By Bruno Emenike
It was Sophia Amoruso, the founder and owner of Nasty Gal, described as one of “the fastest growing companies” by Inc. Magazine in 2012, that said “Half of getting there is having the confidence to show up and keep showing up.” That describes Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. Over the past one year since he took over the reins of governance in the weather beaten, investment hostile and business stagnated Rivers State, he has demonstrated this saying by his deliberate interventions to get infrastructure working and businesses running by ‘half getting,’ and the uncanny confidence to show up where government’s attention is needed and will not stop showing up as he has promised.
It is no longer a matter for debate that Wike inherited a state in dire economic straits last May. Business owners were listless, investors were hamstrung by dearth of infrastructure and government inertia. Many, today agreed that the governor has injected vitality in all sectors of the state economy, and is on course to transforming the infrastructure landscape. While it is granted that it is not yet Uhuru, but the signs are positive and Rivers state has come alive again.
Speaking of his one-year stewardship recently, Wike explained that his administration in the last twelve months has been able to rescue the state from ‘dysfunctioning.’
At the interactive session to give his scorecard, the governor said to kick start the administration on day one, he directed the reinstatement of one thousand lecturers of state university of science and technology sacked by the previous administration on union activities.
Other highlights he gave include the reopening of the courts which were closed for over one-year by his predecessor. The good news is that the courts are all working, providing unhindered access of justice to the people.
He has been able clear the backlog of salaries and pensions of the state civil servants and pensioners, with over 1, 000 kilometers of roads either completely rehabilitated or constructed afresh.
It is instructive that for businesses to thrive, the purchasing capacity of the people is integral aside the importance of infrastructure and enabling environment. The recall of 1, 000 lecturers simply translates to the fact that about 4, 000 other immediate family members have their livelihoods secured, and with their productive capacity guaranteed, it can only be imagined what this translated to in economic terms. There is little argument to the fact that a state with a high unemployed rate cannot engender economic prosperity as their purchasing power will be next to zero.
It is in this regard that the import of Wike recalling the sacked lecturers as well as clearing the backlog of arrears and pensions of the workforce of Rivers state can be best situated.
Tied to economic growth is the access to justice. There is no denying the fact that in every society and business environment, there are bound to be conflicts of which the courts are the arbiter if society is not to descend into a Hobbesian State. For the people of the Rivers, the state became one large theatre of aberration as people resorted to extra legal means to address their disagreements and conflicts in the absence of clear judicial avenues. Port Harcourt became a city of fear for small, medium and large business concerns as there was no instrument of state to tackle their issues and provide remedy. It was therefore not unexpected that economic activities witnessed serious decline.
Added to this was the erosion of aesthetics and serenity of the famed Garden City. Port Harcourt and adjoining towns became one huge refuse dump. It was the case of Nero fiddling while Rome burnt. This time, the former state governor went on political whoring while the decadence and stagnation became rife. Traffic snarls, pothole ridden roads. In short, Port Harcourt became intolerable and not sustaining. Given the precious man-hours spent in traffic and the suffocating nature of filth at every turn, it was evident that businesses would relocate and they did!
So when Wike came into office, optimism was in short supply, the business community were expectant but not overly confident of what was in stock. However, one year down the lane, Port Harcourt has found its bounce, the traffic snarls have ebbed, access to justice and arbitration is available, while the infrastructural space is broadened.
Speaking on how far his administration has weather the storm, Wike said: “We have stabilised the economy of Rivers State since we took of the reins of leadership in the state. We achieved the stabilisation of the economy by injecting N151 billion as salaries and payment of contractors.”
One can only imagine what N15 billion can do in an economy like that of Rivers State at a time other parts of the country are facing the strain of poor streams of income from the federation account. It cannot be taken away that this feat is as a result of careful planning, priority of the people over self-aggrandisement and survival as was the lot of the immediate past regime.
While it is not enough that these feats have been achieved, it is heart-warming to note that the governor has given the indication of equitable development so as to guarantee economic growth for all areas of the state.
According to him, every local government area in the state will host key projects, making the point that no local government area will be denied the impact of good governance.
With what Wike has achieved, it is no wonder that the state PDP Chairman, Bro. Felix Obuah, is full of commendation and waxing in the enthusiasm of a future assured for Rivers State.
Giving his take on Wike’s one-year in office, he makes the argument that it is as a result rare frugality and prudent management of state resources, despite shortfall in internal revenue accruals due to harsh economic realities of the time and very meagre federal monthly allocations, yet delivering on amazing democratic dividends.
While it is enough to be angry that despite the huge allocations at the disposal of the previous administration, it is a vindication of the allegation in several quarters that Rivers State was milked dry and the collective wealth of Rivers people personalized and wasted on unnecessary goodwill to remain politically relevant.
As the deliberations continue on the first anniversary of the Nyesom Wike administration the messaging is clear that beyond the rhetoric, he has established the principle of accountability, service and promise kept detached from elections.