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Rivers 2015: Between Dakuku Peterside and Nyesom Wike


By Uche Igwe – It is now more than six weeks since political parties in Rivers State chose their gubernatorial candidates. I did not bother to comment because I took it for granted that a majority of Rivers people know the direction to go if they expect more progress in the state. No one who has followed events in the state in the past seven years will think about anything less than what will sustain, consolidate and improve what has been achieved so far. Both those who admire the personality of Governor Rotimi Amaechi and those who do not, agree to the huge improvements recorded under him in many key sectors like education, health, agriculture, infrastructure etc. Even in implementing vital policy reforms in public procurement, revenue generation and public-private partnership.

Let us momentarily focus on phenomenal achievements on roads within the state. Many remember the rapid transformation, from the previous sore state, of the Olu-Obasanjo Road, Old Aba Road, Trans Amadi-Oginiba-Mini-Okoro Road, G.U. Ake (Airforce-Eliozu) Road and Flyover, Amadi-Ama/ Abuloma Road, Peter Odili Road/Slaughter Road, Education/Ikwerre Road, Omagwa/Elele/Owerri Federal Road and the AGIP Junction Flyover, the Rufus Ada George Road/Mgbuoba/Choba Road and Obiri-Ikwerre ultra modern interchange project, the internal roads and infrastructure projects of major residential areas like D/Line, Elekahia Housing estate, AGIP Estate, just to mention but a few. If you drive around the state you cannot but notice all of these excellent transformation. Yet, the State Government has broken tradition with that negativity of all projects coming to a halt about a year or so to any general election, clear evidence of the diversion of resources meant for State development to electoral campaigns. If you drive around the State you would still mistake it for a massive construction site even with the elections barely a month away. The Trans Amadi/Garrison Junction Road, The Rumuloumeni/Iwofe Road, the Trans Kalabari Road, the Trans Amadi Woji Road, just to mention another few are all still actively under construction. Let us talk about the schools and the health centres that have become signature projects of the current administration. Regardless of the speed, energy, resources and enthusiasm that the Ubima born politician has deployed in trying to complete his many projects, there are few things that may still remain undone. The natural thing for anyone who loves Rivers state to think is for a leader who will consolidate the gains of the Amaechi administration and improve on it. With the prospect of electing such a candidate, one can only begin to imagine what Rivers State will look like in the next eight years.

When one looks at the array of candidates for the forthcoming gubernatorial elections, it is clear who fits into that description. A majority will settle for Dr. Dakuku Peterside, the flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Apart from being Governor Amaechi’s preferred candidate and someone who passed through his tutelage, Dr. Peterside’s quiet and calculated mien suggests that he is someone who is rigorously prepared for public service. If you try to engage him on any issue concerning the state, you will be blown away. The job of a governor in a state as diverse as Rivers state requires someone who is broadminded with a record of performance. It is not for rascals. Since Dr. Peterside started his state-wide campaign, he has concentrated on the issues that will make life better for everyone who lives in Rivers State and resisted being dragged to provocative utterances unlike his pugnacious opponent in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who has been hauling abuses and insults at anyone in sight.

Although it is clear that Dakuku is the frontline candidate who is miles away from all his opponents including Nyesom Wike, I do not envy the Opobo born politician. He has a lot of work ahead of him. The shoes that will be left behind for him will be quite big and I am sure he knows it. That may be why he has prepared a comprehensive manifesto titled Our Roadmap to Prosperity. I was handed a copy at the Port Harcourt International Airport and I was pleased by the comprehensive nature of document. Everyone who reads the 126 page document will have no doubt that Dr. Peterside is prepared for the business of governance. The four pillars of the roadmap which include rapid improvement in infrastructure, peace and security, sustained investment and economic growth and human capital and social development reflect the realities and diversity of the state.

His emphasis on stable policies like job creation, inclusiveness, efficiency, public accountability and institutional reforms indicates that his administration will be innovative and people oriented. The most creative aspect of the manifesto is the promise to expand the economy of the state despite oil through public-private partnerships that will boost revenue earnings without necessarily increasing taxes. Dakuku’s pledge to lean on private sector efficiency in procurement methods and better service delivery, even if borne out of the necessity of the current economic realities of our time, must be commended as it portrays him as a pragmatic leader with a connect to reality and the people.

On the side of Wike, till date he is yet to tell Rivers people what he plans to do as governor. He has allegedly been threatening non-indigenes in the state which signposts that he is going to make the state environment hostile to them, and inevitably to private sector and foreign investors. Residents and businesses in the State are already bracing themselves for an era reminiscent of Wike’s years as Chairman of Obio-Akpor Local Government Area, during which the Obio-Akpor revenue thugs reigned as supreme extortionists of the people under the guise of revenue collection. This was the era of multiple revenue stickers and taxation in the State which the current government has managed to reduce and the Dakuku Government has pledged to permanently eradicate with consolidation of the tax harmonisation process. His relationship with notorious ex-militants also shows that if he is ever elected, he will unleash terror at his opponents at the slightest provocation. This adds a frightening dimension to the entire revenue collection scenario as it is believed that, as pay back, these ex-militants will be procured as revenue agents for a Wike-led government following the same federal model under which Tompolo’s service was procured by the Jonathan-led government to extort revenue from the NLNG. And as if in reinforcement of this perception, a few days ago, Chief Nyesom Wike led a squad of thugs to forcefully break into the just concluded Adokiye Amiesemaka stadium built after the state government declined to release it for President Jonathan’s political rally. Such level of lawlessness and impunity have been widely condemned by observers who insist that such behaviour akin to political terrorism is unbecoming of someone who is seeking the exalted seat of a governor. Furthermore, while I will not pre-empt the investigation report of violent events like the targeted killing of APC members in Omoku, the bombing of their rallies and properties in Okrika and other parts of the State, one could decipher possible directions from where the attacks might have been unleashed.

As the elections approach, it is clear that they are faced with a choice between a man who has an articulate road map for the prosperity of the people and another who has a history of accumulating state resources for himself and his cronies; Between a man who is law abiding and another man who takes laws into his hands; Between a man who wants to institute policies that will allow small businesses to grow and another one who is preparing to impose illegal taxes on strangers and harass young entrepreneurs with militant revenue collectors; Between someone committed to policy consolidation and another one spoiling to show vendetta through indiscriminate policy reversal; And, finally, between a man who is humble and disposed to inclusiveness and another man who has venom in his tongues and who simply wants power for the sake of having power! Surely, this should not be a choice too difficult to make for the people and residents of the State.



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