The people of Rivers State have continued to react to the Supreme Court judgment which affirmed the victory of Governor Siminilayi Fubara in the March 18, 2023 governorship election in the State.
A cross section of Rivers people which includes members of the Rivers State Elders Council, traditional rulers, lawyers and civil servants said the Supreme Court’s victory signified power shift from the bourgeois to the common people of the State.
They also described the Supreme Court judgment as a victory for democracy and the people of the State, noting that it has brought peace and stability to the State.
In a chat with The Tide, former spokesman of PANDEF and member of the Rivers State Elders Council, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, hailed the Supreme Court for upholding the election victory of Governor Fubara.
Chief Sara-Igbe described the apex court judgment as the will of the people of Rivers State.
He said, “there were anticipation and there were worries and we heard all kinds of rumours. Many people were afraid, but for some of us we were very sure that justice will be dispensed.”
He, however, added that it was not yet victory as detractors will want to come up with new tactics to distract Fubara’s administration especially now that the Supreme Court has affirmed him as governor.
“We are concerned that Wike’s dogs will be unleashed and that is why some of us in the Elders Council have gone to court. We want to make sure that Mr. Governor is free to do what he wants without fear and favour.”
Also hailing the judgement, the paramount ruler of Okwuzi community in Ogba Egbema Ndoni local Government Area, HRH Eze Victor Afaka, in a telephone interview with The Tide, described Governor Fubara’s victory at the Supreme Court as an act of God.
Describing Fubara as a God-sent man to Rivers people, the monarch said the activities of the governor within the last few months in office has shown him to be a capable leader who has what it takes to govern and take the State to a higher level.
He said that the victory has removed all forms of distractions as the governor will now have rest of mind to implement his policies for the State.
Eze Afaka also congratulated the governor on his birthday and pledged the support and loyalty of his people to his administration.
Another traditional ruler, the Eze Oha Evo III of Evo Kingdom, King Leslie Nyebuchi Eke, described the apex court verdict as a victory for all.
Eke said that there was “no victor no vanquished” as the judgment was divinely constructed.
Waxing spiritually, the Evo monarch said, “By strength shall no man prevail, and in everything situation, all glory should be given to God.”
He urged Fubara to use the Supreme Court victory to unite the people of the State.
Also speaking, the paramount ruler of Minama Community in Asari Toru Local Government Area of the State, King Iboroma Talbot Pokubo, said the court’s judgement was a confirmation that Rivers people voted for Fubara.
“The Supreme court has reconfirmed the position of Rivers State. This is a man we the Rivers people voted for. We decided to vote for him to be our governor because we have seen him as a man that has the leadership quality who can carry us to where we are supposed to be both in developmental projects, human capital resources and other areas of investment”, he said.
He added that the judgement has also brought peace and stability to the state.
Pokubo who is also the chairman, Asari Toru Area Council of Traditional Rulers, also thanked God for making the governor to celebrate his birthday while in office.
In his own reaction, Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Bori branch, Hon Joel Didi Esq, described the Supreme Court judgement as a welcome development.
“It is one that is based on sound legal reasoning and a thorough judicial review.
“For I perceived that the judgment is intended to bring stability to Rivers people because the judges in their wisdom have taken a clear view of the situation, not just the law, and in their magnanimity have been able to bring a lot of things into question.
“That is to say Rivers State should not be in turmoil, Rivers state should not be in crisis.”
He added that the judgement means a return of power to the people as it is the common people who celebrated more than the bourgeoisie.
On his part, Chairman of Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area, Hon. Enyiada Cookey-Gam, said the Supreme Court’s verdict on Fubara was long expected, adding that it is a confirmation that he was divinely elected.
Cookey-Gam, while praying for Fubara for God’s wisdom and vision to lead Rivers State, said time has come for all good citizens of the state to join hands to make the state better and greater.
Also reacting to last Thursday’s court judgement, a former Leader of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), Comrade Chinwendu Isaac Orduwa, described Fubara’s victory at the apex court as thunderous.
Orduwa said the Supreme Court judgement has proved that “the race does not belong to the swiftest nor to the quickest, but to whom the Lord showeth mercy.”
He advised people to always study history and know that nothing lasts forever.
On her part, a civil servant with the State Government, Dr Furo Jack, ascribed Fubara’s victory to the prayers of civil servants in the State who were robbed off all their dues during the last administration.
Jack said the victory should also be seen as a humble ground for good governance and opportunity to better the lot of workers in the state.
According to her, the victory should also end the mentality of paying attention to the development of one local government area more than others, as such will defeat the aim of the divine intervention embedded in the victory.
A lecturer with the Rivers State University, Dr Didia Monday Kinikanwo, in his view, said since the victory has relaxed tension in the state.
He, therefore, urged the governor, to as a matter of urgency and necessity, review the circumstances behind the suspension of the employment processes in the State especially that of Ignatius Ajuru University and do the needful.
He believes that the apex court judgment has the hand of God and must not be used as an opportunity to pay back evil or to depend on men for directions, but should rather be used to draw closer to God for divine intervention.
Meanwhile, an elite group under the aegis of Ogoni Welfare Association (OWA) has expressed satisfaction over the Supreme Court verdict that affirmed Fubura as the governor of Rivers State.
Chairman of the association, Lagos Branch, ThankGod Meekor, who extended the group’s congratulatory message to the governor and people of the State, called on the State government to address challenges faced by the people.
Meekor, in a statement yesterday, said the court verdict would give room for peace in the State, even as he urged the government to focus on good governance.
The statement read in part, “It is important to note that with victory, the governor and government, the state will have fewer distractions and hence will completely focus on delivering good governance to the people.
“We therefore look forward to a new, peaceful and dynamic Rivers State, the true Treasure Base of the Nation.”
The Tide had, last Friday, reported that civil servants and other well meaning Nigerians in Rivers State celebrated Fubara’s victory at the Supreme Court.
There was massive jubilation in parts of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, on Thursday, immediately the Supreme Court affirmed Fubara’s victory as the governor’s supporters took to the street to celebrate his victory.
Taking the lead are State civil servants who erupted in victory songs and dancing as they trooped out from their various offices in jubilation at the Rivers State Secretariat.
