Democracy Day Special
Buhari, APC And Failed Promises
Like many politicians of his time in the United States who kissed babies during their political campaigns to court favour with voters, the reform Mayor of New York City from 1934 to 1945, Fiorello La Guardia, once carried a baby in his arms to feign affection for the people. But much more later, Guardia, ostensibly in a moment of critical introspection, came to terms with one of the grim realities of democracy. “The first task of a statesman”, he stated, “is to break campaign promises and disappoint supporters”.
Juxtaposing the All Progressives Congress’s (APC) litany of promises in the wake of its assumption of leadership with the rather unsatisfactory score card of President Muhammadu Buhari, not a few would dismiss the fact that our dear president properly fits into Guardia’s impression of a statesman.
Buhari, in sooth, is a statesman, having played and still playing critical roles in the nation’s political metamorphosis. It is probably as a measure of this meritorious service to his fatherland that he decided to join politics and lead the nation once again.
Given his much- orchestrated puritanic antecedent, newspaper headlines read Sai Buhari (Buhari is the man) to herald his election on the crest wave of unprecedented public optimism in the world’s most populous black nation.
After four shots, he had finally hit the target by defeating an incumbent president, a first in Nigeria, to wide spread jubilations across the nation. Even the talakawas (poor folks) rejoiced the most: One man walked from Lagos to Abuja, another from Yola to Abuja in celebration.
He promised change. Countrymen and women took his word for it, based on his antecedents. Having won the 2015 election on the platform of the APC, Buhari was expected to hit the ground running by speedily addressing himself to identifying and tackling the key problems of the nation, assessing their magnitudes and analysing them with a clear-minded, clear-headed objectivity without continually blaming the past leadership.
Three years of an administration in an unbroken 19-year democratic journey of a fledgling democracy as Nigeria’s are sufficient enough for a regime to prove to its beleaguered citizenry whether it will compound their misery or ameliorate their anguish, given their ravaged national psyche.
Thus, as the Buhari administration reels out what it considers as its achievements so far today, Nigerians would literally put the president in the dock over his his soporifically boring leadership.
The reason is not farfetched. Whenever a nation is obliged to securitise its leadership, as Nigerians seem condemned to do in the past three years, it is symptomatic of something fundamentally troubling and inexplicably flawed with the prevailing conditions of that nation and indeed, its leadership.
Elected on the platform of change three years ago today, Buhari had given a roadmap of his governance as being an all-inclusive one that would target Nigeria’s development collectively.
Said Buhari: “Today marks a triumph for Nigerians and an occasion to celebrate her freedom and cherish her democracy. Nigerians have shown their commitment to democracy and are determined to entrench its culture. Our journey has not been easy but thanks to the determination of our people and strong support from friends abroad, we have today a truly democratically elected government in place”.
He had also said in the inaugural speech: “Having just a few moments ago sworn on the Holy Book, I intend to keep my oath and serve as president to all Nigerians. I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody.
“A few people have privately voiced fears that on coming back to office, I shall go after them. These fears are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores. The past is prologue”.
The Buhari’s administration had anchored its deliveries on the fight against corruption, security and economy. However, not a few believe that his administration has failed woefully in addressing those areas of concern.
To many, he has not even kept his words as president to all Nigerians in all facets of governance. Nepotism, sectionalism, tribalism, religious bigotry, witch-hunting, clannishness, ineptitude, ignorance, distraction, confusion, aloofness, poverty of ideas and any imaginable vice, many insist, have eroded his brand and whatever was remaining of his integrity.
A part from Second Republic House of Representatives member, Dr Junaid Muhammed, who has repeatedly accused Buhari of nepotism and crass ineptitude in several newspaper interviews, there is hardly any tribe or ethnic nationality in Nigeria that has spared harsh words for him and the APC on the way and manner they have run the affairs of state.
Leader of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Shettina Yerima, had in an interview in 2016 said he was not surprised about Buhari’s popularity decline because he assumed office without a programme.
To worsen matters, Yerima added, he took six months to appoint minister, 90 percent of whom are part of the country’s corrupt past.
