“I’m a Port Harcourt Boy!” and the neglect of the Niger Delta

Song ref: Duncan Mighty’s Port Harcourt First Son (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFDFtSfccWM)

If you know someone whose heart doesn’t beat for his own patch of earth, pity him. If you know anyone that can’t sing with pride his own version of this extremely likeable song “I’m a Port Harcourt Boy eh, e ji kelele eh!” by Duncan Mighty, I have a feeling the person has not started living yet.

And this indescribable love for your own city is not a new thing.

The writer of Psalm 87 gushes about his own love for Jerusalem. In another Psalm, David says “If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand forget how to play musical instruments”, and that is saying a lot. Jay Z and Alicia Keys tell us in “Empire State of Mind”, that in their New York, the streets will make you feel brand new, “the lights will inspire you!” You need to hear MI talk about Jos! Aladuke will tell you about her Ilorin, Elemure will tell you about Ekiti, the Lisabi sisters told us there was nowhere like their Abeokuta, and you don’t even want to get me started about the one and only “Osogbo oroki”.

And Duncan Mighty does a really good job with his song, talking about the greNiger Deltaat Niger Delta sons that call Port Harcourt home. (sorry, I didn’t hear daughters mentioned, even though our Agbani Darego grew up here). And it is not a small list. The 2014 Book Capital of the World is a lover any day. I maintained a home in “Pitakwa”, as the garden city is affectionately called, for seven straight years from 2006 to 2013. I always remember Port Harcourt with great fondness.

A melting pot of the many cultures and ethnic groups that were merged together in 1914 when it was named after Lord Harcourt, the city has a really gentle feel to her. Not rushed like their Lagos, or languid like their Abuja. Port Harcourt is big enough to interest you, and cozy enough to tempt you to cross Aba road in one short dash, if the Woji traffic will let you. But again, the “bole and fish” is out of this world. So you take the dash, from D-line to Old GRA, or from Rumuodara to Woji.

The only thing that has been surprising me in the last few months though is that there are people in that city that still think our brother, Goodluck Jonathan deserves their vote. It is simply amazing. Yes, he is our brother, and he is reported to have lived most of his life in Port Harcourt. He himself specifically said, on his recent presidential campaign visit on 28th January 2015 that “I was a part of this state. When I finished my secondary school I relocated to this state when I started as young custom officer. I attended the UNIPORT, worked in the Ministry of Education and taught in Rivers state College of Education. I move to the then OMPADEC. I was Assistant Director. So I have been a part and parcel of this state.”

Unfortunately, in a strange twist, there are strong allegations that there are some important development projects that should have come directly to Rivers State but are needlessly abandoned, because the President, a Port Harcourt boy, blocked them, for political reasons. “…an African Development Bank Director (said) …the water project for Port Harcourt, originally initiated by the Federal Government and to be financed by the bank (in conjunction with World Bank), is being put in the cooler by the Federal Government because of the Amaechi-Jonathan face-off” (source).

That allegation by Obasanjo was in 2013. And guess what, over a year and two months later, the project is still uncompleted, and this is the reason for the non-completion of this, or ANY infrastructure project whatsoever, not only in Port Harcourt, but in the entire Rivers and Bayelsa States (which is incidentally the President’s home state). This is what President Jonathan said on January 28:

“(Amaechi) is telling Nigerians that I have not done this. That means that I am a transparent person. I did not allocate …to my people. Luckily we have been challenged that we have not done anything, we must do something!”(source). He continues, “I’m not going to comment on the development in Rivers and Bayelsa states because these are my areas. And I can reassure you, just work with us, vote for us on the 14th of February, myself and Sambo.” That is beyond shocking.

My suspicion is that my friends that are in an unimaginable support for the current government in Abuja and are natives of Rivers and Bayelsa states have not had any reason to ply the East West Road since this president was sworn in in 2010. For your information, not very much has happened on that road. My suspicion is that they have not had any reason to look at the promises he made in 2011, and ask objectively, if he has fulfilled even 20% of those promises.

And the promises he made were not rocket science either. A quick search on the internet will show you what he promised, as compiled by veteran journalist Uncle Sonala Olumhense. I found a mere 4-point agenda for the Niger Delta here https://ogala.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/president-goodluck-jonathans-91-campaign-promises-help-identify-those-he-has-delivered/. I’m afraid nothing has been done on that list. Outside that list, there is more “oil bunkering” now than at any time in the history of Nigeria, and whether we like it or not, this is not a good thing for the economy.

The Petroleum Industry Bill was the buzz phrase in 2009 and 2010. It had the potential to radically change the way we did business in the oil and gas sector. And to benefit Nigeria immensely. If Umaru Musa-Yar’Adua who is reputed to take his jolly good time on important national issues was alive, I reckon he would have reached that item about now. Unfortunately, there are so many versions of it now, and the President has not made this a political and economic priority.

So I’m left to wonder.

Is it that my friends in Port Harcourt have no idea the extent of the damage (by needless neglect) that the current president is doing to the growth of his own Niger Delta? Is it possible that they think it doesn’t matter who bleeds Nigeria to death as long as it’s our brother?

Or what exactly is the benefit of having a real Port Harcourt boy in Aso Rock!

Chukwudi Adepoju is @adechuks on twitter.

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