This topic reminds me of two recent personal incidents. I was in the office on the morning of Tuesday, July 13 when a colleague rushed in with his phone.
He seemed quite animated, but there was also an edge of anxiety about him as he thrust his phone forward, stopping mid-speech, and asking me to speak with the caller. I didn’t know who it was. So, I motioned to my colleague to end the call first and sit down.
He did, collected himself, and spoke. A federal minister, one of the very influential ones in this government, had just called him to complain about LEADERSHIP’s lead story for that day, entitled, “Nigeria moves to tackle terrorists with robots”.
He said the minister was livid that our story was an expose for Boko Haram and a great disservice to Nigeria’s war on terror. Even if the editor did not know, how come Azu, the Editor-In-Chief, also failed spectacularly to see that that story was leaking a vital state secret to the enemy?
I called the minister back on my colleague’s line. In vain did I try to explain that the story was actually a report from the Senate’s plenary. It was open and live. We were obliged, like other newspapers, to cover and report it.
In any case, why should a story about the planned use of drones be deemed a national security breach, when the military routinely calls press conferences to announce its order of, payment for and arrival dates of US-manufactured Tucano jets, one of its prized assets in the war on Boko Haram?
But the minister is not alone, as I found from this second incident days ago. A statement on behalf of the government by the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari and former President of the NGE, Malam Garba Shehu, on Monday, suggests very clearly that the government seriously thinks that the media has insecurity on its speed dial, stored with the shorthand: if it bleeds, it leads.
For example, the government said, if only the press would replace the ubiquitous phrase “rising insecurity” with “declining insecurity”, we might indeed begin to witness not only a decline in insecurity, but also a totally different perception of the decade-and-a-half-long war on terror. And doubtless too, we might also begin to see, without the malicious veil of bias, the great strides that Buhari has made in degrading, if not exterminating, Boko Haram.
But wait a minute. Is the media as powerful as it is often acclaimed and its forces as potent and even malevolent as the Morning Journal at the hands of William Randolph Hearst in the 20th century? Are media managers, especially editors, supposed to descend the conflict arena as mediators, partisans, neutrals or agents of peace? Or as a combination of these?
Or was the US late-night show legend, Jon Stewart, right when he told the New York Times recently that when journalists pose as change agents, it’s either they’re taking themselves too seriously or perhaps those who believe them are taking them too seriously?
I’m not sure I have the answers. But I would be silly to think that you are here for the gospel of Peace Journalism, after which you would return to a world where the journalistic lamb and the societal lion would lie side by side. It would be naïve to believe – or even think – so when journalism itself, if not politics, is facing a conflict of obsolescence.
Buzz words, key words
It may be useful, at this stage, to explain the context in which I would be using three key words: conflict, mediator, and editor.
First, conflict. When interests clash and disagreement occurs, and such disagreementsescalate, we have conflict. Although the basis for conflict, whether at individual or societal level, might vary, most conflicts are as a result of differences in opinion and scarcity of resources.
Here, I am dealing with conflicts involving groups defined by political affiliation, ethnicity, nationality, religion and other social identities. Over the past three decades, we can say that these conflicts have reached staggering proportions.
There is hardly any region of the world where there is no violent conflict. And there is hardly any sub-region within Africa where there is no violence from conflicts.
If we look closely at groups that may operate to trigger or constrain violent struggles, politicians and faith leaders are high on the list. And we have seen how easily any or a combination of these groups can devolve into or stoke fanaticism, extremism and demagoguery.
Unfortunately, conflicts around the world have cost too many lives, brought too much suffering to too many ordinary people and have displaced even more, depriving them of their homes and livelihoods.
In 2003, Roy and Judy Eidelson’sDangerous Ideas identified five individual-level core beliefs and group-level worldviews which, according to their research, propel groups towards conflict. The five core beliefs are superiority, injustice, vulnerability, distrust and helplessness.
Time will not permit me to do an extensive review of this interesting theory or to deploy it as an analytic tool to deconstruct the Nigerian situation. Briefly, however, this theory explains why beliefs and worldviews, such as injustice and ethnocentrism – and not the media – are drivers of conflicts in Nigeria since independence till the present time.
