By Chris Finebone
It was long expected that the very bad governance of Gov. Nyesom Wike will further slide as 2023 general elections approached. What was not envisaged was the speed and how early in 2022 things would plummet leaving hapless Rivers people and residents with the short end of the stick.
The year began with a New Year broadcast by Gov Wike serving warning how he intended to fight illegal crude oil refiners in Rivers State. Ordinarily, the announcement was received with animated enthusiasm by all, at least, believing that the action would bring the persistent soot bedeviling our lives to an end.
In the melodrama that ensued, the governor and his men embarked on some kneejerk discovery and destruction of some refining sites and equipment. After a few days, the governor yielded the fight to the local government bosses. How well the fight is being conducted and the expected positive result appear to pale into insignificance while the soot is still ravaging our lives.
Next was the rediscovery of what the governor had earlier ‘discovered’ on assumption of office in 2015. Faced with the attraction of having a second aircraft to aid his godfather status in PDP, Gov Wike suddenly remembered that the Rivers State owned Legacy 600 aircraft sitting somewhere in Germany would be handy.
He decided to create some drama around the aircraft so that Rivers people and Nigerians get talking while he snicks the refurbished aircraft into Nigeria for the use of his party during the approaching campaigns.
Thinking of himself as a smart artful dodger, he plotted that act such that we all will be thanking him for playing Mungo Park to the aircraft while his party people use it at the expense of Rivers tax payers. But like they say, there is never a perfect crime.
Gov Wike forgot that he had addressed the press on June 20, 2015 speaking extensively on the location of the two State-owned aircraft. He had said one aircraft was grounded at the Port Harcourt Airforce Base and the Legacy 600 somewhere in Germany. Then he had promised and did send someone to Germany the next day being 21st June, 2015 to confirm the status of the Legacy 600.
Suddenly, in 2022 the governor announced seven clear years after, that he just discovered (maybe rediscovered) a state-owned aircraft spirited away to Germany by his predecessor through unexplained intelligence. But, we caught him red handed!
Hardly had he finished his announcement when a journalist sent a link to a publication dated 21st June, 2015 where a national newspaper reported Gov Wike’s speech on the same aircraft about a month after he was sworn in as governor in 2015. This lie by him was effectively busted!
The governor said he had already spent over 3 million euros on the Legacy 600. But concerned Rivers people query why the governor should profligately spend such humongous sum of money on an aircraft with very high total cost of ownership (particularly high operating cost due to age).
But, Rivers people mean nothing to the governor. He is bent on spending our common resources under his control as he pleases as long as he will use the aircraft for campaigns as against the intention of his predecessor to fix the aircraft and sell it off to stem further financial hemorrhage on the state coffers. After all, Rivers State is governed by a ‘big boy.’
It was disheartening to be greeted on the social media this morning by a group of elderly men and women singing and praying to God for divine intervention so that Gov Wike may pay them their gratuity and pension even as many of them have already died for lack of subsistence and medical care.
Many might be wondering why a state whose governor doles out hundreds of millions of Naira to faraway states has refused to pay gratuity and pensions to senior citizens of his own State who spent the best part of their lives serving the State. But it is what it is! We have watched some families that hitherto lived well, now scrounge to have one meal a day because they are not paid their due pensions.
Meanwhile, residents of a number of waterfront communities numbering over 100,000 have been rendered homeless and destitute after one week quit notice the governor gave them. Their plight is further worsened by the fact that the action was put into effect in the very difficult month of January.
However, most annoying is the feeble and mindless attempt by the government to liken the present ejection of those waterfront dwellers to what happened at Njemanze and Abonnema Wharf waterfronts during the administration of Wike’s predecessor.
But, the government is being clever by half by suppressing the fact that what happened at those two waterfronts was well structured and properly thought through in the sense that all residents and landlords were enumerated and landlords compensated well in advance before the areas were legally acquired by the government then.
There was no case like that of a 90-year old woman named Madam Brown singing and placing curses on Gov Wike for rendering her homeless on earth.
Chris Finebone is a factional Rivers APC Publicity Secretary.