Our attention has been drawn to the verbal furore generated in some quarters by Governor Nyesom Wike’s recent comment that the Rivers State Government would donate N500 million to the Sokoto State Government to help rebuild the Sokoto Central Market that was gutted by fire and also support victims of the devastating fire that destroyed goods worth billions of Naira.
These unfortunate outbursts have largely been uncharitable, ill-mannered and indeed a very poor and sad reflection of who we are as Rivers people and our proud national image and recognition as ‘our brother’s keeper’.
As Rivers People, we have our challenges but that doesn’t mean we have lost our sense of humanity and this is what Governor Wike epitomises with great equanimity and humility.
It is therefore with an even greater sense of deep sadness and disappointment that we read how some people described the gesture as evidence of financial recklessness.
Indeed, we have noticed in recent times, the vehemence with which All Progressives Congress (APC) apologists have expressed their bitterness and selfishness every time the Wike administration extends a hand of friendship and support to a sister State.
This is not who we are as Rivers people. The Rivers man is kind, benevolent, cosmopolitan, generous and accommodating.
One would have expected some of these critics who had served in Government before, to be at the forefront of preaching and promoting national brotherhood and unity.
They ought to know better about how Government operates, instead of this unfortunate display of petulance, deliberate ignorance, hate mongering and a kindergarten attempt to align with misguided public opinion borne out of spontaneous envy and uncharacteristic resentfulness. This is a sad and imported mindset and not the Rivers spirit at all.
For the records, Governor Wike having been conducted round the destroyed market by Governor Tambuwal and noted the massive devastation that razed down over 60 percent of the 16,000 shops, with the loss of traders goods worth billions of Naira, thanked God that no life was lost in the disastrous inferno.
After seeing the level of destruction, he was moved with compassion to announce the misconstrued donation.
It is indeed sickening that against the backdrop of such massive devastation, which must have definitely affected Nigerians from every tribe, including Rivers indigenes who are earning a living in Sokoto State, but which fortunately did not cost any life, people will proceed to ask a silly question like: “Governor Nyesom Wike should please tell the Rivers people shocked by his impulsive gesture under what subhead of the budget for 2021 he got the N500 million that he has doled out to the Sokoto State Government?”
This is the kind of question often heard in heated beer parlour arguments by laymen and not from enlightened minds.
It is even more shameful that as knowledgeable as some of these people are, they would actually fall so low like uneducated, jobless street gossips and allude the kind-hearted spirit which inspired the donation, to a spurious, unfounded and baseless street rumour that “Governor Wike wants to serve as a Vice President under Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State who is being touted as the next Presidential candidate of the PDP.”
Those who were part of the looting of our dear State should be reminded how they mortgaged the fortunes of Rivers State and betrayed Niger Delta people with audacious impunity, for their own selfish political ambition.
Infact, they had almost succeeded in selling out the State if not for the divine intervention of God who used Governor Wike on two critical occasions, to restore the pride of Rivers State and redeem the proud identity and dignity of the Rivers man in Nigeria.
Nigerians have already come to accept Governor Wike as a bold, fearless, brave and courageous leader, who is not afraid to speak his mind on any matter. He is not a ‘cunny man’ like some well-known leaders who would jump from one party to another and instigate confusion, violence and divide and rule amongst their people in order to distract them while they pursue their personal and selfish ambitions.
Governor Wike has sounded it loud and clear that his main preoccupation now is to govern Rivers State, defend her people and give them good governance by delivering the dividends of democracy to every local government area of the state. He still has two more solid years to continue his good works in Rivers State and the recent marathon commissioning of projects which lasted three weeks, spanned across not less than 11 Local Government Areas and caught global attention, speaks volumes for his commitment to affairs of the State, rather than being concerned with national politics.
Governor Wike is constructing durable and amazing legacy projects in Rivers State that are not only connecting the whole of the State, but also improving the welfare and standards of living of the people, yet the APC has the temerity to raise its voice when they should be really ashamed of the deplorable and dilapidated condition they left Rivers in 2015.
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Infact, it has become imperative to shed some light on the issue of pensioners in the State, which they have been shouting about and misleading the general public with gross misinformation.
Rivers people will recall that one of the very first actions of Governor Wike, when he assumed office in 2015, was to clear the four months pension arrears he inherited from the previous administration, before entrenching the regular payment of monthly pensions, which is going on regularly till date.
