·Ikwerre journalists crown him ‘Shining Light of Ikwerreland’
By Ignatius Chukwu
Chief Tony Okocha is always in the news now, but many say it is to draw a new political line in Rivers State.
He rather explained this, saying if anybody comes to the media to tell one lie against him, he would jump out to reply him, except the fellow is a small fry.
Most politicians and elites in the south-south now heave a sigh of relief in the view that Rivers State has at last reconnected to national political leadership
One such leader is Chief Tony Okocha, who was special assistant to Nyesom Wike as Obio/Akpor local council chairman ending 2007 and Chief of Staff to then Gov Chibuike Amaechi.
Speaking after receiving the rare award of Shining Light of Ikwerre land from the Ikwerre Journalists Association of Nigeria (IMPAN), Chief Okocha said Rivers State has been outside national scheme of things for too long.
Rivers State since 1967 had been a major pillar of national planning and politics but fell out of favour in 2012 when the Rivers political crisis exploded, leading to Amaechi breaking away from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC).
Amaechi’s APC however lost the state to Wike’s PDP which pitched the oil-rich state against the presidency and national politics once again. Those favours that the presidency use to extend to favoured states eluded Rivers from 2012 to this date.
Okocha, a chief in Rumuigbo section of Port Harcourt where the great political icon, Obi Wali, hailed from, now says by helping APC’s Bola Ahmed Tinubu to win the presidency, that Wike has made Rivers a highly sought after state.
He said the role Wike played not only delivered Rivers State to Tinubu but also robbed the PDP votes in all of five strong PDP states in the south and middle-belt.
On this score, he said, Wike is now part of those who have strong voice at the national level. He said Rivers State now makes demands, not requests.
Don’t compare Wike with Diete-Spiff:
Describing Wike as a paragon of excellence, the philosophy graduate of the University of Port Harcourt said Gov Wike is under-reported, despite the huge publicity people think Wike is getting, always on the glare of klieg lights. “He is an unparalleled achiever. He is a great leader. Don’t compare Wike with Alfred Diete-Spiff who ruled with fiats as a military governor.”
He reminded Nigerians that even the APC FG awarded him Best Governor in Infrastructure Delivery and that President Muhammadu Buhari personally handed the plaque to him.
Why Abe cannot return as APC leader
Reaffirming his position as the new leader of the Rivers APC, Okocha said Magnus Abe would have assumed natural leadership now that Tinubu has won and Amaechi is no longer a minister, but because Abe left the house to SDP, he cannot come back to assume leadership. “If i too had abandoned APC when he left, who would have provided the platform for Gov Wike to work for APC presidential victory?”
Wike is under-reported
Pressing his claim that Wike is under reported, Okocha said “The truth is that if you do not blow your trumpet, others will collect it and either break it or blow it for you their way.”
On criticisms that Wike did not create massive jobs and economic empowerment, Okocha said: “If an administration does everything, then no need for others to come. He chose infrastructure as his area of focus and did very well in it. And, at the twilight of his administration, maybe out of public opinion (criticism), he has started doing some human development projects.”
I grab this award with both hands:
On the award, Okocha said: “I grab this award with both hands. I am in solidarity with what you are doing.”
He said for the fact that the award is rare, he had rejected many awards but has grabbed this one with both hands.
He said his Rumuigbo people are not divided. “We are warriors. We have agreed to be in one hole. That will underline some of the things the public will be hearing.”
He said he is not afraid of criticism over the book he just released that captures his personal experiences in leadership and politics. “My book is open to criticism, and that will feed into the next volume.”
Why we chose him – Chief Wehere:
Earlier, the chairman of Ikwerre Journalists Association, Chief Monday Wehere, publisher of Surveillance newspaper, said the organization was set up in 2008. “We produced the first Ikwerre directory covering the 132 communities. We were united until the APC/PDP crisis in the state caught up with us and caused division.”
On the award to Okocha, he said: “We are careful with awards, and this is the third in the past 15 years, beginning with Okey Chinda, Engineer Wanosike, now Tony Okocha.”
Giving reasons for the award, the body said Okocha demonstrated confidence and competence.
IMPAN traced Okocha’s journey from primary school to his time at School of Basic Studies, later to the Uniport (1994) and to his studying Crisis Management at Diploma level. “He is a political grassroots mobiliser. He was a very active students activist, later executive assistant to Nyesom Wike as Obio/Akpor LGA chairman, later was Chief of Staff to the governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, was caretaker chairman of Obio/Akpor.
“Okocha is a pillar of politics in Rumuigbo, he is a dependable political leader, a fearless politician. The award is: Political Shining Light of Ikwerre land.”
Dignitaries who graced the award ceremony in Rumuigbo commended the rare recognition and the group for not bastardising awards. Bright Amaewhule, president of the Grassroots Development Initiative (GDI) worldwide, said those of them in Rumuigbo are proud of Tony Okocha.
Speaking, the Eze of the community, Billy Owhonda, said Tony Okocha has really done well. “I advise him to continue in good works. We receive our visitors very well.’
In his vote of thanks, an elite and scholar, William Wodi, former public relations officer of the Uniport, said the award is unique. “It is not part of the jobbers who are award contractors. Truth is that award locates good people, not people that chase awards.
“In Okocha, Nigeria lost a good academic to politics. He has achieved everything there is to achieve. Let him return to academics, let him retrace his steps back to academics.”
He described how Okocha was a very brilliant student and how he is more of an academic than a politician.