After 150 years of its existence, the ancient kingdom of Opobo, an island in Rivers State, can now be accessed comfortably by road, following the inauguration of Opobo axis of the Unity Road by Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.
The road was commissioned on Saturday, July 3, 2021 by a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustees and former Minister, Alhaji Adamu Maina Waziri.
Waziri observed how excited the people are to have a road of such high quality to drive on and hailed Governor Wike for bringing humanity to governance.
The 11.15 kilometres long and 7.3m wide road, with five bridges along the Opobo axis of the super highway, has a minimum fill height of two meters, with a maximum height of 8 meters at some points.
It was built through swamps, mangroves and some of the most difficult terrains for road construction and has a 1.5m wide shoulder on either side. It also has 18 culverts and 5 bridges with a shoulder of 1.5 metres on either side.
The road, which is an ambitious project initiated by fomer Governor, Dr. Peter Odili has connected the Island of Opobo to the rest of the state .
With the commissioning of this axis of the Unity Road, an important campaign promise which Governor Wike made to the people of Opobo has been fulfilled.
It is also important to note that with this official commissioning, the great land of the legendary King Jaja, will now become a post modern, coastal tourist attraction with viable economic opportunities open to the global Community.
The avalanche of encomiums which have poured in from Opobo indigenes, Rivers residents and indeed many of those who either watched the live pictures from the commissioning or saw the still photographs of the glistening stretch of endless shiny nylon tar all the way into the heartland of Opobo kingdom, speaks volumes.
The amazing import and impact, both historical and existential, which this completed legacy road project represents for all and sundry is better imagined than described.
Governor Wike, prior to the inauguration of the Opobo/Nkoro axis of the Unity road, had often teased, in campaign language mode, that the people of Opobo town had never driven home with their vehicles for the past 150 years, until his intervention to complete the road for them.
Typically, the confused and attention seeking opposition had swallowed the well laid bait set by Governor Wike and filled volumes of Newspaper pages and the entire social media space, with their desperate campaign to locate themselves in the glory circle.
They attempted to woefully undermine the unparalleled accomplishment of the Rivers Governor in delivering the road and then dubiously misled the public with contrived contributions of the immediate past administration to the actualization of the project.
Of course, His Majesty, the Amanyanabo of Opobo, King Dandeson Douglas Jaka, Jeki V, a King who exudes imperial majesty and regal wisdom, understood Governor Wike perfectly and it will now be written and etched forever in the annals of Opobo folklore, that it was during his reign that his people actually drove home comfortably for the first time on this super highway.
The Amanyanabo who is also Chairman, Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers, captured the historical dimensions of this legacy project, when he declared that his people will remain eternally grateful to Governor Wike for the courage, compassion and visionary acumen he has brought to leadership.
He also appealed to the Governor to initiate another land reclamation project in Opobo, to provide more land for the increasing population of her indigenes.
Governor Wike, while addressing the ecstatic crowd at Opobo, declared that the completion of the road and its inauguration is a dream come true not only for the people of the area, but especially for his administration, adding that he feels happy to have fulfilled his 2014 campaign promise to the people of Opobo.
To appropriately accord honour to whom it is due and equally address all the unnecessary and self-seeking innuendos flying around, now that the project has finally been completed, Governor Wike expressed appreciation to the administration of Dr. Peter Odili for conceiving the Unity Road project.
Governor Wike equally stressed that without the foresight of Dr. Odili, it would have been difficult for his administration to complete the Opobo axis of the Unity Road.
To further add a well deserved icing on the Opobo cake, Governor Wike directed his Special Adviser on Special Projects, in prompt response to the appeal of the King, to liaise with the Amanyanabo and leaders of Opobo on where they desire a new land to be sand-filled and reclaimed for them.
Governor Wike also urged the Surveyor General of the State to commence the process of land mapping and survey of the already sand-filled land in the area to enable Opobo indigenes to begin allocation of spaces among themselves.
It has often been said that one of the defining attributes of good leadership is the visionary discernment to provide what the people need more in their peculiar environments, rather than cosmetic, white elephant projects.
Governor Wike has exhibited an uncanny and astute visionary leadership by boldly delivering enduring projects where they will have meaningful impact instead of inaugurating projects just for cheap publicity.
The Urban Renewal Programme in the capital city, including the flyovers, the internal roads construction with drainages and streetlights, amongst others, have gradually returned the capital city to its garden city status.
It is this same astute leadership that has led to the highly acclaimed construction of some of the life changing projects like the Sakpenwa-Bori-Kono super highway, the first phase of the trans-Kalabari road, the reclamation of land in Abonnema, Obonoma and Okrika as well as the location of three new University campuses across the State.
The Mother and Child Hospital, Dr. Peter Odili Cancer and Cardiovascular Diagnostic and Treatment Centre, the Rivers Cassava Processing Company and Real Madrid Football Academy also stand out for mention.
These indeed are some of the legacy projects of the Governor Wike administration and they will remain indelible and ensure that his name is etched in the sands of time for posterity.
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.
By: Paulinus Nsirim
NEW Rivers Vision And Strategic Infrastructure Revolution
“During the campaigns, we visited several communities in all the local government areas. We met with thousands of people, including civil servants, teachers, students, doctors, lawyers, traders, market women, the business community, pensioners and the unemployed. We were shocked by the level of despair, anguish, frustration, pains and worries on the faces of all those we met…
“As you know, every democratic government rests on a tripod. Good governance principles always dictate the supremacy of the rule of law as well as the equality, autonomy and interdependence of the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. Never is any one arm of government permitted to dominate, castrate or undermine the dignity, powers and relevance of the other arms…Let the freedom bells ring! Let the people shout for joy. Let them leap and sing to God…The vicissitudes of the old ignoble order have come to pass. Only the remnants remain…
“But this we promise. Never again, shall our people and our land be subjected to destruction and waste by those we mistook, perhaps, for builders…Thank God and providence. With the resilience of our people, we have recovered our land for the good of all…As we reiterated at several fora during the campaigns, our blueprint is an agenda of hope. We pledged to offer a New Rivers Vision based on a new thinking. Our goal is to make Rivers State a land of peace and prosperity with boundless opportunities and possibilities – a place where no one is left behind because of his or her station and everyone who works hard can achieve his or her life’s dreams. Please, be assured that we are committed to actualising our vision and mission already in the public domain”.
