Merry Christmas And Not-Merry Christmas: An Open Letter To The Executive Governor Of Rivers State, Barr. Nyesom Wike
It is with all bliss – heavenly and terrestrial, that I write this open letter to you, sir. Christians believe that Christmas marks the birth of an invaluable gift to mankind, and for centuries, Christianity has enabled us to view this period with solemn gaze, and to reflect on the place of God in the affairs of men.
If God, who made us in his image, could send us a redeemer in our lowest stage, then we could also be the redeemers of our own people – high or low, for in Christ we are not ordinary. We epitomise God and we create and make happiness with our hands, words and works.
Sir, it is with all due respect that I plead that you revisit the process that brought you into power. I make bold to say that Rivers people were tired of an era. They saw your energy, your humanity and your seeming dedication to their plights and entrusted you with their votes – to bring about transformation.
You won and even the apex court of law re-affirmed that. When we are entrusted with lots of faith – whether broken and slightly fragmented, we become more than mortals. We assume the status of a higher being, such that grants prayer requests, as well as builds and destroys. We become symbols of hope and resurrection. We become gods. Intoxicated, we could derail or we could be carried away by personal projects and neglect the original call. Above all, we are humans.
In the spirit of Christmas, and of sharing love and having no expectations, and as a Rivers resident, I thought it expedient to express my faith as well as dissatisfaction. I represent a generation that may be impatient and given to volatility. In the hands of the wrong people, we are battle axes, such as abandoned when the job is done. But we are also the people on whose energy and insights society must be built.
If we are misled or deprived of education, we carry it with pride – a perfumed ignorance. We sit on nothingness, for what nature of information is such that is bereft of accuracy?
On a social media post, once, I had pointed out how dishonourable the office of the Governor, the number one person in Rivers State, had become. On radio, we hear the governor trading words with, and being ridiculed by people who should treat the office with utmost respect. This is perhaps due to such overt displays by your person, on issues and things which are better handled by your aides.
Mr Governor, sir, this letter was conceived with intent to highlight some programmes that may bring you closer to the people one more time:
- It is my considered view that you should pay less attention to detractors and concentrate your efforts on the millions of Rivers men and women who voted you into power. They are the ones with fractured dreams who gave you a balm to heal them. They believed in your strength and manifesto and gave you a chance to redefine the Rivers dream – to build a state where unborn Rivers children would grow up to be proud of.
- Sir, you may be aware that we have two seaports in Rivers State. What can we do to make them functional so that businesses along those lines can thrive and pay taxes, so that our state can grow like other states in the country?
- How can the NLNG bring its services to the Rivers people and afford us electricity so that small businesses can grow and investors can come in?
- You are doing a good job with the rehabilitation of roads in communities across local government areas in Port Harcourt. The construction of drainage gutters and the fixing of roads that were constructed before the civil war is a commendable project, yet how can we ease traffic on these roads? Can we construct roads out of closes? Can we build mini-bridges to ease road congestion? What can we do to make the Rivers man happy? How can we compete with states like Lagos and Anambra and grow abundantly?
- Sir, some of the agricultural projects undertaken by your predecessor have been abandoned. The Songhai farm project is wasting away. This is Rivers property and it could be revisited.
- Sir, I do not know if each ministry or commissioner working with you comes to your weekly executive meetings with goals centred on growth; business expansion and with the Rivers dream at heart. If they do not do that weekly, and the goals and targets are not verified and evaluated, you should start it. Each ministry must have weekly or monthly targets. There should be competitions on seeing growth in the state. Incompetent servants ought to be sacked. Invite intelligent Nigerians like Sir Peter Obi to brief you on how he cut costs in Anambra State during his governance and how he saved billions for his successor. He would gladly share his style and you may add yours and ensure a fantastic state.
- Sir, town-hall meetings are priceless nowadays. Your predecessor explored them to the fullest. We have 23 local government areas in Rivers State with divergent needs. I was in Bori yesterday and there was an open assassination of a man called B.O. A child was caught in the shootout. The only functional security presence in Bori is the police station by the Khana Local Government Council. We can have more stations in restive parts of Rivers State and save the people of more anguish.
- Sir, there is a need for an economic summit, not just a forum where people would come and talk and go about their businesses but such that would have a communiqué issued at the end of the event and such agreements would be pursued with every energy in your system. We need to bring back town-hall meetings. We need to listen to our people and have them express their fears and support so that we can work with them according to their strengths and weaknesses.
- Sir, if you have driven around the Port Harcourt-Aba Express Road, you would have noticed that the bus-stops are broken and many have become shelters for the destitute. The images of these broken places deface the metropolis. We need to fix our bus-stops. We need to fix our roads. The Caretaker Chairmen do not have weekly sanitation projects. They do not have to work alone. They could get assistance and fix minimal project with little or no funds. You may institute an award for the best performing chairmen or commissioners.
There should be a healthy competition among these people. They should do more than trade replies when the opposition makes a claim. In Rivers State, it is very common for everything to be seen from the point of view of party loyalty. This letter is from a concerned young man who believes in his state and the competence of his leader to bring about sustainable development. In creating this fineness called today, we must not destroy tomorrow by the decisions and the actions we take. Our knowledge institutions should be taken seriously. We can have private and public partnership on projects. We can fix our problems by asking for the best hands. Rivers State has the best hands. Rivers is a great state. It is a state that bred Claude Ake, Ken-Saro-Wiwa, Dr Obi Wali, Sam Dede and lots more. It cannot sink now.
Our youths who make tremendous strides to be innovative and creative should be taken seriously. Avenues could be created for such – we can have hubs for creativity and this can be created by mere partnership. We can go to China and invite them to invest in us and share our resources with them. We can have a Rex Lawson Music school and affiliate it to the Rivers State University of Science and Technology and partner with the reputable music schools in the United Kingdom. We can be great. Or not, if we choose so. We have the power to ensure enviable economic growth.
Riches will not last forever. People who forget to train their offspring in the economics of today are preparing them with plastic swords for a serious warfare. And when we pile up wealth for them and they cannot manage it, the children from humble homes would end up buying up the properties their parents worked for and left for them. It is a sad reality.
God bless you, sir and my dear Rivers State. And Merry Christmas!
BURA-BARI NWILO is the author of A Tiny Place Called Happiness – a book of stories.