Tuesday, May 12, 2020 11:37 am
By Dae Steven Deegbara
The public had been inundated with a lot of misinformation since the demolition of Prodest Motel, a half-star hotel located in Alode area of Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers by the state government officials led by Governor Nyesom Wike last Sunday. But the real truth is that Prodest Hotel is a victim of Eleme LGA’s PDP intraparty and Local Government Area leadership tussles. The hotel was unfortunately caught in crossfire and entangled with a web of the community politics and leadership tussle. Simple!
That is a simple truth. But rather than deal with the fact and the real issues, altogether, lies had been told about;
As the people continued to grapple with these different confusions and claims emanating from the Prodest demolition saga, it has become compelling that the public must be told the real and factual story. And in doing so, I will try to dispute the claims in the order they were falsely peddled, just as outlined above.
First, is to clearly say that Prodest Hotel did obey the Rivers State government’s COVID 19 lockdown order. The hotel was never in operation and never violated the order of government from the day lockdown commenced, and until the time of the facility was raided. This is authoritative.
The said Eleme PDP youth leader, Princewill Osaro Ejiji, is the chairman of the COVID-19 Lockdown Task Force team in the LGA, constituted by the local council authority. He is also the Alode community youth leader who was also aspiring to be the Youth leader of Eleme LGA. Prodest Hotel is situated in Alode, his community.
He and key members of his Covid-19 lockdown enforcement team had earlier booked and were staying in Prodest Hotel, where they normally embarked on rendezvous after the day’s work.
Ejiji belongs to a tendency of the PDP that is believed to have taken over key positions in the party structure of the LGA, even though they are seen to be newcomers in the party.
Other forces in the party which claimed to be real owners of PDP in Eleme seem not to be pleased with the development and will leave no chance to strike at the rival at any opportunity. There is a cold war between both tendencies. There is no denial of these facts.
Governor Wike inadvertently made matters worse when in his bid to further strengthen the lockdown enforcement; he met with traditional rulers and council chairmen across the State, where he instructed them to set up similar task forces in their various clans and villages.
Eleme Local government is made up of two clans, Nchia and Odido. Alode community is in Nchia clan. There are communities and villages under these clans.
Nchia and Odido, including villages under them, had in response to the Governor’s directives set-up their various task forces, a situation which led to the establishment of different task forces, command controls and differences in communication channels.
Now, most of these community-based Task Forces were created with underlying sentiments among different leaders with rival political interests and agenda to pursue within the PDP and the community. It was an opportunity to advance the interest of their various factions in Eleme. Alode, where the LGA task force chairman comes from, did have her share of the task force rivalry.
Immediately the Governor made his broadcast stopping operation of hotels in Rivers State, the Prodest Hotel manager drew the attention of the LGA task force chairman to the order, asking him to evacuate his guests from the hotel following the government’s ban.
But the task force chairman told him not to bother, that he is in charge. He told the hotel manager that since he and his guests were already lodged before the broadcast, there would be no problem. The managers of the hotel, believing that they had gotten permission to keep their existing guests, which in any case were supposed to be the enforcers of the lockdown, also believed that there will be no problem. But they were still not admitting new guests. They had to keep their gate ajar, but only for the usual evening rendezvous of Mr. Ejiji and members of his task force. The hotel had become more like their operational point.
Early last week, the community team noticed that the hotel appeared open to the LGA’s Ejiji team.
The community team later approached the hotel manager when the LGA team had gone out for work to demand for one hundred thousand naira as gratification, or else, they will deal with him.
The manager said he didn’t have any such money to give. This same team had collected N7, 000 from another nearby hotel and allowed them to operate. Angered by the refusal of Prodest Motel to pay the N100,000 and perceived habitation of Ejiji their rival, the community-based team had to hint their bosses, who then informed the Governor. It was an opportunity to undo their political rival and get Ejiji out of the way, Prodest was now their battleground. It was on this basis the State team was drafted in.
The alleged attack on the police and the enforcement team last Saturday was a fracas between the visiting team and the LGA team.
The LGA team and hotel management were surprised. They never knew that the police and those who came with the community team were actually coming to enforce the Governor’s directives and that they have been reported to superior authorities. So, there was heated disagreement as to what authority they have when the new team tried to enforce arrest and the lockdown order. No member of staff of the Prodest Hotel was involved in that disagreement. They just watched with disbelief of what was going on.
So when we say that Prodest Hotel is an innocent victim of Eleme PDP internal wrangling, you can now understand what we meant.
The hotel owner is a good friend of mine. He is from khana LGA, not Eleme. He is not a politician neither is he a member of any political party. He is a private sector worker based in the western part of Nigeria. Mr. Princewill Osaro Ejiji is not the owner of Prodest Motel, he and his Eleme Covid-19 task force were guests at the hotel.
The management of Prodest hotel was never aware of the fact that Mr. Osaro Ejiji was having any criminal record hanging on his neck, not until the press release by the commissioner of information was made public. All that is known about him is that he is the Covid-19 task force chairman and President of Alode youths, Prodest hotel’s host community. The hotel does not harbor criminals. Prodest, I am aware, maintains one of the best crime-free relationships with the police in Eleme LGA.
Governor Wike’s decision and eventual demolition of Prodest Motel, I still maintain was hasty and too harsh. It wasn’t a criminal matter. Destroying people’s sources of livelihood in the face of dwindling world economy is going to the extreme. There should have been a thorough investigation and fair hearing granted to the hotel management before whatever action. Prodest never commits such a crime that should warrant such punishment.
The avalanche of condemnation that had greeted this action by the Rivers State government is a clear pointer to the fact that the decision is unpopular. I sincerely hope that the Governor will come to terms with reason and find a way of ameliorating the situation.
As someone said, any decision of the government that does not wear a human face is tyranny. I had chosen to support the government in the fight against #COVID19, but in doing so, I won’t hesitate to make my contributions known on areas that I feel things could have been done differently. The decision to demolish Prodest Motel is inhumane and amounted to throwing caution to the wind.
Dae Steven Deegbara is a friend to the proprietor of Prodest Hotel and lives very close to the hotel