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Special Interview

I Am Still Chairman Of ACN In Rivers State



Barr Uche Okwukwu is someone who is used to controversy. In fact he is never tired of stiring even new ones. Not too long ago, he said that he is an Igbo man like many other Ikwerre people if not alone. Only recently, he stood up in support of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). Today, he insists that he is still the chairman of the ACN even if before the last governorship elections, he had told his supporters to vote for Gov. Chibuike Amaechi of the PDP. In this first part of The Tide Roundtable, a vintage Okwukwu talks about the ACN, its guber candidate, Dr Abiye Sekibo, the true origin of Ikwerres and in fact, explains how monies exchanged hands, before, during and after the general elections. It is a serial you cannot put away. This is just the beginning. Read On!

A lot has been said of your person, but very little is known of your early life. Who are you and where were you born?

I was born  in Elele, in Ikwerre local government Area of Rivers State, into the family of Mgbu-Oba. I was at several times educated at St James’  Primary  School, a Catholic establishment and from  there, I went to County Grammar School  Ikwerre/Etche, finished there, before proceeding to the Rivers State College of Education, now Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rumuolumini at the time affiliated to the University of Ibadan. Where I did Economics and Political Science.  After that,  I went to the University of Ife where, I read Law and was called to the Bar in 1995, I later  proceeded  to Danish Institute Demark,  for my human Rights training in 1998.  Equipped with this background, several times, I had the opportunity of addressing the United Nations (UN)in Geneva. I did that in 1998 while, presenting the case of the ogoni people. During Late General Sani Abacha maximum rule in 2004, I presented another peace talk in Geneva. I have also attended several courses in and out of this country, in Europe, the Americas and Africa. I am a lawyer and a politician, but with a different colour.

Being a Human Right activist, your crusades, most times, hovered around politicians and unsavoury political activities, how do you fit  into a political  party structure being a well-known human  right activist, known to be critical of the political class?

There is no difference, the most important instructment in every society is power. It is only with power that you can change society. If you like, be a Priest, Lawyer, Sailor or Doctor, we need power to change society. Power does not necessarily have to be political. I am not talking in terms of becoming president or Governor. You (The Tide Editorial Board) for instance, have the power of the pen believe me, it is a huge power. Infact, you are the fourth estate of the realm. In most cases, “the pen is mightier than the sword,” Largely in Africa, the kind of power you need to change society is political because of the near monolythic structure of African Society.  For that, from time to time, I have the conviction that I should participate in the political process to see if I can, use the process, to help change society.  I am not out of tune, the founder of the liberation theology, Kabilo Toures, a priest once said that the hand that works is mightier than the lips that praise. I am not out of tune because revolutionary realists like Chekovera and others also identified with political struggle to change society. They all believed that Human Rights have to be advanced, and you can only do that when, there is in place, the kind of constitution that will help sustain democracy and rule of law in this country. Mind you,  those that make the law are parliamentarians while, those that execute the laws are the Executives. You see, here I am.

In your brief resume, you dwelt principally on your academic accomplishments and a bit about your human rights struggles. Where and when did you start your political life?

I started my political life with the now defunct Social Democratic Paarty (SDP) in the third republic, in 1992, I was also a member of the old All Peoples Party (APP) now All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP),on which platform, I, in 1999 contested election into the Rivers State House of Assembly to represent  Ikwerre  Constituency and lost, not in the field but in the courts. The court of Appeal in its wisdom said I did not win.  (Interception): Who contested against, you?

I contested against the present Governor, Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, like I said, the Court of Appeal said, I didn’t win and I should not be in the Rivers State House of Assembly. So, as a lawyer, by my training , I have since accepted the verdict of the court, particularly,  when you do not have the right to appeal beyond that points.

Beyond that level in 2010,I emerged  as the State Chairman of the  Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN )the party, I am currently heading.

Chairman, during your introduction, you said you are a politician of a different colour. What colour are you made of?

I believe that within the African society, the  kind of democracy that the colonial masters  imposed  on us was one  predicated on values, respect for lives, respect for values, the values for respect, respect for public properties and ofcource  law and order and I am desirous to  see the glorious past reestablished. When I came in here,the memories  of the past flashed. Back then in Elele, every day, my father subscribed to the then Nigerian Tide, and the vendor who sold him the paper daily was also called, TIDE. and I read the  Nigerian Tide all days of my primary school, until when, my father died in 1980. When, I was in the secondary school. Today, of course you still see, The TIDE, it is still on, I was and still am very happy with those of you working here, you have, over the years shown huge respect for and loyalty to this institution as an important public institution and you’ve really been working hard to ensure its survival. That is the substance of core values I am talking about. I believe that if we have purpose-driven politicians and such also found themselves in governance, and who are in tune with this kind of ideas, ours would be a better society. For example, I attended a glorious primary school and I can say it was wonderful; I was provided with government chairs, in the first one, two years we were carrying chairs, and later government desks, I went to County Grammer School, Ikwerre-Etche, there too, I had government lockers, I had government uniform, I   had government desks ,I ate in the dinning. I can go on and on, for, it was indeed a glorious past and for me it was communism at work or what is called  welfarism  which means that the entire society’s energy was being galvanised to run a society in such a manner that the gap between the poor and rich was truly narrow.

In those days, when, we found ourselves in Ikwerre Etche, there was not much gap between the poor and rich. When you wrote common entrance in a village school and somebody else wrote in Port Harcourt, both of you found yourselves in Stella Maries or Akpor Grammar School. So I believe that those ideas were glorious ideas taken from the African past, being translated, to a large extent, today. The present Governor of the State, is building schools without discrimination, nothing like this could be in the village or that in the township.

This is the kind of idea we had in the  past. The standard of education was the same all over the state and I believed  that if we work hard and establish a society  like that, we would build a better society. That indeed is my colour of a politician.

Were these not the same values that you once said powered your human rights campaign? Why in politics now?

