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Special Interview

“Why New Education University Is Unique”

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Recently, the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi signed the bill that has elevated Rivers State College of Education to University of Education, into law. For the fact that a lot of emphasis is placed on education, especially training and retraining of teachers in the state, The Tide Roundtable, a personality interview programme of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation invited the Acting VC of the new University of Education, Prof. Rosemund Dienye Green Osahogulu to throw more light on the new development.  She talked about the foundation, challenges, funding and many more issues facing the institution.

The excerpts. Read on, very fascinating.

Madam, how do you want the general public to know you?

My name is Rosemund Dienye Green Osa-Oghulu. I started life in the care of my parents who then were civil servants in Eastern Region of Nigeria. I did my primary and secondary schools there. After my Secondary school we needed to come back home after the Nigerian civil war and my parents decided we should start coming back, especially those of us who finished  by 1974. So when I came back my desire was to read medicine. Then we had College of Science and Technology (CST) and then we had  Advanced Teachers Training College (ATTC). CST offered me Medical Laboratory Technology. The ATTC offered me Chemistry/Biology combination but instead of taking up that Medical Laboratory Technology, I had this inkling that I needed to teach people and that is how I entered ATTC then they were at Orominike street Port Harcourt. From there we moved to main campus, Rumuolumeni.

We started the main campus before it became College of Education, St. John’s campus, as NCE students. When I finished my NCE, I proceeded to do my Youth Service because then as Nigeria Certificate of Education (NCE) student you are moblised for NYSC. I was sent to Ogun State for my National Youth Service. When I came back I was able to secure admission at the University of Wales. I traveled out, finished my first degree, came back and fairly enough, I was employed as graduate Assistant into the Rivers State College of Education. And at that time, the state was into manpower development after the civil war so they picked those graduate assistants and they sent us off insisting that the scholarship should be within a Nigerian University. So I went to University of Jos and read my Masters degree. I came back to the College and continued teaching. When I had put in enough years, because for every year you are trained, you put in two years of service. I later went for my Phd, came back and remained in the system until I started getting positions, like the Head of my Department for Integrated Science, because I studied Integrated Science, Education. I became head for the first four years and was able to secure sabbatical leave appointment with the University of Port Harcourt. I went there in 1998 and finished after 12 months and came back in 1999. Upon return, they still put me back as the head of department (HOD). I was there till I was made the Dean, Faulty of Science Education and it was from that position that I became the Deputy Provost. I was a Deputy Provost for just three weeks, when I became the Acting Provost. And I was an Acting Provost for exactly 12 months before I become the Acting Vice Chancellor (AVC).

To get to that position you would say it is easy but it is not. But it’s something I am grateful to God Almighty because I was deprived a lot. I was to rise to the rank of a professor in 2003 but there was some academic politics and I was denied till 2006. Even I was to become the school’s Deputy Provost in 2004. I was also denied so at some point I was temtped to think I suffered all the denials, perhaps because I was a woman. But you can see that when the blessing starts coming, it would come in chains. Today I’am the Acting Vice Chancellor of Rivers State University of Education.

Can we know a little more of your family background?

My family background has been strong even though my dad is late. His name is Warisenibo Victor Piabo Dublin-Green of the Dublin-Green family in Bonny. We were eight of us as children but we lost five remaining three currently. My mum is alive but she went to Canada to visit my last sister and she is still there. she hasn’t come back. I am married to a Professor of Operations Research, Management Information system, Prof. Osa-Oghulu. We met in Rivers State here in the College of Education and we have six children.

As an academic how did you find the time to produce that number of children?

(Laughs). Well it depends on when you started getting serious. You have to learn to marry the two. If you make up your mind to be a career woman, you have to work hard towards it. And you find out most times we hardly sleep. Like yesterday, a job just came in and I left the office around 7.30pm, managed to get to the house around 8.30pm. And there was this job that came from Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Abuja and they needed to see me and I told them that we have left. On that same yesterday night we have to start a proposal writing. When it gets to this kind of duty I wake my husband up, because he is into management information system. He has been the British Council Adviser in Rivers State because he has been trained in that. Most times we stay awake. I remember when I was traveling to be an Associate Professor in 1998, I had my Toshiba Satelite laptop with me, and once I get to work he would never sleep again. So when you put in your best you would always get something good including six children.

How often do you stay in the house to take care of the family?

If I leave for work when I come back, I don’t go out again. And already my children are grown up and it is only the last one that is in secondary school, Jephtah, the rest can take care of themselves some are working, while the others are in the university.

It is often said that too much reading and high academic accomplishments scare male suitors. If your husband were not a Professor, would the marriage remain the same?

Why not? It depends on your career. You work hard to achieve the best in your career. While I am struggling hard to achieve the best, that even makes the fun. When I come home we discuss our jobs and we enjoy it. Any other man could have because it depends on the kind of person you are. Once you see your wife working hard even though that man is not hardworking he would be pushed to put in his best. But I would say, I am enjoying being married to a professor because most times we sit side by side, writing and discussing.

Madam your institution was recently elevated to the status of a University, how do you intend to confront the challenge?

