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Nyesom Wike, the bouncy governor of Rivers State enjoys showboating and all the media attention that comes with it. He does virtually everything to the extreme and delves into things he has no business with. Wike’s action, more often than not, puts decent indigenes of the state in discomfiture. His aides fear him and are too scared to tell him the truth. This man rules the state with an iron fist. Call him a bully and you would be right. I always add “modern day Benito Mussolini” to his depiction. “Governor Rivers”, who never ceases to amaze many, has now turned efforts to tame Coronavirus to a tool of muscle-flexing, trivial oppression and grandstanding. When he took on ExxonMobil staff on April 17, you will probably think Heavens will fall. In a manner better described as warped, Wike arrested and quarantined 22 staff of this firm, with a promise to prosecute them for violating his executive order to curtail the spread of the virus. The workers were on their way to an offshore oil platform and dared to pass through Wike’s kingdom.
After the arrest, the niggling Wike, at a press conference, promised a fight to finish, with all sorts of outlandish claims. He declared: “This one, I will fight this one. I have told the Attorney-General to prepare; we are going to court against them. We will fight this fight legally. ExxonMobil cannot bring in 22 people illegally into Rivers State. ExxonMobil does not operate in Rivers State. They only make use of the Onne Port. We are not sure of the health status of the people they brought into the state because they can enter Eleme and Onne communities.
“This ExxonMobil matter will expose those in Abuja. I am ready for them. Rivers State is not a pariah state and we will not be. Some people want the escalation of the virus in Rivers State. People were paid to canvass a negative narrative on Carveton Pilots.
We are doing what we can within available resources to fight Coronavirus. You can fly, but as you fly and land, don’t enter our territory. People in Abuja are not happy.
They want Rivers State to be infected. They want to kill Rivers people and I will not allow it. I was elected to protect Rivers people. Rivers State is not a pariah State.”
First, the arrest of the oil workers was a clear case of lawlessness because they had approval from necessary authorities to move around. Globally, the oil industry is exempted from the COVID-19 lockdown. Staff in the oil and gas industry can work.
Nigeria is not an exception. I don’t know of any country in the world that shut its oil and gas industry because of COVID-19. Wike’s order banning the movement of oil workers in his state is evidently absurd.
Wike’s additional claim that there was a deliberate plot by some persons in Abuja to ensure that people in Rivers State are infected with the Coronavirus is preposterous.
Haba! Why would the government at the centre do this to fellow Nigerians? What do they stand to gain? For me, Wike was just trying to whip up sentiment. It was cheap politics. Well, common sense eventually prevailed and Wike was forced to eat humble pie, by releasing the ExxonMobil workers he abducted. His much-talked about rumble in the court did not take place. Heavens did not fall.
Before this ExxonMobil issue, Wike had viciously arrested 10 oil workers brought to Port Harcourt by Caverton Helicopter in the guise of sustaining the war against COVID-19. He also arrested and detained the two pilots that flew the helicopter to Port Harcourt for allegedly flouting his order banning the landing of aircraft in the state. All of them were arraigned and released on bail. Just imagine Wike thinking that he has the power to close Nigeria’s air space as part of the state’s measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. A state governor closing air space! Caverton had the approval of the needed federal authorities to fly, but this governor cares less.
He thinks this power belongs to him. This is what too much power does to a man. Wike knows that civil aviation is on the Exclusive List and only the federal government has the authority to legislate on it, but cares less. This kind of showoff is dangerous.
This tormenter from Obio-Akpor must learn to work with the federal government in order to tackle Coronavirus and other challenges in Rivers. Magnus Abe, who represented Rivers South-East in the Senate, was apt when he urged Wike to stop being confrontational and embrace dialogue as a means of resolving escalating issues between his administration and the federal government in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the state.
Abe said: “Wisdom is not a weakness. It is one thing to have a political dispute with an individual whose attitude and conduct a lot of people may not approve of, but it is a different matter for a sub-national entity like Rivers State to challenge the sovereignty of Nigeria at this time when we should all be working together to combat an unseen but deadly enemy. The confrontational approach of the Rivers State government will open the flood gates for conflict entrepreneurs who will use the opportunity to feather their political and economic nest to the detriment of the state.