First and foremost in post war Nigeria, I came back to Rivers State as a refugee. Majority of us did also, and the reality that faced us was the reality of poverty, clear poverty and the environment was quite challenging. Then, severally I asked questions, what caused the crisis that led to the situation that we found ourselves. If found out easily that every crisis was born out of injustice, whether it is a regional, political or economic crisis, it is one part of injustice, oppression, intimidation and fear, it cannot only be the presence of combat that it is war, fear itself, is  war. As I grew up, I had formal education, I equally saw all those ideas being duplicated, more so, I was born into a family that treasured values, rights, the truth and welfare of others. My father was a civil servant in the Risonpalm, it was initially called River State Agricultural Development Corporation, and later became Risonpalm. The company was in my town, Elele, before it was later taken to Ubima and of course I saw first hand, the challenges that the people faced. Even when they said, “come and pay N30 and go to school, (which was what we paid in those days to be in a boarding house), not many people went to school, because they couldn’t.  I am not saying this because I am a lawyer today. I know people who were more brilliant than I was, in the primary school, who didn’t go to school because they were from a poor family. I have genuine and undying sympathy for such people in the society, I also know those who were in County Grammar school, Ikwerre  Etche  as I was but who could not  proceed beyond that, not because they were not brilliant but because of their circumstances of birth. So, I was and still am desirous to have a society that can guarantee some kind of equality, with common rights as blanket starting point, but  my idea about society and its growth emphasises that people get justice ,equity  and equality to a large extent. Of course, you can agree with me that we now have considerable freedom, where, you can go to court and file motions and shout and bring out somebody from a police cell. We have a system we operate where, to a larger extent, the shouts of the weak are being redressed and if you apply your education, talents, experience and contact to help those who cannot help themselves to ensure that their rights to human integrity are  protected, their rights to decent work and equal pay is respected and protected. All granted fall under the ambit of the human rights struggle, and I thank God that in his infinite mercy, he allowed me to understand what is involved in respecting others without minding where they come from or the language they speak, or religion, faith they react to and I still pursue these only, I now combine them with politics. Of course, you agree that there is only so much advocacy can achieve, but political power is a faster vehicle to effect societal change, in the interest of the weak and hopeless.

At what point and which specific development informed your realisation that this human rights advocacy alone could not get you where you had always wanted, except you combined it with partisan politics? Since you said you succeeded as a crusader.

Yes I did succeed as a human rights campaigner, but I did not say I required political power, at all cost but did say participating in the political process because there are different kinds of power. You, as journalists, have power. You can use the pen and make the man in the SSS to release a wrongly held citizen even if the Commissioner of Police disagrees with you. In doing that, you do not require political power. What you write may even have more effect than what you have to say because many people would read you than hear what the Commissioner of Police said. Chekovera, the legend once said because we love life, we must defend it.

It means that you cannot fold your hands and say you believe a particular thing without trying to identify with it. If you believe that an average Nigerian child should have the  right to education, if I believe that our resources in this country should guarantee us access to  employment, I know that political power is very important to address them, because it deals with allocations and use of resources, because when we come together and agree to have a social contract , we individually surrendered our own rights to be controlled; even our environment is given out, for the state  to control, therefore, the total  environment is state environment that is why there is  law and order.

If they sell crude oil, they do not bring it to the individual, they put it in the state’s coffer. All this, is predicated on the principle of the Social Contract that the man who keeps and disburses public money must mange it equitably, for the common wealth. Therefore, if such a man deviates, even the process of replacing him, by appointing another is still part of the political process. So if you decide to participate, it in a political process, whether you write a feature and say things should be done this or that way, it is a political process, if you preach before the alter and even caution the king as Prophet of Nepal did to David, it is a political process. Mind you, I did not say that it is only the politicians that can influence or change a society. To influence and change things for the better, it is the duty of every body and in fact, if we fail, we all fail. For example, I have said times without number, under the military, even though most people will not agree with me, 70 per cent of the struggle to enthrone democracy was carried out by the journalists. They were writing, if you say something and it was not written nobody hears it.if somebody’s rights are violated, misappropriations found and nobody reads it, we all fail. So, you see, 70 per cent of the struggle against Abacha was carried out by journalists (you people) even though there is one Igbo parable that says,” If a man took a dog to the bush to hunt, upon return, it is the man that cooks the animal, even when the hunting dog comes, it is chased away, in the words after all, I took you for hunting.”

Journalists are the famous democrats as most politicians, lawyers are. Imagine this scenario, that doctor that naturally saves lives is inhibited by a law to do so. One such law was when police recently said that a person with bullet wound must first bring police report before treatment by a medical doctor. Whether right or wrong, good or bad law, it is a law, made by the political process.

When you eventually decided to participate in the political process what actually influenced your eventual choice of a political party?  The ACN?

Yes, my ideological bias is pro-South West, I read the Sun Newspaper yesterday, that ideas move the world. Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo didnt run free education with his personal money. The man just woke and reasoned that unless something drastic was done the poor won’t have education and said no, he could not continue that way, if not, at the end, only the rich Yoruba would go to school, and the poor would not, because of non-affordability. So, he persuaded his people that had qualified as a lawyer in London, 1945, before starting politics and became Regional Premier, ‘I am comfortable’, he told his people but what will happen to the rest of the Yorubas, particularly, those from Ekiti, Ondo, poor farmers who do not have opportunity? Of course, school came to them late compared to the Ijabus, Egbas the Lagosians and the rest. Something needed to be done, so Awolowo had to tax the rich and put proceeds in the state fund and successfully ran free education. It is something unbelievable in the 1950s, it had never been experimented anywhere, in Africa, but they tried it, and it worked, today you may agree with me that the Yoruba tribe, including Delta and Edo to the present day Oyo, is the most adanced in terms of education, but can the South East pursue same policies.

You made the news during the April Governorship elections campaign, from the ACN’s perspective, for the wrong reasons, when you pledged support for Gov Amaechi instead of Dr Abiye Sekibo, your party’s candidate.  Some said you were bribed to defect, and therefore, sacked by your party but your loyalists dismissed such accusations as the pot calling kettle black. What really happened?

I led the campaign of my party in the 23 local government areas of the state as Chairman and to a large extent, the ACN moved ahead. Unfortunately, many Rivers people, thought differently about the governorship. For the records, during the National Assembly election, I was in my village in Elele and ofcourse it is on record that I delivered my ward and unit in spite of all because I did my homework. But many people said that the incumbent governor has set in motion laudable things that are very difficult for any other person to handle, properly. And it was their thinking that he be let to finish those projects he had set in motion, so they could judge how far he could go between the and 2015, because the projects are not only mega in nature, in character, and in content.

The monorail for example, does not exist anywhere else in any part of Africa. The whole idea is of Rivers State; the new campus of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Greater Port Harcourt and the Karibi-White mega hospital are others.  He is the one who conceived these ideas so to avoid something like a gap between ideas conceived and implemented or even a stop because somebody did not agree with the idea and concept. “Yes, the projects may not be all be perfect ideas, but let them progress with the serving Governor,” was the message I got from a large number of people of Rivers State. But I did not stop there. I also discussed with some very senior journalists in the State who also repeated the thinking of Rivers people based on their own independent findings, that Amaechi be allowed to rule till 2015. By then, they would have been able to see what has been done of the mega hospital, Greater Port Harcourt,monorail and so on and so forth. Of course, I explained this to my party, ACN but being a political party, you can be sure they would not accept, but the truth about my person is that, in all of my life, I have always submitted to and agreed with superior ideas. So, based on self conviction, what I said before the election, after very wide consultations, was that my believers should join me in expressing my respect for superior ideas and vote for the incumbent Governor Amaechi.

