Rivers Governor Nyesom Wike showed Pulse around a few of his projects recently. The oil rich state is one huge construction site
It was a scenario we got used to as Rivers Governor Nyesom Wike led select journalists to the projects he was undertaking across the landscape.
Pulse was among the party.
On one occasion, a wiry middle aged man offered the Governor fresh palm wine in a small jar. It was a gesture the politician readily appreciated, accepting the gift with the widest of grins.
On yet another occasion, a band of young men sang their admiration for the Governor as he strode through their street--where construction trucks now occupy a pride of place.
“Our Governor, our Governor”, they sang in discordant tones every stretch of that road brimming with soot and dust from road surface materials.
One gentleman drenched in sweat belted his love for Wike from a creaky commodity truck, stepping on the brakes to blare his horn in a lovely rhythm.
Wike was loving every moment of this. Like he should.
He would wave and call back with a smile, trudging and pacing adroitly as security personnel played catch up.
Let’s just say he’s earned himself some praise singing.
On the project inspection tour, the press pack saw the pleasure park located by Airforce base.
Upon completion, the park will receive some two million visitors annually, according to Cyril Dum Wite who is the Special Adviser on Special Projects to the Governor.
Governor Wike explained that the park will boast a climbing tower, artificial lake, a 50-bedroom hotel, a mini golf course and a mini football pitch sprawled across some 15 hectares of land.
“We are looking at a place where residents of Rivers can relax and have fun during holidays. We want to diversify our sources of revenue. Imagine the bright lights at night when this place is completed. Imagine the number of visitors and fun seekers to this park once we are done", the Governor said with a flourish.
The media also saw the new federal high court with six courtrooms and six changing rooms which is nearing completion, the Rumukwuta Girls Secondary School, the Rumuokparali Road, the Tam-David West Boulevard by Rumuoekili Road, the Igbo-Etche Road, the Alakwo-Wiyi Road, the Sapkenwa-Bori-Kowo-Ogoni Road and several more road projects.
“We have completed over 200 road projects and reconstructed 13 General Hospitals spread across the three senatorial districts”, Wike announced.
The Governor’s dream is to open up rural Rivers to urban Rivers, connect the farms to markets through access roads and create a nexus for riverine communities and surrounding villages through the provision of jetties.
“Since we came on board 18 months ago, we’ve spent nothing less than N100B in constructing roads and other projects. That’s a rough estimate”, Wike said.
“By the grace of God, those from Opobo and Andoni will in the next couple of months be able to drive home again. We didn’t have the time to go to those areas today. In Rivers West, we are virtually reconstructing all the rural roads. We’ve awarded parts of the roads in Ahoada.
“By the grace of God in March, you’ll be shocked if you visit Abonnema because we are working on several internal roads there. There are several others like that. Our projects cut across the three senatorial districts”.
But he wouldn’t touch Rotimi Amaechi’s abandoned monorail project, Wike said, citing paucity of funds. Underneath, you could feel the animosity between the Governor and his predecessor who is now the Minister of Transportation.
On the tour, Wike appeared very hands-on.
He led the tour all through, barking at contractors who aren’t following the terms of the contract or who haven’t used the materials agreed upon.
“Wike doesn’t store your number on his cellphone”, said Special Projects Adviser Wite, “but when he needs you to render progress report concerning a project assigned to you, he’ll dial your number even at midnight. How he does it, no one knows. And he’ll ask for specifics. You’ll be in trouble if you can’t explain the level a project has attained.”
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On the tour, journalists saw a bit of Wike’s pragmatic disposition.
Two vans ferried the travelling press corps across Rivers, sandwiched in other utility cars--in a convoy.
The Governor occupied one van with another group of journalists.
Just maybe the driver of the other van wanted to skim some money off his daily petrol allowance, so he didn’t fill up his tank.
As we drove from Ogoni, the driver of Van 2 which didn’t have the Governor, turned off the Air conditioner (AC) to conserve petrol. He gleefully announced his decision to journalists.
The windshields of the van couldn’t be wound up, so the van became too hot and stuffy for the press guys.
A reporter from Punch put a phone call across to his friends in Van 1 in an attempt to save the day and prevent a looming suffocation.
The news quickly reached Governor Wike in Van 1.
Wike brought the convoy to a halt.
He alighted in a jiffy and asked all journalists in Van 2 to ride in his Van 1.
He also asked a few journalists to ride in his personal car on the convoy and left the driver of the AC-less Van 1 to sort himself out—all by himself.
“Ahn Ahn!”, Governor Wike exclaimed to this writer incredulously once everyone was seated in Van 1. “I am so sorry for the embarrassment…all these civil servants enh…”
For the rest of the ride, the Governor delved into wisecracks to douse the tension, telling one rib-cracking joke after another.
And then we discussed politics and governance, violence across Rivers during elections and why he loves Real Madrid so much.
Once, the Governor mocked Arsenal FC as a “football academy” and told his guests that Lionel Messi can’t hold a candle to his beloved Cristiano Ronaldo.
"Who is Messi?", he queried, between mouthfuls.
On another occasion, Wike jumped off his chair to go grab chairs for some journalists who weren’t seated ahead of the press briefing.
Until his Commissioner stopped him dead in his tracks.
The infrastructure projects across Rivers have been going on apace at a frenetic rate, much like the man himself. Will he complete them in record time?
“We believe by our faith, that God is leading us in whatever progress we are making. Yes, the economy is bad, but that won’t affect the projects we’ve set out to implement”, Wike said as dusk descended on Government House in Port Harcourt--the state capital.
He may not be everyone's favourite politician outside of Rivers and in South West Nigeria, but around Andoni/Opobo/Nkoro, Obio/Akpor, Oyigbo/Tai/Eleme, Port Harcourt II, Etche/Omuma, Asari-Toru/Akuku-Toru, Okrika/Ogu–Bolo, Khana/Gokana and elsewhere in this oil rich State, Wike is toast of many—the “sweet Governor”.