“This conflict will not in any way help the majority of Rivers people in the fight against the coronavirus. This is not the time to settle issues of supremacy between elected and unelected functionaries of government. The constitution gives power to both the elected and unelected officials; after all, the Supreme Court of Nigeria, which has the ultimate power to decide issues in the country, is made up of unelected officials.”
When it comes to unnecessary tongue-lashing, Wike is also the master. He does it persistently to the hapless people of Rivers State. One of the occasions indelible in my memory was when Wike lined up River State traditional rulers like school kids and messed them up for not coming to a meeting with their staff of office. It took place few months back. At the event, the governor further berated the traditional rulers for clapping when he announced that a bill sanctioning people who parade themselves as traditional rulers without being recognised by the governor would be sent to the state assembly.
He went further to pick on the traditional ruler of Omuma, King Onyekachi Amaonwu, for shaking his head while he was speaking: “Stop shaking your head! You! you! You are one of those causing problem. They gave you chieftaincy, you’re a young boy, you don’t know what to do with it and then when I am speaking you’re shaking your head like this. All fake! fake! causing problem everywhere. He will just go and wear something bigger than him; you will think he is an elderly man. I remember when I was in school, he was running around.”
That’s Wike for you. He does not even respect his own traditional rulers and their offices, but will visit Sokoto State and bow to the Sultan. What a man! This governor should channel his energy towards improving the lives of his people, instead of all these shenanigans. He should be genuinely interested in the progress of this state.
Persistently fighting the federal government is not the way to go. I‘m still struggling to think of any major impact Wike has made in Rivers State in five years.
While he is busy constructing three bogus/extremely expensive flyovers, roads, public schools and hospitals across the state are depreciating. It’s a shame that most homes in this rich state are without public water. So, what has Wike been doing all the while? My beloved “Governor Rivers”, you have to amend your ways.
Army 38: Military Must Obey Court Order
For those who have not been following the story, sometime in June 2016, 38 senior officers were retired by the Army Council for all sorts of sham offences. Most of the affected officers were retired without query or indictment by any panel. Some were not even in the country when the alleged offences were committed. It was the height of injustice and a contravention of Army rules. The Army clearly breached its own laws by ending the careers of these brilliant officers abruptly. 30 out of the 38 senior officers appealed against their retirement and asked for reinstatement. Some said that they were not granted fair hearing, while others claimed that they were falsely accused and wrongfully retired. But the Army Council refused to budge.
In their quest for justice, some of them went to court and defeated the Army Council.
Several months after the court ordered their reinstatement, the Army has refused to obey. The most recent was the judgement from the National Industrial Court (NIC), sitting in Lagos, which ordered the Army to immediately reinstate Lt. Col. Thomas Arigbe, who was also unjustly retired in 2016.
In his judgement, Justice Paul Bassi declared Arigbe’s retirement as wrongful, unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.
He ordered the Army to give the officer all his rights and privileges, including all his entitlements from when he was forcibly retired to date. The judge held that the Nigerian Army compulsorily retired the claimant without fair hearing, adding that the Army failed to place anything before the court to prove any wrong committed by the officer to warrant the compulsory retirement. The Army did not appeal this judgement.
So, why have they not reinstated Lt. Col. Arigbe and others that have won in the courts? This morning, I challenge the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, to do the needful on these cases. The Army is not above the laws of this country. One of those waiting for justice, Lt Col. Ojecho Adah Baba-Ochankpa is dead.
Others must not die waiting for justice. The military must respect court orders.
A Word for Tambuwal
Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State needs to work extra hard to ensure his state does not become the new epicenter of attacks by bandits. His security vote must be properly used and bias avoided; else, this hitherto peaceful state will be worse than Zamfara and Katsina states. Fulani militias called bandits are getting stronger in Sokoto. Just last week, some local governments in the state were raided by the bandits, with dozens of people killed and thousands displaced from their homes. It was largely unreported. Few weeks back, 22 people were killed by same bandits in Dangara village, Sabon Birni Local Government Area. About 6000 indigenes of this state are now refugees in neighbouring Niger Republic. The rampaging bandits are Fulani militias.
This is the truth that must be told. Tambuwal has to motivate security agents to come very hard on them. This governor surely knows what I mean. Tambuwal should also be seen putting pressure on President Buhari for better support on this crisis.