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Wike’s love for projects versus opposition’s demand for equity

By Leo Sobechi and Ann Godwin, Port Harcourt
20 May 2021   |   4:20 am
The men he lined up to commission his projects cut across Nigeria’s geopolitical zones and political parties. When Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, dubbed his Rivers State counterpart...

Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike (middle); Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Dr (Mrs) Ipalibo Harry-Banigo (left) and former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (right) at the inauguration of Rumuogba flyover.

The men he lined up to commission his projects cut across Nigeria’s geopolitical zones and political parties. When Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, dubbed his Rivers State counterpart, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, Mr. Project, he was focused on effective communication rather than minding the political sensitivities of his fellow party faithful in Rivers State.

It was perhaps out of his desire to have other voices confirm or controvert Fayemi’s observations that Governor Wike brought eminent political leaders in the country to perform the ribbon-cutting ceremonies for projects completed by his administration.

The roll call of the 20 politicians that commissioned sundry projects in Rivers State was formidable, just as their endorsements were persuasive. They include, President of Nigeria’s Eighth Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki; Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) 2019 Vice Presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, presidential aspirants, Alhaji Sule Lamido, Rabiu Kwankwaso and Donald Duke, former Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Dr. Anyim Pius Anyim and former Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo.

Others are, Governors Ahmadu Umaru Fintri; Samuel Ortom; Okezie Ikpeazu; Bala Mohammed; Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and Seyi Makinde; former Deputy President of Senate, Ike Ekweremadu; Rochas Okorocha, Senator Ali Ndume and President of Nigeria Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Quadri Olaleye.

When recently, therefore, the Rivers State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) alleged lopsidedness in Governor Wike’s projects, it was as if the governor had gone ahead to summon the voices of eminent Nigerians against the ranting of the opposition.

APC had, while faulting the site of a ninth flyover, argued that the ‘skewed policy’ of the administration was denying many other parts of the state of sustainable growth and progress. In a statement, APC spokesman, Ogbonna Nwuke, queried: “What justifies the need to build the 9th overhead bridge in Rumuprikom at this time? Can the Rivers State Government say that these overland bridges are in any way helping to place food on the table of Rivers people?

“If we may ask, what is behind the hasty payments made to Julius Berger? Could there be other reasons for the bridge – mania – policy of the government? Dispersing development projects to parts of the state in a manner that encourages even development would help to arrest rural – urban migration and give the people of Rivers State a sense of belonging.

“This must explain why the idea of the Greater Port Harcourt city project was conceived. The Cardiovascular Hospital that the present administration has commendably thought of as part of a plan to boost medical tourism in the state could have been sited within the Greater Port Harcourt area. Such a step has the advantage of providing a major backbone for the development of a new city. Similarly, such a bold move would encourage the gradual decongestion of the State capital and its adjourning areas.”

The opposition party spoke after the government disclosed its plan to begin construction of a ninth flyover at Rumuepirikom, Obio-Akpo Local Government Area of the state. Governor Wike had, apart from approving a contract for construction of Sir Dr. Peter Odili Cancer and Cardiovascular Diagnostic and Treatment Centre at N25.9billion, also Okayed the ninth flyover project at N6.6billion.

In a statement, the Special Assistant to the Governor on Media, Kelvin Ebiri, disclosed that the centre expected to be sited at Rumuokuta in Obio-Akpor LGA, would be completed within 14 months.

Quoting the Commissioner for Works, Elloka Tasie-Amadi, Ebiri said apart from the flyover project, the government also approved the dualization of the first phase of the Ahoada- Omoku Road as well as internal roads in Omerelu.

He said the flyover would be completed in 12 months and funded by the deduction of N400million monthly from state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), adding that increased vehicular activities necessitated the ninth flyover to avoid traffic jams at some entry points to Port Harcourt.

While noting that the project expected to cost N9.5billion would be 15.2 metre wide, with drains and streetlights, the Works Commissioner declared: “This project would also be funded by monthly deduction of N500million from the state’s Internally Generated Revenue.”

Projects at sight
BUT, in a two-phased grueling construction and commissioning of infrastructural projects, Governor Wike had allowed his projects to speak through the mouths of his visitors. The project inauguration galore kicked off in December 2020 through March 2021, just as benefiting communities and councils were allowed to express gratitude through beautiful display of their cultural heritage.

Wike explained that the non-stop inauguration of completed projects in the state has silenced critics and the opposition APC, even as he debunked allegations that he was not empowering local contractors by naming Lubriks, O.K. Isokariari, Chrisjoe as some of the local contractors who handled a good number of the projects.

Applauding the urban renewal efforts of the Rivers State government, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashiola, while unveiling the Rebisi (Garrison) flyover on Saturday, November 2020, said such development projects will not only bring back tourism to the ‘Garden City’, but also promote peace.

