What exactly does Governor Nyesom Wike mean, when he brags often about a certain “Ikwerre governorship” in Rivers State? Rivers State belongs to the Ogoni, the Ikwerre, Ijaw, the Etche, and many other communities bound together by a long and triumphant history in 1967. The diverse cultural and ethnic tapestry of the State was always understood as a blessing, not a curse. This is why for 52 years, the people of the state have developed a proud and collective persona as “Rivers people”.
But rather than conduct himself as the governor for all Rivers people, Mr Wike seems to prefer to view the state and his administration through the key hole of tribalism. As governor, Mr Wike’s statements and actions tend to be unendurably repugnant and divisive. He projects himself, not as a broad-minded public administrator, but as some kind of triumphant avatar of Ikwerre nativism.
During a recent government event on Birabi Street, in Port Harcourt, Mr Wike ramped up his divisive rhetoric. In his address, he praised former Rivers State governor, Dr Peter Odili, for paving the way for an “Ikwerre governorship” in the State. But you see, the Ikwerres are an incredibly smart people; they know a political cartoon character when they see one.
They know that Mr Wike’s arrogant mobilization of ethnic bigotry is strictly for his own benefit. They can see that besides only a few of the governor’s nativist cronies, there is nothing for the Ikwerre people as a whole. For instance, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Rivers State has the highest rate of unemployment in Nigeria, under Mr Wike’s watch. There are hundreds of thousands of brilliant and ambitious Ikwerre youth trapped in the jobless quagmire.
The cancer of joblessness has metastasized into an outbreak of criminality across Rivers State, and our Ikwerre communities have not been spared. Today, Elele, Emohua, Choba, and other communities are like open graves patrolled daily by a merciless gang of kidnappers. Our so-called ‘Ikwerre governor ” has done nothing about this malignant cancer that destabilizes our communities, and threatens to drown an entire generation of young people in hopelessness.
In the past four years, Governor Wike has refused to pay pensions and gratuities to retired civil servants in the State. Among them are thousands Ikwerre senior citizens devastated by the administration’s callous indifference to their plight. In agriculture, there is an even more spectacular failure. Taken together, our Ikwerre communities have perhaps the largest arable land mass in Rivers State.
And so the people are asking: where are the agricultural industries established by Governor Wike in the past five years? Where are the thousands of workers he could have employed in those imaginary farms? Where is the governor’s blueprint for food sustainability in the State? Why is Risom Palm in a state of rut? What happened to the industrial fish farms across the State?
Or is the “Ikwerre governorship” simply about those golden foot paths paved by the Wike administration in Isiopko and elsewhere? Those who are naive enough to believe in Governor Wike’s mythology of “Ikwerre governorship” should take a walk down the popular Ada George Road. From that road, they would see one man’s glitzy mansion, standing in galactic contrast with the poverty-stricken humanity of Rumueprikom.
The truth is that Mr Wike represents no one, but himself. His failures are not the failures of the Ikwerre people. His Pan-Ikwerre rhetoric is a dazzling, but false gold.
In Akwa Ibom State, the governor has taken his people to the majestic skies. In Rivers State, Governor Wike is the divider-in-chief, who roams blindly in his dark tunnel of hate and tribalism.
One thousand new flyovers sited in Mr Wike’s expansive sitting room may send the nativist contractors smiling to the banks. But it will make no difference in the material lives of our people.
Finally, by casting himself in the mold of a tribal zealot, Mr Wike is in material breach of his oath of office. He has lost the organic legitimacy of all Rivers people to govern the State. His administration is a moral nullity, because he has betrayed the elemental trust to act fairly on behalf of all communities. It is the duty of all Rivers people to resist and reclaim the State from Mr Wike’s nativist zealotry.
Dr. Austin Tam-George was Commissioner for Information, Rivers State.