I hadn’t thought until now that I would spare time, especially now that we have all been forced to enjoy a little holiday at home, on what most people are dubbing Wike’s latest fight with the Federal Government.
Wike isn’t a man to encounter. He keeps coming back at you, no matter how strongly you want to knock him out, like a boxer in a ring who is high on dope or some substance.
You don’t need to pick a fight with him. His fight picks you, separates you from your search for a level of distinguishable integrity, decency and character, and forces you unto centre stage to engage in a messy brawl.
It doesn’t matter if you refrain from throwing your own punches because of certain fundamental principles. Wike just keeps jabbing as long as he reckons you are an obstacle in the ring.
You could be grossly mistaken, if you were to think for a brief moment, that the bell would save you; and dead wrong if you imagine there is a referee in the ring who would end the fight.
In picking fights with his assumed opponents, Wike transforms into the ref and the bell and struggles as he engages you, to make the rules. That’s seemingly the man , a fighter who hates to be ignored, a leader who likes to fight and a man who cares very little about the feelings of others.
It was obvious something ominious was about to happen the day Wike headed out of Government House in a hurry, trailed by a horde of security operatives and aides, including the press.
Wike, you would recall, had asked for support from the Federal Government in his war against the spread of the Coronavirus in his State.
On that occasion, no one had spoken to the Rivers Governor in response, or even made a gesture in his direction. So, Wike took to the media, blasting and lambasting the Federal Government for not extending funds to Rivers State.
Still, there was no response.
The Federal Government may have simply overlooked Wike’s angry outbursts, the way elders ignore children and wards when they act out of character, but those who know Wike’s makeup would easily tell you it wasn’t over yet.
It was only a matter of time. That time is here and Wike, the way he likes it, has picked a fight.
At first you would think Wike salvaged the nation from some cheats who had broken the law. That’s what I thought in the beginning. I was already bracing up for streams of commendation from the Federal Government and other well meaning people.
I was wrong.
I had thought after Wike pounced on the pilots, possibly in error, that some of the misconceptions surrounding his action would be cleared, and the confrontation dropped.
I guess a lot of us misjudged the intent of the Governor. What is happening now as he receives ultimatums from airline groups and the Federal Government suggests he may be prepared for this phase.
Poor Calverton! The company would be wondering how a mission in the national interest has turned it into a prey. It has been hit so badly by the Rivers State Government.
Wike had earlier thrown himself into the fight against the Coronavirus in the most unusual way. Some say in his emotional state, he did not pause to properly consider the pros and cons.
Markets and other businesses were summarily shutdown without a hint about what was to come.
People were ordered to stay at home, even as the State Government insisted its hasty action was in the best interest of the people.
Make no mistake, I am one of those who think staying away from the sting of the merciless virus, tagged COVID-19, makes sense.
That action came whilst people thought the idea of the virus was a mere scam. So, they got a shock, worse than an electric shock, from Wike.
The viral threat is real.
People are dying everywhere in the world and there’s the need to keep those who are hiding away from the virus, alive and healthy.
They would need food to survive. They would need financial support and other necessities they are likely to require in these uncertain times. That support may have to come from government and public spirited organisations.
Take states for instance. They depend on the Federation Account for their existence. They would need to go to Abuja, regrettably cap-in-hand, to ask for their share of proceeds from the public purse.
To meet their obligations to society, state and federal governments have to earn money through resources placed in our midst by nature.
It is obvious that what is left of internally generated revenue has dried up. But the thought of remaining idle; the thought of governments being unable to generate income meant for the protection and wellbeing of the people as well as the operation of their establishments, is something that we shouldn’t contemplate.
Strangely, it would appear that the thought of earning money in these difficult times is clashing with an idea intended to keep us safe.
The Federal Government has said Wike had no right to act the way he did within a sphere exclusively controlled by it.
These are truly unusual times.
Normal life has been disrupted globally. In every country, people are worried. This is not because they are confined to their homes. Economies are shaky, as the fear of an unseen enemy struggles to replace effort.
Man has climbed staggering heights, relying on his personal effort to achieve everything that he has. He has built communities and countries through his intuition; through effort. In doing so, he has changed the face of the earth as a result.
But the outbreak of a dreadful virus has led to the declaration of states of emergency across the world. Man is at war.
Good lives, thousands of good lives, have been forced to surrender prematurely to the conquering tentacles of the virus, their lives lost in the midst of battle.
None of us expected that a day like this would come so soon. We are not watching a fictional science film. This is real.
In the same manner, as we struggle against the virus, none of us living in Nigeria had expected that a confrontation between the Rivers State and the Federal Government would come.
It dropped like something out of the sky into water and the effect is drawing national reactions.
The status of the two pilots working for Calverton Helicopters is at the centre of a brewing war.
Yesterday, we were told that they were in prison awaiting trial. That would mean that they now have a little experience of prison life, certainly not by their will.
