BY MUYIWA OYINLOLA
In this report, MUYIWA OYINLOLA writes on the great transformation of Rivers State from a state of total abandonment prior to the assumption of Governor Nyesom Wike in office some two years ago.
evelopments in Rivers State were abruptly brought to an end as politics took centre stage towards the 2015 general elections. The then governor of the state, Rotimi Amaechi, was running from pillar to post to install a successor and at the same time, to ensure a change of government at the centre.
Rivers State, being a traditionally Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) resisted the then new mega party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and voted Nyesom Wike, governor.
Prior to the election, despite media hype and APC propaganda, those familiar with the politics of the state gave it to the PDP, and Rivers people are the better for it today.
Hence, Wike on assumption of office on 29 May, 2015, hit the ground running, confronting the challenges of the state with the torrent of a superman, having realized the enormous task of rebuilding the state that was fast losing its face in the country.
This, perhaps is what is responsible for almost a total rebuilding of the state then in near collapse.
On assumption of office, Wike stated that the state government would embark on critical infrastructure and projects in all sectors to enhance rapid socio-economic development of the state.
He noted that Rivers State which was strategic to the nation’s economy, as the hub of the hydrocarbons industry, requires critical infrastructural development to satisfy the yearnings and aspirations of the teeming population.
Wike stated that due to the importance of a good road network to any society, the government soon after its inauguration, would to fix all roads that were at various degrees of decay through the “Operation Zero Pothole” Campaign.
He explained that the strategy would help in building and rebuilding of roads not only in Port Harcourt metropolis but all over the state.
While speaking shortly after the commencement of work on some of the projects, he disclosed that: “You know that good road network is very important to our people, many of them are farmers, many of them are fishermen and their products have to be transported to the markets on good roads where they will be patronized. That is why we started with the Operation Zero Pothole Campaign when we came into office last year due to the level of decay of our roads”, the governor said.
He stated further that the government undertook the ongoing rehabilitation of Eleme to Onne Junction axis of the East-West Road even though it is a federal highway in partnership with other stakeholders in view of its economic importance to the state and nation.
Realising development can only thrive in a peaceful environment, one of the first issues Wike set out to tackle was that of youth cultism and youth restiveness which led to his amnesty programme for those involved in the menace. The first phase of that exercise recorded about 22,430 cultists accepting amnesty in the state.
As a matter of the fact, 911 assorted arms, 7,661 assorted ammunitions and 147 explosives were surrendered during the programme which many have described as success as and the state is now relatively peaceful.
Speaking during the exercise where the surrendered arms were displayed in Port Harcourt, Wike reiterated that his administration had zero tolerance to crime and criminality.
Against the insinuation making the rounds then that the programme was stage-managed, Wike explained that the state government did not monetise the amnesty programme as it preferred the cultists and kidnappers to sincerely embrace the programme. He assured all the repentant cultists and kidnappers that they would be duly rehabilitated and made to become useful to the society.
His words: “To show that government is serious, I hereby disband all vigilante committees in the various communities. I direct the security agencies to make sure that we don’t have such committees except they profile their members to prove that they don’t belong to any cult group. Initially, people felt it was a political game. I thank God Almighty that we have proved our critics wrong that we are serious to ensure the security of lives and property in the state.”
He, however, warned that: “But if by tomorrow, you return to crime, know that amnesty does not cover you,” he said, even he directed security agencies to go after all cultists and kidnappers who refused to voluntarily accept the amnesty offer during the window period.
Wike also cautioned the politicians not to politicise crime, adding that anybody that was involved in crime should not be reduced to party politics. According to him, when somebody is a cultist, don’t say that that person belongs to party A, that is not fair. “We have to fight crime; we have to join hands to bring lasting peace to this state,” he said.
He further stressed that: “If there is crisis in Rivers State, it will affect Nigeria and so for us as a government, we will continue to partner with Federal Government to achieve zero tolerance to crime. We will not support crime. It doesn’t matter the political divide. If you are involved, you will face the law.”
