“IT recently occurred to me that IF Nyesom Wike was good enough to be Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi’s Chief of Staff and then Campaign Director-General, then he is good enough to be Rivers State Governor” – @ToluOgunlesi, 11:10am, 30 APR 2015 (Twitter)
During the build up to the 2015 elections in March and April, few politicians suffered the kind of disparagement and denigration that Nyesom Wike suffered thanks to a well oiled and intensely funded media campaign that was aimed at damaging the reputation of not just Nyesom Wike, then Minister of State for Education but also that of Dame Patience Jonathan and her husband Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, then President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Amaechi media machine, backed by the huge financial resources of Rivers State was able to recruit willing media consultants, many of them Lagos-based, to ensure that Rotimi Amaechi was made to look like the victim and the oppressed in what was said to be a showdown between ‘Abuja’ and Rotimi Amaechi.
The likes of Dele Momodu and a few others were quickly conscripted to fight the media war against Nyesom Wike, President Jonathan and his wife. Articles and paid advertisements began to spring up in several national dailies such as ThisDay, The Nation, The Guardian, The Punch etc. Dele Momodu became a frequent visitor to Port Harcourt. He carried his pro-Amaechi battle to social media centers such as twitter and won many converts for Amaechi.
There were others. The likes of Chude Jideonwo and Adebola Williams, founders of The Future Awards, ‘Enough is Enough’ and the media consultancy outfit RED Media/StateCraft and some others were not left out.
Previously, Governor Amaechi had sponsored and hosted The Future Awards in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
RedMedia and StateCraft, played an effective role within the Buhari Presidential Campaign team.
Not surprising, ‘Enough is Enough – EiE’ was one of the so called election monitoring groups that gave the Rivers April Gubernatorial elections a thumbs down.
Unfortunately at the time, the Wike team could not match the sheer force of the Amaechi media power and so on a daily basis, unknowing Nigerians were deceitfully fed with carefully concocted stories that soothed the imaginations and satiated the palates of many.
From spurious stories about how Jonathan and his wife wanted to kill him, Nigerians were also fed with stories about how an attempted assassination of Senator Magnus Abe. These stories were reeled out unrelentingly on a daily basis. Emergency media practitioners from across the country almost began to call Port Harcourt home. Any media practitioner that could give them a frontpage headliner got a handsome reward. Some media practitioners also ended up as Election monitoring groups! Their job? Give an unfavorable report about the Rivers State Elections.
And so we saw groups like African Center for Leadership Strategies & Development, (which called itself an International Monitoring Group but was headed by a publicly known Rivers State Government house hired media consultant, Humphrey Bakaren.) issuing press releases questioning the April 2015 gubernatorial elections and calling for its outright cancellation.
All that is past now. Rotimi Amaechi is no longer governor of Rivers State. All the overzealous media aides and consultants – expatriates and local have returned to where they were sourced.
AFTER THE STORM
On the 27th of January 2016, in what was considered a landmark rule, the Supreme Court upheld the outcome of the April 11 that brought Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State into power.
The apex court in a unanimous judgment restored the declaration of Wike as the valid winner of the poll by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Not so lucky, however, were the 22 members of the House of Assembly, 12 of the House of Representatives and 3 of the Senate whose cases were upturned at the Appeal Court and could not enjoy the privilege of the Supreme Court as their cases stopped at the Appeal Court. For these ones, INEC has set a March 19 date for re-run elections.
THE CHALLENGE BEFORE NYESOM WIKE: INFRASTRUCTURE AND SECURITY
Two critical challenges lie before Governor Nyesom Wike today. They are that of Security and Infrastructure (especially roads). The state of roads in Port Harcourt that he inherited was indeed appalling and embarrassing especially you consider that for almost two decades now, Rivers State has been a top earner amongst the states in the Nigerian federation.
Potholes and gullies have taken over much of Port Harcourt’s very strategic roads. As a matter of fact, many roads in Port Harcourt metropolis have simply been washed away.
It is in the light of this, that Rivers people welcomed the sense of urgency that Governor Wike brought to the table for immediately he was inaugurated as Governor on May 29th, 2015, he proceeded to kick off ‘Operation Zero Pothole Programme in partnership with Julius Berger Construction Company.
For the past eight (8) months, this programme has continued uninterrupted and with consistent, timely and regular supervision by the Governor himself.
Adjudged to be the best and most efficient road rehabilitation programme ever carried out in Rivers State for more than 30 years, it has seen the rehabilitation and reconstruction of some of the most strategic roads in Port Harcourt and environs. Some of the roads currently being constructed, reconstructed and rehabilitated, many of which are already at various levels of completion include: New Road, Borokiri, Nkpogu Bridge, Chioma Avenue by Woji, Eneka Road, Ahoada Road, Forces Avenue, Churchill Avenue and Creek Road, Evo and Woji Road, Tombia Extension, Obi Wali Street, Ohiamini Road, Ogbunabali Road, Sokoto Road and Peter Odili Road.
Others that have already been completed are: Abonnema – Obonoma link Road & Bridge, Abuloma – Woji Road and Bridge as well as the 3.5km Elioparanwo Road.
In addition, construction work has advanced to appreciable stages on road projects such as the Trans Amadi Road Dualization Project, Oil Mill – Elelenwo – Akpajo Road, Eneka – Igwuruta Road and the Rumunduru – Eliozu Road.
The pace of work is remarkable and according to residents of the areas where construction work is taking place, it indeed feels good to know that they have a feeling of the presence of a working and listening government.
On the matter of security of lives and property in Rivers State, Governor Wike has left no stone unturned in ensuring that Rivers people feel secure in their homeland. Only last month, Governor Wike suspended the chairmen of three (3) local government councils for failing to mobilize stakeholders to a Special Security Townhall meeting that he had convened for the Orashi Region. The town hall meeting had in attendance, Security Commanders and the Commissioner of Police and was aimed at restoring peace to Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, ONELGA, Abua/Odual. Ahoada East and Ahoada West Local Government Areas of the State.
In reading his riot act, Governor Wike declared that security agencies had been mandated to take appropriate action against those who shielded cultists, kidnappers and armed robbers.
Much before, in August 2015, while donating Sixty-Four (64) patrol vans to the Rivers State Police Command and other security agencies, Governor Wike pledged the sum of One Million Naira each (N1, 000,000.00) to be given to any informant who provides security agencies with information that will lead to the arrest of criminals terrorizing the state.
To boost the morale of security personal serving in Rivers State, Governor Wike also pledged that the sum of Five Million Naira (N5,000,000.00) will be paid to any security personnel who looses his or her life in the course of their duties in fighting crime in Rivers state.
George Kerley writes from Rivers State and can be reached at