Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State is probably the most hysterical man or governor in Nigeria today. It takes a man of his peculiar gifts to frame his state’s COVID-19 crisis as a war between him and the federal government, and air travellers who land in his state as federal death agents sent purposely to infect and kill Riverians. Do Rivers State indigenes associate with his hysteria and hyperbole? It is hard to say. They acknowledge that the state has the constitutional right to make laws and executive orders not at war with the constitution, and they probably also appreciate their governor’s effort to protect the state from a rampaging disease.
But it is doubtful whether they are carried away by the governor’s dramatics and the manner he has framed the contrived disagreement with the federal authorities, especially after arresting, detaining and charging in court Caverton pilots and their 10 passengers in early April. More than a week later, the governor also arrested and detained 21 ExxonMobil workers for allegedly violating the state’s lockdown order.
In a press conference to justify the arrests and to explain to the public what he thought was a sustained federal effort to infect Rivers with the disease, the governor raised hysteria to fever pitch. Said he: “People in Abuja are not happy. They want Rivers State to be infected. They want to kill Rivers people and I will not allow it. I was elected to protect Rivers people. Rivers State is not a pariah State. Nigerians shake when they hear oil companies; they shake because they have compromised. Imagine an appointed minister issuing an order to an elected governor. They wanted to rig us out and lost. Recall that the Former DG of the Department of State Service (DSS) ordered his men to leave the INEC Collation Centre for the invasion of the Centre. They lost.” Before the press conference, the governor had in his twitter account warned Abuja, saying, “I don’t take orders from Abuja but from Rivers people. If they want to work with me they should come, I will not go and beg them. If they want war, we will fight and I will make sure people of Rivers State are protected from coronavirus.”It is of course utter nonsense that there is a federal conspiracy to infect Rivers with coronavirus. In addition, while the war against the disease is being fought, does the governor expect the economy to close down? He sees conspiracy in everything; but do those who move about in Rivers State on essential services carry a COVID-19 test certificate? Mr Wike has even issued an open threat to companies doing business in Rivers who have not contributed to the state’s efforts to combat the disease. Their names will be published sometime later, he says.
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Whether relating to the Caverton incident or the ExxonMobil issue, it is clear Mr Wike is exaggerating and misusing his powers as well as unreasonably threatening the country’s economy. Other states are busy looking for how to balance the threat posed by the virus and the urgency of reopening their economies. But Mr Wike sees only dark conspiracies and war, a war, if it came to that, that he could neither hope to fight nor win. It is a shame that the federal government is at sixes and sevens in determining how to respond to this mawkish and contrived crisis.
The Rivers State governor is not alone in combating the virus with foolish rhetoric and contradictory and paranoid measures. He is of course the archetype of the hysterical and misguided governors across party lines who Nigerians have elected into office. Hopeful the electorate will do a better job in 2023. For if the governors had the police under their control, these petty tyrants would not be incapable of doing the unthinkable and hurting their people’s rights as well as their states’ Economies.