At the State Secretariat complex in Port Harcourt, last Thursday, workers abandoned their duty posts to join in the celebration of Fubara’s victory. The car park of Block ‘C’ of the secretariat complex was filled to the brim as workers were seen dancing and jubilating.
Also at the Government House main car park, supporters and loyalists of the governor were seen dancing and jubilating while the troupe of the Rivers State Council for Arts and Culture (RSCAC) was seen arranging their equipment for cultural performances later in the day.
There were also many viral videos of people dancing and praising God for the victory of the governor across the State.
Many others took to their various social media platforms to express their reactions on the Supreme Court’s judgement.
A legal practitioner and former Commissioner for Information and Communications in the State, Emma Okah, on his Facebook page says: “It is victory for Gov Siminalayi Fubara, Rivers State and Rule of Law”.
Also, a former Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and Commissioner for Information and Communications, Ibim Seminitari, simply said: Thank you, Lord!
A Port Harcourt-based journalist, Olalekan Ige, on his part said the victory is a befitting birthday gift to Governor Fubara whose birthday is January 28.
The Supreme Court had, last Thursday, dismissed the appeal of Tonye Cole and the All Progressives Congress (APC) against the election of Fubara as Rivers State governor for lacking in merit.
The court held that the appellant did not prove the allegations of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, among other things, and declared that the appeal was incompetent and dismissed it.
Cole, the APC candidate in the March 18, 2023, election, challenged Governor Fubara’s victory on the grounds that he did not resign as the Accountant General of Rivers State before the election.
The APC governorship candidate also cited alleged irregularities, non-compliance with the Electoral Act, and corrupt practices.
He sought the reversal of the judgments of the Court of Appeal and the Tribunal, which upheld the declaration of Fubara of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the Rivers Governorship Election.
The apex court, however, yesterday, held that the appellant did not prove the allegations of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, among other things.
John Bibor, Kelvin Nengia, King Onunwor
& Nkpemenyie Mcdominic
The Man Siminalayi Fubara: Upbringing, Rise To Power, Political Battles, Future Prospects
The man, Siminalayi Joseph Fubara was born in Opobo Town in Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area of Rivers State on January 28, 1975. This means that he is 49 years today. At birth, he was christened “Siminalayi” which, in Opobo-Ibani-Ijaw dialect, translates as “the poor may beget the rich”.
He is the second of five children and the first son of late Joseph Fubara, a former soldier who had an overseas training tour of duty, and late Love Fubara, a civil servant, who worked with the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation. Both late Joseph and his wife, Love, were descendants of Fubara and Jaja families of Opobo Town. Siminalayi is married to Valerie Fubara. They are blessed with three children.
He attended Opobo Primary School where he obtained his First School Leaving Certificate in 1986, and Comprehensive Secondary School, Opobo, where he obtained the West African School Certificate in 1992. After his secondary education, Siminalayi moved to the former Rivers State University of Science and Technology (now Rivers State University), where he obtained a degree in Business Education with specialisation in accountancy.
Not satisfied, he also obtained a Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting from Enugu State University of Science and Technology. He has a Master of Science Degree in Finance and a Master of Business Administration, both from the University of Port Harcourt Business School.
His professional qualifications/affiliations include Fellow of Nigeria Institute of Management (FNIM), Fellow of Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (FCNA) and Fellow, Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (FCTI). He also attended several professional conferences, seminars, workshops and training programmes, including the Federal Government of Nigeria National Training Workshops on Public Finance Management at the Federal Treasury Academy, Orozo, Abuja; Rivers State Ministry of Finance Training Programme on International Public Sector Accounting Standards and Financial Euromoney Training; and Rivers State Government/Transglobal Business Solution Limited Training Workshop on Development and Performance Measurement in Rivers State Public Finance Sector.
Siminalayi enjoyed a long, meritorious career in the state civil service, gradually rising through the ranks until he was appointed the Accountant General of the state in 2020. Indeed, his service career began in 2003 when he was appointed as a classroom teacher by the Rivers State Post-Primary Schools Board, and posted to Comprehensive High School, Alesa-Eleme, in Eleme Local Government Area. He taught there for five years, and transferred his service in 2007 from the Board to the Ministry of Finance as a Senior Accountant. From that rank, he was promoted to the position of Principal Accountant. He was later promoted as Chief Accountant, Assistant Director, Deputy Director and Director. He became Permanent Secretary, then rose to the pinnacle of his career as Accountant General. He served the state for about 19 years, before his retirement to serve in higher public office as Governor.
Siminalayi outwardly is reserved, calm, smart, calculated but meticulous. He remains socially connected to every segment of society. He is a very strong community and grassroots mobiliser. He is a man of the people, well-loved, and appreciated by the grassroots. He belongs to several social organisations, including his alma maters both at the tertiary and secondary levels. He is highly regarded for his humanity, respect for elders, and above all, his altruism. He is also generally acknowledged for the enormous respect he has for Rivers elders and frontline leaders, irrespective of their political leanings. He is peace-loving, detribalised, compassionate and benevolent.
In addition to his inclusive and generous personal philanthropic efforts, his invaluable service to the community grew from earlier volunteer work to subsequently attracting government projects to, and directing personal efforts at the development of Opobo Kingdom and the entire local government area. It is in appreciation of this deep commitment to community development that he was conferred with the prestigious traditional title of Amaopusenibo of Opobo Kingdom, a chieftaincy title that elevated him to dine and wine with Kings and Queens.
His spirit of charity and philanthropy has compelled him to assiduously work with local outreach groups, among them SWITCH-ON, Caregivers Humanitarian Outreach, on poverty alleviation, skills acquisition, scholarships and other empowerment programmes. This has, in the past three years, spurred empowerment deliverables through which many underprivileged people have gained means of livelihood.
After a pioneer programme in 2019 and palliative efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, SWITCH-ON launched a special programme for women in October 2021 tagged: Women Empowerment Programme. This was followed in July 2022 by the implementation of the Men Empowerment Programme that reached over 430 beneficiaries.