Mediation, the second key word, is a voluntary process in which an impartial intermediary (the mediator) facilitates communication and promotes reconciliation between the parties which will allow them to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.
Mediation is often the next step if negotiation proves unsuccessful. In mediation, the parties in a conflict or their representatives have an opportunity to explain their views of the dispute. Mediation helps each side better understand the other’s point of view.
And the third, editor? One of the most pragmatic definitions I have known is the one by my teacher, Professor Olatunji Dare. He described the editor as “the one who decides what gets published.” If you find a better description, please send it my way.
How do these three factors interact and interrelate? What roles do their interactions play in the emergence of conflicts, and where exactly does the press stand in the mix?
Watchdog and warfare
The press is said to be the watchdog of society; it is supposed to sound the alarm when all is not well, to bark when the bad guys are roaming the block.
While it may be sensible to assume that the editor, guided by the basic professional requirements of accuracy, balance, fairness, objectivity and facts should exercise reasonable judgment, there is the temptation to over-estimate the role of the media in building consensus or mediating peace.
But which editor – which Nigerian editor – so desirous to cultivate peace and build consensus, can try any of the top non-journalist, media influencers for size? Yemi Alade, Tiwa Savage, and Funke Akindele have among them, 42.3 million followers on Instagram alone – and that was before the Tiwa sex tape!
The top 10 Nigerian editors don’t come close, even if you throw in their media houses to make the number and add their entire social media footprint to the bargain! If current warfare is for hearts and minds and the cyberspace is the theatre, how can editors influence outcomes with such limited reach?
Outside textbooks or what officialdom may mislead you to believe, the job of “holding the line”, to use the phrase by journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Maria Ressa, is messier and far more complicated in real life than it is at a lecture.
That said, the media is like a double-edged sword, and in some ways, too, like fire – it can help to cook a meal; it can also set the house alight. The media can act as both a catalyst in conflict prevention, while it could also potentially inflame it.
In the context of our discussion, conflict, mediation and the media may be seen as connected dots on different points of a long, wobbly line.
When conflicts break out, between state and non-state actors for example, as the case is between Boko Haram and the Federal Government, battles are not limited to the warfront. Each party engages in a struggle for mindshare with the editor and the press caught in the middle.
The parties in a conflict are often concerned with making sure that the majority of people are on “their” side. And at the centre of that battle is who controls the narrative in the media and public spaces. As a result, there is a lot of potential for misrepresenting facts in the struggle for control and distribution of information.
Conflicting parties understand that information is power and insight can impact public discourse. They know that perception can be influenced by access to the media, as the Taliban have amply demonstrated in their second coming in Afghanistan. Key actors in a conflict thus seek to manipulate public perception;depending on their relative position of power and/or control of resources, they seek to either minimise or exaggerate a conflict.
As Steven Livingston, professor of Media and Public and International Affairs at the George Washington University put it, weak actors in a conflict tend to use the media to “socialise” a conflict, while actors in a dominant position tend to use the media to “privatise” it.
By using the media to socialise the conflict, weak actors in a conflict solicit and enlist supporters in their cause against a greater power by highlighting the perception of being the “victim” and painting a picture of suffering. On the other hand, by using the media to privatise the conflict, dominant actors in a conflict limit attention to or awareness of the conflict.
The former uses the media coverage to draw attention while the latter uses the same media coverage to downplay the conflict.
From available analyses, international media err more on the side of actors who socialise conflict than those who privatise it. Conversely, local media more often pitches its camp more with the dominant actors than it does with the weak actors. It is therefore dangerous for a third party in a conflict to base its response on the substance and timing of the information received from one or a few sources of information.
After all, it was Harry S. Truman, the 33rd president of the United States, who once said, “You can never get all the facts from just one newspaper, and unless you have all the facts, you cannot make proper judgments about what is going on.”
Role of the media in conflict
The editor does not exist in a vacuum. To understand the role of the editor in a conflict – or peace in time – it might be useful to first examine his or her role in the workplace, since editors are by and large, catalysts in the media space.
In a paper by Joseph Olusegun Adebayo and Blessing Makwambeni, entitled, “The limits of peace journalism”, the authors examined the role of the press in three elections in Kenya – in 2008, 2013 and 2017.