For this, he said, “If anybody is telling us about change again, we must interrogate what kind of change he is bringing. Is it the change from poverty to abject poverty, darkness to total darkness”.
Indeed, Buhari appears to have set himself up for failure from the outset by fencing up his presidency with relations, acolytes and appointees mostly from his native North-West. And without regard for Nigeria’s ethnic and sectarian diversity, he has ensured that only Northerners fill-up positions in the top hierarchy of the nation’s security agencies as well as vacancies in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). Of some top 20 security positions, at least 17 are held by Northerners, making many to say that Buhari is the most clannish leader in Nigeria’s history.
On the economy, there is hardly anything to cheer about as promised. Buhari, speaking on improving the economy through the provision of power had said: “No single cause can be identified to explain Nigeria’s poor economic performance over the years than the power situation. It is a national shame that an economy of 180 million generates only 4,000mw, and distributes even less. Continuous tinkering with the structures of power supply and distribution and close to $20 billion expended since 1999 have only brought darkness, frustration, misery, resignation among Nigerians. We will not allow this to go on. Careful studies are underway during this transition to identify the quickest, safest and the most cost-effective way to bring light and relief to Nigerians.
“Unemployment, notably youth unemployment features strongly in our party’s manifesto. We intend to attack the problems frontally through revival of agriculture, solid minerals mining as well as credits to small and medium size businesses to kick-start these enterprises. We shall quickly examine the best way to revive major industries and accelerate the revival and development of our railways, roads and general infrastructure”.
But only few months into Buhari’s tenure, the presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) in the 2015 election, Martins Onovo, recalling APC’s promise of three million jobs in its first year of governance said: “Item one in their manifesto. Three million jobs a year! Now, look at it, we have lost almost three million jobs in the first eight months”.
Corroborating Onovo, an Owerri-based publisher had said: “The economy has continued diminishing in worrisome ways, leading to very deep decline in commerce and industry. Unemployment rate has worsened with multinational corporations joining local industries to lay off workers”.
According to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), 272 firms, 50 of them manufacturers, closed down between 2015 and August 2016 due to adverse operational conditions and incoherent economic policy of the present government.
As it is, Buhari’s administration job creation policy has been a monumental failure. In fact, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) put the combined youth unemployment- the jobless and underemployed – at 52.65 per cent in the third quarter of 2017. Added to this is inflation which the NBS says hit 15.37 percent in December 2017. Though, analysts insist the figure is higher.
Despite assembling a cabinet team of technocrats perceived by many as a motley crowd of square pegs in round holes, Buhari’s government lacks sound economic expertise to open up the economy for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and job creation. Already, his failure to unbundle the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and liberalise the environment for FDI and private sector – driven growth has taken its toll on rail, steel and oil and gas downstream assets which ought to have been privatised for optimal performance. Instead, public debt, according to data released from the Debt Management Office (DMO) rose by N7.1 trillion in his first two years in office. And the debt is still rising as government resorts to borrowing for infrastructure funding and recurrent expenditure.
Even at that, the Buhari administration is yet to have any signature initiative. The Anchor Borrowers’ Scheme, the anti-corruption agencies and the Treasury Signle Accounts (TSA) where it is claiming some successes are all inherited.
Yet its anti-graft war which it vowed to seriously prosecute leaves much to be desired. This is, moreso, observers say, as the anti-graft war is being skewed against some persons believed to be chieftains of the PDP. Even the recently published names of corrupt persons have been criticized by members of Buhari’s government on the ground that names of some APC members ought to be on the list.
Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof Itse Sagay had expressed dissatisfaction with the coutroversial list released by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Said Sagay is an interview: “What was particularly shocking to many Nigerians was that the list didn’t include names of former members of PDP who are now in the ruling APC and who times past were also accused of looting public fund. Why were these people’s names omitted?
Security is yet another area that the Buhari-led APC government has failed to acquit itself creditably. The government, on inauguration, had vowed to end the Boko Haram insurgency and rescue the Chibok Girls. But three years after, the story is different from what the president said. Areas that never experienced insecurity before the present administration are now suffering daily killings.