Siminalayi is a devoted Christian of the Anglican faith. Fortuitously growing up with the Anglican Church in Opobo Town just a few meters from his home, Siminalayi religiously maintained his true life of faith. He devoted his life to selfless service to humanity, committing to saving many lives for Christ, undertaking evangelism and service to the church. To encourage him, in 2020, he was bestowed with the prestigious Knight of Saint Christopher (KSC) order of the Anglican Communion of Nigeria by the Evo Diocese of the church in recognition of his service to humanity and the Communion. He is also a sponsor and Patron of the Women Prayer Network in Opobo Town, dedicated to supplicating for peace and progress of the town and its people.
Siminalayi’s long-standing involvement in politics has essentially been that of a staunch democrat who believes in the power of the people. This explains his unrelenting focus on the grassroots. He is a strong member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State. He underwent mentorship with the former Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, and other great Rivers leaders. At one-time when some party leaders in his Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area deserted the PDP, he picked up the mantle and rebuilt it, eventually becoming the party leader in the area. His leadership brought cohesion and unity and strengthened the party in Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area. He is a patron of Grassroots Development Initiative (GDI) in Opobo/Nkoro.
He has taken his deep party loyalty and zeal across the state, following his emergence as the governorship candidate of the party for the 2023 general election. This has served in bringing back and uniting several party heavyweights both in his local government area and across the state. Siminalayi represents the younger generation of politicians in Nigeria.
He campaigned as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flagbearer in Rivers State with a governance slogan: Consolidation & Continuity of the New Rivers Vision. He is on a mission to consolidate the great works of Mr. Projects in the areas of Infrastructure, Health Care, Education, Security, and Investment Opportunities. This is why he said in his “Blueprint for Consolidating the NEW Rivers Vision”, “We cannot afford to slow down…We will sustain the tempo of transformation and take the state to new levels of sustainable peace, security, progress and prosperity”.
Since May 29, 2023, when he took over the mantle of governance of the state, Siminalayi has not disappointed Rivers people. In his inaugural address, he said: “Fellow Rivers people, today, you have given me a great responsibility to preside over our state as your Governor for the next four years. I am genuinely touched by the spotlight and humbled by the honour. And this I will be the Governor of all Rivers people.
“You have invested your trust in us, and the question is how we can provide effective good governance to meet your hopes and expectations. Our response is simple and majestic. By today’s mandate, you have asked for continuity in leadership and like a strong relay team, we have accepted the baton to continue the race.
“Together, we embody our collective aspirations for a greater and prosperous Rivers State, a state that provides equal opportunities for all, a strong, compassionate and progressive state that protects and enables everyone to live in security, comfort, and prosperity. We will provide that strong, determined, focused, purposeful and responsible leadership. Though enormous, we assure you we are equal to the tasks and responsibilities ahead”, he added.
Siminalayi hit the ground running. Within his first 100 days in office, he delivered more than 21 infrastructure projects across the state. He flagged off the multibillion naira Port Harcourt Ring Road, running across six local government areas, with one major bridge, six flyovers, and about 12 roundabouts. He has also flagged off the construction of 20,000 low-income housing scheme at Mbodo-Aluu, being funded and handled by TAF Africa Global. The government also signed contract for a new central spare parts market with GOSH Project Limited. Many infrastructure projects are ongoing.
The government also is working to revive the Rivers Songhai Farm and others in Andoni, Buguma, Etche, Gokana, Khana, among others. Projects in education, health have either been completed or ongoing. The civil service has been reengineered, with the State Secretariat bouncing back to life, and the hopes of civil servants of better days ahead being restored. The government has already set aside N4billion for micro-business activities with SMEs, and other empowerment programmes in the offing. The State Executive Council approved the over N800billion 2024 Appropriation Bill, “Budget of Renewed Hope, Consolidation and Continuity”, on December 11. The 5th State Executive Council meeting also deliberated on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), which is usually a precursor to discussing the budget, with N412billion projected for capital expenditure, while recurrent expenditure has N361billion and N21billion as reserve. On December 13, the government complied with a court order, and demolished a section of the Assembly impacted by the explosion and fire that engulfed the facility on October 29, 2023.
But Siminalayi’s pace of delivery of the dividends of good governance and democracy has been hampered by the political crisis that had engulfed the state since October, 2023. This is just one of the many battles he has fought since winning the election and becoming governor. The first was the contest over his victory on March 18, 2023. Many political parties and their candidates, including All Progressives Congress (APC), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Labour Party (LP), Accord Party, African People’s Movement (APM), and a host of others, stormed the election petitions tribunal to contest Siminalayi’s victory at the poll. But one by one, all the cases were dismissed. Their appeals at the appellate court were also dismissed on Tuesday, November 28.
Even after they lost, Tonye Cole, Labour Party’s Beatrice Itubo, Accord Party’s Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, and APM appealed again at the Supreme Court. However, Itubo, and Lulu-Briggs joined Magnus Abe’s earlier move, to withdraw their cases for the peace and good governance of the state. Just last Thursday, January 25, the Supreme Court dismissed Cole’s appeal, and declared Siminalayi duly elected Governor of the state.
But the most potent battle of all is the internal crisis in the PDP, triggered by the failed impeachment attempt by some 25 members of the state House of Assembly on October 30, 2023. The battle, spearheaded by the Speaker of the House, Martin Amaewhule, Dumle Maol, and others, over inexplicable causes/reasons, remains the last fight God has already taken over, and will win for the Governor, just as He did in other cases against Siminalayi. Even in the midst of the internal political wrangling in the PDP, and the purported defection of 25 members to the APC, the Governor still enjoys the total trust, confidence and loyalty of majority of Rivers people. On December 18, President Bola Tinubu brokered an 8-point peace agreement, designed to set the pace for the settlement of the political crisis in the state. A very peace-loving Siminalayi has since commenced the implementation of the resolutions in the Presidential Directives. As at the last count, just about one of the items in the agreement has not been implemented.