It’s turned out, as events mature by the day that the Rivers State Government is at the centre of a blooming controversy.
As a State, we aren’t new to controversy.. It would seem that as a State, we truly covet it.
In a sense, no one’s idea appears to be better than ours. So, when controversy is avoidable, we rise to the occasion.
When silence may speak a thousand words, we simply bicker, stamp our feet on the ground like oxens do, and challenge any one, just any one, to a wrestling match.
That is how we are increasingly being seen in the midst of other Nigerians. It may be for good reason, when you imagine that things which pertain to us turn into major talking points.
Sometimes too, it is baffling how we seem to embrace notoriority, how we seem to relish controversy, how we are quick to embellish it.
Wike swore to an oath to protect the lives and property of Rivers people and all the residents who live within our shores.
This is the strong point of his argument. What I am yet to understand is why Calverton Helicopters will have to pack up and leave the State.
For the avoidance of any doubt, Calverton Helicopters does business here, pay taxes here and employs some of our sons and daughters as well. The laws of aviation govern their operations.
In this instance, the authority known to exercise control over airspace matters under the Constitution was in the know when Calverton flew that sortie to Port Harcourt.
It is possible that the Rivers State Government may have been unaware of the flight arrangements.
It would earn sympathy if it were to say so in the open and walk away from a needless conflict, which can only divert attention and put Rivers people in a fix.
The claim that there are people, so-called enemies of Rivers State, who are determined to ship in the Coronavirus into our state sounds preposterous.
Can the governor name one enemy of the Rivers State? Are there truly merchants of the Coronavirus who are doing brisk business by spreading the disease?
We shouldn’t be talking of stuff like this at a time like this when our nation requires unity. It is absolutely awful.
Wike is our governor and we respect that. He has his personal idiosyncrasy and we recognize that.
But he is a leader. To lead effectively, he must weigh certain decisions on a scale. He must think of the people he leads. He must separate his likes or dislikes, and his brand of politics from what would affect the fate of the people.
Which means Wike doesn’t need to make enemies for Rivers people. He doesn’t need at a time of national emergency to start a needless war.
In America and elsewhere, presidents are resorting to acts which give them sweeping powers in times like this.
Wike shouldn’t push his luck too far. The constitution hasn’t given him the kind of power that he seeks.
There are no two presidents in a country. There is only one. The exclusive list, the way it is framed, has not given anyone outside the president, the power to meddle in airspace related issues.
The power that Wike is therefore trying to exercise in the name of defending Rivers interests is exclusively reserved for a higher authority. That power is beyond him as a serving state governor.
I hope he would get the message and stand down. It is possible for Wike or those who support his action to think that his immunity covers all things.
His immunity is like a wedge. It blunts the arrows of those who may be after him, but only for a while.
He has God to thank. These are the Buhari days and not the OBJ days.Where was the immunity of a governor when President Obasanjo evacuated Governor Alamieseigha from office?
This should be food for thought.
I don’t want to think that a bull has entered a China shop. I can only think about the consequences of the insensitive reaction of the bull and those who may be determined to stop it from ruining the shop.
Which is why, much as we respect the Governor’s intent to protect Rivers State, we urge him to shun the path of unnecessary confrontation. Confrontation is not what a great majority of Rivers people want at this time.
Quickly, the Rivers State Government should swing into action in order to curtail the ripple effects of a needless campaign. In so doing, Wike would be protecting the short term or long term interests of the State.
God forbid, if Rivers people were to be afflicted with the virus, would Wike shut down our airports to flights that are bringing in much needed relief, equipment and medicine? Wouldn’t we require permission to land these on our soil when the time comes?
While I think that the Governor should tinker with his perception of issues at this time, it is my prayer that he would embrace diplomacy.
Those who crafted diplomacy are no fools. In the UK, diplomacy is seen as a tool for serving the interest of Her Majesty’s service. Beyond Great Britain, it has become a tool used by great nations and states to navigate tempestous waters.
Would it be too much to ask Wike to adopt the use of diplomacy at this time?
On radio, everywhere, people are talking. They are busy attacking the governor. They are calling him names. Wike shouldn’t shut the door in the faces of the people. He should listen.
I am not unaware of the burden that he bears. I haven’t been a Governor, but I know from experience that what he has on his shoulder is heavy. It is challenging.
Even in America, people who share different political views are collaborating.
The other day in the UK, Sir Keir Starmer emerged as the new leader of the Labour Party. He said Labour would not engage in opposition for the heck of it.
Wike may see himself as someone in opposition, but the caution by Labour at a time like this shouldn’t be lost on him.
Wike would like to enjoy his fights. What matters to me is the future of our State. His stormtroopers may raise an alarm. They have every right to as Simeon Nwakandu, the governor’s spokesman is doing now.