Over the last seven years, the hopes raised on that compelling stage have been sustained and promises fulfilled. Millions of Rivers people and residents who live and do business in the state, today, attest to this claim. A few testimonials may suffice!
For example, Wike said, “As a government, we humbly request and oblige you to hold us accountable for the following: We shall return power to the people as we conduct our common affairs with the fear of God and ensure that everyone is equal and accountable before the law. Our government will certainly be that of the people, for the people and by the people. Under our watch, the principle of separation of powers shall be operative. Equality and mutual respect for the constitutional status, powers and functions shall prevail among the three arms of government”. While at that podium, he announced the appointments of an Acting Chief Judge and President, Customary Court of Appeal, and swore both into office three days after on June 1. He followed due process of law in doing so! He also ordered the immediate reopening of the courts shut down for almost two years by the previous adimstration due to politically-motivated violence and strikes.
He began upgrade of infrastructure to boost the Judiciary’s efficiency and effectiveness. He built the Magistrate Court complex. He further built befitting quarters on owner-occupier basis for judges of the state origin to address accommodation crisis they usually face after retirement. He gave judges and magistrates Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) as official cars to ease transportation challenges. He built new edifice for the Federal High Court, rebuilt the Court of Appeal complex, and also built quarters for judges and staff of the Federal Judiciary. He further built an imposing structure for Federal Government-owned National Industrial Court. He also relocated the NBA House from the court complex to opposite Port Harcourt City Council Secretariat, and gave lawyers a befitting edifice there. Today, he is building the best campus of the Nigerian Law School, and another structure for the Nigerian Judicial Institute, with student hostels, staff quarters, recreational lounges and sports complexes.
He also inaugurated the eighth session of the state House of Assembly, and vowed to ensure the independence of both arms of government to guarantee checks and balances, a basic hallmark of a thriving democracy. He has built new quarters for the state lawmakers and a befitting residential accommodation for the Speaker.
After assuming office, Wike began delivering on his promises when he said, “Rivers State is a haven for tourism…Consequently, our tourism policy thrust is to provide a clear plan for the development of tourism, especially eco-tourism in Rivers State in partnership with the private sector.” He launched the development of Port Harcourt Pleasure Park. He built the facility, adding restaurant and bar, cinema, event centre, artificial lake, fountain, and many other amusement stuffs for children.
The governor also said,”Now that we have become victorious and have arrived at the home ward end of our beautiful water-side, it is time to work, to erect landmarks of progress and prosperity. Yes, it is time to deconstruct, reconstruct, rehabilitate and restore…our common wealth. Now is the time for us to rebuild: To rebuild our state; to rebuild our educational and health institutions; to rebuild our occupations, and to rebuild our infrastructure. It is time to provide new opportunities to maximally touch the lives of our people. It is time to restore hope.”
In all sectors, the deconstruction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, restoration and rebuilding agenda of the Wike administration has been manifest. He built a new Ecumenical Centre for Christians of all denominations to worship God under one roof. He also completed the last phase of the Rumuwoji (Mile 1) Market, reconstructed burnt Fruit Garden Market, constructed new Rumuokoro Market and Motor Park, and began building a new abattoir at Mgbuoshimini. He built more than 50 housing units for civil servants, and also built jetties to boost marine transport. He procured buses to increase the state’s fleet in road transport. He rebuilt the Produce House on Moscow Road, constructed new secretariats for Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC). He completed the reconstruction, remodelling and equipped the world-class Port Harcourt Cultural Centre. He renovated two state-owned property, and completed the building of decades’ old RivBank building, which is being sold to earn revenue for the state. He recovered and placed for sale the Harold Dappa-Biriye House (former NDDC Headquarters). He also recovered and sold the 17-storey former Nigerian Stock Exchange building.
Wike said, “On healthcare delivery, we are determined to ensure that our people have access to affordable and quality healthcare. To achieve this objective, we will adequately rehabilitate, equip and staff all existing general hospitals and health centres across the state. As a permanent solution to the challenge of inadequate manpower, especially medical doctors, in the health sector, we shall establish and ensure the immediate take-off of a Medical School in the Rivers State University of Science and Technology”.
Today, the governor has strived to revitalise the primary healthcare system; improve the secondary health infrastructure and fortified the tertiary health sub-sector, including the establishment of a medical school in the state’s university to enhance training of health personnel for the state. He has upgraded the School of Health Science and Technology, and is partnering with the private sector to manage secondary health facilities and ensure efficient healthcare delivery in the state.
He renovated more than 17 existing primary healthcare centres and built three new primary healthcare centres at Bille, Mgbuosimini and Ogbakiri communities. He strengthened secondary healthcare sub-sector with the reconstruction of 12 existing but abandoned general hospitals. These include Abua General Hospital in Abua/Odual; Nchia General Hospital in Eleme; Isiokpo General Hospital in Ikwerre; Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Rumuigbo in Obio/Akpor; Abonnema General Hospital in Akuku-Toru; Bodo General Hospital in Gokana; Opobo General Hospital in Opobo/Nkoro; Ngo General Hospital in Andoni; Emohua General Hospital in Emohua; Buguma General Hospital in Asari-Toru; Eberi General Hospital in Omuma; and Okrika General Hospital in Okrika.
