There has been a surfeit of arguments on whether the demolition of two hotels in Rivers state by Governor Nyesom Wike over the violation of Covid-19-induced lockdown is an act of wickedness, power drunkenness, sheer madness or the act of a man with the interest of his people at heart. Some have been comparing Wike to past despots like Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Idi Amin Dada of Uganda, Emperor Jean-Bédel (Bokassa) of the Central African Republic, General Gnassingbé (the Snake) Eyadema of Togo, and even our own dark-goggled General Sani Abacha, who has turned out to be more benevolent in death than when he was alive. Perhaps out of respect for the living they have not yet included Paul Kagame of Rwanda or perhaps I’ve not seen that yet.
Wike has even been awarded in absentia the uncomplimentary medal of V.I.P. (Vagabond in Power) made popular by the irrepressible Afrobeat King, Fela Anikulapo Kuti of evergreen memory.
Much as I’m tempted to embark on a polemic expedition, I won’t because I realise that those who have taken an entrenched position against Wike will NEVER defer to a contrary argument. But if we want to be truly objective in this matter, we should not colour our judgement of the current action with Wike’s previous actions, some of which are morally questionable – just as some of our own actions!
Now, let me ask a few questions.
- Is Wike the villain in this debacle while the errant hoteliers are victims?
- Did Wike demolish all the hotels in Rivers state that did not initially obey the lockdown regulation?
- Was Chief General Matthew Aremu Okikiola Olusegun Obasanjo a Vagabond in Power because he ordered the ‘demolition’ of Odi and Zaki Biam in what he rationalised as necessary action in a ‘war’ situation?
- Do people realise that the war against coronavirus that all the military arsenal of the world has no effect on is more serious than any regular war?
- The Odi and Zaki Biam condemnable , yes condemnable, massacres happened during the first term of OBJ; did Nigerians not vote for him for a second term?
- Shouldn’t we rather be questioning the morality of our people than the peccadilloes of our leaders?
- To those that argue that the defaulters ought to be arraigned, should we advise the federal government to stop killing Boko Haram insurgents, catch them alive and prosecute them?
- Do people even realise that a war that requires everyone to lock themselves inside their houses, abandon their businesses, friends and family and cover their faces like masquerades is more serious than Boko Haram insurgency?
- To those that consider Wike’s action an ego trip, was his auctioning of the vehicles that contravened the lockdown regulation also an ego trip?
- Should he have simply arrested those defaulters and handed them over for prosecution?
- If we applauded him for taking that swift action, why are we crucifying him now?
- Were the owners of the auctioned vehicles not also breadwinners and employers?
- To those citing what the Lagos state governor did in a similar situation, have you compared the number of cases in Lagos with that of Rivers. (See the table below)
- Has the gentlemanly democratic approach of Sanwo-Olu helped to tame the ravaging virus in Lagos state?
- Should Wike wait for Rivers state to be a Covid-19 epicentre like Lagos before taking action that he deems fit in exercising his foremost responsibility of protecting his people, as their Chief Security Officer?
- To those that are comparing democratic practice in Nigeria to America and other places, are the courts in those places as corruption-infested as the ones in Nigeria? (I don’t need to remind anyone of what has been going on in our apex court in the past 6 moons).
- Is it possible that the gap between the number of cases in America and most non-democratic countries is as a result of tackling this invisible enemy in a democratic way that allows the people to take the laws into their hands and wait for the courts to judge, whereas coronavirus has no intention of waiting for court rulings before spreading further?
- Is it possible that this is the same reason America maintains the unenviable position as the leading country in gun violence and indiscriminate executions in the world?
- Some have even argued that President Trump was impeached for acts of executive high-handedness. So why don’t we advise Rivers people to impeach Governor Wike or as a former president of the Nigeria Bar Association advised, tell the aggrieved hoteliers to sue Wike and the government of Rivers state?
- All these people blowing grammar up and down, talking about compensation in court, do they know there is what lawyers call mitigating factors or extenuating circumstances which would in all probability work in favour of Wike in court? He has deferred to the law, saying on AIT: “I may be right, I may be wrong, it will be the decision of the courts”. What else do you want from the man?
- Given the length of time for cases to be heard and judged in Nigeria, do people realise that if emergency action like Wike’s is not taken there may be no governor or judge before the case is heard as coronavirus would have pronounced its fatal judgement already?
