The Rivers state Governor, Barrister Nyesom Wike is popularly called Mr Projects in the state because of the numerous projects he has executed and still executing. But he is not only Mr Projects as he is fondly called, but a lover of art, culture and entertainment which he promotes from time to time.
In this interview with Governor Wike at the just concluded National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST), he speaks on the essence of the country’s culture as a unifier, the need for our culture to be embedded in the educational curriculum, challenges the state is facing belonging to an opposition party, problem of demarketing, plans to transform the abundant resources of the state into a thriving tourism economy, effort aimed at transforming the state as the Meeting, Incentive Conference and Events (MICE) capital of the country, assurances and demonstration that Port Harcourt is safe and secured having hosted big events successfully without any security breach or incidents among others.
Franklin Ihejirika who was in Port – Harcourt for the NAFEST reports.
We have seen quite a number of development and improvement in the city and also how safe and secured it is, how do you intend to sell a new narrative about the state?
Let me sincerely thank you, but when you say a new narrative, luckily you have stayed here for one week, luckily you have seen for yourself, so you should go and tell the world that it is not correct, that I was here and I saw myself. All these stories that they are giving are not correct. That is why I thank the director general of the National Council of Art and Culture, NCAC , Otunba Olusegun Runsewe for giving us the opportunity to host this event, the National Festival of Art and Culture (NAFEST 2018).
Probably if this event was not hosted here, you may not have had the opportunity to come here. But this event has given you the opportunity to be here and see things for yourself.
Therefore, what you use to hear, is it correct, is it the truth? Now you have come and you have now become the ambassador of truth to go and tell people that it is not correct.
So, there is no new narrative that we can give other than you have come and you have seen for yourself that it is not correct. So, you now go back and give the narrative that it is not correct.
For one week, was anybody kidnapped? Was there any armed robbery attack? Or was there anyone who lost anything or whatever? .
The People Democratic People (PDP) had it national convention here, over 7, 000 delegates and there was no incident that happened here.
I have hosted international events and no one incident has ever happened here and I hosted the President some days ago when he came to commission the terminal of Port Harcourt International Airport.
I told Mr. President that Port Harcourt was safe, if Port Harcourt was not secured the company could not have completed the job started by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
So, why do we play politics with everything? Why do we have to demarket our country and our state? So the new narrative is for you to go back home and say that this NAFEST has shown us that all these stories that we have been hearing are not correct.
They are all political games and must we play politics with everything? Should we continue to bring Nigeria down because of politics? So I have to thank NCAC DG, Otunba Runsewe for bringing this event down to Port Harcourt.
And that is what have given most of you the firsthand information that what you used to hear is totally not correct. So for me, I am happy that you will now go home and tell people or rewrite what you used to write there and say look this is not the true position of things.
What are your plans to transform the abundant resources of this state into a thriving tourism economy?
Rivers State is actually endowed and that is why I have said to the Commissioner of Tourism that every year we must have cultural activity to showcase the cultural and tourism potential of the state.
You went to Jim Rex – Lawson Cultural Centre, mention one state that has such a facility. We have a partnership with most of the artistes to come and showcase their trade from time to time
And if you have gone to Pleasure Park you would had known what is available in this state, which was done by this administration. To me, culture and tourism is key. Everything must not be politics, because politics has failed us in terms of unification as a country.
The only unifying factors today are sports and culture. So, I have no apology because if I have my way I will continue to host this festival because when you know your potential you have to let the world know.
If I have potential and I don’t let the world know that these are the potential that I have or that exist in this state then I have a problem.
Anything that I have to do to promote my state, I have to do it. So, one will have to do what is necessary to promote culture and tourism in Rivers State and that is what I will continue to do.
What plans do you have to make Port Harcourt the Dubai of Nigeria?
No tourist will come here without the federal government approval by giving visa. Today, we have lost so many investors because the federal government believes that River States is in opposition.
And that is not supposed to be because whether you like it or not if investors come in to develop tourism, the federal government will get revenue from it, but that is not the case here.
The truth of the matter is that everything is done to frustrate us. We produce the wealth of Nigeria but nobody supports us and that is why you hear the cries for restructuring.
Yes, I have the mind that tourism should grow but I also have a limitation, a restriction that is dependent on the government in power at the centre level.
If you have a government that is hostile to the state government how can you achieve it? You can’t achieve it. And that is not what is supposed to be.
So, having the mind or having the idea is different from you actualising it because of the hostile nature of the government at the federal level.
We must be able to tell ourselves the simple truth.
The federal government does not like my state. In fact, I am surprised that this event was held here because I never believed that the federal government will allow the event to take place.
That is why I said I thank Runsewe so much for the effort he put. This state government signed a Memoranda of Understanding with the NFF to host matches here.
But people said why is it that it is Rivers State that is hosting international matches and they took it away even when we have paid.
That is the Nigeria we are. Nobody wants to do the right thing. It doesn’t matter because as far as this state is concern look at the areas that we are looking and for the state, this is what we are looking at and in that way Nigeria will progress
But unfortunately, politics has taken the centre stage in everything that we are doing. God will help us.
What are your views on not having our culture as part of our educational curriculum?
How can we have a curriculum without integrating our culture? How does any society grow without history? For me, the policy of education in our country is anchored on the federal government.
How can I have a child who doesn’t know the culture of his people? Because culture is part of development, culture is part of growth. But yet we allow our children to imbibe foreign culture.
I think that our culture should be embedded in the educational curriculum because if we don’t do that we have killed the culture of this country.
It is key that our children should know what the culture of the various people of Nigeria is and it helps.