They concluded that while reportage in the Kenyan press was implicated in the violence that pushed the country to the brink of war in 2008, by brazenly taking sides and pitching ethnic groups against each other, the press played a significantly positive role five years later in the next election.
In a twist of irony, however, the same press which was hailed for professionalism and restraint in 2013, was condemned yet again in 2017 for “sacrificing democracy on the altar of peace.” It was accused of downplaying massive rigging and election fraud for fear that such reportage might stoke violence. It appears that heads or tails, the press loses!
One eyed-town, one-eyed king
Why, in spite of its shortcomings and limitations, is so much faith invested in the ability of the press to “hold the line” and perhaps also act as a catalyst for conflict resolution and consensus building?
Section 22 of the 1999 constitution requires the press to hold the government accountable. It’s also important to keep in mind that the press played an important historical role not only in helping the country attain political independence, but also as a champion of the common cause during decades of military rule when freedom of speech was severely abridged. So, there is both a statutory and a historical imperative for the press to shine the light.
The draw towards the press could also be as a result of a growing loss of confidence in other mechanisms for conflict management and resolution. The police are overworked and underpaid, the courts are not better off, while other mechanisms for mediation and arbitration are either comatose or out-of-reach.
If the Nigerian fish is rotting from the head, it would be gratuitous to claim that the press is in good health. The misery of some editors who may even strive for professionalism, is compounded by largely compromised ownership structures, redundancies, poor remuneration, and a weak ethical fiber further undermined by poor regulation; not to mention the onslaught of fake news, which appears to have significantly tarred civic spaces and tainted journalism in the eyes of outsiders.
The media is, by and large, plagued by the same social malaise threatening other segments of society, except that perhaps there remains a flicker hope that in the plurality and diversity of the press and drawing from its rich historical legacy, there might yet be redemption.
Out of the ashes, the Editor
The question is how? How might the press regain lost grounds, rebuild confidence and win back public trust, which is an essential tool in its role as:
a) Information provider and interpreter
b) Watchdog and gatekeeper
c) Policy influencer and agenda setter
d) Promoter of peace and bridge builder
There are some institutional changes that might help not just the newsroom, but also the editor, become more efficient and effective.
The most urgent, for me, is a professional framework. The Nigerian Media Council Bill is trash. It should be left in the garbage heap to suffer the slow, painful death that it deserves. But there’s a vacuum. Once the local Ombudsman announced by the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), is up and running, the association should move quickly to establish a co-regulatory framework for the industry, with South Africa as a useful model. The watchdog cannot – and should not – be above transparency, if it hopes to win public confidence.
Also, as the recent collaborative work on the Pandora Papers has shown, editors can work with colleagues across boundaries to share resources for the common good. The redundancy level in a number of Nigerian media houses – idle presses, huge office spaces, large inventory of unsold print copies, and the trove of unused daily news content – is extraordinary. Yet empty pride keeps them not only from introspection, but also from the economies of scale that could come from sharing resources.
The 21st century editor is at a crossroads. In the journal, “International media and conflict resolution: Making the connection”, John Pauly, a communication scholar at Marquette University, wrote: “Traditionally, journalists viewed themselves as disinterested witnesses or observers to conflict, present only to report on facts. More recently, the public journalism model has advocated that journalists take a more active role in educating and helping the public craft solutions to the problems of the day.”
As the editor iterates, integrates and manages interfaces, developing electronic copies of newspapers and streaming content to ensure presence on virtual platforms in order to escape the conflict of obsolescence, he or she also needs to navigate with caution, checking, cross-checking and fact-checking.
He or she is an easier prey for politicians, demagogues, extremists andYahoo Boys on virtual space than he is vulnerable to the recalcitrant vendor or distributor in the street corner.
Moreover, the citizen journalist more often than not, does not know or play by the rules of institutional journalism. These are challenges that confront editors and will test their capacity beyond the theories of mass communications.
How successfully journalists manage the innovations and issues technology throw at them would determine whether or not and now far they succeed as mediators.
To paraphrase Pauly, journalists and editors need to take a more active role in educating and helping the public find solutions to the problems of the day. In other words, the continued relevance of journalism, whether in peace time or in time of crisis, lies just as much on its inventiveness as in how it reinforces the agency of the citizen.
