Recently, I bashed the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike over his vacation abroad in company of his Abia State counterpart, Okezie Ikpeazu. The Abia governor is always seen flexing overseas with Wike, meanwhile, Abia State is neither here nor there, nothing meaningful in terms of infrastructural development or economic policies since 1999. In the same piece, I zeroed in on President Muhammadu Buhari’s endless foreign medical trips when masses battle in dilapidated health centres across the country.
On the other hand, I gave accolades to the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo for his leg surgery in a clinic in Nigeria when he could have flown out and undergone the medical treatment like other politicians both those serving and previously in power often do.
I believe Osinbajo’s reason is that by the concept of governance, leaders and the led should equally utilize amenities on ground except in exceptional cases, perhaps where medically-recommended. Ideally, public officeholders must exhibit stewardship and not to arrogantly impoverish the people the most. Leadership simply means the act of leading a group of people or organisation. So, while Wike junkets overseas while masses face the worst period of their lives is reprehensible as a political leader, the other side of the governor must be credited. From records, Wike has continued to show leadership capacity in his state which must be underlined. The people can factually explain what dividends of democracy connote seeing that the face of the state changes progressively.
In fact, anyone that has not visited Rivers in the past one year must ask questions, else will find it difficult to identify some common areas. This is what the dividends of democracy which politicians every now and then sing as mantra during campaigns connotes, but after their inauguration in offices, they change.
Thus, Wike is a go-getter. Some critics may counter this position on account that Rivers is an oil-rich state. Of course, I concur. However, what happened during the administrations of his predecessors? Rivers State didn’t just become an oil-rich state. From the inception of Wike’s administration, the state has not witnessed any dull moment in terms of infrastructural developments. It has been from one phase of multiple projects to another. If it is not inaugurating new projects, it will be commissioning of the projects as scheduled. In efforts to decongest the severe road traffic in the state, the administration put a target total of 12 flyovers with 10 of them successfully constructed and commissioned, not on paper. The remaining two are already in progress with a visible fortitude.
The NTA Road to Rumuola flyover presently is facing major demolitions for road expansion to accommodate the two remaining flyovers. Apart from flyovers, Wike’s administration has constructed a top notch Judges’ Quarters; a campus of the Nigerian Law School, known as ‘Dr. Nabo Graham-Douglas Campus’; staff-quarters for the Rivers State University in Emohua, which was commissioned recently, as well as many roads and other people-oriented facilities to his credit. Obviously, Wike has turned the state around positively. Uniquely, the governor always brings his fellow public officeholders irrespective of political party to either flag-off or commission the projects when completed.
That is a positive idea for sober reflections. Arguably, Wike may be a ‘careless-talker’ as many people categorise him but then, his visionary, purposeful leadership speaks volumes, and will always defend him. He talks the talk and also walks the walk. The peopleoriented projects to his credit for the public will put his name in the archive.
These are what matters the most and the impacts expected from any responsive and responsible democratic government. Thus, the people of the state have every reason to revel over a purposeful, impactful and resourceful leadership. Obviously, Wike deserves a distinction. Unfortunately, the basic education section may not have benefited greatly. Instructively, any government without robust policies to guarantee ‘quality’ child education cannot be judged a pathfinder or earn more than a pass mark.
The reason is that investing in children is an essential venture for a good future of the society at large. This accounts why the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) fights tooth and nail to instil ‘proper child education’ and others.
One may contend that Rivers State is buoyant but the critics should compare Wike’s visible accomplishments with Lagos, a state overwhelmingly developed long ago with numerous federal-funded facilities that benefitted as a former federal capital of the country alongside huge investments from the private sector following the status which has great economic implications. If all those benefits are accepted from Lagos as well as the huge revenue that accrue from the status, then, there will be a balanced comparison.
It is on account of its status as a former federal capital with massive federal edifices and private sector activities that many people describe Lagos State as a ‘no-man’s land’. Abuja and Lagos State fall into the same category having benefitted immeasurably from the national coffers.
The internal generated revenues from land documentations, tenement rates, others in Ikoyi, Lagos, Victoria Island alongside Eti-Osa areas alone are robust enough for any meaningful administration to stimulate its economy and make Lagos compete with Dubai and other major cities of the world. What the state needs is a prudent, visionary and self-governing administrator with capacity to bring in robust policies who can brazenly block the sundry man-made leakages.
Babatunde Fashola during his tenure as governor of Lagos excellently demonstrated visionary leadership. Fashola perceptively understood it by his slogan, ‘Eko ni baje’ which translates as ‘Lagos will not spoil’ considering that Lagos has already been developed, but needs sustainability thus, he worked resolutely to progressively sustain the development. In account of massive investments from public and private sectors in Lagos, the state is yet to move into its rightful position in the economic circles.
The huge investments worth trillions of naira from the sectors with head offices and major branches leading to abundance of capital and human resources followed on account of its position which is akin to the present federal capital territory. Arguably, as chief port and federal capital from 1914 until 1991, Lagos is yet to meet its expected position leveraging on great opportunities from federal investments and as a hub of the private sector to operate in full capacity. It will therefore be absurd comparing Lagos with other states that are struggling on their own to put in place good facilities on ground. Anyone seeking for credits from its development should look for other neighbouring states to resuscitate.
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst and social advocate