WIKE'S RIVERS, A STATE ON AUTO-PILOT
Discussing Rivers State under the governorship of Mr. Ezebuwon Nyesom Wike imposes both moral and spiritual burden with surplus caveat. The story of his 100 days in office is not much as different as the story of his emergence as candidate in the April 11 governorship and eventual 'victory' at the election. Everything about Wike gingers questions without answers. Where answers eventually pop-up, they lack decency. Like an amateur doing a grand Oratorio, the grand finale leaves the audience more bemused than inspired. So, the story of Wike and Rivers is the story of a melodrama.
From his persona to the drama surrounding his governorship, Mr. Wike has left no one in doubt that his elements are far smaller than can carry Rivers.
A visit to Rivers state will be a visit to several ugly revelations. From economic recession to unbridled corruption; from heightening insecurity to rapid migration of workforce and residents; from crippled night life to sudden short life span, the state runs on a limbo occasioned by bad administration. Wike has shown that when it comes to governance, he is but a sophomore, a greenhorn, a shy first-grader with no experience. Like a virgin doing her first-time on her matrimonial bed, Wike shocks with his swagger. From his borrowings to verbal award of contracts to companies he personally recommended, Wike has come off as more of an intern than a master.
Since Wike came to office as Governor of Rivers State on May 29, 2015, the state has been on auto-pilot. From the basic to the critical, Rivers has lain comatose, irredeemably slipping into a vegetative condition. Life and governance since Wike found his way to the seat of power has been everything but inviting, progressive, developmental. This state once dubbed “Rivers of Possibilities” has no doubt, degenerated to “Rivers of Death”, a state where life is cheaper than a sparrow. History, certainly, will record this as a season of anomie; a period Rivers state fell into spiritual apostasy, economic eclipse and social hiatus. Life span in Rivers State today must be the shortest in Nigeria, a country of 36 states. Wike claims to govern from the Rivers State Government House but armed militias, govern from the streets, scavenging lives in vengeful manner. Eleme and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government areas stand atop the scale of murderous spots. Armed gangs strike and waste lives at will with Wike, rather than lay hold on the state and quake out the armed hoodlums, prefers to seek for nocturnal meetings. The number of those slaughtered on daily count could even make Satan weep. But no matter the number, Wike is not moved to his statutory responsibility. Last Thursday, about 13 persons were killed by marauding militia in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni.
Life in all spheres has been a load of drudgery as the Administration has shown no desire to hew a specific path for neither the economy nor social harmony. So, the consequences have been drastic on human and other social strands. Wike has actually no development plan for Rivers and truly cares less. Unlike what was the scenario under his predecessor, private property developers have taken to their heels unwilling to invest under the watch of an unfriendly and hostile regime. Everything about Wike's administration rebuffs private business and core investment. As a result, businesses are quitting, capital flight the highest in recent history of the state.
Wike may not be doing anything new in his character. This was a man who had won the governorship primary of his party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in controversial circumstances. In fact, it was believed that he came out as the highest bidder. In the primary that saw the withdrawal of 16 other governorship aspirants in protest, Wike's entry raised several moral questions. A man not given to morals, he eventually had his way.
Nothing spectacular trailed his campaign except his numerous war-like songs. While it was expected that as a governorship candidate he would campaign on the strength of an economic blue-print on which he would pin the life span of a regime he could head, Wike merely screamed familiar but unrelated refrains. Building his campaign on sentiments weaved around former President Goodluck Jonathan, “a Niger Delta son and our brother”, Wike must have hypnotised many to follow him. His campaigns were as drab as his speeches on campaign grounds. There was nothing convincing in all of his electioneering. His party, the PDP, did not help him, either. Anyway, they were the case of six and half-a-dozen!
From the beginning, Wike had not been prepared for the office of governor. For him, it was going to be governance by chance, a gamble that for sure. So, these past 100 days, if Wike had achieved anything, it was doing the macabre dance while the state rolled on aimlessly. What an achievement!
As unprepared for governance as he was when he came in, Wike has cared no hoot as several companies have taken to their flight, either laying-off hundreds of their workforce, or, to fend-off labour picketing, retained the affected workers but moved them to safe grounds.
Wike has no development plan. On January 27, 2015 he had assembled a cream of his followers in Port Harcourt to launch his nebulous 19-point blueprint development agenda. More than 100 days into office, Rivers people are still waiting for an economic document. Had the incumbent Rivers Governor such a document, would he have on August 27, 2015 launched the Rivers State Development Blueprint, an engagement far from the January event? This latter Blueprint coupled by a team led by Hon. Nimi Walson-Jack, shares no relationship with the January hoax. For those with discerning eyes, it was as far back as January 2015 that Wike's fraud termed Economic Blueprint was discovered. Rather than identify and explain the modules for their implementation, Wike took his now familiar excursion to attacking his former boss and benefactor, ex-Governor Chibiuke Amaechi. Today, more than 100 days into his Administration, Rivers state is still waiting for Wike's 19-point development blueprint, and this wait might be like Waiting for Godot. Rivers people and the business community might just, like Vladimir and Estragon, two characters in Waiting for Godot, an absurdist play by Samuel Beckett, wait endlessly and in vain for the arrival of someone named Godot, wait until eternity.
Wike carries on daily as though all is well with the state he is meant to oversee. But everyone knows that the un-safest state to reside in Nigeria today is Wike's state. Swathes of Rivers territory have been seized by armed militias, operating in impunity. Under Wike's watch, residents have left the state in droves, the consequence of unbridled insecurity and hostile social climate. Yet, nothing like an action is coming from Wike to stem the forced migration. Wike's 100-day tenure has seen the return of street urchins and touts, known as Wike Boys, nightmare to motorists and other road users. They regard not the mighty nor pity the weak. The fear of their return had trailed Wike's campaign, and true to forecast, “the boys don come back!” Wike cares no less that life in Rivers state is steadily becoming bestial, brute and malevolent. Like in George Orwell's Animal Kingdom, survival of the fittest has become the norm under his nose.
With spiralling spate of kidnapping across Rivers state, most oil companies have chosen to quarantine their workforce. Recently, such oil companies issued travel advisory to their workers. The theme was short and simple – “Beware of Rivers State. As much as possible stay away or keep low profile”. Daily, people are kidnapped and that happens in broad day light. Recently popular essayist and newspaper columnist, Dornu Kogbara, was kidnapped right in her Port Harcourt home. Two days later, the son of the Vice Chancellor, University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Ndowa Sunday Lale, was kidnapped right in their Ebubu-Eleme country home.
Under Wike, homes are not safe much as the roads and street corners have turned black spots. For travellers on the Emohua-Buguma-Degema road, death and abduction are daily realities. Several travellers on that route have either been kidnapped or killed. Armed security personnel are killed on that road much as 'bloody' civilians. Occurrences are daily as state Chief Executive and Chief Security Officer has done nothing to confront this monster.
Rivers state under Wike has become one huge cemetery where penetrating silence rules the dead whereas fear governs the living found there. Rivers state, once a fertile ground for productive activity and engagement, has, in about 100 days under Wike, turned into an abattoir where peace, security and economic engagement have been slaughtered. Sadly, Wike only laughs and dances.
Written by Nathaniel Mark, a public commentator from Port Harcourt, Rivers State.