Indeed, the Governor has since moved on. In his Christmas Message to Rivers people, he pledged to fully implement the comprehensive presidential peace agreement aimed at resolving the ongoing political crisis in the state. He said, “As a principal participant in the entire saga, I have taken some time to study the terms therein, and have come to the conclusion that the peace pact is not as bad as it is being portrayed by those genuinely opposed to it. Accordingly, I reaffirm my acceptance of the presidential peace proclamation and my commitment to implementing both the spirit and letters of the declaration in such a way and manner that will restore political stability to our dear state without compromising the collective interest of our people and our cherished and shared democratic values. Already, both parties have demonstrated some good faith in the implementation process with the withdrawal of the purported impeachment notice on their part, and the release of hitherto withheld allowances of the members of the state House of Assembly by the government,” he stated.
“By the grace of God, 2024 will witness a speedy transformation of our State with the completion of most of our projects and programmes, such as sections of the Port Harcourt Ring Road, the Andoni section of the Unity Road, the Ahoada-Omoku Road, the Emohua-Degema Road, etc, and the commencement of many other laudable projects, both in infrastructure and human capital development, as outlined in our 2024 budget,” Fubara declared.
On New Year’s Eve, Siminalayi stated that he was not pretentious about his commitment to providing quality leadership to transform the state to a prosperous, peaceful and investment-friendly environment for businesses to thrive. He explained that even though those fighting his administration want to dampen the spirit of Rivers people and forcefully truncate the pace of development in the state, they have failed at every attempt to distract the government. He, therefore, encouraged Rivers people not to be disheartened over the ongoing crisis because nothing would stop him from steering the affairs of the state successfully, adding: “What they want is this red biro but it is still with me. We are the winners because we are still signing with the red biro. As long as we are signing with the red biro, development will continue in Rivers State.”
Siminalayi emphasised that nothing will stop his administration from getting to its destination because its foundation was laid solidly in God who alone would give the grace to complete the process of building, stressing that there is already a designed development agenda and level of progress determined for Rivers State in 2024.
Just last Thursday, while reacting the Supreme Court judgement, Siminalayi, once again, declared his resolve to remain committed to the purpose for which he was elected, and assured that he would not allow anything to distract governance. According to the statement, the governor said his triumph at the Supreme Court has laid to rest the legal battles that added to the distractions his administration grappled with in the last eight months.
“About an hour ago, the Supreme Court revalidated our mandate in the election. It is a victory for the entire state. It is important for us to note that we need this victory to consolidate the purpose of governance. Prior, we have had a few distractions here and there. And the good news that came to us this morning is a refreshing strength that will encourage us to continue the good works in governance.”
The governor called on everyone to join hands with his administration to build a competitive state that would be reckoned with as truly prosperous in all ramifications. ”We have a dream of making it a highly competitive state that will measure, if not up to Lagos, but close to becoming like Lagos. We can only achieve this in an atmosphere of peace. So, I am calling on everyone, not just on our internal issue but those members from other parties, the issue is settled, come and let’s build the Rivers State of our dream. ”We will continue to protect and provide the basic needs of governance to everyone living and doing business in Rivers State.”
Again on Friday, January 26, Siminalayi told Rivers people to expect accelerated growth and development of the state with the legal battles challenging his elections now over. He noted that the litigation experience was a tortuous journey that had now validated the choice and eventually confirmed the mandate freely given to him by the electorate. ”It is with a great joy and total deference to the Almighty God that I address you after a tortuous legal journey following the governorship election in our state. It is with great nostalgia I reflect on your trust and the absolute confidence you bestowed on us on that fateful March 18, 2023 when you gave us your mandate. Even with that overwhelming support, we had to go through litigation to validate your choice and confirmation of your mandate to us. We are deeply elated by the verdict of the Supreme Court of our dear nation, which has finally affirmed our victory. I owe this victory, not to my efforts or our ingenuity but to God and to you the good people of Rivers State.”
The governor said the Supreme Court ruling was an immeasurable energizer to accelerate governance with utmost sense of commitment for the benefit of all Rivers people irrespective of political persuasion or ethnic affiliation. ”In this regard, what is important to us is the accelerated growth and development of our dear state. Now that the litigations are over, we call on the opposition political parties in the state to join hands with our government to build the Rivers State of our dreams. I extend the olive branch to my contenders and all others who went through the hog and or who withdrew their cases for the love of the state. I believe we are all Rivers people and by virtue of that brotherhood, let us therefore, put aside our differences and bond together to build one indivisible and greater Rivers State that posterity will remember us for.”
As the governor of the state, Siminalayi vowed to achieve a greater Rivers State continuing on the path taken in the last seven months of his administration. ”My administration has recorded remarkable achievements in the areas of human capital development, social investment engineering, infrastructural development, micro and macro-economic advancement and sustainable socio-economic development across sectors. In addition, we have made some substantial progress in infrastructure, housing, security, urban renewal development as well as rural healthcare. We intend to sustain the tempo and expand the development net in the great ride to prosperity in our state”.
Perhaps, there is no better way to celebrate the Governor’s Birthday than to say that despite the many battles, booby-traps, landmines, and obstacles placed on his way, Siminalayi has always overcome, and will continue to confound and put his detractors and enemies to shame, even as he cruises through successive victories and milestones as Governor of Rivers State. He knows that millions of Rivers people and others resident and doing business in the state trust his ability and capacity to govern the state, protecting and defending them at all times, and providing them with the enabling environment to excel and prosper in all their genuine and legitimate dealings.
Happy Birthday Governor Siminalayi Joseph Fubara!
Sports: Building On Wike’s Footprints
Eight years ago, at the inception of the administration of the just concluded government of Chief Nyesom Wike, the signs were clear that sports was going to be one of the cardinal focus of his tenure. From his inauguration activities to the main business of governance,both in the first and second tenure, sporting programmes were given ample representation.
Thus, the place of sports was clearly visible in the NEW vision of the administration, as it tried to reinvent, restructure,rebrand and thrust the state to the fore and as destination of choice in business, economy, recreation and tourism.
According to one of the Commissioners of Sports, that helped implement Wike’s vision in the sector, Hon. Boma Iyaye, the government of Wike saw and tried to use sports as a veritable tool of engagement and empowerment for the teeming youth of the state and beyond, to have the opportunity and platform for livelihood and better life.