It is indeed a big challenge. First and foremost the big one is getting a University license and we have started working on it. We have set up a Programmes Development Committee and all the Heads of Department have started developing their programmes because we don’t want to stick with the University of Ibadan programmes anymore. You know we were a College affiliated to the UniIbadan now as a full fledged University, we have to develop a programme and there must be something unique to us. Now if you look at what the Rivers State environment has, you’ll agree oil and gas is key, so we are now talking of Petroleum, Petrochemical Sciences and that is one thing we want to be unique of. So that as our students come we give them that liberal knowledge on Petroleum and Petrochemical because it is like, we in the Niger Delta are struggling over the resource control, while some of our children don’t even know what we are talking about. This Petroleum thing we are all scrambling for let them just have foundation knowledge so that they can discuss very well. And most times it is like our children don’t have the right skill to be employed into these companies. So we need to lay a foundation and give them the basic idea on Petroleum and Petrochemical so we want that to be a unique aspect of the university. And we have decided to include it in our General Studies (GS), which would run from year one to three so that all the students will have knowledge.

However, the biggest challenge we have now is for us to get the license because National University Commission  (NUC) would come back to see how far we are ready.

Currently do you have enough facilities to meet the challenges?

Yes we have what it takes to take-off because we are fortunate to have a professor who was there when Tai Solarin University of Education took off. You know they are the premiere even though we would have been the premiere if ours had started 15 years ago. So, he is with us but then he was a provost while there so when we recalled him to come and discuss, he said what you people have, Tai Solarin didn’t have it, 1/20; that was when they were made a University. And you know there own started as a pronouncement before the legislature came in but you know our own started with the legislature. So we can take off with what we have and we are comfortable with what we have to take-off but to meet up with the Global Standards we will need funding, we don’t intend to be a University of Education servicing only Rivers State, we should be open to the world and being open would also attract funding, from donor organizations from international agencies. Just the name that was declared last month and the time it was signed into law on 20th October by the Governor, we have started getting applications. Already UNICEF has called us, and UBEC which used to give us little jobs are coming in a full swing so it would attract funding from international agencies. Currently that is the only problem we have now in getting the license because NUC will do most of the jobs, they will equally come and conduct soil test based on the structures we intend to put up in the future, to see whether it can take it.

Like how much are we looking at?

Well you know we have three campuses. We have the main campus at Rumuolumeni, we have the Ndele Campus then we have the Rumukalagbor, St. John’s Campus. The Ndele campus has been neglected for a very long time. The structures are dilapidated, the hostels are really bad the same thing obtains in St. John’s campus. Our main campus you will see some of the structures looking good outside but inside is bad, including the hostels. So if you put everything together we may be talking about billions, say going to N3b to N4 billion which would give us a Senate building, Council Chambers and new classrooms because we intend to add new departments. For instance, at the Ndele campus there are about three new departments added, the same thing at St. John’s and main campus. So with what we have now, the existing department can survive but in the next five years these new departments will spring up with new structures.

Prof. earlier on you said you were denied your position several times how do you curb such internal hiccups now you are on top?

Let me tell you that all of us worked hard to get to this stage, including those who worked against us and today all of us are working together. You know we had a rally where all of us came together. In short we had a public forum and we had to mobilize the whole campus whether you are there or not we are now working together, everybody. And I like working as a family. When I was the Dean of Science – Education it was like a family unit. We were always doing things together. And a times we cook and bring to the faculty and we all eat together and that is the kind of atmosphere that I appreciate.

Madam you talked about the new departments you intend to introduce, how many departments do you have now and how many more would come in the next five years?

We have 26 departments now. We have introduced six more departments making it 32 and we intend to add some departments because the school subjects are sometimes increasing like we talk about population and family life to be infused into the curriculum and in future we may have these departments to take care of how to educate our children to manage their homes instead of having too many children.

Before the pronouncement when you were affiliated to the University of Ibadan, how much did that cost you?

Yes that affiliation was costing us almost N50 million a year. And it was difficult to pay and the only money we had was generated from fees and to pay we had to make sure we spend exigently so that we just don’t run into debt. We are not owing a kobo currently (laughs).

How long was the affiliation?

We became affiliated for degree programmes since 1981, that is about 27 years. But we were affiliated as a College of Education for NCE, before then. I think that started when ATTC started that  was when the College got affiliated to the University of Ibadan

Would you say the expenses started when you wanted a degree programme?

Well I met the N50 million. They were calculating based on the number of students and there was a period we had up to 11,000 and then school fees was about N5,000 per student. Then later it was increased to N10,000 per student. It is like every year the fees increase and then not only just paying the fees, we were paying them for supervision. You know the programme is theirs, we are running their programme. When we admit from year one to year four, we set the questions we take it to them to moderate, then they send back the moderated ones then they now agree on the date for the exams; they will come down and do the supervision, while we conduct the invigilation, when we finish, we would mark the scripts. After marking we would take the scripts to Ibadan. It’s Ibadan that would moderate, send back the scripts and we would compute results and we also approve it in our own academic board here we then make up corrections and parcel back to Ibadan. Ibadan will go through it and moderate, give us the date to come for the Joint Examiners Board Meeting. After we will bring back our results and converge for another joint meeting when we have finished and agreed we now take it back and present to the Senate. So you find out that these processes takes us about five months to conduct and it was affecting our students, delaying them from graduating at the normal time they would have graduated, even when they are supposed to be mobilised for Youth Service. And all that period they come for supervision they come with a team of not less than 10-15 persons we have to keep them in good hotels, feed them and provide them with allowances and you know the least that comes with the term is a Senior Lecturer and if they are staying for 10 days you know you have to take care of their upkeep for the 10 days, so you see how expensive it is.

