Rivers State has moved from tensions arising from striving with federal agencies to alarms of a pending ‘state of emergency’. The government which has for months accused federal authorities of sabotaging its COVID-19 battles has now called the people to alert, saying a plot thickens to declare a state of emergency in the state.
Governor Nyesom Wike who has always said he relies on the power of the ordinary people of the state to protect his mandate has once again called them to action, but his call seems to rouse his opponents also to action.
The plot, a plot?
The Rivers State Government said it uncovered plans by some indigenes of the state who reside in Abuja to cause a breakdown of law and order in order to declare a State of Emergency.
The government through a statement by the Commissioner of Information and Communications, Paulinus Msirim, said: “These persons whose attempts to declare State of Emergency in the state since 2015 have never succeeded because of God’s intervention.
“They did everything within their powers to ensure that the 2019 Governorship Election results were not announced but also failed. As the build up for the 2023 elections and jostle for Presidential and Vice-Presidential tickets is gathering momentum, they want to use COVID-19 to create a crisis as if the State is at war with the Federal Government.
“They have decided to create unnecessary tension as if indigenes of Ahoada, Eleme and Port Harcourt are fighting with Northerners not to carry out their legitimate businesses.
Bandits have been killing innocent people in Sokoto, Katsina, Zamfara and Kaduna States and indigenes of these states no matter their political differences are working together to protect their states.
“But here in Rivers State, instead of supporting our efforts, these Abuja politicians are busy looking for a State of Emergency because they want to acquire power. We are alarmed at these hideous plots against our State. Rivers State has never fought a war with strangers or neighbours.
“We are aware that some shameless politicians are playing politics with COVID-19. No wonder one of the respected chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had to expose their plan to use COVID-19 to launch into the politics of the State. This is what we see in the lives of ungodly, dangerous and power hungry people who claim to love the state.
“After their clandestine meetings they have voted huge sums of money to entice and recruit gullible persons to carry out their plan.
“All patriotic Rivers State indigenes are hereby placed on alert to resist the devilish plans of these unpatriotic elements who connive with enemies of the State to cause confusion. As a state, we have always defeated these sadists and with God on our side, we shall overcome them.”
APC strikes back
A spokesman of the All Progressives Party (APC), Chris Finebone, sent in a straight reaction, wiping off the accusation. He said: “The incompetence of the Gov. Wike administration is simply assuming a dangerous dimension. What is this cock and bull story about uncovering a plan to declare State of Emergency in the state?
“Which Rivers person or resident is excited and interested in that kind of story? If the government understands statecraft, they should be speaking to the people who are confused as to whether the lockdown is subsisting or not. The governor has not been seen since Sunday only for the government to come out with a watery press release alleging some plot.
“The people are not interested in such obsolete and anachronistic style of politics. The people desire governance as they struggle to survive under a visionless lockdown. Let’s move away from panic measures and become more strategic and clear-headed with the fight against coronavirus.”
Labour Party adds some confusion
The Labour Party in the state reacted quickly but many still did not make a step forward in whether a plot existed or not.
In a statement issued by a chief, Isaac Worwu, the gubernatorial candidate in the last governorship election in the state said the party; “We condemned such baseless actions, considering such people behind it as enemy of the state.”
The party left the issue of emergency to make calls for better governance: “We call on Gov Wike to review the lockdown in the state and appoint a thick-tank committee that will marshal a developmental plan for the state and to look inward on post-Covid’19 pandemic with a view of sustaining the economy of Rivers State.
We equally appeal to the governor to show some diplomacy in working with the federal government.” The party said it rather was advocating for state of emergency on Agriculture development to promote food security in the state.
Wike’s men in National Assembly blow hot
Groups loyal to the governor have lined up fast behind the alarm. The National Assembly caucus from the state thinks that the setting up of a task force by the Inspector General of Police is a call for an invitation to anarchy.
Speaking at a joint media briefing, leaders of the caucus, George Sekibo and House of Representatives member, Kingsley Chinda, said the police action was unacceptable. “It is essentially, antithetical to and a reversal of the aims and purposes of the COVID-19 inter-state lockdown and measures to curb the pandemic. It is in this regard that we join the Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers to request the IGP to reconsider the action.