I was mindful because the issue was a sensitive one and many would label me a thorn-coat or outright betrayer,’ that was why I said, “those who believe in Uche Okwukwu should vote for the incumbent Governor, but should vote ACN for the House of Assembly seat in my constituency. Even so, I have been called several names, I do not bother myself on that because even General Powell, a leading Republican, and former Joint Chief of Staff of the USA, encountered the same problem during the elections that ushered in President Barack Obama. Powell had had a personal consultation with top fellow Republicans, stated publicly that he believed Obama, and not his party’s candidate McCain, had very well clear-cut idea of what America needed.

He said, Obama has clear cut idea of what he wants to do in America.

As it was in my case, he too found it very difficult to convince the rest, because Obama, being a black with a Muslim background was indeed a hard-sell coming out from both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

He told them still that he believed Obama had great plans for America and since that was what the country wanted he begged that his Republican folks should give him a chance to follow his heart.

Of course, they rejected him, So, he said well, I Powell will vote for Obama. Today, Powell is still a member the of Republican Party. The Republicans knew that he took a personal decision, so they said, we will not kill him. They did so because they knew every political decision in this world is a collection of personal decisions. So, every political action is also personal. You bear the burden and bliss of it.

And I have said, if anybody read my interview, previously in some National  dailies, my position was clear, the people said they wanted to allow Ameachi till 2015 after 8 years. Period.

Powell was not chairman of the Republican Party, you were a party chairman and in that position you took an oath not to allow your personal decisions to affect your official conduct. Since your decision ran contrary to the party’s agenda, was it not anti-party? Was that why you did resign as chairman of ACN in Rivers State?

I did not resign as the chairman of ACN. I did not resign as the chairman of the party at all.

Why not, was your personal position the decision of the party?

No, not decision of the party, but I consulted widely and called the leadership of the party to a meeting and I told them this, ‘we should not do things for the fun of it, we must as much as possible be with the people, I mean greater percentage of Rivers people. This is their opinion. “I told them, and of course with great respect, the person who contested the House of Assembly elections in Ikwerre Local Government Constituency is here and alive to attest to this. In the meeting I  called, I told them the opinion of the people of Rivers  State to allow Amaechi continue with the mega projects he has  started, whether it is right or wrong let us allow him to go on with projects till 2015, so that he  would be able to achieve over 50 per cent success before any other person can come on board because any other Governor may not agree completely  with his concept and ideas, or, he may agree with it but may not go on with the same speed that the man who  conceived the idea would have gone about it. But if you have 50 per cent (on ground) of a particular thing, whoever comes would be morally bound to pursue it.  But if left at this stage, it may not be in the interest of the large majority of Rivers people.

