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For The Records

For The Records

Captain Sam Owonaro, Nigeria’s Last Rebel-Hero Departs

For an Armed Forces ranked as 42nd in global military strength and considered the largest standing army in Black Africa, the passing of a “mere” Captain,  in the midst of so many decorated Generals in Nigeria would normally be titling. However, the death of Captain Samuel Timinipre Owonaro at the age of 76 on 16th June 2020, and his final laying to rest on Saturday 28th November, 2020 following the relaxion of Covid-19 protocols, has attracted attention in different quarters for some curious reasons.

The riddle around this wartime Captain arises from the fact that he is the lone survivor of the young three-man squad who led the first secession attempt against the then infant Nigerian State in 1966. This occured just 8 days after the first military coup. More significantly, granted state pardon by then Head of State, Col. Yakubu Gowon on the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970), this captain, along with his boss, Major Isaac Jasper “Adaka” Boro (1938-1968), and their 150 erstwhile rebel fighters all died while trying to liberate most critical part of Nigeria’s Oil and Gas infrastructure, including Bonny Export Terminal which could have unduly delayed the War. In nature’s peculiar dealings, he alone survived, 54 years after their successionist attempt, and later national heroism to tell the story.  

WHY THE REBELLION OCCURED.

The 15th January, 1966 military coup d’état changed Nigeria’s historical match in different directions. Shortly after that putsch, General Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi (1924-1966), a conservative military officer of Ibo extraction found the reins of political power foisted on him. Days later, he was greeted with reports of an insurrection from the creeks of his own Eastern region. Surprisingly, not from the Ibos who had started to feel the pinch of reprisals in the north after the bloody military coup, but from the Ijaws of the Niger Delta. Intelligence Reports from the Special Branch of the Police (now Department of State Services – DSS) soon confirmed that on 23rd February, 1966, some young men all in their twenties, led by one Isaac Jasper Boro (a serving Police Officer, who was on study leave at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where was former Student Leader) had declared a “Niger Delta Republic.” He had also begun to maintain stand-off with police and military units sent to the area from Elele Barracks (in the outskirts of PortHarcourt).

Boro and his self-styled Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF), held their ground for twelve (12) days. As would be expected, the ring leaders and men were overpowered by the better equipped Nigerian Army and later charged to court for high treason. On 21st June 1966, under the banging gavel of Justice Phil Ebosie of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, Isaac Boro (28 years) and two of his henchmen, Sam Owonaro (22 years) and Nottingham Dick (19 years), were sentenced to death by hanging although they were not known to have killed anyone. On appeal, the sentence was affirmed by the Nigerian Supreme Court in December 1966. Dr. Timi Koripamo-Agari, a former top Federal bureaucrat termed this outcome in a recent piece “tyranny of the majority.” They were remanded at Kirikiri Maximum Prison, Lagos for about a year awaiting the hangman’s noose.

HOW THE TRIO MET AND THE AJEGUNLE CONNECTION.

Just like many important Nigerians, the life stories of Major Boro as well as Captains Owonaro and Dick, goes back to the favela environment of Ajegunle neighbourhood in Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub. Like the slums of Brazil’s Sao Paolo, “AJ City” has produced some of Nigeria’s globally prized footballers such as Sampson Siasia, Peter Rufai, Obafemi Martins, Taribo West, Emmanuel Amunike, Odion Ighalo, amongst many others. The “city” has also spurned out entertainers such as John Asiemo (Daddy Showkey), Kingsley Okonkwo (Kaycee), Michael Ajereh (Don Jazzy), etc. But another hidden truth is that AJ city, perhaps the most concentrated multi-ethnic community in Nigeria, is also where some of the country’s top politicians, businessmen and military brass were nurtured.

Nottighman Dick’s father, (Chief Ngbaraka Dick) worked in the Merchant Navy, a typical profession for the coastly Ijaws at the time, while Captain Owonaro’s father (Chief S.K Owonaro) was an officer of the Nigerian Department of Custom and Excise. Both had successful careers and like most others of Ijaw nation who came to Lagos, took residency in Ajegunle. Until recent times when urban renewal programmes have been introduced by the Lagos State Government, Ajegunle’s shanty town nature had made it unattractive to people from other parts of Nigeria. However, the Niger Deltans had particularly been drawn to Ajegunle because the area was a big swamp similar to their home environment, with good opportunities for fishing, their natural occupation. Early Niger Deltan settlers built a community in Ajegunle, it became a kind of home away from home for later emigrants of their stock into the Lagos area.

While Sam Owonaro and Nottingham Dick were born in Lagos and had their formative years there, Isaac Boro moved in there in his adolescent years after he joined the Nigerian Police Force. He was actually born in Oloibiri in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa in 1938. Interestingly, Oloibiri later famed as ushering Nigeria into the global petroleum economy in 1956. The trio, all of whom were originally from Kaiama town in the Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Area of Bayelsa soon etched a close friendship, in course of the endless political meetings in Lagos by “elders” and social interactions. This gave Isaac Boro the opportunity to market his revolutionary thoughts to them. He introduced them to Marxist-Leninist ideas, including copious readings of the writings of Ernesto Che Guevara and Franz Fanon, and took them on visits to Eastern European Embassies around West Africa.

RETURN TO KAIAMA AND REVOLUTIONARY EVANGELIZATION

Gradually, with various providential circumstances, the trio, now surfeited with revolution in their hearts, began to return to Kaiama. First, with the demise of his father in 1961, Nottingham Dick was forced to return home to Kaiama where he continued education at Proctor Memorial Primary School. On his part, Sam Owonaro also returned home in 1965, as his father retired from the service of the Nigerian Customs. King Moses Agara, Okun 111, the Paramount Ruler of the Kolokuma sub-ethnic group of the Ijaw nation still recalls that these two returnees from Lagos joined them in school, and were extremely tall, quiet and easy going. He narrated further that “Boro who was in government service, was on and off” preaching a rather belligerent message amongst the youth. Also, according to Maxwell Appah, now a retired Brigadier General of the Nigerian Army and contemporary of Sam Owonaro, “Boro’s message was appealing but frightening. He insisted that the newly born Nigerian state was founded on unequal grounds, especially against minorities, and must be resisted.”

RECALLING WILLINKS COMMISSION.

Sam Owonaro’s adventure, along with Isaac Boro and others, brings the outcome of the much referenced “Willinks Commission” to the fore. From the London Constitutional Conference of 1953 and up to 1957, some delegates representing the minority peoples of Eastern and Western Nigerian had made representations asking for separate states or provinces. The Constitutional Conference of 1957 was a watershed as the final inking of what would be a future Nigerian Constitution was done. The strong agitations from minority groups averred future marginalization and exclusion by the big three groups – Hausa/Fulani, Ibo and Yoruba.

Led by such dogged leaders as Founder of the Niger Delta Congress (NDC) Party, Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye, a one-time Nigerian Minister of Education, Chief Wenike Briggs (1918-1987), a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Okoi Arikpo (1916-1992), and others, they fought for a separate Calabar, Ogoja and Rivers (COR) Region or state. This was to be carved out, largely from the Eastern Region and Western Region. In the north, the motley of minority groups, under the aegis of the United Middle Belt Congress Party, led by Dr Joseph Tarka (1932-1980), a right-wing nationalist of Tiv nation, maintained spirited agitation on similar complaints.

The colonial government therefore constituted a high-level Commission on Minorities on 26th September, 1957 under British politician and former Chancellor of Cambridge University, Sir Henry Urmston Willinks (1894-1973). The Commission also had Phil Mason, a Director in charge of Race Relations at the Chatham House, Gordon Hadow (1908-1993), then Deputy Governor in the Gold Coast and Mr J.B. Shearer. They were charged to “look into the fears of the minority groups and means of allaying them.” This was with a view to possibly include findings in the future Constitution of Nigeria. The team undertook its work from 23rd November, 1957 to 12th April, 1958 and held discussions in each region, in Lagos and in the Southern Cameroons.

As it concerned the issues that bothered Boro, Owonaro and Dick, in paragraph 26-30, the Willinks Commission had stated in its report released to the public on 30th July, 1958, that:

“We were impressed in both the Western and Eastern Regions, with the special position of the people, mainly Ijaw, in the swampy country along the coast between Opobo and the mouth of the Benin Rivers. We were confronted, first, with their own almost universal view that their difficulties were not understood at headquarters in the interior, where those responsible thought of the problems in quite different forms from those they assumed in those riverine areas; secondly, with the widespread desire of the Ijaws on either side of the main stream of the Niger to be united. We cannot recommend political arrangements which would unite in one political unit the whole body of Ijaws; we do however consider that their belief that their problems are not understood could be largely met without the creation of a separate state which has been rejected for the reasons mentioned elsewhere.”

After a very clear conclusion, the Commission left the people of the Niger delta in the lurch by recommending that a “Special Development Area” be created for them. In implementing the recommendations of the Willinks Commission and as agreed in the 1958 Constitution Conference, a Niger Delta Development Board was made via “Nigeria (Constitution) Amendment No (2) Order in Council of 1959.” In 1961, in compliance with Section 14 of the 1960 Constitution, the Federal Parliament established the Niger Delta Development Board to manage the Special Development Area. Although officials such as Chairman (Chief I.S Anthony), Executive Secretary later Senator (Amatari Zuofa) were appointed, there was scant funding. So little or no activity took place at the level of the Board and its Special Development Area status appeared superflous.

