Rivers’ Awards: The cheers, the jeers

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State just gave out 162 awards to those he considered his friends and friends of the state, making the second time he is giving out Rivers State awards.

He gave the first one in May 2017 when Rivers marked 50 years of existence. Each time this takes place, just like at the national level, citizens usually take sides on the nominees and awardees. Some will commend them, others will berate them. In 2017, the immediate past governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, rejected his award. Such rejections, like the late Chinua Achebe did in the days of Olusegun Obasanjo, usually cause distractions and may subtract from its integrity. In plain language, detractors seek to rubbish the awards exercise.

This time around, Wike’s awards seem to attract more jibes and jeers maybe because the four governors that join him to make the G-5 are top on the list. Many saw this as something beyond ordinary eyes because many would not understand what makes Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State a rivers hero; same with Sam Ortom of Benue State, who rather has been receiving from Rivers treasury. Wike however, said that the each of the G5 governors was a man you can trust, and of high integrity.

On these accounts, the social media space has been on fire with criticisms and verbal-flare attacks. Many question whether Wike award is Rivers’ award; or whether a Wike friend must be Rivers’ friend. They are asking how patriotism is defined, or whether the prism of viewing a Rivers’ friend and Rivers’ interest is in the eye of the governor.

Wike is a man who hardly cows inside in the face of confrontation or uproar. Wike said the 162 Nigerians he picked made impacts in life with what he called “inspirational achievements, impactful life and contributions to the progress of the state in particular and the nation in general.”

Read also: Name governors that stole LGA funds, Wike presses Buhari

In his remarks, Wike, who explained that the state’s honours and awards event was solely the initiative of former governor, Peter Odili, remarked that everyone bestowed with an award on the day had distinguished him/herself by his/her good character, personal achievements, and positive contributions to society.

He talked about how he fought David Umahi of Ebonyi State and Adams Oshiomhole (former national chairman of the ruling APC), but apologised to some of them and joked with the others.

Wike saw jealousy in the eyes of detractors. “Human beings instead of them to say I appreciate you, they become envious.”

Ortom of Benue State spoke on behalf of his colleagues and said Governor Wike has demonstrated that he is a true patriot and nationalist by honouring Nigerians from the six geopolitical zones, irrespective of their religious and political persuasion.