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Friday, June 14, 2024

My Dear Gov. Nyesom E. Wike-On Your One Year Anniversary – By Ipalibo Douglas

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Permit me to heartily congratulate you on your one year in office as the Executive Governor of Rivers State and for the modest successes you have recorded over this period. A little over a year ago, your bosom friend and current Minister of Transport in the Federal Executive Council had assured you and the hapless Rivers State electorate that you will not be sworn in as Governor of the State come 29th of May, 2015. Millions of Naira was paid to Senior Advocates of Naira (SANs) to go round all the jurisdictions in Nigeria to procure an order prohibiting your swearing in. When that failed, the fellow and his rabid supporters dubbed you an interim or caretaker Governor. Some said you were going to be there for one month, some three months and the most generous ones gave you a maximum of 6 months to vacate the coveted seat.

 

The boasts by your detractors were not empty. Devious schemes were plotted. People in high places were perjured. The Press was procured and all hell was let loose to ensure that the decision of the Rivers electorate in choosing you as their Governor was thwarted. The Governorship Election Tribunal was made to dance a macabre dance. The central referee was changed in the middle of the game to ensure your ouster. Expectedly, that Tribunal gave you the booth. The Court of Appeal Tribunal was equally especially empanelled to ensure that you were kicked out. They did a brilliant job for their master and did not disappoint. By the skin of the teeth and the special grace of God the Supreme Court of Nigeria overruled them and affirmed your election. That put your friend to shame. Lives were saved in Rivers State.

 

But we know our last State Governor for one thing, may be two-he is an astute fighter and does not have defeat in his dictionary. So naturally, you may have won the Governorship contest but his Excellency, The Right The Honourable Minister has since assumed a duty to bring you and if possible the entire State to its knees. As the leader of the opposition in the State, he has vowed openly to make the State ungovernable. He has seen to it that Rivers State does not have a single Senator in the National Assembly, one full year after this administration was inaugurated. Till date many House of Representatives and House of Assembly seats in Rivers State are yet to be filled and may never be filled for the next three years as long as the Lion of Ubima remains the de facto Vice President of Nigeria.

 

It is therefore easy to see why, like millions of other Rivers people, I am moved to congratulate you even for merely retaining your seat and remaining on the saddle after one year of being sworn in as the Governor of Rivers State. A chicken-hearted person would since have been forced out of office by the hurricane that is your friend and Ikwerre brother, now the arrow-head of the Abuja politicians, having replaced you in that coveted position in the game of chess that is Rivers State politics. Just as you have said on several occasions, you and the Rivers people who voted for you and the PDP in the 2015 elections and the 2016 re-runs have a duty to thank God every day for protecting the mandate freely given to you.

 

The second leg of my congratulatory message is premised on your single-minded devotion to overturn the massive road infrastructure deficit that was left behind by your friend after 8 years of his reign as Governor of Rivers State. On 29th May, 2015, 70-80 percent of the roads in the State capital, Port Harcourt were not motorable. It was real punishment to drive around Borokiri or Diobu or the Woji axis of the State capital. One year down the road, everyone in the State can attest that we have a good story to tell on the issue of roads. We are also aware that you have extended this work of excellence to other parts of the State beyond the capital. Rivers people are getting value for money and are immensely grateful to your Excellency. Lately your Excellency has also started paying attention to our schools. Schools are being fenced and secured; school blocks are being renovated and basic infrastructure put in place. A Medical College has been added to the Rivers State University of Science and Technology by your executive fiat. Again all these are highly commendable. We must not fail to mention that you cleared several months’ salary arrears and allowances owed to civil servants and retirees by the last administration. You have also shown good faith with our public servants by paying them without fail every month. This is a feat in today’s Nigeria where many States are in arrears of between three to six months. The Rivers man and woman are grateful and are proud of your untiring effort to keep the State going.