Madam you mentioned that the new University would introduce courses on petrochemical? Is that not off your scope as a university of education?

Yes! For General studies (GS). Giving them just the background and basic foundation.

Like I said, we want to use that as a GS course so that we give all of them this liberal education on petroleum and petrochemical.

What new courses have you introduced?

We have introduced Environmental Science Education. Before we had Business Management but now we are going to have Educational Management. I know that Ndele Campus has three extra courses, St. Johns has one and the main campus has two. These total to about six.

Do you think it would be easy breaking that bond from the University of Ibadan considering what you have on ground now?

For now, our year two students currently are reopening this week. Our year two to year four for 2009, 2010 session are still University of Ibadan students because it was the university that did the admissions. So it is a gradual process you can’t just cut-off. And if I may further inform you, in 2004 when we had our convocation ceremony, the Vice Chancellor of University of Ibadan turned to our Governor then, Sir Peter Odili and said, “this College is ripe to stand on its own”, then I was in Council representing Academic Board. And the Governor was too impressed because that year we graduated about 4,000 graduates and the Governor was saying there are some Universities that don’t even graduate up to 2,000. For a College to be graduating 4,000 he was very impressed. And actually we thought that was when our autonomy would have taken place. So we are not cutting off we have to tidy up, because we can’t start today and then graduate students immediately.

With the university status, these new intakes we are having now are our own because we are concerned fully with admission. The other ones, they influenced our admissions and they gave us conditions as to who and who to admit at one time we became stubborn and said No! We would admit our children because we found out that our children weren’t coming in as much.

Few years ago you started a master’s programme, do you think that with this elevation  you have all it takes to maintain it?

Of course. You crawl before you jump but I know that in the next few years they would come up.

Earlier, this year there were controversies surrounding the employment of staffers and one of your staff was indicted for employment racketerring. What is the situation now?

You know how that employment took place, there were no Due Process. Whatever happened I just came in on the 17th of November to inherit it. They were not interviewed, they were just collecting employment letters. I mean everybody knew about it, inshort it was a very big scandal and you don’t employ people that you can’t pay. The number of people employed at that time was about 1,243, which was beyond our capacity and vouch for their employment. There were a lot of others who were taking signatures of employment officials, When the racket was discovered by the chairman of Council we discovered that they were about 1,664. And the total workforce combining the three College campuses came to 1,019. So if you add 1,664. What do we do with them? I was even summoned when I was barely two weeks old on the sit, to come and bring the approval for that employment. Since there was no approval to that effect, the only thing to do was to terminate all such employment. That paved way for a Due Process, during which we can carry out proper interview. And immediately, their appointment were terminated in less than two weeks we advertised and those who thought they were qualified re-applied. And we got about 8,000 applications in the process and out of the 8,000 applications, we can only employ 319 but then we decided to give everybody a fair chance. If you are qualified for the position you applied, you are invited for interview. And the rest is left to you to defend your academic qualification.

As I am talking to you now, we are still collating. You can imagine a situation where we ended up interviewing 6,000 people it is not easy because we decided to give everybody a fair chance. Currently we are still collating and I assure you that we are going to appoint people basically by merit, if really we want the new University to stand.

What about the allegation that one of your staff was involved in the scandal, that she was collecting money from applicants?

One thing about our society is that when things happen to somebody or somebody gets involved in a scandal and there is a panel of inquiry, nobody could come out and tell us that he had money to get the job. So it became very difficult for us to ascertain the corruption involved. But we made sure that everybody that were involved in the process were effectively punished. Because to me I saw it as criminal.

What kind of punishment was meted out to them?

Some were demoted, some were posted out. We made sure the head person was demoted. The lady in question was demoted and for three years she can’t come in again for any promotion and she was posted out to Ndele campus secondary school over there.

To be contd.

