In this interview, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, commissioner for information in Rivers State, speaks on some of the policies and programmes of the government, even as he outlined what the government expects from the residents
As I entered your office, the first thing that greeted me was this slogan about ‘Our State Our Responsibility.’ and I am beginning to wonder what is it all about?
In 2019, the ministry of information birthed this campaign, primarily designed to change the negative narrative about Rivers State and to make everyone who live and do business in Rivers State understand that we have a shared prosperity to protect, that the prosperity of Rivers State will be the prosperity of those who live and do business here.
We also felt it was important to use this campaign to tell the world about the giant strides of His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, the governor of Rivers State, who has revolutionized governance in a way that all over the country today, he is known as Mr. Project. And so we began an advocacy visit that took us to media houses, to the military, to the paramilitary organisations, to civil society groups, to professional groups. The campaign also took us to the media and even traders and we found out that everybody believes in Rivers State. So many people believe in the governance style of Governor Wike. But there seem to be a vocal minority who do not see anything good, who are ready to de-market the state for their own selfish advantage. But the generality of the people, there is a consensus, we need to join hands with Governor Wike, we love Rivers State, we love what he is doing and we will not allow anybody to de-market Rivers State. So that was the first phase of the campaign. So we have entered the second phase of the campaign, which we are starting with essay competition. The title of the essay is Rivers State our state, our responsibility. The target group is between 16 to 25years, and the essay will be between 250 words and 500 words. Already, the deadline is going to be on the 15th , it started since the second, we opened the portal for it, whoever wins that essay, the essay competition will have 23 best that will be selected by the judges, those ones will come and do any other written essay before the panel of judges, to ensure that what they submitted online is actually their original work. So when we finish with that, the first prize will be N50,000, the second price N30,000 the third price will be N20,000. We also have consolation prizes for others who participated, now the winner of that essay competition will be the face of the campaign, will be an ambassador for the campaign. We want to use what we are doing to also begin to show- case merit and hard work. We are living in a society today where those who are celebrated are those who make money through the fast lane. We are living in a society now where criminals are celebrated. We want to use this platform to also celebrate those who have intellectual prowess, those who can excel, not using crime or other criminal methods, when we finish with that one we are going to go into a team song competition, same thing will apply, the prizes will also vary, whoever wins the team song competition will be the face of the campaign. After that, we are going to go into skits competition, whoever wins that will be the face of the campaign for some months. The grand finale for it will be a short film competition and we are doing this because I have gone through the ranks here. When I was director public enlightenment, I organized the first ever film competition in this state in 2012 and I can tell you, the winner of that competition, his film was screened at the national film festival for that year and since then, that young man has become a Nollywood producer, script writer. He was not known before, that competition brought him to limelight. So we are going to be bringing, discovering talents and also show- casing originality, creativity, hard work.
Is there any nexus between this campaign and crime fighting?
Essentially, we want to make sure that if you live and do business in Rivers State, you should be about positive things. Like I have told you, what we will be doing, is to show case those who have something to offer to the society. We need to begin as a people to see ways that we can restore our lost values because the challenge for Nigeria today is that the values of honesty, hard work, merit have been thrown to the dogs. So with the kind of things that we are doing now, we are trying to institutionalize these values once again among people who live and do business in Rivers State.
What are those specific responsibilities government expects from residents of Port Harcourt?
That’s why it’s ‘our state our responsibility.’ It would have been my state my responsibility. You are from Akwa Ibom, you are from Cross Rivers State, you are from Kano, you are from Adamawa, you are from Zamfara, you are from United States of America, you are from UK, you are from China, as long as you live and do business here, you are part of this campaign, your duty is to promote the interest of Rivers State with your profession and your calling, your duty is to tell the world that this is investors’ destination of choice, I will say that advisedly because what we have in Rivers State now, we have the right political leadership, we have the right infrastructure, we have a top notch security system and we have a welcoming culture that is second to none and I talk proudly about Rivers State because even our cuisine is second to none. This is where you find the richest of culture. So, people who live and do business in Rivers State need to know how blessed this state is, and tell our story, we need to tell our story to the outside world, we won’t allow people to be telling us our own story.
In Port Harcourt, you find refuse dumps here and everywhere is a market place, shops everywhere. So, talking about our state our responsibility, can you mix this together?
It will not be charitable to say everywhere; part of the vision of His Excellency Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is urban renewal and you will attest to the fact that Port Harcourt, the landscape has changed, the road network, the street lighting, the greenery, everything is being restored to the lost glory. But you still find people who are like dissidents, who will never take correction. That’s why this campaign is important. If you are a cleaner, you are a trader, whatever you are, you need to know that you need to be part of keeping the city clean. So a lot is being done; that’s why even shanties are being demolished because they are defacing the city, it’s part of the urban renewal programme. Governor Wike wants to make Rivers State, Port Harcourt especially, the Dubai of Nigeria, we believing that by the time his tenure ends in 2023, people will be looking for visa to come here, from what you are seen already, the kind of infrastructural deposit that he is putting here, is something that people never expected will happen in a state like this, especially looking at the global economy which have suffered tremendously because of COVID-19. You find that so many states today, nothing is happening, so many states of the federation nothing is happening. Globally, governance is at a very low ebb. But you see, when you have a vision and you are a patriot, you are determined to serve your people, you know there is an English saying that good pilots gain their reputation during storms.
What would you say are the expectations of the Rivers State government from residents of Rivers State?
People should be law abiding, people should support the government in the implementation of policies and programmes. Every policy instituted by this government are people oriented policies that will better the lives of the common man, infrastructure, health care delivery, housing, agriculture, sports development. Even, the other day I was talking with a group of journalists and I said that look Governor Nyesom Wike is an all rounder, the rehabilitation centre we have today at Iriebe for less privileged people is one of the best in the country, a rehabilitation centre that has a clinic, has an ICT centre, has a skill acquisition workshop, you can’t find those things in this country anywhere. Or are you going to talk about the mother and child hospital? I don’t know if you have been there, mother and child hospital is bridging the gap in maternal and child care in Nigeria, a hospital that has 120 delivery rooms and 50 modular operating theatres, you can’t find that anywhere in Nigeria. So, we have a government that is determined to meet the needs of the people. What do we expect as a government from everyone living and doing business in Rivers State, join hands with Governor Wike to build that Rivers State of his dream, Rivers State that will stand out among the committee of states anytime, any day because the right infrastructure in the place and the people who are supposed to enjoy this are taking care of through the policies that are being implemented.