Governor Nyesom Wike has once again taken centre stage over his handling of a couple of issues, including the hapless donation of operational vehicles to serving Judges. Across the country, sharp criticisms are trailing the Rivers State Government over its action.
It is not the acquisition of SUVs for Judges which has sparked off some controversy.
It is obvious, from unfolding events, that the Governor’s utterances during the occasion of the official handover of the said vehicles has more than anything else, aggravated public reactions that are being widely reported.
We have nothing against the Judiciary or Judges who are beneficiaries of car gifts that we have reason to believe was intended to enhance their performance, mobility, dedication and commitment to duty. We are nonetheless appalled by the unnecessary and uncharitable remarks credited to the Rivers Governor.
Judges are learned in every sense. They understand the basis of the sacred oath which requires them to dispense justice to all manner of people. Thus, in executing this weighty responsibility expected of them under the law, they bear a unique burden.
On one hand, judicial conclusions have a far-reaching impact on the enthronement of the rule of law. Pronouncements made by Jurists affect the destiny of those who appear before them, and point the future direction of our society. On the other hand, judicial decisions painstakingly reached by our Justices and our justice system are the foundation of our laws and the cornerstone of the rule of law.
To their credit, Judges have become pinnacles of hope, fairness, equality and justice, especially for the oppressed and downtrodden who cry out for justice. With very little facilities in the official workplace, the contributions of Judges have enhanced the administration of justice. The APC salutes them.
We are however worried by the nature of the condescending lecture that Governor Nyesom Wike presented to the Judiciary at the occasion. Rather than concentrating on the assignment of presenting vehicles to deserving judges, the Governor spent valuable time soliciting.
The responsibility of the Judiciary is clearly mapped out. What kind of cooperation was Governor Wike sueing for in his rigorous speech? Is it necessary for a man who has presented gifts to another to recount in public, how much he has done for a beneficiary? Such an antic which allows one to act as a town crier when showering gifts on another is completely un-African.
We have no doubt in our mind that Governor Wike has started spinning a dangerous web which would form the political template for 2023. The intention behind the speech credited to him, in our view, was to subtly draft the Judiciary into what is obviously a plot to compromise its officials. If the Judiciary exists to dispense justice and our dear Governor recognizes this fundamental fact even as a lawyer, we urge him to explain his motive for seeking collaboration and understanding on the part of the Judges now that he has fulfilled what he described as his promise.
We suspect that the Governor was struggling very hard to appeal for, or work on the emotions of Judicial officials who are serving in the State. This is not what we expect of a Governor who spoke glowingly about the need for Judges to be impartial and apolitical. The State Governor cannot afford to approbate and reprobate at the same time.
We are confident that Judges who listened to the Governor’s line of thought would never allow anyone to impeach the integrity of the Judiciary, or allow anyone to toy with their revered and esteemed position in society. Government should understand that the Judiciary which is a partner in progress does not really need advice from the executive arm in discharging its onerous duties.
While we acknowledge Government’s goodwill towards Judges and the Judiciary, we have raised issues over a penchant demonstrated by the Executive. It is the penchant for executing projects and programmes that are seemingly not budgeted for. We have drawn public attention to the construction of fly overs which may not have been captured by the Rivers Budget. We have appealed to the Government to embark on the construction of cottage industries which would benefit the people to no avail.
Interestingly, there are teeming youths who should be put to work through investments which have the tendency of stimulating the State’s comatose economy. Surprisingly, the administration has failed to listen. Thousands of Civil servants have retired from the service. Yet, it pleases the Government to use the services of retirees under a contract that enables them to serve as Permanent Secretaries while vacancies which have created avenues for employment are not filled.
Thousands of retirees have had no access to the payment of their pensions and gratuities. The records show that these men and women who served the State diligently have been left to die while their families and other dependants suffer. Yet, it would appear from the body language of the Governor that the Rivers State Government does not care about the welfare of these senior citizens.
We believe that the money within the grasp of the Government belongs to Rivers people. Rivers money should be made to work for Rivers people and their institutions. Accordingly, such scarce funds ought to be spent in a manner which benefits the people first. As things are, the Government believes that it has every right to act as it wants. What has happened to the culture of town hall meetings held in the past to ascertain the needs of the people and ensure probity and accountability by government?
We know that there is nothing that the EFCC can do, given the fact that there exists a perpetual injunction which debars them from investigating financial dealings of the Rivers State Government. But, we believe that the people through their representatives in the Legislature, the labour unions and town unions can stop the tendency which suggests that Government alone possesses superior knowledge on matters that affect them.
In acting as if the people don’t matter, Government may inadvertently mortgage the future of generations of Rivers people, including those that are not yet born. If the State Government is not called to order by well-meaning citizens, the State Secretariat complex which has been largely abandoned would remain without water, light, maintenance and other necessary inputs. If the people do not speak up, the underdevelopment of human capital would persist in a State which is blessed well enough to take care of its citizens.
We call on all well-meaning Rivers people to refuse the ongoing move to put them in chains by constructively engaging a government which claims their mandate. We urge the Judiciary not to be swayed by the dummy of friendship that is being sold to them. It is fake. In the interim, we urge the Federal Government to enforce the first line charge for both the State Judiciary and the State Legislative in order to put an end to endless manipulations by those who exercise executive power.
Rivers State Chapter, APC.