Apart from the Boko Haram insurgency, the Fulani-herdsmen terrorism has exposed Buhari’s glaring leadership deficit. This is even as the international community and organisations like the Amnesty International, have berated APC over human rights violations.
Other promises made by the APC and Buharis government about poverty alleviation, education, social welfare, health, etc are yet to be fulfilled three years after.
Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari’s, lamenting the state of healthcare system in Nigeria last year said: “I would like to be realistic to say a few words concerning health in Nigeria and health delivery system in Nigeria. It is very very poor, sorry to say that”.
“If somebody like Mr President can spend several months outside Nigeria she continued, then you wonder what will happen to a common man on the street of Nigeria”.
Only recently, the Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr Bill Gates, said the country would have done better with strong investments in health and education.
“Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth, with the fourth worst maternal rate in the world ahead of only Sieria Leone, Central African Republic and Chad. One in three Nigerian children is chronically malnourished.
“In upper middle income countries, the average life expectancy is 75 years. In lower middle-income countries, it’s 68; in low-income countries, it’s 62. In Nigeria, it is lower still, just 53 years”, Gates said.
Another challenge that the APC-led Federal Government has been battling with is that of strengthening democracy and the rule of law. The Executive, legislature and judiciary are pitched against each other in what is clearly a departure from what APC had promised.
In a recent petition to the United Nations (UN) and the International Criminal Court (ICC), the PDP accused Buhari of hate speech, dictatorship, executive high-handedness, trumped-up charges against the opposition, persecution of political opponents, flagrant disobedience to court orders, brazen harassment, arrests, molestations, illegal detention and extra-judicial execution of innocent Nigerians.
From all indications, Buhari has stretched the patience of Nigerians, most of whom are now saying Babu Buhari (no to Buhari), reversing the phrase Sai Buhari (Buhari is the man).
Many people say Buhari cannot be trusted for demonstrating lack of commitment to all the policies his government enunciated for the nation. Statesmen like Olusegun Obasanjo, Theophilus Danjuma, Tanko Yakassai and many others who initially supported him have all turned their backs against him.
And rather than being sober for its inability to initiate and execute a visible landmark project, the APC-led Federal Government has been blaming the Goodluck Jonathan administration for virtually every problem it could not fix in the past three years.
This is probably why he has been receiving more knocks than praises for his second term bid.
Given the Buhari-led APC jaded homilies, empty promises, false claims and denials, can the party make it in 2019? Though Mohammed hints that the party is “banking on vote buying”, it remains to be seen how the electorate would allow itself to be hoodwinked once again.
Democracy Day Special
Redefining Rivers Security Architecture …The Wike’s Example
No matter what critics of Governor Wike’s administrative style say, the current dispensation in the state has done so much to ensure that the state remains the investors’ haven in the Nigerian federation. Infact, as the governor aptly put it in different fora, no state government in Nigeria has encouraged and enhanced the security architecture the way and manner that the present administration has done.
A security expert, Dr Uche Mike Chukwuma while assessing the security architecture in the state said, “No state administration, past or present, has done so much for the security community as the Nyesom Wike-led government”
Dr Chukwuma, the director general of the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency explained that the security system in the state had received an unprecedented boost from the state government, unlike previous dispensations that merely paid lip service without necessarily addressing the security challenges that militated against the development of the state.
For him, Governor Wike has demonstrated his commitment to enhance safety of lives and property by ensuring that the security community, the Army, Navy, Airforce, Directorate of State Security Service (DSS), the police and other para-military agencies were maximally encouraged to perform optimally without recourse to political considerations.
Indeed, the establishment of the state Neighbourhood Safety Corps remains the climax of his determination and commitment towards ensuring that the state remains the desired destination for investors and tourists.
On assumption of office on May 29, 2015, Wike inherited a myriad of challenges ranging from security to governance and administration as the legislature, judiciary, civil service, sanitary and environmental issues, the legislature and judiciary were virtually in comatose while civil servants and pensioners were owed arrears of salaries and emoluments running into several months.
Besides, the level of insecurity emanating from cultism, militancy, kidnapping, armed robbery, vandalisation of oil and gas facilities, among other social vices were on the increase.
