By Innocent Okon
Once providence gives you the privilege of not thinking about where your next meal is coming from, your choices are no more ordinary. If it is food, your concern is no more affordability and availability, but quantity and quality. For clothes, it is quality and style! For home, it has to be comfort only limited by the talent of your architect!
Man moves from ordinary to extraordinary when resources available and accessible are in excess. Same phenomenon extends to governments and leaders.
It is reported that Nigeria in the oil boom years under the watch of General Yakubu Gowon once bragged that her headache was not money, but how and where to spend it!
This must have informed the astronomical pecuniary reward to public servants in the 70s as recommended by Sir Jerome Udoji’s Commission.
In South-South Nigeria, there is an oil rich land and people called Rivers state. Since the uninterrupted democratic journey began in 1999, every elected Governor from the state seems to wear the toga of a father Christmas, no matter the time or season of the year!
Peter Odili, a medical doctor, came in 1999 and left in 2007. In his second term, he became spendthrift. He would abandon his state University to donate millions to another state university in Nasarawa. He once attended a memorial lecture in honour of the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo, in Lagos and in the presence of die hard Awoists, donated millions at the book launch!
Same spending spree continued as he nursed the ambition to succeed Obasanjo as President in 2007. Rotimi Ameachi succeeded him and was infected with the same virus!
In his second term, Amaechi expended state resources to lead renegade Governors against President Goodluck Jonathan. His state was and is still rich in oil wealth, and has now acquired the unenviable notoriety of being the arrow head of any national political project with partisan goals.
In the gubernatorial cockpit now is Nyesom Wike. And as is the unwritten convention, he is doing his second term. Like the title of a popular literature offer in Nigeria: OUR HUSBAND HAS GONE MAD AGAIN.
Wike, like his predecessors in office, had wanted to become Nigeria’s next President come February 2023. Aspiration for the highest office in the land has become an extra entitlement to every Governor in Rivers state.
This entitlement mentality is excessively lubricated by petro Naira/Dollar income and high internally generated revenue.
Governor Wike after his failed attempt to capture the Presidential ticket of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is now leading a dissident group called the INTEGRITY GROUP otherwise called the G5.
He junkets with members of this group from one European city to the other for meetings which do not add any value to the welfare of Rivers people!
Recently, Wike decided to come back home and commission some projects. In keeping with his rambunctious style, every project to be commissioned must have its political statement!
At the commissioning of the state of the art campus of the Nigerian Law School in Port Harcourt, swashbuckling Wike spilled the beans when he told the nation that many of the projects he had commissioned serially in the state were made possible by President Muhammadu Buhari, who, in the despite being criticised for not being sufficiently fair in the allocation of state resources to the Niger Delta region, was magnanimous enough to release in full to the Niger Delta states billions withheld by previous administrations from the 13% derivation funds!
Wike the gadfly has opened the pandora box, and Niger Deltans in other states are asking their probing questions to their Governors: where is our share of the derivation money?
There have a cacophony of denials from Cross River through Akwa Ibom to Delta and Bayelsa states about their own payments. The denials range from outright claims of not receiving the money to acceptance of partial payments.
Governor Wike, the loquacious stormy petrel in the Niger Delta, has suddenly become an accidental epitome of transparency and accountability! This is an uppercut. A hat-trick of some sort. A master class dunk! It appears Wike has scored a classical goal against the run of play.
Am sure, his brother Governors never saw it coming from their fellow comrade in command of public funds.
Up until Governor Wike disclosed the refunds by the Federal Government, no Governor in any of the Niger Delta states made any public acknowledgement of receiving such funds in their coffers!
Every project they managed to execute was always attributed to their wizardry in public funds management. Some even called theirs as a miraculous windfall.
Now that midwife Wike has helped the child to birth in the market, is there any need to emphasize on the privacy of the mother again?
Governors in the oil producing states of the Niger Delta who have received the refunds either in tranches or in one fell swoop should speak up with figures and projects/programmes executed with the refunds.
That is the preponderance stand of the people. Some have ingeniously used the media to dub Wike’s revelation as a hoax. But no political gymnastics garnished with mudslinging will waive and sweep this matter under the carpet!
Wike has cleared the ball out of goal post. So, leaving the ball to settle for his leg is of no use now!
Like Patrick Wilmot, a Caribbean academic, once said, what Wike’s revelation must told the governors is: “I have only held the mirror for you to see yourself. If you don’t like the image in the mirror, breaking the mirror or your hand won’t achieve anything, because a man’s truth can’t be dissolved in his blood.”
Continuing to deny the reality about the fund will only amount to a frown in the dark.
Okon, a journalist and laywer, lives in Uyo.