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Wike’s pointman in Rivers makes political statement with church thanksgiving service

Wike’s pointman in Rivers makes political statement with church thanksgiving service

What looked like the mother of all Thanksgiving church services shook the Rivers State capital yesterday, April 28, 2024, shutting down a substantial part of Port Harcourt.

It was the Thanksgiving church service mounted by the man to watch in Rivers politics and a rising figure in the state, Tony Okocha, who is now the arrowhead of the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike, in Rivers politics.

The event, which took place in Rumuigbo at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Rumuapara District of the Diocese of Niger Delta North was a ‘Special Thanksgiving Service’ by Okocha (and family) in celebration of Okocha’s appointment into the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as Rivers State Representative.

Okocha also held the thanksgiving in celebration of his appointment as caretaker committee chairman of the Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

From these two vantage points and positions, he has sought to challenge the state administration led by Gov. Sim Fubara on how to do what he calls humanitarian projects and human capital projects. He has also used it to pitch a fierce opposition observatory for those he calls the ‘voiceless’. He has thus pelted Fubara, the man he calls his ‘good friend’, always on a weekly basis, asking the governor to resign if the heat was too much.

Okocha has particularly pelted the governor for doing Thanksgiving services around the state, though the governor retorted always that it was the grassroots supporters that were organising the series with their funds. The governor calls his support organic.

Okocha has, however, organised his Thanksgiving service, which seemed to turn out to be a demonstration of the new political front in the state.

As the Fubara Thanksgiving event shook the town, it seemed to give observers and political analysts a view of the other front, as both camps were ready for the local council election clash in June or anything thereafter. In the past three months, new political alignments and realignments have been going on creating what people see as PDAPC. In this concept, those in PDP may actually be in APC while those in APC may actually be in PDP. Splinters from other smaller parties are finding shelter under either the APC now led by Okocha with the big shadow of Wike from behind on one side, and the PDP, now being rallied together by Fubara with the slight shadow of Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi from behind on the other side.

The gathering at the Okocha Thanksgiving and Reception in Obio/Akpor section of the garden City seemed to be a big statement to the Rivers people that Wike was not down, let alone out. And that big names in Rivers, south-south, Abuja, and elsewhere were rather behind him.

This must be why the introductions of guests in the church auditorium seemed to take deserved time despite hurry to meet up.

Thus, the presence of Wike who came in big entourage and siren was well noted. Others were the representation from the presidency, the presence of the national chairman of the APC represented by the south-south chairman, Magnus Abe, the chairman of the NDDC (Chiedu Obie), the presence of the MD/CEO of the NDDC (Samuel Ogbuku PhD), other top NDDC guns such as Boma Iyaye (EDP), the likes of Maureen Tamuno (former ambassador to Jamaica), the many time honourable and minority leader in the Federal House, Okey Chinda, former senator, Magnus Abe, George Sekibo.

The Rivers State House of Assembly formerly dominated by the PDP but now APC (through defection of 27 members) came in full force led by the Speaker, Martins Amaewhule. About 21 out of the 23 local council chairmen stormed the event while top political weights such as Chibudom Nwuche (former deputy speaker, House of Reps); Desmond Akawor (former state chairman of the PDP now in the national Revenue and Mobilisation Committee, all showed powerful presence plus chairmen of the ruling APC in 17 states.

In his brief remarks at the church and at the reception, Okocha said what was on show is the true meaning of organic support. “We want to show what organic support means. It is not when you rent a crowd, when you have to settle them in form of mobilization and demobilization. But in this one, you can see the zest, the joy; from the church to this place. I am very happy that God has given us this opportunity to thank Him.

“I also want to thank the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who has deemed us fit and proper to be appointed into the board of the NDDC, and also allow be the chairman of his own party in Rivers State. I also thank my leader, the leader of the people, Chief (Barr) Nyesom Wike, who has held nothing from me. I also thank my friends and sisters here.)

On huge expectations before him, he said he was not scared. “I am prepared because to whom much is given, much is expected. I am well prepared for the job. By the time we would have served out our term, there would be many things to remember. Take this to the bank.”

Wike’s entry came with pomp and clout with folks stretching their necks to catch a glimpse of the man that held sway in the Garden City. The atmosphere was loaded with excitement and expectations.

When he stood to speak, the ovation rang out, and when he cleared his throat, the crowd roared. He spoke less but donated N20m to help the two church building projects even as the church authorities recalled his many financial and human capital supports.

In his sermon, the bishop, Wisdom Budu Ihunwo, commended both Wike and Okocha and admitted that thanksgiving was proper in the midst of the children of God.

He however admonished thanksgivers to give abundantly to God instead of lavishing huge spending on dresses and little to God. In doing so, Ihunwo said man was thanking himself.

He pointed out that thanksgiving as seen in Luke 17 was an act of Obedience first before being an act of appreciation. He urged children of God to endeavour to win God’s favour through the proper way of thanksgiving to God.

The reception was a huge event bigger than many political rallies, a sign that Rivers State is evenly divided into two new aligned political camps.