â€¢From Grass to Grace: How Wike Has Transformed Rivers State
â€¢ Showcasing a Rich TestimonialÂ
While the celebrations of Democracy Day across the country may have died down, one state where the celebration is still ongoing is Rivers State where a majority of the people are overwhelmed with Governor Nyesom Wikeâ€™s impressive scorecard, Davidson Iriekpen writes
For the people of Rivers State, the encomiums so far received by Governor Nyesom Wike for his giant strides in the last two years of presiding over the affairs of his state are not surprising.
In 2015, the governorâ€™s wife, Justice Suzzette Eberechi, revealed her husbandâ€™s passion to transform the state when she disclosed that she was confident that her husband, based on his antecedents and passion to satisfy others, would never stop his positive development strides. She noted that the state was entering a season of celebrations.
She said: â€œI know the man I am married to.Â He is a determined and focused man. He will continue to deliver in line with the promises he made to the people. I know he will live up to the expectations of the people.â€
These were what came to play last week when the governor gave account of his stewardship. There were encomiums showered on him from every quarter.
Even the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who recently visited the state as part of the federal governmentâ€™s efforts to interact with leaders of the oil-rich region, in light of their strategic importance to the economy of the country could not hide his feelings.Â The acting president who was not quite prepared for the â€˜miraclesâ€™ he was about to experience was surprised when he was taken around the state, to view some of the ongoing projects undertaken by the governor.
â€œI think he deserves the title of â€˜Mr. Projects,â€™â€ Osinbajo said, during a state dinner organised in his honour after the project tour. â€œHe is indeed â€˜Mr. Projects.â€™â€
The appellation of â€˜Mr. Projectsâ€™ is a striking metaphor that perfectly conveys the enthusiasm of the Wike administration for infrastructural development, from roads to healthcare to education. Criticised by his detractors for being too loud, too brash, Wike has shut them up by doing what governors are elected to do â€“ ensuring that their people enjoy the dividends of democracy.
â€œWike has performed wonderfully well,â€ former President Goodluck Jonathan, had said, during the inauguration of the second Nkpogu Bridge in Port Harcourt in May. Jonathan, who described the whole of Rivers as a construction yard went on to assert that the Wike administration â€œhas opened up Rivers State through projects. Wike has shown so much commitment to infrastructure development.â€
These accolades from the top are not made from empty political gestures, but from a style of governance driven exclusively by results. Before Osinbajo, the APC Governor of Zamfara State and Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, had visited Rivers. After seeing the massive projects the governor was embarking on, he extolled Wike without mincing words, leaving behind partisan sentiments.
One of Wikeâ€™s most visible infrastructure projects is the construction and repair of roads across every local government in the state. There are constructions like: the dualisation of the Rumukurushi/Eneka/Igwurrura road; the construction and rehabilitation of the Chokocho/Umuechem/Ozuzu road; and the construction of the second Nkpogu Bridge in Obalga local government.
Tthe number of road projects in the state is innumerable. In fact, as early as November 2015, the government had already completed roads stretching up to 70 kilometres in its urban renewable programme. â€œWe have engaged in the total revolution of the road infrastructure for the overall growth of the state,â€ Wike said.
A clear symbol of Wikeâ€™s determination to make all roads in his state navigable is his administrationâ€™s Operation Zero Pothole, an idea that saw massive rehabilitation of Port Harcourtâ€™s internal roads, which included Tombia Street, Sokoto road, Churchill road, Creek road, Ahoada road, Force Avenue, Evo road, Woji road, Ohiamini road, Ogbunabali road, Eleme flyover and Kolukuma road. In all, the operation covered 20.1 kilometres and has provided relief to residents and road users.
On security, the Wike administration has set its targets on a Rivers State secure for all. Some of the major steps taken include: the granting of amnesty to cultists and militants that agreed to surrender their arms; the development of surveillance networks in local communities to provide intelligence for security agencies; the amendment of the Rivers State Kidnap (Prohibition) Law, ensuring it reflects the complexion of modern challenges; the total clampdown on cultists and related criminal activities across the state; confiscation of assets derived from kidnapping and other related crimes.
The administration has also strengthened the police through the procurement and donation of 64 patrol vehicles fitted with sophisticated communication gadgets, and 20 Toyota Hilux vehicles. Also, there has been the institution of a handsome monetary compensation plan for families of security personnel who are hurt or die on the job, a move which will improve dedication and commitment.
