Beyond Politics: The Beauty of the Visit of the Acting President to Rivers State

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By Simeon Nwakaudu 

The popular leadership  of Rivers State always keys into opportunities  to attract development to the state. On issues concerning  development,  politics  is relegated and the interest of the Rivers State enthroned  for the benefit of the people.

As the largest contributor to the nation’s  oil wealth, Rivers State remains  critical to the development and stability of the  country. The relevance  of  the  state’s  security efforts is situated  in  the  fact that there are no damage to the petroleum infrastructure in the state; necessitating  the seamless exploration and exploitation of petroleum resources in the state.

Furthermore, Governor Wike’s exemplary successful  Amnesty Programme has enhanced  security in the state and created the right atmosphere  for the  consolidation  of  the  nation’s  economy.  No other state boasts of this pro-Nigeria arrangement.

Therefore, the visit of the Acting President of Nigeria, Prof Yemi Osinbajo to Rivers State  between February 13 and February 14, 2017 presented  a fresh  opportunity  for major Federal and State Stakeholders  to advance the frontiers  of development in Rivers State, build new alliances and place the interest of the  people above all other considerations.

Governor Wike led leaders of Rivers State  across political  divide to the Port Harcourt International Airport  to receive the Acting President , Yemi Osinbajo.  The airport reception  was a display of  the  unity, focus and commitment  of  Rivers people  to the development of the state and Nigeria.

For the elected Government  of Rivers State  and the major stakeholders  of the state, this opportunity was productively  received, used and the interest  of the state placed on the front burner of development.

Projects

With bipartisan  airport formalities  dispensed with, the business of governance  took centre-stage. The true colour  of  Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike as Nigeria’s Governor of the Year 2016 became evident to the highest level of political  leadership  in  Nigeria.

From the airport, the Acting President  and Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike  riding in the same car crisscrossed  several road projects, completed and ongoing. Right opposite the airport roundabout, the Obiri-Ikwerre Road nearing completion  presented a drive-by view, while the Sir Celestine Omehia road ( Former SARs Road) and the Greater Port Harcourt Development Authority  Ultra-modern Headquarters provided  the visiting Acting President with the requisite drive-by pleasure.

With the crowd of Rivers Stakeholders, the Acting President’s entourage  made a stop at the Port Harcourt Pleasure Park.  The first of its kind in West Africa  and Nigeria’s emerging tourist destination.  The Acting President  was visibly  impressed as Governor Wike  took him on a  tour  of the facility.  He was particularly  excited  about the artificial  lake and climbing  tower  that  overlooks the Garden City.

From the Port Harcourt Pleasure Park, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo was guided through the expansion of the Rumuola stretch of the Aba Road into an eight super-highway, the revived traffic  lights on the major streets of Port Harcourt through the reconstruction  of  several roads linking Aba Road which have eased traffic congestion  in the Garden City.

When Acting President Yemi Osinbajo  finally arrived the construction site of the State Ecumenical Centre, he saw for himself the wonders of technology as being laid out by construction giant, Julius Berger.

This project is key to the unity of Christian Denominations  as Rivers State is a professed Christian State. It was a spectacle to behold for the Acting President  and his entourage .

Right inside the Government House, Port Harcourt, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo inspected the remodelled and restored Brick House, the former seat of power in Rivers State.  He also inspected the newly constructed Government House, Port Harcourt Christian Chapel.

It was not only a projects inspection exercise.  The Acting President had the honour of flagging off the construction of the Doctors Quarters of the Braithwaite Specialist Memorial Hospital in Port Harcourt.

Whilst laying the foundation  stone for the  Doctors Quarters  of BSMH, the Acting  President  Yemi Osinbajo  said that the doctors  quarters would help in repositioning  medicare in the state.

He said: “It is my special privilege to lay this foundation  stone of this 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 “

In his address, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike  declared  his commitment  to the  provision  of  quality facilities  in hospitals across the state.

He 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.”

Governor Wike said that the objective of  the  project  is to restore the existing accommodation and expand it to accommodate more specialist  doctors  serving  at the BMSH.

He noted that  the quarters has 22 units of three bedroom flats with a community  canteen and dedicated  water facility.

Town Hall Meeting With Rivers Stakeholders

This was the reason for the visit in the first place. Over 1500 delegates  from the 23 Local Government Areas of Rivers State  gathered at the  Government House, Port Harcourt to exchange  views with the Acting President on how to resolve the  challenges  of oil exploration and exploitation, with a view to ensuring  that  oil bearing  communities  benefit  from their  God-given  resources, while the  nation’s economy is restored  back to health and optimal performance.

The stakeholders were drawn from all political divides, ethnic groups, youth groups, ex-agitators, professionals  and agents of the Federal Government.