 

The Judiciary is one area that you have scored tremendously well in the last one year and our people give you a big CONGRATULATIONS for the bold steps you have taken in this sector. For over a year before you took office your predecessor contrived to have the judiciary in the State shut down for asinine reasons. On your first day in office you restored the hope of the common man by reopening our Courts. You equally appointed a Chief Judge and a President for the Customary Court of Appeal in the State. These were basic but very important decisions which your brother predecessor had played politics with for more than one year. Hapless Nigerians died in prison custody because the Courts were not sitting. Lawyers became cab drivers. Many could not pay their rents or children’s school fees while the emperor continued to use the resources of the State to chase his ambition in Abuja. (As an aside, some people have said that the lawyers deserved what they got because they were complicit in the infamy that rocked the judiciary). But what about the poor judges, the litigants, the accused persons in prison custody, the judiciary staff? For all of these persons you wiped away their tears in your first day in office.

 

And now, enough of the praising job. Your Excellency has over the last 12 months created the impression that governance is equal to building roads. The impression you have created is that once you have constructed new roads or repaired broken roads or fixed potholes (aka zero potholes), you have governed and you deserve a handshake for a job well done as Governor of a State. Chief Zebrudaya of the Masquerade fame would say, fa fa fa, faul! My beloved Governor, even if you build roads all over the State and pave them with gold, you have only touched a minuscule aspect of governance. There is more to this thing you got yourself into by standing up to the man most Rivers people detested. Take a look at the roads you have constructed. As soon as the contractors’ machinery and equipment are removed from site, they are converted to either full time markets or mortuaries for dead cars and trucks. The real reason for road construction, namely, to ease traffic is effectively defeated and we are back to square one. That has been the trend since you assumed office and I must add, long before that.

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Your Excellency has not shown that he can dream dreams or vision for what he calls his NEW Rivers vision. The Governor has assembled a few good and even fewer great minds around him. But he has ensured that they are of no value to him and to our dear State. He has intimidated all to the point that they cannot bring up issues before the Governor. Like your brother before you, you also have continued to exhibit imperial tendencies. You have said openly that you are a haughty character who likes to shout down subordinates with contrary views. In fact you have openly confessed that you derive some joy from shouting. According to your appointees, your Excellency knows it all and so their job is to await your directive and to carry it out. I can bet that Mr Robust Debate is never part of your cabinet meetings which you call at your whim.

 

But, my dear Governor, you are no Albert Einstein. You may know the names of all your strong men in all the 23 LGAs of the State by heart. Indeed you may never forget a face once you have seen it. You have also shown that you are politically astute and sagacious and can do your permutations to get the best possible results to get you into power and to keep you there. But as the recent Chairmanship of your party and your support for Ali Modu Sheriff has shown you, you are not God and you remain, like all of us mortals, not infallible. Like the rest of us, your knowledge is highly limited. It is only when a Governor builds a team and accords it the respect that it deserves that he can get the best out of his team. Just now, that is not happening in our State. This is actually incongruous considering that His Excellency has repeatedly said he owes God and the good people of the State and not his own prowess his survival in the hands of his determined detractors.

 

Your Excellency has woefully failed the State in several areas of our lives. The issue of security of lives and property easily comes to mind. You must admit that going into the elections in 2015, guns were put in the hands of bad boys with sympathy for the two major political parties-APC and PDP. Whether we call them cultists or touts or any other names we can contrive, the fact that young men were armed to prosecute the last general election is indisputable. You and your predecessor may claim not to have put these guns out there and we cannot contest your innocence. But what neither of you can deny is that you are not aware of the existence of these dangerous weapons in the hands of bad boys all over the State following that election. After your swearing in, many in the State had thought that your Excellency would consider a credible disarmament programme as the first step towards stabilizing the State for governance to commence. But no, your Excellency was more concerned with the politics of the guns. One may say that you had a legitimate concern. If all the guns in wrong hands in the State evaporated overnight, you would have left yourself open to the use of even bigger guns in the ‘right’ hands of the Military and Security personnel now under the control of your arch enemy and ex friend. What happened during the re run elections some months back clearly supports your wariness in this regard.

