Monday, May 11, 2020 9:04 pm
By Nehru Odeh
The River State Governor, Nyesom Wike, seethes with a kind of anger and voice well known with touts and bullies. And he betrays a no-nonsense persona many believe is a facade hiding deep dictatorial tendencies. He demonstrated that on Sunday, 10 May 2020 when he led a team of security officers with a bulldozer to demolish two hotels – Prudent Hotel in Alode, Eleme, and Etemeteh Hotel in Onne, Rivers State over what he regarded as violations of an executive order he had issued on 7 May 2020 banning hotels from operating during the lockdown. The youth leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Eleme, Rivers State owned one of the hotels.
“If we can do this to a PDP person, then you know we are not discriminatory,” Wike told reporters. “Whether you are in PDP, SDP or no party, you must obey the law. If any other person does the same thing, the same rule will apply.
“Government has no alternative but to apply the Executive order which I signed before the lockdown of Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt.
“I called all the Traditional Rulers and Council Chairmen and told them to ensure that no hotel operates in the State. We are not saying it will be forever. This is for now, so that we know where we are, to reduce the cases and check the spread.
“We said no hotel should operate within this period. Unfortunately, the PDP youth leader in Eleme joined others to flout the Executive Order. Therefore, the executive order will be applied, he says, justifying his actions”
But Nigerians are not carried away by his justifications they believe smack of self-righteousness. They have taken to social media to express their displeasure over what they regard as the governor’s dictatorial and inhumane actions. And to them the name that suits him is Wicked, which they have coined from his surname, Wike.
Oby Ezekwesili, former Minister of Education, in a series of tweets, described the governor’s action as “flagrant abuse of power. “Power in the hands of persons without self-discipline in the absence of social accountability creates monsters in any society. Lord Acton will forever be right. Absolute power corrupts absolutely,” she said.
“I have seen enough flagrant abuse of power among our political class to know that both they and citizens are still enamored of the unaccountable governance style of the inglorious military era.Such arrogance of power against citizens because of delegated temporary ‘title.
“Democratic ethos, values, principles and nuances totally forbid the kind of action Governor Wike of Rivers took in demolishing a hotel no matter whatever “Executive Order” he travels signed. His action breeds anarchy in society and is condemnable. There is the morning after,” she submitted.
National President of Revolutionary Lawyers’ Forum, Tope Akinyode, has also condemned Wike actions. In a statement, Akinyode described the action as unconstitutional, despotic and a gross abuse of power. He said, “Governor Nyesom Wike is not permitted by any law to arrogate the powers of the court to himself.
“Furthermore, the governor is not empowered to amend the provisions of the Nigerian constitution. “The Rivers State Government under the supervision of Governor Wike acted pursuant to an Executive Order to destroy the properties today.“ However, it admits of no controversy that the power to determine the guilt of an offence and to issue penalty accordingly lies only within the courts. This is the whole essence of Chapter 7 of the Nigerian constitution which provides for the judicature. “It is therefore unfortunate that Governor Nyesom Wike proceeded on this exercise of illegality without caution.
However, the immediate past Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Dr Dakuku Peterside also lent his voice to the flurry of criticisms against the governor. A statement released by his media team reads, “Governor Wike is not a law unto himself and cannot be the law. For good measure, the governor rounded off by saying he would demolish buildings or hotels found wanting in implementing his orders without recourse to the due process of law and natural justice that confers the right of fair hearing on the accused.
“Governor Wike’s utterances do not suggest that he is fighting the coronavirus pandemic alone. His actions suggest that there is more than what he is telling Rivers people,” he stressed.
Peterside explained that Wike’s attitude was capable of leading to the breakdown of law and order, saying, “Those who bear the crude method of the governor and their families could resort to mass protest, capable of exposing the state further.”
Three rights groups, Spaces for Change, Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre and the Action Group on Free Civic Space, also condemned the demolition o the hotels, saying the owners had no opportunity to remove any valuables before the buildings were pulled down.
“Particularly distasteful is Rivers State Government’s campaign of terror over the last few weeks, ruthlessly clamping down on civic freedoms in the name of combating the spread of coronavirus,” the groups said in a joint statement on Sunday.
Below are the reactions of some Nigerians on Twitter:
Governor Wike is a tyrant cloned in a Democrat’s garb.
·Governor Wike has taken this clowning for camera too far. There’s no justification for demolishing a hotel for violating lockdown order. That hotel owner in PHC needs strong legal representation to sue the state government, because he’s a legitimate case against the local tyrant.
·This is dictatorship and draconic. Why not shutdown the hotel and prosecute the owner and everyone caught there? We are in a democracy. Demolishing the hotel is not necessary. #wike #Governorwike
·In a sane country – Wike would have been an ex-Governor this morning either by voluntary resignation or by impeachment but we are Nigerians! Life goes on. There are no saner climes anywhere, just saner people. #tyranny #governorwike #rivers #Tyranny
Debbie Ini VOTT
Governor Wike this action of yours is unjustified. Do you mean to say all hotels in Rivers State including the 5 stars hotels are currently not operating? #AmJustAsking #RiversState #GovernorWike #RiversLockdown