According to them, “The development is sour and highly confrontational, not only to the authorities of the Rivers State Government, but also to the people and residents.
“We run a Federal system of government and cannot afford to have two chief executives in Rivers State at the same time. That will be a clear invitation to anarchy.”
The lawmakers said their position was informed by the fact that the Rivers State Commissioner of Police (CP), John Mukan, acting under the IGP’s instructions, set up a parallel Task Force in the guise of a Technical Committee to ensure movement of agricultural products and other essential items in the state; a committee charged with the determination of who comes into Rivers State during the lockdown period.
They said in the last 48 hours, the police action has been trending, adding, “We had expected the IGP to deny the report, but since he has not, it is well to hold that the action was actually his effort and hence this media briefing.”
They called on President Buhari to reverse the trend, while also appealing to the President to call the IGP and the Rivers CP to order, by restraining them from establishing a parallel government in Rivers State.
Indigenes of the state have reacted sharply, none trying to find out any further truth but certain of what they believe. Ijuye Telescopic, kick-starting a debate on his facebook wall said that the publication ‘Rivers State Government uncovers plan to declare state of emergency’ is nothing but an expression of griping fear by a supposedly fearless administration. “It is a preemptive strike to avert possible exploitation by political opponents, of the antagonistic acts and pronouncements against the Federal Government by the Rivers State Governor.”
He got a counter from George Finton who said: “It is indeed a sad commentary that in an attempt to maintain our political persuasions, we have forgotten to be Rivers enough. Governor Wike like any other human is not perfect; however, we should not allow entrenched bias to becloud our peculiarities as a people. Covid-19 is global challenge and should be addressed assiduously. The directive by the IGP is obviously selective with glaring ulterior motive, if the current distribution of almajirai and trained militia to the south and eastern parts of the country is not enough to arouse suspicion I wonder what will.”
Ijuye countered him saying; “George Finton, You are a more experienced politician and should see through this facade. What is the issue? Rivers State governor says that he does not trust federal security agencies in the fight against Covid-19. He accuses federal security agencies of sabotaging the state, importing infected persons and terrorists into the state.
“Note that Wike is not the only governor doing this. Most South-South and South-East governors are into this singsong of invasion of the south by Almajiris, hidden in lorries among cows and food and aided by federal security agencies. Interestingly, these governors still depend on federal security agencies for their personal protection. So, why the so-called suspicion?”
He went on: “These shrewd politicians know that in a period of national crisis (Covid-19), the people (masses) are helpless and are more willing to forgo their liberties and their rights for their security, health and safety. The masses are willing to abdicate their freedom to anybody that can guarantee their safety.
“Wike has been masquerading since 2013 as the sole protector and defender of Rivers State, for the sole purpose of gaining and retaining political benefits accruing from the abdication of rights to a strongman by Rivers people.
It is therefore, politically suicidal to allow an opponent (federal government controlled by another party) to be seen as the one securing the safety of Rivers people during this pandemic, else the people abdicate their rights and freedom in times like this to the federal government, including political allegiance; hence the confrontation.”
One more citizen, Dumo Tamieye, joined issues: “There are no external enemies of Rivers State. The government of the state has postured itself as the enemy of the people of the state. They should therefore, be prepared to succeed in their genocide against the people or harvest the consequences of self-destruction.”
It seems thus that the signs and plots the Rivers State government saw is the IGP task force in the state on movement of essential commodities. It is believed that this has removed power to another authority. The thinking, according to insiders, is that the IGP and Commissioner of Police would attempt to take over control of command in the state and the civilian task members may challenge them. In the process, there could be chaos, thus openly warranting a declaration of state of emergency. Should this happen, the situation could orchestrate a government in the state that would be pro-APC in the run-in to the 2023 elections.
The best reaction would be to use the pre-2019 method of raising alarm ahead to head off any suspected plots. It seemed to work in 2019, will it work again?