That is where journalism should its stand. Not with extremists, fanatics and demagogues. And certainly not with politicians who love to fake outrage in the daytime, but at sunset find time for photo ops with bandits strapped to the teeth with deadly weapons.
We can and should find our own way.
By: Azu Ishiekwene
Ishiekwene is the Editor-in-Chief of LEADERSHIP
(This is a slightly modified paper he presented at the 17 Annual Conference of the Nigerian Guild of Editors in Abuja on October 21, 2012).
Wike’s Pragmatic Offensive Against Illegal Bunkering
The revelations of that tour, have not only been mind-boggling in terms of the assemblage of sophisticated equipment and the operational dynamics of the illegal refineries, but sadly in the cumulative impact and overall long-term negative implications of the environmental, health and economic damages their continuous operations have inflicted and would continue to inflict on the people.
Wike’s pragmatic, on-the-spot assessment tour to the two local government areas, to dare the lions of illegal refineries in their own dens, was sequel to his radically precise 2022 New Year message to Rivers people, in which he unequivocally read the riot act to sponsors and operators of illegal refineries in the state.
He not only dropped the gauntlet by naming some of those behind the illegal operations, he boldly declared 19 persons wanted, and urged others who know themselves to report to security agencies on their own volition and discretion.
Wike equally directed all local government chairmen and community leaders to locate, identify such sites and report all those behind illegal bunkering and crude oil refining sites in their localities for prosecution.
And as a follow up to his trip through the track roads into the forest of Ogbodo community in Ikwerre Local Government Area and the forest of Ibaa community in Emohua LGA to uncover the illegal refining sites, Wike has now issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the 23 local government chairmen to provide a comprehensive list of illegal refineries and their operators within their jurisdiction.
The Rivers governor, who gave the ultimatum at a meeting with the council chairmen and heads of the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force, Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Police Force, the Directorate of State Service (DSS) and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) at Government House on Friday, January 14, challenged the council chairmen to prove that they are not complicit in the dangerous business that has continued to threaten the health of Rivers people and the national economy.
While further demanding the redeployment of the DPO and NSCDC officers implicated in illegal refinery activities, the governor stated unequivocally that as a responsible government, it will be unwise for them to fold their hands and do nothing to safeguard residents of the state from the death that is forced upon them by criminally-minded operators of artisanal refineries.
Wike’s pragmatic offensive against illegal refineries had been driven by his deep worry and concern over the environmental pollution caused by dangerous black soot, which had practically covered the stratosphere of major parts of Rivers State, and had become even more life-threatening with the arrival of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, to compound the already menacing and precarious respiratory health challenges synonymous with the Coronavirus.
More significant to the Rivers governor’s courageous trip into the heart of the jungle where the operational hub of these illegal refineries throb with nefarious activity, is however, the widely believed notion that the Federal Government and its security agencies have either deliberately or otherwise, failed woefully to rein in those behind illegal oil bunkering and artisanal crude oil refiners in the state, whose illegal operation has become the number one health hazard in the state.
Wike, speaking on the black soot matter, in his New Year message, stated categorically that: “As a state government, we have drawn the attention of the Federal Government to this problem, and requested for its intervention to stop the activities of illegal bunkering and artisanal crude oil refiners, which have been identified as the main sources of the soot pandemic.
“Unfortunately, the Federal Government has remained inexplicably silent over our request, and even complicit to a large extent with the security agencies actively aiding, encouraging and protecting the artisanal refiners to continue with their harmful activities unabated,” the governor declared.
To fully comprehend and appreciate the enormity of the situation which confronts Rivers people with the continued operations of these illegal refineries unchecked, and which has now driven the Rivers governor to engage in this frontal, hands-on radical action to tackle the soot menace, one must necessarily reflect on the timeless Igbo adage invoked by the great Nigerian writer, late Professor Chinua Achebe, in the famous novel, “Things Fall Apart”, which says that: ‘a man who does not know where the rain began to beat him, cannot say where he dried his body’.
It is a well known fact that the illegal refining business is a multi-billion naira industry. It is something that is not hidden, it is very visible. Wike has, in several widely reported occasions, called out the heads of security agencies in the state, over their involvement in aiding and abetting the illegal operations.