It would be recalled that construction giant, Julius Berger, started work on the 969.4metres –long Rebesi dual carriage in October 2019 at the cost of N21billion.

Adamawa State governor, Fintiri, while inaugurating the   Emeyal, Elelenwo, Ndoni and General Diriyai Streets on December 21, 2020, ranked Wike very high, saying the Rivers State governor “has exhibited total commitment to advancing quality of life of his people with his landmark projects.”

Fintiri described Wike as an irrepressible democrat, who has continued to demonstrate uncommon vision and rare courage in working for the Rivers people, as well as advancing the unity of Nigeria.

“Nowhere has Governor Wike demonstrated this than in the constant and consistent liaison with his colleague governors such as my humble self in the North. Let me assure the government and good people of Rivers State that the difference that Wike is making in Rivers State is unprecedented and can hardly be equalled.
“It is really a rare privilege to commission landmark projects in Port Harcourt, the heartbeat of the South-South. I am here on the basis of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, the irrepressible democrat who has demonstrated an uncommon vision and rare courage in working for the Rivers people and advancing the unity of our country.”

At the dualised Tombia Road and Amaji Street, on December 22, 2020, Governor Ortom of Benue State said aligning with Governor Wike has been rewarding. Ortom said his relationship with Wike, aside from helping to facilitate his return to PDP and securing the party’s ticket for his second term as governor, he also got morale and financial assistance for the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) when Benue State was under attacks from herdsmen.

“There came a time, when I was an outcast and my people in Benue State were outcasts. Nobody cared to visit for fear of persecution. We were like the lepers in the Bible. Yet, Wike stood up and came all the way to Benue State to see how we were fairing. We had over 500,000 IDPs in camps then. It was not easy to fend for these people. Wike came with very distinguished leaders from Rivers State and supported us.

“He gave us support that we never expected more than any other support, including what others did. We appreciate it and pray that such a thing should not come to Rivers State,” Governor Ortom said.

Electoral decisions versus consequences
On Wednesday, December 23, 2020, two days to Christmas, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State was in Port Harcourt to commission the Woji Road and Obagi Street roads constructed by Wike in his second term.

Governor Makinde, who also inaugurated the Real Madrid Football Academy, noted with satisfaction that with the evidence of the performance of Governor Wike, it would be difficult to convince Rivers people to abandon PDP for another party.

Makinde stated: “Indeed, all right-minded people like to identify with progress irrespective of their personal feelings towards the initiator. Development is a big part of our democracy and every project counts towards the overall progress of the nation.

“We are blessed to be leaders at this point of Nigeria’s history, when there seems to be a reawakening of political consciousness, especially among young people. At the next election in 2023, Nigerians will show that they have learnt something from the events of this year, 2020, and that electoral decisions have consequences.”

On Christmas Eve, Abia State governor, Ikpeazu inaugurated the reconstructed Aker Base Road, Rumuolumeni, now renamed Chief Orabule Adele Road, in honour of an illustrious son of the Rumuolumeni community.

Ikpeazu described Wike as a brand, an icon, and symbol of everything good and a blessing to Nigeria, adding that by virtue of the professional expertise that went into the projects, especially the roads, given the topography of the areas, they will last for a long time as a legacy to the visionary administration of Governor Wike.

Phase two of the projects inauguration commenced on January 4, 20201 with the inauguration of the 10.3km long Sime-Nonwa-Kira Road in Tai Local Government Area of the state, by Senator Bala Mohammed, Governor of Bauchi State.

Mohammed, who was once the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), commended Wike “for delivering such quality roads project that connects several communities to ease movement of rural dwellers.” The Bauchi State governor confessed that he feels proud to be a Nigerian anytime he sees how Wike, in spite of daunting challenges, has continued to deliver democratic dividends to Rivers people.

“This is so, because here is a Nigerian, a governor who has been able to deepen leadership, bringing people of capacity on board. Even using a local contractor to bring local content. This is the kind of Nigerian we need tomorrow. Someone, who can lead and bring people on board with quality and capacity,” the Bauchi governor stated.

The following day, his counterpart from Enugu State, Ugwuanyi, inaugurated the 16.06km dualised Saakpenwa-Bori highway, which cuts across Tai, Khana and Gokana Local Government Areas of the state. While Ugwuanyi lauded Wike for fulfilling his campaign promises to the Rivers people, citizens of the community, Senator Benneth Birabi and Leedum Mitee, described the road project as a monumental legacy that Governor Wike has bequeathed.

APC chieftain and chairman, Senate Committee on the Army, Ali Ndume, cut the ribbons on the rehabilitated 11.53 kilometres Eleme-Afam (Oyigbo) road, connecting Eleme and Oyigbo Local Government Areas. Ndume described Wike as a true nationalist, who is an important voice in national affairs across parties, and always stands out as one who speaks the truth to power courageously.

