As River State marks the 50th anniversary of its creation, not only will the celebrations afford people of the state opportunity to know where they are coming from, it will reveal the vision of where they are going. Davidson Iriekpen writes It is no longer news that RivÂers State will be 50 on May 27. Already, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has started rolling out the drums to celebrate the stateâ€™s golden jubilee.
Almost on a daily basis, events are being witnessed in the state. Though the present moment is not a time to celebrate due to the economic situation in the country, people of the state are undeterred in having their voices heard. The celebration, which started when the governor unveiled the logo for the anniversary late last year and a fund-raising dinner held for key stakeholders to participate in the sponsorÂship of the event, has since taken off in full swing with some key programmes to commemorate the anniversary, already taking place. To many observers, there is every reason to celebrate the several milestones the state has achieved since its creation in 1967, by General Yakubu Gowon military administration. For instance, while setting the tone on why it is necessary to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the stateâ€™s creation, Wike said the occasion would be a celebration of the liberation of Rivers people from the forces of deprivation, oppression and domination. â€œMany of us, who are now enjoying the fruits of liberty, may not truly appreciate what it meant to be dominated, dispossessed, deprived, exploited and oppressed, in your own land by the dominant social and political tendencies of the time. Before Rivers State was created, our people could not find schools in their neighbourhood, hospitals to treat the sick, universities to educate their children, decent jobs to earn income and good roads to their communities. â€œFor 50 years, we have lived and toiled together, in pursuit of the vision of our founding fathers, who put in and sacrificed everything, including their lives, to ensure the creation of this beautiful state, we all love and proud of, indigenes and non-indigenes alike. Although, we are not where we should be within the matrix of where we want to be, we still have a lot to celebrate and thank God for the 50 years of our existence as a state and as a people with a common destiny.
Besides, after 50 unbroken years on a journey, it is proper for us to take a little moment to retrospect on the progress already made, examine our prospects and set our eyes on the next era of the march, to progress with optimism,â€ the governor explained. No doubt the state has served quite significantly as the treasure base of the nation, religiously supÂporting other states with its resources and ensuring that Nigerians from other climes benefit from Rivers God-given reÂsources. Funds from the state have played key roles in the construcÂtion and development of the two federal capitals of NiÂgeria. Despite the challenges of development, the state has been a critical factor in the overall deÂvelopment of the country. At a ceremony to unveil the golden jubilee logo, the governor captured the essence of the enÂtire celebration better when he said, â€œOver the past 50 years, we have travelled quite a marvellous journey. We have made some significant progress no doubt, but we have also made mistakes and lost valuable opÂportunities. However, this GoldÂen Jubilee inspires a new direcÂtion to build a prosperous State we can all be proud of. This is the spirit of the new vision.â€ Like Wike exÂplained, the celebration offers the opportunity for stocktaking, which several critics and analysts are already doing.
But most imÂportant, it offers the opportuÂnity to march forward. There is no virtue crying bitÂterly about the past when there are better opportunities in the present â€“ and the future. One of the high points of the stateâ€™s golden jubilee celÂebration will be the launching of the 50-year strategic economic and social development plan for the state. This plan will consolidate the gains of the different developÂment programmes and projects implemented by successive adÂministrations. The framework has been presented and approved by the Rivers State Executive Council; and will be presented to the public with a committee established to drive the process between six months and one year. The committee will hold pubÂlic hearings on the framework with all stakeholders expected to make their contributions. Public debates would also hold on the framework, before the 50-year strategic economic and social deÂvelopment plan is set into motion. Aside setting on course the development process for the next 50 years through the launching of the 50-year strategic economic and social development plan for the state, Wike will take practical steps to flag off the execution of iconic Golden JubiÂlee Projects. â€œOn our part, the state government is set to execute a number of landmark projects throughout the year to commemorate the Golden JuÂbilee, advance the promise of economic independence and imÂprove access to public services as we set forth on the new pathways to create an unimaginable future of peace, unity and prosperity for our state,â€ the Rivers governor pointed out. All through this month, the state government will commission several key projects spread across the three senatorial districts of the state. This will be part of the celebration. A mini-investment summit tagged, â€˜corporate Rivers, forms part of the overall Rivers @50 celÂebration. The summit will bring development and economic exÂperts along with other stakeÂholders as Rivers State GovernÂment implements the â€˜New Rivers Vision Development Blueprintâ€™ to ensure that the entrenchment of the development process. As a lover of youth developÂment, the state governÂment will in the course of the golden jubilee celÂebration flag off a youth empowÂerment programme. This proÂgramme targeted at youths from the 23 local government areas of the state will be implemented alongside a major commercial bank. The celebration of the achieveÂments of the incumbent adminisÂtration in the state inspires hope that the state has commenced its sustained journey towards development. Wikeâ€™s outstanding performance since his assumption of power is the new beginning he promÂised the people of the state â€“ the new direction to ensure that the people benefit for their reÂsources. Basic amenities denied the people of the state in their reÂspective senatorial districts by previous administrations are now springing up, which will lead to the emergence of new towns that will support emerging popÂulations. For 50 years, Port Harcourt and its environs have not had the privilege of a functional pubÂlic water supply. That is about to change, the governor promised. The Wike administration has concluded the preliminary process for the Port Harcourt Water Supply and Sanitation Project â€“ it is a joint venture between the AfÂrican Development Bank, the World Bank and the Rivers State Government. The project will take care of water supply and sanitation in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas. Under the project, water schemes will be constructed across Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas, backed with massive reticulation infrastructure in the city. RamÂbol Environ of Denmark, the project management consulÂtant, has been in Port Harcourt since 2016 reviewing the project design, engaging stakeholders, embarking on approved study tours and training critical techÂnical personnel to drive the project. It is clear that though the state government has kick-started the Golden Jubilee celebration, it is by no means a jamboree. It is a well planned programme to celÂebrate the history of the state, its people, culture and contributions to national growth. Heroes of the Rivers struggle will be recognised and leaders of toÂmorrow empowered to take up the task of leadership. â€œEven as we are all excited by this milestone, we must also not forget that the Golden JuÂbilee presents both opportunity and challenge; an opportunity to celebrate our proud heritage and the challenge to harness our vast resources to fully realise our potential to be the best in NigeÂria and secure enduring progress and wellbeing for our people,â€ Wike added. In the view of many analysts, the golden jubilee anniversary is coming at a time majority of the people of the state are happy with Wike for the transformation he has brought to the state. They believe there is no governor in the country that can compete with him in terms of projects delivÂery. This is why 50 years down the line, the people of the state have every reason to celebrate. So far, the Rivers State governor has initiated the next phase of stateâ€™s develÂopment through the implemenÂtation of a new vision. As the Golden Jubilee governor of the state, he has planted the seed of progress for the next 50 years. He has returned the state to the people. He has given them the keys to control their destiny at 50. That is why the state has rolled out the drums to celebrate. They are assured of better days ahead. It is against this background that golden jubilee committee has called on the people of the state to join Wike to participate actively in the activities and events lined up for the celebrations. In a statement issued by Emma Okah, Commissioner for Housing and Secretary of the Media and Publicity Subcommittee of the committee, said, â€œThe celebrations will also afford us the opportunity to project into the future of the State so that, in unity, we can improve on the shortcomings of yesterday and build on the strength of today.â€