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Special Interview

Honesty, Diligence, Performance’ll Take Any Individual, Entity Far – Isokariari



Today, Chief Okoma Kio Isokariari clocks 87 years on Earth. The czar of civil engineering and construction, and foremost indigenous contractor, though looking frail with age, had worked tirelessly to the zenith of the industry, with particularly iconic buildings dotted across Kalabari Kingdom, Rivers State, and Nigerian’s indelible legacies of his professionalism, competence and commitment to excellence.
Before he retired from active site works and supervision, O. K. Isokariari was a colossus of brick and tar. He could work and move from one project site to the other without resting. He traversed the length and breadth of the country snapping jobs and executing them with zest, finesse and dexterity. His footprints stand out like a diamond in the sky across many communities, and today, represents part of the positive contributions of Rivers State to the realisation of the Nigerian Project.
Ahead of his birthday, today, barely 123 days after celebrating 50 years of the existence of O.K. Isokariari Nigeria Limited(formerly O. K. Isokariari & Sons) as a corporate entity, on July 4, 2022, the legendary indigenous contractor sat down with The Tide Editorial team led by the Acting Chairman, Editorial Board and Supervising Editor, Nelson Chukwudi; Health & Metro Reporter, Kevin Nengia; and Photographer, Ken Nu-ue, to reminisce on the past and charta course for the younger generation who would want to leave a mark, as he has done.
Below are excerpts of the 35-minute chat with the Rivers State icon in the built industry.
Sir, can you tell us who is Chief O. K. Isokariari?
Oh yes, Chief Okoma Kio Isokariari is from Buguma, headquarters of today’s Asari-Toru Local Government Area. I was born in Buguma on the 4th of November, 1935, and was baptised at St Michael’s Anglican Church, Buguma. I attended St Michael’s School and graduated with distinction. After that, I proceeded to Kalabari National College where I was House Prefect. I graduated five years later with an Advanced Level General Certificate of Education (GCE).
Not long after, I went to Zaria in 1957, and got job with the Nigerian Railway Corporation as Station Staff-In-Training. In July, 1957, I was selected among about 30 others and sent to Nigerian Railway Traffic Training School at Ebute-Metta, Lagos, where we were trained for six months. During the training, I was made Class Prefect, flying the flag of the region. I came out of the training with sharpened skills and expertise in traffic and logistics management.
After the training, I went back to Zaria, and was deployed to Kuchi station between Kaduna and Minna as station staff, a serious position in the corporation. I moved to Kano, a major railway hub, in November, 1959. With comfortable earning and savings as a responsible Kalabari son, I began making moves to marry in 1964, and eventually got married to Grace, the daughter of Amanyanabo of Kalabari, King Abiye Suku Amachree in Buguma.
Following the social upheavals in the North as a result of the 1966 coup, I returned to Buguma in June, 1966. I went back to Kano in August, 1966 after normalcy had been restored. But tension soon rose again in September, 1966. This time, the national crisis was more serious and disrupted my career. God saved me during the crisis as a lot of us from the South were killed in Kaduna in the reprisal mayhem. I went into hiding for many weeks in Kano to avoid being killed. However, I escaped by divine grace by flying to Lagos on October 17, 1966. It was a very difficult journey of life and death. In fact, I walked in the valley of death. That escape has been my happiest moment in life and the driving force of my success. It was a turning point. From Lagos, I returned home to the warm embrace of my mother in Buguma by boat on October 19.When the crisis died down, I went back to Zaria and continued with my job.
Not too long after, the civil war started. During the civil war, I shuttled between Buguma and Port Harcourt, striving to eke out a living amid the unspeakable humanitarian tragedy, and ruins of war. I first worked as supervisor at the Rivers State Ministry of Rehabilitation. I served in the state rehabilitation committee. Before then, I had attended St John’s Ambulance Course, similar to the Red Cross training. With my experience in providing emergency services, I was busy serving war victims. After the war, I actively participated in the resettlement, rehabilitation and reintegration efforts of displaced people in Port Harcourt.
Not letting go of my business instinct, I registered my first company – ISOYE Enterprises to explore opportunities in stockfish distribution business. But seeing the urgency in addressing the housing and rehabilitation needs of Port Harcourt residents, I ventured into engineering and construction with the setting up of O. K. Isokariari & Sons in 1970, and incorporated it on July 4, 1972.
After the war, I returned to Zaria to continue with my work at the Nigerian Railways. My exceptional performance on the job earned me several awards for my dedication and commitment to duty. But with the lessons of history hovering over me, I voluntarily resigned in 1969 after 12 years of meritorious service to Nigeria, and the management of Nigerian Railways paid me all my entitlements.
So, how did you start your construction business considering the fact that you retired as a civil servant?
After my resignation from the Nigerian Railways, I returned to Port Harcourt to join the concerted efforts at rebuilding the war-ravaged city. Having settled down in my state, I added the little savings I had made to my pay-off, and used it to start my business. But let me say this, the war provided me the opportunity to delve into the construction sector because many opportunities existed then.
After the war, I started business with my experience in the Railways by engaging in house painting, renovations and supply of workshop tools to Rivers State Ministry of Works. Many houses were in ruins and people were starting life afresh. With the conditions of the city, it was not difficult for hardworking Rivers sons and daughters to find good paying jobs to feed themselves and their families. So, with the good foundation I had, with high level of discipline, frugality, honesty and integrity, I started getting clients. Not long after, bigger contracts started coming in, including contracts from the Rivers State Government under its First Military Administrator, Commander Alfred Diette-Spiff, and the Federal Government under General Yakubu Gowon.
My first big contract was the Braithwaite Nursing Home (Memorial Hospital) Building renovation and reconstruction in Old GRA, Port Harcourt in 1970. I was one of those who submitted tender for the project and as God would have it, I was awarded the contract in the sum of £14, 700 at the time. We completed the job in 1971. My company also built the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation in 1972. Of course, that became the launch pad for O. K. Isokariari and Sons.