The Borno State-born Senator said he was truly humbled to perform the task and be part of what Governor Wike is doing in Rivers State, stressing that Wike’s feat in the fight against insecurity in the state is commendable as it encouraged the people to come out freely and participate fully in the spree of project commissioning across the state.

Former Deputy Senate President, Ekweremadu, while commissioning the Abonnema Ring road on Thursday, January 7, 2021, noted that by executing projects in the hinterland land other than the city, the Wike administration has demonstrated equity and justice to Rivers people, adding that the lessons to be learnt from the series of projects inauguration in Rivers State by governors and other political leaders, should be for them to get inspired and replicate such development in their various states and at the national level.

It was at the reconstructed Forces Avenue-Olumeni-Harley Streets, Old GRA, Port Harcourt, that the Sokoto State governor, Tambuwal reiterated that Wike’s performance has justified the confidence reposed in him by Rivers people by reelecting him to serve them for a second term.

National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, echoed Tambuwal’s sentiments, stressing that since the roads were first built by the colonial masters, no government had given them serious attention until the intervention by Governor Wike.

Tambuwal also inaugurated the Bonny/Bille Jetty and praised the Rivers governor “for judiciously applying the resources of the state to address pressing needs of his people.”

Governor Wike said he remodeled the Bonny/Bille jetty, to provide an enabling environment for sea travellers and boost the marine economy of the state, noting that the once dilapidated jetty was built in the 1950s.

Another APC chieftain and Senator representing Imo West Senatorial District, Okorocha, on January 11, 2021, inaugurated the Rumuche/Rumuakunde/Ohna Awuse Link Roads in Emohua Local Government Area.

Okorocha described Governor Wike as a courageous leader, who has spoken truth to power, and has continued to improve the lots of Rivers people with his project delivery mantra.

“It is time,” Okorocha said, “for people of like-minds who desire the best for Nigeria to stop complaining but come together to join forces to make the country great.

“What brought me here today is not party. What brought me here is love and friendship. I am not PDP I am APC. But, the time has come, when we must break the jinx of party division and begin to embrace brotherhood and friendship and be able to state what is good and what is bad. A bad man is a bad man, even if he is PDP or APC.”

Senator Okorocha also lauded Governor Wike for the Rivers Government House Clinic and Administrative Building, describing the clinic as a top class health facility comparable to the typical German standard hospital.

He said with latest health equipment, the clinic can address critical health challenges and stop medical tourism.

Uncompleted projects
Former Senate President and SGF, Senator Anyim, while inaugurating the Rumuekini/Aluu Road, traversing Obio/Akpor and Ikwerre Local Government Areas, said Governor Wike has demonstrated through his projects that he is truly bonded with Rivers people and knows their needs.

Anyim pointed out that “it is this level of leadership that has enabled Wike to conceive projects that are tailored to meeting those needs and eliminate the possibility of having white elephant projects.”

In a swift retort, Wike declared: “I will not leave burden of uncompleted projects behind for my successor.”

PDP Vice Presidential candidate, Obi, gushed over the Isiokpo Internal Roads Phase 2 in Ikwerre Local Government Area and hailed Wike for providing access roads to the Isiopko people, saying it would increase the quality of life, enhance property value and reduce poverty.

“Accountability in government is the most critical yardstick to determine good governance and to build the trust of the people. For recruitment into governance, competence, capacity and visible performance like we are seeing here today should be embraced,” he said.

For Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, the inauguration of Isiodu Road in Emohua Local Government Area, is enough for “Emohua people and their political leaders not to relent in believing in Governor Wike, who they know as a leader who delivers on his promises.”

Rounding off the second phase of the project delivery, entailed pomp and celebration at Ogu Bolo LGA, during the inauguration of Bolo Town internal roads network performed by the former Governor of Gombe State, Dr Ibrahim Hassan Dankwanbo.

Dr. Dankwanbo said he was privileged to be in Bolo Town to see how such hinterland has been touched by the administration of Governor Wike, who he said, is delivering democratic dividends to rural dwellers.

Former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who commissioned the Government House Clinic extolled Wike for investing in critical infrastructure such as healthcare that is very important in reduction of poverty.

The inauguration of Rumuogba One and two flyover constructed by Julius Berger Nigeria, was commissioned by former Defence Minister and Kano State Governor, Kwankwaso, just as Okoro Nu Odu flyover was commissioned by the former Cross River State governor, Duke.

Comrade Quadri Olaleye, who cut the ribbon on the TUC Secretariat, comprising a three-storey 500-seat auditorium, conference room and ancillary facilities, praised the spread of amenities as evidence of democratic inclusion.

Governor Wike used the occasion to berate the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, for accusing governors of Niger Delta region of mismanagement of the 13 per cent derivation fund.  

The Rivers State governor said it was bad for people to rub their failure on others, when many citizens know how inconsistent and sycophantic they behave to be politically relevant.