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Special Interview

Those Demarketing Rivers Should Stop Spreading Falsehood -Sophia

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Only recently, the Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications orgainsed an essay competition for students in the State as part of the second phase of the advocacy campaign of #Our StateOurResponsibility, aimed at changing the negative narrative about the State.
The first prize winner of the competition, Miss Oyibo Sophia Awajibenem, now the Ambassador of the programme and the face of the Information and Communications Ministry for three months, is truly passionate about advancing the frontiers of the campaign.
In this encounter with our General Manager, Ernest Chinwo and Group News Editor, Victor Tew, she dwells extensively on the imperatives of potraying the state in its true positive status, given the giant strides of the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, and many more.
Excerpts.
Could you please, tell us about yourself?
I am Oyibo Sophia Awajibenem from Ngo in Andoni Local Government Area. I am 18 years old. I am a public health student. I reside in Port Harcourt.
I school at Port Harcourt Joint Professional Training and Support International Institute.
I am the Ambassador of the Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications. I am patriotic and ready to achieve more success.
I will like to further my education in order to become a Medical Doctor.
How do you intend to go about that in terms of resources and all that?
It is by being studious. By going out there to read and gain information, do my research and also being focused. The determination in me will keep me focused
Why did you participate in the essay competition orgainsed by the Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications on the advocacy programme tagged. #OurStateOur Responsibility?.
I did it because I love the vision of #OurState OurResponsibility. I deemed it fit to participate to promote our State as an individual and also as a youth.
What really spurred you into partaking in the essay competition? Is it because of the pecuniary benefit attached to it or an altruistic concern to change the narrative of the State?
Firstly, I never saw the competition as a challenge. I just wanted to write the truth. I wanted to make known what I felt was what we as individuals, as the State should do.
I wanted to spread the love. It is not just about your personal benefit or your personal need. It should go around, it is collective.
What was the major attraction to you?
I don’t want to use the word major because I saw just the Ambassadorial duty. First to be the Ambassador of the ministry before I ever read down to see that there was a cash prize attached to it. I wasn’t concerned about the cash prize, I was concerned about being an Ambassador. I wanted to represent that and that was the goal.
When you submitted your essay and was shortlisted, how did you feel?
I felt overwhelmed, this is where the trust comes in. They should know who we are personally and believe in us, that it is actually from within. I had to go there, to do what I had to do because it was not something that was forged, it is the passion in letting people know. So I felt appreciated by that means.

OurStateOur Responsibility. How do you see it?

It is a vision. It is telling us that we have roles, obligations, duties to perform in the state. When we say #OurStateOur Responsibility, it includes everyone. We are the State, we are the government and that responsibility is what we have to render to the state.
Well, there was a statement credited to you in your essay. You did say that you remembered a piece by Erekosima.What did you think about that piece?
The piece by Boma Erekosima is a motivation. It is what inspired me to write, to participate in the essay writing. It actually spelt out my essay. That piece was a summary of what I wrote.
Can you recount it?
Love Rivers State or leave her alone, don’t pull us down, see what you can do for us, engage yourself in meaningful activities, no room for gossip and do something meaningful.
How does it relate to us, the youths of today, our politicians, those who are trying to pull the State down and those who don’t have the interest of the State?
When we say we should love the State, it means that we should love ourselves, everything about the State, we shouldn’t be into propaganda, we shouldn’t spread rumours, flasehood. We should appreciate the fact that our State is improving. We should see the progress, we shouldn’t just vandalise those things that have been provided for us. We should use them as resources. We shouldn’t be idle because an idle man is the devil’s workshop.
We should grab opportunities, work with them and make them a success.
We find our youth involved in anti-social activities. So, what is your message to youths of Rivers State?
There is no benefit in doing things that are irrelevant. We should put our vision where it will benefit everyone, it should not just be personal. Don’t do things that are illegal. Grab opportunities that will promote the nation, that way, we all can grow.
How do you think the youths can be detached from being used as political thugs and all that?
If they are given proper knowledge about the consequences of the things they indulge in, I feel that it will bring them to the consciousness that they are better off than being thugs. Proper orientation of being good in the society to be leaders of tomorrow. That way, they will see the bright side of it and focus on good visions in promoting theState.
If you are asked to draw up a sensitisation programme for youths, how would you go about it?
I will start with an orientation or a sensitisation programme because it does not just start like that. You make them understand, you bring them to their notice and do a follow up. When you tell somebody about something, as you let them be, you are not really convinced that you are passing the message to them. You have to follow them up, bring up situations and platforms that will ensure that they are actually rooted in being successful.
As the face of the state Ministry of Information and Communications programme: #Our State Our Responsibility, what would you like to do?
As an Ambassador, I am an advocate of something, an advocate of the vision, #OurState Our Responsibility. I am here to start a programme to enlighten the youths about the good opportunities that abound in the State and to make our leaders know that we are not lazy and we have talents and if only we are given the platform to showcase them, we will do better.
It is something that we as youths have to bring out the best in us.

OurStateOur Responsibility, how do you see it?