Impressed with what we did at BMH, the military administration at the time led by Commander Diete-Spiff selected me among other contractors to build general hospitals across the 21 divisions in the state. I was fortunate to be one of those awarded the contract to build the 30-bed Buguma General Hospital at the cost of £130,000 in 1972. Each of the general hospitals were awarded at Ahoada, Isiokpo, Bori, Abua, Bodo, Sagbama, Nembe, Yenagoa, and Brass, among others, at the same value. Of all the contactors, we were the first to complete and deliver good quality project at Buguma in March, 1975.That project later became a reference point for other hospitals. I earned a recommendation in March, 1975, for our quality job at Buguma during the commissioning.
Afterwards, we handled the PAN African Bank headquarters building at Azikiwe Road, awarded at N9million. We also got the NNPC zonal headquarters building at Moscow Road – a nine-storey building – and later, the NAFCON Village and staff quarters at Onne. We got that at N26million. The NAFCON building was worth $28million because at that time, the Dollar was little lower than the Naira in 1982.We delivered the project in 1985. We also built the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) staff quarters on Okporo Road at Mgbuesilaru in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area; NNPC awarded us contract to build the Japanese Construction Company’s staff quarters for the construction of Port Harcourt Refinery at Eleme. We built the Abonnema Ring Road and bridges; built the University of Port Harcourt’s arts theatre – The Crab – at Choba; DSS senior staff quarters in Port Harcourt; Nigerian Defence Academy senior officers’ quarters in Kaduna; Nigerian Army Command and Staff College school building in Jaji; NNPC’s 40 houses for new Finima Town; the Port Harcourt Cenotaph at Isaac Boro Park; NCDMB’s NOGAPS capacity training centre and Industrial Park’s internal roads in Bayelsa; Port Harcourt New Layout Market; Okochiri internal roads phase 1; among many others. In fact, I have seen the delivery of over 400 housing projects, school and hospital projects, and 150km asphalted roads that have continued to stand the test of time, in addition to many reclamation, sand-filling, canalisation and water projects, awarded by government at all levels, oil and gas companies, and others.
So, after all these iconic projects and achievements, how has life been?
I have retired long ago, and my children have taken over the business. Life has been good, though today, I am getting frail and weak. However, as a man with passion for adding value to society and impacting lives positively, I still make inputs to push the envelope further in the portfolio of my business.
Looking back at how things used to be, what would be your advice for young contractors of today?
I would advise them to be honest, steadfast, diligent and committed to delivering quality jobs to their clients. They need to have the stamina to overcome challenges as they come. Such problems include delay in payment for contract fees; navigating the financial system and economic policies, including the commercial and lending banks; even in the face of economic downturns. They also need to be patient and trying to meet clients’ demands without compromising job specifications, standards and best practices. That, to me, is very essential in sustaining contracts and winning the confidence of key stakeholders.
They should also remember that devotion is very important. I mean devotion, diligence and commitment. In our days, it was much more difficult to get contracts than what obtains today. Our work spoke for us at that time. Our legacies still speak for us today because our values, business principles and character remain the same. Anyone who has seen what we did before and what we are doing now, knows that our watchword is quality.
Like The Tide building on No 4, Ikwerre Road, which still stands strong even after a devastating fire outbreak in 2012?
Yes! And others like it. We built them with unmistakable commitment to quality, and desire to bequeath to our state enduring landmarks for posterity.
And these landmarks are major signature achievements that leave O. K. Isokariari in the history book of the state?
Our work spoke for us! They are known for their strength and unique structure. Anyone who sees our job could easily identify us. To some extent, we were far better than some foreign contractors. That is why I always emphasise on quality. That is what I am known for!
What is your take on the recurrent issue of collapsed buildings, most of them giving way while still under construction?
It is unfortunate. Most of the people involved in many of those cases are quacks and desperate individuals struggling to cut corners in order to enrich themselves at the detriment of the people. Such people should not get any construction contract, whether from government or any other entity.
So, what would be your advice to governments?
For me, prudence is the word. That might mean accountability, but the key thing is for government officials and decision-makers to be conscientious and determined to use only those contractors who can deliver quality jobs, knowing that they hold their offices in trust for the people, and also that the money expended on those projects belong to the people.
Unfortunately, most of the contractors today fall short of the standard. Most of them are portfolio contactors who are looking for government money to siphon. Yet, they are getting jobs! How can you award a contract to a company that has no wheelbarrow? No paid, competent staff? No reputation and track record of performance? So, government must be careful, meticulous and ensure due diligence so that monies are spent on quality, and for the best.
So, on your 87th Birthday, what do you like to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered as that Rivers man from Buguma who touched and transformed many lives; whose legacies would remain a source of inspiration and motivation to generations yet unborn. I want my footprints in Buguma, Kalabari Kingdom, Rivers State, Niger Delta, Nigeria and the whole world, to inspire greater desire for service to humanity. I want to be remembered as that good father who gave equal opportunities to his children to be what they dare to be. I want to be a reference point for many young entrepreneurs, especially in the state, who want to add value to the overall development of the state. I want the projects I have executed to continue to speak for O. K. Isokariari Nigeria Limited, my children and grandchildren.
Madam, it has not been easy taking care of your husband and children all these while. What is that unique thing that has sustained your marriage? And to the young girls out there, what advice do you have to help them manage their marriages to be as successful as yours?
Well, the most important thing is contentment and love. You have to be satisfied with what you have, and love your husband and children equally. Patience is key to building a peaceful family. So, I will advice young couples to be contented at any level they are. If they are contented and work hard, God will help them grow to be successful.
I am happy that my son who took over from his father is doing well. He is trying his best. Humility pays! Often times, he seeks and gets advice from the Dad, who is the Founder of the company. And that is very important for the growth of the company.