It may be in their overall interest if they were to communicate their position sensibly and responsibly
In all this, it is the economic survival of the Rivers people that remains my paramount interest.
How can we, at a time when investments are not flooding our State, ask those who have managed to invest in the Rivers economy to close shop?
The fear of what is likely to happen, has left me sleepless. It has left me wondering, but not speechless..
I find this aspect of Wike’s thinking faulty and I’m not afraid to say so. Where would the governor’s action lead? What would the Rivers people gain from it?
Against this background, we appeal to Governor Wike to do a quick rethink. Our people need understanding. They need federal presence and not the kind of social distancing that the Governor and his henchmen are about to create between the State and the centre.
What is at stake is the generation of income for Nigeria and the sustenance of jobs held by Rivers people. So, how can the Rivers State be opposed to the inflow of funds through oil sales that would keep all of us afloat?
This shouldn’t be too hard for Wike to understand. The nation cannot run without money.
What would happen if the Federal Government is unable to meet its obligation to the Nigerian state?
Shall we say the Federal Government failed because all options needed for generating revenue were shut down while we were fighting the Coronavirus?
This fight, I have said somewhere, is about the people. So, we ought to adopt a scale of preference in whatever we do.
I haven’t set out to mess Wike up, but let it be placed on record that a time comes when we must back down in the interest of the general good.
There may be arguments. But these arguments open the door posts for harmony to reign. Differing opinions are like oils used in eating yams of change.
The future of so many hangs in the balance. The future of those pilots denied freedom by the Rivers State Government hangs in the balance. The future of Rivers people who have expectations of their own equally hangs in the balance. The fate of most Nigerians who are looking for something to eat, you would agree, hangs in the balance..
Somehow, there is a shift in balance; a shift in the equation which affects the order of things, and separates man’s genuine intention to affect his world from those thing that quicken his fall.
To evolve, society must show signs of devolution, given the contradictions that must be resolved. Were it not so, how would man come upon his desire for a synthesis after the interplay of the thesis and antithesis have taken their turn?
Going to war isn’t a difficult thing. Coming out of it is. And leaders must weigh all the options.
Wike has my back when it comes to defending Rivers people. I have nothing against him in that respect.
That Wike should openly flay the law and take on the federal establishment, isn’t something that I ever would support.
Rulers cannot operate without the counsel of advisers. Wike needs genuine advisers. They shouldn’t be men who agree with him all the time.
May God turn the wisdom of Ahitophel into nothingness, should these advisers become part of an effort to mislead the governor.
Wike as a leader, not an individual, deserves our prayers. He deserves whatever support that he craves. But Rivers people would never support what is wrong.
Wike should without any delay order the release of the pilots. They have not sinned against God or man. We need to work that out in Court, relying on time tested processes.
The Attorney General’s comments suggest Wike may have moved in that direction already. Government should free them today.
Wike should let go of any argument that is concerned with the issue of who controls Nigeria’s airspace. That’s an argument he cannot win even in a court of law. To test the limits of the law maybe brilliant, but at what cost?
Finally, Wike should make friends. The governor of Cross River State early in his tenure struck a bargain with the Federal Government over the construction of a super highway which would link his State with the Middle Belt.
Work is going on, on that road. He is still a PDP governor working for the development of his State. All that it took to achieve his purpose for the people was wit and diplomacy.
It is only a fool who does not know that his brother is a visitor. This is an ancient Etche proverb. Let me leave the Governor of Rivers State with those words of wisdom.
Nyerisi meka ooo!
Politics isn’t the ultimate. It is desirable. Rivers people should be ultimate beneficiaries of politics. But we cannot afford to play politics with these times.
I am only a messenger. I am not the Mafia Messenger. His message may be different from mine. Such is the world.
But I am a messenger. Like many before me I may be crying in the wilderness. I pray that we shall overcome the trials of these times through a display of reason.
Will Governor Wike bring millions of Rivers people in the direction of light?
Only he can tell.
I want a future for my society, myself and my family. I want to see development, peace and progress in the State of my birth.
I would want to see people spend longer years, see grand pas and grand mas play with their children’s children.
I would want to see the foundation for all these laid in my time. I would want to see joy, real joy on the faces of our people.
Nyerisi I haven’t left my abode since we turned our whole attention to staying indoors.
I am aware that wives, mothers and children are thrilled by this singular fact. They must be happy with you. They can now find their ever busy husbands and fathers at home..
Those who thought they heard rightly after you announced a dusk to dawn curfew may still be languishing in jail. So, I have done something wise. I have remained at home, aware of the consequences, and the ability of Government to change the rules of engagement when it suits it.
It is not the Government that we dread. It is the Coronavirus. Wike won my heart, when he chose to impose restrictions for the benefit of the Rivers man.
He won my understanding by taking those proactive steps, scientific in outlook, which said enough his enough.
Will he back off from a needless fight which sets our State against our nation?
I am waiting.
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