That is why the government spared no expenses in providing world class sports infrastructure, promoting and sponsorship of sports competitions and rewarding hardwork and achievement.
It is on record that one of the first critical steps the government took to announce its intention in the sector was the collapsing of the two state owned football clubs, Sharks and Dolphins into one, Rivers United FC for viability and better performance. Since then, Rivers United have gone from strength to strength, winning domestic title and effectively flying the country’s flag in continental club competitions.
In doing these, the club enjoyed tremendous financial and moral support from the ebullient governor of the state. Today, Rivers United remains one the top clubs in Nigeria, known for consistency and results.
In addition to the exploits of Rivers United, it is to the credit of government that the state became one of the few in Africa to host the entire continent in wrestling and badminton competitions. For about one week, African wrestlers gathered at the refurbished Alfred Diete-Spiff Sports Complex for the Africa Wrestling Championship, AWC during Wike’s first tenure. The venue was to later play host to the creme de la creme of Nigerian badminton players for the National Badminton Championship.
There was also synergy with sports stakeholders, especially, sports journalists, as the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, SWAN found a willing partner in the state government, holding most of its activities in the state, via government’s sponsorship of its events. Worthy of mention was the association’s Full Council Meeting of 2015, adjudged to be the best organized in quality and content in the history of the association.
All these commitment and demonstrable interest in sports development earned the Rivers State governor the award of Power of Sports, POS, Africa, the first of its kind in the continent.
Perhaps, the flagship of the administration’s sports project bequeathed to the state and posterity is the Real Madrid Football Academy, Port Harcourt, established by the government in consultation with the Real Madrid Football Club, Spain. The academy, conceived and built by Wike did not only try to replicate the structure of its mother institution in Spain, there was deliberate effort to equip the institution with likewise world class facilities that are as good as any in the world. Even would-be handlers, coaches and instructors at the facility were taken to Spain for first-hand training and experience from the mother institution.
Describing the facility, the then Special Adviser, SA to the Governor on Real Madrid Academy, Barr. Christopher Green said that the academy is a world class facility that would produce world class athletes for the state and country. It also demonstrates Governor Wike’s vision to providing a platform that would give Rivers youth and indeed Nigerians at the grassroots the opportunity to explore their talents and be the best they can be.
According to Barr. Green, the academy is uniquely set up to provide sports and academic tutorials side by side, so that those who could not make it through sports could toe the academic path and vice versa.
To former Commissioner for Sports, Hon. Iyaye, the academy remains an indelible footprint and an endowment by Wike to the people of the state, which benefit may not be appreciated fully at the moment but in the near future.
Assessing the strides of the immediate past administration in sports, the President of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, SWAN, Sir Honour Sirawoo noted the governor’s deliberate focus in using sports to redirect the energy of the youth to worthwhile venture. He believes that the administration worked consciously to revive the sector, make it attractive and rewarding to the young people, who ordinarily would have been engaged in societal vices.
“I think that Governor Wike really understood the importance of sports, its power and role in changing the society. Indeed, he understood that sports has gone beyond a recreational thing to becoming a huge economic, political and social tool. He worked hard to employ it to maximum effect,” he stated.
Speaking with Tidesports in an interview, the Head coach of De Kings International FA of Port Harcourt, Okpaleke King commended Bar Nyesom Wike for his developmental strides in the sporting industry in Rivers State.
According to him, since his assumption of office, he has sponsored numerous sporting activities in the state which earned him world-wide recognition.
” For me, Governor Nyesom Wike tried his best in the development of sports in the state but the incoming governor needs to do more because government is a continuous process.
” Look at the Rivers State Real Madrid football academy.
” Look at the level of Rivers United FC today winning the league and even play up to the quarter final of the CAF Confederation Cup.
” For me I commend his efforts and contribution to the sporting industry for the past eight years” King said.
Also speaking, the Special Adviser to Chairman of Khana Local Government Council, Hon Nekabari Biagbara said that the imparted positively on the sports landscape of the state
” For me today, the governor has done a lot in sports development which led to the success story of Rivers United FC and the Rivers Angles” Biagbara said.
He stated that through the administration of Governor Wike may have ended, the legacies left behind will continue to endure for the growth of sports in the state.
” Governor Nyesom Wike has done a lot for the development of sports in the state for the youth to realisetheir potential”.
He described Governor Wike as the best when it comes to contribution to sports and development in the country” he said.
The Head coach of New Gunner FC of Gokana, Legbara Gentle urged the incoming governor of Rivers State His Excellency, Siminialayi Fubara to consolidate on the exploits of his predecessor as a way of engaging the youth in the state.
Unfortunately, however, some of the lofty sports establishments put up by the Wike administration did not fully kick off or become fully functional due to one exigency or another.
The magnificent Real Madrid Football Academy readily comes to mind. The academy, due to some additional developments did not effectively take off before the end of the founding administration.
This is where the incoming administration, according to commentators, should come in and ensure that the vision and dream behind the projects did not suffer still-birth.
Apart from the football academy, the new administration should keep the light shining as far as Rivers United FC, Rivers Angels, Royal Hoopers Basketball club and the Sports Council are concerned. Importantly, it is expected that grassroots sports development, particularly, schools sports and association sports would receive priority attention. These would ensure that the base needed for sustainable talent production, discovery and weaning are kept alive and productive.
It is also important that sporting facilities, such as the Adokiye Amiesimaka Sports Complex, Yakubu Gowon Stadium, and the myriad of Sports Courts and fields constructed by previous administrations are well maintained and put to use. Facilities at the Alfred Diete-Spiff Sports Complex, especially, the swimming pool, needs to be reactivated for swimmers and other athletes to have easy access to modern facilities, towards relaunching the state to the pinnacle of sports where the state should naturally possess comparative advantage.The era of allowing sports centres and infrastructure to rot away must be frowned at and discouraged.
For renowned sports administrator, Pastor Walter Inegbenoise, Wike’s administration did well in the sports sector but the incoming administration needs to take a notch more. He believes that sports is a sector with limitless opportunity that can be tapped multi dimensionally.
Pastor Inegbenoise posited that the old days when grassroots sports events and competitions were at the doorstep of average Port Harcourt youngster should be recreated.
