By Franklyn Isong
Going by the unfolding events in Rivers State since the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the country, and the approach so far adopted, one is tempted to conclude that the governor, Nyesom Wike, may have gotten it wrong!
I had always known Mr. Nyesom Wike right from his days in office as the chairman of Obia/Akpo local government council (1999-2003, 2003-2007).
Born and bred in Port Harcourt to be precise – Mile One – Diobu area. I remember my personal encounter with the Obia/Akpo motor park task force set up by Wike, who was then the Obia/Akpo council chairman.
But for swift interventions of the then Rivers State Commissioner of Police, the LG council would have met with my lawyers in court for unlawfully impounding my commercial vehicles plying Mile three to Town route. That is not the issue for today.
I still have the blood of Rivers flowing in my veins. And by virtue of birth place, I am an indigene of Rivers and can discuss issues affecting the State and her people. Before you ask ‘what is my business in Rivers state?’
Don’t misconstrue my point. I am not against measures targeted at containing the spread of Covid-19 in Rivers or any part of the federation. The pandemic is an unseen enemy that must be eliminated with concerted efforts of all stakeholders.
I have received numerous phone calls from friends in Rivers state. Today, I heard the governor ordered the demolition of two hotels in Eleme local government area of the State for allegedly housing suspected Covid-19 patients. Is that the best approach to take? Is Covid-19 a death sentence? If the federal government uses same approach in tackling the pandemic would it be acceptable to all Nigerians and international community? Would it achieve the needed result? You should make up your own conclusions. For me, I think it’s a wrong approach!
As we speak, my friends over there who are lawyers are already preparing papers to battle the governor in court over his planned auction of people vehicles impounded for defaulting the total lockdown order. Is this not going to distract the government?
The other day, I told a friend jokingly that the only difference between Gov Nyesom Wike and Donald Trump, the president of United States of America, is the color of their skin, lol! Because of their approach in handling the Covid-19. I stand corrected!
Being a policy analyst, I have devoted time to follow the actions of the federal government and that of the 36 State Governors since the outbreak of Covid-19. It seems to me that Nyesom Wike is trying hard to prove a political point instead.
In one of his interviews, he referred to his Cross River State counterpart, Prof. Ben Ayade as “a boy” to the federal government. Politics aside, Wike should know or ought to have known that Ben Ayade is elected to serve his people just like him and should be accorded the respect deserves of his office.
Exception of Wike’s, as a speech writer, I have never seen a State Broadcasts being used to settle political issues. I heard Wike issuing out warnings to a specific individual in his State in one of his State Broadcasts. This is the height of intolerance to criticisms.
If I have my way, I will advise Governor Wike’s speech writers that it is unprofessional for a State Broadcast to be addressing personalities, reacting to gossips and side-talks instead of focusing on important state issues.
If the government must react to every gossip, criticism and side talk from its citizens, that should be done through a press release or statement by either the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor or the Commissioner for Information.
I am not against impounding vehicles of citizens and residents of Rivers state who defaulted the lockdown. But, I am against auctioning those impounded vehicles. These are hard-earned vehicles. Only God knows how some of the owners labored hard to buy them.
This action is barbaric, anti-people, draconian and repugnant to natural justice.
At most, the defaulters should pay fines and get back their vehicles. Same should have been done to the owners of the demolished Hotels.
We are in a democratic society and not a military regime. The actions and inactions of leaders should conform with the democratic tenets.
Governor Wike should not turn himself into a tin-god to the people of Rivers state. Presently, the world is going into recession because of coronavirus. There is hardship already in the country, a reasonable and responsible government will not inflict pains and hardship on its people.
As it stands, Rivers people are more afraid of their governor than the coronavirus.
A word is enough for the wise!
- Franklyn Isong is a public affairs commentator and conscience of the society