I was privileged to read Dele Momodu’s column, the Pendulum, of Saturday, 19 June 2021, to which he gave the title, “My close encounters with Governor Wike”. Over the years, I have painstakingly followed this incisive column, but this is one occasion when I beg to differ with his assertions for reasons you will see in this article.
This right of reply would not have been necessary except that the author, Dele Momodu, better known as Bob Dee, has a solid social profile, has earned credibility among discerning Nigerians, and his column commands considerable followership. The import is that whatever he puts out is assumed to have passed through the rigour of proper verification and analysis and therefore to a reasonable degree has the seal of truth. But this is one occasion Mr Dele Momodu may have been misled to unwittingly market half-truth, cover-ups, outright lies and distorted facts.
Therefore, it is only fair that as a significant stakeholder in the development and politics of Rivers State, I put the records straight. But, unfortunately, in our highly politicised environment, the falsehood ignored is reframed as a Public Relations stunt, and facts become debatable.
For those who may be new to the politics of Rivers State, it suffices to provide background and context to situate any of the information provided in Bob Dee’s article under consideration and the critical analyses provided in this article to establish the truth and distinguish them from half-truth and outright falsehood. The following verifiable facts paint a realistic picture of the socio-economic situation of the state: the state in 2020 has 41.59% of its workforce as unemployed and ranked 8th in unemployment by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS); the state is number one in poverty index among South-South states; the US travel advisory has consistently put the state among the most security challenged states in the southern part of Nigeria from 2017 to 2020; Nigeria Police record ranked Rivers state as the top crime infected state in the South-South geopolitical region from 2017 to 2020; both by Central Bank of Nigeria and NBS admission Rivers state recorded no foreign direct investment from 2017 to 2020; Rivers state is among top 3 indebted states by 2020 despite an average internally generated revenue of N10-13bn monthly and average of N15-18billion monthly FAAC allocation plus 13% derivation.
Another important fact that must be put into consideration when measuring any financial expenditures on projects done by the Wike administration is that his administration received two heavy bulk payments of N78bn and N100bn respectively from FGN on account of work done by Rt Hon C R Amaechi administration and Paris club-related refund. These funds add to receiving regular monthly federally allocated revenue and internally generated revenue . The sheer size of these monies is staggering, and when you compare that to the value of the paltry legacy projects done by the Wike’s administration, you will weep for Rivers State.
When you compare the above verifiable facts with the impression created by the column that started on a note of “bringing some good news in this season of anomie”, you will notice a sharp contrast in meaning and significance. Thus, the portrayal by the column that remarkable development indicators are emerging from Rivers State is not only misleading but fantastical. One wonders where the good news or economic management wizardry is emanating.
The other contentious point is Bob Dee’s positing he will do a “critical examination and evaluation of the work Gov Wike was doing in Rivers through his pictorial lenses (rephrased)”. These lenses, granted, may capture beautiful images of projects executed in Rivers State, but what it will not do is to tell the true stories of who initiated, started, and sometimes completed them but have been pushed aside by a well-rehearsed and intentioned attempt to give credit to whom it is not due. It will be significant if My great brother Dele Momodu will critically examine and engage with Wike’s work and position them in the milieu and contest of history of these projects to let people know what part Wike did. For instance, you cannot claim to have built a house when you only painted an existing one. That is simply fraud!
Also, the column claimed Wike has miraculously restored law and order. As I write, the state has had more curfew imposed than any other state in the southern part of Nigeria. The state is currently under the siege of 7pm to 6am curfew in all LGAs. It has the unenviable record of the top 3 states in kidnapping and cult wars in southern Nigeria. SBM Intelligence report puts the state as the number one state in kidnapping and robbery. Are these indicators of a safe state? Residents of Rivers State know they have no business being outside after 9pm any day. This situation sounded absurd given the secure nature of Rivers State just a decade ago. Gov Wike has not put any security architecture in place to fight crime. Instead, he has been consistently fingered as patronising criminals on account of his politics.
