By Soalabo W. West, Esq.
My public declaration to vie for the high office of Governor of Rivers State on the platform of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) has elicited diverse reactions from indigenes and residents of the State. Many Nigerians from different parts of the country have also expressed their views on my aspiration.
No matter the leanings of the opinions that were expressed, my willingness to offer my name for nomination for the position of Governor of Rivers State, has, nonetheless, broadened the ambits of the political discourse within and outside the State. This I believe is good for the PDP and our polity, in general.
For the records, I have been a loyal member of the PDP for over 10 years and even when the party was afflicted by a gale of defections, I remained in the PDP, hoping that the principle of rotational zoning entrenched in the constitution of the party by the elders and founders of the party will continue to guide the leadership of the party in matters relating to elective positions. Alas, this is not the case and I am now hard put to say that, due to the whirlpool of existing political exigencies, I will no longer be aspiring to actualise my governorship ambition under the aegis of the PDP.
In announcing my interest for the governorship position under the aegis of the PDP, I emphasised that my candidature was inspired by the crying need to allow the riverine communities of Rivers State to produce the Governor of the State in 2019. I don’t think that I was asking for too much from the State and National leadership of the PDP as the upland area of the State has produced all the Governors elected on the platform of the PDP since the advent of civilian elective participatory democracy in 1999.
My argument remains that by 2019 the upland communities would have controlled the governorship of Rivers State for 20 years. I am convinced that my request that an indigene of the riverine part of the State, should of necessity be availed the opportunity to govern the State is in tune with the democratic ideals of equity, justice and fairness.
Sadly, I have come to realise that the leadership of the party in the State and at the National level of the PDP may never be prepared for an indigene of the State from the riverine area to govern Rivers State in 2019.
The reason that is being bandied around is that the incumbent Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, an Ikwerre man who also took over from former Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, also from the Ikwerre ethnic stock, is doing well and as such should be allowed to continue for a second term of four years, up to 2023 does not trump the existential imperatives of the riverine people of the State.
I have written to the leadership of the party at the State and National, asking for a commitment that the party will, in pursuance of the provisions of the PDP constitution, zone the Governorship position of the party, in 2023, to the riverine communities. But that commitment has not been made.
Let me say this: Rivers State has all that is required to bring growth and development to any modern state. We have excellent human resources, very fertile land, two seaports, huge hydrocarbon deposits, an international airport, miles of beaches caressing the Atlantic and so much more.
We’ve got great plans for Rivers State and believe that she can be better. We will break her away from the shackles of underachievement and usher in a new era of peace and progress where everyone can fulfill their potentials with the government providing the enabling environment.
What if we could plan most future developments in our State and pass laws to ensure that we operate substantially within the ambits of those plans? Be they educational, infrastructural, entrepreneurial, cities development, waste management or even multiyear budget plans.
What if we could employ 300-500 new professionals incrementally- lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, scientists, administrators, engineers, surveyors, agricultural extension services providers, etc- to work and reside in each local government area of Rivers State? Providing them staff quarters and other incentives to ensure they stay and pursue their lives there?
What if we could get manufacturers and service providers back to Trans Amadi Industrial Estate and build new industrial parks in Abonnema, Ahoada, Bori, Degema, Omoku, Oyigbo, Etche or Omuma and engender improved security in the State together with facilities (including a short emergency number like 112) to cater to all emergencies?
What if we could deploy a statewide fibre optics backbone in partnership with telecoms service providers to deliver cheaper internet bandwidth and support the development of tech innovation and incubation hubs to provide a springboard for our teaming youths, startups and small businesses to leapfrog into a successful future?
What if we could enhance school sports, build centers of sporting excellence in each of our Local Government headquarters in partnership with the Federal Government, multinational companies, international sporting agencies and businesses together with organizing regular competitions between the different LGAs?
What if we could reclaim lands swallowed up by sea rises and clean up our polluted lands, swamps, creeks and seas, then introduce lost land and marine resources using an integrated partnership funding model to harness the participation of the federal government and international multilateral agencies and multinational companies working in our communities?
What if we could enhance our existing healthcare systems to drastically reduce HIV/AIDS, malaria, maternal, neonatal and infant mortality rates and deliver at least 2 world class tertiary healthcare institutions one of which can deal with various body organ challenges and, above all, cancer?
These are a few of the things that we have planned to do and which will be greatly beneficial to Rivers State and all our people.
Although, I will no longer be vying for the position of Governor of our State on the platform of the PDP, I am still very interested in the governorship race of Rivers State and in the coming days will, after due consultations, inform on the new direction that God has led us to.
Importantly, I am convinced that our developmental ideas will usher in a new paradigm of peace and progress to Rivers State anchored on equity, justice and fairness. So in the spirit of oneness, collective growth and development of our State, all are allowed to utilize any of our developmental models and harness our ideas for the common good of our people. After all we are striving for a greater Rivers State first!
Soalabo is a lawyer and can be reached at www.soalabowest.org