It is a vision. #OurStateOur Responsibility is a vision that is telling us that we have roles, obligations and duties to perform in the State and when we say #OurStateOur Responsibility, it is not just one person, it is everybody in the State.
Some politicians in a bid to score some cheap political points have been known to brand the State as unsafe for people to live in, unsafe for investments and all that, do you share in that view?
No, I don’t, because we are in this State. We go out and come in to our houses. We should be security conscious. For investors, people who go about their business activities, I feel that the trust should be there.
There should be a benefit of the doubt and as far as Rivers State is concerned, we are the people who will showcase the business. We should be exemplary.
So there is no room for falsehood or any kind of conviction that we are not safe. We are safe.
So what is your advice to those demarketing the State?
I will say that they should stop spreading falsehood. There is no gain in spreading lies. At least, they should come and see for themselves. And those investors also for you to invest in a place, you should have a background check on whoever you are going to invest with or who your investors are for you to know better. Not just by word of mouth but seeing it.
How do you see the Wike administration
He has really done well. The Rivers State of yesterday can not be compared to what we have now. Port Harcourt is beautiful and safe. Port Harcourt is filled with so many businesses, so many organisations are doing well, so there is prosperity.
What about human capital development, are you impressed?
I am, because it is improving. it is not like how it was before. we are doing well.
Rivers State is blessed.
As an Ambassador of the Ministry, what is your advice to the youths, politicians and leaders?
To the youths, I will say success is not determined by age grade or age limit, we need to grab opportunities. we do not have to wait for us to be told what we have to do. We recognise who we are. Because we are the leaders of tomorrow and it starts now.
We shouldn’t wait till that level where they throw accusations at us that we are not doing anything. We need to show that we are ready for the future.
To the politicians, I feel that education is the key; knowledge is power, they should actually support the youth and everyone in Rivers State and they shouldn’t do things that make youths to regret.
They should support that which is good, education , security and also when it comes to bringing up talents. I feel that there should be more investments.
To our leaders. they should keep up the good work, because we look up to them.
They should be exemplary, they should be disciplined.
There is this misconception that the youths of our State are only interested in what they can do for money to come immediately and are not conscious to the extent of working hard, believing that their efforts will yield dividend tomorrow. So they prefer what they can get now What is your reaction to that?
I feel that it is a practice. It is not our culture because we have to be hard working. we have to be professional, we have to know what we have to do to attain such position, is not by having it immediately, because that is theft, corruption and greed.
We have to work diligently to get what we want. So it is wrong for anybody to have any amount of money that is not from a genuine source.
I feel that all we need to do is to put our hands on deck to work for that which is right at all times.
One thing we have noticed in our State, especially the state capital is indiscriminate dumping of refuse. Are we saying that it is not part of our responsibility to keep our State clean?
It is our responsibility to keep our environment clean and safe because when our environment is dirty, it affects our health. so we should actually work at our health, our wellbeing and also we have agencies which are controlling that. If the agencies are working, it is our responsibility to support them in making the place clean, because we all are humans and it will be inhuman for some one to be working for the cleaniness of our environment then, we all make the place dirty.
It’s not right. So our responsibility is taking it up to ourselves as humans to make our environment clean.
You were Commissioner for Information for 30minutes, how do you feel about that?
It was amazing, it was a rare opportunity, and I feel that for anyone to sit there as a commissioner, then, there is a whole lot to do, it is not just by saying it but it is by showing it. Our Honourable Commissioner, I know is showing it because having sat there, I saw so many opportunities on that seat and this has actually motivated me to do more to sit there one day.
Having sat there for at least 30minutes or so, will you go into politics?
Yes. For you to be a citizen, involving in politics is just what to get you to that level, it is not a bad thing.
What extent has your participation in this essay competition motivated you?
It actually gives me an opportunity to meet people, to see things, to have views, to hear about what the world is saying. So, I feel that encouragement is not by saying or being an Ambassador, it is being here in the State and doing more for the State. So, I feel motivated to bring that picture and few presentations of what the vision is, that is what I feel.
As an Ambassador for some weeks now, what has been your kind of schedule? Have you met some new persons, some new opportunities so far?
It has been excellent, but not easy, because this time around in my life, I try to schedule things and share some of my times there is time management and there is this hospitality you have to show to everyone because they want to know more about you. You give them the chance to express themselves, and that has actually made me to realise and have the knowledge about everything and because they throw questions you are not familiar with. That gives me the room to read more, that gives me the room for human resources management, to understand people, to actually know more about people, to understand their mood and where they are headed to, and to understand their different perspectives and to know what they indulge in.
Where do you see Rivers State tomorrow and in the future? .
We are already in the future because we are getting to the top; I see an extraordinary State; I see a beautiful State; I see a State that is without or should I say with less corruption, that is with more of development. That is where I see Rivers State.

