Meeting with Nyesom Wike, By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu

0
222

[email protected]

The story started from the piece I wrote about Nyesom Wike and Abuja roads, and the pleasant problem I had trying to find my way on a Saturday morning. I was genuinely surprised at the maze of roads, and how they shortened movement between various distances. It took me quite some effort to finally arrive at my destination that morning. I had been invited for a breakfast meeting, and with my host, we discussed the remarkable turnaround with roads in the FCT. When I returned home, I decided to write the piece, which really went viral.

As it turned out, many people passed the piece amongst themselves, and it also got to Nyesom Wike, through a childhood friend, resident abroad and an associate of one of my own friends. One evening, my friend called that Wike wanted to meet with me. A date would be set for the meeting.

A few days ago, I received a call that the meeting was set for the evening of Sunday, July 7th by 6pm, for Wike’s residence. Just as I was getting ready to leave, another call arrived that Nyesom Wike was busy with the ECOWAS Summit holding in Abuja and, therefore, wasn’t going to be available for our meeting. The most likely day would be Monday or Tuesday. And by 5.15pm, yesterday, Monday, the confirmation came through, and I left the house for the rendezvous point from where we drove to Wike’s residence.

National growth LS

We arrived at Nyesome Wike’s residence at 1840 hrs, and̈ got an easy laissez passé into the compound. Wike was in the company of three other people, and after a brief exchange of pleasantries, he directed that we made for another, much larger living room. There was a bust of a jazz trumpeter, a lovely wall clock, various decorative pieces, an intricately designed roof, and walls painted in off-white colour, with matching furniture and curtains, and the polished, black marbled floor bringing together the tasteful setting.

As I settled in, a steward came to ask what I wanted to drink and not long after, brought me water, a can of coke, and groundnuts, which came appropriately, as it was just about the time to break my fast. I surveyed my surroundings, received a few calls, and read up on different subjects on my phone.

Eventually, Nyesom Wike opened a door, and came into the living room, stretched his hand for a handshake, while apologizing for the delay. He told me that he had actually gone to inspect work on the ministerial residence at Life Camp, that was being renovated by the construction company, Julius Berger. Work was over 98% completed, according to Wike. He said that a minister could literally work from home permanently, without going to the office, because of the design of the residence. Wike said one of the most surprising discoveries that he made after his appointment as the FCT Minister, was the fact that it seemed that a pattern had been instituted where the minister’s job was literally just to sign papers to allocate land!

He was also perturbed about how civil servants prioritized projects that he felt were not, or shouldn’t be made priority projects, given the need to touch the lives of people all over the FCT. He exemplified this assertion with a file about the renovation of two faith-based outfits that would have cost a huge sum just to renovate. He decided that they were not priorities for him, and he was not going to issue the approvals sought!

We discussed the recently commissioned Abuja light train project. He said it was obvious that it could not have been put to service as there were no access roads to the stations. But, he was determined that so much money had been invested, and it made no sense to commission the service with fanfare, and then abandon it, because citizens couldn’t get access. That was why he immediately took the decision to construct access roads. Since it’s recommissioning by President Bola Tinubu, passenger service has picked up, and now they’re recording 5000 passengers per day.

Wike agreed that the choice of route was faulty at the onset because it would have made sense to open routes where there was genuine traffic of commuters that needed to enter the city center everyday. But that was what he met on the ground. He asserted further that to construct a similar line now, from different directions into the city would cost at least $1.5 billion!

On the roads that he had completed so far, he said that he had read criticisms from certain quarters that they were projects started before his appointment. He felt such criticisms were very short-sighted since the important thing was to put the roads at the service of the Nigerian people in the FCT. Besides, for him, governance is a continuum, and no government can complete all projects. It, therefore, made sense that he could conclude the roads. He said that the Karshe-Apo road was awarded during the Goodluck Jonathan administration and was, unfortunately, abandoned, but he remobilized to the site, and the job would be completed by the end of the year. The impact of that road, he believed, would be very huge for the FCT.

I pointed out to the FCT Minister, that one other criticism that I’ve heard was that he had concentrated all actions within the urban area, and not much was being done, if at all, in the suburbs of the FCT. Wike answered that he was simultaneously working within the city and in the six area councils. Before December, over 70 kilometers of roads would be commissioned there.

And that wasn’t all. Wike stated that there are also initiatives in security. He supplied a hundred specialized motorcycles for the security services to be able to dominate outlying areas, and 50 vehicles were similarly purchased for security work.

He said there are two interrelated points of service for him. The first was that he always ensured that there was at least fifty percent of funds before he embarked on the construction of any project. The second point was that he believed in grand publicity for the commissioning of these projects so that the people could see that he had used their funds according to pledges he made as a public servant.

Nyesom Wike was obviously pressed for time because there were other people waiting for him in another living room, and I also didn’t want to overstay my welcome. But he still had enough time to let me into his philosophy of service. Wike told me that what was needed at every point was committed leadership that could work with focus. He said he was already thinking hard on the projects that he would invite President Tinubu to commission to mark the second anniversary of the administration. That’s the way he liked to work, he assured me. He then made a reference to his tenure in Rivers State: “I completed 12 flyovers in four years, and commissioned them,” he underlined.

Of course, there were burning controversial issues that we couldn’t talk about. His public disagreements with the Senator representing the FCT, Ireti Kingibe, for one, as well as the unending political argy-bargy in his state, Rivers. But this was meant to be an exploratory meeting. I was getting to meet the man at close quarters for the first time.

Nyesom Wike appeared rather frail but is obviously a strong-willed individual. Wike is the classic representative of the Nigerian ruling class politician; very wily, a veteran of bruising, and often unforgiving battles for dominance and for survival. Like his counterparts, he has mastered the cloak-and-dagger propensity of the smoke-filled recesses of Nigerian ruling class politics. He literally carries the bruises on his frail-looking body like a prize fighter, with strong street fighting dexterity, and an ability to survive the viscititudes of a life spent in the rings of political pugilism.

Sensing that he was chomping at the bits to move on to the group waiting for him in the other living room, I thanked him for the audience that he gave me, and I got up. He escorted me to the door; we shook hands, and agreed to meet again for a much longer discussion about Nigerian life, and it’s different colours and shades. Meeting Nyesom Wike was some epiphany! President Bola Tinubu obviously knew his man when he selected Nyesom Wike as the Minister of the FCT. He spoke to me with the zeal of a man committed to the job he is doing in Abuja, and that must sit pretty well with the agenda of the administration.

Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, PhD., FNGE, is a Broadcaster, Journalist, and a Political Scientist

Abuja, Tuesday, July 9th, 2024.

Follow Us On WhatsApp