By Sylvester Udemezue
One may say anything about Governor Wike of Rivers State. Call him anything, as you may wish: Tyrant! Performer! Talkative! Achiever! Anything! It’s your choice and your right to express your opinion freely, right or wrong. In the Christian Bible book of Joshua 24:2, 15, it’s reported that “…Joshua said unto all the people … choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”. In the same manner, as for me, I have chosen to refer to and remember Governor Wike of Rivers State as one whose leadership has had the greatest positive impact on Nigeria’s legal profession as a whole. Leadership is all about impacting lives; if your leadership fails to positively impact lives, you’re not a good leader; don’t mind those telling you that you’re one — truth is, you’re not. The essence of leadership is not just in spotting the problems but in providing solutions to the problems. Besides, good leadership is synonymous with thinking out of the box. Before I paid proceed, and for the avoidance of doubts, please note that in this piece, I am talking and writing about Governor Nyesome Wike, not as a party politician nor as the Governor of Rivers State, but as a LEADER whose unique style has impacted positively and greatly on lives and the affairs of others, across Nigeria. Thus this commentary is strictly outside any assessment of Governor Wike as a politician or as a party man. What I am saying is that as the Governor of Rivers State, Mr Nyesome Wike, Life Bencher, has done what no other lawyer in a position of leadership had ever done in the history of the legal profession in Nigeria. Please check out these:
(1). Governor Nyesome Wike moved the Rivers State Government to donate to Nigeria and to the Nigerian Legal Profession a brand new Law School Campus. The Port Harcourt Campus which has been described as the “7th wonder of the world”, and a model for any future campus of the Law School, has the following facilities, among others: a 1500 capacity classroom block, 1,638 capacity hostel blocks, a 1,500 capacity multipurpose hall, 16 units of 3-bedroom flat each as staff quarters with swimming pool, gymnasium and lawn tennis court, a Library complex, a moot court complex, sick bay, a magnificent admin block, cafeteria buildings, stores, sporting facilities for students, internal roads/drains, street lights, three power generating sets of 1000kva each, a 2.5mva substation, a dedicated fire station, and a 40,000 liters water tank. All built and completed by Governor Nyesome Wike-led Rivers State and donated to the Nigerian Legal Profession. Reacting after inspecting facilities at the Campus (named “Nabo Graham-Douglas Campus”), the Chairman of Council of Legal Education (the parent body of the Nigerian Law School), Emeka Ngige, SAN described the Campus as the best in the country adding:
“If we say we are not shocked by the things we have seen here today, then we are lying. This is amazing. Is it the seventh wonder of the world? We laid the foundation for this project in July last year, and His Excellency promised to deliver the best law school in the country in less than a year, and behold today is 27 June 2022 and he has delivered. On behalf of the council, I am very grateful for a promise made and a promise kept”. On his part, the Director-General Nigerian Law School, Prof Isa Hayatu Chiroma, SAN, had this to say:
“Like the chairman rightly said, this is the seventh wonder of the world. On behalf of the management of Nigerian Law School, I want to say a very big thank you, Your Excellency”. Please note that the Campus has since been commissioned and full academic activities commenced therein.
(2). Governor Nyesome Wike moved Rivers State Government to donate a steady source of revenue to the Nigerian Law School, apart from building the magnificent 7th Campus of the Law School. While presenting to the Chairman of the Council of Legal Education, a Certificate of Occupancy of some properties attached to the school, Governor Nyesom Wike advised: “Let me on behalf of the people of Rivers State sincerely thank the chairman of Council of Legal Education and his team for coming here for the final inspection of the project. I also want to use this opportunity to present the Certificate of Occupancy of some properties we added to the law school for the purpose of getting some revenues to run this school effectively”. [See: “Photos: Magnificent Port Harcourt Law School”; June 27 2022; dezmayorz.org].
(3). The Governor Nyesome Wike-led Rivers State Government took over, renovated and furnished an entire floor in the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) House (ie., NBA headquarters) in Abuja. Work is fully concluded and handed over to the NBA.
(4). Governor Nyesome Wike has moved Rivers State to promise to erect and is currently constructing at the Yenagoa, Bayelsa State Campus of the Nigerian Law School (the jobs are nearing completion):
🅰️) Two Student Hostels of 450 students each (to accommodate 900 students in all); and
🅱️). A 1,500-seater multipurpose auditorium. [See: Wike commits N5bn to infrastructure development at Law School, Yenagoa”;
05 June 2021; Guardian]
(5). Governor Wike-led Government if Rivers State has built an ultra-modern Magistrates’ Court complex for Rivers State, in Port Harcourt. Note that prior to this, Magistrates’ Courts in Port Harcourt were squatting with the State High Court in the High Court complex. [See for yourself: https://fb.watch/iwASQg7myG/?mibextid=NnVzG8;
(6). Governor Wike-led government has completed in Port Harcourt, a judicial institute named “Justice Mary Odili Judicial Institute, to complement the National Judicial Institute”, to provide relevant training and capacity building for Rivers State Judges and magistrates to enhance their competence for effective service delivery. [See: “CJN Inaugurates Justice Mary Odili Judicial Institute”; The Nation; 22 November 222].