Wike embarked on completion of four zonal hospitals inherited from the previous administration while initiating the construction of additional zonal hospital at Omoku. He also completed the zonal hospitals in Bori and Degema. Besides, he completed the Mother and Child Hospital in Port Harcourt; constructed 22 row. 3-bedroom Doctors’ Residential Quarters at Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital; introduced N500million interest-free Private Hospitals Support Loan Fund.
In the tertiary healthcare sub-sector, Wike embarked on the upgrade of Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital to Teaching Hospital for the Rivers State University. To make it functional and compete favourably with others across the country, he procured and installed new equipment and facilities for the hospital. The hospital is now training medical personnel for the state, in addition to the novel financial support given to PAMO University of Medical Science to train Rivers youths in medical and related fields. Wike’s exceptional performance in the health sector is also evidenced by improved quality of healthcare in the state and deliberate approval of counterpart funds for other health-improvement and related policies and programmes by donor agencies, international support organisations and the Federal Government, designed to touch the lives of Rivers people. Today, the Maxilo-Facial and Dental Hospital at Garrison, and the Kelsey Harrison Specialist Hospital at Rumuwoji, Mile 1 are undergoing complete renovation and upgrade.
Wike also said, “As your governor, I will ensure that we build the infrastructure, including first-class all season roads, bridges, canals, jetties and other mass transit infrastructure that the state needs to drive socio-economic development. Specifically, we intend, subject to available funds, prioritise the completion of all on-going road projects; construct the Trans-Kalabari costal road network, dualise the Ahoada-Omoku road; Saakpenwa-Bori road; and Oyigbo-Afam road, among others. We shall also tackle the challenges of urban renewal, road congestion and traffic gridlock in PortHarcourt City, Obio/Akpor and other major population centres in Rivers State”.
To address these commitments, Wike completed almost all road projects started by the previous government. He constructed no fewer than 150 roads, some inherited from his predecessor while many were initiated by his government. All road projects inherited from predecessor have been completed and commissioned. Some started by Wike have been commissioned while some are still ongoing. By investing about 70percent of the State Capital Expenditure on road development, Wike has connected the entire state by completing all major roads inherited from past administrations with a view to improve the road network in urban/residential neighbourhoods and expand existing ones in the highly urbanised Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Aresas.
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Indeed, Wike constructed many internal roads in communities across the 23 LGAs. These include Abonnema Town, Amadi-Ama, Elele-Alimini, Isiokpo, Elele, Ubima, Omoku, Okochiri, Ozuboko, Atali, Eneka, Odiokwu, Omagwa, Bori, Okrika, Eleme, Emohua, Ahoada, and a litany of urban neighbourhood roads designed to give facelift to Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor. The neighbourhood roads include those in Ogbu-nu-Abali, Diobu, Port Harcourt Township and Borokiri, Old and New Government Reservation Areas (GRAs), Trans Amadi Industrial Layout and adjoining communities, Rumuepirikom, Woji, and Abuloma. Others are Eliogbolo, Rukpakurusi, Eliohani, Oroigwe, Elimgbu, Elekahia, Rumuodara, Rumuomasi, Rumukalagbor, Rumuodaolu, Rumugholu, Ogbogoro, Ozuoba, Rumuosi, Alakahia, Mgbodo-Aluu, Oyigbo, Igwuruta, and Rukpokwu, among others.
Wike also dualised a number of roads in the state, some inherited from previous governments while some were initiated by his government. Such roads include the Saakpenwa-Bori Road which connects Tai, Gokana, Khana, Opobo-Nkoro and Andoni LGAs to the heart of the state capital (mentioned in his inaugural speech); and the Ogoni-Andoni-Opobo-Nkoro Unity Road started by the Odili administration. He has since completed both roads, and is working on the second phase of the Saakpenwa-Bori road, which takes the road to Kono. He has also completed the Woji-Elelenwo-Akpajo Dual Carriageway, connecting Port Harcourt from Peter Odili Road to Obio/Akpor and Eleme LGAs with two major bridges, an under-pass and a flyover. It was awarded by the previous administration in 2009 but abandoned in 2012. The road is an alternative route to Trans-Amadi-Slaughter Road. Besides that, Wike further completed the all-important Garrison-Trans-Amadi-Slaughter-Woji-Elelenwo Road, also awarded in 2009 by the previous administration but abandoned in 2013. Fitted with 16 telecommunication ducts on two sides of the dual-carriageway, the road has six bridges and seven exquisitely designed roundabouts with delicately placed walkways and gardens.
In addition, he completed the Obiri-Ikwerre-Airport Dual Carriageway, linking Obio/Akpor with Ikwerre LGA and the critical International Airport as an alternative route. It was designed by Governor Rufus Ada-George, awardedand began but abandoned by the previous government. He also completed the Chokocho-Umuechem-Ozuzu Road and Chokocho-Igbo-Etche-Rumuokurushi Road, both linking many agrarian communities. He completed Igwuruta-Eneka-Rumuokurusi dual carriageway, started but abandoned by the previous administration. Wike further completed the Federal Government-owned Igwurura-Chokocho Road, also linking many agrarian communities and abandoned for 20 years. He completed Iwofe-Rumuolumeni dual carriageway, awarded by the previous administration but also abandoned due to poor funding. He completed the reconstruction and dualisation of Creek Road, which was awarded by the previous administration but abandoned due to funding constraints.
Wike initiated and completed the Airport-Ipo-Omademe-Ozuoha Road in Ikwerre LGA that links many agrarian communities as well as two Nkpogu bridges abandoned by the previous administration in 2014. He completed the critical Eagle Island Road/bridge, which links Port Harcourt to Obio/Akpor, and takes traffic off the major Ikwerre Road but abandoned by the previous government, andcompleted the dualisation of Elelenwo Road. He commenced the construction of the phase one of Trans-Kalabari Road while construction work is ongoing on both Ahoada-Omoku and Oyigbo-Afam dualisation projects (all mentioned in his inaugural address).