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Special Interview

‘Our One Year In Obio/Akpor Council Has Been Fulfilling’ 



This is the concluding part of the interview carried last Friday, July 22, 2022.

Mr. Chairman, there was recently an incident in Rumuogba where miscrants accosted workers at a property site claiming to be working for the council whereas their claim was not true. How do you handle the issue of touting in revenue generation in your local government?
Let me tell you the candid truth: my problem is not with the people that go about asking for such money. No! My problem is with those people like the property owner you just talked about. We have gone on air, we have announced severally on radio and TV: anything you want to pay that concerns the council; our offices are open from 8am to 5pm, which is when they close that gate, come to the council here, and make your payments and obtain original receipts from the council. Get your approvals and papers from us here. We do not exist in heaven, we are here at Rumuodomaya. Come and pay your tenement rate fees, operational permits and other taxes here.
The truth is that people deliberately fail to do the right things, believing that when those boys come knocking, they will just pay a little token, and they will give them adulterated documents claiming to be issued by us. And by paying them that money, you are encouraging them to do same to another person or come back tomorrow. We are aware of all these. They patronise the touts at the detriment of the council. That is what they do!
For instance, if you want to develop your property, you come to the council to pay the land rate and fencing permit levy. Outside of that, before you start your building, you bring your drawing here for approval. And most of our people do not do that. They don’t! Like I said, my problem is not with the boys who tout around, but the people that are giving them the leverage to continue to exist. Because if you come to the council, and you get the right papers, as a right-thinking Nigerian, you cannot get your papers and somebody will come and tell you to pay again for the same papers. You will not accept it because you know that you made your payment at the right source and place. All you need to do is to come back to the council, and complain, and your grievances will be resolved. If it is not what you are supposed to pay, when you go back, and the people come again, you arrest them with the police. Inform us, and we will come there and tell the police that we did not send these persons. And they will be prosecuted.
But what do we find here, we find people who will stay back, they won’t pay what they are supposed to pay, and then, when the boys come, if they fail to settle as per price, maybe, they will tell you the boys are coming to harass them. But in your conscience, you know you have not paid what you were lawfully meant to pay. That is what we see. And that is the problem we have! The council gates are open to all who have any legitimate business to transact with us. If we said this is the levy you are supposed to pay, first and foremost, if you get the remand notice, and you are too sure, get across to us at the council for clarification. We have designated bank accounts, go and pay what you are due, and come and obtain original receipts and your papers from us. Do they do that? The answer is no! Then, at the end of the day, when they are not able to pay the touts whatever they are asking for, it becomes an issue of complaint: they are coming to harass us. That is the problem we are facing.
Nobody wants to do the right thing, but they sit back and then, they make so much noise only in the guise of wanting to tarnish the image of the local government. That is what they do. Most of them don’t pay. It is only when the boys go to their sites, and seize their material, that is when you see them bring their drawings here for approval. That is when they come here to pay if they are not able to pay those people there. And for the ones that think they are smart, that is when they will give those boys money there, and they go. Then, when we set up our own monitoring teams to go and verify, they now say… they gave this much; meanwhile they did not come to the council to pay and obtain their original receipts and papers. You gave the money to who? When we ask them, they look for one story to tell. So, that is the problem we are having! If the people, out of their own volition know that this is their civic responsibility, and do those things expected of them to do, you can now come back and tell us that we are the richest local government, and we will tell you, yes, we are because we are seeing the money. But we are not!
Don’t you think that is one of the reasons why you are not because a large chunk of what is supposed to be coming to the local government council is not coming?
That is what we are saying. We are saying the same thing. You can’t just assume it to be so. Alright! It is like the misconception about budgeting. You hear that they have budgeted N50trillion. Is the money there? The money is not there! It is a mere projection. Most times, they will not even get up to half of that amount. Most times, they will spend above that amount. It happens because we are all human beings. That is how it is with what you are trying to assess now. So, that is what we are passing through. And the best way to it is to still appeal to those who are doing business in our local government to do the right thing.
Because the only option left for us now is to set up a task force team to go and verify whether you have paid or not, and get our money for us, if you have not paid. And you see those people who patronise the touts are the same people that shout the most. Before you know it, they have gone to social media; they have gone to conventional media, claiming that Obio/Akpor officials are harassing them and breaking into their shops or business premises. But we have given you enough time; we have announced in the media the timeline and deadline for you to pay. Early January to mid-February, we are on air all-through making announcements for people to come to the council and make their payments for the year. What else do you expect us to do? The moment we set up task forces now, they will start shouting to high heavens, they have come again; they are harassing us; they don’t want us to do our business. But you that was supposed to pay your obligations to the council; you have failed to do that, and you are blaming us for taking steps to recover our money. Because if you have come here to pay, we do not have any reason to set up any task forces that sometimes, are confrontational, to recover our money. And then, it becomes the issue of complaint. That is the problem we have!         And when you say, let me avoid these complaints, and not set up any task force, they still won’t come on their own to make the payment so that we can have money to work for our people. Or is it my personal money that I am going to use to work for the people? Is it my own money that I am going to use to pay for the Postgraduate grants? Or pay for the skills acquisition training for beneficiaries? Or for the projects we are doing? It is this money from levies, taxes, etc, that we are using to do them! And they make it look like if it comes, you put it in your pockets: it is not for personal aggrandisement! It is for the delivery of democracy dividends to the people. It is only those who do not have initiative that will not utilise the council’s money prudently to deliver quality services to the people. We are focused and resilient, and we know what to do to make our people, who elected us to serve them, happy.
But we are still reaching out to them. We will continue to appeal to business operators to come and do the needful for the good of all in the local government, because without that money, we cannot work. Let them stop patronising touts. They are the ones encouraging them. So, these are part of the major problems we experience in trying to harness our revenue for you to have the foundation to tell us we are the richest or we are the largest. There is no statistics to back that up! That is what it is.
Chairman Sir, you have said a lot concerning your achievements in the past one year. I know it requires a lot of money for you to carry out these development projects in the local government. So, what are you doing to shore up the revenue base of the council by way of diversification of the economy of the local government?
Well, how do we diversify? Unless you are talking of it from the point of view of investments! But like I said, as it stands now, our core investment is in the area of human capacity development. The law allows us to provide support for health; education; build markets; parks; property approval and building permits; and collection of tenement rates and derivable levies. That is all the diversification you can talk about. Except you are talking of venturing into agriculture! We don’t have that capacity.
What we do is to see to what extent we can add value to improve the lives of our people directly. That is what we see as our own diversification or what we can call investment; because we believe that by tomorrow, it will yield positive dividends. The multiplier effects arising therefrom can also count for us.
But out of that, we have the intention of building one or two new markets, or renovate one or two. We also plan to develop one or two more parks, because even if you do so, we have parks and markets already existing. You see those ones in those communities, even if you build more, they won’t allow you to come and collect the rent. By the time you want to press it, they will say you are confrontational. It is something when you come to experience it that you know better. If not, these are the little openings the law allows us to get involved in, in order to raise revenue for the council. Because we cannot on our own get involved in things the law does not permit us to do. What the law provides for us is: you establish markets; you establish parks; you collect daily tolls; and all of that. The diversification you are talking about now can only be in the area of investment. I think we are doing all we can outside our monthly allocation to boost our revenue and add to accelerate quality service delivery. It is what we have in our place here, that God has blessed us with, but the problem is how to harness it to enhance our revenue base because of the bottlenecks I have explained to you. That is what we are exploring.
We have our agents, and we are doing everything possible to tap all available options to increase our revenue base. I must also acknowledge that they are some companies and business operators in the local government that within the period given to them, the moment they receive our demand notice, they come to pay their due. But we still have some big companies that connive with these touts to evade payment of what is due the council.
Are you planning to digitise revenue collection in the council to check corruption and other sundry sharp practices?
Cuts in!
We are working towards that. But one thing you must understand is, even at that, like I know how many filling stations that are operating in Obio/Akpor. I know how many hotels. In fact, we have a record of how many companies that are operating in our area. But no matter how you look at it, it takes a willing mind to pay what he or she is statutorily obligated to pay to the government. Anyone not interested in paying will not want to pay voluntarily. Majority of the people always wants to be forced to do the right thing. We do not have difficulty collecting the money. The issue is: are they willing to pay? Because it is a willing mind that will do what you are saying, whether automated or not. I hope you understand me? Those that are paying will be the same ones that will pay whether you automate the process or not, because it is a voluntary thing. What they hear is that one that officials will come and lock up their shops or business premises or carry their goods or wares. That is the problem: lack of people’s willingness to discharge their obligations voluntarily. Even when you spread the annual payment over a period of time within the year, those not ready and willing to pay, won’t pay.
Interjection! Chairman, let me step in here. Let us leave that issue, enough has already been said about it.