Mr Dele Momodu was told that after 41 years, Wike had begun implementing the multiple campuses envisaged for Rivers State University. However, Wike did not tell his guest that he has converted the world-class model secondary schools and the Sports College of Excellence at Afara, Etche built by Gov Amaechi into University campuses . There is nothing wrong with this save that he should put in context. For example, on Andoni- Opobo-Nkoro Unity Road leading to my home LGA. The column claimed that Wike is constructing a road to Opobo. This claim is a dangerous fabricated story. The fact of the matter is that Gov Peter Odili conceptualised and awarded a 37.71km road, with ten bridges crisscrossing 3 LGAs in the year 2005. Before his tenure wound up in May 2007, he has accomplished 26% of the scope of work with two major bridges completed stopping at Iwoama-Ashrama.
Governor Amaechi’s administration took it from there, altered the scope, added a spur to Nkoro, Kalaibiama to Opobo Town. The road redesign increased the length from 37.7km to 44.1km and bridges from 10 to 11, expanding the bridges and retaining walls. By the time he left office in May 2015, the administration had completed 80% of the work. The administration of C R Amaechi completed 9 of the 11 bridges on the road, with considerable work done on the remaining two bridges. I can say with boldness that as a Governorship candidate in 2015, I drove by road to campaign in Kalaibiama-Opobo and most parts of Andoni.
From May 2015 till June 2021, a period of 6 years, Wike led administration is yet to complete less than 20% of the work left on both the Ikuru and Opobo axis of the Unity Road. These are incontrovertible facts. For Wike to attempt to claim credit for this road is self-deceit and personal aggrandisement, and he deserves nothing but pity.
The column further claimed that Wike constructed the Abonema ring road. This claim is laughable and metaphorically calls “a butterfly a bird” to dress her on a borrowed robe. Wike awarded a less than 4km contract for Abonema bypass and not a ring road without streetlight for a project in the heart of an ancient city. I will not bother my audience with the fact that Wike has completely abandoned the rural areas in every facet of development .
The only attempt for Wike to create employment and local industries and his signature project in agriculture is the Cassava processing plant in Oyigbo. Unfortunately, Gov Amaechi initiated multiple agro-industries projects, including the Rivers Songhai farms, Fish farms, agro-industrial villages, rice farms, amongst others for which this is one. Amaechi’s administration, in partnership with DADTCO (a Dutch firm) and Shell (SPDC), set up the cassava processing plant with a definite blueprint. The administration brought in all needed equipment and installed them. The only part of the project left was to connect it to a source of power. Perhaps connecting an already completed project by his predecessor to a power source is the “real signature” agricultural project of the Wike administration in six years.
On Sports, Wike’s predecessor initiated a sports academy in Afara, Etche to compliment the new 38,000 capacity multi-facility stadium the administration built. That project had reached 40% completion, but Gov Wike, as a Real Madrid fan, abandoned the ongoing project and started a new Sports Academy within the precincts of Yakubu Gowon Stadium in PH. Unfortunately, Wike has not done anything novel in sports to harvest the multiple talents that abound in the state. It is six years of wasted opportunity.
If there is one area Gov Wike neglected utterly, it is in education. Bob Dee’s only credit to Gov Wike is the renovation of 6 schools in six years. When you juxtapose this with the fact that the government before his constructed 400 new primary schools, 21 model secondary schools at different stages of completion and initiated a new campus for Rivers State university, it becomes a case of light versus darkness. Unfortunately, Mr Dele Momodu’s tour guide, who traded on half-truths, was very uncharitable to the people of Rivers State.
I am aware that Gov Wike’s main signature project is the replica of the Government house he has built in his village for himself, the poverty visited on the people, hundreds of Rivers sons and daughters who were on scholarship withdrawn from universities overseas, destruction of primary health care and basic education system. If in the 21st century, the hallmark of progress for a resource-rich state is the beautification of two roads in Port Harcourt with multiple flyovers, then our future and that of our children is bleak.