With the creation of a peaceful and secured environment, the Wike-led administration fully embarked on project and infrastructural development, several of which are in near completion stages and many already commissioned. Many top government functionaries and politicians who have visited the state had either laid projects foundation or commissioned them.
Recall that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, while he was Acting President, in February flagged-off the rebuilding of Doctors Quarters at the Rivers government owned Braithwaite Memorial Hospital, Port Harcourt.
Osinbajo said at the occasion that the project is a special contribution to the creation of access to healthcare in the country.
“It is my special privilege to lay this foundation stone of these doctors’ quarters at the Braithwaite Specialist Memorial Hospital. It is very special because this is a special contribution to the creation of access to healthcare in the country. And especially the welfare of doctors who do the commendable work of ensuring the health of the people,” he said.
While Osinbajo added that the quarters would help reposition Medicare in the state, Wike disclosed that government was committed to the provision of quality facilities in the state.
Wike said: “For me, my engagement with the people is premised on the provision of projects across the state. In Rivers State, it is projects, projects and projects. We shall not deviate.”
The governor stated that the project would restore the existing accommodation, and expand it to take care of more specialist doctors serving in the hospital, stressing that the quarters had 22 units of three bedroom flats with a community canteen and dedicated water facility.
It will be recalled that Osinbajo, during the visit also inspected the ongoing construction of the Port Harcourt Pleasure Park and the Ecumenical Centre, aimed at unifying the Christian community in the state.
In the same vein, former President Goodluck Jonathan during his visit to the state the following month gave Wike a pat on the back for a job well done for his people, declaring that the governor has performed creditably well since assuming office in May 2015.
Jonathan made the comment after he had been led on a tour of projects in the Government House, Port Harcourt. Wike, who served as Education Minister under the Jonathan-led government had led the former president round projects ,including the new amphitheater, the Government House Chapel, Restored Brick House (former seat of power in Rivers state), new corridor of power and extended landscape.
While speaking at the Government House after inspecting projects being executed by Wike, Jonathan stated that the governor is a worthy representative of the PDP. He praised the governor for keeping the torch shinning by his exemplary performance, which according to him has justified his election by the people of Rivers state.
He noted that Wike’s outstanding performance has become the common story across the country, pointing out that he has been hearing about the good works of the governor for sometime. He expressed satisfaction with the quality of transformation he witnessed enroute the Government House, Port Harcourt.
His words: “I am part of Rivers State. I grew up in Rivers State and Bayelsa was carved out of Rivers State. Also, my wife is from Rivers State. Today, is my first day of visiting Rivers State since Wike assumed office as governor.
“Twenty two months down the line, I am quite impressed with what I have seen. First, I heard so much, people have told me of the changes in Port Harcourt. I was told that I can’t even recognise the roads to where I used to live . As we drove into the city, I noticed that he has done very well in various areas.
“One thing I must commend Wike for is that he has positive traits. I always believe that wherever you find yourself, add value. Governor Wike has added value in Rivers state. He has done weĺl to show his signature. Wike has taken us round. We have seen how he has transformed the Brick House and maintain that Brick House. We saw the changes he has made in some places in the Government House, including building an amphitheater, a new chapel for worship, relaxing places and general beautification. “If you are the chief executive of an institution, you stay for two years and you add no value, then you have no vision. Wike is doing well and we commend him. He is a good representative of the PDP who is committed to developing his people.”
Similarly, the Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), Rivers State chapter, Bro Felix Obuah, in his assessment of Wike’s government , expressed satisfaction over the manner and commitment of the governor, in delivering dividends of democracy to the people of the state, and lauded his various development initiatives, which he said, have entered another phase, aimed at putting the state on the fast lane of development.
The PDP chairman noted that since inception, the Wike-led government in Rivers State has not ceased on its drive to put smiles on the faces of all Rivers people, as this has given new look to the state’s infrastructure, starting with total revamping of moribund public facilities deliberately abandoned by the immediate past administration under Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, construction of new roads and human capacity development in the state.