Some of the prominent persons at the Stakeholders meeting were: Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Niger Delta, Pastor Usani Usani, Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission, Nsima Ekere, Former NBA President, Chief Onueze Okocha, Former Minister Graham Douglas, Popular Niger Delta Activist, Madam Ankio Briggs, Chairman of the Rivers Council of  Traditional Rulers, King Dandeson Douglas Jaja among other notable leaders. Also in attendance were all the members of the Rivers State House of Assembly  elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress.

The engagements  at the town hall meeting  were frank and premised on the need to urgently develop the Niger Delta, especially Rivers State .

 Rivers State  Government  has been able to maintain the peace through  constructive  engagements  with the youths and oil bearing communities.  Therefore, the challenge  in the  state has been that of the failure of agencies  of the  Federal Government  to  deliver  on their responsibilities  to the people of Rivers State.

All through the town hall meeting, the Rivers people decried the politicisation of governance  by agents of the Federal Government.  They condemned  the tendency  to promote  politics whenever  Rivers State features on the development radar.

Former NBA President and Spokesman of the Rivers Elders Council, Chief Onueze Okocha ( SAN) called for synergy between the Federal Government and the Rivers State Government for development  to take place. He expressed dissatisfaction  with the current  situation where Federal agencies  adopt unnecessary anti-Rivers posture to deliberately  deny the people their due as the nation’s largest oil producing state.

Okocha said: “I conclude by stating that the peoples of Rivers State have enjoyed good governance from the present administration of the state, and that this can only be sustained in an atmosphere of peace, law and order. Peace, law and order, I dare say, can only be secured with the assistance and cooperation of agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria.  It is therefore my hope that the Federal Government will ensure that its concerned agencies are not found wanting in this regard.”

Civil Rights Activist and Women Representative, Ankio Briggs said: “The pipelines in Rivers State are intact.  They are intact not because they cannot be bursted, but because Governor Nyesom Wike and some other critical stakeholders have made it possible so far for it not to be touched.  I want to appeal sir that this should not be taken for granted because it would be very difficult for us to continue to curtail the level of frustration and anger that is brewing and continues to brew in the Niger Delta based on the neglect and disregard that we suffer in the Niger Delta.

“Now, Rivers State people have made their decision in 2015.  This is politics, some people will lose and some people will win.  I want to suggest that we regroup and start planning for 2019 and allow the will of Rivers people to stand.    It is not acceptable in Nigeria today that INEC will bring dirty looking ten thousand, hundred thousand pieces of naira, put in on a table and say that Governor Nyesom Wike gave it to them.  Sir, we are a people that are diverse in the state and we love ourselves.  We may have our disagreements, but we love Rivers State more, and therefore, this continued onslaught on Rivers State seemingly from Abuja is creating some tension in this state that if the Federal Government is relying on a state like Rivers State for its resources, I would have thought sir that it will be in the interest of the Federal government to ensure that this particular state and the whole region of the Niger Delta is indeed at peace”.

She added: “As women, we must express our serious concern on the removal of the security details of our governor.  If our governor is exposed to the risk of having inadequate security, this poses not only a threat to our state, but to our economy and to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  If this extreme danger continues, as mothers, we may have no other alternative, but to consider protecting our governor.”

This line of thought was echoed  by the Chairman of the Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers, King Dandeson Douglas Jaja.

He said: “The council of Traditional Rulers last week decided in their 105th quarterly meeting to write Mr. President and the Inspector General of Police to protest over the withdrawal of our Governor’s security aides.  He is the only Governor in Nigeria that has no police protection.  Why is he singled out by government?  We do not believe Mr. President is aware of this action by the Police High Command.  In the interest of fairness, we appeal to Mr. President to order the police to restore the Governor’s security aides and recall six police patrol men attached to the governor.  Governor Wike is our son.  When any of our son is in danger, as fathers, we get worried. We are worried, he may be set up for attack or assassination.”

The Representative of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Alabo Graham Douglas called  on the Federal Government to diligently implement  the 16 -Point agenda presented  to it by the organisation  during an elaborate meeting  between the President and Niger Delta Stakeholders.

Mr. Richard Akinaka, spokesman  for the Niger Delta ex-agitators appealed to the Federal Government  to implement  broad based  projects and programmes  that will cater for the  needs of the  youths and have them integrated  in  the  development  process.

King Hope Dan Opusingi of Kula Kingdom who spoke on behalf of oil bearing communities, urged the Federal Government and International Oil Companies  to work together  to  entrench development  in all the communities.  He said that agitation of youths   is fuelled  by injustice  and undue high-handedness of Federal agencies.  He also accused security agencies of being involved in bunkering activities that have ruined the environment of the Niger Delta.

