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The President Buhari’s First Visit To Rivers




President Muhammadu Buhari made his first visit to Rivers State last week to Commission an airport terminal building, ANAYO ONUKWUGHA, captures the political intrigues that it has sparked in the state.

On Thursday, October 25, 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari was in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital on his first visit to the state since he assumed office as President on May 29, 2015.

Buhari was in the state to commission the new terminal building of the international wing of the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, near Port Harcourt.

When information filtered into Rivers State about the presidential visit about five days before the date for the commissioning ceremony, not few people took it serious considering the fact that on several occasions, Buhari promised to visit but failed each time.

On several occasions in the past, leaders and supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had had altercations following failure of the President to visit Rivers State.



Speaking on one of Buhari’s visit to Rivers State that never came to pass in March 2018, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, said the Federal Government did not inform him of the President’s visit to the state and the reason for it.

Wike said: “I hear they say that the President is coming to our state. I have not been told the President is coming and why he is coming. He has the right to come to any state.

“Maybe the President is coming to make sure that he will improve the fortunes of the All Progressives Congress that is dead in Rivers State. APC is a dead party in Rivers State. No matter how you fast and pray, it will never wake up.



“Let nobody bother his or herself that the President is coming for security reasons. We don’t have security challenges in the state.

We have never had herdsmen killings or crisis in the state, except when some criminals tried to disrupt the peace and they were checked. We resolved that challenge,” Wike added.

So, when it became obvious that the President and Commander-in-Chief would personally be in the state to commission the terminal building, a project that was initiated by the administration of former President Good luck Jonathan, the people of the South-south geopolitical zone of the country trooped out enmasse to welcome Buhari.

Leaders and chieftains of political parties in Rivers State, especially the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), that have been at each others jugular for a very long time shunned politics as they sat together throughout the duration of the event.

Members of the APC mobilised themselves heavily for the presidential visit knowing fully well that it is the first of its kind since the inception of the present administration.



Interestingly however, the minister of Transport and former governor of the state, Chibuike Amaechi was conspicuous absent. He was at a Town hall meeting in Ibadan, Oyo State.

Speaking while commissioning the new terminal building, Buhari assured that his administration is deliberately working to sustain the development of infrastructure for economic growth in all geo-political zones of the country.

He said opening of the new terminal building of the Port Harcourt International Airport represents a significant landmark for International air travelers, particularly from the South-south geopolitical zone, and the entire country. The President expressed regrets that since the opening of the airports across the country in the late 1970s and early 1980s, not much was added to increase the passenger handling capacity of these facilities by successive administrations.



He said: “You will recall that after opening the major airport terminals in the country in the late 70s and early 80s, not much was added to increase the passenger handling capacity of these facilities by successive administrations.

“Following the large increase in national population with consequent surge in air passenger traffic, the capacity of the airport terminals became woefully inadequate to cater for the increase in passenger traffic.

“Although, palliative measures were periodically carried out, the facilities were fast giving-in to the effects of wear and tear. It therefore became necessary to take decisive action to ensure our terminals meet minimum international standards for the travelling public.

“The Federal Government responded to a global trend in which aviation became a catalyst for economic growth as a result of massive and speedy movement of persons, goods and services in a safe and secure manner.



“As part of the infrastructure renewal program, the construction of four new international terminals at Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano airports was embarked upon by the Federal Government with a view to modernising the aging airport infrastructure to meet global aviation standards and improved service delivery in tandem with best international practices.

“Today’s commissioning is an example of Government’s deliberate policy to sustain the development of infrastructure for economic growth in all geo-political zones of the country.”

Buhari lauded the efforts of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, the Chinese government and the China Exim Bank for their financial support and the various roles they played towards to the successful completion of this project.



The President said: “At the presentation of the 2017 Budget to the National Assembly, I promised to upgrade and develop Nigeria’s transport, power and health infrastructure, and complete a number of stalled infrastructure projects.

“These include construction of new terminals at the country’s five major airports; numerous major road projects; key power transmission projects; and the completion of the Kaduna – Abuja as well as Itakpe to Warri Railway lines.

“Nigeria having an advantageous central location within the sub-region and our desire to develop into a regional air transportation hub, must upgrade its facilities to take advantage of its assets.

“The recent decision by the Federal Government to remove Value Added Tax from domestic air transportation is in line with global best practices. “This will make air travel more affordable and subsequently lead to the creation of jobs by the air transport service value chain as well as increase revenues for government.

“I therefore, wish to commend the people of the South South Region and airport users for their patience during the period of construction.



“Let me also praise the efforts of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, particularly Aviation, the Chinese government and the China Exim Bank for their financial support and the various roles they played leading to the successful completion of this project.”

However, the PDP blasted Buhari and the APC for commissioning the new terminal building of the Port Harcourt International Airport, saying that the President is only good at commissioning projects the PDP started and financed.

The PDP, on a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the project was conceptualised, articulated and financed by its administration.



The party said Nigerians were thoroughly amused when President Buhari’s handlers brought him to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, for the first time since his inauguration in 2015, only to orchestrate another failed attempt to claim credit for project executed by others.

The statement reads in part: “If anything, the Buhari administration, in its incompetence, only succeeded in delaying the completion of the project, which was perfected by the PDP, including payments to contractors.

“It is to say the least appalling that after three and half years, a President, who is seeking reelection, cannot point to any development project, initiated and executed by his administration in any part of our country.

“Instead, our dear President has been moving around trying to claim credit for projects executed by the PDP, all in a desperate attempt to cover his failures in governance.”

The PDP recalled that Buhari and the ruling APC, had similarly attempted to claim credit for the Abuja Light Rail Project, saying that it’s public knowledge that the project was conceptualised and policy-propelled by the PDP.



It said: “We know that President Buhari is eager to stuff up his false performance claims ahead of election, but doing so with the achievements of others is the height of desperation and deceit, which has already become repugnant to majority of Nigerians and the international community.

“The PDP therefore counsels President Buhari’s handlers to use the remaining days of his failed administration to prepare him to get ready to accept his imminent defeat in 2019, as Nigerians have already rallied behind our candidate, Atiku Abubakar, whose performance credential is known to all.”

SOURCE: https://leadership.ng/2018/11/04/the-politics-of-buharis-first-visit-to-rivers/

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