When Wike made the first inaugural speech in 2015, there were only nine flyovers built over a space of about four decades. These include those at Isaac Boro Park, Kaduna Street, Rumuola, Air Force, Eliozu, Obiri-Ikwerre, Sani Abacha/Agip, Oil Mill/Eleme Junction, and Woji/Akpajo link road. Of all, the two single-lane flyovers at Kaduna Street and Rumuola Junctions were the worst engineering designs in recent memory. The flyovers created more traffic challenges for residents than there solved. Even so, successive governments since the military junta vacated governance in 1999 had proposed to construct flyovers, especially at Garrison, Artillery, and Rumuokoro, but none fulfilled their promises to the people.
But today, Wike has constructed the Garrison, Artillery and Rumuokoro flyovers and named them: Rebisi, Rumuogba, and Okoro-Nu-Odo flyovers. He also reconstructed and expanded the Rumuola and Kaduna Street Junction flyovers, and renamed them: Oro-Abali and Rumuola flyovers. He, therefore, wiped away the pains of four decades of pandering. In addition, he built a sixth flyover at GRA Junction on Port Harcourt-Aba road; and dualised Ezimgbu and Tombia Extension roads. The 7th flyover named Nkpolu-Oroworukwo; the 8th flyover christened Orochiri-Wurukwo bridge at Waterlines Junction;the ninth flyover at Rumuepirikom by Ada-George-Rumuolumeni roads’ intersection;and the 10th flyover named Elimgbu-Rumuokurusi flyover are at different stages of completion. Now, Wike is working on the commencement of construction on Location-Ada-George-Mgbuoba as well as Rumuokwuta flyovers, which would bring the number to 12. These would bring to the capital city a sustained aura of beauty, elegance, gigantic masterpieces, harmony, symmetry, order, inspiration and peace. Why? Flyover bridges help streamline traffic control system by helping reduce congestion, curb exorbitant vehicle operating costs and unquantifiable travel times. Less horizontal curvature reduces risk of off-road crashes. Besides, flyovers also help reduce the negative impact of stress, traumatic disorders; cardiovascular and neuro-psychotic challenges created by disorderly motorists and road users, as well as bad roads.
Wike also pledged to tap the benefits of the business sector. He said, “We appreciate that these are difficult times. But we are confident about the brightness of our future which begins today. The enormous natural and human resources, including oil and gas deposits, vast arable land, rich biodiversity and water resources, two sea ports, an international airport, two refineries, a petrochemical plant, a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) company, a fertiliser company, numerous oil and gas companies and activities, a dynamic population and vibrant labour force, remain solid development sign posts on which to hinge our march of progress. Our collective quest for a prosperous future depends on making Rivers State economically strong and self-reliant. To realise this basic objective, we shall develop and implement an economic development blueprint that leverages on our strengths to make Rivers State the industrial hub of Nigeria in oil and gas, agriculture, maritime and tourism businesses.”
In his quest to fulfil this pledge, Wike encouraged and secured the relocation of headquarters of Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) from Lagos to Port Harcourt. The Rivers State Government acquired Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) 45pecent stakes in Oil Mining Lease (OML) 11 in Eleme for Rivers people. NLNG Train 7 is up and running and promises greater opportunities for Rivers people. The government is maintaining its interest in INDORAMA Petrochemical and Fertiliser Company Limited, and working to boost its participation in the oil and gas sector through encouragement of more companies to invest in the state.
He also said, “Additionally, we shall promote investment in partnership with private investors for the utilisation of our large reserves of kaolin, silica-sand for the ceramic industry; explore opportunities in wood processing and energise participation in large scale commercial farming, agro-allied business ventures and the promotion of a green economy”. In this regard, Wike revitalised the DATCO Integrated Cassava Processing Factory in Afam, and has promoted agriculture and farming in many ways.
On May 29, 2015, Wike said, “This administration envisages a state that should be the knowledge-base of the nation. To this end, we will give serious attention to the provision of quality education to all at all levels by improving budgetary allocation to the education sector. We shall also effectively implement the Universal Basic Education Scheme and demand total devotion and accountability from our teachers through effective monitoring and supervision. The era of throwing money at public education without the desired results is over. We intend to reintroduce a functional boarding system in public secondary schools and increase funding for research and innovation in our tertiary institutions. We will also fund a competitive local and foreign scholarship scheme for brilliant students of Rivers origin to enhance manpower development in critical areas of local and national needs”.
To achieve this, Wike embarked on the revival of the education sector. This has expanded access to quality education. In doing this, the administration increased budgetary allocation to the education sector, strengthened the implementation of Universal Basic Education, rehabilitated and equipped schools and improved infrastructure in tertiary institutions.
In the basic education sub-sector, the administration reconstructed over 175 primary schools, including classroom blocks, landscaping and the provision of water, toilet facilities and power generators; supplied furniture and equipment to over 100 primary and junior secondary schools; supplied sports and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) equipment to a record number of primary and junior secondary schools; provided training to basic education teachers across the state; and completed the construction of the headquarters building of the State Universal Basic Education Board.
In the senior secondary education sub-sector, the Wike administration upgraded more than 11 junior and senior secondary schools; cleared all salaries owed teachers and security contractors in the state’s secondary schools; and ensured the regular payment of salaries to secondary school teachers, pensioners and other staff.
The administration also subsidised the registration fees for Rivers State students undertaking the West African School Certificate Examination (WAEC) and the National Examination Council Examination (NECO) and sustained provision of science equipment, chemicals, materials and consumables to all secondary schools in the state for WASSCE and NECO examinations. He also embarked on the reconstruction of over 13 secondary schools, furnished and equipped them. The reconstruction involved classrooms and teachers’ science and arts laboratories, sports and recreational facilities; dedicated water sources and power generator for regular electricity; perimeter fencing and gate for improved security; new hostel blocks and assembly halls.