POSITION OF THE RIVERS STATE GOVERNMENT:

This was presented by Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike who opined that a joint  effort  between the Federal Government and the Rivers State Government  will  speed up development  in the state.  He noted that  his administration  is ever willing  to cooperate  with the Federal Government to  ensure that the people  benefit  from good governance and their rich natural resources.

He said:” We stand for the unity, progress and indivisibility of this nation and part of our mandate is to partner with the Federal Government to move the State and by extension, the nation forward”.

The governor added: “We have severally demonstrated this commitment from the very beginning of our administration with discernible actions. For instance, even without prompting from the Federal Government we mobilized some stakeholders to rehabilitate the East – West road, from Eleme junction to Onne junction, with about three billion naira. Today, that part of the road, which leads to the economic heartland of the nation, including the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone is in good shape because of our singular efforts.

“Also, that Rivers State is least affected by the spate of attacks on oil pipelines and other facilities by militants is not by accident but by the deliberate and direct involvement of the State government in ensuring that these vital national economic infrastructure are protected and insulated from such ferocious attacks by the hoodlums.”

ACTING PRESIDENT’S RESPONSE

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo  assured the people of Rivers State that practical  steps will be  taken  by the administration  to  address the development  challenges  that confront the oil bearing  communities  of the state.  He outlined  the steps being taken to clean up Ogoniland negatively  impacted  by the activities  of oil companies.

He said: “The Federal government will begin a partnership with the oil producing states, local governments,  oil companies, private sector, and civil society organizations for the rapid  development of these communities. An oil communities intervention meeting is to work out what can be done in the short to medium term and the long term possibilities. There is no way that this new vision will be aborted because it does not depend for execution on the Federal government alone. Every stakeholder has a part to play. Oil exploitation by itself cannot suffice to assure our people of decent jobs and a decent income.

“We must make our oil producing communities hubs for petro-chemical industries, small and large. We must make these communities hubs for refining and related activities.  “

GOVERNANCE PREVAILS:

On the night of 13th February, 2017, the Government  and people of Rivers State hosted the visiting Acting President  to a State Dinner. This light-hearted  atmosphere offered the Acting President  the opportunity  to  publicly assess the administration  of  his host, Governor Wike.  Most importantly, it was the first time the Acting President  would be sleeping  in any of the states where engagements for the future  of the Niger Delta is taking place. This tacit endorsement  of the  peace and security in Rivers State  must not be taken for granted.

Hear the Acting President: “

“I think he deserves the title: ‘Mr Projects ‘. He is indeed Mr Projects. As we came in today, we had to visit some project sites”.

He  noted that the visit to Rivers State  was critical  because  of  the  position  of  the  state  in the country.

“Rivers State is very important  to  us.  We take matters concerning  the state seriously. We will  cooperate  with  Rivers State to develop Nigeria.

“It is in the interest of  our people and nation, that we work together for the good of our people.  We need to get together to chart the pathway of growth “, the Acting President said.

DESPERATE SIDE ATTRACTION

Once an event holds in Rivers State, those who live on political  fueds struggle  to distract  attention  from the real issues. Therefore, the desperate side attraction by Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi  and his sidekicks, Magnus Abe and Dakuku Peterside was expected.  Under false pretense, they misled  Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to attend a meeting of APC  Members.  As a mature politician, the Acting President advised the Minister of Transportation to accept  his position in the state as an opposition leader. He reminded  him that Lagos State was in opposition for 16years, noting that barely  two years in opposition  should  not demoralise Amaechi and his followers.

RIVERS FIRST

Already, the attempts have been made to distract Rivers State and deny her people  development.  This technique  is not yielding  results.

Also, the trick of allowing  Rivers APC  leaders  to  use security agencies to  promote  insecurity  in the  state  has also failed. Therefore, the direct engagement  between the Presidency  and  the Government  of Rivers State is the best option  available.

For the Government and people  of Rivers State, it  is  Rivers first. All programmes and projects  are geared towards improving  the  living standard of majority of the people.  On this principle there is no compromise.  On this principle, Governor Wike  has refused to be distracted.

That is why the people of Rivers State overwhelmingly gave him their mandate.  The immediate past Governor, Rotimi Amaechi  placed other interests  above Rivers State. That is still the case with him.

Luckily, the Acting President and the Federal Government have received  the message of the Rivers people.  Here, development  takes centre stage all the time.  Here, the people  cannot be intimidated.  Here, the State Government  is working. Here, Rivers resources  will remain  dedicated  to the development of Rivers State.  Here, good governance is preferred  to unwholesome  politics. Hear, New Rivers is being developed.