It is therefore critical that the private sector should be motivated through tax holidays, exemptions or other special considerations in order for them to play the required roles in sports promotion and development.
For SWAN, Rivers State Chapter, the state boasts the potential to be a leading player in the country’s sports sector. And coming from where the past administration has placed it, what is needed to keep the flag flying is ample commitment, dedication and choosing the right lieutenants to pursue and implement his vision and policies, while sustaining the good will and relationship’s already established and beyond the country.
By: Gabriel Nwanetanya With Reports From Kiadum Edookor
Wike Out, Fubara In: What Legacies? What Expectations?
In the next few hours, there would be a change of baton between the outgoing Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike and his successor, Sir Siminilayi Fubara. The change of guard which is expected to take place at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Elekahia would be witnessed by dignitaries and political juggernauts across the State.
Amidst this euphoria of a mission fulfilled by the Wike administration, and a new dawn by the incoming governor, The Tide sampled the opinions of some stakeholders in Rivers State on the scorecard of the outgoing governor and what is expected of the Fubara administration.
Although, like any other government, Wike may not have fared well in all sectors of the economy, his government was adjudged the best in terms of infrastructure in the State since the creation of Rivers State.
The outgoing governor was particularly commended for his infrastructural revolution in the state, describing him as a pace setter in the area of infrastructural development.
A university don and HOD, Pharmacology, School of Medicine, Rivers State University (RSU), Dr. Ekene Woke, fired the first salvo. He said Wike did well in terms of infrastructure.
He said, “Yes, Wike has done very well. In terms of infrastructure, for instance, when others are struggling to build culverts, Wike is building mansions and skyscrapers and flyovers making the Port Harcourt city to be a truly cosmopolitan city which no government in this present republic was able to achieve.
“Even his enemies have attested to that so much that the Presidency has to give him an award on infrastructural development. An opposition government in power at the federal to consider an opposition governor who speaks out regularly to be awarded such an award is no mean feat.
“I think anybody having a contrary view to that is not fair to the governor. It takes courage to speak out. People say courage is the father of all virtues and I think Wike has that courage and that virtue so he should be applauded for that.
“A lot of people carry their intentions in their mind and die with them. People also have conviction but do not have the courage to back it up. Wike is among the few Nigerians who speak even in a dangerous and fearless manner. He’s a man of courage and conviction. I think he should be recommended for a higher office and I hope the God of Providence will do that for him.
“This is not the time for unnecessary criticisms. We should do a relative assessment using our sister and brother states and then you will know that what you have is the best.
“And for Fubara, I think he is the Joshua that took over from Moses. He should prepare his muscle of governance to deliver to Rivers people.
“He said his government is consolidation. Rivers people are waiting for the manifestation of not just agenda but the concrete implementation of this consolidation agenda. And I know that being an accountant, he will make prudent use of the state’s resources to deliver on his mandate and the promises he has made to the rivers people”.
Speaking in the same vein, a Post-Graduate student of Medical Laboratory Science, Rivers State University, Mrs Festa ThankGod Jonathan, scored Wike’s administration high in the area of education especially at the university level.
“In the area of education especially at the university level, I will say Wike has done well. Also in manpower, there has been a lot of employment more especially in the state university including the building of infrastructures like the New Senate Building, Professor’s Quarters and lots of other good buildings in the school. Let’s call a spade a spade, in that area, he did well.
“One person can not do everything. Yes, Wike has done his part. Sir Sim (Siminalayi Fubara) should look at the areas that he (Wike) was unable to touch and touch them, particularly in the area of employment. I mean employment generally. Because, to be sincere, Wike’s employment was biased and one-sided. Sim should look at it generally. He should carry the whole state along and not just one part. Sim should learn from Wike’s mistakes and do better”, she said.
An Anglican Priest, Rev. Chukwudi Evans Theophilus, also gave Wike a pass mark in the area of governance.
He said, “I think the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Chief Barr. Nyesom Wike has done quite a lot. If you ask me in the area of infrastructural development, he has done quite a lot. Look at all the flyovers, over head bridges, he was able to start and complete them within a short while.
“Most of his electioneering campaign promises that he made to Rivers people, he has fulfilled them.
“In the area of sanitation, keeping Rivers State clean, he has done fantastically well.
“What about the drastic reduction in kidnapping, crime corruption, other negative verses, among others, the governor has done well.
“But outstandingly, Governor Wike has done very very well in the area of infrastructural development.
“My agenda for the government to be led by Sim Fubara is that he should be visionary, result-oriented and he should try to do better than what the just concluding governor has done.
“He should also look at the areas of lapses, so that he could come up with something better, so that at the end of the day, everybody would have seen that he is actually striving towards perfection”.
Another cleric and Executive Secretary, Port Harcourt Conference of Seventh Day Adventist Church, Pastor Echendu Ekezie, agrees no less.
According to him, “We have had government and they come and go. I think this outgoing government led by Nyesom Wike has done tremendous work in Rivers State.
“As a pastor, we move round the State. There is no local government we don’t travel to for one programme or the other. And as I move round, I have seen this government touching virtually every local government in the State. He has created an impact through his unprecedented economic developmental projects that you can not compare with past administrations.
“He built roads, linking communities with roads across the state at the Kalabari area, Etche, Omoku, Ahoada, Ogoni, name them. He built ultra-modern hospitals including the Mother And Care Specialist Hospital. Wike tried in projects that will enhance economic growth and development. He did well.
“However, there is a perennial problem. This state among other states in the country has perennial problem, so you don’t expect magic overnight. Only he himself can not solve everything at the same time”.
The clergy, however, has reservations in the area of human capital development under Wike.
“In the area of employment, not much was done. The truth also remains that there has to be diversification. Again, population explosion is at it. Of a truth, the government alone can not employ everybody.
“Nonetheless, even those in the civil service, how much are they being paid? How about the retirees.? No retirement benefits, no pension and all of that”he said.
He urged the incoming administration led by Fubara to do something about empowerment.
“There should be proactive steps to set up factories/industries that will use local raw materials and content in producing products that will benefit the people within the state, Nigeria and even be exported. We have vast land as well as the resources for this.