Chairman, I know that this is not your problem, but a lot of motorists have been complaining about the bad gullies and craters near the entrance to your council’s gate on the Port Harcourt-Owerri Road. Why don’t you try to do something to rehabilitate those bad spots to ease free flow of traffic around this axis?
Oh! The one in front of the council secretariat? Somebody told me they talked about it on radio the other day. Well, two weeks after I assumed office, we tried to do something around that. But I have listened to some of the commentaries on radio. Some people actually feign ignorance on who has the responsibility to address that challenge.
You know that we have three tiers of government: The federal, state and local government. That responsibility falls squarely under the purview of the Federal Government, because it is a federal road. It is not even the duty of the state government to intervene, except it secures the go-ahead of the Federal Government.
If you are saying it as a suggestion, fine. We can consider it based on available resources to us. But it is not my responsibility as a council. It is not! We have a lot of competing needs that we are obligated to address as leaders at the local government level. Our people elected us to serve them, and we have to judiciously spend the scarce resources available to deliver for our people. It is not just something you wake up one day and throw yourself into. Do we have the money to do it? The answer is no!
And more so, they have given the contract to LCC, a construction company to handle. They are in the process of providing drainages on the road. It is a gradual process. They are doing the work! It is not as if vehicles are not passing the road. It is just that some people are just idle, and do not know what to say or do with their precious time. Some journalists just want people to listen to their stations, so they look for just anything to say to engage idle minds.
Chairman, every job has its own risks and exposures. This job, for the past one year, has also exposed you to certain risks that you may not have anticipated. A case in point was early this year when your task force team on illegal crude oil refineries was accosted at a point around Rumuolumeni, and there was a near combat situation between some armed personnel of a Federal Government security agency and your team. My instinct tells me that you were physically present while the fight was raging. How did you feel about your safety during that confrontation?
Well, let me start it this way. You know that one of the questions you asked was that my local government is the richest. That is part of the risk. You won’t understand.
Well, that is what leadership is about. You can’t come here and just think it is a bed of roses. There are attendant risks associated with the job. That situation on that fateful day is one of such risks. Even in the job you do as a journalist, there are risks you face on a daily basis. It is what comes with the job, and you should be ready to face it. We are here to solve problems; we are here to face challenges first and foremost. This place is not a party hall; it is not a place for luxury. You that made up your mind to become council chairman must have also made up your mind to frontally tackle whatever challenges may arise during the course of your tenure.
So, it is not the team I sent. I was physically present there, and I was the one they were attacking for leading a team to disrupt and dismantle their illegal business activities in my council area. It was the confrontation I had with men of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) at Rumuolumeni. I was the one with the guy that had a gun; I was the person in the video that went viral on social media. It is what it is: it is governance! It is leadership! You must confront issues as there arise. Because: what is democracy? It is all about the people! What is governance? It is all about the people! The centrepiece of it is the people.
So, whatever it is that is affecting your people that you have sworn to govern, should be your personal challenge. We knew the effect of the soot pandemic everywhere in the state until the governor intervened and took the proactive step, and ordered the chairmen of the 23 local government councils to ensure that the operators and sponsors of illegal oil bunkering activities in the communities are identified and reported to appropriate authorities for investigation and prosecution while their sites should be closed permanently. He ordered the chairmen to join the fight because there is no way he can do it alone. After all, we relate more closely with the people at the grassroots. It borders on our people. The soot was affecting the health of our people.
So, for you to be a leader, no matter the level, you should be resilient; your mind should be made up to confront most of these challenges head-on. Some people have lost their lives in the course of defending their people. That is leadership! And if you are not ready to sacrifice for your people, then, you do not deserve to be a leader. So, that is the motivating factor that we have to keep pushing because it is in the interest of our people.
Chairman, you talked about what you were doing at Rumuekini: the Fish Farm. I will like to know: what is the state of that farm, today? Is it producing? Are we earning money from the farm already? Secondly, Obio/Akpor has a serious challenge of refuse disposal. We understand the challenges, especially when the issue of refuse disposal was handed over to you by the governor when Rivers State Waste Management Agency (RIWAMA) had problems. What is the situation now? And how are you coping with that to ensure that the local government is free of filth?
Well, we thank God that as it stands now, a task force has been set up by the governor to take over that responsibility. But while it lasted, it was a daunting experience. A big one at that! It was an intervention that we got involved directly. But experience has shownthat refuse collection and disposal is a serious business. Very serious business managed by very serious-minded people!
Of course, refuse is produced in seconds. And you know that it is human beings that produce waste. So, it follows that where you have high concentration of the population, the tendency is that you have more refuse produced by the seconds within that area. Like Obio/Akpor, if you talk about population concentration, it doubles that of Port Harcourt City. That is why we seem to have more waste than any other local government in the state.
It has always been the responsibility of RIWAMA. But through the directive of the governor, we intervened and did what we were able to do to help. The job has reverted to RIWAMA, and the task force is incharge now. We even attended a meeting at the invitation of the task force, yesterday, to ask us on what experience we have garnered and what suggestions we could make to help them do even better. We had very candid conversations around the issues, and we also made suggestions for seamless refuse collection and disposal in the capital city through a strategic synergy that works for the good of all in the communities.
Of course, the local government council must be involved; just as the communities must also be involved, because they are the ones generating the refuse. So, they should also be involved in all-round monitoring and supervision of evacuation at the receptacles and compaction at the dumpsites, because we have the manpower at this level. We know that most of the refuse contractors, if you don’t supervise and monitor them very closely, they won’t do their jobs diligently. So, we need to work with RIWAMA for them to succeed. All the same, we thank God that we were able to do that job, but it was very overwhelming, I must admit.
Now, back to the issue of the Rumuekini fish farm. Yes, as it is today, it is not functioning optimally. We are trying to work out modalities for its efficient and effective operation. But we said, if we finish securing the place first, to be sure, then, we can begin the next process. We want to set up an agro-based business there outside of the fish farm in partnership with interested investors. We are talking with some people already, and we believe that by the time we are done, we would have bequeathed a thriving agro-based business portfolio that will not only employ a lot of our people but also generate income for many families and the council as well.
If we are to continue with the facility, we may have to totally renovate and expand it. Our intention initially was to, because it is in units, just to add extra units, make them modern, and then, in each unit, raise like two or three women, give them money to run it as a business. They will manage it, sell and make returns to the council, no matter how little. We are working that out. Now that we have been able to secure the place, it will now give us that platform to work out something. My supervisor for agriculture is working out the modalities. We are talking with a team from Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and two or three other organisations to see how the place can be optimised for the good of the people of Obio/Akpor.
Going forward, what are we expecting from you in Obio/Akpor?
Yes, we have hit the ground running. Like I said, in the area of human capital development, we will continue with our post-graduate grants. We will also continue with our vocational skills acquisition programme. We will do another two sets. The PG programmes, we will do another two sets of 50 for PhD and 50 for Masters. So, at the end of our three-year tenure, we would have produced 150 PhD and 150 Masters degree holders.
We have other very important projects we want to embark upon. First among them is the Secondary School Block we promised to build for Woji community. We are thinking about one or two important link roads in the two constituencies of Obio and Akpor that make up the local government. If it is not something that can go round all the 17 wards, we do it constituency-by-constituency. If it can go beyond the constituency but not up to the ward level, we do it by clans, like what we did with the Charkin Academy admission. We could not carry the burden at the ward level by choosing 17 persons, as to one from each ward. So, what we did was use the nine clans as a basis for the selection of beneficiaries. In Evo, we have three clans – Oro-Evo, Oro-Esara, and Oro-Opotoma, that is in constituency one; in constituency two, we have three clans – Akpor, Apara, and Rumueme; then, the remaining, we gave to non-indigenes of Obio/Akpor. That was how we distributed the slots for the Charkin admission. So, we had a balance in the selection process.
All we can say is that Obio/Akpor people should expect more from us. And above all of these is the programme we want to start for our women petty traders. You know that we do not have farm lands anymore. Our women used to be very industrious and hardworking farmers, but with the lands gone to urbanisation, the only available space they have now, they display pepper, tomatoes, vegetables, and all those foodstuffs. So, we think we can encourage them by giving seed money to improve their trades; maybe, N10,000 to N20,000 revolving facility, so that we can reach as many women as possible in the communities. That way, we will help them boost their small businesses to support their families, and also help the council grow economically. So, that will be our focus too in no distant time.
The moment we are sure that it is workable, and will impact positively on the people, we will kick-start it, maybe, towards the end of the year, and nosedive into next year. We have already told them that it is not going to be business as usual. They have to be judicious and frugal in the management of whatever they are given, because it is not for free; they have to pay back the money. The structures have to be in place to make the scheme sustainable.
We also have a scheme for the youths. We will identify the ones that are ready to be engaged, and want to eke out a living for themselves, if they get any support. Then, with the scheme, we will support them to be useful to themselves and the society. That way, we would have strengthened the economies of our communities; and built a more resilient and peaceful society.
We are going to do all these because we have the interest of our people at heart. We promised to address their challenges when we come on board, and we have to keep our promise. We will not disappoint them.

