It is a new dawn in Rivers State. It is unprecedented in the history of Nigeria. At least, in recent Nigerian history, no state governor, not even any president has presented an annual budget with capital projects alone taking 70 per cent of the entire projection. But then, bold governance is the result of bold vision. Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has indeed dwarfed all superlatives as far as budgeting in Nigeria is concerned. Of the total of N470billion presented to the the State House of Assembly on Wednesday December 28, 2016 in the 2017 Appropriation Bill, Governor Wike allocated N329 billion, representing 70 per cent, to Capital Expenditure while N141 billion is slated for Recurrent Expenditure. Christened “the Golden Jubilee Budget for Accelerated Development,” the 2017 budget, according the performing governor, “is premised on the need to consolidate on our achievements for 2016 and restore the state’s economy to a sustained growth path and expand economic opportunities for all.”
We at The AUTHORITY commend Governor Wike for the bold steps taken to extricate Rivers State from the stranglehold of underdevelopment, insecurity, poverty and squalor. The saying that the morning shows the day cannot be more apt when gleaned against the backdrop of Wike’s emergence as governor of the oil rich Niger Delta state. Soon after he was inaugurated as governor, he swung into action and was seen everywhere directing, detailing and delegating responsibilities and making sure that things are done the right way. In fact, it was the zeal with which he embraced his assignment, the passion and energy with which he confronted the challenges of the state that endeared him more and more to the hearts of the people of Rivers State who are ever willing to stand behind him in the arduous task of moving the state to the next level. The unmistakable qualities that are common in him are vision, courage, loyalty to a noble cause, humility, patriotism, commitment, experienced team play, spirit of forgiveness, patience and proven track record.
Of course, those who see him as threat to their expansionist tendency of holding the people of Rivers State hostage in perpetuity are seen everywhere trying to criminalise him just for standing firmly for his party and his people. But this densely prolific genius has come to be seen as a phenomenon who symbolizes courage and achievement in less than two years in the saddle as governor. Even the independent and critical section of the Nigerian media has come to see him as dependable, hardworking and detribalised. This sense of appreciation by the people of Rivers state and Nigerians at large to recognise and identify with one who has the capacity to deliver the common good to the greatest number of the people is perhaps one of the most enviable and telling testimonies of our current existence. It is heartwarming that Wike has emerged as the symbol of the collective aspirations of the people of the Niger Delta. This much, was attested to by no less a personality than Obong Godswill Akpabio, Senate Minority Leader and former governor of Akwa Ibom state who upon a solidarity visit to the governor in Port Hacourt recently, remarked that Wike is the best governor in the current dispensation. We cannot agree more!
It is gratifying to note that Governor Wike is setting the pace for his fellow governors and the Federal Government at a time when he is faced with a lot of distractions from his political adversaries amidst a very hash political atmosphere. Except perhaps during the defunct First Republic when the regional governments were competing for development, the level of development in Rivers state under Wike is unprecedented. We recall that in the First Republic, the Western Region under Chief Obafemi Awolowo as Premier had an average recurrent expenditure of 34 per cent, which triggered tremendous infrastructural revolution, industries and even free education at all levels. The Eastern Nigerian regional Government under Dr. M. I Okpara as Premier followed suit with an average recurrent expenditure of 36 per cent. With just agriculture as main focus and palm produce as the focal cash crop, the Eastern Nigerian economy was the fastest growing amongst the Commonwealth of Nations. The Northern Regional Government under the great politician, Sir Ahmadu Bello as Premier maintained the same 36 per cent recurrent expenditure and this brought about rapid transformation of the North with only agriculture and groundnuts as the focal cash crop. Commonsense alone dictates that it is the state of a country’s infrastructure, human capital development and its internal security mechanisms which need showcasing to skeptical would-be investors abroad. This is exactly what Wike is doing in Rivers State.
What is more, the insistence by Governor Wike on 100 per cent implementation of budgets in the state is phenomenal. Since the present civil rule began in 1999, governments at all levels hardly implement above 45 per cent of budgetary allocations. This is the material fact behind the total non-performance of governments at all tiers. It would be recalled that budget implementation in the Obasanjo years averaged 30 per cent, and that the acts of sabotage perpetrated by Directors and other accounting officers persisted because the regime at the time lacked the moral authority to instill discipline and accountability in the civil service. A few courageous members of the Fifth Senate and House of Representatives had repeatedly queried the trend in regard to non-implementation of budgets and even attempted impeachment proceedings against ex-President Obasanjo but failed to muster enough support from colleagues. It is therefore imperative that Wike be given a pat on the back for his courage, hardwork and commitment.