“There is also the need to create direct employment to the people. I understand there is a garri factory somewhere in Afam. I don’t know how efficient that is. But then, State-owned industries that can provide 5,000, 3,000 etc job opportunities to citizens is what we are hoping for.
“The incoming government also has to pay attention to the welfare of retirees. As a pastor, sometimes I weep for these ones. You put in 35 years in service and you come back home with no benefit, no pension. And then, the next thing you hear of is verification. Meanwhile some of these retirees are dying. Then, who do you pay the benefits to?
“Wike has tried but we still need more connectivity roads. The Bonny project has been on for years now though I hear it’s near completion. I pray that it is done (completed) to ease movement and transportation of goods and services
“I pray the Lord to grant Sim (Fubara) the strength to identify those areas that Wike did not pay so much attention to and then do the needful”, he said.
In his own view, the Amanyanabo of Minama who is also the Chairman of the Asari Toru Council of Traditional Rulers, HRH King Iboroma Talbot P.K. Owunabi 11, said even the blinds can feel the impact of Wike’s administration in infrastructural development.
According to him, “For past eight years, even the blind person would feel the impact of development in Rivers State typically through infrastructural development. The performance even attracted the Federal Government award as the infrastructural governor of Nigeria
“That kind of award has never been done before, so he has set a record in Nigeria in infrastructural development.
The monarch said “Minima people have so much to celebrate because this same infrastructural development was extended also to our community through the first phase of Trans Kalabari Road project which was commissioned in March this year. So, we are also happy about it. It was a dream come true”.
The king said the situation has not only put paid to insecurity especially along the waterways but has also hastened the development of Minama and other communities in the Kalabari Central.
According to him, going to Minama now is more secure as nobody goes through boat or canoe again.
Meanwhile, the Eze Mbam Abali Xii, Eze Risiohia Rebisi, HRH Eze Christopher Wonodi, also scored Wike’s administration high.
He said the people of Rebisi would always remain grateful to Wike for showing great commitment to the development of Rebisi Kingdom.
“We love him and we will continue to remember him for his passion towards the development of Rebisi Kingdom
“The administration of Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike is second to none in infrastructural development.
“He has demonstrated that Rivers State deserves the best. We are praying that his successor will toe the same line and even surpass where he stopped”, he said.
In his own assessment, National Coordinator of Professional Forum of Niger Delta, Comrade Owo Udoh, said Wike has done well in all areas of development, especially for providing a conducive environment for both indigenes and non indigenes in the state to live together peacefully.
Also speaking, President, Civil Society Coalition for Good Governance and Accountability, Dr Emmanuel Nkweke, noted that Wike ended the era of abandoned projects in the state.
He said Wike’s administration was not only prudent and accountable to the people, but also did more in the areas of rural development.
He, however, noted that Wike concentrated governance in Port Harcourt city by siting major projects in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor local government areas in the State.
Nkweke expressed the hope that the incoming administration would not only surpass its predecessor but would shift development to other parts of the State.
Also, former caretaker chairman of Tai Local Government Area, Engr
Gideon Deemor, said Wike has surpassed his predecessors in infrastructural development In the State, expressing joy that the governor ended well.
A Port Harcourt based technologist, Mr Smiles Obiajunwa, also rated Wike’s administration high, describing the outgoing governor as a perfect contributor to the society.
He said, “Governor Wike has contributed a lot to the society, especially in the Rivers State University. He has done so well in both infrastructure and human capital development.He started and has completed lots of laudable projects not only in RSU, but across the state as well.
“Governor Wike has employed a lot of people in RSU. Before, the few number of staff were not able to meet up with the school demands and tasks, but today, you will find out that a lot of people have been fully employed to work. So, Wike has done very very well and I would rate him 98 percent.
“On the issue of Sim Fubara coming on board as governor, I pray that he will continue from where Governor Wike has stopped.
“Already, he said he was going to consolidate on whatever Governor Wike has done. He also realised that Governor Wike has done well and that is why he said he will consolidate. If Governor Wike has not done well, there will be no consolidation, so, Fubara should do better than Governor Wike did.
“Sim Fubara is a vibrant youth and has all the energy needed, so we expect that he will adopt more better ways to do things so that he can do better than Governor Wike”.
For former PANDEF spokesman and former Adviser to the Rivers State Governor, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, agriculture should be exploited, since Wike failed in that area.
He faulted Wike for not giving attention to manpower development, stressing that what Rivers people need now is sustainable growth through job creation and opportunities.
According to him, infrastructure development is not enough to transform the state.
Chief Sara-Igbe urged the incoming administration to revive the moribund agro allied firms like the fish farms and Songhai farms, which went comatose under Wike.
On his part, veteran journalist and expert in business and entrepreneurship, Ignatius Chukwu urged Fubara to exploit opportunities in the oil and gas and ICT to empower the youths.
Chukwu was of the view that proper focus on business and the economy by the incoming administration will drive investment and development. This, he said, can be achieved by setting up a State Economic think-tank.
The immediate past Commissioner for Information and Communication, Chris Finebone, who served under Wike, would also want the incoming governor to concentrate on areas of shortfalls from the previous administration.
These areas, according to Finebone, include equipping the zonal hospitals and agriculture.
He described such projects as low hanging fruits that can earn him applause and people’s support for the new administration.
He also said the new governor should rehabilitate the State Secretariat complex which he said is in a state of disrepair.
“Once he revamps the secretariat complex, it is easy to get the support of workers, especially civil servants”, he said.
However, for John Kennedy Dede, a student at the Rivers State University (RSU), Governor Wike has really invested much on infrastructure and focused less on human capital development.
“As a student talking from the student perspective, today, what is the hope for Nigerian students if after school there is no job?
“I would want Sim Fubara to focus more on the educational sector and employment generation as there are a lot of unemployed youths who are qualified, have graduated with their certificates, but do not have jobs.
“I really want him to focus on job creation because I wouldn’t want to come out of school without getting my required job to do”, he said.
Speaking in the same vein, Principal, Community Secondary School, Iriebe, Mabel Godson-Wejimegu, commended Wike’s administration for prompt payment of workers’ salaries, but expressed sadness that he, like many other civil servants in the State was denied promotion for eight years.