Niger Delta analysts and Civil Society Organisations have also opined that a lot of influential political and military leaders referred to as ‘cabals’ or ‘cartels’ are all involved in this business, and so, it has become quite difficult to put a halt to it.
The result of this illegal occupation in Rivers State and on Rivers people is the black soot. Efforts to tackle this health hazard may have been cosmetic, especially following the 2016 and 2018 #StopTheSoot protests in Port Harcourt and other parts of Rivers State and Niger Delta.
The emergence of COVID-19 and the concerted agenda to control and manage the pandemic has even achieved a greater urgency now, as a result of the protracted air pollution crisis, caused by the black soot and exacerbated by the new Omicron variant, which is said to swiftly aggravate and accelerate respiratory failure.
A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that, outdoor air pollution causes 4.2million deaths each year across the world. Additionally, 99per cent of the global population is exposed to a high level of air pollution which puts them at risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other life-threatening medical conditions. Black soot, in particular, can be linked to a wide range of severe health effects, including acute bronchitis (an inflammation that causes coughing) and an aggravated breathing situation for asthma patients.
Wike recognised this in his impassioned directives to the Rivers State Police Commissioner, Mr Friday Eboka at one of the sites of the illegal refineries, to ensure that the sponsors and operators of these operations are brought to book, no matter how highly placed.
As at January 13, 2022, when Wike was in Ikwerre and Emuoha LGAs to assess the illegal refineries’ bases, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria amounted to 249,586. According to figures from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the latest numbers show that Lagos State had total confirmed cases of 97,320 to top the list, followed by Abuja (27,782), Rivers (15,990), as the second and third highest number of cumulative cases, respectively.
It is common knowledge that Section 44(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended); the Land Use Act, and Petroleum Act, vests the exclusive control, ownership, and management of oil and gas in the Federal Government and not to the state or local government where the oil and gas are situated (Exclusive List).
But there’s no doubt whatsoever that Wike’s pragmatic offensive against illegal refineries in the state is not only a step in the right direction in the collective effort, with civil society groups, to confront and defeat the continued production of black soot through the activities of these illegal operations, it once again exposes the distinctions between opportunistic service and the demands of the conceptual responsibility of service and leadership, geared towards protecting and preserving the well-being of the people.
Wike has never failed to stand on the side of the people and his ‘war’ against illegal refineries is just another manifestation of a leader who not only leads from the front, but will always put his people first, and step on toes to ensure that the people come first, no matter whose Ox is gored.
Political opportunists whose stock-in-trade is to politicise every genuine intention of Wike should bury their heads in shame this time around. The Rivers State Government is winning the war against the menace!
By: Paulinus Nsirim
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.
As Bonny Monarch Marks Milestone…
King Edward has now reigned as Bonny monarch for 25 years and people of the Kingdom stopped at nothing to celebrate their great ruler, starting with a special church service where the King and his Council of Chiefs were rededicated to serve God and Bonny people. It was a reenactment of the foundation laid by King George, the great grandfather of Edward sometime in the 1880s.
The humility of the King and his Council of Chiefs and the declarations they made before God on that fateful day was enough to give hope to every indigene of Bonny Kingdom in that service.
Before God and the people of Bonny Kingdom, the King made commitment saying: “In the name of the Lord and to the best of my abilities, I will continue to be a faithful monarch to this Kingdom. I will continue to share with us those gifts which God had entrusted to me. I shall daily strive to lead, teach and equip us for service. I shall love my people and have faith in them. I faithfully continue as one among them as we strive to better the lot of all who dwell both within and out outside the walls of this Kingdom. I shall seek to lead by example with God as my strength, Jesus Christ as my example and the Holy Spirit as my Guide”.
The Council of Chiefs, led by its chairman, Se – Alabo Dagogo Suoala Claude Wilcox made a commitment to God, the King and the Kingdom saying: “As Chiefs of this Kingdom and in the name of God, we make this commitment. We will, with God’s help, and to the best of our abilities, seek to be supportive of you in monarchical services. We offer to you our support, our confidence, our encouragement, our patience, our trust, our giftedness, our wisdom, our love and our prayers. We will have faith in you. We will serve with you for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord and for the love of our native land. In this your re-dedication to godly services, we claim your family as our family and commit ourselves to respect, love, care and support them as we support do to you. We make this promise s through Jesus Christ our Lord”.