But with the heart of a lion, and with limited resources at his disposal, the governor took the bull by the horns taking the sectoral challenges one after the other until a stable polity and economy was achieved.
Stakeholders are however concerned over what they consider as a “negative perception” about the security situation in the state, which has often earned the state bad publicity reasons.
Pundits believe that the need for an internally driven security management system for the state becomes imperative given the tendency of crisis at times induced by the oppostion. The Director General of the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps, Dr Chukwuma, dismissed the views of critics of the agency, stating that such views were disservice to the state.
Chukwuma, a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, (ACP) described the agency as “Wike’s Greatest Legacy”, noting that only an internal approach to security management can achieve desired result.
The Director General cautioned against the politicisation of security in Rivers State and called for a collective approach towards tackling security challenges in the State. “Most of the critics of the agency stay in Abuja and surround themselves with a retinue of security aids, adding, any person that is against the establishment of the neighourhood watch agency is an enemy of the state.
Describing Rivers as a “Jewel and Costly Bride”, he said, Rivers people should be vigilant and alert against calculated threats to the peace and security of the state. Musing over the intrigues of security, the security expert faulted the motion of equating organised crime with security. He explained that security involved both as abstract and physical components, both of which constitute the complex security situation.
The pioneer chief executive of the Rivers security outfit pointed out that, “the abstract component of security relates to the problems that lead to security breaches such as poverty, unemployment, injustices and absence of basic necessities of life, while the other aspect of security is the physical existence of crime and violence”.
He said the government of Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has within three years in office, provided the basic incentives, the enabling environment for business to thrive. Apart from provision of logistic supports to security agencies in the state through provision of operational vehicles, and gun boats, he said the governor has embarked on rural-oriented projects and economic empowerment policies.
On the timing of the establishment of the agency, the DG said the concept of community policing in Nigeria is an existing policy which had been in operation since the days of Tafa Balogun, as Inspector General of Police, noting that it was long overdue in Rivers State.
Dr Chukwuma also identified the role of multinational corporations in the security of Rivers State. He decried the tendency of the multinationals to shirk international best practices and incite conflicts in their host communities, through negligence of corporate social responsibilities. “Corporate Social Responsibilities are critical to the sustenance of a peaceful corporate relation but unfortunately, the concept of corporate social responsibilities has been politicised. Most of the multinationals operating in Rivers State do not have any programme for their host communities as they see the people as inconsequential, and attach more importance to their commercial interest. This is wrong”.
As part of measures of creating public awareness on the operations of the agency, he disclosed that the agency had already started an interface with traditional institutions, and other grassroots organisations to domesticate the objectives.
A security Consultant and Associate Professor of Political Science, Dr Thom Otuya in his view explained that cases of communal clashes, kidnappings, ritual killings, armed robbery, cultism, pipeline vandalism, illegal oil bunkering, militancy among other social vices which were rampant before Wike came on board three years ago, reduced to the bearest minimum.
Dr Otuya said that Wike adopted the non-kinetic security model through the use of tools of statecraft to achieve desired objectives, and for him, the Wike’s approach was yielding results.
In Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni axis, for example, normalcy returned as people and residents now go about their normal duties following the onslaught on cult groups and criminal gangs that virtually turned the area into a war theatre. Working in synergy with the Wike’s administration, the council’s authorities established the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Security and Peace Advisory Council (OSPAC), which in collaboration with other security agencies tracked cult groups and their leaders, while others escaped from the vigilance mounted by the OSPAC.
The same success story was replicated in Ahoada East, Ahoada West, Emohua, Ogoni, Kalabari, Oyigbo, Obio/Akpor, Port Harcourt and Etche axis where there are now relative peace and safety of lives and property.
Wike also provided the enabling environment for all security agencies in the state: Army, Navy, Airforce, Police, Directorate of State Security (DSS), Civil Defence Safety Corps among other para-military agencies to operate without let or hindrance despite the fact that these security outfits are entitled by the ruling party, the All Progressive Congress (APC).