Meanwhile, the push for creation of states never stopped. So, on 23rd March, 1962 both Houses of Parliament passed by a two-third majority motion for the creation of Mid-Western region. However, in Eastern Nigeria, where the agitations for states or a new region was more rife, nothing was done. This aggravated the disaffection. Irritatedly to Boro and friends, despite the commencement of revenue from production of Crude Oil from the first 5,100 barrels per day which started in 1958 peaking at 52.4 million barrels per annum by 1966, there was virtually no impact on the communities. Gradually, the terrible environmental impact by way of gas flares and oil spillages also became glaring.

KILLING OF MR. PRIME MINISTER AND THE “D” DAY.

Against this backdrop, the three young men groaned under embittered feelings and were ready for action. They met endlessly in Kaiama during late 1965, early 1966 period. However, dimly hope fluttered in the horizon as their Niger Delta Congress (NDC) Party and the Prime Minister’s Northern People’s Congress (NPC) were in alliance. This enabled an Ijaw man, Chief Melford Okilo (1933-2008), who represented the NDC in the Parliament, to serve as a Minister in Prime Minister Tafewa-Balewa’s (1912-1966) Government. Owonaro had in an earlier discussion, broached that Melford Okilo had met the Prime Minister and made a demarche on the problems of the Niger Delta and reported back that the latter was positively disposed to addressing them.

Alas, alas, on that sad morning of January 15, 1966, the Prime Minister, the de jure political ally of the Niger Delta, was murdered in cold blood and the future of the country tethered.

So, they agreed that 23rd February 1966 was the “D” Day to strike and went on to form what they termed a “War Council.” This was comprised of the trio and two of their friends who were hitherto gainfully employed as teachers in the Federal Government College in nearby Warri town, in present Delta State. These were Boardman Nyanayo and George Amangala, both University graduates. Reflecting back, Emeritus Professor of History, Professor EJ Alagoa, who knew, closely, all these dramatis personae described the show of tenacity as “unparalleled”. On the D.Day, Boro was recorded as stating, inter alia:

 “Today is a great day, not only in your lives but also in the history of the Niger Delta. Perhaps, it will be the greatest day for a very long time. This is not because we are going to bring the heavens down, but because we are going to demonstrate to the world what and how we feel about oppression. Remember your 70-year-old grandmother who still farms before she eats; remember also your poverty-stricken people; remember, too, your petroleum which is being pumped out daily from your veins; and then fight for your freedom. Because their conditions were peculiar and the authorities did not understand our problems. There is nothing wrong with Nigeria. What is wrong with us is the total lack of mercy in our activities”.

Owonaro, Boro, Dick, and the other members of the inner circle were fully persuaded of the mission and were able to communicate it succinctly to their followers, all of whom bought-in intuitively. The message was clear: it was better to be free early than be part of a country where some groups will continue to dominate others. Though the mission appeared suicidal, the combatants propelled by their convictions, turned to divine approbation and intervention. In this case, it was a rather syncretic combination of Christian faith and Ijaw deities, especially, “Egbesus”, responsible for retributive justice and protection during the “just wars”. According to Owonaro “we were all from Christian background and most attended the CMS School here – Proctor Memorial, but going to such a mission to liberate our people, we had to also get the permission of our ancestors and the spiritual gifts of our land.”

Their main strategy was to cut off the territories separated by the River Nun and push the Nigerian Army into the maze of impenetrable creeks and rivulets. Owonaro explained that the main limitation of the Nigerian Army was the terrain. The only motorable road stopped at Mbiama town, which is at border with present Bayelsa State and even the road up to Ahoada was tortuous. Same on the Western end, were the motorable road stopped at Patani at the border with Delta State and was a nightmare getting up to town of Warri or further down to Benin. Although the Nigerian Marine Police (then known as Water Police) had been established since precolonial days of 1891, it had remained for many years limited to minimum crime patrol and surveillance. Even the Nigerian Navy which was established in 1956 did not, at the time, have the preparedness for such possible protracted engagement in the swamps of the deep creeks.

Capt. Owonaro adduced that if more supplies were available as Boro had arranged from some sources, the effort would have continued much longer and conflagrated around the world. Owonaro had himself traversed the various communities with young men but had also added that, “apart from few local guns available here and there, majority of the firearms shared to the boys were arranged through same manner in which they are obtained today. The scale may be much higher but weapons have always been here and there in this our peaceful Niger Delta which God has blessed us with. Boro himself being a policeman, had been well-trained in the use of firearms and coerced a few retired soldiers mostly from the Second World War who were in the communities to help train some of the recruits.” According to him, this is due to the fact that more and more people from different communities were enlisting and ready to hold their grounds. However, some of the promised sources failed to deliver.

Additional to this, Owonaro concluded that perhaps they would have needed to carry more elite and community leaders along. But he also expressed the fear that it would have leaked and Boro did not want that.

THE TRIAL AND DEATH SENTENCE.

Overpowered and arrested between 7th and 9th March 1966, Owonaro, his boss Boro and his accomplice Dick were kept under military detention initially at Elele Barracks and moved to Bori Camp Military base in PortHarcourt after which the long battle for their trial started in the court and subsequent condemnation to die. On hindsight, Owonaro explained that they were more concerned about sending a message through their action in calling Sir Willinks and members of his commission, the British Authorities, the global community and the attention of the Nigerian People to the plight of the Niger Delta. On this, Boro reminiscenced in his Prison Memoirs “Twelve Day Revolution” “the Ijaw people had long suffered to separate not because they loved power, but because their condition was peculiar and the authorities did not understand our problems. There is nothing wrong with Nigeria. What is wrong with us is a total lack of mercy in our activities.”

Paradoxically, the same men became the elite amphibious military hands and the core of the “Third Marine Commando” later popularized by the “Black Scorpion”, then later Brigadier General Benjamin Adekunle (1936-2014) and now General Olusegun Obasanjo. Sadly however, all paid with their lives; they died. Boro’s next in command, the elusive, Captain Sam Owonaro, whose Ijaw middle name “Timinipre” literally means “do not hurry away,” survived serious gun-shots on his left eye and right leg.

LIFE AFTER SERVICE – FROM REVOLUTIONARY TO POLITICIAN.

Sam Owonaro was one of few soldiers who survived from the very fierce fight which took place in the Bonny-PortHarcourt axis where over 100,000 soldiers and 2 million Biafrans died in the War. Post-War, he was briefly at the military Barracks at Apapa but left thereafter to Canada to seek medical attention and higher education. On return to Nigeria (1978) still nursing “progressive ideological orientation”, he took up the gauntlet and got himself involved in political activities in the Second republic (1979-1983) to contest for Governorship in the Old Rivers State under the platform of Chief Obafemi Awolowo-led Unity Party of Nigeria ((UPN). He lost to his erstwhile benefactor, the Governorship candidate of National Party of Nigeria, Chief Melford Okilo. This kept him relevant in the scheme of things until the Second Republic as a whole was sacked by the military on 31st December, 1983.

On another note, he was appointed Pioneer Chairman of Rivers State Environmental Sanitation Authority. Despite his infirmity and being permanently assigned to a wheelchair at a young age, his community honoured him as a Regent and bestowed on him the greatest traditional title of “Tibe Ola” – Principal Chief, until the time of his passing. Owonaro remained a symbol that typified what is commonly stated these days as a “living legend.”

CONCLUDING LESSONS.

Nigeria has had countless patriots who were of course, ordinary citizens but able to garner inner strength and outer courage in the midst of unimaginable circumstances to achieve great progress, and where necessary, lay down their lives for the country. The final resting of Capt. Sam Owonaru, in his hometown Kaiama, is therefore a metaphor of such great national service, not only of himself, Major Isaac Boro, Capt. Nottingham Dick, Capt. Boardman Nyanayo, Capt. George Amangala, and the 150 other young men, all of whom fell while trying to keep Nigeria one, but an actual celebration of the countless great patriateers.

The recurring question therefore is, to what extent does the country at various levels, reward such wholescale show of heroism? Once bitter against what they perceived as societal injustices, and embarked upon a suicidal mission that was rather episodic. Later, they recanted and gave their lives to the bigger picture of a united Nigeria. A country where they had hoped fairness, equity and justice would reign. They had particularly been piqued by the state of anomie and incipient, devalorization of the Niger Delta which at their time, was already gradually becoming relevant in contributions to national revenue, socio-economic development and growth. The question then is, what has changed since then? Could it be that such young blood spilled from different parts of the country to “keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done” is in vain? Because in several parts of the country, the gale of exclusion, disaffection and feeling of rejection still loom large. Hence, before his ultimate hour, Captain Owonaro had being recorded by award winning journalist, Ibiba Don-Pedro as saying ‘that if his seriously injured limbs were in order, he would have still yielded himself again to fight to build a more just and united realm.

 The last rebel “Captain” takes his final salute to and joins our heroes past. The inexorable burden of appreciating the bravery and heroism of those in yonderland and the building of a society where the warmth of feeling of belonging is created for all, is a task that must be followed with all valour and courage.

Dr. Igali, a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, is a Fellow, Historical Society of Nigeria.

