In a matter of days, precisely May 27, Rivers state will be celebrating 49 years of its creation. It is a long walk full of the experiences of the valley and the exultations of the mountaintop.
In its journey to this age, it earned the sobriquet of the Garden City. It became a metaphor for the beauty of the city; its cleanliness, hospitality and appreciation for the inherent spirit of nobility of its people.
It was difficult for cities of worth to be mentioned in Nigeria and not to mention Rivers state, its capital, Port Harcourt, in particular.
While administrators and governors came and went, it was apparent that the city was witnessing a mixed bag of fortunes. However, the most telling decline of the state could be situated in the last eight years, where unfortunately so, the city became synonymous with scavenging, traffic snarls, decay of social infrastructure and an embittered populace. In short, Rivers state was like a patient waiting for its final rites of passage.
It was this comatose state that Nyesom Wike took over as governor on May 29, 2015. It is a trite fact that the state in which Wike found was diseased – crime was on high, cult activities rife, paralysed judicial system, abandoned infrastructure of which the Rivers monorail represents the classic archetype as well as a demoralized and non-performing civil service.
For the ill-prepared, the state of anomie could have been reason enough to baulk, pass the buck and make excuses. It is also instructive to state that given the tenuous propaganda waged by the government that was just swept away by the tidal wave of the Peoples Democratic Party, there were more than enough distractions for the new government.
For all its worth, it is a testimony to ike and his team’s commitment that they remained focused with their eyes on “the sparrows” and one year on could point to concrete strides of development.
For one, the absence of structure for social justice is recipe for anarchy and places huge burden on the true intent of such an administration. With the people denied the opportunity of prompt and impartial justice and arbitration by the Rotimi Amaechi government for more than a year, it was a priceless burden lifted off the shoulders of the Rivers people and all those who reside in the state when in less than three months of his assumption that Governor Wike reopened the courts, appointed a Chief Judge of the state within the stipulated regulations of the National Judicial Council and followed that with the hosting of a conference of the Nigeria Bar Association.
The governor did not just reopen the courts but is aware that for proper administration of justice, befitting court rooms are an integral part of the whole mix. To this end, it is to his credit that the Federal High Court annex has been expanded, the demolition of the old Obio Customary Court and in its place a more ennobling structure housing the state Customary Court of Appeal with accommodation for more customary courts.
Notwithstanding the gross shortfall in federal allocation, Wike has continued to earn the trust and commendation of the people of Rivers state as he continues to complete ongoing projects of which two are federal road projects.
His continuation of projects inherited from his predecessor places him above the pettiness of those who had vacated the office as they have continually tried to obfuscate his efforts though malicious press statements and surreptitiously create an atmosphere of fear and insecurity.
To his credit, the governor has ‘brought to life’ the critical NPA-Industry road as well as the Eleme Junction axis of the East West Road which are beside the 50 other roads completed by his administration in four urban local government areas.
It is worth mentioning that the federal roads are undertaken by the administration are the Igwurita-Chokocho- Etche federal highway which shaves off a princely N400 million monthly from the state’s allocation to cover the N2.4 billion cost.
Residents and road users are agreed that the Igwurita- Chokocho- Etche Federal Highway is arguably one of the worst roads in the state. The deplorable nature of this road has crippled business activities along the axis.
Speaking at the flag-off of the reconstruction, the governor said, “We believe that politics is about the welfare of the people. This road is critical to the people of Etche and their Igwurita neighbours. It is vital to their economies; hence we have resolved to complete it in a record time of six months.
“I agree that this is a federal road, but we cannot sit and allow our people suffer. We will construct this road to the satisfaction of our people. We will pay Setraco N400 million monthly through IGR to ensure work goes on regularly till the completion of this project.”
The curious nature of Wike’s intervention is in the fact that former governor Rotimi Amaechi hails from Ikwerre local government area which the road serves.
It is therefore understandable when Wike said: “When they were in power, they were receiving over N20 billion monthly, but they refused to do the road. Today, we are receiving only N5 billion monthly, but we have the political will and dedication to reconstruct the roads.
“This is because we are committed to our social contract with the people of Etche and Igwurita. This marks the end of suffering for Etche people. We are replicating this reality across Rivers State.”
Aware of the fact that there is a nexus between roads and accommodation, it was much of a relief to workers when he commissioned 50 units of higher low income flats at the Iriebe Housing Estate in Obio/Akpor local government area of the state.
The houses, which are the first in the comprehensive housing programme of the Wike-led administration, are to be sold to the people at affordable prices without any profit to government. Beside these, the government has demonstrated that it is not a unidirectional one as it has settled the issue of salaries and pension arrears while making a commitment to labour in the state to work closely with it to get the best of the workforce.
Already, the flowers are budding again in the Garden City, refuse heaps have disappeared while there is greater collaboration with the various security apparatus despite some attempts at the federal level by some yesterday’s power brokers from the state.
For Wike, serving the people is a binding social contract, one not only guaranteed by the constitution but a covenant of God to serve well and diligently. Without doubt, his training as a lawyer may have prepared him to abide by the time honoured principle of mutual fidelity and one can only say that the Rivers people will be better for it.
True to his words on his inauguration, “Rivers State has been rescued and reclaimed. It is a new day in our history, a new dawn to repair and restore our dear State to the path of sanity. I invite you all to the table of brotherhood for the new beginning. I reiterate my declaration that in the election there were no losers and winners. Rather, Rivers State was the winner and so we are all winners.”
––Emenike wrote in through firstname.lastname@example.org