Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, may be a 53-year-old-man, but he has packed into these five decades the grit and successes worth five live times, Davidson Iriekpen writes
But for the COVID-19 pandemic, Rivers State Government House would have been agog today with dignitaries from all walks of life being the 53rd birthday anniversary of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike. Nevertheless, this won’t stop a torrent of goodwill messages and tributes from pouring in for a man many have come to regard not only as a political juggernaut but a strong defender of Rivers State and the South-south geopolitical zone in general.
From a humble beginning as chairman of Obio-Akpor Local Government Area in 2002, Wike has risen to become a rallying point not only in his party, the Peoples Democratic Party but the entire Nigerian political space as many call him ‘the powerhouse.’ Others even see him as the enfant terrible of Nigerian politics.
Before his current position as a governor, he was chief of staff for four years and minister of Education.
For those who have watched him closely, one thing that stands him out is his principle and frankness on issues. He is not only fearless but courageous and blunt. He does not prevaricate and nor suffer fools gladly.
A committed PDP man, one area where Wike is ever remembered lately is his strong determination to ensure that the PDP did not into extinction. At a time when many were nowhere to be found, and some had become pessimistic and were no longer sure whether PDP would be returned to them, Wike brought his whole being forward to fight Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff and his cohorts from killing the party. Today, history has recorded to his credit that the party secured a major victory at the Supreme Court to exist.
To the people of the Rivers State, it is what Wike is doing that has endeared him to them. Since his election in 2015, there never been a dull moment. He has been vigorously trying to justify the mandate given to him with social and infrastructural facilities.
Born on December 13, 1967, in Rumuepirikom, Obio Akpor Local Government Area to the family of Reverend and Mrs. Nlemanya Wike, Wike attended Government Secondary School, Eneka Obio-Akpor, where he proceeded to the University of Port Harcourt bagging a BSc degree in Political Science and Administration. Not satisfied, he enrolled at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUT), Port Harcourt, where he obtained a Law degree. He completed his studies at the Nigerian Law School in 1997, with the Barrister at Laws practicing licence. He also holds a Master’s degree in Political and Administrative Studies from the same Rivers State University.
After a brief stint with private legal practice, Wike, like most politicians, started his political career from a humble beginning. He was elected twice as the chairman of Obio-Akpor Local Government Area. He served his two terms in office from 1999-2002 and 2004-2007.
As council chairman, he distinguished himself by embarking on projects that re-defined council administration and, as ALGON national president; he played a pioneering role in national security and primary healthcare, leading all local councils to commit themselves to high-level grassroots development across the country.
Between October 26, 2007, and May 28, 2011, Wike served as the chief of staff, Government House, Port Harcourt, during Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s tenure and was also appointed the director general of Amaechi’s re-election Campaign Organisation. His grassroots mobilisation and support, political intelligence, and organisational sagacity were not unnoticed.
On July 14, 2011, Wike was appointed and sworn-in as junior minister of Education by President Goodluck Jonathan. He dazzled a country with many known non-performing ministers with palpable innovations. He distinguished himself with the following programmes: the creation of access to Quality Education for nine million Almajiri children in Northern Nigeria through the construction of dedicated schools in affected states; construction of basic education vocational training schools for out-of-school children in Southern Nigeria; and Special Girl-Education Schools for less privileged girls in 16 states of the country.
Following a cabinet shake-up, Wike emerged as the nation’s education minister on September 12, 2013. As the Minister of State for Education, he made an impact on the basic education sub-sector, spear-heading a nationwide reform of the nation’s education system.
The fundamental programmes that were driven by the former Minister of State for Education were the creation of access to quality education for nine million Almajiri children in northern Nigeria through the construction of dedicated schools in affected states, construction of basic education vocational training schools for out-of-school children in southern Nigeria and Special Girl-Education Schools for less privileged girls in 16 states of the country, while also championing free distribution of books across the nation. Over 60 million textbooks and library resource materials were distributed since 2011.
Determined to ensure that teachers have the capacity to deliver on the Transformation Agenda of the Jonathan administration, the former minister initiated the training of close to 500,000 basic education teachers and school administrators.
Wike took proactive measures to resolve key challenges in the basic and tertiary education levels. Under his watch, the federal government established four new federal polytechnics, with one sited at Bonny, Rivers State.
He facilitated the N1.3 trillion intervention fund for public universities in Nigeria, the very first of its kind aimed at reviving university education in Nigeria. He facilitated the revival of infrastructure in 51 state and federal polytechnics and ensured the construction of micro-teaching laboratories in Colleges of Education in Nigeria.
His efforts have been recognised by stakeholders within and beyond the shores of Nigeria. He was conferred with the Best Performing Minister, 2011 by the Nigerian Pilot Newspapers, African Network Campaign on Education For All (ANCEFA), awarded him the Policy Champion Award for Africa to recognise his roles in the creation of quality access for Nigeria children. The Abuja Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) conferred on him a “Recognition Award for Reviving Basic Education in Nigeria”, while the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), conferred on him “Award of Performance in the Education Sector”. He has received several other awards from reputable stakeholders in the education sector who appreciated his investments of energy and intellectual resources in the system.
On December 8, 2014, PDP delegates from all the 23 local government areas of Rivers State unanimously voted him as the party’s governorship candidate for the 2015 election in the state. He eventually contested the election and won, and on May 29, 2015, he was sworn in as governor. Since then, there hasn’t been any limit to what he can do for his state and the people.
Wike has so performed and transformed the state to the admiration of even members of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
As governor, the most daunting challenges Wike has survived were efforts by the opposition APC to steal the mandate freely given to him by the people of the state through the judiciary in 2015. He survived it when the Supreme Court came to his rescue. If 2015 was a child’s play, it was certainly so in 2019 where over 40,000 security agents were deployed to Rivers State alone with marching orders to ensure that he did not come back for a second term in office.
But like the man of the people that he has become in the state, the people of the state put their lives on the line to resist the security agents by defending their votes. The rest, they say, is history.
The gallantry displayed by his people has made him not to be tired to serve them. This is why even at the peak COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, when a majority of the governors were using it as an excuse not to perform, Wike was constantly working and inauguration projects. Currently, he is simultaneously constructing five flyover bridges in Port Harcourt to ease the suffering of the people in traffic.
It is this same passion for development he displayed in his first term in office that made Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of the opposition party to name him Mr. Projects.
A holder of several traditional chieftaincy titles, Wike is married to Justice Eberechi Suzzette Nyesom-Wike, a high court judge with the Rivers State Judiciary, and blessed with three children; Jordan, Joaquin, and Jazmyne.
Many who are just aware that Wike is just 53 are calling on him to thank God that he has achieved so much when a lot of his mates are still trying to find their bearing.