 

But my beloved Governor, you could still have done more. On a weekly if not daily basis, Rivers people are killed and in ISIS-style, beheaded. I am yet to hear my Governor stoutly condemn this callous trend in a State broadcast. Each time an American or European citizen is gruesomely murdered the leader of the nation takes out time to openly and frontally condemn the act and to express sorrow to the affected family on behalf of the State. It usually ends with a promise to go after the evil perpetrators and to bring them to justice or as Bush Junior would add, bring justice to them. It shows that human live is valued. In our State under your watch, human life does not seem to count for much. You do not seem to have the time to mourn with the bereaved families. That thankless job seems to be beneath your Mighty Excellency. Pity!

 

Your performance in several other aspects of the lives of Rivers people has also been woeful. Port Harcourt is still very dirty, having moved from Garden to Garbage City. The State capital is not better than Ariaria market in Aba. Every small open space is a market. The entire State is a Motor Park. Thus your beautiful new roads are forever clogged. Every idiot who can muster a pick-up van and one or two Mopol still blares his siren and drives against the traffic all over the State. Like the rest of Nigeria, power supply is still epileptic. Every small rainfall still results in flooding in Port Harcourt and Obio Akpor LGAs. This we all know is as a result of the poor designs and bad drainage jobs you and your ex-Governor friend carried out in the last 8 years. In other circumstances, your Excellency has also behaved like your predecessor by spending State funds with reckless abandon even when you cry of paucity of funds. You are said to be carrying out the construction of a new multi-billion Naira Federal High Court building. You are also funding the Law Centre for the Nigerian Bar Association along Moscow road. If one may ask, what is the business of Rivers State with these profligate projects? Should the State be building Courts for the Federal Government or structures for lawyers who hardly pay taxes to the State?

 

Till today, your administration has yet to communicate to us, the people, your concrete policies on Agriculture, Education, Industrial Development, Manufacturing, Tourism, Employment Generation, State Security, etc. Like all State Governors in Nigeria, you complain of the heavy burden of paying salaries and allowances of civil servants. Like every other subject, politics trumps every action or inaction of yours. Truth be told: at the very least, 60-70 percent of the people on the payroll of the State have no business being there. They contribute nothing to the State and are surplus to requirement. But your Excellency with an eye on 2019 cannot even broach this topic talk less of confronting the monster of a bloated civil service. If it is bad at the State level, it is incredibly worse at the LGA level. But our beloved Governor refuses to show leadership and address this issue head-on.

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Even to give constructive criticism of the witless and lousy Buhari Federal Government, you, our dear Governor has failed to do. Indeed, all of you Governors in PDP have surrendered the duty of an opposition party to the coarse Mr Fayose of Ekiti State. Mr Governor, what are you afraid of? You still have three, perhaps even seven years of unadulterated immunity. Come to the table on crucial National issues. But what we have consistently got from you is playing the silly game that ruined Odili and Amaechi. Every day we see you champion moronic wars in PDP at the National level. To think that you actually fought to have Modu Sheriff, the ineffectual and lacklustre former Governor of Bornu State as the substantive Chairman of your opposition party was shocking. My Dear Governor, please spare Rivers State of National political prominence. Engage our limited resources in enthroning peace, development and good governance in our tiny space.

 

Another major plank where your Excellency has shown grave leadership deficit is in the audit and recovery of funds looted by your brother predecessor and his cohorts. First you set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry which from inception was perceived to be politically motivated and biased. As should have been known by a lawyer of your standing, not much could have come from that panel and not much did come. Its findings were hardly actionable. Till today, your Excellency has done nothing to the knowledge of the common man in Rivers State to recover funds looted by the last administration in the State which we all know to run into hundreds of billions of Naira. Even when every PDP man is hunted by EFCC for monies spent on the 2015 election, your Excellency has remained dumb and has refused to expose the Buhari administration as to how billions of Rivers State money plus our aircraft facilitated his election. Many APC chieftains including Malam El Rufai have openly said that your predecessor funded the APC/Buhari election to the tune of at least 60%. The real figures must be humungous. And the fellow is not Dangote and certainly did not have one million Naira in his account in 1999 when he entered public office. Your Excellency certainly owes us a duty to expose, prosecute and recover the stolen funds unless some Ikwerre Kparakpo is going on here.