The content of these declarations have hope written all over them, especially when the King said he was going to be one among his people. Following through on these commitments is at the core of what true leadership is. In very simple terms, the King has committed to feel the pain of his people and celebrate their joy in the years ahead.
Actually, the import of the declarations can only be fully understood by an indigene of Bonny of Bonny Kingdom. In Bonny Kingdom, irrespective of who is the local government chairman, the Amanyanabo and his Chiefs take the blame for every form of failure. Bonny people always look to their King and his Council of Chiefs. The reason for this is not clear, but it could be adduced that the transient nature of political offices and the actions of politicians might be a major factor.
In the past 25 years, most of the development in Bonny Kingdom had been facilitated through an organ of the Kingdom called the Bonny Kingdom Development Committee (BKDC). The BKDC was instrumental in the conceptualisation and delivery of such developmental projects in power, human capacity (through the Bonny Vocational Center) and social impact projects as the Ibanise HIV Initiative that reduced HIV/AIDS prevalence in Bonny Kingdom.
The youthful generation that saw the coronation of the Amanyanabo in 1996 is now in their 40s and 50s. A few are Chiefs, some are title citizens, others form the core of the current crop of political class and the rest are professionals in various fields. The next 25 years is starting with a fresh crop of youths desirous of a sustainable and prosperous future. How will the King lead into the future? How does he surpass the successes of the past years? How will he, in consonance with the local government council and the security agencies in the Kingdom, bring drug and kidnapping to zero? How does he hold the Kingdom together as one man among many? Will he put on the cloak of burden for his people, making sure no one is left behind? These are the questions on the mind of every indigene and resident of Bonny Kingdom irrespective of age, house, creed or political affiliation.
There is every reason to hope because the King was prayed for and blessed by his people. God has favoured the King by preserving the eighty one year Rt. Rev. Gabriel Herbert People, Bishop emeritus of Niger Delta Diocese, Anglican Communion who crowned him in 1996 to rededicate in 2021 after 25 years. In rededicating the King, the Bishop charged him under God, “to be of good courage to hold fast that which is good; to strengthen the faint hearted; to render unto no man evil for evil; to help the afflicted; to support the weak; to honour all men and to love and serve the Lord.”
The second reason for hope is found in the significance of gifts given to the King during the service. Gifts of water, wine, a shepherds’ staff, olive oil, traditional wrapper and candle were given to the King; representing the peace the Kingdom desires to enjoy in the years ahead, wisdom and good leadership from the King, prosperity for the Kingdom and the candle as a symbol of light and truth that his majesty’s light may shine to the glory of God and the uplifting of Bonny Kingdom. The Bishop also handed the King a copy of the Holy Bible, charging him to lead the kingdom under God, with Christ as an example and the Holy Spirit as guide.
The future of Bonny Kingdom is a blank page in which anything could be written; and the Amanyanabo understands his role as that pencil in the hand of the Creator. He should bear in mind that the strategies that worked for the Kingdom and brought him safely to his 25th Anniversary would not take him and the Kingdom into the promised land of a sustainable and prosperous future, especially in an uncertain political and economic environment as Nigeria. He must now surround himself with men of bold ideas capable of lifting everyone in Bonny Kingdom out of poverty; men who rather think of the GDP of Bonny Kingdom and fight its emergence as an economic power house in spite of oil and gas. Men who can design a 25-year development plan, with concrete deliverables every five years and to give their lives, if need be, for the sake of posterity.
The Chiefs must return and rebuild every stratum of their Houses – Gburusu, Asawo, Erawo and youths. In the same token, each House must domesticate the 25-year plan after it has been approved by the Ibanise Assembly. Every sleeve must be rolled up for the work ahead; the King’s strength is in his people. The political class must know they only exist to serve the people in a democracy. Therefore, they must reorient themselves to fulfilling their duty of creating an enabling environment for growth by being transparent and accountable. In this regard, Dame Hon. Anengi Barasua, the current Bonny LGA boss, has a rare opportunity to show the men folk have to lead by rising with concrete achievements.