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CommentsFor The Records

Re: Oyigbo, Gov Wike And Blood Of The Innocent

Our attention has been drawn to the Editorial of Daily Independent Newspaper, on November 5, 2020, titled: “Oyigbo, Governor Wike and blood of the innocent.” Beyond dismissing it as the now fashionable campaign by all manner of relevance seeking commentators and publications, professional courtesy however demands that the usual misleading and highly opinionated allegations associated with such enterprises, be addressed for record purposes.


First of all, we note with a huge sense of disappointment, that the photograph which accompanied the story and was wrongly captioned Wike, is in fact not the photograph of the Rivers State Governor and this, sadly, is not just a glaring reflection of professional laziness by a publication of the seeming pedigree of Daily Independent, it is also an unfortunate reaffirmation of the bastardization, which the basic norms and ethics of our noble Journalism profession has progressively been subjected to over the years.


Against this backdrop therefore, it follows logically that if a highly regarded publication like Daily Independent does not even know what Governor Nyesom Wike, a prominent Nigerian Governor, looks like, then whatever story associated with that ignorance must have been crafted and penned with half-baked or outrightly ignorant references.


This conclusion is succinctly buttressed in the very first lines of the Editorial which reads thus: “Unconfirmed reports of brutality and killings in Oyigbo community of Rivers State following siege by the military should ordinarily come across as shattering.”
Without trying to undermine the morphology and snytactic capacity of whoever heads the Editorial Board of Daily Independent Newspaper, simple common sense is bound to wonder how the “unconfirmed” reports of very sensitive information like ‘brutality’ and ‘killings’ will be ‘shattering’ to a top Newspaper like Daily Independent, whose primary professional responsibility should be investigative journalism, and in this instance, to inform and educate the general public.


The fact that the Editorial then proceeds, on the basis of this “unconfirmed reports” in Oyigbo, to reel out a lengthy and utterly warped profiling of Governor Nyesom Wike’s personality as well as the pragmatic responses to the recent events in that community, leaves much room for the interrogation of Editorial integrity and objectivity.


Be that as it may, it will only be proper and magnanimous for us to recognize and accept the praise and commendations which the Editorial rightly expressed in its appreciation of Governor Nyesom Wike’s firm, pragmatic, committed response to the carnage that was visited on Oyigbo by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), as well as the warm, compassionate, humane and empathetic embrace of the Rivers State Government to the hapless and bereaved widows and children of the slain soldiers and policemen, whose lives were cut short in their prime.


While it is easy to pontificate from wherever this editorial was crafted, one apparent disconnect which bedevils many commentators, is the pedestrian assumption that governance must always accommodate the reactive restraint of pandering to the whims and caprices of agents of destruction and destabilization like IPOB, at the expense of endangering the lives and property of innocent citizens in the long run.


With the benefit of hindsight however, one can excuse the Editorial on the ground that it must have been written before the real profiling of IPOB in Oyigbo, which it referred to as “the ill-advised profiling of indigenous community,” was brought to the public domain by comprehensive and intensive intelligence, in Governor Nyesom Wike’s widely reported state wide broadcast and meetings with the leaders of the Non-indigenes and which, quite irreversibly, led to the imposition of the 24 hours curfew, which too has since been reviewed and relaxed by the State Security Council.


We also take considerable exception in the expression contained in the Editorial that: “It is obvious the Governor’s apparent determination to engage in confrontation with members of the outlawed Indigenous Peoples of IPOB beclouded his sense of judgment at the peril of overwhelming majority of community dwellers who may not share the ideology of IPOB or approve of the tactics of the secessionist group.”


Let us state categorically that nothing ever beclouds the judgment of a proactive, fearless, administratively astute, strategically brilliant and politically conscious leader like Governor Nyesom Wike.Those who read and listened to his state-wide broadcast will know that IPOB had already been designated an outlawed terrorist group, even rejected by the South Eastern Governors where it claims to derive its illegal separatist mandate.


What happened in Oyigbo was not the first time IPOB had bared its destructive fangs in the community, but it crossed the red line this time, by hiding under the guise of #EndSARS protests, to kill four policemen and six soldiers, burn down all the Court buildings and police stations and threaten the lives of other innocent Nigerians and bonafide residents in the community.


If the curfew had not been imposed comprehensively and in the nick of time, it would have exploded into a full blown ethnic war in the community and across Rivers State. That said, it is now left for you to judge if the unavoidable yet necessary inconveniences of a few days of temporary curfew was not worth the immediate removal and cessation of the threats and dangerous activities of a terrorist group and the futuristic preservation and security of lives and property in Oyigbo.


Let us place on record, for the avoidance of doubt, that the IPOB attack was against the twin institutions of the State government/Police and the Nigerian Army. Governor Nyesom Wike responded as the head of the state government by reinforcing the proscription of IPOB and its activities in the State through a legitimate Executive order and imposing a curfew on the community to save lives and secure property, after the first carnage unleashed by IPOB.


Unfortunately for IPOB however, its second attack was against the Nigerian Army, which constitutionally reports only to the Chief of Army Staff and the President of Nigeria. Not only was it confirmed that the IPOB hoodlums killed some soldiers, it was also reported that they stole some military rifles too and the leadership of the Nigerian Army, acting independently, instructed and directed the response and recovery operation of its stolen arms on its own mandate and authority.


Ironically, the Editorial exhibited intellectual laziness by failing to see that its own poignant examples of Odi and Zaki-Biam only exposed the fact that Governor Wike is indeed a good student of history and it was rather the IPOB that exhibited a crass ignorance of history for which they not only placed the lives of innocent indigenes and residents in Oyigbo in danger, but may also have paid a heavy price of their own too, according to the “unconfirmed reports” that has ‘shattered’ the Daily Independent Editorial board.


Let us also place on record again, that Rivers State was the most peaceful and best organized state, amongst all the flashpoint states and in spite of the various social media provocation, during the #EndSARS protests, until IPOB and its hoodlums hijacked the peacefulness of the process.


Governor Wike supervised the protests successfully not only by his astute management of sensitive information, excellent collaboration with security agencies and direct participation and identification with the protesters, but also for the simple fact that he had already anticipated a day like #EndSARS long ago and cried out early, but no one listened to him then.


Now, again with IPOB, Governor Wike has also taken the courageous step as arguably the only Governor in Nigeria, who has reinforced the proscription of an already designated terrorist group, whether in the North or South of the country and this, in conjunction with initial curfew which has now been relaxed, has again demonstrated the extent to which he has kept faith with his primary responsibility to protect the innocent civilian population of Rivers indigenes and residents, from unwarranted intimidation, brutality and possible deaths from the agents of destruction and carnage.
One would therefore have expected the Daily Independent Editorial, whose caption does not even reflect the primary agent, instigator and perpetrator of the shedding of the innocent blood of 10 soldiers and policemen and the burning of courts and police stations, to blame the necessary culprit in this matter, and it is this constant unprofessionalism in our Journalism, which also deliberately refuses to call out and chastise the real troublemakers in our society, that worries all discerning Nigerians.


We are not sure the Editors of Daily Independent saw the faces of three-month and six-month babies that lost their fathers to the barbaric act of IPOB at Oyigbo. What will be the fate of these babies and the widows that will suffer to raise them? Yellow journalism did not think this is important. What a sad development at a time when well-meaning people are lamenting that these innocent babies will face a turbulent future.


To be sure, calm, peace and normalcy has returned to Oyigbo community with the relaxation of the curfew and the reinforcement of the proscription of IPOB, which no doubt, has sent a clear warning to its leaders and members that they are no longer welcome in Rivers State and there is no place for them in Oyigbo, Ikoku or indeed anywhere in the State, in that outlawed, terrorist nomenclature.
Governor Nyesom Wike deserves praise for living up to his leadership responsibilities and Nigeria would indeed be a better place with leaders like him setting the standard and constantly raising the bar for firm, proactive, fearless and courageous leadership, which always puts the welfare and interest of the people first and above everything else.


Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State .

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For The Records

‘RSG, First To Expose Excesses of SARS’

Gov. Nyesom Wike’s Broadcast To Rivers People

My Dear Good People of Rivers State,

 First of all, I wish to thank you all for the existing calm and peaceful disposition of our people since the beginning of the “EndSARS” protest in the State.

As a Government, our position on SARS and the raging protests and related issues are well known to the world. We strongly support the objectives of the “EndSARS” protest for as long as it remains peaceful.

We were the first in this country to expose the cruelties and brutalities of SARS and challenged the Federal Government to rein in on this evil force but nothing happened. We went further to set up a Judicial Panel of Inquiry, headed by a High Court Judge, which indicted some operatives of the much dreaded and notorious SARS for acts of criminal misconduct, including murder and gross human rights abuse across the State.

We submitted the findings and recommendations of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry to the relevant Federal Authorities, including the Police High Command, but nothing was done. Instead of support we were accused of playing politics and the Rotimi Amaechi-led faction of the All Progressives Congress even organized a demonstration in support of the persistence of SARS and its atrocities against the people.

What is true is that, by God’s grace, Rivers State have in a long while been secure and peaceful under our watch as we continue to strive and deliver on our commitments to the people. Recall that during my 2nd inauguration address, we waived the olive branch, promised to run an all-inclusive government and called on all to join us to move the State forward.