Let me acknowledge one thing my Governor is doing great in this administration – pernicious propaganda that has turned underdevelopment to development and “man to woman”. Development and economic growth anywhere can be seen, felt, and appreciated. The people of Rivers State know that they have been impoverished terribly in the past six years. No amount of propaganda, not even leveraging on the reputation of Bob Dee, can garnish a lousy case or “a soured soup”.
DELE MOMODU’s comments:
I thank my dear Brother Dakuku for the response to my column of last week on Governor Nyesom Wike. I am always open to a critique of everything I write, and indeed, I am one of my own greatest critics, even if I say so myself. This is why I am often not fazed by abuse unless they are uncouth or scurrilous. I am quick to accept superior argument and facts when they are presented, but my emphasis is on those facts and arguments being accurate and superior. That is why my first reaction to this Right of Reply was one of pleasure and appreciation. However, I wish to emphasize the following points where I disagree with the riposte from Mr Dakuku Peterside in which he suggested I was misled by Governor Wike.
One. I must instantly correct the impression that Governor Wike was aware of my column on him before its publication, and that he somehow teleguided me with respect to it. Nothing could be far from the truth. I was given access to the projects of the Government and as I stated in my Column the views I expressed on what I saw were mine only. Other than the invitation to inspect the projects, nobody had any input into my column apart from me.
Two. I made no links, connections or comparisons between previous administrations and Wike’s, so Mr Peterside should have, at the very least, tolerated my observations. I was not concerned with the past, only with the present. If Governor Wike has earnestly completed work initiated by his predecessors, as Mr Peterside claims, then it is another feather to his cap, in a clime where the tendency is to rubbish the original and creative work of one’s predecessors. Everything I wrote is solidly backed by original pictures and videos.
Three. It is uncharitable and unfair to say Wike has done nothing in Rivers State or even to try and detract from his achievements. I know Mr Peterside to be a scholar and the hallmark of scholarship is acknowledgement of the good of others just as much as backing up negative assertions with proper and accurate facts which are borne out of research and empirical data. If you continue to insist on this jaundiced perception of events in your home State, I can only think and conclude that you’re no longer familiar or conversant with occurrences at home after spending six years between Lagos and Abuja.
Four. Mr Peterside said Wike merely completed what the Rotimi Amaechi government conceptualised or started. That’s how good and responsible leaders should behave. But it is not true that Wike has not initiated and executed his own projects. We made enquiries on this issue and got favourable responses from independent bystanders. I challenge anyone with similar or more projects in Nigeria today, or in the immediate past to send in pictures and videos of such projects. I will publish and broadcast massively because they contribute to the enhancement of the development of our polity!
Five. It is noteworthy that unlike Mr Peterside, many distinguished members of his party APC have been special guests of Governor Wike; they have inspected and sometimes commissioned his projects, and they have all attested to the stupendous work he is doing across the State. The spate and variety of Wike’s work is audacious and stunning! He has touched every facet of human endeavor.
Six. I disagree with Mr Peterside’s bland statistics on the financial status of Rivers. I expect him to publish the figures of the debt exposure of Rivers State and demonstrate how, if he is accurate, the development does not justify the debt. Please note, that debt itself is not the problem, it is the lack of tangible evidence to what the money borrowed has been put that is anathema to all people of conscience. No country or government worth its salt beats its chest by proclaiming its debt free status. It immediately stands to reason that such a country or government has stunted growth. In fact the popular question in town is “where’s Wike getting money to execute his marathon projects?”
Seven. I don’t know how often Mr Peterside goes to Rivers State. He should endeavor to do so again soon. He is unlikely to recognise some of those roads he mentioned or indeed most parts of the State. Governor Wike deserves support and encouragement, despite political differences, for the progress of the State.
The simple truth is that Wike is indeed a phenomenon, and no tirade or diatribe can belie or belittle this fact…
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