(7). The Governor Wike-led government built, completed and donated to the Nigerian Federal Court of Appeal, a Court-of-Appeal Justices’ Residences and Staff Quarters in Port Harcourt. [See: “Governor Wike sets to commission Judges quarters and Appeal Court residences in Rivers (PHOTOS)” Opera News; 2 September 2020].
(8). The Governor Wike-led government built and completed a Judges’ Quarters in Port Harcourt for Rivers State High Court judges. [See: “CJN Commissions Judges Quarters, Hands Over Apartments In Rivers” (Channels TV; 3 September 2020)]
(9). Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State constructed of a new law Bar Centre for the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Rivers State with almost half a billion naira. The former NBA complex was built by Governor Peter Odili, a medical doctor, whose wife is now a Supreme Court justice. However, Governor Wike, a lawyer and husband of a high court judge, said he was relocating the Port Harcourt NBA from the High Court premises to give room for expansion of courts. [See: ” Wike Begins N0.5bn Law Centre for NBA”: BusinessDay; March 02, 2016].
(10). On 24 December 2022, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike formally inaugurated a technology-driven Family Court at the High Court Complex in Port Harcourt.
[See: “Gov. Wike Inaugurates Nigeria’s First Digital Family Court”; 24 December 2022; DNLLEGALANDSTYLE]
(11). On June 03, 2021, the Chief Justice of Nigeria commissioned four residential apartments built by the Government of Rivers State for the National Industrial Court of Nigeria to serve as judges’ quarters. The event which took place at the project site situated at Eleme Road, Old GRA, Port Harcourt was well attended by top government officials, Judges of the Industrial Court, Retired and Active Judges of the Rivers State Judiciary, members of the Nigerian Bar Association, guests, and the general public. [See: “Gov. Wike, Justice Kanyip in attendance as CJN Tanko commissions Industrial Court Judges’ Quarters”; 3 June 2021; nicnadr.gov.ng]. See also: “Wike Commissions Nat’l Industrial Court Judges Quarters – YouTube” 3 June 2022; Channels TV]
I stand to be corrected, but in my respectful opinion, no lawyer or leader in the history of the Nigeria has so positively affected the Nigerian legal profession as Governor Wike of Rivers State has within his 8 years as the Governor of Rivers State. In my commentary titled “Why Governor Nyesom Wike is Among the Greatest Lovers of (Legal) Education in Nigeria”, [DNLLegalAndStyle; June 4, 2021], I had this to say about Governor Nyesome Wike’s leadership impacts on the Nigerian legal profession:
“Nothing happens untill something moves”. To move something, we must think like men of action, and act like men of thought. This is because the world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation; the hand is the cutting edge of the mind. As Russell C. Taylor puts it, “Being willing is not enough; we must do”. These best explain Governor Wike of Rivers State. He is a colossal man of action. He is not the type who waits to believe in action before acting; he’s the one who acts as he breathes. He understands that the true test of a real leader lies in action.’
Also, in my work titled “Nigerian Law School’s Upgraded Yenagoa And Brand-new Port Harcourt Campuses: A Trending Transfiguration From A Quintessential Quartet (an exulted law teacher’s Acclamatory Antiphon)” [July 18, 2021; TheBarAndBenchNews.com.ng], I wrote:
‘It is wonderful what great strides can be made when there is a resolute purpose behind them. Great mother Teresa of blessed memory had said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.” Efficiency is doing thing[s] right; effectiveness is doing the right thing. One good voice can change a room… but one piece of good, impactful action can change a lot more. So the point is not to become a leader, but to become an effective leader, to use yourself completely – all your skills, gifts and energies – in order to make your vision manifest, withholding nothing. This is why John C. Maxwell had to warn that leadership was not about accumulation, possession and parading of titles, positions, or flow charts, but about one life influencing another people positively. In other words, as John Quincy Adams put it, if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”. Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. To this end, should not we in all honesty say that Governor Nyeson Wike of River State is a leader properly so called, as in strictu sensu?”
Governor Wike’s God is a God of promise kept! How many Nigerian politicians keep their promises? Wike is a keeper of promises, a lover of the judiciary, of the legal profession. Of all leaders and lawyers in Nigeria, Governor Wike is the one who has taken the legal education, the judiciary and the legal profession the most seriously. This is my humble opinion. But the handwritings are there for everyone to see. Little wonder then, that a woman in labour reportedly began shouting “God of Governor Wike” in her bid to get help from the Almighty. A video made the rounds on social media (a few weeks ago) of how a lady was delivered of her baby after shouting ”God of Nyesom Wike” three times. Sharing the interesting story, a traditional ruler in the State said nurses in the hospital (wjre the woman in labour was brought) were discussing and then they mentioned that Governor Wike had been scheduled to visit their community (Ahoda in Rivers State) on that day January 11, 2023. The monarch explained that immediately on hearing the governor’s name, the pregnant woman began shouting ”The God of Nyesom Wike Let me deliver safely”. After shouting this three times, the woman put to bed without any hassles. [See: “VIDEO: How Rivers woman delivered baby after shouting God of Nyesom Wike” 12 January 2023; tribuneonlineng.com].
