Somebody said to me on Facebook: “You bastard what more do you want Governor Wike to do!” This reaction did not surprise or offend me because as a lit
Somebody said to me on Facebook: “You bastard what more do you want Governor Wike to do!” This reaction did not surprise or offend me because as a literary critic, I have an inbuilt mechanism to absorb divergent views no matter how unpleasing they are.
I have heard people refer to critics as foolish persons who take delight in criticizing wise people. I have also heard government officials say that critics are disgruntled persons. I have even met people who say that critics of government policies are jobless persons who seek relevance.
It is not as if I bother much about negative views on social criticism, but that message I received on Facebook has continued to re-play itself in my sub-conscious. I repeat it to myself several times. It is like: Shut up you good-for-nothing critic; what more do you want Governor Wike to do?
I wanted to reply like this: You idiot; are you blind? If you are blind, are you also deaf that you cannot see and hear the outcry about unprecedented rate of deceit, impunity and corruption, massive unemployment, hunger, bloody cult killings and kidnappings, maligning of political opponents, barefaced electoral fraud and the deification of Governor Wike?
I was to compile (if space would allow) a thousand and one things that Governor Wike should be doing that he has left undone and the same number of things that he shouldn’t have done that he is doing. I can go on to itemize the sins of this administration but I was particularly struck by the underlying bluntness (even if somewhat naive) of that Facebook comment. I resisted the temptation to dismiss the comment as coming from another hater on Facebook or a comment from another PDP sycophant.
I was sad that many Rivers people do not even know what to expect from their state government. I can tolerate illiterate village folks who see government amenities as privileges bestowed on the people by benevolent public officers. But I was sad that some educated persons can with all conscience, declare that Governor Wike is doing excellently well and berate critics as crying foul unnecessarily.
How many people truly know that the primary reasons why it is necessary to have government, is that people are bound together by certain basic needs that must be provided if they are to function properly and go about their individual and collective activities? The other primary function of government is to protect the lives and property of citizens from the greed of stronger people.
What this means is that, the Fisherman, the Farmer, the Market woman, Civil Servant, Lawyer, Student, Bricklayer, Doctor etc. need good roads, clean water, constant electricity supply, good housing, good hospitals, good schools etc. to function properly as members of an organized society. They also need the assurance that the products of their labour, including their commonwealth would not be confiscated by the strong and powerful in the society. In a nutshell, government is formed to use available resources to make people happy. Otherwise, there would be no need to have a fellow man as governor, to lord it over us in a free society.
It is a contradiction for any person to aspire to office of governor with a motive other than providing general goods and services that would guarantee the stability of society and enhance the happiness of the majority of the people he/she governs.
It is against the Social Contract and a criminal disservice for a governor to sit over resources, dishing to the people whatever he likes without connecting with the daily existence of the people, without caring to match physical infrastructural development with human development.
Is it a secret that this government has seized our common wealth and is disbursing it to guarantee the happiness of a handful of people; most of whom have been feeding fat from public coffers since 1999? This is evident in their sudden transformation from lack to affluence in the face of excruciating poverty in the populace.
In Port Harcourt, every brand-new car on the road, every new mansion in town and every lavish party are owned and enacted almost exclusively by these selected friends and associates of the governor. They build sprawling estates and mansions at home and abroad; their families live and school overseas; even those who (before 1999) had never set their eyes on Lagos or Abuja now own mansions in the big cities of the world.
To answer the question: “What more do you want Governor Wike to do” I would rather put it this way:
If I were Governor Nyesom Wike, in the midst of the current hardship and sufferings, Oh my God! I shall quickly remove the things that depress our people. I shall urgently resuscitate and expand the drivers of our socio-economic pillars and speedily restore the pride and dignity of Rivers people. In doing this I shall urgently rescue our state from sliding further into immorality, corruption and wastage. How?
I shall stop blaming the suffering of Rivers people on the Federal Government and begin to run the state as a country, after all our GDP is higher than some African countries. I shall play less politics and concentrate more on governance and immediately tackle the urgent needs of our people and drastically reduce the problems that take all the money from their pockets. These are food, housing, transportation, education, and health care. I shall pronounce education and health care free instantaneously by awarding scholarships to all Rivers State students at all levels and providing free drugs at least in the rural areas. After which I shall begin to work towards an excellent and efficient education and health care delivery over time.
I shall return the Local Government Councils back to the people and allow them to elect their Chairmen and councilors freely. I shall encourage every LGA Headquarter to develop special residential area for teachers, Health workers and other workers in the essential sectors.
On education, I shall quickly return to the era when O.G.S. Okrika, K.N.C. Buguma, Sancta Maria Omoku, B.M.G.S. Bori, County Grammar School Ikwerre/Etche and many rural schools produced quality students that compared favourably with students of Kings College Lagos. I shall drastically reduce the very high cost of education on parents/guardians by making public schools functional and attractive and free.
