We’re not there yet. The shore is not in sight! We’ve been aboard the boat expected to take us to the land who knows how long, rowing the boat in the direction of hope.
It hasn’t been easy for the seafarers,who reside by the banks; the Rivers people who bear the brunt of governance. The sea has been truly rough; waves very strong; and homes by the shoreline, threatened most of the time by floods.
Not many persons have smiles on their faces these days. It has been worse since the Covid arrived and economies slipped.
Many Rivers people are confused. Some others are seriously agitated and plainly angry. They include citizens who are beginning to have doubts about the establishment, the purpose of big government and the goals of state.
These people have no one to turn to, no one on whose shoulders to cry. Laughter has departed from their homes. They include pensioners who are dying, their entitlements unpaid. Students in tertiary institutions who earn no bursary from their own government.
These students have parents who are out of work, brothers and sisters who have never worked after graduation, and families that are becoming emotionally disturbed.
Their parents and their siblings can’t help; and their government isn’t thinking of helping either as they labour through school.
So, some of these people grow through life feeling society, their State governments and their country have failed them.
To survive, some able bodied youths including students turn to the cult movement. In time others would become militants, sea pirates, political thugs and kidnappers.
Governor Nyesom Wike must be wondering why he has become the object of so many criticisms after he approved the sum of N500 million in favour of the people of Sokoto State.
It is possible that he set out to be the “shine – shine bobo” of the political class, a man of great philanthropy and the one who has everything rapped around his thump.
A political party has justified the action of the Governor, claiming he simply demonstrated a benevolent spirit. There would be nothing wrong if Wike donated his personal money.
For crying out loud, the princely sum that he frittered away belongs to the Rivers people. What kind of philanthropy at a time of great suffering among ordinary Rivers people encourages the one they gave a mandate to govern them to spend public funds just like that?
The people contribute to the maintenance of government. They pay taxes, levies and rates. In so doing, they help to generate internal revenue. But they have expectations too. The expectation that government would fulfill the social contract which commits its leaders to the advancement of the people’s welfare.
There has been so much talk about the developmental strides of the Wike administration, about the effort that is going into the provision of basic infrastructure such as roads and flyovers.
Pause for a while. Have you heard this administration commission a cottage industry which would stimulate production and create jobs? Has this government invested in a kind of Marshal plan which could help the Rivers people rebuild?
Wike appears to have become more intensely focused on the development of infrastructure. But he has thought very little about the development of humans.
Humans are the soul of society. They are indeed the heart of society. Like the heart which regulates the system of blood circulation, humans dictate the directional flow of society.
Thus, it is the energy that humans exude, the skills that they are encouraged to acquire, and the wealth they are entitled to create through partnerships that work which drives the wheels of progress.
No amount of infrastructural development when the welfare of the people is retarded can raise the standard of living. It is time that the Governor and his advisers came to terms with this.
The interest of Rivers people shouldn’t be sorted out last. It ought to be dealt with first. The reaction of a majority of people who have kicked against what they see as the misuse of scarce funds should send the appropriate signal to the Wike administration.
Accordingly, Wike shouldn’t be struggling with the idea of feeding a few fat cows as he is apparently doing. They are already overfed.
A policy that is intended to pull the people out of poverty is what the State desperately needs now. We shouldn’t have a rebellion on the part of the people to have this. It would take reason, understanding, compassion and love on the part of our leaders to change the narrative.
Next time the governor steps out of our shores, he should remember the people are watching his every move.
When the administration which preceded Wike’s threw energy into providing health centres and modern schools and creating jobs, there was a ring of persons within government at the time who groaned over ‘stomach infrastructure’.
Will the governor who served as Chief of Staff remember who their leader was?
What has happened to the idea of stomach infrastructure? Why are opportunities to fill hungry stomachs shut down under this dispensation? Is it out of place to compare the level of empathy shown to Rivers people when “Rivers money was meant for Rivers people” with the benevolence that we see?
The rivers which water our environment flow ceaselessly through low – lying plains to far flung regions beyond. It is time to row the boat; time to balance the boat as experienced boat drivers do.
Up there, the blue sky bears witness to man’s endless quest for adventure and his resolve to surmount challenges.
Sailing through the creeks and walking through undulating agricultural plains that are part of the landscape, we may succeed in getting to the destination.
Perhaps, only then shall smiles, which have taken a beating and evaporated from the faces of the people, stage a comeback.
We are not there yet. We don’t know if we ever will get to the shore. The people wail and gnash their teeth. What they have has been taken from them and given to a distant neighbour even as they scavenge for food and work.
Such is life. It is a jungle out there. As things are, only the fittest in these uncertain and harsh times survive. So, let it be with the Rivers people who are in the midst of water but have none to drink.
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