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Special Interview

Wike Has Made Rivers People Proud – Eke

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His Majesty King (Dr) Leslie Nyebuchi Eke, Eze Gbakagbaka, Eze Oha Evo III of Evo Kingdom in Obio/Akpor Local government Area of Rivers State, is a First Class Traditional Ruler.
Trained as a Biological Scientist at Illinois State University, Bloomington Normal, United States of America, he holds a Masters Degree and Doctor of Philosophy Degree (PhD) from Wycliffe University & ATS, California.
Suave, ebullient, accessible, humble, down-to-earth and cerebral, Eke is also the Secretary General of the Association of Niger Delta Monarchs (ANDMON) and the Public Relations Officer of the Rivers State Chapter of Traditional Rulers of Oil Minerals Producing Communities (TROMPCOM).
In this exclusive interview with our Production Editor, Donatus Ebi and cameraman, Egberi A. Sampson, Eke poignantly bares his mind on sundry issues affecting the State and the nation. He particularly eulogises the Executive Governor of the State, Chief Nyesom Wike for the giant development strides of his administration within the past six years and comes to the inevitable conclusion that he has surpassed the achievements of his predecessors, having performed beyond the expectation of Rivers people.
Excerpts.
His Majesty, by virtue of all that you have seen in the State in the past six years, what are your comments on the achievements of Governor Nyesom Wike?
As it concerns us and the Governor, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is God-sent, a purposeful Governor, a vision-full Governor and a man that knows why he is Governor, why he did come to contest and contested as Governor. And this man, meticulously, seriously, honestly, has continued, day by day, month by month, to roll out projects that are impactful to the society, to Rivers people. Roads infrastructure, schools, hospitals, human capacity, I mean continuously. This man has turned the Garden City into a city of flyovers. And that is very meaningful. We very much appreciate such a person. And unfortunately, he can’t go for a third term. We wish he goes for a third term. He is going to give so much to the Rivers people.
He has made us so proud. He has distinguished himself among the Governors and governments in Nigeria. All the things he has done, other governments and even the Federal Government should learn from him.
A case in point is the Coronavirus pandemic. Our Governor took proactive actions in time and that is why Rivers State did not suffer much from the pandemic and they had to learn from him. He has impacted on the people commercially, economically and otherwise. Even our Christian lives have improved because he gave this State to God and declared it a Christian State. He built an Ecumenical Centre and God literally has come down to work with His people and has begun to give us a sense of direction, a sense of belonging. We appreciate so much from the man, who has unlike others, really worked even in the second term, working like it was the first term. And we are grateful to God for all his achievements. He is a true Ikwerre son. We appreciate him. We pray that he would find more to do even after he has left this stage of governance. We couldn’t have had it any other way.
Would you then say that Governor Wike has performed beyond expectation?
Very true. This Governor has done beyond expectation. Looking at precedents, looking at people before him, what he has done even per month, it is unequalled anytime, anywhere in the history of Rivers State. This Governor has done so much.
In spite of all that you have seen he has done, is it not surprising that there are still pockets of opposition in the State?
Well, it is unfortunate but we must have opposition. We must have people that agree and people that don’t agree. It is normal. We just want to encourage them to criticise constructively. They should engage in constructive criticisms. They should criticise him constructively. Not just opening your mouth for opening sake. This time around, it will be very difficult. You know, he has been accused of 3D projects. It is no longer 3D now, because you can come there and see it for yourself. You will see the flyovers. Who does three flyovers at the same time? Nobody. And he has told us that he has more, seven more to deliver to Rivers people and put us on the world map of very very improved humane settlements. We appreciate that.
You said it is unfortunate that the Governor won’t run for a third term, but there are people out there calling on him to run for the Presidency come 2023. What is your take on this?
At his point, I am not a politician. For him to run for a federal office, it is entirely his prerogative, it is at his discretion. It is left for him to decide. He has to watch the politicial terrain and decide what he wants. But one thing is sure. Anywhere this Governor, Chief Ezenwo Nyesom Wike finds himself, he would deliver on his promises, he would deliver on the NEED Assessment of the people. This man is in tune with development. He is in tune with the people. And I am not afraid. If tomorrow, he runs for the Presidency, it is Nigerians that will gain because he is going to work tirelessly. I don’t know where he gets his energy; he is going to work tirelessly and fearlessly and deliver on the things that matter to the people.
As a royal father, which areas would you like to advise the Governor?