Another huge point of focus for the Wike administration has been the education sector. On his assumption of office, the standard of primary and secondary school education in the state was nothing to write home about. But, an avid education administrator himself, Wike began the arduous task of rehabilitating the stateâ€™s collapsing education structure by reconstructing previously abandoned state-owned schools, which included, among others: Government Girls Secondary School, Rumuokwuta; Birabi Memorial Grammar School, Bori; Government Secondary School, Ogu; and Nyemoni Grammar School, Abonnema.
The rehabilitation of these schools, which is currently ongoing, will see a comprehensive overhaul of dilapidated structures and facilities. Some schools are being returned to full boarding status with state-of-the-art hostels being constructed; conducive classrooms and well equipped modern laboratories are being built and recreational facilities are also being upgraded.
The Rivers State University, too, has not been left behind in the projects spree, as key projects have been initiated within the institution, the completion of the Nebo Graham Douglas building in the Faculty of Law being a major one. Also, within the faculty are a newly equipped 500-capacity Law library, a magnificent 120-capacity Moot court, and a 1000-capacity Law auditorium.
The comprehensive rehabilitation and reconstruction of the faculty of management sciences, the construction of a two-storey faculty building for technical and science education and the construction of a three-storey building for the college of medical sciences, are some other projects ongoing in the university.
In the health sector, Wikeâ€™s infrastructure model is also virile. His administration has embarked on an intensive drive to build desirable structures in the stateâ€™s general hospitals, equipping them with basic amenities like standard theatre rooms, well furnished wards and other facilities befitting standard, modern medical centres.
For example, the administration undertook a complete renovation of the 52-bed general hospital, Bodo, in Gokana local government. The medical facility was in a run-down state before the governmentâ€™s intervention. Also, the first state-run mental facility in the South-South and South-East, Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Rumuigbo, has received a major facelift. The 42-bed hospital was totally renovated and fitted with state-of-the-art medical facilities to provide quality mental health care delivery.
Meanwhile, Wike has announced that the state would construct an international specialist hospital to handle life-threatening ailments, a move he said would stem capital flight from the country.
The new specialist hospital, which will no doubt promote medical tourism in Rivers, will have a helipad and modern equipments for the treatment of cancer, kidney, heart and liver diseases. Wike, who revealed this while hosting the national president of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), also noted that his administration has released $4 million to equip the state-owned Braithwaite Specialist Memorial Hospital in Port Harcourt.
â€œThe new specialist hospital that we are working on will stem the foreign trips by Nigerians for healthcare services,â€ Wike said. â€œWe want to conserve foreign exchange for the country.â€
He added, â€œFor us, our major focus has shifted from infrastructure to health and education. That is why you are seeing the rapid investments in health and education. We are committed to improved healthcare for our people.â€
In the transport sector, giant strides are made. A befitting jetty is being built for the overall benefit of the riverine areas of Bonny, Bille and Nembe. This project is crucial to the improvement of marine transport and trading activities to adjoining riverine communities.
The Jetty, which is the main gateway to Bonny, Bille in Rivers, and Nembe in Bayelsa, was abandoned several years ago. On completion, the Jetty, which comprises of an upper and lower deck, will have a walkway and platform, a terminal building with arrival and departure lounges, improved driveway, retention wall and a car park facility.
In truth, to outline Wikeâ€™s projects is not the job of a newspaper article, due to their size and gargantuan impact. There are some who even defy sector classification; take for example the construction of the Port Harcourt Pleasure Park, a project which will boost tourism, reduce crime and improve employment opportunities.
The Pleasure Park, which sits on a 17-hectare land, is situated on the former burrow pit along Aba Road. When the Aba Road was first constructed in 1972, the sand used to construct the road was taken from the site, leaving behind a burrow pit. For over 40 years, this deep pit has been home to hoodlums and armed robbers. But the Wike administration has transformed it into a fun destination with facilities such as an artificial lake for a pedal boating experience, children playgrounds, a mini golf course, a five-star hotel with about 50 rooms, a 200-capacity 5D cinemaÂ and a 120-capacity car park.
When on a tour of some of Wikeâ€™s projects, the former Governor of Akwa Ibom state, Senator Godswill Akpabio, offered a queer but arguably valid opinion, that Wike has done more work and projects in the last two years than the federal government.
â€œThe resources available to Rivers state is nothing compared to that of the federal government,â€ Akpabio said. â€œRivers state government gets far less than a quarter of one per cent of what accrues to the federal government, but we can see the tremendous quality of the transformation taking place in the state.
â€œIt is not so much money that makes performance. It is love for your people. When you are elected, if you love your people, you will perform, no matter the little money that you have.â€