The administration floated the state Amnesty Programme giving repented cultists and criminals an opportunity to turn a new leaf and embrace the state government’s olive branch. Those who leveraged on the gesture were rehabilitated while the adamant ones were declared wanted with a charge on the security community to arrest and prosecute them wherever and whenever they are found.
As if that was not enough, the state governments also promulgated the state Anti-Cultism and kidnapping law, stipulating severe sanctions for persons involved in cultism, kidnapping, armed robbery and other related offences.
One easily recalls how the state government provided patrol vans, gun boats, communication gadgets, armoured personnel carriers (APCs), among other logistics, to security agencies in the state so as to reduce crime rate.
Goodluck Ukwe & Beemene Taneh
Democracy Day Special
RSHA, New Rivers Vision Three Years Assessment
The New Rivers Vision
is the bedrock of the Chief Nyesom Wike led administration mission template, it’s anchored primarily on the tripod of good governance, justice and equitability.
For the past three years, the administration against all odds has pursued this mission with vigour driven by the three arms of government, while good governance is being marshaled by the executive arm; the judiciary since May 2015 has oversaw justice delivery effectively.
The legislature has created equitability by balancing the equation through oversight functions and law making.
One would recall that when Chief Wike assumed office in May 2015, the judiciary and legislature were under lock and key.
The legislature became the first acid test for the NEW Rivers Vision. Since the Assembly complex had been under lock and key after the fracas of 2014, most legislative sittings were conducted in Government House.
The public perception of the legislature nosedived hence immediately the Wike administration was inaugurated on May 29th 2015, the governor began frantic effort to restore the Assembly back to its former status.
First, effort began to refurbish and renovate the deserted Assembly Complex with the aim to move its sittings back to its rightful place.
The Assembly was finally inaugurated on May 31st 2015 with Andoni-born legislator; Rt. Hon. Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani elected the Speaker of the 8th Assembly in the State.
Since the 8th Assembly came on board, the relationships between the legislature and executive have been smooth and complementary.
Immediately after the inauguration, the Assembly went to work as it debated and approved a supplementary budget by December of 2015.
The aim of the Supplementary budget was to aid in the capital projects planned to commence within the year, one of such include the “Operation Zero Pot Hole”, which the governor unveiled immediately he was inaugurated at the Gowon Stadium, Elekahia.
To achieve the scheme, the government shared the project between multinational construction giants, Julius Berger Nigeria Limited and China Engineering Construction Company (CECC).
While Julius Berger was to handle all the roads from Abonnema Wharf Junction down to Borokiri, CECC was to oversee repair of bad roads in Diobu and Uptown Port Harcourt.
The Assembly said the N104,287,285,108 supplementary budget was approved to enable the governor execute capital projects. But the governor went beyond projects as its ensured that backlog of salaries owed civil servants and pensioners were paid off.
Of noteworthy is the desire by the legislature to always provide support to policies of the State governor through robust deliberations and debate. This it has done when some executive bills have been brought to the floor.
Shortly after, the Federal High Court nullified the All Progressives Congress (APC) local government elections in September 2015, the Assembly moved to check the lacuna created by the judgment especially in addressing the leadership challenge at the local government councils.
In September 2016, the House passed the Rivers State Local Government (Amendment No. 1) law, number five of 2016, and the Rivers State Administration of Criminal Justice of 2015.
The local government amended law N0. 5 was aimed at extending the tenure of Caretaker Committees as a way of stabilizing council administration. Instead of three months, the CTC members can be allowed to stay for nine months maximum.
The Criminal Justice No. 7 law of 2015 was to help the state quickly dispense justice, to fight crime, maintain law and order.
It will be good to recall that before Wike administration came on board on May 2015, the court just like the legislature was shut down for two years. The absence of law dispensation in the state led to accumulation of cases, putting pressure on the judiciary.
Based on this situation, the legislature quickly approved the law to enable quick dispensation of justice, and reduce workload on judges.
Another NEW policy that got the approval of the legislature was the Rivers State Education (Return of Schools) Amendment law No. 1 of 2017. The bill was to amend an earlier law, by the Odili administration, which handed over some public schools to original owners, especially missionary schools.