Permit me to refer to Prolific writer Lailah Gifty Akita’s words: “Hope is the assurance of the promise, the belief that the promised will be fulfilled”. Governor Nyesome Ezenwo Wike has proven again, again and again that he is true to his words; that he is an outstanding promise-keeper of this dispensation. On behalf of myself and all lovers of the legal profession, I hereby earnestly and passionately plead with His Excellency, Governor Nyesome Ezenwo Wike to do everything reasonable and possible to ensure that before he leaves office on May 29, 2023, he has completed the ongoing projects in the Yenagoa Campus of the Law School. My plea is founded on fours grounds:
(A). In this way, Governor Nyesome would have proven that he has indeed surpassed all reasonable expectations;
(B). Governor doesn’t want a dent on his impeccable records as a true leader who keeps all his words. “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it” (per Benjamin Franklin); Besides, as advised by Jim Rohn, whoever renders service to many puts himself in line for greatness – great wealth, great return, great satisfaction, great reputation, and great joy.
(C). It was Governor Nyesome Wike’s promise to start, undertake, complete and deliver the projects in the Yenagoa Campus, that had gaven rise to the idea of a Port Harcourt Campus. On June 28, 2023, I wrote that “…[the] brand-new addition, the Port Harcourt Campus, [is] borne of a ground-breaking promise made at a ground-breaking ceremony for ground-breaking projects!” [See “Nigerian Law School’s Upgraded Yenagoa And Brand-new Port Harcourt Campuses: A Trending Transfiguration From A Quintessential Quartet (an exulted law teacher’s Acclamatory Antiphon)” (supra)]. Completion of the Yenagoa Projects is accordingly strategic, especially when one considers the next point.
(D). While receiving a delegation of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, led by its chairman, Opeyemi Bamidele, which paid him a courtesy, on 24 November 2021, Governor Nyesome Wike deplored the terribly appalling condition of the Yenagoa Campus of the Nigerian Law School, declaring that “You’ll never allow your slave to attend the Campus in Yenagoa” Besides, Governor Wike continued: “I made a special appeal to support to Council of Legal Education to rehabilitate the campus in Abuja, and the Director-General said, ‘No, we have more problems in Yenagoa [Campus], leave Abuja’”. These two issues, in addition to Wike administration’s avowed desire “to contribute to the development of legal education in Nigeria”, Governor Wike explained, “spurred his administration to build 900-bed space hostels and 1,500 capacity auditorium for students in Yenagoa campus, and then the subsequent construction of a new campus in Port Harcourt”. [See: “Even slaves should not attend Yenagoa campus of Nigerian Law School: Wike”; NOVEMBER 24, 2021; BarristerNg]. Now with the Port Harcourt Campus is fully completed and handed over to the Nigerian Law School, all eyes are now on Governor Nyesome Ezenwo Wike to do likewise in respect of the Yenagoa Campus. Completion of the project is essential to the upgrade of the Yenagoa Campus. Happily, work is ongoing on the projects, in pursuance of Governor Wike’s promise to never leave a project uncompleted. Thank you, Governor Wike! And thank you, God of Governor Wike. I pray the “God of Governor Wike” who I know is the Almighty God, to continue to sustain and provide for Governor Wike, his administration and the good people of Rivers State to ensure that Wike continues to keep his promises, and especially this particular promise to (before he leaves office) complete the ongoing projects in the Yenagoa Campus , so that the word “slave” would never again have cause to be used to describe the Yenagoa Campus.
I can’t stop thanking Governor Wike. Tassa Desalada said that “Good things don’t happen very fast. They need to build, little by little, over a long period of time”. But Governor Wike has shown with his strides in the legal profession, that good, beautiful things can happen and very fast too, especially when the right people come along. Thus, I pitch my tent with John Lenahan who declared that “I have found that important moments in life… happen so fast you don’t even remember them.” Further, Chris Gardner’s formula for leadership progression is simple and applies here: “Walk that walk and go forward all the time. Don’t just talk that talk, walk it and go forward. Also, the walk didn’t have to be long strides; baby steps are counted too. Go forward.” In my opinion, Rivers State’s Governor Wike talks the talk and walks the talk too. He is talk-active leader. As opposed to “talkative” leaders (who do much of talking and less of actions), a “talk-active” leader is one who not only talks much but does so much more at the same time to matching his words with concrete actions for all to see. Thus, he walks his talk; Governor Wike is a perfect example.
✔️God bless Governor Wike and bless our society with more of his type!
✔️God bless Rivers State for their generosity towards the legal profession!
✔️God bless the Nigerian legal profession!
✔️Gid bless Nigeria!
Sylvester Udemezue (Udems)
(6 February 2023)