Ironically, the opposition has continued to deceive Rivers people and members of the public with the impression that all pensioners were being owed by the State Government. But the real truth is that those who are yet to receive their pensions were under the defective Contributory Pension Scheme operated by the immediate past APC administration in the State.
Even the pensioners in their peaceful protest in August 2020, confirmed that Governor Wike was not the cause of their problem, but blamed the immediate past administration of the state for their plight.
“The administration preceding Wike enacted the Contributory Pension Scheme without preparations and plans for smooth take off; this has caused us untold hardship and even deaths,” they said in a press statement read by their spokesperson, Mr. Lucky Ati.
To set the records straight once again, the Wike administration had to follow due process to amend the law and create the platform for payment of those under the Contributory Pension Scheme and this led to the enactment of the Rivers State Pension Reform Law (No 4 of 2019), which has gone a long way to help in resolving the challenges generated by the Contributory Pension Scheme.
As at December last year, thousands of pensioners who had completed their biometric exercise have been enrolled and are receiving their monthly pension regularly.
Governor Wike has constantly emphasised that the state government is committed to ensuring that civil servants and pensioners are catered for, with the challenges they faced completely addressed.
He repeated this pledge in his 2021 budget presentation to the House of Assembly , when he said that: “From inception, this administration has prioritized the payment of salaries and pensions and I wish to assure our workers, including the proposed five thousand new enlistments, that they will receive their salaries as when due in 2021. Ministries, Departments and Agencies are also assured of prompt release of overheads to enable them run effectively and deliver services to the people.”
We do not wish to list some of the intoxicating extravagance and wasteful lavishness which characterized the past administration at a time of burgeoning revenue to the state, but suffice it to say that Governor Wike is a leader who empathizes with his people and continues to give them honest, courageous and accommodating leadership.
While he has had to display firm, committed, visionary and pragmatic administrative acumen and adaptability, especially given the unexpected outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic and the stringent protocols which had to be enforced to save Rivers lives, he has also exhibited great statesmanship, understanding, generosity and benevolence.
For example in January 2018, Gov. Wike donated N50 million for the education and up keep of a one-year girl, Purity Anthony whose father and mother were killed in the attack by late Don Waney in Omoku in the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of the State.
In March 2019, he donated N200million to the family of the Late Dr. Ferry Gberegbe, who was killed during the 2019 Gubernatorial Election and on Thursday, May 25, 2020, Governor Wike redeemed his pledge by releasing N450 million (Four hundred and fifty million naira) to the victims of the 2019 Presidential election violence in Abonnema.
On 3rd November,2020, Governor Wike donated N200m to the wives of six Soldiers and four Police Officers who were allegedly killed by members of proscribed IPOB, in Oyigbo Local Government Area.
These donations were made within Rivers State for which nobody asked under which budgetary heading in the budget he had acted with. It simply consolidates the hypocritical nature of APC as a party and its penchant to speak from both sides of the mouth.
In fact Governor Wike’s largeness of heart and humanity did not start today as there are uncountable instances which have been recorded in other write-ups of his charity, philanthropy and benevolence, which dates back from his time as Chairman of Obio Akpor LGA, Chief of Staff to the Governor and then Minister. But he is not the type of leader, who goes about announcing to every gathering, the number of people he has empowered, given appointments or those whose lives he has touched positively, like some leaders do.
As for all the other wishful thinking and allegations that are in the public domain, we need not remind the purveyors of the saying that a good product sells itself and by virtue of his unparalleled achievements for which he was named “Mr. Projects” by the Vice President of Nigeria way back in 2017, Governor Wike has become the toast of many governors and political leaders in the country today and does not need to woo high profile persons in the country to his side as friends.
Everybody wants to identify with success and good things and even those in the opposition will admit that they have been shocked into stupefied silence not only by the marvelous legacy Projects inaugurated recently, but also by the calibre and willingness of the Governors and political leaders who agreed to come to Rivers State to inaugurate these projects. Their comments alone have already confirmed and endorsed Governor Wike as a leader who everyone wants to associate with.
The avalanche of awards that he has continued to receive from reputable establishments is enough testimony to confirm his excellent pedigree in the comity of Nigerian leaders.
On a final note, we must remind the wailers, especially those in APC, that Governor Wike still has two years of his administration to go and there is no doubt whatsoever that while his humane and kind nature will not wane, more remarkable achievements and legacy projects will equally be delivered and accomplished for Rivers people during this period.
They should therefore prepare themselves to wail and cry some more, even as they continue their futile battle to patch and redeem the seemingly irredeemable factions which their fractured party has fragmented into.
–Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State