- Are the people of Iraq and Libya better off today after their complicit involvement in the slaughtering of their long-term dictatorial ‘messiahs’ on the altar of democracy?
- Are 2 hotels more valuable than the lives of millions of people that were subjected to a potentially fatal risk by the lawless action of those soulless hoteliers and, if you believed one of the defaulters’ accusation that the demolition was because a demand for bribe by government officials was not honoured, have you considered why it was that particular hotel that was asked to bribe the officials?
- What would be your choice between death and being unemployed or hungry?
- Are all those saying something on this matter doing so because they have something to say or because they want to be seen as saying something?
Phew! Over 2 dozen questions!!
My intention was to ask just a few but it’s proving difficult to stop, so let me remove my leg from the gas pedal with this last question: Is Wike wicked in this matter?
No doubt, there will be strident YES and NO answers to this question, but that changes nothing as far as this virulent common enemy is concerned.
There are those citing the judgement in a 2016 case of FAITH OKAFOR V. GOVERNOR OF LAGOS STATE & ANOR. LPELR-41066 (CA), where the Governor of Lagos state issued a directive restricting the movement of citizens and residents during the state’s monthly environmental sanitation and the Court of Appeal unanimously held that the Appellant could not be arrested or prosecuted for disobeying or flouting the Executive Order or Directive of the Governor of Lagos State because the Appellant could only be arrested and prosecuted for an offence that is prescribed in a written law.
Have these people considered that the threat posed by the perennially filthy Lagos environment is not comparable to the existential threat posed by Covid-19 to the entire Lagos population, and that if you refuse to clean your compound in Ajegunle it will not affect the person in Banana Island, the same way coronavirus can?
On March 17, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa declared a state of disaster on coronavirus. The South African parliament unanimously endorsed the move and promptly issued a statement to that effect:
“As Parliament, we are in full support of our government’s plans to respond to the virus. The time is now most befitting for us to imbue within ourselves, a greater sense of political maturity and leadership. We must also work together across the party political spectrum, in order to give hope and clarity to our constituencies.
We, therefore, call on all South Africans to join efforts with our government, to ensure we deal with the Coronavirus,” the statement read in part.
The main opposition Democratic Alliance also welcomed the development.
“Now, more than ever, we must put politics aside if we are going to succeed in the fight against Covid-19,” John Steenhuisen, the DA’s acting leader, said in a statement. “We must band together to formulate a collective response to this virus in order to overcome it.”
To date, Botswana has recorded 24 cases and 1 death. Rwanda has 285 cases and no death. On April 9, the Botswana parliament announced that Botswana will be under a state of emergency for six months in an attempt to curtail the spread of Covid-19.
In case there are those that do not understand, in a state of emergency the laws are suspended.
If the Nigerian government is diddle-daddling on the issue of Covid-19, why should Wike be crucified for taking the initiative? Should he have requested the Rivers state House of Assembly to convene and approve the demolition of those hotels under what, in his judgement, and to many objective minds, is a state of emergency?
I keep saying democracy in the copy-and-paste way we practise it in Nigeria and most of Africa is doing more harm than good. China is not a democracy. This disease started in China. Today China has 82,919 cases and 4,633 deaths behind Iran, Turkey, Brazil, Germany, France, Italy, UK, Russia, and Spain that has the highest number of cases and casualties, behind America. America, the bastion of democracy, has 1,385,834 cases and 81,795 deaths and still counting!
Those who can argue can start another argument that China is not disclosing its true figures. Why don’t they go ahead and tell us China’s true figures since they know everything? By the way, most countries do not know the true figures of their Covid-19 positive cases either, and our own dear native land is among them.
I am an ardent critic of ‘vagabonds in power’ (permit the immodesty in saying so myself) but context matters. Anyone unsure of my antecedents may read my pieces appended to this post. These are not normal times. Those that say ‘all is fair in war’ are not vagabonds. The world has not experienced this kind of war in this lifetime – a war that has brought the most powerful nation on earth – mighty America to its knees.
Nigeria appears to be favoured by cosmic forces in taming this virus thus far, but I think we should not take anything for granted. If the richest nations in the world cannot cope with Covid-19, we should not delude ourselves that the poverty capital of the world can cope if the chips are down.
We pray it doesn’t get to that.
NB: In case anyone has forgotten so soon, this is war, this is an emergency and in a state of emergency laws are suspended.
I rest my case.
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