Our schools shall be made accessible, beautiful and comfortable in material and infrastructure so as to uplift the spirit and morale of students and teachers. I shall alleviate the burden of education on parents and by this enhance the standard of living of every family. Parents would no more be forced to send their children to expensive private schools because public schools shall be brought back to life again. I shall give attractive financial inducement to teachers outside Port Harcourt.
On employment, I shall swiftly resuscitate closed and distressed state- owned companies such as: Water Glass Boatyard, Rivbank Insurance Company, Catering Rest Houses, Isaka Holiday Resort, Rivers Distillery etc.
I shall set up oil-bearing communities’ commission and use substantial part of the 13% Derivation Fund to improve living standard in those communities.
I shall construct roads and bridges to link every part of the state. I shall expand Port Harcourt and develop new cities. I shall redistribute undeveloped government plots and embark on a housing programme that will enable family units own land and build their own houses. I shall introduce an effective and efficient mortgage system to enable families own homes. It is criminal to allow Rivers people pay hundreds of thousands every year to landlords without the prospect of owning the house. They should rather use the money to pay mortgage.
I shall, as a deliberate policy encourage the growth of indigenous industrialists and multimillionaires by awarding big contracts to indigenous companies and making funds available to them. I shall promote our traditional rulers to rub shoulders with the Sultans and the Obas of this country.
I shall encourage our political leaders to aspire to national prominence. I shall engage our youths in agriculture; sports and cultural festivals while making sure that the children coming behind are protected from the current social malaise. I shall build old people’s homes in every local government area, I shall… I shall… I shall do everything within my powers to make Rivers people happy and like Alfred Diete-Spiff; I shall develop the human resources and build the physical infrastructure that would sustain us into the next 25 years. Wow! Don’t try me o! Because I shall transform Rivers State like play like play.
Where do I get the money? My God, Rivers State is damn rich! As a policy I will explore all revenue sources and create the environment to attract direct foreign investments. I shall not buy cars for National Assembly members because that should be the responsibility of the federal government. I will not engage in gulping down bottles of Louis XIII wine that cost five thousand British pounds per bottle and carry political associates to frolic abroad and watch Real Madrid Football Club. I will not bribe INEC officials with billions and I will not bribe security and judicial officers. I will not fund national conventions of my party and be the sole financier of my political party. I will not finance instability in the rival APC. I will not sponsor cultism and militia groups. I will not pay the state electoral commission RSIEC to rig elections. I will not pay the state legislature to become a rubber stamp.
I will not spend N500 million in false propaganda to remove the Commander of F-SARS in the state. I will not run my government on the pages of newspaper. I will simply concentrate on my job as governor and nothing else.
Won’t I be corrupt? Of course, I won’t. Even if you don’t believe that I won’t be corrupt but how much would I reasonably take from the public coffers? Let’s look at it this way: How much money was the governor making before he became a local government chairman in 1999? May be less than N150,000 a month. O.k. let him now steal one hundred million every month and that will just be N1.2 billion for the governor every year. Won’t this be too much for somebody who was earning far less than N1 million before he joined politics? Let’s add a total of N5 billion a year for all political office holders to steal if they must, considering that most of them had not seen a hundred thousand before they went into politics. Won’t all these be too much compensation? Add the governor’s N1.2 billion to the N5 billion and we shall have N6.2 billion for corrupt public office holders to share. Remove this from the over N500 billion annual budget and we shall still have more than N450 billion to execute government programmes. Wow! This is still a lot of money. It is more than the annual budgets of some three northern states put together. In fact, any governor who is unable to transform Rivers State is simply unwilling and incapable of doing so and cannot blame it on inadequate revenue. Our politicians who steal for their children and unborn great grandchildren are simply possessed with demonic spirit and need deliverance. Those who crave to own business and houses all over the world need psychiatry treatment.
Now that I have answered the question: “What more do you want the governor to do?” I want to talk briefly about the usefulness of social criticism and political opposition.
While it is good to have government, we cannot take for granted that government would normally care for the people they govern. There would always be discrepancies between what government should do and what it actually ends up doing. Those who have power would always abuse it unless they get power from the people over whom they exercise it.
In decent societies, the Opposition is appreciated and highly regarded. In America the minority party is well respected, while in Britain the Opposition has its own shadow ministers in government. These societies know that God will never give any government all the wisdom it needs. So, there is the need to have another group to tell the people the other side of the story.
In Rivers State, the governor got power through violent rigging of elections and abhors opposition. The government promotes his private interest over the welfare of Rivers people by using brute force, deceit and propaganda to keep the people subservient.
In Rivers State, the governor does not want opposition to his government. He fights the main opposition party, emasculates the legislature, corrupts the judiciary and undermines the security forces.
But government is a necessary evil and the governor must be watched and every device used to ensure that he does his duties. This is the thankless job that social critics and opposition groups do in Rivers State. They are not bastards. ###