As Wike Rolls Out Drums for Rivers @ 50

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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 Riv­ers State will be 50 on May 27. Already, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has started rolling out the drums to celebrate the state’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 sponsor­ship 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 state’s creation, Wike said the occasion would be a celebration of the liberation of Rivers people from the forces of deprivation, oppression and domination. “Many 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. “For 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,” the governor explained. No doubt the state has served quite significantly as the treasure base of the nation, religiously sup­porting other states with its resources and ensuring that Nigerians from other climes benefit from Rivers God-given re­sources. Funds from the state have played key roles in the construc­tion and development of the two federal capitals of Ni­geria. Despite the challenges of development, the state has been a critical factor in the overall de­velopment of the country. At a ceremony to unveil the golden jubilee logo, the governor captured the essence of the en­tire celebration better when he said, “Over 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 op­portunities. However, this Gold­en Jubilee inspires a new direc­tion to build a prosperous State we can all be proud of. This is the spirit of the new vision.” Like Wike ex­plained, the celebration offers the opportunity for stocktaking, which several critics and analysts are already doing.

But most im­portant, it offers the opportu­nity to march forward. There is no virtue crying bit­terly about the past when there are better opportunities in the present – and the future. One of the high points of the state’s golden jubilee cel­ebration 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 develop­ment programmes and projects implemented by successive ad­ministrations. 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 pub­lic 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 de­velopment 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 Jubi­lee Projects. “On our part, the state government is set to execute a number of landmark projects throughout the year to commemorate the Golden Ju­bilee, advance the promise of economic independence and im­prove 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,” 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, ‘corporate Rivers, forms part of the overall Rivers @50 cel­ebration. The summit will bring development and economic ex­perts along with other stake­holders as Rivers State Govern­ment implements the ‘New Rivers Vision Development Blueprint’ to ensure that the entrenchment of the development process. As a lover of youth develop­ment, the state govern­ment will in the course of the golden jubilee cel­ebration flag off a youth empow­erment programme. This pro­gramme targeted at youths from the 23 local government areas of the state will be implemented alongside a major commercial bank. The celebration of the achieve­ments of the incumbent adminis­tration in the state inspires hope that the state has commenced its sustained journey towards development. Wike’s outstanding performance since his assumption of power is the new beginning he prom­ised the people of the state – the new direction to ensure that the people benefit for their re­sources. Basic amenities denied the people of the state in their re­spective senatorial districts by previous administrations are now springing up, which will lead to the emergence of new towns that will support emerging pop­ulations. For 50 years, Port Harcourt and its environs have not had the privilege of a functional pub­lic 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 – it is a joint venture between the Af­rican 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. Ram­bol Environ of Denmark, the project management consul­tant, has been in Port Harcourt since 2016 reviewing the project design, engaging stakeholders, embarking on approved study tours and training critical tech­nical 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 cel­ebrate the history of the state, its people, culture and contributions to national growth. Heroes of the Rivers struggle will be recognised and leaders of to­morrow empowered to take up the task of leadership. “Even as we are all excited by this milestone, we must also not forget that the Golden Ju­bilee 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 Nige­ria and secure enduring progress and wellbeing for our people,” 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 deliv­ery. 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 state’s devel­opment through the implemen­tation 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, “The 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.”