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Special Interview

‘I Want To Be Remembered For Laying RSUTH Foundation’



The Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH), one of the newest in Nigeria, has come a long way since it came into being four years ago. The change from a comparatively obscure Braithwaithe Memorial Specialist Hospital (BMSH) in the country to its present status as a Teaching Hospital has not yet ceased to baffle close watchers. How did this happen? Who made it happen? What is it that has so turned things around in it that has made it the bride of genuine good health seekers within and outside the State? To respond to these and other nagging questions, The Tide’s Business Editor, Soibi Max-Alalibo, and Deputy News Editor, Sogbeba Dokubo, sought the answers from the Chief Medical Director, RSUTH, Dr. Friday E. Aaron, on whose shoulders the responsibility was placed. The interview turned out to be revealing as it was assuring.

Since 2018, when the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital was birthed from the then Braithwaithe Memorial Specialist Hospital, Rivers people, residents of the State, and those from other neighbouring states have never had it so good in terms of accessing medical care for which they hitherto had to travel very far.

Beyond easily accessing the right medical care, patients can now walk in, get necessary medical attention, and walk out with little or no stress as it was in the days of BMSH.

Staff, from the bottom to top, are more dedicated to their responsibilities due to high motivational standards, better equipment to work with, and incentives, which have given them more reason to put in their best in their jobs.

The result is that from being an institution that rendered only health care services, it now renders the same services at a more higher level, trains health care practitioners, and also carries out researches.

Photo Caption: 64 slice CT Scan, used for Radio-diagnostic imaging.

The person at the centre of this phenomenal change is the State Governor, His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, who, as part of his NEW Vision, extended his midas touch to the hospital by appointing a technocrat in the fold of Dr Friday Aaron as the pioneer Chief Medical Director (CMD), who has turned out to be the engine room or the development of one of the foremost Teaching Hospitals in Nigeria.

As the CMD puts it: “I have not just been in charge, I’m the pioneer CMD of the hospital. So, that places on me a huge assignment of laying the foundation, and then building on it”.

This eventually became his driving force, which is “to be remembered as one that came, laid a foundation that people should build on, sustainably”.

In order to attain this quest, Dr. Aaron acknowledged what he called the “incontestable magnanimity” of the State Governor in according him the privilege of not just appointing him as the pioneer CMD, but also providing the wherewithal in terms of provision of manpower, equipment, and key Infrastructures required to turn the tide of the hospital around to what it is today, preparatory to what it will be years to come.

“One thing that’s outstanding is the overall change in the hospital, the overall repositioning of the hospital that was just mainly rendering health care services, to a Teaching Hospital with capacity to manage very complex cases.

“And that change is obvious for us to see in terms of infrastructure, change in mindset of staff, quality of services, in terms of overall patient experience “, he said.

On assumption of duty in 2018, the first thing he did to set things in motion was to develop a Mission, Vision, and Core Values for the hospital, and also ensure that staff adhere strictly to achieving them as spelt out in their various responsibilities.

“In all our meetings we remind ourselves of these core values and take one of them and remind ourselves of how to go about it”, he explained.

To encourage staff in being at their best in their jobs, various awards have been instituted for outstanding staff in various departments, “and this has changed their mindset for better and quality service delivery”.

The result is that four years down the lane, RSUTH has not only recorded tremendous achievements in areas that fall within its mandate, but has also kept on improving in all key three areas that comprise the mandate: rendering medical services; training of medical personnel; and carrying out researches. These three are what the CMD called the “Trypod Mandate” of a Teaching Hospital.

In service delivery, RSUTH now renders services beyond Rivers State up to the South-South and South East States.

“After we became a Teaching Hospital, we now render services up to the South-South and South East because of the level of equipment we have “, he stated.

Dr Aaron, an orthopedic surgeon, said the result of the upgrade to a Teaching Hospital, among others, is that the environment has turned into a beehive of activities: from the gate through all the various departments, every staff is usually on their toes, and does so with a mindset of responsibility to serve, and in all happiness to do so.

“When you talk about services, you see that anytime you walk into the hospital, you see how busy it is, because of the level of services we render”, he said.

Beyond attending efficiently to all who come to the hospital to seek treatment or service, by ensuring that they get to the right place to get the required attention, the hospital has also improved in clinical care services, where diagnostics stands out tops.

As the CMD captures it, “we have the best radio diagnostic equipment East of the Niger “.

Such diagnostic equipment include: Magnetic Resonance Imagine (MRI) 1.5 Tesla Machine, for general body imaging; Computer Tomography (CT); Mammography Machine, used for breast imaging; Fluoroscopy Machine, for dynamic imaging studies; and Plain Radiography Machine, which is used for static imaging.

These and other essential machines for a Teaching Hospital that are not commonly available in most tertiary health care institutions in the country has turned RSUTH into a Mecca of sort, attracting people from outside the State, most especially from the South-South and South East.

Such States include Enugu, Umuahia, Owerri, and Bayelsa. People Troup into the hospital for one form of diagnostic investigation or the other on a daily basis.

Following the upgrade also, there have been non-stop and all round power supply from 2018 up to March 2022, when it had to be rationed to departments that necessarily require it all through the day, such as the radiology department where equipment has to be on 24/7.

RSUTH also has Dialysis Machine, which has the capacity for Renal Transplant, popularly known as kidney transplant.

Currently, personnels have been trained, and more are still undergoing trainings on how to operate and use the machine.

What this means is that in no time, kidney transplant and other related diseases, for which patients are flown abroad, can be done and treated in RSUTH. Ultimately, this will attract more patronage from far and near.

In training, RSUTH, by its status as a Teaching Hospital, is a training ground for both the Rivers State University, and private owned Pamo Universiy of Medical Sciences.

“It is because we have a functioning Teaching Hospital that the regulatory body approved RSUTH as a training ground.

“The Collage of Medical Sciences accredited RSUTH to train doctors. They come from time-to-time, for every level to check what is on ground. For training, we have supported at the undergraduate level, student nurses from RSU are also being trained here”, he stated.

RSUTH, Dr Aaron continued, “serves Rivers people primarily, and also Pamo Universiy of Medical Sciences who are one year ahead in terms of students. They come for their orientation, medical experience, and have also received accreditation because of their relationship with us.

The implication of this is that RSUTH has not only been carrying out clinical trainings, but also provide manpower for both the public and private sectors, and most of these students are of Rivers origin.

The hospital trains doctors, nurses, cardiographers, medical laboratory scientists, etc. from the public and private sectors.

In order to fulfill its mandate on research, RSUTH is registered with relevant national bodies and is licensed on health ethics and bio-ethics.

“This has helped us because more of our lecturers and staff write to the ethics committee, receive approval and do researches”.

This, the CMD said, has given RSUTH global visibility.

“Now, you can just Google researches and publications done here. You’ll see quite a lot of our publications. We have data, unexplored data, because we have been working for sometime.

“That’s why we started by upgrading our records because it was an issue in the past. Now that we have electronic records, it is easy to get data”.

Though these and many other successes have been recorded in the first four years of RSUTH, Dr. Aaron said the feat was achieved amidst challenges.

He, therefore, called for partnership with well-meaning individuals and organisations to partner the hospital in order to serve the public more, saying hat Government alone “cannot do it all”.

So far, the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) seem to have taken the lead in this wise by building the Infectious & Disease Unit of the hospital, which is under construction.

“The Governor has done a lot. The story of this hospital has changed for good. Patients should utilize the hospital and also be friendly, show loyalty, commitment in the hospital, by using the facility in such a way that they see it as belonging to them, which is taking ownership, in order to sustain it”, he said.

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