The initial development projects of the Wike led-government touched all sectors of the economy and public life in the state, including education, sports, security, electricity, water supply, tourism, housing, health, payment of salaries of public servants, as at when due, youths empowerment, restoration of the dignity of the judiciary, as well as respect for the rule of law, harmonious relationship between all arms of government, and return of peace in the state, which has resulted in the influx of investors and international business entrepreneurs into the state, Obuah observed.
He described the commencement of phase two of Wike development projects, which focuses more on giving new lease of life in the rural communities, as people-oriented, and touching directly on the lives of people at the grassroots, adding that it was a step taken in line with the philosophy of the PDP, which believes in giving back to the people what belongs to them.
Obuah, particularly acknowledged the flagging-off of the construction of several gigantic projects in most LGAs and rural communities outside the capital city, which include completion of the abandoned Ogoni – Andoni – Opobo/Nkoro Unity Road; construction of Ulakwor –Afara-Nihi Road; rehabilitation of Okrika internal roads in Okochiri, Okrika; reconstruction of the Igbo- Etche Road, and construction of Chokocho- Umuechem- Ozuzu Road as well as the Elimgbu-Atali Road, all of which would be completed soon.
Expressing confidence in the ability of the governor to deliver all the roads on schedule, Obuah noted that Wike has shamed enemies of the state, who have continued to make efforts to destabilize the state.
Wike, he said, has demonstrated his love for the people of the state and denied himself lots of comfort to ensure he delivers on his campaign promises to the people, adding that he has done this by making the development of the state a non-negotiable priority of his administration.
The PDP chairman reiterated the confidence of members of the party in Wike and members of the New Rivers Vision, assuring continued support and cooperation of the party in the state. He called on the people of the grassroots, and indeed, all Rivers people to reciprocate the exceptional love and gesture extended to them by the governor with their support.
Recall also that Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, during a courtesy call on the governor in Port Harcourt, also commended Wike for transforming the state within his short stay in office.
The former Akwa Ibom State governor who commended Wike for his amnesty programme that has improved peace in the state also noted that through careful planning and the right application of resources, Wike has ensured even development across the state despite the economic downturn.
He noted that the restoration of peace in Rivers has led to the entrenchment of the development process in the state, even as he urged the governor to maintain the tempo of development in the state.
He said: “I am here to commend Governor Wike for his giant development strides across the state. Governor Wike is a shinning light in infrastructural development. I urge him to continue to develop Rivers State. This is a governor that has defied the economic downturn to improve the living condition of his people. We are proud of him.”
Just like others, one of the latest visitors to the state, the Sultan of Sokoto and President General of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, has also commended Wike for his giant stride in the state, even as he enjoined royal fathers in the state to join hands with the governor.
The monarch, who laid the foundation for the construction of a new ultra modern secretariat for the Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers, lauded Wike for the gesture, describing the ground breaking event as historic.
Abubakar prayed God to grant Rivers the governor the strength to continue to deliver development projects to the people of the state.
The new complex has 20-room offices as against eight in the old one, including a 300-capacity auditorium, a library for 10 persons and an archive. The ground breaking event was witnessed by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Amanyanabo of Nembe, King Edmund Dakouru, Rivers State traditional rulers and their counterparts from across the country.
Also speaking, Special Adviser on Special Projects to the Rivers State Governor, Mr Cyril Dum Witee, assured the governor that the project will be completed on schedule and in line with approved specifications.
Wike, in his response, pledged to accord traditional rulers respect and status due them, and thanked them for the support given to his administration so far. He directed the contractor and the Special Adviser on Special Projects, Cyril Dum Witee, to ensure the completion of the project, within six months.
It is noteworthy that Rivers State in the last two years under Wike has witnessed tremendous growth and reconstruction which have justified the confidence the people of the Garden City reposed in Wike. Recall that the ruling PDP in the state has not only continued to witness influx of defectors from APC and other political parties, it has also continued to win majority of the re-run elections in the state.
As the government of Wike has continued to receive commendations in the first half of this tenure, it is hoped that the governor would not relent in his developmental strides but rather forge ahead and continue to deliver dividends of democracy to the people of the state.