We demonstrated good faith and made good our promise by directing the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice to enter a nolle prosequi in favour of all those who had issues with the criminal process in our Courts. To our utmost surprise and quite unfortunately, intelligence report shows clearly that the Rotimi Amaechi-led faction of the All Progressives Congress based in Abuja is capitalizing on the opportunity created by the ongoing “EndSARS” protest to destabilize the prevailing peace and progress in the State.

As a matter of fact, one of the beneficiaries of these kind gestures, Hon. Ojukaye Flag-Amachree is the one that led hired thugs and miscreants from neibouring States into Port Harcourt to cause mayhem and destruction under the guise of supporting “PRO-SARS” protests, against the overwhelming mood of the nation and the clear directive of Mr. President on ending the SARS menace for good.  We are not surprised because these characters are the very ones that used SARS in the recent past to intimidate, harass, maim and kill our people, including the late Dr. Ferry Gberegbe.

Clearly, today’s “PRO-SARS” protest, which defines Rotimi Amaechi’s predilection for violent street actions for political goals, were intended to provoke the peace-loving people of Rivers State to needless violence and destruction,

We commend the people of Rivers State for their peaceful disposition for and for refusing to be provoked by these miscreants and their spineless sponsors throughout today’s ill-intended protest.

We also commend the security agencies for ensuring that nothing untoward happened during the protest.

We had initially declined to set up another Panel of Inquiry to investigate the activities of SARS as directed by the National Council of States but have decided to change this position because of the new facts and evidences on ground. Consequently, we shall be inaugurating a Judicial Panel of Inquiry within the next 48 hours to investigate the brutality and human rights abuse of SARS in Rivers State.

At this point, it is important to remind Hon. Flag-Amachree and his fellow criminal travelers that nolle prosequi is not an acquittal and Government will not hesitate to re-instate the criminal proceedings against them if they continue with their predispositions to violence and criminal misconduct in Rivers State.

Enough is enough. Rivers State is peaceful and we cannot and will not allow any misguided person or group to exploit the current situation to disturb the peace and endanger our collective security.. We had intended to reconstitute the Task Force on illegal trading and motor parks to clear the madness and restore sanity and order to our streets but for the prevailing tensed situations.

But be assured that a reformed and disciplined Task Force will soon be in place to clear our streets and roads of illegal trading and park activities and the associated nuisance. We want to further assure you that we shall not be distracted in our determination to defend the interest of the State and transform all parts of Rivers State with the resources at our disposal. Finally, we urge all well-meaning citizens to remain vigilant and ensure that we do not play into the hands of these detractors.

Thank you for your continued support and appreciation for our efforts as we pledge to fast-track the delivery of all on-going development projects and make life more meaningful for all.

Thank you and God bless you all.

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For The Records

‘To Demonstrate Peacefully Is A Fundamental Right’

President Buhari’s Address On EndSARS Protests

It has become necessary for me to address you having heard from many concerned Nigerians and having concluded a meeting with all the Security Chiefs.

I must warn those who have hijacked and misdirected the initial, genuine and well-intended protest of some of our youths in parts of the country, against the excesses of some members of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

 On Monday 12th October, I acknowledged the genuine concerns and agitations of members of the public regarding the excessive use of force by some members of SARS.

 The choice to demonstrate peacefully is a fundamental right of citizens as enshrined in Section 40 of our Constitution and other enactments; but this right to protest also imposes on the demonstrators the responsibility to respect the rights of other citizens, and the necessity to operate within the law.

As a democratic government, we listened to, and carefully evaluated the five-point demands of the protesters. And, having accepted them, we immediately scrapped SARS, and put measures in place to address the other demands of our youth.  On approving the termination of SARS, I already made it clear that it was in line with our commitment to the implementation of extensive Police reforms.

Sadly, the promptness with which we have acted seemed to have been misconstrued as a sign of weakness and twisted by some for their selfish unpatriotic interests. The result of this is clear to all observers: human lives have been lost; acts of sexual violence have been reported; two major correctional facilities were attacked and convicts freed; public and private properties completely destroyed or vandalised; the sanctity of the Palace of a Peace Maker, the Oba of Lagos has been violated. So-called protesters have invaded an International Airport and in the process disrupted the travel plans of fellow Nigerians and our visitors.

 All these executed in the name of the ENDSARS protests. I am indeed deeply pained that innocent lives have been lost. These tragedies are uncalled for and unnecessary. Certainly, there is no way whatsoever to connect these bad acts to legitimate expression of grievance of the youth of our country.

The spreading of deliberate falsehood and misinformation through the social media in particular, that this government is oblivious to the pains and plight of its citizens is a ploy to mislead the unwary within and outside Nigeria into unfair judgement and disruptive behaviour.

 On the contrary, both our deeds and words have shown how committed this administration has been to the wellbeing and welfare of citizens, even with the steadily dwindling revenues, and the added responsibilities and restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Government has put in place measures and initiatives principally targeted at youths, women and the most vulnerable groups in our society. These included our broad plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years; the creation of N75 billion National Youth Investment Fund to provide opportunities for the youths and the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Survival Fund, through which government is:

(a). paying three months salaries of the staff of 100,000 micro, small – and medium – enterprises. (b.) paying for the registration of 250,000 businesses at the Corporate Affairs Commission.( c.) giving a grant of N30,000 to 100,000 artisans; and (d). guaranteeing market for the products of traders.

These are in addition to many other initiatives such as; a. Farmermoni, b. Tradermoni, c. Marketmoni, d. N-Power, e. N-Tech and f. N-Agro.  No Nigerian Government in the past has methodically and seriously approached poverty-alleviation like we have done.

With regard to the welfare of police personnel, the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission has been directed to expedite action on the finalization of the new salary structure of members of the Nigeria Police Force. The emoluments of other paramilitary services are also being reviewed upwards.

 In order to underscore the importance of education in preparing youths for the future, this administration has come up with a new salary structure and other incentives for our teachers. Let me at this point reaffirm the Federal Government’s commitment to preserving the unity of this country.

We will continue to improve good governance and our democratic process, including through sustained engagement. We shall continue to ensure that liberty and freedom, as well as the fundamental rights of all citizens are protected. But remember that government also has the obligation to protect lives and properties, as well as the right of citizens to go about their daily businesses freely and protected from acts of violence.

To our neighbours in particular, and members of the international community, many of whom have expressed concern about the ongoing development in Nigeria, we thank you and urge you all to seek to know all the facts available before taking a position or rushing to judgment and making hasty pronouncements.

In the circumstances, I would like to appeal to protesters to note and take advantage of the various well-thought-out initiatives of this administration designed to make their lives better and more meaningful, and resist the temptation of being used by some subversive elements to cause chaos with the aim of truncating our nascent democracy.

For you to do otherwise will amount to undermining national security and the law and order situation. Under no circumstances will this be tolerated. I therefore call on our youths to discontinue the street protests and constructively engage government in finding solutions. Your voice has been heard loud and clear and we are responding.

And I call on all Nigerians to go about their normal businesses, and enjoin security agencies to protect lives and properties of all law abiding citizens without doing harm to those they are meant to protect. Let me pay tribute to officers of the Nigeria Police Force who have tragically lost their lives in the line of duty.

I would like to thank those state Governors, traditional and religious leaders who have appealed for calm and restraint. I also thank youth leaders who have restrained their followers from taking the law into their hands.

This government respects and will continue to respect all the democratic rights and civil liberties of the people, but it will not allow anybody or groups to disrupt the peace of our nation.

Thank you all. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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For The Records

‘A Budget of Economic Recovery and Resilience’

Capital Expenditure

40. An aggregate sum of N3.85 trillion is expected to be available for capital projects in 2021, as summarised below:

a. N1.80 trillion for MDAs’ capital expenditure;

b. N745 billion for Capital Supplementation;

c. N355 billion for Grants and Aid-funded projects;

d. N20 billion for the Family Homes Fund;

e. N25 billion for the Nigeria Youth Investment fund;

f. N336 billion for 60 Government Owned Enterprises;

g. N247 billion for capital component of Statutory Transfers; and

h. N710 billion for projects funded by Multi-lateral and Bi-lateral loans.

41.  The 2021 capital budget is N1.15 trillion higher than the 2020 provision of N2.69 trillion. At 29 percent of aggregate expenditure, the provision moves closer to this Administration’s policy target of 30 percent.

42.     Capital expenditure in 2021 remains focused on the completion of as many ongoing projects as possible, rather than the commencement of new ones. We have also made efforts to ensure equity in the distribution of projects and programmes in the proposed budget. I will be providing the National Assembly a list of some of the most critical projects which we must work collectively to ensure they receive adequate funding. Until projects reach completion, they do not deliver the dividends of democracy that Nigerians rightly deserve.

Highlights of the 2021 Capital Projects

43. Key capital spending allocations in the 2021 Budget include:

a. Power: N198 billion (inclusive of N150 billion for the Power Sector Recovery Plan);

b. Works and Housing: N404 billion;

c. Transportation: N256 billion;

d. Defence: N121 billion;

e. Agriculture and Rural Development: N110 billion;

f. Water Resources: N153 billion;

g. Industry, Trade and Investment: N51 billion;

h. Education: N127 billion;

i.  Universal Basic Education Commission: N70 billion;

j.  Health: N132 billion;

k.Zonal Intervention Projects: N100 billion; and

l.  Niger Delta Development Commission: N64 billion.

44. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will facilitate the integrated development of its sector by promoting crops’ value chains; as well as providing rural roads, water and sanitation, veterinary and pest controls, grazing, food and strategic reserves, and access to inputs and extension services.

45. The 157 percent increase in the capital allocation to the health sector is to enhance the capacity to deliver healthcare services through the procurement of equipment, vaccines and other facilities. Two centres of excellence, as well as one Accident and Emergency Centre, will be equipped in Federal Teaching Hospitals in each geopolitical zone.

46. In addition, numerous Primary Health Care Centres will be equipped and upgraded across the six geopolitical zones. Furthermore, funds have been allocated for the expansion of Midwives Service Scheme in the six geopolitical zones. To enhance occupational safety, funds have been provided for the provision of Personal Protective Equipment for health workers.

47. The Ministry of Education’s capital allocation has been increased by 65 percent to improve the education of our children. Funds have been provided for the provision of scholarship awards to Nigerian students at home and abroad.

48.     We have provided funds for the upgrade of security and other infrastructural facilities in our Unity Colleges nationwide. To improve access to education, we have made provision for the establishment of five new Federal Science and Technical Colleges. We have also provided for the payment of allowances to 5,000 teachers under the Federal Teachers Scheme.

49. In line with our commitment to invest in Transportation Infrastructure, capital allocation to the Works and Housing sector is to facilitate the completion of several critical projects in 2021. I have directed the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to provide a detailed breakdown of key infrastructural projects in her subsequent Press Briefing.

50. Key projects for implementation in the Power sector include several Rural Electrification Projects in the 36 States and Abuja, Rural Electrification Access Programme in Federal Universities, the Kaduna LPFO Gas Fired power Plant, the Mambilla Hydro Power Project and the Zungeru Hydropower Project.

51. Provisions have been made for legacy debts owed to local contractors compensation and resettlement of project-affected communities, the Renewable Energy Micro Utility (Solar) project, and the construction of transmission lines and substations nationwide. These project’s implementation is expected to have positive impact on electricity supply nationwide, as well as boost productivity and employment.

52. Projects to be implemented by the Ministry of Water Resources in 2021 include provision of potable water in the North East, construction of irrigation and dams across the country, and the provision of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene facilities.

53. The Ministry of Transportation has earmarked funds for projects such as the Lagos-Ibadan-Kano Line, Abuja-Kaduna Line, Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri Line and Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri Line. These projects, when completed, will minimize the cost of transporting people and goods around the country.

54.  To maintain the peace in the Niger Delta region for economic and social activities to thrive, the provision of N65 billion for the Presidential Amnesty Programme has been retained in the 2021 Budget. In addition, the sum of N63.51 billion has been appropriated for the Niger Delta Development Commission and N24.27 billion has been provided for the capital projects of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. These allocations should further support the development of the region by facilitating the completion of important ongoing projects, such as the East-West Road.

Government Fiscal Strategy in 2021

55. The government is already implementing several measures to overcome our fiscal constraints. In addition to the Strategic Revenue Growth Initiatives, we are leveraging technology and automation, as well as more effective monitoring of Independently Generated Revenues. Our efforts are aimed at addressing revenue leakages and redirecting scarce resources to the poor and vulnerable. These efforts include:

a. Deregulation of the price of petroleum products;

b. Ongoing verification exercise with IPPIS; and

c.  Implementation of service-based electricity tariffs.

56. The new petrol pricing regime has freed up resources that was allocated to subsidise petroleum products. Similarly, the ongoing IPPIS verification exercise has closed gaps that encourage ghost workers or pensioners. The service reflective electricity tariffs will help resolve liquidity crisis in the power sector and make the sector attractive to foreign investment. These reforms have released trillions of Naira for allocation to other priority areas.

57. Distinguished Senators, Honourable Members, permit me to reiterate that the main thrust of our capital spending programme in 2021 is the completion of as many ongoing projects as possible across the country. Accordingly, we have prioritized projects that can be rapidly completed to benefit our people.

58. Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members, I note, with satisfaction, your determination to promptly consider and pass the Petroleum Industry Bill into law. The enactment of this Bill will boost confidence and attract further investments into our oil and gas sector, as well as increase revenues.

59. I fully understand the difficulties many of our people are going through with the implementation of our reform agenda. However, the measures we are implementing are necessary for sustainable public finance, better allocation of our scarce resources and improved public service delivery. As we implement these reforms, social safety nets will be implemented to cushion the effect of the most vulnerable of our citizens as well as business owners.

60. In furtherance of our inclusiveness agenda, the sum of N420 billion has been provided to sustain the Social Investment Programme. N20 billion has also been set aside for the Family Homes Fund, our Social Housing Programme. We have expanded our National Social Register, to include an additional one million Nigerians following the onset of Coronavirus. We recently introduced the N75 billion Survival Fund Programme to support and protect businesses from potential vulnerabilities. Furthermore, the Central Bank of Nigeria is reducing the interest rate on its intervention facilities from 9% to 5% with a 1-year moratorium till 31st March 2021, to provide concessional lending of:

 .  N100 billion to households and small businesses;

a. N100 billion to the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry; and

b. N1 trillion to large agricultural and manufacturing businesses.

61. We urge Nigerian businesses and individuals to make the most of these concessional credit facilities and other such opportunities.

Conclusion

62.      Mr. Senate President, Mr. Speaker, Distinguished and Honourable Members of the 9th National Assembly; let me use this opportunity to, again, commend your firm commitment towards ensuring a very harmonious and productive relationship with the Executive. It is important to further deepen this relationship in the interest of our people.

63. As you review the 2021 Budget estimates, we believe the legislative process will be expedited to ensure its prompt passage to sustain the restoration of a predictable January – December fiscal year. In this regard, I have directed all Ministers and Heads of Agencies to be personally available for budget defence.

64. Let me re-emphasize that Nigerians expect that the 2021 Budget will contain only implementable and critical projects, which when completed, will significantly address current structural challenges of the economy, improve the business environment and accelerate economic recovery.

65. May I conclude my remarks by commending the National Assembly for its support in steering our economy during these very challenging times. We remain committed to sustaining this partnership. We believe that as we work together, we will jointly deliver on our joint mandate to our people.

66. It is with great pleasure, therefore, that I lay, before this Distinguished Joint Session of the National Assembly, the 2021 Budget Proposals of the Federal Government of Nigeria, for your consideration.

67. I thank you for your attention.

68. May God continue to bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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For The Records

JP Clark: A Real Casualty Of Ijaw

The news that foremost poet and literatry giant, John Pepper Clark has passed on  has come as a rude shock to the world of scholarship and the Ijaws  as they have lost a rare Jem.

On March 21, 2013 when Prof. Chinua Achebe passed on, J.P Clark and Wole Soyinka wrote: “Of the “pioneer quartet” of contemporary Nigerian literature, two voices have been silenced – one, of the poet Christopher Okigbo, and now, the novelist Chinua Achebe.

A quartet is made up of four. If Professors J.P Clark and Wole Soyinka had recognized Achebe and Okigbo as two of the “pioneer quartet”, it is only obvious who the other two are – Soyinka and J.P Clark. Now, only Soyinka remains! J.P Clark was born in Kiagbodo town, Delta State of Nigeria.

. His education commenced at the Native Authority School, Okrika in Burutu Local Government Area before he proceeded to the prestigious Government College in Ughelli. He later went to the University of Ibadan from where he bagged a Bachelors of Arts degree in English in 1960. His literary career began at the University of Ibadan where he edited a number of campus magazines including The Beacon and The Horn.

 After he left Ibadan, Clark worked as an information officer in the Ministry of Information, old Western Region of Nigeria; as features editor of Daily Express, and later as a research fellow at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan. For several years he worked as a professor of English at the University of Lagos where he co-edited the Black Orpheus magazine until he retired from the university in 1980.

 Selected Works Among his poetic works are “Mbari” (1961) made up of a group of 40 lyrics that treat heterogeneous themes; “A Reed in the Tide” (Longmans, 1965), occasional poems that focus on the Clark’s indigenous African background and his travel experience in America and other places and “Casualties: Poems 1966–68” (USA: Africana Publishing Corporation, 1970), which illustrate the horrendous events of the Nigeria-Biafra war.

 His other works are “A Decade of Tongues (Longmans, Drumbeat series, 1981), a collection of 74 poems; “State of the Union” (1981), which highlights Clark’s apprehension concerning the sociopolitical events in Nigeria as a developing nation; “Mandela and Other Poems” (1988), which deals with the perennial problem of aging and death.

J.P Clark did quite a number of dramatic works which include, “Song of a Goat” premiered at the Mbari Club in 1961. It is a tragedy cast in the Greek classical mode; a sequel to “Song of a Goat”, “The Masquerade (1964), in which Dibiri’s rage culminates in the death of his suitor Tufa; “The Raft” (1964), in which four men drift helplessly down the Niger aboard a log raft; “Ozidi” (1966), a transcription of a performance of an epic drama of the Ijaw people; and “The Boat” (1981), a prose drama that documents Ngbilebiri history and other works.