 

All the above are the basic bread and butter stuff we expect to see an average leader address. In an uncommon leader, (not the Akpabio variety, mind you), we expect serious positions on true federalism, resource control, control and composition of the Police Force, energy conservation and even the place of Rivers State in the ever-changing 21st century world. A cerebral Governor should be setting targets for Rivers State to compare itself with other world-class cities and States in Africa and other continents of the world. But to touch these lofty issues will be expecting too much from the young man from Umueprikom.

 

My fellow Rivers people, what have we gotten ourselves into? Where and when did Rivers State fall off the track? “Who do us this kain thing?” How do we get back on track? To answer these few questions will require some doctoral thesis. Whilst we must admit that Rivers State was not an Eldorado before 29th May, 1999, we shall for the purpose of this write-up limit ourselves to that date. The handsome, urbane, sweet, nice gentleman medical doctor, Peter Odili takes the cake for the misfortune that has befallen Rivers State in the last 17 years. Like most leaders in Nigeria, Dr Odili went out of his way to recruit his inferiors to fill all support positions in Government. Once he surrounded himself with yes men (mostly boys) who had no value for life and were totally beholden to him, we were in on the rollercoaster ride of a vicious circle that has produced and will continue to produce very unrefined young men to whom power meant everything. From Dr Odili’s first day in office his sight was fixed on Abuja. Thus he promised and purported to have delivered 100 roads in his first 100 days in office. It was not long before his boys whom he had positioned in offices beyond their levels of competence dubbed him the Golden Governor.

 

As everyone knows, it is so easy to destroy and a lot harder to build. In 1999 we made the honest mistake of voting an amiable and well-spoken man into office on face value. Our State has been on a downward trend ever after. The last Governor was a perfect product of that train wreck. The current Governor also was manufactured from that disastrous process. But people can overcome themselves. There is a Saul to Paul moment even in today’s world. Our dear Governor has the inner capacity to turn himself around from the first day of his second year in office. First he has to admit that he is the product of a very raw and flawed political process that is self-destructive in nature. He has to appreciate that he has been promoted beyond his level of incompetence. Once he realizes these facts, he will be open to seeking and treasuring and using knowledge and wisdom in others. He will become humble and allow his subordinates space to add value to his administration. He must know that at the end of the day, he, the Governor will still take the credit for every success that will be recorded under his watch.

 

As for Rivers people, nothing will change and our train of leadership will continue to wobble off the track unless and until we stand up and assert ourselves. Yes, we know that as in most of Nigeria, Government is King. None of us are independent enough to say a disagreeable word about the government for fear of being blacklisted. The State has liquidated the Ken Saro Wiwas, the Obi Walis, the Marshall Harrys and their like. What is left of our State are hapless dogs that are totally beholden to any government in power. Our easiest response is to resort to prayers. But this won’t get us very far. Of course I believe in miracles. But I also know that our Father in Heaven has invested us with ability and responsibility to act in the face of adversity to change our circumstance. So henceforth, we must start talking. We must start demanding better results. We must start seeking and insisting on order from those who govern us. We must begin to insist on accountability. Anything short must not satisfy us. Finally, we must insist on the same standards that apply to people in authority in the first world to apply to our leaders here. Anything short will continue to drag us down this limitless abyss.

God bless Rivers State and Your Excellency as you change your ways for the good of our beloved State.

 

Ipalibo Douglas,

 

Port Harcourt.

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