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Pendulum: My Close Encounters with Governor Nyesom Wike

By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, please permit me to bring you some good news in this season of anomie. The reason I want to do this is simple. Just last week, President Muhammadu Buhari threw a challenge at Nigerian Governors, suggesting that they should take care of their States, instead of jumping on the planes to Abuja at the slightest opportunity, in search of largesse from the Federal Government. The impression that that heavy statement created and the lurid picture it painted was that of little kids in search of lollipops.

To some extent, I agree with the President as I will expatiate upon in the course of this discourse. I believe that our States should be generating their own incomes in significant sums that dwarf whatever they may receive from the Federal Government.  However, President Buhari is wrong to suggest that what the States are seeking from the Federal Government is a largesse. These are monies that they are entitled to. Indeed, on one view, it is the Federal Government that is feeding on the benevolence of the States, because it is resources of the States that transform to the income which is generated by the Federal Government. Furthermore, if the system worked efficiently, and the Federal Government played its part and did not want to be seen as Father Christmas, nobody needs to come to Abuja at all. There is already a revenue sharing formula in place. There is no reason it cannot be automated. Instead, in this hugely technological and automated age, things are being done manually. This is why the Governors, and their Finance Commissioners require to oversee the process to ensure that the division and splits are being done fairly and promptly.  Even at that, there are great anomalies, with the Federal Government evidently not acting uberrimae fidei, in utmost good faith, by not providing full and earnest disclosure of funds received and available. It is like extracting teeth from a ferocious animal.

It is very true that most of our Governors prefer to spend more time in Abuja than in their home States. While it may be true that the Federal Government controls most of the cash cows in Nigeria, any State that can think out of the box should be able to achieve something tangible with the available funds and resources. The first step in the process is to use what they can garner now to expand their coast. A few Governors have demonstrated such capacity of vision and mission. I have been privileged to see and interact with one such enigmatic leader in the last one year. The next step in the process  will be to unburden themselves and lift the yoke that the Federal Government has placed on the States by creating the enabling environment for private enterprise to thrive without taxing them to death. The more the productivity, the more wealth is created. Thus, the greater the revenue that will accrue to the States. This is not to mention the overriding achievement of enhanced welfare and well-being for the people both economically and socially.

I now come to this Governor who is doing remarkable stuff with the minimal resources currently available to his State, in order to provide the springboard for the next phase of the development of the State. Governor Nyesom Wike has been a household name in Nigeria for some time now.  I read a lot about him, but I felt and found him very controversial. Perception can change or distort reality. I met people who were ready to swear that Wike was nothing but a rabble rouser. I was told he was doing nothing in Rivers State. What was worse, he was accused of being occultic and all what not, which he has denied vehemently in our deep conversations. No worries, a story for another day.

The first opportunity to meet him one on one as Governor came at the invitation of the late Malam Ismaila Funtua who had called me in Ghana and requested that I join him, Nduka Obaigbena and Kabiru Yusuf on a trip to Port Harcourt. I accepted the invitation from a man popularly known and addressed as Godfather, a man who never denied being a member of the Buhari cabal, and actually took pride in being one of its pointsmen and focal point. So, I flew to Abuja from where we were flown to Port Harcourt for the Guild of Editors summit.

There and then, I witnessed Wike’s masterful hospitality big time. It did not matter that he had fundamental differences with the ruling party, APC. He demonstrated that he makes friends across party lines but is never afraid to speak up his mind. For example, he minced no words in telling me how I had written about him on one occasion and his body was shaking badly with fury. He wondered what he did to me to deserve such a blistering attack. Honestly, I could not remember what triggered the article, but he never forgot. I’m sure he must have felt I had taken sides in the fight between him and his immediate predecessor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi because he is known to be my very good friend. This is far from being the case. I love my friends dearly, but my personal life and my work do not mix in that way. Furthermore, it could never have been the case because I always write based on personal convictions and never on the basis of friendship, loyalty, vendetta or bitterness.

Those of us present, including my travelling companions all laughed it off, the tension was defused, and we went back to our hotel after dinner. The first thing I noticed during the dinner was the camaraderie that existed between him and most of the political leaders in Rivers State. It was obvious he was carrying along most of the stakeholders, and they were happy. I was convinced that it would be impossible for any force to dislodge his second term ambition. It later transpired that I was a bit naïve in not recognising the power of the Federal might in Nigerian elections, and the elections turned out to be a major battle for the soul of Rivers State, and almost a bloodbath. Eventually, Wike won at the end of the highly combustible exercise.

Rivers State was far from my mind when it came back unexpectedly through the most unanticipated channel. I had interviewed the IPOB Leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, and naturally I had asked Kanu about the altercations between the Governor and himself and also the bounty of N50m Kanu had placed on the head of Governor Wike. Of course, the Governor,  had instantly responded and retaliated by placing his own bounty of N100 million on Kanu’s head. It was in the middle of this brouhaha that I was opportune to interview Kanu, and naturally this issue came up.

Apparently, there had been some savage and sporadic attacks against some security personnel and installations in Oyigbo Local Government area of Rivers State. The security forces immediately went after the IPOB members they suspected must have been behind the dastardly attacks. IPOB in return accused Wike of masterminding the massacre of its people. The IPOB supporters challenged me to invite Wike for an interview, which he agreed to pronto. The rest is history.