The schools include: Government Girls Secondary School, Rumuokwuta; Birabi Memorial Grammar School, Bori; Nyemoni Grammar School, Abonnema; Government Secondary School, Ogu; Government Secondary School, Onne; Bonny National Grammar School, Bonny; Community Secondary School, Bille; Government Secondary School, Okarki; Western Ahoada County High School, Ahoada; Government Secondary School, Abua; Community Secondary School, Ubima; Model Primary School, Mgbuosimini, Rumueme; and construction of Model Primary School, Abara-Etche.
In the tertiary education sub-sector, Wike started improving the infrastructure at the Rivers State University. The administration improved the funding of the university which led to the accreditation of all programmes earlier denied accreditation. He gave approval for the recruitment of new staff at the Rivers State University. He also delivered key infrastructure projects at the institution, including Faculty of Law Building; Faculty of Management Sciences Building; Faculty of Science and Technical Education Building; and College of Medical Sciences Building. He also established and built three more campuses of the institution at Ahoada, Emohua, and Etche.
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Other tertiary institutions have received key funding interventions. These include Captain Elechi Amadi Polytechnic, Rumuola; Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic, Bori; and Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rumuolumeni. These efforts have led to improved infrastructure in the schools, with sustained funding from the state government.The Rivers State Government is upgrading Rivers State School of Nursing and Midwifery while a scholarship programme with the PAMO University of Medical Sciences to train 100 students of Rivers State origin each year for the next five years is on course.
Within the period under review, the Rivers State governor revived education at all levels, setting it on the path of growth. It has formed the foundation of the empowerment of Rivers people with the required resources to make profound progress.
Wike also said, “Besides, our new vision acknowledges the importance of sports and recreation to the socio-economic mobility of youths both within and outside the country. The global economy today has sports, recreation and tourism as the key pillars of development. For instance, football, basketball, boxing, athletics, generate huge revenue and resources for active participants. These activities are youth-based and they would attract the attention of our government to systematically promote them.”
To fulfil this commitment, the governor collapsed the wobbling Dolphin and Sharks football clubs into Rivers United, and funded the club to win laurels at the national and continental levels. He has hosted many international football competitions at the Adokiye Amasiemaka Stadium to promote interest in football, boost tourism and revenue for the state, and has supported the Super Eagles to travel for international competitions and win trophies. Wike has also supported other national sports associations and teams to enable them excel. He remodelled and rehabilitated Alfred Diete-Spiff Civic Centre, Sports Complex and Sharks Stadium. He initiated andcompleted construction of the Real Madrid Football Academy near the Yakubu Gowon Stadium at Elekahia to boost youth involvement in sports and enhance employment generation.
Wike also said, “On environmental protection, our mission is to create a responsible management strategy for the sustainable benefit of the present and succeeding generations. For us, environmental protection is a task that must be pursued with greater intensity, direction and clarity of vision because the environment is our common heritage and the foundation of our existence. In consequence, we will ensure that all relevant legislations and policies on the environment are enforced as well as ensure efficient and sustainable management of wastes through the collaborative efforts of stakeholders.We will further enter into strategic partnership with the Federal Government, oil companies and communities to clean-up polluted communities and adversely impacted sites as well as ensure the protection of vulnerable shorelines through land reclamation and embankment…”
Under Wike’s watch, the Federal Government ticked-off the clean-up and remediation of polluted sites in Ogoniland in line with the 2011 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report recommendations through the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP). The governing structures have been set up, the funding template instituted, and an environmental university is already approved by the Senate for Ogoni. SPDC has also withdrawn its operation from the area, and its facilities decommissioned. Clean water projects are ongoing. The soot pandemic has been addressed with deliberate effort to fight illegal oil bunkering and artisanal refineries in the state as strategic weapon to restore polluted environment due to crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism. Identifies operators of illegal refineries are being neutralised, arrested and prosecuted, including some of those declared wanted by the governor. Three new modular refineries are in the works for the state, which will create jobs and wealth for the people.
On May 29, 2015, Wike stressed, “Fundamentally, during the campaigns, we also promised to secure our state. No government is worth any value if it cannot guarantee the security of lives and property. I assure you that never for a moment will our administration be a captive of politics, when it comes to public security. We have the political will to fight, defeat crimes and criminality in Rivers State. There will be effective coordination, collaboration and synergy with the Federal Government, the law enforcement agencies and our community leaders in the prosecution of the war against cultism, kidnapping and armed robbery. We urge our people to fully co-operate with us in this direction”.
To achieve this, Wike has invested heavily in efforts to fortify the security architecture of the state and support security agencies, including military and para-military institutions to perform their assigned, legitimate roles, seamlessly. He procured no fewer than 250 patrol vans, communication gadgets, protective vests, more than 40 gun and patrol boats, among others, for the federal security agencies to guarantee law and order, peace and security in the state. The police are better equipped now, and crime rate is at its lowest ebb. More infrastructures have been built for them, including in partnership with NDDC.
In addition, he set up the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency in 2018 to complement the efforts of the police, and prepare the state for the implementation of impending policy on state police while boosting community policing. But his desire to address the security lapses in some parts of the state through the agency has met with stiff resistance from the police and military high commands. Despite this, the government has continued to maintain law and order, and secure lives and property of residents.
