By Paulinus Nsirim
“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,” the title of an excellent poem by the famous British Poet, John Keats, is how veteran Rivers State Journalist, Mr. Blessing Wikina, described the recently commissioned Rebisi Flyover, which crosses over the memorable Garrison Roundabout.
Indeed, with the torrent of complimentary comments that have been pouring in since the commissioning, the Rebisi flyover has become the latest, most impressive tourist attraction to grace the landscape of the beautiful Garden City of Nigeria.
The Rebisi Flyover, with its gleaming streetlights, was commissioned by the Minister for Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), on Saturday, November 7, 2020, with colourful pomp and celebration.
It also witnessed elegant and dexterous displays of traditional dances and wrestling matches by the proud and excited indigenes of the community to express their joy and endorsement of this splendid infrastructure that has quite literally put Rebisi on the world map forever.
Mr. Fashola, who took the long walk along the 969. 4 metres’ long Rebisi Dual Carriage Flyover Bridge, with his host, Governor Wike, his wife, Justice Eberechi Suzette Wike, and other dignitaries, witnessed first hand, the warmth and sincere accolades with which the joyous crowd of Rivers people who lined up the stretch under the bridge and perched on the shiny bar handles on the bridge proper, greeted and hailed their Governor, for a job well done.
And in a moment of spontaneous outpouring of nostalgia, during his speech, the Minister confessed that such development efforts will promote peace among residents, tourism and return Port Harcourt to its Garden City status, which he had known and enjoyed over three decades ago, when he spent every vacation in Rivers State.
“What I witnessed is a massive urban regeneration and urban renewal of Port Harcourt,” he said in visible awe.
The Minister commended Governor Wike for his visionary and patriotic decision to name the Rebisi Flyover which is located at Garrison Junction, after the community and thus reflect, not only our gradual departure as a people from a prolonged regimentation mentality, but also underscore the prominence of the Rebisi clan in the identity and location of this legacy infrastructure both in the domestic and global space.
“This place used to be known as Garrison. But, clearly as we begin to shed our military toga and our democracy ages and deepen, we will see a rebirth in our unity, our oneness and our shared developmental aspiration,” he said.
Fashola confirmed that Ministers have been mandated to support the developmental initiatives and aspirations of every State in the country, adding that this mandate had informed the initiative to refund money spent on federal roads to States.
He also delivered some very poignant home truths to correct a ludicrous narrative of misleading information that had gained erroneous currency and mischievous referential authority, even in quarters where those who quoted it ought to know better.
The Minister said: “In the second tranche it was five states. Out of those five states, I think only two were APC states and it was a total of N148billiion and Governor Nyesom Wike and Rivers State got a lion share. He got N78billion. But don’t sit here and think he has received N78 billion. It still has to go to the National Assembly because this is part of Nigeria’s borrowing plan. He has not received a kobo yet,” the Minister stated categorically.
The operational story of the amazing Rebisi flyover, according to the Rivers State Commissioner for Works, Mr. Eloka Tasie-Amadi started on October 24, 2019, when it was flagged off for construction by the former Rivers State Governor, Sir Celestine Omehia.
Prior to this flag-off however, the Rivers State Government, led by the Attorney-General of the State, Prof. Zaccheus Adangor and Julius Berger Nigeria Plc led by the Managing Director, Dr Lars Richter had, on October 18th, 2019, signed an agreement for the construction of three flyover bridges to develop the landscape of Port Harcourt and resolve traffic congestion in the city. A down payment of 70 percent of the contract sum had been made by the State Government to ensure that there would be no delays or excuses.
Rivers watchers will recall vividly that on May 29, 2019, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, while taking his oath of office for a historic second term, in the presence of thousands of Rivers people from the 23 Local Government Areas of the State, made a solemn commitment when he declared that he will construct three Flyover Bridges at Rumuokoro, Garrison(now Rebisi)and Artillery(now Rumuogba) in Port Harcourt, to resolve the traffic congestion in the capital city which was once again transforming into a major commercial hub and a most favoured destination of choice.
Many thought it was a mere political promise, but like every other pledge he made, Governor Wike, being the promise keeper that he is, took concrete steps to actualize this promise and in one year after the pledge was made, delivered the Rebisi Flyover four months earlier than the estimated time frame of 16 months. It could even have been commissioned earlier if not for the outbreak of COVID-19 global pandemic.
Governor Wike, who noted that the contractor, Julius Berger, worked assiduously, even during the COVID-19 lockdown, just to ensure that the projects were delivered on time, expressed satisfaction that his administration has been able to fulfil the promise of constructing five Flyover Bridges, with one of them achieved in twelve months.
“By December, we have to commission Okoro-Nu-Odo flyover. By February, (2021) we have to commission Rumuogba and Rumuola; by March-April (2021), we will commission the GRA flyover,” he said. This declaration was made with full confidence, like a true leader and administrator who knows his onions and has done his homework with distinction.
Governor Wike also paid glowing tribute to the Minister for Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola for the leadership role he played in the assessment of the application for refund to the State, of money spent on federal projects and also appealed that the new flyover projects should be considered for refund as well.
He frowned at traders who deliberately refuse to obey Government’s directive not to trade along the roads and inconvenience road users and said that a comprehensive Executive Order will be issued to discourage the practice.
As Rivers people and visitors are still basking in the euphoria and serenading the breathtaking, astonishing beauty of the amazing Rebisi Flyover bridge, the next Flyover to be commissioned will be the Okoro-Nu-Odo flyovover. The beauty of this particular flyover bridge will surpass every aesthetic and architectural imagination in its jaw-dropping kaleidoscopic panoply adorning the landscape of that area of Port Harcourt.
To capture the full beauty of the poem “A thing of beauty” by John Keats and fully appreciate the wonderful and marvelous legacy projects Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is delivering in Rivers State, here is the complete first stanza of the poem :
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever. Its loveliness increases; it will never
pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.”
The Commissioner for Works, Olisa Tasie-Amadi captured the importance of the project in these words: “There is an old Chinese proverb which says; ‘If you want to be rich, build a road first’. I believe they say so because ROADS CONNECT, ROADS CREATE ACCESS to every enterprise, therefore one can safely say that ease of movement is key to business and economic activities.
“I am proud to say that THIS PROJECT HAS BEEN BUILT TO LAST. It is obvious that this flyover gives great aesthetic pleasure and several benefits to the good people of our dear state, which include but not limited to:
” Improved traffic flow and reduced travel time which ultimately saves cost to commuters through reduced transport fares and charges -time they say is money and quicker travel is always cheaper travel.
” It brings about enhanced property values within the precinct of the flyover and other areas contiguous to it that benefit from the ease of movement created by the flyover.
” It eradicates traffic conflicts and jams at the Port Harcourt/Aba Road/Trans-Amadi intersection, a good flow of traffic means better emisions and less pollution. Of course, we would all agree that Good roads reduce vehicle damage and wear and tear, leaving more money in our pockets as we spend less on repairs,” he added.
(Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State)