In my interactions with some title citizens and youths, the general consensus is that the Kingdom stagnated in the last five years despite the euphoria of the signing of the new MoU with NLNG, SPDC and ExxonMobil in 2015. They were of the opinion that the parochial interest of a select few denied the Kingdom desperately needed resources for almost six years. They prayed and hoped that the occasion of this coronation Silver Jubilee would mark a turning point for the Kingdom’s new vehicle for development – the Bonny Kingdom Development Foundation (BKDF). Bonny people must know that the best time to turn her fortunes around was in 2015, but the next best time is now. No one is exempt; everyone has a role to play in bringing the Kingdom across the Jordan and into the promise of the future.
In a chance meeting in 2018, I got a rare opportunity to hear from the King, the history and purpose of the BKDF and a possible future for Grand Bonny Kingdom. With the aid of a video, his Majesty explained how Bonny Kingdom was to transition from a monolithic economy to a diversified one. I left the meeting in tears and a heart full of hope, knowing that the future of Bonny Kingdom was assured and the thought that there are still visionary leaders in Nigeria. There have been delays of all kinds, however, my hope and belief in Bonny Kingdom and its people has not diminished.
Bonny Kingdom is blessed beyond imagination, and it has everything it takes to transform into a type of Dubai on the Atlantic. The people must know that no one will build Bonny Kingdom but Bonny people. Every son and daughter of the kingdom both at home or in the diaspora must on this occasion of the coronation Silver Jubilee rededicate themselves to an upliftment of the Kingdom. The King and the Council of Chiefs need a deep introspection on avenue to our core values and identity as a distinct people. In a sense, Bonny Kingdom needs to remain ancient in the things that set it apart and modern in its approach to matters of the economy, politics and social cohesion. The Ibanise Assembly must be revived to meet at least quarterly; an annual Bonny Kingdom home and abroad conference should be instituted to be held every Fungu (Mid August) with a day set aside for every House to hold their annual general meeting.
Prof. Pat Utomi once commented that the future of Nigerian is so bright that it can’t be viewed with the naked eyes. But, I want to submit that the future of Bonny Kingdom is even brighter. Nigeria and the rest of the world is waiting for Bonny Kingdom’s contribution to the blue economy, ICT, health, pharmaceuticals, education, sports and tourism. The world is waiting for Edward I to lead Bonny Kingdom into the promise land, but every indigene must stand to be counted.
By: Raphael Pepple
Dakuku Peterside On A Wild Goose Chase
In the said publication, Dakuku Peterside laboured in futility to magnify his vicious and mischievous attacks aimed at demeaning the person of the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and his nationally celebrated administration that can be compared to none in the present democratic dispensation.
We sympathise with Dakuku Peterside who is still licking the wounds of his woeful political escapades in 2015. Obviously devastated by the colossal loss in that election, due to unpopularity, he has since won the toga of a serial liar, even though well meaning Rivers people often dismiss his public views with ignominy.
Worrisome is the degree of amnesia always exhibited in his illogical vituperation whenever he attempts to exert resources trying to denigrate the glaring and incontrovertible developmental strides of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike in virtually every sector of Rivers State economy.
Although the leadership of the All Progressives Congress, APC, had spitefully dumped Dakuku Adol Peterside as a choice to fly the governorship flag of the party in the 2019 general election, only a kindergarten politician like Dakuku Adol Peterside will blame Governor Wike for the internal crisis that led to the failure of the APC to field candidates for all elective positions in Rivers State.
There is no gain saying the fact that Dakuku Peterside’s persistent vociferous opposition to the good works of Governor Wike is born out of his desperate meandering to secure the nod of his boss, the Minister of Transportation, Rt Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Ameachi, to bear the 2023 governorship flag of the already depraved APC in Rivers State.
It is disheartening to note that despite all efforts by informed persons to explain the true meaning of democratic governance, Dakuku Peterside has deliberately decided to continue in his mischief to sell bunch of fabricated lies about the state institutions rendered moribund by Governor Wike’s predecessor, such as the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency, RSSDA, Rivers State Traffic Management Agency, TIMARIV, Rivers State Housing and Property Development Authority amongst others.
Dakuku Peterside, on a wild goose chase, can not feign ignorance to the fact that the Amaechi’s administration left all those institutions mere shadows of themselves with huge debts of unpaid salaries and allowances.
