RIVERS FLYOVERS: GOV. WIKE WOULD HAVE WRITTEN HIS NAME WITH 24 KARATS GOLD IF…..
I am ‘provoked’ to write this opinion piece after reading many reports so far and observing how the Rivers State Government is struggling almost on daily basis to defend and justify its new flyover projects and the ‘benefits’ that ‘comes’ with them. I was particularly forced to write this piece and offer my alternative development recommendations after reading two different news reports on this single day–June 26, 2020 battling to justify the three flyovers in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas (LGAs), approval for a fourth one and expansion of an existing single lane flyover at Rumuola junction to make a total of fifth flyover projects boastfully built and completed by and under the watch of Chief (Barr.) Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, CON as the Executive Governor of Rivers State. Note that the Governor may still approve the construction of additional flyovers in Obio/Akpor LGA where traffic is now concentrated than Port Harcourt City in the days ahead as he had earlier said that if he had his way, he would construct ten (10) flyovers in Ikwerreland and nothing will happen.
The Governor now has his way with the refund of over N78billion by the Federal Government to the State and the places that the governor may consider for the next set of flyovers include Rumuokwuta junction, NTA road connecting Obiri-Ikwerre, Slaughter junction at Trans-Amadi connecting Woji (earlier proposed by former Governor Amaechi), Rumuepirikom junction by Ada-george road and Rumuomasi by Yakubu Gowon Stadium junction connecting Ken Saro-Wiwa road/wajah.
Back to the reports. The first one attempting to justify the flyover projects on June 26 alone was published by the Hon. Commissioner for Information and Communications on his Facebook page titled “ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF WIKE’S ROAD, FLYOVER AND BRIDGE PROJECTS” written by one “Dornubari Kiinee” while the second was published on “Gov Nyesom Wike-CON” Facebook page same June 26 titled “RIVERS STATE IS ATTRACTING MORE INVESTORS-WIKE” and written by the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim himself. I agree with the contents of those publications as per some of the benefits and investments that the projects can or is already attracting to the State. No doubt. But, as beautiful as the flyover projects are and as nice initiatives as they could be, the question is; do we have better alternative projects that these funds could have rather been used for that can be MORE beneficial to Rivers people than the flyovers? To me, the answer is a capital “YES”.
Initially, I used the word “provoked” also because, last two Months, in April while I was speaking live on the Rostrum Program on radio at Family Love, 97.7FM Port Harcourt, I praised the flyover projects and tried to critic it and recommend other viable projects (like what I am going to say below) that these funds would have rather been used for, but a known defender of this administration from Ahoada area called in and rebuked me for attempting to offer alternative views on the flyover project so, I saved part of my contributions.
We can say that the reasons why these new flyovers are necessary is among others, because Port Harcourt is congested and traffic needs to be made to flow but that does not take away the fact that development is concentrated in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas. On the other hand, the funds being used to construct these flyovers are more than enough to decongest Port Harcourt through the development and creation of new cities, spread development, have more investors than what these flyovers can bring and create millions of jobs among many other benefits. It would be called that since the creation of Rivers State with 12 others on May 27, 1967 (53 years ago) till date, Rivers State is among the few, if there is still any, that is still having and remains a SINGLE CITY STATE. Even Imo State, not even as rich as Rivers created nine years after in 1976 has developed new cities including the popular Orlu Zone which is today, the second largest city in that State after Owerri. In Rivers State, there has been development proposals by the founding fathers to develop or create new cities to spread development, discourage rural-urban drift/migration and decongest Port Harcourt among others. There is this word “PABOD” used to describe the areas that needs to be developed into other cities in Rivers State. It started with letter “P” for Port Harcourt City. Others are Ahoada, Bonny, Ogoni and Degema respectively (I may not be 100% correct and would accept correction). Of these letters: “PABOD” today, I wish to add “E” for Etche area to make it “PABODE”. Bonny is taking shape today as a city but not because Rivers State government gave it any special attention as supposed.
Successive administrations in Rivers State have not deemed it necessary to develop the proposed new cities. The former Governor, Rt. Hon. Chubuike Rotimi Amaechi administration attempted to decongest Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor but not in line with laid down blueprint of “PABOD”. Instead, he created his own model called “Greater Port Harcourt” through the “Greater Port Harcourt Development Authority” now moribund which was not meant to spread development to other parts of Rivers State but focused on extending Port Harcourt City more into Ikwerre hinterland which is still concentrating development in and around Ikwerre and by extension, pushing development towards his community, Ubima. To an arguable extent, I do not expect the creation or development of more cities in Rivers State to come through an “Ikwerre Governor” or “Governor from Ikwerre” who would prefer that population continues to increase and cluster on Ikwerre soil to keep increasing house rent, cost of land, shop rent and other benefits that come with population concentration in a particular area. (This partially reminds me of Okwudibia Nnoli’s book titled “Ethnic Politics in Nigeria” published in 1978 that I read as an undergraduate of Political Science).
Generally speaking, although Governor Wike has some pockets of projects ongoing in other parts of the state, he is not pretending about focusing his developmental efforts on Port Harcourt/Obio-Akpor-Ikwerreland, his home and local government of origin by ensuring that he uses the opportunity presented by his tenure as Governor to properly develop and renew Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor more than he met them.
The Governor further confirmed this in his speech on June 26, 2020 titled “RIVERS STATE IS ATTRACTING MORE INVESTORS-WIKE” when he said “I am also resolved to leave Port Harcourt far better than what I met on ground” and his response to those who may not like the focus of his developmental projects on Ikwerre land is “Ntoor”. Recall that Governor Nyesom Wike had during a reception organized in his honour by Ogbakor Ikwerre Convention Worldwide on December 7, 2019 in Port Harcourt said in a viral video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZU-iXC683rI) that “They said I am building three flyovers and the flyovers are on Ikwerreland ntoor; ntoor. If I have my way self I would have done 10 and nothing will happen. Will anything happened?…..” and the crowd chorused “Noooo” and he started saying the rest things in Ikwere language, mocking and making jest of other ethnic groups and local government areas in Rivers State that complained about his concentration of developmental projects in Ikwerreland his ethnic nationality and not extend them to other parts of the State including Ahoada where the man that called into my radio program that there should be no contrary opinion about the flyover projects comes from.
Conclusively, while Rivers State continues running on the 23 Local Government Areas internal structure since creation with no plans to even create Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) like Lagos and ‘baby’ Bayelsa State among others have done to spread development, if Governor Nyesom Wike had forgotten about spreading these flyovers around Port Harcourt/Obio/Akpor, he would have been able to write his name on the sand of time with 24 karats pure gold that has not been mixed with any other metal by using the money to develop more cities, relocate some ministries, departments and agencies of government there and spread development and employment better than what these flyovers can do for us. On the commissioning day, the Governor may be called “Mr. Flyover” like he was called “Mr. Project” during his first tenure by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
This article is an opinion piece and innocuous, not intended to offend anyone.
FYNEFACE DUMNAMENE FYNEFACE,
Environmental Justice Activist, Human Rights Defender,
Public Affairs Analyst and Executive Director, ADVOCACY CENTRE writes from Port Harcourt, Rivers State