Opinion | By Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside | 1. 1. 2022
My dear people of Rivers State,
The season, especially the beginning of a new year, is a time to reconnect with family and friends and to renew the spirit of love, re-ignite bonds and celebrate the gift of life.
2. It also offers us the time to reflect on the past year, while we prepare for the new year, which marks a new season in our lives.
3. As we review the past year, 2021, it is time to refocus on the dreams of our founding fathers, as a state; strive for new possibilities and re-draw our aspirations for the future of our families and our dear Rivers State.
4. In the year 2021, Rivers civil servants, who constitute the engine room of government, suffered draconian policies in the hands of a regime that cared less for their welfare. In that year, close to 400 government-owned property statutorily occupied by senior civil servants and their families were forcefully taken over and the occupants ejected. Today those same official quarters have been gifted to politicians and those close to the government in a manner most demeaning and dehumanising of the former legitimate occupants.
5. Further in their anti-labour and anti-civil servants policies, the Rivers State Government promoted no single civil servant in 2021, the same sad situation in the last five years and none has been officially sponsored for any training to enhance their capacity to function.
6. The woes of Rivers’ pensioners, those men and women who gave their best years in the service of our fatherland, intensified in 2021 as the government held-on to about 12 months of their legitimate gratuity and pension.
Teachers in state-owned university demonstration primary and secondary schools were owed in 2021 just like in 2016 to 2020, as the government insisted on not paying them even in the face of a valid court order that they be paid. So, for more than four years, your government cared less how those teachers and their families survived.
As you know, the Governor picks and chooses court orders to obey . He chose not to obey a valid court order asking him to reinstate sacked workers of Ken Saro-Wiwa polytechnic Bori, staff of Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency and Teachers of Primary and Secondary schools of Polytechnic Bori, University of Education, Rivers State University, amongst others.
8. The state secretariat, once our pride, remained a shadow of that glorious past, abandoned, stinking and decrepit. For the greater part of last year, that edifice remained in darkness as civil servants and visitors to the facility groped in darkness to access offices. It was that bad that workers had to be using torchlight to access the staircases. Several workers were kidnapped and the state government did not blink an eye. However, despite those harsh realities, our workers remained committed to their duties in the true never-say-die Rivers’ spirit. They offered their best to our state. To those dogged workers, rest assured that ordinary Rivers people deeply appreciate you and the sacrifices you have made.
9. All of us residents of Rivers State were confronted with the deadly soot pandemic. This had been on for years and responsible for the spike in respiratory diseases and premature deaths in Rivers. In such situation, our state government chose to look the other way. My prayer is for the Spirit of God to touch our state government and make them pay attention to the plight of our people.
10. In the name of constructing flyover bridges in the city of Port Harcourt, the state government plunged the state into debts that future generations shall keep paying. Today our total debt portfolio has hit about N400 billion. The most disheartening aspect in this sad story is that those flyovers were mere smokescreen to blindfold the citizenry while they continued to loot the state treasury. They continued to pilfer our common purse and endeavoured in their bid to evade the warning of good conscience.
11. In 2021, our educational system remained in shambles. You could hardly find motivated teachers in our primary and secondary schools. Heads of public primary schools in Rivers State received no
grants to run their schools forcing them to levy pupils though the government would claim they were running free education. It was with such monies that schools’ heads bought chalk and few teaching aids for their classrooms. No major capital project has been undertaken in our state University of Education which is supposed to produce teachers. With their education completely neglected, the government mortgaged the future of our youth.
12. In 2021, no aspect of the state’s healthcare received due attention. Primary healthcare remained only a history leading to avoidable deaths recorded daily. Our governor looked the other way while Rome burnt, and to cap his neglect and disdain of this critical sector, Mr. Governor sacked the State’s Health Commissioner on air and over a trifle.
13. In 2021, no single sustainable employment was created by the state for the benefit of our teeming youths. The government created criminals of our youth but let me say to them that no man can determine their destiny. The sun will definitely rise again!
14. The state government’s policies drove away businesses that would have created employment and wealth for our people. Operating under unfriendly business climate, they were forced to relocate out of our state. That scenario further worsened the state’s unemployment catastrophe and heightened anti-social behaviour among families. Poverty increased with an attendant upscale in deviant activities.
15. Fellow indigenes and residents of our state of “Great Possibilities”, even in the face of difficulties, let us renew our resolve to unite behind the vision of our founding fathers in pursuit of the greatest good of all our people.
16. As a state, we have a crucial year ahead of us. It is a year that could be decisive in determining the future of our state and people. It shall be an opportunity for us to correct the mistakes of the past and chose a new path.
17. Please renew your mind and know there are better days ahead. There is hope. Let us continue to go about our lawful businesses. Let us have hope – the hope of a pregnant woman hoping to deliver a beautiful baby soon, the hope of a thirsty man about to drink cool,
clean water, a hope of a people that God will soon deliver from persecution and tribulations- the audacity of hope!
18. May this New Year bring true happiness, peace, and prosperity to all indigenes and residents of Rivers State.
19. I wish you a Happy and prosperous new year!
Dakuku Peterside PhD.
1st January 2022.