Wike also said, “At this point, let me also assure our people that our government, and indeed Rivers State, will not be on a war path with the Federal Government. We will cooperate and meaningfully engage the Federal Government to develop the PortHarcourt International Airport to accommodate additional international routes and flight frequencies. We also commit to working with the Federal Government to complete the Bodo-Bonny and other federal roads, as well as ensure the optimal utilisation of the seaports in PortHarcourt and Onne for greater commercial and economic progress. We assure you that Rivers State will not only continue to serve as the Treasure Base of the Nation, but we will also ensure her beautiful people, will be equal partakers of the resources of the land”.
This pledge has resulted in the commissioning of the departure wing of the domestic terminal of the Port Harcourt Airport and completion of the arrival wing of the airport. It also led to the completion of the departure and arrival wings of the international terminal of the airport at Omagwa. All are operational today, with reasonable international and local routes and flight frequencies. Similarly, the seaports at Onne and Port Harcourt are now busy with cargo freights, boosting economic activities in the state. The Oyigbo-Eleme Junction section of the eight-lane Port Harcourt-Aba Road has been completed while work is ongoing on the Bodo-Bonny road. NDDC has completed and relocated to its corporate headquarters in Port Harcourt, 20 years after the interventionist agency’s establishment.
Wike further sought the partnership of Rivers people and residents of the state to succeed when he said, “We told you when we were seeking your mandate, that our promises are our bond. Once again, our promise to you is that, we shall work tirelessly to actualise these goals, objectives and targets. But as human beings, we are not perfect and cannot lay claim to having all the answers to the problems and challenges confronting us as a state and as a people. This is why we shall need your wisdom, prayers and support in diverse ways because working together, we can do and achieve much more. We shall also call on you to make necessary sacrifices so that collectively, we can make Rivers State the place that we can all be proud of with confidence in the great possibilities ahead”.
As a lawyer, Wike knows that one of the ways to douse tension, heal the wounds and bring people together is by guaranteeing justice, equity, inclusion and fair-play for all stakeholders in the Rivers Project. For this reason, he has worked with all stakeholders to promote peace and security, justice and equity, inclusion and progress of all people living and doing business in the state. Even the opposition politicians have benefitted from this policy.
For instance, the governor offered Olive Branch in 2019 to opposition leaders to join the government as a precursor to restore security and secure peace in communities. Leveraging this window, Wike withdrew the murder charges against former factional chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Hon Ojukaye Flag-Amachree. Just last week, Ojukaye emerged first runner-up in the governorship primary of opposition APC in the state. Wike also withdrew attempted murder/criminal charges against former majority leader of Rivers State House of Assembly, and director-general of the botched Tonye Cole Campaign Organisation for the 2019 governorship election, Dr Chidi Lloyd, who has since returned to the PDP, and is today, chairman, Emohua Local Government Council. More opposition politicians have also returned to the PDP and are equal participants in the political theatre, thanks to Wike’s politics of accommodation.
By taking the lead towards showing genuine interest in reconciliation, peace and unity, Wike has exhibited exemplary qualities that if appreciated by the opposition, may address the difficult questions which successive administrations before now, had failed to provide answers to in the last seven years. Therefore, the NEW Rivers Vision project has delivered love, peace and unity in the state.Of course, Wike’s unity, peace and reconciliation policy will move the state forward in the race to increase jobs creation, economic boom and infrastructure development. This will translate to the realisation of the win-win policy for all Rivers people and residents, which Wike promised on May 29, 2015. Rivers State remains the winner!
By: Nelson Chukwudi
The Right Political Choice And Trajectory For Ijaw Nation
Current demographics rank the Ijaws as the 4th largest tribe in Nigeria after Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo. Apart from Bayelsa State which is inhabited by only the Ijaws, in Rivers, Delta, Ondo and Akwa Ibom, the Ijaws are in minority compared to other ethnic groups that dominate those states. These demographics suggest that the Ijaws should exhibit the highest level of sophistication in political engagement to jealously project and protect the Ijaw national heritage and interest rather than by kneejerk and pedestrian saber-rattling, rabble rousing and needless posturing.
It is saddening that despite the sensible path beaten by forefathers of the Ijaw nation in navigating through the difficult labyrinth of political web that led to the modest achievement the Ijaw nation and its people have recorded so far, the present generation seems to have jettisoned reason and careful calculation and instead resort, every now and then, to incoherent, tactically and strategically deficient approach to statecraft.
A lofty example of how past leaders of Ijaw nation responsibly engaged with other ethnic groups in Rivers State is at the advent of the 4th Republic in 1999. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was undeniably the foremost political party then and closely followed by the All Peoples Party (APP). The PDP leadership in Rivers State was in the firm hands of leading politicians of Ijaw extraction such as late Chief Marshall Harry, late Chief A.K. Dikibo, late Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas, Chief Albert Horsfall, amongst others. Despite that another Ijaw son, Chief Ebenezer Isokariari, was seeking to rule the State on the platform of APP, these Ijaw leaders voluntarily ceded power to the upland by supporting Dr. Peter Odili to become the governor of Rivers State in 1999. They did so because, with the earlier creation of Bayelsa State out of the old Rivers State, the old dominance by Ijaw riverine people on the politics of the State had been compromised or altered. They were faced with either willingly ceding power to the upland or losing it electorally. They chose the first option. It was smart and pragmatic political thinking.
Truth must be told that in the present power configuration of Nigeria, no ethnic group (including the Ijaw nation) can successfully go it alone politically. Without considerable presence in the South-South, South-West and South-East, the Hausa/Fulani dominated NPN would not have won and dominated political power from 1979 to December 31, 1983 when the government was overthrown by the military. After the debacle of June 12 and the ensuing interregnum that followed, it took the active involvement of leaders of Hausa Fulani extraction for a Yoruba, Olusegun Obasanjo, to climb the saddle as a democratically elected President on May 29, 1999.
Which way forward for the Ijaw nation?
