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The people or communities closest to a governor or president in any Africa country usually rejoice most because they expect their living conditions to improve tremendously for being the governor’s kinsmen. After all, they also suffer more in the event of any disaster affecting their son or daughter. After the term in office of their son, they usually boast of good road network, good water system, electricity, schools, hospitals, etc. They may be regarded as the biblical ‘first partakers’.
In another sense, those who produced any national product expect to be the first to enjoy it. For instance, the Oyigbo people of Rivers State got huge sympathy nationwide in those days when they cried out that they were not supplied with electricity despite being the community hosting Afam power plants that provided power to Nigeria. The high tension was not stepped down to enable Oyigbo tap into the national grid. They merely watched overhead as electric wires passed over them to other parts of the country. Such is usually painful.
The people of Ubima community seem to pass through the same fate. They are the first Ikwerre community of Rivers State to produce governor of the state. In fact, they are on record for producing two. One was commissioner of education and later governor for about five months. The other was speaker for eight years and later governor for almost eight years.
The most painful aspect is that their son, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who not only served as speaker for eight years and governor for another eight years, anchored his agenda on education, but Ubima, the supposed father of education transformation of Rivers State, remained without a college under a son who budgeted an average of N30 billion every year on education. He boasted of building what he called world-class secondary schools at the cost of N4.5 billion each but the only secondary school his people laboured to build was left to ruination.
This is Governor Wike mission to Ubima. This twist of fate could easily be seen boldly written on the faces of the people of Ubima when the convoy of Wike stormed the sleep community as they got wind that their plight may be over at least in the area of education.
The Community Secondary School, Ubima, in Ikwerre Local Government Area was built in the 1980s through community effort, not by the government at that time. It was the era of self-help for communities that had no strong link to the government of the day, which was far from them. Faced with lack of nearby secondary schools to enable more of their sons and daughter embrace the spreading academic access, the community raised funds to build a community secondary school.
They had acquired large expanse of land to accommodate many facilities but could no longer raise more funds to keep up with the pace as expected. So, over the years, the villagers began to encroach on the land. When the former governor of Rivers State, Sir Celestine Omehia, was commissioner of education, some oil companies were invited to support some secondary schools in the state. The school at Ubima received support and that was how it was fenced.
It looks like where Omehia stopped was where the secondary school stopped getting attention. Thus, nothing happened anymore until about 2014 when the present governor, Barr Nyesom Wike, was minister of state for education. The Federal Government was renovating some secondary schools. That was how he now nominated Community Secondary School along with St Aquinas Secondary School, Elele and some others. If you go to Elele Town today, you will see the impact Wike made as minister. Unfortunately, when it came to that of Ubima Community Secondary school, the case changed as if it was a curse to produce a governor or two.
Ubima’s case could not materialise because the then Governor Amaechi, (who is now minister of transportation) vehemently objected to the Federal Government’s good plan in Ubima, his community. He chased the contractors away on grounds that it was a state government property. One would expect that a man who took such a drastic action would move in next and show that he had bigger plan for the school. Alas, this government that chased the FG contractors away did not even rebuild the school. Ubima Community Secondary School remained that way to this day. Instead, the surroundings grew so wild that it became the hideout of most of the abductions we read about in the newspapers. The boys would abducted passengers on the highway and run through the farms into the disused buildings under wild grasses of Ubima Community Secondary school. When the governor’s entourage got there last weekend, the place is now like a forest.
So, on Saturday, February 3, 2018, the governor and his team were there for flag-off of the project, to turn the school to a modern centre of learning, to wipe off the tears of a hapless people. As at this day, there is no external examination centre (GCE) there. The team only managed to see a few students who cleared a spot so they could receive lessons. So, they are living in the forest, so to speak.
Ubima is very significant in the modern history of Ikwerre land and that is why Gov Wike would not abandon them, no matter the political differences between him and the former governor, who is an Ubima son. Ubima’s status as the first community to produce a governor, let alone two governors, in Ikwerre land is not easy. This legacy must be preserved with modern amenities. Where you would expect a modern city, what you get is a community in scandalous state of disrepair; nothing to show for it.
One of the reasons Amaechi, the former governor, did not touch the Ubima Community Secondary School is because of his leadership style. He does not believe in completing projects started by others. That is why he never touched the likes of the Port Harcourt Mall, which has been vandalised. There is also the Forces Avenue awarded by Omehia. Chippings were poured on that road, near Port Harcourt Club. Those chippings remained there years after until some good Samaritans cleared them out of the road. That is how Forces Avenue remained un-repaired despite it leading to the Government House through the ‘Ceremonial Gate’.
Now, because Omehia brought an oil company to fence the school, Amaechi saw it as Omehia’s school. As a result of this deep animosity, he refused to recognise Omehia, his cousin, as a former governor. It is important to know these facts and use them to interpret the events of today. The situation of the Ubima Community Secondary School was touchy to the present governor, Gov Wike. This is not a school built by any government but by the sweat of the farmers, traders, civil servants, anybody that cared. You can imagine how they feel when they see that school go down the drain. It was, therefore, memorable to the community when they saw Gov Wike come to rescue the school.
God’s time is the best, they say. Gov Wike was stopped from doing it as minister, now he is doing it as governor. The people are even lucky that Wike did not do it as minister because he would only have renovated the school, but what Gov Wike wants to erect there now would be comparable to any school anywhere in the world, going by the 3D representation we have seen. Knowing the governor and his passion for projects, it would be as we saw in the impression. To him, education is very important because it is what changes the minds of members of the society. In this regard, Gov Wike has done very well. Look at what he is doing in 13 secondary schools, including Rumuokoro Girls in Port Harcourt, Yemoni Grammar School, KNC Buguma, BMGS Bodo, and others in Ogu, Ahoada West, Okrika, etc. This one of Ubima is an addition. Clearly, the project will come out much better than other schools.
The administration is rebuilding over 168 State Universal Basic Education Committee (SUBEC) schools across the state. Rev Fyneface Aka who chairs SUBEC is doing a fantastic job. Go to tertiary institutions and see how he completed the Faculty of Law in the Rivers State University (former UST), Environmental Sciences Faculty and the Management Sciences Faculty. We are doing the medical school, the first since the establishment of the university. You can see a governor who has a passion for education.
This is all what Gov Wike is doing in Ubima. Some may see politicking in it but any man who has been striving since 2014 to bail out a neglected community can no longer be seen as merely politicking, and if that is what is needed to bail out Ubima, why not.
• Barr Okah is Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State