WHEN JONATHAN VISITED HIS IN-LAWS
Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital is usually a lively city. But the Garden City was unusually boisterious between Thursday and Friday last week. That was when President Goodluck Jonathan visited the state.
A female member of one of the near-countless dancing groups that turned up for the historic event, Mrs Catharine Fiyneface, summed up the mood of the day in Port Harcourt and indeed, the entire Rivers State.
'This is a day we can never forget in this state. Who could have known that contrary to most people's expectation, a son of Niger Delta will become the President of this country so soon?
'Have you forgotten that this part of the country and the entire Niger Delta have been in crisis and nobody gave us a chance in the politics of this country? That is why you see us dancing like this.
We are not bothered about the hot sun. For us, it is worth it. May be you don't know too that President Jonathan is one of us. He once lived here and he is our in-law.' Indeed, Jonathan is a son-in-law to the people. His wife, Dame Patience, hails from Okrika area of the state. And true to that obviously popular feeling, the people of Rivers State, adorned in various glowing traditional attires waltzed, sang and danced. The usually colourful masquerades from the 'sprit world' were not left out. After all, nothing moves spirits like melodious tunes and good instrumental melody.
Even a cripple was sighted 'digging' the beat from one other group with his waist up. Fun was in the air and virtually every body was caught up in it.
Everywhere President Goodluck Jonathan and his entourage, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Dimeji Bankole; the governors of the South East and South South States, as well as Federal legislators and ministers visited, people lined up the decorated streets waving and shouting praises and prayers.
No doubt, the tumultuous reception was an indirect show of love and appreciation for the manifestation of a dream that was almost aborted by the unfortunate death of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua. Dr. Jonathan, then as Acting President, was to be in Rivers State for a three-day official visit less than 12 hours after his predecessor's demise. The visit had to be put on hold.
It was natural to expect that a re-fixed visit would take long to come. But this was proved wrong as the tour, incidentally the first of such major outing of the new President, was re-scheduled for a day after the seven-day national mourning though reduced to two days. During the visit, President Jonathan inspected and commissioned several on-going and completed projects in the state. Apparently due to the shortened days for the visit, the President had a tight schedule on the fist day.
Minutes after the brief but colourful reception on arrival at the Port Harcourt International
Airport, President Jonathan drove straight to inspect the on-going Port Harcourt-Owerri dual carriage road project. The President later inspected one of Governor Amaechi's ultra modern model schools at Ebubu Eleme, commissioned the second phase of the 100 megawatts Gas Turbine project in Port Harcourt and performed the ground-breaking ceremony of the Adokie Amiesemaka Games Village which is to have a 25,000-seat stadium.
Yet another major assignment performed by President Jonathan on the first day of the visit was the commissioning of five projects at the West African Container Terminal (WACT) and three new Berths in the Onne Ports Complex.
On the second and last day of the visit, President Jonathan inspected the multi-billion Naira Ogoni-Andoni-Opobo-Nkoro Road otherwise known as Unity Road. Thereafter, he attended the 26th Convocation ceremony of the University of Port Harcourt, incidentally his alma mater, where he spoke of the urgent need for national transformation and pledged commitment to the conduct of free and fair elections next year.
At a well-attended civic reception held at the Sharks Football Stadium in the evening of the first day, the people of the state through their government did not fail to remind one and all that the prized visitor was more than just the president of the nation to them. The Chairman of the Organizing Committee and Chief of Staff, Rivers State Government House, Chief Nyesom Wike, was the first to publicly identify the President's other 'title' of an 'illustrious son-in-law' of the state.
Wike said the people were confident in the ability of 'the President, who is our illustrious son-in-law, to take the nation to the next level. Like every other father-in-law, he said the state expects that the visit would open new opportunities of development for the oil-rich state that has so far received far-less-than-adequate Federal presence.
As if meant to ram the information into the head of every guest present and those watching the NTA live broadcast of the ceremony, Governor Chibuike Amaechi re-stated the, 'illustrious son-in-law' status of the visiting president in the state. After all, who would miss such an opportunity to claim and display what rightly belongs to him or her especially when a highly-prized in-law is the President of the most populous black nation?
Although the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), undoubtedly no respecter of persons and occasions tried hard to play the spoiler with its usual erratic power supply throughout the visit, most residents had a good dose of the fun that the historic visit offered. Indeed as the female dancer said, it would take long to forget the day a President that is an illustrious son-in-law of Rivers State came calling.