Well, first and foremost, he has to watch his back. He is a Governor that works by self-conviction. And so he cannot be deterred by anybody, by superiors’ stories, very bad advice; he is unaffected by those kinds of things because he is a man of conviction. When he decides on a project, he delivers, because he is in tune with the people. He is a grassroots politician; he feels the pulse of the people. And I am sure he knows what Nigerians want too and if he finds himself in that national stage, I have no doubt in my mind that he will win and provide dividends of democracy to our people.
We have been having some security challenges in the country and even in the State in recent times to the extent that Governor Wike had to impose curfew in the State. How would you react to this?
Well, the Governor has done well in the area of security. This Governor has done more than any government, to give state of the art equipments to security operatives in the State, both water and land. He has done so much and continues to do. So, the rest is left for these professionals to deliver. The Governor is not a policeman or a soldier. He has built a Guest House for the Army, giving them vehicles, and the police, you know it, giving them so much including other security organisations. The government has done so much for the security people and they are supposed to complement the huge expenditure of government on them.
The idea of having a curfew is also part of his own actions to mitigate these security lapses that are creating fears among our people. So, he is helping them. It is good for them. It is good for them to complement what he is doing, in terms of speaking to the people by his now and then broadcasts. It is to encourage them to know exactly what government is up to. It is for them to know what is happening. In this way, they are able to work with him, and stay distance and time with the Governor and not begin to feel that he is not doing enough. He is talking to them constantly. The security operatives should complement this government’s efforts and prove it right in its activities to secure lives and property. I support the government of Ezenwo Nyesom Wike. I support him wholeheartedly and he has done well. I score him high and give him excellent mark.
But some people are still complaining about the curfew, what do you have to tell them, both the residents of the State and Rivers people?
The curfew we should obey. The residents and people of Rivers State should obey the curfew. It is even in the Bible, that we should obey the laws of government. And so, if it is this one regulation that government has brought, we should obey. It is not for peace-loving rivers people but this is to catch the criminals. We too should complement government’s efforts by obeying the rules and regulations. Like when we had the lockdowns, don’t we see that we are enjoying health now? At that time too, people criticised the government and the Governor, but today, they have swallowed their words. They are enjoying health now. If the Governor had left Coronavirus to fester, then, it would have been terrible for our people. But today, we are walking around, the markets are open, and everywhere else, people are able to live their lives.
His Majesty, some Nigerians are today calling for the restructuring of the country and some too are calling for secession, from the foregoing, what do you think is the fate of Nigeria and what do we really need?
Obviously, to sustain the various geo-political zones of Nigeria, we do need restructuring within one Nigeria. And people that are resisting this, obviously, in time, will bow to the yearnings of the people. If you go back to the time when we had regions, we had relative peace. We are not saying we should go back to that but those kinds of things we were enjoying regionally, should begin to be apportioned within the States. Like for us in the South-South or the core Niger Delta, it is very important that we enjoy the proceeds of the God-given minerals that we have. We cannot have these minerals and people who are somewhere else, even beyond the shores of this country, are enjoying them. We can’t have that. No responsible government can do that. What God has given Nigeria is for Nigerians.
What do you have to say about the ongoing Constitution Review vis-à-vis the need for the traditional institution to be given roles in the Constitution?
The Constitution Review is welcome even if we are hearing that they are spending so much. Unwarranted expenditure is not good but the Constitution Review is good. And as it concerns the traditional institution, we need to spell out the functions of traditional rulers. With what we are doing, now, that I say it is illegal, as per it is not captured in the Constitution. But when it is captured in the Constitution, then, it serves as a support for us to do what we are supposed to be doing; and that is to complement government in the area of governance. So, that is very important. We should be captured in the Constitution. Traditional rulers are very important in nation building. They are very important in creating national identity. We are doing it now. There is this unofficial regulation, as it were, for Northern traditional rulers to come and visit their counterparts in the South and vice versa, both in the East and the West; that kind of friendship is ongoing. But it needs to be captured in the constitution. If it is captured in the constitution, it will be sustained and it will be done as a matter of duty.

