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‘Wike spoke up when others cowered’ — Rivers commissioner speaks on N78bn refund



Paulinus Nsirim, Rivers commissioner for information and communications, says the decision by President Muhammadu Buhari to approve the refund of N78.9 billion to the state for the repair of federal roads may be because Nyesom Wike, the governor, has the “courage to speak up when others are silent”.

Nsirim said this in reaction to an article by Femi Adesina, presidential spokesman, which referred to Wike’s invitation to Buhari for a state visit as vindication for the president’s loyalists.

Wike, a known critic of the Buhari administration, extended the invitation after the federal government approved N78.9 billion as reimbursement for the amount spent on executing some federal projects in the state.

Adesina, in the article titled “Wike Vindicates Buharists”, had said Wike’s appreciation went in a completely different direction compared to what the governor had always said of Buhari.

He said Wike was “either usually crying wolf where there was none”, and that the governor’s turnaround shows that he had been “playing a curious kind of politics all along, and now, fairness and justice have touched him in a positive way”.

But in a rejoinder titled “Wike That I know” on Sunday, Nsirim said what the presidential spokesman described as “crying wolf” and “pontificating” is nothing more than the ability to say and do things which other people are not brave enough to do.

The commissioner, who described Wike as “courageous and fearless with great nobility in today’s political space”, said the refund was neither a loan gift nor a bailout package as Adesina painted it.

“What Mr. Adesina surely knows is that one virtue that Governor Wike possesses is courage. He has never hesitated to call anybody out including the President, his own party members and even multi-nationals operating in Rivers State, whenever the need arises and Adesina himself, has already agreed, by confessing to responding to some of these wolf cries in his write up, that these calls were necessary at the time they were made,” he said.

“If Governor Wike’s courage to speak up when others are silent and cowering in fear, leads to the approval of the refund of the N78.9 billion which the Federal Government owes Rivers State, then the expression of gratitude that recognises and appreciates such appropriate magnanimity is the highest form of nobility.

“The money is neither a generous loan gift nor a desperate bailout package as people like Femi Adesina are shaping the narrative to sound, but a REFUND of monies already spent by Rivers State on Federal projects.

“Governor Wike has aptly pointed out that the decision to thank Mr. President and the appeal to invite him for a state visit was not a personal one, but a collective decision taken by the State Executive Council, to assure Mr. President that all is well with Rivers State and Rivers people are quite happy with him for approving the refund.

“While Rivers people will not complain that the money was actually reduced from the original amount and that it even took so long for President Buhari’s fairness and justice to touch Rivers State, while he has been fair and just to other states, we are all still very happy and grateful that this approval for refund has been made, finally.

“Attempts by people like Adesina to make political capital out of the genuine stance of a statesman will not be bought by well-meaning Nigerians.”