It is time for the leaders of Ijaw nation to do a deep retrospection and reflection with a view to separating politics from other issues in order not to continue to mislead Ijaw people. For instance, the greatest tragedy that will befall Ijaw people will be to mix politics with issues that require legal resolution. Ijaw leaders must separate them and not see such through the prism of politics. That is the only way we can collectively isolate perpetrators of illegality and put them away from descent society to enable the inflow of investments which will subsequently lead to economic development and the ultimate upliftment of our people’s standard of living.
A bit more reflection reveals that no President in Nigeria has done more for his people while in office. Many may blame the faulty political structure of the country for this trend but the truth remains that President Obasanjo ruled Nigeria as a civilian president for eight years with no significant benefit to Ogun State where he hails from; not even the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway got any significant attention. Same for when an Ijaw son, President Goodluck Jonathan called the shots for over six years as President. The East/West Road and the much-expected NLNG Train 7, for example, never got any boost. No one can completely dismiss the agitation for political leadership by Ijaw ethnic group or any other group for that matter. But what cannot be denied is that such leadership, even when achieved, only panders to the people’s emotion and not in terms of concrete achievements.
Ijaw nation can only ask and get its fair share in the larger Nigerian nation when we cooperate and support other ethnic groups. We must discard the selfish mindset that everything must come to us at all times. If we fail, refuse or neglect to support others, whether in politics, economy and other spheres, we indirectly relinquish our moral right to demand for what should be ours when our time comes.
The youths of Ijaw nation must retrace their steps and adopt the moral high ground and sophistication in political engineering that saw our forefathers excel and triumph over adversaries and surmount intractable obstacles both as individuals and as a group. Ijaw youths must de-emphasise warmongering as a political tool but engage and work with others to achieve the short and long term objectives and aspirations of the Ijaw nation within the Nigerian political environment.
By: Davies Ibiamu Ikanya
Dr. Ikanya is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Rivers State.
Ray Morphy And The Burden Of A Misinformed Columnist
From the title alone, one would immediately infer that this is another hack installment in the Wike bashing enterprise; an irresistible temptation and authorial escapade which a host of Newspaper columnists, most of whom are always certainly ‘alerted’ with a burgeoning bump in their account balances, have resorted to, in typical fashion.
To set the records straight, let us state unequivocally that we have nothing personal against Chief Ray Morphy’. Afteall, he is the “Mgba Ntol, Njoram Mfan, Ovar Okan, Nkpume Utonkor! Shaman!” (his traditional title we assume), as he described himself, in a revealing epistle to his Governor, Sir Ben Ayade titled: “He never listened”. Of course, we will have reason to revisit these two references further in this rejoinder.
Ordinarily, we would not have bothered to join issues with Chief Ray Morphy’, not only for the reason that he was a Former Special Adviser to Gov Ben Ayade on Strategy and National Contact, but most importantly, out of deferential reverence to his revered father, Late Chief Iwong Inyam Morphy, who played gladiatorial roles not only in shaping the proud Ogoja Ethnic Nationality’s development and charting a course for its future but indeed in heroic narratives how he saved the Ogoja Nation from annihilation during the Civil War.
He was also a former Chairman, New Nigerian Newspaper Limited, a journalistic trait which of course his Scion, Chief Ray Morphy has inherited.
It is therefore quite surprising and disappointing that Chief Ray Morphy, for whatever fee, would pick up his pen and write against a modern day political Maverick like Governor Nyesom Wike, who is unquestionably displaying the admirable traits of courage, patriotism, valour and fearlessness, which his own father exhibited as an older generation political icon, and for which he is still being celebrated today and will be seranaded in folkloric songs for generations to come.
It is even possible that so many Ogoja citizens, when they see and hear Governor Wike today, will be reminded with great nostalgia, the redoubtable deeds of the legendary late Chief Iwong Inyam Morphy, the iconic hero of Ogoja kingdom, who would have frowned from the great beyond, to see what his son wrote about Governor Wike. It is indeed sad.
Like we stated earlier, we have nothing personal against Chief Ray Morphy and we are even pleased to know, by his own admission, that he knew Governor Wike personally before he became governor. But several misinformed analysis and misleading innuendos in his article, which particularly bother on integrity and leadership responsibilities, must be addressed, to set the records straight.
For example, Chief Ray Morphy talks about multiparty democracy, which should operationally embrace bipartisanship and tolerance of criticisms or opposing views, which are as important as integrity and accountability. Indeed this is the utopian fallacy of great theoretical mettle, which many Nigerian columnists and analysts deliberately offer, while being economical with the truth which defines the peculiar brand of democracy we operate, and are quick to sound intellectual with such academic no-brainers.
While we wish appreciate Chief Morphy’s candid and honest admission that Governor Wike deserves credit for his infrastructural development of Rivers State, which are shining brightly for all to see, we actually find it quite funny that for a man who himself has ventured into the robust terrain of partisan politics, albeit surreptitiously attempting unsucessfully to ride on the fame of his late projenitor, would now say in the same vein, that Governor Wike is yet to learn the fine art of statesmanship and makes politics seem a constant war between him and his numerous opponents.
In his examples of Governor Wike’s lack of statesmanship and intolerance of criticism, he mentions the recent incident involving Hon. Farrah Dagogo, and the only thing to say in response is that Ray Morphy is unfortunately ignorant of the facts of the situation. The matter is now however before a competent court of law in accordance with due process, instead of dictatorship, where charges have been brought against him.
We want to categorically tell Chief Morphy that he cannot and does not know Rivers State and its people more than the Governor and the Chief Security officer of the State. His peripheral references and obvious misinformation on the matter, has rendered his argument inchoate.
In the case of Godwin Obaseki and his Deputy, it would have been sufficient to tell Chief Morphy that this matter is the internal affairs of the PDP, but then, need we also remind him of how Governor Wike’s hotel was placed under siege by the police for three days, when he went, on the directive of the PDP leadership, to deliver Edo state?
