Except for Akinwunmi Ambode, governor of Lagos state, no governor in Nigeria shares and compares to Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike in uncommon passion for generating infrastructural facilities that encourage the rebirth and growth of culture and tourism enterprises. By my last count, Rivers State, under Wike, has outbidded and out-partnered all the states in Nigeria in hosting prime local and international conventions and meetings, trade, sport, entertainment, religious and cultural shows.
Though I do not belong to the Rivers State government’s tourism re-engineering circle, it is, however, easy to perceive that Wike and his team stand tall in creating the enabling environment for tourism to thrive, with the huge investment in infrastructure renewal on township roads, security, shopping malls, cinemas and the avant-garde Pleasure Park, and others such like spread all over the captal city, which has changed the skyline.
Indeed, attempts to portray the Garden City as an insecure place, unfavourable to do business in Nigeria, has failed as Wike has strategically rebranded Port Harcourt City to put a lie to such templates of organised hatred against the hospitable people of Rivers.
To put Wike down politically may be sweet to the ears of local influencers of negative reports about this prime aquatic state in Nigeria and, to international competitors, a strategically de-marketed Rivers State will propel a huge flight of foreign visitors, businessmen and investors in hotels and recreation out of the place to otheir facilities and businesses within and around West Coast states of Africa and neighbouring French-speaking destinations.
This conspiracy may have largely driven Wike’s government to ignore rants of insecurity about the state and, with his foot on the pedal, accelerated verifiable engagements and operational expectations that have ranked Rivers State in recent times as the ideal place for conventions, meetings and entertainment, not excluding generating indices of growth as a smart and livable city.
Last week, Governor Wike, who seems to have his eyes on great futuristic investments, particularly on people and tourism, played host to the Otunba Segun Runsewe-led National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), which came to town to firm up the hosting rights of Rivers State government to the 2018 National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST).
NAFEST, Nigeria’s biggest and most colourful cultural festival, with all the states’ cultural offerings on showcase, has assumed prime rating on Nigeria’s tourism calendar of events, with Runsewe providing clips of futuristic content drive and to which Rivers State will be the first outpost in October.
Though the October date was at the instance of the recreational Czar of Rivers State, to enable perfect hosting devoid of weather uncertainties of the month of July earlier suggested by Runsewe’s NCAC, the true icing on the cake on that visit was Wike’s robust assurance to match Runsewe’s Nigeria’s cultural evangelism stride with provision of all necessary state structures, not excluding the financing of global and local publicity content.
However, Governor Wike needs to take over the ongoing remodeling of Port Harcourt Airport. This place is a disgrace and shame to Rivers people and Nigerians at large, considering the fact that the place is a gateway into the beautiful city, a pride to our national economy and political stability.
That airport is a sore thumb and I suggest that Wike should lead a powerful delegation to Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika to do the needful or hand over the place to the Rivers State government for optimal transformation in line with the bright tourism infrastructure gains on ground in the state.
I was in Rivers State recently on a tourism fact-finding tour, so I would urge all my readers to watch out on this column for the full reports of what I saw and the security tales that can’t stand against the truth of true governance on ground in the state.