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Rivers investment summit: Fubara’s deft paradigm shift

Within the terrain of the arts, the phrase ‘making the best of a bad situation’, has served as the theme of countless anecdotes, plays, poems…

Within the terrain of the arts, the phrase ‘making the best of a bad situation’, has served as the theme of countless anecdotes, plays, poems and songs. Put otherwise, it is the creative conversion, or displacement of bad situations with enterprise which offers positive outcomes and sets apart winners from the losers, in the throng of humanity. By any consideration too, the governor of Rivers State – Siminalayi Fubara has demonstrated his subscription to this mindset – courtesy of the landmark two-day  Rivers State Economic and Investment Summit which held during the past week.

Easily a low-hanging grape for launching an economic reform agenda by a forward-looking governor, the summit still falls into context as an anticlimax to the preceding atmosphere of an unveiled, yet to abate siege dispensation on the state, courtesy of the relentless campaign of attrition launched against him by his predecessor in office Nyesom Wike who is now the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja. With its theme as ‘Advancing Pathways to Economic Growth and Sustainability’ the summit occupies a position of primacy in the trending narratives about Rivers State for several reasons.

In declaring the summit open on Wednesday last week Siminalayi Fubara outlined the intent of his administration to reposition the economy of the state on a pedestal that will foster a turn-around from the current state of doldrums to renewed vibrancy. This will include the resuscitation of the several shut-down government owned companies and business enterprises. Also in the government’s plan is the complement of credit facilities to be made available to deserving beneficiaries in the state.  In addition to Fubara’s take, several other speakers including former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Emir of Kano Alhaji Sanusi Sanusi, who delivered the key note address, had also accentuated the strategic importance of Rivers State to the Nigerian economy being the hub of the critical petroleum industry around which the nation’s economy rotates. The central thread in the various submissions point to the primacy of the economy of the state as one of the pivots which hold the Nigerian nation intact.

With respect to its utility, the summit offers at least two immediate and timeous dividends.  First is the refocus of attention on the complement of humongous investment prospects which the state offers to the wider Nigerian economy as well as the world beyond.  Courtesy of the recent disturbing spate of political upheavals in the state associated with the Wike factor, which undeniably slowed down traction of the state’s political economy, the summit serves as a displacement mechanism for changing the trending, sponsored, erroneous and unflattering conversation on Rivers State as a hot bed of crisis, instead of a preferred investment haven.

For about eight months since October 2023, there has been a sustained multi-dimensional campaign of calumny against the governor Siminalayi Fubara, in which the traducer-in-chief Wike, has been baying for the blood of his quarry, and deployed his left-over commissioners in the Rivers State Executive Council, loyalists in the Rivers State House of Assembly (RSHA), the majority of the Local Government Council Chairmen as well as other reducing agents, to whittle down the integrity of the Fubara administration. The extent to which that situation has negatively impacted the state’s economy is significant to say the least.

In the other vein, the summit offers the opportunity for government and other stakeholders in the state’s economy to take stock of its status pursuant to facilitating remediation interventions, which present a daunting challenge for even a lion-hearted governor. As a consequence of the skewed style of governance especially under the Wike administration (2015-2023),  much of what should have been done to the economy were left undone, while much of what should not have been done were done.

The utility and timeliness of the summit can therefore not be over emphasized given its prospects for reversing the downturn which has been the reality of daily living for the majority of regular residents in the state, at least in the last eight years. For instance, while at no time was life in the state utopian, the period under consideration witnessed perhaps the most despicable faces of crass impunity in governance whereby basic administration at the state level was run according to the whims and caprices of the incumbent governor Nyesom Wike, without regard to due process and budgetary stipulations. A case in point was that throughout Wike’s eight years in office, the annual budget of the Rivers State Government was restricted from public view as if it was subject to voodoo rituals.

As a result, at the commencement of the tenure of Fubara on May 29 2023, he met a cesspool of economic challenges ranging from runaway unemployment, youth restiveness, dead or comatose state owned enterprises, wide-spread poverty, decrepit public sector and related services, to name a few. To the foregoing was added the imposition of a legacy of administrative strictures which restricted Fubara from exercising the full powers of a governor, until he broke loose from such and is being discomfited for such escape.

It is against the foregoing that the utility of the summit renders it a healing balm of sorts, with respect to fostering a welcome paradigm shift for the Rivers State political economy. Hardly therefore can any other dispensation be of higher value to the Rivers State, than the summit.

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