Do we need to remind Mr. Morphy of how Governor Obaseki visited Government House Port Harcourt to appeal to Governor Wike, to use his considerable influence to intervene and pacify those who were against his defection and automatic ticket, and how the same Governor Obaseki forgot his egotistical ‘delusions of grandeur’, when he was on his knees begging the PDP leadership, to accept him and his Deputy and bring them under the big umbrella? Ray Morphy should do his homework properly before dabbling into issues he has scant comprehension about.
As for Govenor Wike’s criticism of Governor Ben Ayade as a ‘419 Governor’, we need not go too far, but only have to refer Chief Morphy to his own bitter epistle to Governor Ben Ayade titled: “He never Listened”, in which after his 10 point whitewash of his own Governor; points which were all saturated with “419” characteristics, the Ogoja Chief ended his hardknocks on Governor Ayade with the following words: “Now you know WHY I RESIGNED THAT APPOINTMENT! Today, I stand tall because I am vindicated! But I am saddened by the wasted years!”. And this was way before Ayade came into Governor Wike’s crosshairs.
And ofcourse we can understand and sympathise with Chief Morphy’s obvious chagrin over Govenor Wike’s admonition of a Rivers Chief, which at that time was serious, but is now humorized and sadly recontextualized by detractors, who did not understand the gravity of whatever situation had provoked the spontaneous ire of the Rivers Governor. Chief Morphy is: “Mgba Ntol, Njoram Mfan, Ovar Okan, Nkpume Utonkor! Shaman!” and his solidarity with that co-Rivers Chief is admirable but wasted just like his years as Special Adviser to Gov Ben Ayade on Strategy and National Contact.
On Governor David Umahi’s matter, Governor Wike beyond all the rhetoric, has already encouraged the PDP to initiate legal action against his defection, which is what every sensible and confident leader would do, but which sadly, most of our leaders who are only too concerned about securing power rather than deepening our democracy, have been deliberately avoiding. Governor Wike’s loyalty and commitment to the PDP and it’s interests, are unwavering.
And by the way, let us note with clear emphasis, that in the area of consensus building in multiparty democracy, no Governor or political leader in this country has done so much more to build consensus, entrench bipartisanship and embrace friendly opposition, like Governor Wike has done.
He is the only Governor in this present political dispensation in Nigeria and arguably in the country’s political history, who has invited opposition Governors and leaders like Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (who christened him “Mr. Projects”), Governor Kayode Fayemi (Chairman of Progressives Governors Forum and Ekiti State Governor), the Minister of Works, Raji Fashola, former Governors of Imo and Abia states (Sen. Rochas Okorocha and Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu) respectively and amongst others, to come and Commission projects all over Rivers State, in true celebration of bipartisanship.
Governor Wike is also the only Governor in Nigeria who has visited more Northern States and identified and empathized with them in their times of human and natural devastations and catastrophes. It is even on record that he has reconciled two Northern Governors in Port Harcourt, brokered peace in the PDP in several states, and even brought two top retired military leaders to embrace each other, after many months of bitter malice in Plateau state. These are real Nigerian stories in the public space.
Even recently in his presidential Consultative visits across the country, he was in Kano state where he bantered jocularly with Governor Umar Ganduje, who many Nigerians will remember, was the Chairman of APC Edo State Governorship campaign council, with Governor Wike leading the PDP, and the choice campaign language between both leaders, that added extra spice to the entire election process. Yet there they were basking in exchanges right inside Government House, Kano after an unprecedented state reception for a personal visit, which underscores the huge respect and acceptance Governor Wike enjoys in Kano.
Governor Wike was also fearlessly in Borno State, the hotbed of insurgency, to consult the PDP Delegates, and he was warmly welcomed in a grand reception, usually reserved for royalty and official national and foreign visitors, right inside Government House, Maiduguri, by Governor Babagana Umara Zulum, who had only words of praise for the Rivers Governor’s bipartisan political philosophy.
And most recently, we are proud to note the wonderful reception which Governor Masari of Katisina, the President’s own State, gave Governor Wike has completely nullified the lie which many columnists have been pedaling, that Governor Wike and President Buhari are ‘enemies’. The icing on the cake of that visit was his humble visit to pay respectful homage to the matriarch, Hajiya Aya Dada Yar’Adua, the mother of Late President Umaru Yar’Adua, who was also a former Governor of Katisina State.
Indeed, no presidential aspirant in the PDP has embarked on this kind of marathon tour across Nigeria to meet and interact with Nigerians in over 30 states across the six geopolitical regions of the country. This is indeed incredibly impressive and rather than celebrate the fact that Governor Wike has actually united Nigeria and bonded with Nigerians in the North, South, East and West, some writers like Ray Morphy are busy dwelling on pedestrian issues like quarells amongst politicans, which is actually an integral ingredient of politics all over the world. Was he paid for this uncharacteristic hack job?
Nigeria today needs a President who is brave, courageous, bold and is not afraid to visit any part of Nigeria, even without presidential toga of authority and paraphernalia. We need a President who will tell Nigerians the truth, call out those who are misleading and deceiving Nigerians, encourage Nigerian leaders to explore and exploit their comparative advantages in practice of true federalism, vocalize our problems and challenges and address them frontally.
We need someone who will lead by example, celebrate our victories and successes even as he is setting up functional structures and delivering quality infrastructure to consolidate and ensure more victories and define our place as a proud, safe, secure and economically viable nation, in the comity of nations.
Nigeria needs a strong, visionary, compassionate, astute, strategically articulate and pramagtically driven leader at this point in time in our history and Governor Wike has provided sufficient proof, that he is the man to lead Nigeria at a time like this. He knows the way, he will show us the way, and he will lead us all the way to the place of greatness where Nigeria belongs.
By: Paulinus Nsirim
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.
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