Efforts of many people, organizations and Nigerians in general to stem kidnapping in the Niger Delta region, but especially in Rivers State, had yielded micro results. Recently a bill of life jail was passed by the Rivers State House of Assembly and was later resolved to death penalty.
I have been closely watching and observing the various activities of all anti-kidnapping agencies – informal and formal. But I think the Rivers State Information Ministry deserves some commendations at this point in time because of its role in helping to see that kidnapping business in Rivers State was tackled. I have always wondered why the Niger Delta densed mangrove rainforest comprising nine of Nigeria's thirty-six states: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo, and Rivers, it is only in Rivers State that the spate of primordial gun culture and kidnapping is not reclusive.
The Hon. Commissioner of Information in Rivers State, High Chief Ogbonna Nwuke has exemplified himself among others anti-kidnapping agencies why information is necessary with a strategic view to the unassuming people of Rivers State.
Although, while Nwuke, in my own view, applies all strategically measures to bring to front the atrocious deeds of the alleged kidnappers through his ministry to the people of Rivers State, the conflicts in the oil regions between the host communities of the oil extracting companies takes the centre stage.
The conflicts were consequently since 1990s, even before Nwuke assumed office after October 25 2007 Governor Amaechi of Rivers State gained his victory as a governor in the court of law. Nwuke was not in government in 2000, when the government of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo created the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). The NDDC was created to help end the violence and stimulate socio-economic development, but the sector dashed the young hope of many Nigerians by its officials involving in alleged money misappropriation. It was because the NDDC was not up to the occasion it was created that after the run-up to the 2003 presidential election, violence between rival militia groups and against the oil corporations increased to a great extent.
Nwuke's efforts through jingles to inform Rivers people of the menace militia groups were causing the state had no rival in the annals of Nigeria. Rivers State is today Re-branded. Kudos to Nwuke-led Rivers State Information Ministry.
Both the Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC, which was to ensure development, gets to the oil producing states in the State with full confidence of the information Nwuke was passing when it was danger and when it was not.
Nwuke was not fighting any group like the NDDC which has not made the type of impact people in the region expected. But little did people know that Nwuke could make this impact in re-branding Rivers state through communication.
He was not after the politics of ravenousness that has always played the center character in the development of Nigeria. He did not hijack INFORMATION as his personal tool; just the interest of a minuscule few cabals commandeered NDDC from launch.
I would say that it's not easy with Rivers State, created some 41 years ago, exactly on May 27, 1967 by the Military administration of General Yakubu Gowon (rtd). Nwuke has come now as an undoubtedly patriotic son of Rivers State. Rivers State used to be known as the Oil Rivers Protectorate, a name reports said was given to it by the British colonial masters as a result of its rich oil and gas deposits under Decree 19 of 1967.
Nwuke is a good treasure to Rivers State, the strategic significance of Lugard's Nigeria state. Nwuke is trying in his effort as the enigma of Information in Rivers State to ensure that the economic stability and progress of Rivers State earned back to the state its former epithet: “The Treasure Base of the Nation”.
But much kudos goes to Governor Amaechi who in his wisdom bestowed the trust on Nwuke to spearhead the state's Information Ministry. Today, Port Harcourt which is the capital of Rivers State is regaining its lost glory, and the message is encompassing beyond the shores of Nigeria.
The Etche-born Information czar is interested to note that other ethnic groups live in the state and treats all as one people.
I agree that the Niger Delta struggle for resource control and justice is a good course, but disagree with the arms struggle which is not part and good for the exercise. That could be why Nwuke was worried because the manner it appears to have been seized by very egocentric or criminals is taking its toll on the socio-economic and political life of the Rivers people. Nwuke had outcries against these societal ills because it becomes a serious source of concern to the people and government of Rivers State.
It is in the light of Rivers people's present circumstances that they wish to appreciate the efforts of the Amaechi-led Government of Rivers State to restore the good image of the state in the eyes of other Nigerians. And Nwuke is in the forefront of the train that is re-branding the state in the international community through vigorous campaigns against cultism and kidnapping.
If not for the transparent Information Ministry headed by Nwuke in the state, the state government setted up Truth and Reconciliation Commission headed by the legal luminary, Hon. Justice Kayode Eso, would have hit the rock.
Nwuke has mounted an unending serious campaign in the media on why people should not submit to kidnappers and cultists as Niger Delta militants. Nwuke was quite strategically in the war against cultism and kidnapping in the State and had mounted pressure the need all and sundry should sincerely join efforts to end these anomalies.
I solicit he should continue to appeal to youths in the state to not only disarrange themselves from these evocations but also see the perpetrators as persons who do not have the interest of Rivers state at heart. Have people not heard that it has been said that most of the persons involved in the kidnapping of innocent kids and the aged for ransom money are doing the state a wrong signal?
While Nwuke continuies with his good works, I solicit he should endeavour to be informing the Rivers youths when to take advantage of government policies and programme to ensure that they are useful to their parents and indeed to the state.
I think I like this man called High Chief Ogbonna Nwuke, because he is a mighty man in battle against cultism and kidnapping and other societal vices in Rivers State. He is not doing badly.
Odimegwu Onwumere is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA) Rivers State. 0803252855. [email protected]
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