In the course of the interview, Wike went beyond my expectations. He spoke passionately about his work as Governor, his running battle with IPOB and invited me to come with the Ovation Media Group team to see for ourselves. I have never seen that level of confidence before. He was so sure of the quality work he has been doing. We accepted his challenge, went to the Lion’s den at Oyigbo, the centre of the conflagration between IPOB in that community and the Government, and came back with the double assurance that life was returning to normal. I offered my neutral recommendations in a piece on this page. That was however, one leg of our journey and mission to Rivers State. The other aspect was to critically examine and evaluate the work that Wike was doing through our pictorial lenses.

The good news that I want to share is that while the whole country is seemingly embroiled and engrossed in crises galore, Governor Nyesom Wike has almost miraculously restored law and order in Rivers State. He has demonstrated an uncommon ability to develop the State and guarantee security of lives and property, which is key to any development.  The cities are alive. The villages are active. Businesses are growing. Roads are springing up where they never existed before. World class hospitals are sprouting, burgeoning and thriving. The beautification of Port Harcourt is amazingly remarkable. Many are wondering and asking “where is Wike getting his money from that he’s able to build all these humongous structures, pay contractors fully or 70 percent upfront, engage the numero uno construction firm, Julius Berger, the company building flyovers left right and centre?” I won’t lie, I’m pleasantly surprised myself at the phenomenal work ongoing in all parts of the State, a lot of them completed. I recently told a friend that Buhari won’t have any problem if he could just execute half of what Wike has done in Rivers State alone. This is not an attempt to ridicule anyone, but the brutal truth.

What I also love about Wike is his ability to market the State to insiders and outsiders. Since seeing is believing, he constantly invites special guests from both his party PDP and APC to see for themselves. I know the world is full of cynical people who will pass snide remarks at this good news (many people prefer negative stories), I will now give you some verifiable details… In due course you will also see them in pictures and glowing technicolour.

Let’s start from this. After 41 years, Wike has begun implementation of the multiple campus that was envisioned for the Rivers State University with his establishment of campuses in Emohua, Etche, Ahoada and Gokana… This includes the foundation Laying ceremony of the first-ever College of Medical Sciences, RSU and proper buildings for various Faculties, including the  Faculties of Basic Clinical, and Clinical Medicine, Medical Pathology,  Orthopaedic & Trauma Centre, School of Nursing & Midwifery, Construction of the Senate Building and many more…

Other notable infrastructure being built by Wike include the N25.9 billion Peter Odili Cancer and Cardiovascular Centre, being built by Julius Berger. There are also the Haemodialysis and Renal Centre with ability to perform Kidney transplants and such hi-tech procedures, the Mother and Child Specialist Hospital & Doctors Quarters, all part of his insatiable urge to leave a befitting legacy of fantastic medical facilities for the State.

In terms of road and rural development, Wike has embarked on the Opobo-Andoni-Nkoro Unity Road and achieved the distinction of constructing the first road to enter Opobo and Andoni Communities in over 100 years – He thus became the first Governor to drive into Opobo town…

Other roads completed or nearing completion are Abonema Ring Road. It is noteworthy that, before now, the State had only one narrow single carriage road that led into Abonema and Obonoma townships. It has now been widened and dualised in parts. It is envisaged that for Odufor-Akpoku-Umoye Road, a 21km road, will mark the very first time a road will be constructed in that axis. All Roads in Old and New Port Harcourt GRA Constructed. A 33km Saakpenwa Bori-Kono Road (Phases 1 and 2) are in the process of completion.

In relation to schools, there has been complete Restoration of Nyemoni Grammar School, Abonema and the flag off of construction of Government Secondary School, Kpor and restoration of Government Secondary School, Abuah, Community Secondary School, Eteo, Community Secondary School, Obeakpu-Ndoki…

The judiciary has not been left out. There is now full Autonomy for the Judiciary, upgrade of facilities of state and federal judicial officers…  He constructed and furnished a new High Court complex of two storey building and a  Court complex of four Magistrate Courts, Judicial Service Commission’s office, a multi-door Court house, and a family court.

A construction and furnishing of a new ultramodern Court complex for Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court.
A construction and furnishing of a new ultramodern court complex for the Port Harcourt Division of National Industrial Court. A comprehensive rehabilitation of the Federal Court of Appeal Complex, Port Harcourt. A massive renovation of the headquarters of the State’s Customary Court of Appeal Complex.
A complete rehabilitation of Customary Court of Appeal courtrooms across the State.
A magnificent renovation and furnishing of the official residence of the Chief Judge.
An establishment of the Rivers State Multi-door Court House and the Family Court.
Building of a new secretariat complex for the Port Harcourt branch of the NBA.
Quarters for Judges of National Industrial Court of Nigeria

In Sports Development, Rivers State Real Madrid Academy…

With regard to Agriculture, completion of the Cassava Processing Plant, in Oyigbo Local Government, Ogbunabali/Eastern Bypass Road… And much, much more.

The essence of this page today is to inspire other leaders to work harder and not to disparage anyone. I have no doubt that Governor Nyesom Wike has built an enviable and enduring legacy for himself and his family. He deserves a standing ovation.

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