“One thing I can say about Wike in office is that he tried as par payment of salaries of civil servants. He maintained the monthly payment of salaries, not owing anyone or even delaying in the payment unlike some other states.
“But then, there was no promotion and for these years, it has not been easy with civil servants. Wike did not really carry civil servants along in his administration. Even when he finally called for promotion interview at the last minute, everybody was happy but at the end of the day, the promotion was not effected till he left office”.
“For the incoming governor, one thing he should know is that everybody cannot go into politics. Fubara should look more into the primary and secondary education. He should not forget us, the teachers, principals, children. Attention should be given to us.
“As they said that education is free, let it be free indeed. Otherwise, let there be a stipulated amount for payment to aid us in the running of the school. Whether it is N5,000, N15,000, or N10,000, let it be made clear because it is not really easy with us.
“Another area is that of health. As a civil servant, you go to the hospital and you pay so much money just as the politicians, yet they said it is subsidized. It should be that as a civil servant, you pay less bills in the hospital. In fact, civil servants should really be considered by the incoming government”, the principal said.
A university don and Head, Department Of Communication Studies, RSU, Dr Sarah Chidiebere Joe, preferred not to say much about Wike’s administration. He, however, advised the incoming governor to build on the legacies of his predecessor.
“I am generally not happy with the state of the country and by training as both a journalist and researcher, I always stand with the people. I am, therefore, quite careful how much credit I give to our leaders.
“If the governor (Wike) is comfortable with his achievements, that’s fine. However, I strongly believe that Rivers State and more generally, Nigeria could be a lot better.
“For the incoming governor, I recommend he focuses primarily on education and jobs. We need more well-trained teachers, who will in turn, help produce well-equipped graduates.
“We need to get our young people off the streets and into job spaces. Good policies and better business environment will be helpful”, he said.
In the opinion of Barr. Sunny Igwe, a legal practitioner, there is much to talk about Wike’s eight years in office. He faulted those who criticised Wike for concentrating so much energy on building of flyovers, but at the same time scored the outgoing administration low in the area of primary education, agriculture, healthcare and human capital development.
He said, “like I always tell people, let’s not be complaining that he is doing flyover, flyover, flyover. Let us hold on to the ones he has done because he could have as well decided not to do anything, embezzle all the money and go away and there’s nothing anyone of us can do about it. So, let’s applaud him for the once he has done.
“I think on infrastructure, he has done well. Apart from the flyovers in Port Harcourt city, he has also built the Waterlines House and the likes. Those buildings now look good and have brought beauty to the environment they are situated. What about the Law House at Moscow Road and the Rivers State University Satellite Campuses in Etche, Ahoada and others? These are worthy of commendation.
“But then, people need to go to primary school before the university and yet, the primary schools are in the form they are? In fact, all the primary schools in the state need to be revamped. And that is one of the challenges for Sim (Fubara).
“As much as Wike tried in infrastructure, in health, he is zero; in agriculture, he is zero; in primary education, he is zero; in human infrastructure, he is zero.
“Take agriculture for instance, our land is fertile. Let’s do something with it. Egg is never sufficient in the world. Chicken is on a high demand with the hotels booking it and all that. Let us do something that will create employment for our young people. Fubara sure has a lot to do”.
However, a Supervisory Councillor for Education in Etche Local Government area of the State, Chief Precious Amadi, differed with those who criticised Wike for neglecting primary and secondary education.
He said Wike has left indelible marks in the area of primary and secondary education with the remodeling of schools across the 23 local government areas of the state, describing the feat as a giant stride.
“Today, many local government areas can show one or three schools built furnished or remodeled and this has repositioned the sector for better performance and service delivery. Our students and pupils are doing great in both internal and external examinations”, he said.
He called on the incoming administration to improve on the legacies of his predecessor and put the education sector in the State on a higher pedestal.
In the area of entertainment, a Rivers State based gospel artiste, Wilberforce Afriyie, said that the Wike administration did very well, especially in music, having appointed a Sole Administrator to oversee the activities of the Rivers State Chapter of the Performance Musician Association Of Nigeria ( PMAN)
“With the appointment of Ibitoru Green, popularly known as Lady IB, things became different and orderly. She brought unity and sanity to the PMAN. She also made connections between musicians and multinationals for sponsorship. She also tried to initiate the idea of musicians having other sources of income and to be well packaged whenever they are invited for performance.
“The government, in a bid to curb the dispute within Rivers State chapter of the PMAN, through the national body, appointed an administrator to spearhead the chapter till proper election is done for a new executive.
A film producer and owner of Blacky New Generation Film House, Miebaka Aggo, however, disagreed. He scored Wike’s administration low in the entertainment industry.
He said, “The outgoing administration didn’t do well in Entertainment, especially, in Rivers State. However, I’m hopeful that the new administration will open more doors for our entertainment industry to grow more”, he said.
Eze Oha Evo III and Eze Gbakagbaka, King Leslie Nyebuchi Eke, also lauded the achievements of Governor Wike, saying his administration was beneficial to all the citizenry.
He urged the incoming administration to build on the already laid foundation.
For a Port Harcourt based lawyer, Gift O. Nyeche, Wike is “the face of Judiciary” in Rivers State given his achievements.
Nyeche noted that the Judiciary has never had it this well until Wike mounted the saddle of governance in 2015.
Citing the Small Claim Court as one of the Wike’s wonders in the Judiciary, he expressed satisfaction over his performance and made case for a higher political position for him in order to enable him explore more.
Geoffrey Wome, a Real Estate Agent, noted that the level of infrastructural development in Rivers State under Wike has put the state ahead of others.
He said that the development, has made Real Estate business in the state to soar.
He, however, appealed to the incoming government to do more in the area of human capital development, promotion of workers, overseas training for Rivers students and revamp of primary and secondary education in the State.
By: Tonye Nria-Dappa, John Bibor, Susan Serekara-Nwikhana, Kelvin Nengia, Lady Ogbulu, Amadi Akujobi, Nancy Briggs & King Onunwor
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