By Ross Alabo-George
The Panama Canal was intended to drastically shorten the travel time of ships going between the Pacific and the Atlantic. Originally started by France, the project turned out to be a disaster, and they were eager to hand the project off. So when Theodore Roosevelt, then president of the US, offered to buy it, they were more than willing.
However, the United States Congress was less eager to spend the money. In order to speed things up, Roosevelt helped organize a revolution that overthrew the government of Panama and replaced it with a nation whose constitution had been written by Americans and whose flag had been designed by the wife of pro-intervention congressmen. Roosevelt’s actions would remain controversial for the rest of his life.
His motive was pure. His method gave him the result he wanted for the U.S., but it was his biggest mistake as president.
Yesterday, Governor Wike of Rivers State ordered and supervised the immediate demolition of Prodest Hotel somewhere in Eleme Local Government Area, owned by the PDP member and being used by Youth leader of the PDP in that area, who had led a violent attack on members of the state task force, and another one in Onne.
Tragic as this may have been for the owner, it was a shock treatment for all other hotel operators who were flouting the order of the state to keep their hotels closed. This and other ”Rambo” actions of the governor were well-publicized enforcement operations executed to drive their stay-at-home message to every corner of the state.
“But then it happened that the demolition of a citizen’s ”hustle” did not go down well with many. And I personally thought it was unnecessary and an overkill.” Acting on a security tip-off, the governor desperately wanted to ensure that dozens of Port Harcourt bound truckloads of Almajarai were detected and arrested on time.
Wike’s combative methods give him the result he wants. Say what you may, he has three World-class testing laboratories now and that didn’t come by being a gentleman. The state has the most effective contact tracing mechanism and he has embedded himself in the public health team, an effort that is difficult to undermine. He has delivered palliatives to almost every rural household in Rivers state in an unprecedented food distribution operation that was organized brilliantly.
Let’s call that demolition what it is: a mistake. It did not pass the moral test. The method was wrong. But the motive was right. If churches are shut because we fear they could become red spots of transmission. A hotel still running with a nite club could be even more dangerous.
The Rivers State COVID Team has sustained a brilliant effort, and the result is evident in our numbers. Just yesterday, 17 COVID-19 deaths were recorded nationwide. We must not get lost in the cacophony.
Public communication has been poor. The State Government must stop broadcasting and start explaining the policies and protocol. Mr. Kingsley Wali in once advised:
”People must understand what you are saying. They need to know what you are selling to be able to ask you, how much you are selling it for.”(2017).
Even with the purest of motives, Leaders make mistakes. But in a dire crisis, every mistake is an opportunity to retool and restrategize for better results.
- Ross Alabo-George, a computer scientist and geospatial expert, writes from Port Harcourt.