 In 1991, he received the Nigerian National Order of Merit Award for literary excellence. On 6 December 2011, to honour him, a celebration was held at Lagos Motor Boat Club, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, for the publication of “J. P. Clark: A Voyage, the definitive biography of the main animating force of African poetry” written by playwright Femi Osofisan. The launch was attended by literary giants including Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka. In 2015 the Society of Young Nigerian Writers under the leadership of Wole Adedoyin founded the JP Clark Literary Society aimed at promoting and reading his works

Perhaps the most controversial of all his works was “Casualties: Poems 1966–68” (USA: Africana Publishing Corporation, 1970), his 28 war poems collected in 1970. Casualties which addressed the Nigerian civil war from various angles.

 In the “Casualties” J.P Clark writes: “The casualties are many, and a good number well/Outside the scene of ravage and wreck;/They are the emissaries of rift,/So smug in smoke-room they haunt abroad,/They are wandering minstrels who, beating on/The drum of human heart, draw the world/Into a dance with rites it does not know The “Casualties” and another controversial work, “America, their America” must have drawn the ire of Western powers who felt that J.P Clark was criticizing them.

Reacting to his death, the immediate past President of Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, Denja Abdullahi, said “J. P. Clark will be remembered as the most sterling of our first-generation Nigerian modernist poets. He was in a class of his own with quite a number of totemic poems that vividly describe the environment in which he was formed or which he encountered in his life. He gave the world the African Epic narrative of the Ozidi Saga which will remain an unequalled literary achievement of his productivity as a writer and researcher.

“J.P was also a compelling enigmatic dramatist whose canvas was the vibrant creek of the Niger Delta with all its beauties and despoliations,” said the former ANA president. “His contributions to Nigerian, African and world literature in the genres of poetry, drama and the epic narrative will remain evergreen. He would also go down in people’s memories as the taciturn, quietly fiery and most misunderstood writer who may have departed with some unshed knowledge about some dark periods of Nigerian history.”

Prof Olu Obafemi, former ANA President and 2019 recipient of Nigerian National Merit Award said, “The very sad news of the passing of one of Africa’s few remaining literary patriarchs and great men and women of Letter’s, Professor Emeritus John Pepper Bekederemo-Ckark is both painful and devastating.

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For The Records

Together We Can Change Our Condition For The Better-Buhari

Nigeria’s 60th Independence

Anniversary Address by President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR

Fellow Nigerians

I speak to you today as your President and fellow citizen on this epoch occasion of our country’s 60th independence Anniversary. As President, I wish to renew my appreciation to Nigerians for entrusting me with your hopes and aspirations for a better and greater Nigeria.

 Today, it is my unique privilege to re-commit myself to the service of this great country of great people with profound diversities and opportunities. We are bound by destiny to be the largest and greatest black nation on earth.At this stage in our nationhood it is important that we reflect how we got here to enable us work TOGETHER to get to where we aspire to be as a strong indivisible nation, united in hope and equal in opportunity.

  On October 1st 1960 when Prime Minister Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa received the constitutional instruments symbolizing Nigeria’s independence, he expressed his wish that having acquired our rightful status as an independent sovereign nation, history would record that the building of our nation proceeded at the wisest pace.

 This optimism was anchored on the peaceful planning, full and open consultation and harmonious cooperation with the different groups which culminated in Nigeria emerging as a country without bitterness and bloodshed. Our founding fathers understood the imperative of structuring a National identity using the power of the state and worked towards unification of Nigerians in a politically stable and viable entity.

 That philosophy guided the foundation that was laid for our young nation of 45 million people with an urban population of approximately 7million occupying an area of 910,768 square kilometers. These demographics led to development challenges for which major efforts were made to overcome.

Today, we grapple with multiple challenges with a population exceeding 200million occupying the same land mass but 52% residing in urban areas. Sixty years of nationhood provides an opportunity to ask ourselves questions on the extent to which we have sustained the aspirations of our founding fathers. Where did we do the right things? Are we on course? If not where did we stray and how can we remedy and retrace our steps?

 Upon attaining independence, Nigeria’s growth trajectory was anchored on policies and programmes that positively impacted on all sectors of the economy. However, this journey was cut short by the 30-months of civil war. We came out of the civil war with a focus on reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation that enabled the country to put in place world class development structures and a strengthened public service that well served the government. This positive trajectory continued with a return to democratic government which was truncated by another round of military rule. 

 For a cumulative 29 of our 60 years existence as a nation, we have been under military rule.

 My summary of our journey so far as a nation is necessary to appropriately chart where we need to go and how to get there TOGETHER.

Today, I am aware that our economy along with every single economy in the world is in crisis. We still face security challenges in parts of the country, while our society suffers from a high loss of moral rectitude which is driven by unbridled craving for political control. An underlying cause of most of the problems we have faced as a nation is our consistent harping on artificially contrived fault-lines that we have harboured and allowed unnecessarily to fester.

In addition, institutions such as civil service, police, the judiciary, the military all suffered from a general decline. We need to begin a sincere process of national healing and this anniversary presents a genuine opportunity  to eliminate old and outworn perceptions that are always put to test in the lie they always are.

The stereotype of thinking of ourselves as coming from one part of the country before seeing ourselves as Nigerians is a key starting point to project us on the road to our deserved nation’s evolution and integration.

  To start this healing process, we are already blessed with the most important asset any nation requires for such – OUR PEOPLE – and this has manifested globally in the exploits of Nigerians in many fields. It has been demonstrated time and time again that Nigerians in the diaspora frequently excel in science, technology, medicine, sports, arts and many other fields.

  Similarly, the creativity, ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Nigerian at home have resulted in globally recognized endeavours.  I am convinced that if we pursue our aspirations TOGETHER we would be able to achieve whatever we desire. That informed our adopting the theme TOGETHER to mark this epochal event.

Together we can change our condition for the better and more importantly, together we can do much more for ourselves and for our country. I chose the path of self-reflection because this is what I do on a daily basis and I must confess that at most times, I always felt the need for a collective reflection as I know that the foundation for a solid future which this administration is laying can only be sustainable if there is a collective commitment by Nigerians.

  Nigeria is not a country for Mr. President, any ruling or opposition party but a country for all of us and we must play our part, irrespective of challenges we face, to make this country what we desire. To achieve this, we must focus our minds, TOGETHER as a people, on ways of resolving the identified critical challenges that underlie our present state.

These include:a.  Evolving and sustaining a democratic culture that leaves power in the hands of the people; b. Supporting the enthronement of the rule of law, demanding accountability of elected representatives and contributing to good governance; c.  Increasing our commitment to peaceful co-existence in a peaceful, secure and united Nigeria; d. Harnessing and Optimizing our tremendous human and natural resources to attain our goal of being in the top twenty economies of the world and in the process; e.  Lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years;  f. Strengthening institutions to make them stronger in protecting National Interests; and g. Imbibing tolerance in diversity. 

  I am a firm believer in transparent, free, fair and credible elections as has been demonstrated during my period as a democratically elected President.  The recent build-up and eventual outcome of the Edo State elections should encourage Nigerians that it is my commitment to bequeath to this country processes and procedures that would guarantee that the people’s votes count.

  The problems with our electoral process are mainly human induced as desperate desire for power leads to desperate attempts to gain power and office. Democracy, the world over and as I am pursuing in Nigeria, recognizes the power of the people. However, if some constituencies choose to bargain off their power, they should be prepared for denial of their rights.

  This call is made more urgent if we realise that even after a transparent, free, fair and credible election, desperation leads to compromising the judiciary to upturn legitimate decisions of the people. It is necessary to, therefore support the enthronement of the rule of law by avoiding actions which compromise the judiciary.

  Fellow Nigerians, our history has shown that we are a people that have the capacity to live peacefully with one another. As a government, we remain committed to our constitutional oath of securing the lives and properties of the citizenry. I, however, call on the citizenry to also support government by providing the necessary community level intelligence in addressing these challenges. 

  In moving forward together, it is important to strengthen our economy to provide sustainable means of livelihood for as many Nigerians as possible so as to eradicate absolute poverty from our midst. I want to re-emphasize my dedication and commitment, a dedication and commitment that propelled my public service career and informed my quest to continually seek for an opportunity to improve the lives of Nigerians, set the country on the path of prosperity and lead the country to a better future.

  This administration has been focused on rebuilding and laying the foundations for a sustainable Nigeria. Of course, we have met and are still meeting the challenges inherent in any rebuilding initiative – more so that of a nation like Nigeria that has undergone avoidable levels of deprivation – but can be surmounted if we all work together.

  I wish to re-iterate that our people and our spirit of excellence remains our most important asset. In this wise, the need to return to our age-old ethical and high moral values would be necessary and this informed my launching of the National Ethics and Integrity Policy on Monday 28th September, 2020.

 The policy would not implement itself and the first contact of the visibility of its implementation is the Public Service whose on-going reforms would be expected to be sustainable and give a radical re-direction in providing services to all Nigerians.

  Fellow Nigerians, in addition to public health challenges of working to contain the spread of the Coronavirus, we have suffered a significant drop in our foreign exchange earnings and internal revenues due to 40 per cent drop in oil prices and steep drop in economic activities, leading to a 60 per cent drop in government revenue.

