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Recent developments in Rivers State have no doubt exposed the weaknesses of some people we put in positions of leadership.
Leadership in some parts of the country has been reduced to mere theatrics, with the performers jostling to outperform Nollywood stars. This situation calls for urgent review and reminds Nigerians to take their leadership selection processes a bit more seriously.
The Rivers State situation is worsened by the fact that the Governor is a Lawyer who knows the position of the Law on any issue, especially issues bothering on human rights. Being a Lawyer should rather bestow some advantages on the Governor and it should rub off on his leadership style.
But it appears that he is emboldened each time he succeeded in executing some draconian policies. From confronting the Federal Government, Governor Wike mutated to arbitrarily arresting and detaining two Caverton pilots and workers of an oil company who were on official duty in Rivers State in April 2020. He went ahead and arraigned the pilots at a magistrate’s court and remanded them in prison until May, disregarding the fact that matters affecting Aviation in the country are on the Exclusive List of the Federal Government.
On Sunday, May 10, Governor Wike was in the news once more for the negative reasons as bulldozers moved into two hotels in the state and wrecked them down on the grounds that they violated the COVID-19 lockdown guidelines. The Governor had earlier announced the auctioning of vehicles impounded by the state government for violating the lockdown guidelines.
Governor Wike relied on his Executive Order in the execution of his dictatorial policies. Executive Orders are no laws and do not carry the same force as any law in the country, as they are more or less executive fiats or directives. Relying on such to go the whole hug to pull down businesses in the state is not less than draconian. This draconian act disregards the fact that when the coronavirus is over, the citizens need their business to bounce back. Handling similar situations in Lagos State, Governor Babatunde Sanwo-Olu said that owners of vehicles impounded during the lockdown should bail them. Beyond the announcement, the Lagos State Governor’s response against tourist centers that violated the lockdown guidelines is clearly opposite of what happened to similar facilities in Rivers State. Rather than demolishing hotels and clubs in the state, the Lagos State Governor on Monday, May 11, ordered the temporary closure of Maggi Hotel and Tambari Theatre Art (a night club) located around the Seme Boarder, on the grounds that they contravened the guidelines on operations of hotels, clubs and other entertainment centers in the state during the lockdown.
Wike’s bitter actions in Rivers State have attracted opprobrium. A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, has described the Governor as an embarrassment to the Body of Benchers, adding that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) needs to sanction him.
Falana observed that the situation in Port Harcourt was troubling and that the Governor should not be allowed to continue to violate the 1999 Constitution. We align ourselves with the position of Mr. Falana.
He said: “Under our Law, an emergency situation under the Quarantine Act does not permit the demolition of a house [owned] by an alleged offender. Whoever has breached the Law will have to be tried and convicted by a Court of Law before a sentence can be pronounced. There is no provision for even the President to take the Law into his hands and then begin to mete out punishments to citizens without recourse to the constitution. We hope that the Governor will be properly advised to reverse his decisions, publicly apologize and restore the properties of those that have been destroyed. Everyone will have to go through a judicial process. That is what the rule of Law is all about. The guidelines and regulations in the Executive Order are subject to the Constitution. So, if there is a conflict in the guidelines, the directives of the Governor and the Constitution, his directives will bow to the Constitution. The right to property, fair hearing and liberty are constitutional rights. No Governor has the power to dismiss these rights under the pretext of enforcing the COVID-19 regulations”.
We are also on the same page with a former governorship aspirant for the 2019 governorship election in Imo State under the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and former Director General of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Dr. Sam Amadi, that the demolition of the two hotels in Rivers State by Governor Wike was an act of barbarism.
He said: “Demolishing buildings is barbaric except they are uninhabitable. If the owners of such buildings contravene the Law, such buildings should be confiscated for public good if the Law says so. Demolition looks like what the Taliban, not a modern democratic government, should do”. Those who make the argument that some other governors had done what Governor Wike is being persecuted for, by citing similar demolitions by Governor Obaseki of Edo State, Governor El-rufai of Kaduna State, former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, and current Governor Willie Obiano, who demolished buildings of suspected kidnappers, etcetera, should note that barbarism, dictatorship and all forms of illegal conducts, mean the same thing everywhere. That some governors had in the past demolished buildings illegally does not make acts of dictatorship a way of life, or something to emulate. Nothing can make right and wrong to swap positions. They are forever opposites. And where we stand on matters concerning what is right and what is wrong goes to show our individual tendencies.
Instead of emulating draconian acts or making reference to them as appealing or justifiable, we should rather emulate the peaceful manner Governor Hope Uzodimma is prosecuting the war against COVID-19 in Imo State. He has demonstrated that he is a pro-people Governor. Recently, in a statewide broadcast, he said he did not want the people of the state to suffer for what is not their fault. When it was rumoured that a certain hotel operator in the state who returned from overseas trip had contracted the virus and did not observe the necessary protocols, Governor Uzodimma did not order the demolition of the hotel. Such empathetic Governor is worthy of emulation. Understand that no one knows when the COVID-19 war would end would suggest that being empathetic instead of being draconian, is a better example. We urge Governor Wike to take urgent steps to remedy the situation and stop dancing like a despot in the public space.
He is the Governor of Rivers State today. In 2023 a new Governor would emerge after him. It will dawn on him that he will live under different protocols. If his business interests are subjected to similar draconian treatments as he metes out to others now, we hope he would swallow the pill and not rush to seek succor in the court of law.
As a Christian we urge him also to reflect deeply on the wise counsel of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 7:12: “In everything, then, do to others as you would have them do to you. For this is the essence of the Law and the Prophets”.
The right to own property in any part of the country is a constitutional matter and no Executive Order should deprive anyone such right.
Ughalaa Writes From Owerri