But there is only, one Governor Nyesom Wike, who stands out and alone for his sheer pugnacity and addition to drama. The Rivers State henchman conducts virtually all his affairs like a man possessed, on a mission to assert his authority as the uncompromising boss. Every issue is turned into a fight that he must win, and whoever rubs him the wrong way gets a stinging tongue lashing and a declaration of war. Gruff of manner and gifted with a voice that carries undisguised menace, he suffers no one gladly and is perpetually coiled like a spring ready to unleash a knockout blow on those caught in his crosshairs.
There is no doubt that he means well for his people and nothing deters him from standing up for them. Give it to him though, he leads from the front. And the COVID-19 pandemic has showed him at his best and worst.
No governor has done palliatives for the people as much as Wike. He has demonstrated leadership of the rare kind by not only trying to contain the spread of the virus in the state, but also ensuring that he does whatever is necessary and within his powers to mitigate the suffering of the people. In this crisis, he has acquitted himself very well. Even his most rabid detractors and critics cannot fault the way he has gotten on top of the situation.
But sometimes, he forgets that, even as a governor, he is not above the law. He is given to a weakness to undermine the moral force of his positive actions by simply taking the laws into his hands.
He has been in the streets of Port Harcourt nearly every day to check that the lockdown is being observed. He stops people to know why they are out, and anyone unable to justify breaking the lockdown is arrested. He has campaigned against the movement of people from other parts of the country to his state and warned those coming to think twice about it. Caverton Helicopters Service pilots and ExxonMobile staff can testify to Wike’s no-nonsense approach to enforcing the lockdown.
Great as his interventions have been, the governor displayed his worst instinct and messianic complex last weekend. He ordered and personally supervised the demolition of two hotels in Eleme local government area of the state for operating against his order that all such establishments should close during the lockdown.
This was typical Wike in full bloom, brimming with anger and wielding his authority to take no prisoners. Without question, the two hotels deserved to be queried. But the punishment the governor meted out to them was excessive and smacks of executive over-reach. He could have ordered the hotels locked up indefinitely without detracting from the need to send a clear message to other people and businesses that take his orders for the lockdown for granted.
By taking the law into his own hands, he is morally challenged to enforce his government rules and orders. And he has opened himself and the state government to litigations over his precipitate action that’s not justifiable in any way.
Let’s hope that there are people around him, who can whisper into his ears that the demolition of the hotels should be the first and last display of reckless impunity. Otherwise he will be undoing all the excellent job he has done so far to fight the pandemic and damaging his own image. It’s time he adopts a different approach to make his points.