 Our government is grappling with the dual challenge of saving lives and livelihoods in face of drastically reduced resources. In this regard, sustaining the level of petroleum prices is no longer possible. The government, since coming into office has recognized the economic argument for adjusting the price of petroleum. But the social argument about the knock-on effect of any adjustment weighed heavily with the government.

  Accordingly, in the last three years, we have introduced unprecedented measures in support of the economy and to the weakest members of our society in the shape of: a.  Tradermoni b. Farmermoni  c.  School Feeding Programme  d.  Job creation efforts   e.  Agricultural intervention programmes

  No government in the past did what we are doing with such scarce resources. We have managed to keep things going in spite of the disproportionate spending on security. Those in the previous Governments from 1999 – 2015 who presided over the near destruction of the country have now the impudence to attempt to criticize our efforts.

  In the circumstances, a responsible government must face realities and take tough decisions.

  Petroleum prices in Nigeria are to be adjusted. We sell now at N161 per litre. A comparison with our neighbours will illustrate the point;  a.  Chad which is an oil producing country charges N362 per litre  b.  Niger, also an oil producing country sells 1 litre at N346.  c.  In Ghana, another oil producing country, petroleum pump price is N326 per litre.  Further afield, Egypt charges N211 per litre. Saudi Arabia charges N168 per litre. It makes no sense for oil to be cheaper in Nigeria than in Saudi Arabia.

  Fellow Nigerians, to achieve the great country we desire, we need to solidify our strength, increase our commitment and encourage ourselves to do that which is right and proper even when no one is watching.

  Fellow Nigerians, let us collectively resolve to continue our journey beyond the sixty years on the clear understanding that as a nation we are greater together than being smaller units of nationalities. By the special grace of God we shall come through any transient challenges.

  It is my sincere hope that by the end of this anniversary on September 30th 2021, we will all be proud of taking this individual and collective self-assessment for the progress of our great Nation.

Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

God Bless us all. Thank you.

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For The RecordsFront Page

60 Years After, Nation-Building A Far-Cry

Address On Nigeria’s 60th Independence

Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike,

Governor Of Rivers State

It is my honour and privilege to welcome you to the ceremonies marking the 60th Independence Anniversary of our country, Nigeria. ​As we join the rest of the country and other well-wishers to celebrate independence, let us start by appreciating our forefathers through whose struggles our nation was freed from colonial rule on the first of October 1960.

​As you know, political independence was necessary for us to take full control of our destiny and steer our nation and our people towards a progressive and prosperous existence. ​And so, today’s reality is that we have been a free nation; absolutely free from the shackles and indignities of being ruled, dominated and exploited by imperial Britain for the past 60 years.

 This is no trivial historical milestone and achievement, for which we are justified in rolling out the drums to celebrate with other friendly nations who share in our excitements and wished us well no matter the circumstances and challenges of the moment.​We therefore salute the courage, sacrifice and heroism of our founding fathers that resulted in the birth of this potentially great nation.

We shall forever be grateful to them not only for the plateau of independence they delivered to us on a platter, but also, for reclaiming and restoring the pride and dignity of our people to self-rule. ​We also appreciate our past and present national leaders and the Armed Forces of Nigeria for their labour and sacrifice to keep this nation together for the last consecutive 60 years in the midst of the challenges, which continues to manifest in many forms and proportions.

 At independence, our founding fathers envisioned to build our nation with due regard to our diversity and with visionary enthusiasm provided the basic building blocks for sustaining a united, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria in the foundational constitution documents.

 We had democracy, regional autonomy and fiscal federalism as the guiding principles for political, social and economic relations between the central government and the constituent regions.

​No one part or region was deliberately denied against what was due to it; neither was any ethnic nationality politically and economically unduly favoured above all others by the central government. ​Above all, the regions controlled their resources and were engaged in healthy competition for development and transformation while remaining loyal to the corporate existence and progress of the Federal Republic.

Under these arrangements, Nigeria thrived on a peaceful and progressive path and as great author, Chinua Achebe, once affirmed: “there was a country” at least in the First Republic, when true federalism and regionalization of political power and resources held sway.​Unfortunately, the fundamental foundational principles of negotiated constitutionalism, regional autonomy, and fiscal federalism were blatantly jettisoned by long years of misguided military incursions and adventurism into the nation’s body politics.

Although the military has since vacated from politics over 20 years ago but the constitutional, political and economic substructures they mischievously imposed on us, especially the inherent error of commission or omission in the nationalization of communal lands and resources, have continued to challenge and diminish the nation’s fragile peace, unity and socio-economic progress.

And so, 60 years after independence, nation-building remains a far cry and the lofty goals and aspirations of our founding fathers for a politically transparent, economically healthy and socially peaceful and prosperous nation remain betrayed while the way to a glorious future is arrested.

​No one is in doubt about the fact that ours is a nation blessed by God with enormous human and natural resources, yet, after 60 years of self-rule we are still held behind as a nation teeming with one of the poorest and helpless population in the world with an average income per capita of less than a dollar per day.

Without inadequate access to social, political and economic rights, including quality education, healthcare, nutritious food, housing, social security, information technology, energy and transport infrastructure, Nigeria’s misery index remains one of the worst in the world. ​And then, violence, banditry, rampant killings and insecurity continue to plague and ravage sizeable parts of our country for over a decade, destroying communities, farmlands and causing massive dislocations and untold sufferings to already desperate and hapless populations.

​Never in our history since the end of the civil war have Nigerians been so divided, despondent and distressed with prognosis that clearly point to the fact that the cracks are getting deeper in the much-strained, abused and debased walls that have managed to hold this nation together. As things stand now no one can really predict the future survival of this nation if we continue to maintain this nebulous, rigged and generally rejected federal system through corruption, repression and the abuse of both legitimate and illegitimate state institutions.

 We may as usual choose to gloat in the limited progress we have made since independence, especially the relative expansions in access to education, healthcare and other socio-economic infrastructures without giving any considerations to the serious challenges preventing us from building a free, fair and just nation that would command the total loyalty of all nationalities above all other interests.

​However, let it be known that the persistent failure and or resistance to heeding the voices of reason in confronting and resolving the contending core political and economic issues troubling this nation as quickly as possible is akin to postponing the doomsday, which looks inevitable with the way things are going.

​Our nation can be strong and progressive if we practice true democracy, fraud-proof electoral system, effective and politically neutral law enforcement, deepen the rule of law and enable the practical independence of our judiciary. ​Again, our nation can only be free from the perpetual state of crisis, violence and threat of disintegration if we exhibit and courage, sincerity and commitment to rational restructuring, effective devolution of powers, resource control and true federalism as our governance system under a people-propelled and robustly negotiated constitution that secures basic human rights and social justice as the touchstones of our existence both as a nation and as a people.

Therefore, as we celebrate the 60th independence anniversary of our country, let us all reflect on the need to save Nigeria from the self-destructive direction it is wrongly headed. ​Let us resolve to take the right steps to lay and institutionalize the necessary constitutional and political systems that will enable us to build a free sovereign democratic and functional nation under God where everyone, including the unborn generationbs, can have equal access to political, social and economic opportunities and live in peace, security and happiness with one another.

 ​This is the only way for us to have and build an inclusive and prosperous nation unhindered by divisive and seditious tendencies and loyalties to sectional interest in our match towards realizing the lofty aspirations of the founding fathers and other patriots.

​As the Governor of Rivers State, I wish to reaffirm the subscription of the people of Rivers State to the unity and continuous existence of Nigeria and our resolve to welcome, accommodate and live in peace with our neighbours and our brothers and sisters from other parts of the country on the basis of reciprocity, mutual accommodation and tolerance.

 ​The commitment of our government is to build a State that is home to all Nigerians and foreigners alike who desire to either reside, visit or invest and share in the social and economic opportunities on offer and in our prosperity.  In the last five and half years, we have prioritized and improved the living conditions of our people with unprecedented investments in the provision of socio-economic infrastructures across the length and breadth of the State.

We are constructing roads, flyovers, jetties, markets and expanding healthcare and education facilities throughout the State including our rural areas to accelerate economic growth and make life more meaningful for our people.We have spared no efforts in advancing and achieving security and Rivers State is now reckoned as one of the few most peaceful States in Nigeria and with a much-improved business environment that is attracting investors into the State in their numbers.

We have prudently managed our economy and kept it on the path of safety and stability such that we have been acclaimed as the most fiscally viable State in the Country, generating resources enough to meet our capital and recurrent expenditures. Clearly, we have a bright future and our dream is to create a prosperous State that offers viable opportunities for everyone who works hard to lift him or herself from the valley of want and poverty into the plateau of economic progress and prosperity.

Although much has been achieved in our determination to build a better and prosperous Rivers State, we believe that there is much more to be done to mobilize resources to build our economy and generate good jobs for our youths and a prosperous and dignified life for all our people.

 I therefore call on everyone to stand with us to confront our common challenges and together take Rivers State to the promise land of our dreams as we will achieve more if we stand together and act as a united people with a common destiny.

​Finally, as I wish all Nigerians a happy Diamond Jubilee anniversary, let us all take pride in our diversity and rise above narrow ethnic and other sentiments to build a truly peaceful, united and prosperous nation.

