The making of Wike’s new cabinet ahead 2019
by Ignatius Chukwu
September 24, 2017 | 4:24 am| | | Start Conversation
The man regarded as the topmost public sector information management strategist, Emma Okah, has returned to the ‘war seat’ of the Nyesom Wike cabinet in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He was named on the head sheet of 20 commissioners that have assumed duties as members of the Rivers State Executive Cabinet to drive the second half of the Wike administration. The remaining period is seen by analysts as very significant because it is going to run into succession campaigns, an area that Okah, a lawyer, seems to know too well.
When Wike won the election in 2015, Okah, one of his strongest backers against Chibuike Amaechi and whatever he stands for, was already receiving congratulations as ‘Commissioner of Information’, but when the list was announced, Okah was sent to the Ministry of Housing. There, he still made waves, embarking on 50 houses scheme, reactivating the much-abandoned Ireiebe Housing scheme, building of the largest amusement park (Treasure Park) in the Niger Delta on Aba Road, and many more.
Okah was hailed when he pushed to build the much-touted Mechanic Village at Ireiebe to bring together thousands of roadside mechanics, parts dealers especially Ikokwu cluster, electricians, welders, etc, to a world class centre at Iriebe. As he is leaving the Ministry of Housing, he would be regretting the relapse. Mechanics are still at Ikokwu and everywhere else, though reasons have been scanty in coming. The Wike team had been criticised for lacking arrowhead push, especially in economic and administrative matters.
Elele-born Okah from Ikwerre Local Council Area was a Lagos-based law practitioner who came into media limelight in his robust column in National Interest, a colourful broadsheet that has since been rested. The Peter Odili administration picked him out in the second term and he was brought in to replace the well-respected Austin Nwikinaka who left to revive the Tide, the state newspaper, as chief press secretary.
Okah was to battle the storms of the Odili concluding years when the then outgoing governor’s presidential ambition rocked the administration and created huge crisis. His successes were noted by the then political actors and he was singularly mandated to head the Ministry of Information for Celestine Omehia. This was as Omehia faced media barrages and attacks around the country following the emergence of the Amaechi faction of the Odili camp. It also came in the midst of militancy attacks to dethrone Omehia through expected declaration of State of Emergency.
Okah is credited with media strategies and reshaping that convinced the then Umaru Yar’Adua administration to deploy the army into Port Harcourt to save the city. The media battle raged on until the Supreme Court struck in an uncharacteristic verdict that thumbled Omehia and brought in Amaechi.
Okah won bigger respect out of power when most other Odili/Omehia men secretly negotiated their ways back to the Amaechi administration apparently to survive the reigning onslaught and what many called ‘economic blockade’ but Okah braved it all for the entire seven-and-half years.
He was always quoted in the media to say he would only follow his master, Odili, back to Amaechi, and not through any other way. This fierce loyalty was noticed by some godfathers who never believed that such traditions were still available. Okah thus scraped life all through and remained Odili’s media spokesman for all that period, openly and singlehandedly fighting back the barrages aimed at ruining Odili’s legacy and image.
When Odili reunited with the Wike group, Okah, of course, was an obvious companion, and thus an asset. He was rumoured to have turned down offers in the presidency. His plan to run for the House of Reps was stopped for him to help shore up the state administration in the face of media warfare, reason why his posting outside ministry of information seemed strange. He was however, seen stepping once in a while in major events that requited wide contacts and robust media posturing.
The Wike cabinet was dissolved one month ago and new ones were nominated and sworn in with Okah always a top name. This time around, he was sent to his habitat, Ministry of information.
Many said it was an easy decision being that Okah had managed two governors in war time; Odili and Omehia, especially those that were out of favour in Aso Rock and those seeking re-election, either for self or for a godson.
The time looks familiar as Wike seeks re-election in PDP against an APC/FG candidate-to-be. Many believe that many secret reports and information must have been lined up to confront his principal in the coming months in the hot contest that would be rivers governorship campaigns. Attempts would be made to present Wike as a failure and a threat to Rivers interest, leaving Okah to devise strategies from day one to show the Wike works; that Wike loves Rivers State, and that Wike represents the best hope for the oil hub.
Experts say it would require far more than pumping insults on opponents and the FG, more than listing names of projects, but would require extensive articulation of positions, economic interpretations, buyable submissions to strategic groups, especially the national opinion caucus, and projecting a comfortable tone that would calm nerves as the opponents would seek to provoke issues and make the governor react in violent tones that would be used against him.
Others said Okah would need to revive the MDA system of information dissemination to allow all action centres of the Wike project execution to fire from all cylinders so as to provoke the indirect publicity benefits lacking so far. For long, it has been Wike speaking for himself (at functions captured by his media aide), they observed.
A correspondent of a national newspaper said: “While the governor’s media aides may speak for him, it is the proper articulation of the policies and strategies of the cabinet that would launch any governor higher and achieve policy articulation that create credibility for an administration. It is not the volume of information alone that matters but the credibility value and the impact it makes in winning loyal readership and listenership”.
The full list of the commissioners include Emma Okah (Information); three professors, Kaniye Ebeku (formerly in education but now sent to Water Resources), Roseline Konya (Environment), and Chike Princewill (Health); Ibibia Walter, former publicity secretary of the PDP (Transport); three other lawyers, Isaac Kamalu (Budget), Ukel Oyaghiri (Women Affairs), and Sylvanus Nwankwo (Chieftaincy). Others include Tonye Oniyide (Culture); Dum Deekor (Works); Fred Kpakol (back to Finance despite upheals in his relationship with the governor); Tamunosisi Gogo Jaja (Education, probably to tackle the plan to shut down almost 2000 private schools and likely loss of over 20,000 jobs); Damiete Herbert Miller (Social Welfare); Ruderford LongJohn (Local Govt); Shedrack Chukwu (Power); Boma Iyaye (always in Sports); Emeka Onowu (Special Services); a chief, Chinedu Tasie (Housing); Charles Nwogu (Agriculture); and Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma, SAN, earlier been sworn in as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice.
Wike has been criticised in the past for not giving free hands to his cabinet members but he never replied his shadowy critics. He however, made it clear on the swearing-in day that there is nothing to eat. He said anyone who had such mindset should better have a rethink.
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