Nigeria: COVID-19 - Wike's Despotic Tendencies Must Be Checked

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opinion

We must rise up as a people who are legitimately part of Rivers State and question where Wike derives the wide-ranging powers he is exercising arbitrarily against innocent citizens, who are carrying out legitimate businesses in the State and paying taxes to the government. We can not continue to be victims of Wike's caprices.

Nothing has exposed Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike's despotic proclivity and lack of administrative tact like the coronavirus pandemic. His primitive approach towards combating the deadly virus accentuates his flagrant disregard for the rule of law, due process and human rights, as it appears the pandemic has provided him a cover for the unrestrained abuse of power.

Wike's actions since the outbreak of the pandemic, particularly in recent times, buttress the claims that he is utterly clueless, does not understand the full import of governance, and lacks a well-articulated strategy to combat the virus.

In recent times, we have seen Governor Wike speaking and acting in ways that remind us of the era of military regimes, when governance was administered through edicts. We see a governor usurping the powers of the legislature and judiciary under the guise of expediency, and leaving both arms of government supine and ineffectual.

For Wike, COVID-19 offers a perfect excuse to violate human rights, enforce his draconian orders and quarantine democracy. This reminds me of Marcus Tullius Cicero, who once warned us to beware of the leader who sets aside constitutional rules, while claiming the need for expediency or security.

There is no better time than now to speak up against Wike's highhandedness before it mutates into full blown authoritarianism. He must be made to understand that Rivers State is not a conquered territory and its people are not slaves. They deserve to be treated with respect and protected by the government.

While lockdown is a good control measure against the spread of the virus, it loses its essence when badly enforced. One would have expected that the governor would take advantage of the lockdown to fumigate public places, ramp up testing and put up more effective measures to help combat the virus. Sadly, what we have is the pathetic situation of the demolition of properties and auctioning of private vehicles.

Obviously, Wike's claim of fighting an invisible enemy is deceptive and diversionary. The only fight we are seeing here in Rivers State is against Rivers people and not the virus. Lockdown should be protective and not punitive; but for Wike, it is a instrument of oppression and suppression.

We must rise up as a people who are legitimately part of Rivers State and question where Wike derives the wide-ranging powers he is exercising arbitrarily against innocent citizens, who are carrying out legitimate businesses in the State and paying taxes to the government. We can not continue to be victims of Wike's caprices. Governor Wike's decision to auction cars and demolish properties belonging to the same people he is constitutionally obligated to protect for merely breaking a lockdown order, is unconstitutional, ultra vires and unpopular.

There is no better time than now to speak up against Wike's highhandedness before it mutates into full blown authoritarianism. He must be made to understand that Rivers State is not a conquered territory and its people are not slaves. They deserve to be treated with respect and protected by the government.

Chris Amadi wrote from Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

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