​May God continue to bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

God bless Rivers State

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For The RecordsNews

NWAKAUDU: A GOOD MAN GOES HOME

The body of late Mr. Simeon Nwakaudu, Senior Special Assistant on Electronic Media to the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike,has been laid to rest.There is no doubt that his kinsmen at Umuanya Ogbodikwu, in Umuahia South LGA of Abia State were full of grief that such an illustrious son was cut down in his prime.

Mr. Nwakaudu, whose sad demise occured on Sunday, May 17, 2020, at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH) after a brief illness had an amiable personality that was magnified with his toothy smile.  As a thorough bred professional, he covered his beat with the dexterity that stood him out among his peers.

His ink flowed with relentless ease as he churned out Press Releases and Features to propagate the policies and programmes of the Rivers State Government. He never missed out on any news item that had to do with the State or our Principal. The timeliness with which he communicated was quite enchanting.

The Abia State-born prolific journalist, who has a degree in Mass Communication from the Benue State University, Makurdi, began reporting in a Makurdi-based tabloid called the Pavilion, before joining The Guardian Newspapers as the Benue State Correspondent.

He joined the Media team of the Rivers State Governor, who was then Minister of State for Education and moved to Port Harcourt with the Governor to coordinate the Media team during the 2015 elections and was officially designated as the Senior Special Assistant, Electronic Media to the Governor after the Election victory.

The late Nwakaudu was a committed and dedicated professional who contributed immensely to the implementation of The NEW Rivers Vision. He was a strong defender of the Rivers State Government, a robust writer and an uncompromising media strategist, who interpreted and presented the visions and initiatives of the administration of  Governor Wike, with comprehensive poignancy and unequivocal clarity.

He was the definitive name and voice of the Rivers State Government House Media and his passing at the time it occurred, came when his services were greatly needed not just by the Government of Rivers State but the entire journalism profession.

Simeon Nwakaudu was a good man. He was a loyal family man, a dependable ally to his friends and colleagues and a devout Christian who enjoyed immeasurable love, respect and admiration from everyone all over the country. He will be sorely missed for his professionalism both to the Rivers State Government and the Journalism Community.

As an individual, I lost not just a friend and colleague but a brother. He showed me so much love and support as we carried out public communication for our State.We had a close nit relationship that created the right synergy that produced a resilient Media Team.

He was ready to go the extra mile as he made sacrifices that made me see him more as a brother than a colleague. There was never a time I gave him an assignment no matter how late or shortness of time that he complained. He was in my assessment a rare breed that I presently feel that part of my professional pillars in the State Media Team is gone.

Nwakaudu’s death is indeed a monumental loss to the Government of Rivers State, family, friends and colleagues.I will surely miss my “Ogbuagu.” Fare thee well, Simeon until we meet on the resurrection morning.

May your gentle soul rest in peace. Amen.

Nsirim is Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State

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For The Records

‘Let Dividends Of Democracy Roll Into Wakirike’

Being an address by Distinguished Senator (Chief) George Thompson Sekibo CON, DSSRS on behalf of the Wakirike people during their visit to the Executive Governor of Rivers State, His Excellency, Chief Barrister Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, CON, GSSRS, Pos Africa, at Government House, Port Harcourt on Friday, February 28th, 2020.

Today marks a very special day in the history of the Wakirike     people. The Wakirike people are domiciled predominantly in    Okrika, Ogu/Bolo and part of Port Harcourt Local government areas of our dear state.

 That today is a special day, is underscored by the fact, that we have all our Amanyanapu, Alapu, Elder Statesmen, the intelligentsia, men, women and our youths in full splendor, before our Governor, the government, and leaders of our state.

We are gathered here in one accord, and with one purpose; to say to you, and your lieutenants, Congratulations, for your historic victory at the 2019 governorship polls; and for overcoming its attendant but unnecessary legal tangles. We say to you in our language, Owubo, Ibara Ofirime, Tamunomiebaka. Translated, it means, you are a man of courage and great strength; we thank God.

An occasion such as this, apart from achieving the purpose of congratulating our amiable governor, is a unique and rare opportunity to appear before our political and administrative leader.

As great patriots and loyal citizens, who are always committed to the peace and progress of this administration, and the prosperity of our state, we are glad to felicitate with you, as we work together, towards achieving a common agenda of ensuring social harmony, security and infrastructural development of our state.

Our gratitude:

‘Those who stand before the king must use their time wisely’. It is within this context we wish to specially thank you:

I.For the appointments into various political positions given to Wakirike sons and daughters in your administration.

ii. For the projects that were executed in Wakirike ethnic nationality in the first tenure of your administration and for others still ongoing such as; construction of Okrika ATC landing jetty, Okrika waterworks and reticulation, construction of Government Secondary School, Ogu and construction of Bolo internal roads; as well as the construction of Amadi-Ama, Tere-Ama and Phase 1 of Okochiri internal roads, among several other projects that are at various stages of execution in Wakirike. 

iii. For the recognition and upgrading of traditional rulers’ stools in Wakirike ethnic nationality.

Promises made:

We appreciate the mutual relationship we share in this democratic journey, and wish to remind our Executive Governor of his express promises to the Wakirike people during the electioneering campaigns in Okrika and Ogu-Bolo LGAs as follows:

 Ogu-Bolo LGA

I Construction of Ogu-Wakama link road

ii Construction of Ogu-Eteo road

iii Resettlement of Ele Town 

1 Okrika LGA

I Sandfilling of the swamp opposite ATC waterfront. We wish to reiterate that one of the critical points of the Willinks commission’s Report is lack of adequate land to accommodate the growing population of Okrika. Consequently, this ATC waterfront sandfilling has been one of our consistent demands. We therefore crave Your Excellency to be the first governor to undertake the sandfilling of the swamp opposite the ATC waterfront.

ii Electrification of Okrika through Dr Peter Odili Road substation linking Okujagu-Ama, Ojimba-Ama, Oba-Ama and Igbiri.

iii    Construction of Azuabie-Igbiri link road/Bridge.

iv    Construction of Phase 2 of Okochiri internal roads.

Your Excellency is a man of honour whose words have always proven to be his bond. We are therefore very confident, that these promises made in the open to the Wakirike people, will be fulfilled by our Governor. 

Our requests:

However, as people in the king’s court, we are pleased to make the following requests:

(1) More appointments for Wakirike sons and daughters in your administration especially in the State Executive Council.

(2) Re-establishment of the moribund Government Sea School at Isaka in place of the comatose Sports Institute; and the construction of two concrete landing jetties at Witt and Busch and Isaka for which contract was awarded in 2017/2018 by your administration. 

(3) Sandfilling of Phase 2 of Olombie/Owukiri Island in Ogu.

(4) Sandfilling of Bolo waterfront to Yayokiri-Ama at Bolo.

(5) Recognition for more traditional rulers’ stools particularly those not affected by litigations such as the traditional stools of Abuloma, Isaka, Ibaka, Ogbogbo and Ele; and presentation of certificate and staff of office to the incumbent Amanyanabo of Koniju Town.  

(6) Rebuilding of Okrika Grammar School, Okrika.

As stated earlier, some of the projects are not new as they were projects earlier promised by your humble self, in your first tenure and during the governorship election campaigns. We believe that at this point in your political career, you will bring to pass your clear and elegant pronouncements concerning the Wakirike people. After all, this governorship is also a Wakirike governorship, because you are one of us. 

It is our humble request, Your Excellency, that as a governor who believes in the rule of law, you will give necessary recognition to the traditional rulers’ stools of Ibaka and Ogbogbo towns, two distinct ancient towns of the Wakirike which were erroneously put together under one stool, but rightly corrected by a court of competent jurisdiction vide the ruling on Suit No. PHC/158/79 delivered by the eminent jurist, His Lordship, Hon. Justice S.A. Wai-Ogosu.

We also request, Your Excellency, for the recognition of the occupants of the Abuloma and Koniju Town stools that have already been gazetted as traditional rulers’ stools in Rivers State. The Abuloma stool was created and captured in the Chieftaincy Laws Cap 25 of RSE 1978 No. 5 and further reaffirmed in the publication of Rivers State Traditional Rulers Law No. 4 of 2015.

Consequent upon both laws upholding the Amadabo status of Abuloma Stool, the Abuloma people on 6th August, 2016 coronated retired Brigadier-General Bright Ateke Fiboinumama as their traditional ruler after seeking Your Excellency’s approval which was granted.

We wish to recall, Your Excellency, that you were well represented at the coronation ceremony by the then Commissioner for Chieftaincy and Community Affairs, Hon. John Bazia, who also made a speech on your behalf.

It is consequent upon this conviction, our executive governor, that we the Wakirke people, especially our women, put our pride and our lives on the line to defend our votes. It is on record, that our girls and women stripped themselves naked in a rare display of courage and solidarity, to frustrate well armed federal forces and prevent them from stealing our votes and your mandate.

Finally, Sir, may we use this occasion to also announce that the Wakirike people are one of the most loyal and peaceful ethnic nationalities in Rivers State. Your Excellency did make a declaration, that only peaceful communities will enjoy special dividends of democracy in this dispensation. We pray, Your Excellency, to let the dividends of democracy roll into Wakirike.

We commit you and your administration into the safe hands of the Almighty God and wish you well in your endeavours. Thank you, Your Excellency.

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