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Special Interview

FG, Insensitive To PANDEF’s Agenda – Ogoriba

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We thank Mr. President for flagging off the clean-up of Ogoniland as recommended by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). The long delay in starting the Ogoni Clean-Up had sapped confidence locally and had caused the broader Niger Delta to doubt the intentions of Government. We, therefore, urge the Federal Government to speed up this exercise, especially by following through the emergency steps outlined in the UNEP Report, which includes the provision of safe drinking water for a populace whose water has been declared unfit for human consumption by UNEP, years ago. We also urge the federal government to commission a Region-wide credible assessment of the impacts of crude oil pollution of the environment in the Niger Delta and undertake to enforce all environment protection laws.
We similarly urge the Federal Government to take decisive steps to enforce the Zero Gas Flare deadline.
The devastating effects of coastal erosion and lack of effective shoreline protection for the coastal communities of the Niger Delta must be tackled as a matter of urgency.
The Maritime University Issue
The Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, is largely regarded, by persons from the Zone, as symbolic and deserving. Its closure and certain statements around it, have been viewed as insensitive and out rightly provocative. This, of course, is aside from the obvious potential benefits that the Institution offers to the technical and managerial capacity enhancements of, not just persons from the Zone, but all Nigerians. We, therefore, strongly urge the President to direct the take-off of the already approved Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, in Delta State. The prompt take-off of this University will most certainly assure the people of the Niger Delta that President’s Administration is truly a sensitive, listening and inclusive Government. Also, we strongly urge that the announced plans to upgrade the 30-year old Maritime Academy, Oron, Akwa Ibom State, to a university should be implemented.
Key Regional Critical Infrastructure
There is the need for the Federal Government to fast-track interventions on some of the indicative Regional Infrastructure viz:
• We wish to thank President for ensuring that the first phase of the coastal railway project is provided for in the current 2016 budget. We urge the Federal Government to further ensure the full implementation of this project that is designed to run through all the states in the Niger Delta, up to Lagos.
• Complete the existing East-West Road.
• Work should resume on the abandoned Bodo-Bonny Road Project. We note that NLNG had already offered 50% funding for this Project.
• Implement the proposed East-West Coastal Road Project, which stretches 704 km in length along the Atlantic coastline, from Odukpani Junction in Cross River State, connecting over 1000 communities, to Ibeju on the Lekki-Epe Expressway in Lagos State (Design already completed by NDDC).
• Implement the development of inland waterways and riverine infrastructure.
• Remove bottlenecks militating against the full activation and utilization of the existing ports in the Niger Delta, including Port Harcourt, Onne, Calabar, commence dredging of the Escravos bar-mouth which will open up Burutu, Koko, Sapele, Warri and Gelegele Ports to deep sea-going vessels and expedite work on the dredging of the Calabar Port. The Deep Sea Port project in Bayelsa State also requires consideration.
• We urge the commencement of work on the Ibaka Deep Sea Port for which Feasibility has long been completed.
Details of other regional infrastructure projects will be presented in the course of the dialogue.
Security Surveillance and Protection of Oil and Gas Infrastructure
The incessant breaching and vandalization of pipelines, and oil theft, have taken direct tolls on oil production and supplies, with corresponding adverse effects on the economy of our dear Country. Pipeline vandalism also damages the environment, health and economic activity of inhabitants of affected areas, as well as complicates environmental cleanup efforts.
It is therefore our view that an urgent review is done to pipeline surveillance contacts to give the responsibility to Communities rather than individuals in a manner that ties some benefits to their responsibility. Communities would then see their responsibility for the pipelines as protection of what belongs to them.
Relocation of Administrative and Operational Headquarters of IOCs
The Headquarters of most Oil Companies are not located in the Niger Delta Region. As a result, the Region is denied all the developmental and associated benefits that would have accrued to the Region from their presence. It has therefore become imperative for the IOCs to relocate to their areas of operation. This move would create a mutually beneficial relationship with the host communities.
Power Supply
Despite being the core of power generation in the Country, most Communities in the Niger Delta remain unconnected to the National Grid.
We, therefore, advocate a power plan that strongly ties power supply in the Region to gas supplies, thereby giving all sides a stake in improved stability. Because of existing infrastructure, this should be an area where the Government could deliver the swiftest and most noticeable change.
Economic Development and Empowerment
The Federal and State Governments need to signal their interest in sustained economic development in the region by:
i. Implementing the Brass LNG and Fertilizer Plant Project and similarly concluding Train 7 of the NLNG in Bonny
ii. Reviewing, updating and aggressively driving the National Gas Master Plan to integrate the economic interests and industrialization aspirations of the Niger Delta Region
iii. Creating a Niger Delta Energy Industrial Corridor that would process some portions of the Region’s vast hydrocarbon natural resources, where they are produced, to create industrialization and a robust economic base in the Region that would improve the living condition of the Citizens.
iv. Expediting work on the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) in the Region, in particular, the Gas City, Ogidigben and Deep Sea Port, Gbaramatu, in Warri South LGA of Delta State.
v. Harnessing the huge rain-fed agricultural potentials of the area through the development of farm estates, fishery development projects and Agro-Allied Industrial Clusters.
vi. Harnessing the entrepreneurial ingenuity of the youths in the Region to keep them gainfully employed in legitimate businesses, and away from restiveness.
vii. We urge the use of ICT as a tool for peace, job-creation and development. Appropriately deployed ICT can be the elixir to create much-needed jobs, promote entrepreneurship and create wealth in the Region.
vii. Resolve the various issues leading to the non-operation of Delta Steel Company, Oku Iboku Paper Mill, Edo Textile Mill and ALSCON.
Inclusive Participation in Oil Industry and Ownership of Oil Blocs
The sense of alienation of Niger Delta indigenes from the resources of their land will continue until there are affirmative actions that guarantee the involvement of these communities in the ownership and participation in the Oil and Gas Industry. We, therefore, urge the Federal Government to enunciate policies and actions that will address the lack of participation as well as imbalance in the ownership of Oil and Gas Assets.
We similarly urge the institution of Host Community Content within the Nigerian Content framework, across the entire enterprise chain of the Petroleum and Maritime sectors.
Restructuring and Funding of the NDDC
There is the urgent need to adequately restructure the NDDC to refocus it as a truly Interventionist Agency, that responds swiftly to the yearnings of the grassroots of the Niger Delta. Communities must be able to have a say in what projects come to them. We also urge the full implementation of the funding provisions of the NDDC Act.
Strengthening the Niger Delta Ministry
Since the creation of the Niger Delta Ministry, even though it was meant to function in the mode of the Federal Capital Territory Ministry, its funding has been abysmal. There is an absolute need, therefore, to adequately fund, and strengthen this Ministry to the purpose for which it was created.
The Bakassi Question
The fall out of the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroon continues to threaten the security of the southernmost part of the Niger Delta Region. The unresolved issues arising from the Green Tree Agreement continues to create tension and plague the region. There is also the lack of a well-coordinated transparent blueprint for the development and resettlement of the displaced populations. The host communities face huge abuses and are unable to reestablish their respective means of livelihood. We, therefore, recommend a comprehensive resettlement plan including development for the host communities and displaced populations to reduce the risk of making them into a Stateless People.
Fiscal Federalism
The clamour for fiscal federalism has continued to be re-echoed by different sections of the country. The people of the Niger Delta region support this call and urge that the Federal Government should regard this matter expeditiously.
What message would you want to pass to the Federal Government for being insensitive to these issues five years after?
It is regrettable to say that the 16-point agenda has not been attended to thereby bringing about high rate of insecurity in the region.
For emphasis, after having several interface with these boys, they saw the reasons for dialogue than allowing the region go in flames as a result this brought about ceasefire in the region making everyone to be enjoying the relative peace being enjoyed today.
I want the Federal Government to know that when these boys see that there is blatant refusal in addressing their issues by the Federal Government, they are capable of making the region go into flames, adding that he appealed to the Federal Government, and other critical stakeholders responsible for the implementation of this 16-point agenda to be sincere to themselves and do the needful, adding that what the people in the Niger Delta region want is that all must be fair, just and equitable in what they do, so as to engendered peace and security to the Niger Delta region.

Concluded.

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