It is on record that TIMARIV was disbanded because of the inability of Amaechi to sustain the agency he created. And as at the time it was disbanded the Amaechi’s government was owing eight months of salaries to the workers.
We may like to remind Dakuku Peterside once again that as a concerned Rivers man he should first of all seek public enquiry into N70 billion ditched monorail project, the nonexistent $39.9 million Karibi-Whyte hospital, the $300 million Gas Turbines sales still unaccounted for, amongst others, used as conduits to siphon Rivers State Government money.
Contrary to the despicable assumption expressed by Dakuku Peterside, Governor Nyesom Wike has clearly redefined governance in Nigeria through massive infrastructural development of Rivers State, which received early acknowledgement by the Vice President, Prof. Yomi Osinbajo, who gave Governor Wike the sobriquet, “Mr. Project”.
Governor Wike has not only sustained that nickname but has added speed to his projects delivery capacity by completing and commissioning six out of nine flyover projects awarded by his administration within a space of two years. This is outside the massive construction and commissioning of several roads within Port Harcourt and the other 22 local Government areas of the State.
Governor Wike’s administration has also embarked on several developmental projects in the health sector, education sector, social sector and the sports development, Today, Governor Wike is priced as the Nigeria’s face of democracy.
We need not re-ephasise the fact that men of sound mind across the political divide and indeed Nigerians are overwhelmed by Governor Wike’s unprecedented achievements in putting in place signature projects that have transformed Rivers State for rapid socioeconomic growth within six years.
Amazed by Governor Wike’s results oriented leadership style, particularly at this period of global economic downturn occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigerians refer to him as “face of democracy” and “Mr Quality Project.” Major stakeholders of the Peoples Democratic Party refer to Governor Wike as the pride of PDP.
Only recently, former Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, while commissioning the Rumuola flyover project, has proved himself worthy of his sobriquet “Mr. Project!”
Mimiko asserted that those who feel unsettled by Governor Wike’s words and actions cannot take away the fact that he conceives projects, plans projects, delivers projects because he loves projects.
“Some see governance or being in government as an end in itself, you have deployed your limitless energy, by these accomplishments to demonstrate that governance is a means to an end; the improvement of the lives of our people,” Mimiko spoke about Wike.
While inaugurating the GRA flyover project, legal luminary and human rights activist, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, said Governor Wike has demonstrated transparency and accountability in the management of the resources of the State through the execution of numerous infrastructural projects.
“Governor Wike has shown that it is not enough for a governor to get his monthly allocation from the revenue account under section 162 of the Constitution but without showing evidence of what you are using that money for,” he said.
Ozekhome commended Governor Wike for showing that investing in human capacity is the best way to live in the heart of the people. “He has shown that he possesses the capacity to develop the people, not just in terms of infrastructure, but in terms of their education and human capacity building.”
On his part, Adamawa State Governor, Rt Hon. Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, alluded that he has always known Governor Wike as a man who has instituted a culture of commissioning projects in Rivers State for the use of the people.
“It is from Rivers State, under Governor Wike that we have all learned that one can deliver on multiple projects and dedicate a whole month to commissioning them.
“As recent as April this year, so many projects were commissioned in the State and today, instead of receiving his birthday gifts from Rivers people, he has decided to celebrate his birthday in a grand style by giving Rivers people a carnival of commissioning,” Fintiri said.
Enugu State Governor, Rt Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who was also in the State this week to commission the Tombia road extension project described Governor Wike’s leadership style as a fulfilling experience on his previous visit to Rivers State in January, 2021 to commission the then newly dualised Saakpenwa-Bori Road project that serves the Ogoni heartland.
“It was a fulfilling experience and I returned to the coal city State with good tidings of exciting progress and great hope for infrastructural development in Rivers State, the treasure base of the nation.
“Today’s experience evidences a quantum leap in the great State and I dare say that my brother, the Governor of Rivers State is truly Mr. Project,” Ugwuanyi declared.
These are a few of the long list of wonderful testimonials from the spectators of Governor Nyesom Wike’s unique and highly results oriented governance style which provides strong evidences that are incontrovertible. Governor Wike has set the pace for others to follow in rendering the actual dividend of democracy.
By: Amieyeofori Ibim
Ibim, Special Assistant, Media to Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, resides in Port Harcourt.
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