The amended bill seeks to pave way such that government can support non-performing missionary schools. Explaining the objective, Chief Wike averred that the Return of Schools law was vital because it will permit the State Government to intervene in Mission Schools already returned to their owners.
By the time the Assembly sailed into the first quarter of 2016, a rerun election had been conducted with over 20 legislators set to recontest their seats. It was during this period that Okrika born legislator, Hon. Adams Daboturodime, took over the mantle of leaderships as the 10th Speaker of the House.
From the period Rt. Hon. Daboturodima oversaw the affairs of the House from December 19th 2015 to December 30th 2016, the Assembly had passed four bills into law.
Notable among the laws signed within one year of Hon. Daboturodima leadership include – The Ignatius Ajuru University of Education (Amendment No. 2) law number six, Rivers State Local Government (Amendment No. 1) and the Rivers State Violence Against persons (Prohibiting bill 2016).
The House also passed in December 2016, the 2017 appropriation bill of N470 billion tagged “Golden Jubilee Budget.
Between December 2016 and June 2016, when the 8th Assembly clocked two years, the House under the second leadership of Rt. Hon. Ibani passed 10 motions and about five bills into law.
One interesting bill that further underscored the policy of the government to instill development was the Rivers State University Law N0. 4. The governor had explained that the bill was initiated to avert the loss of accreditation of several courses by the State University following recent regulations by the National Universities Commission (NUC).
The same also went for Rivers State Polytechnic at Bori whose name was changed to Kenule Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic. The 2017 bill also saw changes in academic and non-academic staff status and functions.
Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Martins Amaewhule while presenting five bills last year said the Assembly passed those laws because of its commitment to the development programmes of the State.
Just few months ago, the House passed three bills into law. The bills are the Neighbourhood Watch Safety Corps No. 6 of 2018, the Rivers State Anti-Cultism bill and the Rivers State anti-kidnap (Prohibition) Amendment No. 2 law No. 7 of 2018.
The Neighbourhood Watch Safety Corps law is to give impetus to the already existing security milestone in the state. It’s believed that when the agency, which has been inaugurated starts full operations will help strengthen the security architecture of the state.
To further arm the agency, the Assembly before passing the bill into law conducted public hearing, during which members of the public contributed to the bill.
The Anti-kidnapping and Anti-Cultism laws are adjuncts to the Neighbourhood Watch Safety law, as they are aimed at curbing crimes. Cultists and kidnappers are to face death penalty if tried by law and found guilty.
Other laws that have given imprints to the Wike administration include the Rivers State Honours law No.2, 2017, and the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital law N0. 5, 2017. The law has given birth to a Medical School in the State owned university.
Democracy Day Special
Wike: Empowering Rivers Women
Women all over the globe have remained a very potent political force who have over the years demonstrated hardwork and professional excellence in various fields of endeavour. As the fastest growing demographics, this singular advantage of number, earns them the potential to overwhelmingly determine who becomes the leader through the polls.
Those who understand their feminist power through the ballot box, explore and sometimes exploit their potential. Sadly, these deciders of political fate as the women could be addressed, are often used and dumped rather than appreciated in the long run.
This attitude of our leaders over the women folk, has not only killed their faith in them, it has dampen their overall attitude towards politics. As a result of gross disappointment, women now tend to assume a non-plus posture in the political arena, thus, depriving the society of their vital contribution towards its development and growth.
However, the emergence of Chief (Barr.) Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, as the Executive Governor of Rivers State, signaled a ray of hope to women in Rivers State. His choice of a female running mate in the first instance, as well as the swearing in of two female judicial officers, Justice Daisy Okocha and Justice Christiana Nwankwo as the acting Chief Judge of the State and acting President of the Customary Court of Appeal respectively, authenticated the signal that eventually marked the dawn of better days for them.
Upon his victory at the polls as the Rivers State Governor-elect, His Excellency, Chief (Barr.) Nyesom Wike re-echoed his resolve for 100% efficiency and to hit the ground running once sworn into office. He did this by releasing his election manifesto once again to the world while promising to achieve every item contained therein.
