widespread improvement in infrastructure and manpower. Besides the listings of the faculties and institutes, a profile of the pro-chancellor and vice-chancellor was given adequate illumination.
Focus was also given to the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital. As further illuminated in this chapter, the Rivers State government in 2021 approved over N5 billion for the revamping of the two hospitals affiliated to the university with a view to boosting learning, training, and research.
The second focus was on Ignatius Ajuru University of Education which was upgraded from the status of a College of Education affiliated to University of Ibadan. The author notes that the main ethos of the university is the search for teaching, research and community service. The success story as recorded by the university bordered on the successful accreditation of 21 programmes in 2022.
The University of Port Harcourt, Captain Elechi Amadi Polytechnic, Ken Saro Wiwa Polytechnic and the Rivers State College of Health Science and Management, Federal College of Education (Technical) Omoku, and Federal Polytechnic of Oil and Gas Bonny were all given a kaleidoscopic attention.
The title of chapter nine – Local Government Administration in Rivers State- draws its justification from the fact that this is a very important tier of governance being that it is the closest to the grassroots while addressing their sensibilities.
In this chapter, the author takes a look at the historical background of this tier of governance as backed up by extant secondary data. The author’s depth in scholarship is beyond bounds being that he accorded animation to the legal framework with specific reference to the provisions of Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution.
Discourses on how this tier of governance has fared in Rivers State were also situated in the nexus with a review of a 2007 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) as a primal focus. According to the author, the report states inter alia that:
The performances of local government councils in Rivers State were shocking and disastrous… a view which is widely shared among residents of Rivers State academic, civil society groups and even government officials (p.501).
More damaging is the fact that the report notes that local government Chairmen in Rivers State “have no goals, no objectives; with 99% seeing the local government office as an opportunity to get paid for doing nothing” (p.501).
The author interestingly triggered off a sigh of relief when the enthused that:
… A lot has changed in the governance of local government councils in Rivers State. With the coming on board of suitable manpower rather than unqualified and unskilled individuals in the helm of affairs, a lot more is being achieved in the local councils (p.502).
He attributes this fortunate twist to the visionary style of Governor Nyesom Wike. In his narrative, the author opines that the chairmen were determined to carry out the Governor’s noble directives to the last dot. A typical example in the light of the foregoing is the soot menace as occasioned by illegal crude oil refining activities in the various communities.
A systematic approach was adopted in the chapter to look at the performances of the local government chairmen in the 23 local government areas of the state following an alphabetical sequence.
In all, the author notes that the local government chairmen have performed creditably in their respective domain which he contextualized as complimentary being that the government at the center is blazing the trial.
Chapter ten is titled – Impactful Personalities in Rivers State. This chapter in all modesty and pride speaks volumes of the elite human capacity of the state. The author draws antecedents from the state’s early contacts with the Europeans. It is true that the Rivers people are cosmopolitan in nature. It is in this light that the author notes that:
Over a century ago, forebears of the people of Rivers State welcomed and stood in the shadows of European explorers and mercantilist who through commercial interaction, overbearing and domineering influences, sometimes punctuated by conflicts imposed their ways of life on the people… (p. 508).
These individuals the author notes have been very outstanding in their contributions to the growth of the state. This chapter can aptly be tagged “Who’s Who in Rivers State” going by the rich and intimidating profiles of the individuals so listed.
The author accorded the book an undeniable touch of scholarship in the reference section. Referencing is in line with best practices and obviates the pitfalls of plagiarism. A great deal of precision and accuracy was observed in the rich repository of resources; both online and offline.
With a comprehensive index that clearly serves the purposes of cross referencing, the resource commendably completes the 360 degrees of the basic components of a book as delineated by internationally acclaimed standards.
Through this book, Celestine Ogolo, the author has earned a place in scholarship. The book by all standards is a masterpiece. The language is lucid, unambiguous, and unequivocal. Scholarship to a large extent is assessed through the prism of written communication. One’s ability to articulate thoughts and condense them in a written form is a mark of deep intellectualism. The ability to navigate syntactic infractions as borne on the wings of morphology and mechanical accuracy does not come by chance. What this means is that the author is intellectually balanced with a high dose of rational sagacity.
Writing a book is not for the faint hearted because by so doing, one opens up himself for attack – constructive and destructive. It is a ventilation of one’s thought processes. It tells if one is reasonable or contrary. Bernard Shaw in his criticism of censorship opines that “… he who kills a man kills a reasonable creature but he who destroys a book destroys reason itself.” This ironically depicts that a book is accorded more value than its author. A volume of 654 pages can only be a product of diligence, tenacity, and assiduity.
This book, by all shades of opinion, should be seen as a good resource for not only those in governance but by all across varied demographics. By my own assessment, it should be seen as a must read by those who desire to be in governance at all tiers.
Governing and administering a state like Rivers does not call for “learning on the job.” It requires vision, tact, and style. This book interestingly is a compendium of these traits. It is a map, a compass, and a glossary for governance. For those already in governance, it is recommended they read and assimilate its content so as to adequately and safely overcome the challenges their predecessors faced. This is so because the book is rich in history and precise in data. In these days of strategic thinking government decisions can no longer be based on hunches, conjecture, and speculation. With facts, nothing fails. This book in the light of this is a repository of facts.
The unique thing about this book is its ideological balance. The different segments and aspects of governance were not just treated as disparate entities but condensed within the web of intricate interlink which serves to give vent to the Systems theory. By this commendable feat, the author has shown to the world that he has the rare gift of literary poise. His choice of words is apt and his literary construction quite enviable.
What more can be as fulfilling as putting up thoughts on marble? For the author, posterity beckons. With this book on the shelf, ingested, and digested, one begins to acknowledge that wisdom can no longer be an exclusive preserve of the elderly. The wisdom, knowledge, and ebullience so demonstrated by the author, in this discourse, position him as a walking encyclopedia of the multi-faceted dynamics of Rivers State. Why such people are not given a place in governance despite their luxuriant repertoire remains a rhetorical resonance.
For the academia, this book holds widespread relevance across a plethora of disciplines. It is a good resource for extant literature both conceptual and empirical. For those in the Humanities and Social Sciences, it should be seen as a handbook with overbearing relevance for ethnography and anthropology.
The book no doubt is not without its flaws knowing that perfectionism is beyond humanism. While commending its editing and proof reading, minor infractions were observed in the referencing going by the conventional style sheet in use. This infraction by my assessment is distinctively infinitesimal.
Having worked in the knowledge industry for about thirty unbroken years, I can at best affirm that this book is an excellent piece of philosophical erudition. To this end, my seal of scholarship which is an undeniable mark of endorsement is here affixed without any fear of ambiguity, contradiction, and equivocation. Herein goes my unalloyed recommendation as preconceived in the foregoing.