Fortunately, women development featured prominently in His priorities. His NEW VISION made obvious provision for empowering Rivers indigenous women as well as women resident in the state through concrete initiative to build strong families and play key roles in developing the state.
“Our blue print recognizes the roles of women and we will concretise that role and ensure that our women continue to grow and grow to prosperity”. These were the words of the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Chief (Barr.) Ezenwo Nyesom Wike as he settled down to steer the ship of governance in Rivers State.
At first, these words did not mean much to Rivers women, because, they were no different from the usual words of past leaders and politicians. Surprisingly, the difference between Governor Wike’s statement to women and those of past leaders of the state, became glaring as his vision for the women, took less than a year to unfold.
By January 2016, he had concluded plans to empower women economically through a comprehensive micro credit scheme. Using the State Ministry of Agriculture, sixty percent of micro credit facility was exclusively kept for women.
No doubt His Excellency’s resolve to include women in his government is not only an acknowledgement of the feminist strength in governance, it is also a strong faith in the perceived women’s potential to deliver developmental dividence to the society.
He said his administration holds women in high esteem, and as key players in governance “for me if I see that a woman has the capacity and she is competent, nothing will stop me from appointing such a woman into a position of authority. He reaffirmed.
The State governor has always matched every of his words towards the women with visible actions.
He sees the repositioning of the Rivers women in three dimensions. First economic, education and then political. One of the strategies he has mapped out for their eventual turnaround includes the construction of a state-of-the-art women development centre. The complex he explained is a way to encourage women capacity development and stamp their mark as major contributors to the governance of the state.
Earlier in the year, a foundation stone for the construction of a Women Development and Skills Acquisition Center to empower women with relevant skills for economic sustenance was laid. This administration also set aside the sum of N500,000 only, domiciled at the State’s Micro Finance Bank but solely managed up the ministry of Women Affairs, for women in small scale business.
According to the then Commissioner for Information and Communication, Dr Austin Tam George, “70% of the 35,000 beneficiaries of the enterprise loan given by the Rivers State Governor in 2016 were women and record shows that the incentives were judiciously used by the beneficiaries “.
Also in partnership with the office of the Governor’s wife, Access Bank Plc, through its ‘W’ Academy in sustenance of its objective to empowering women in business, organized a capacity building workshop for female business owners in the state.
The ‘Womenpreneur Business Workshop’ was the second edition of Access Bank’s empowerment programme in line with other unique offerings and initiatives that are deployed to the bank female customers under the ‘W’ initiative.
Politically, Governor Wike is living no stone unturned in making sure women in Rivers State are repositioned. Apart from making the state’s political atmosphere enabling for women to be active players, he has made women to see the need to struggle for power, rather than expect men to bequeath power to them on a platter of gold.
For him, Rivers women in politics should not be about begging for positions, but setting up structures that would help them get political mileage. According to him “Nobody is stopping women from excelling in the political arena, women must work for their political emancipation. When it comes to power, you must have to struggle for it, if you are prepared for politics, you must equip yourself”.
Like Donald Trump of America, who is reckoned for his inspiration of women for politics, Chief Nyesom Wike has motivated a groundswell of women to run for political positions in his time and I think this has come to stay.
In the history of Nigeria as a nation and Rivers State in particular, we are seeing for the very first time, an election featuring women in sensitive positions across all the local governments.
The Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers State under the leadership of governor Wike is featuring women as deputy chairmanship candidates in all the 23 local government areas of the state in the forthcoming local government election in the State. This is in addition to about 150 women councillorship candidates also.
The encouragement given to women by His Excellency to pursue their ambitions in the political space is to enable the state gain from the unique perspective and contributions that women could bring to the process of governance.
In all, Rivers women have been projected positively under the leadership of governor Wike. Several of them now occupy positions of authority where they serve as role models to the girl child. The rural women are reached through skills acquisition programmes.
It is for this reason he is described at different spheres as a women-friendly governor. His commitment to the welfare and empowerment of women was captured in the 2018 budget for which he said “women empowerment is very key to the development of the state, that is why we are investing resources to uplift women”.
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