PENULTIMATE Friday, Silverbird television named Rivers State Gov. Nyesome Wike “Man of the Year 2017” There was a plethora of other awards given out same night, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Many, obviously, were tailor-made, fittingly, and well deserved – like the “Man of the People” award given to the Ekiti State Gov. Ayo Fayose. It is beyond contest that a vast majority of Nigerians appreciate the yeoman’s job Fayose is doing as the voice of the voiceless Nigerian masses and unofficial Leader of Opposition to the party in power. Wike’s award has been derided in some quarters but the governor has risen stoutly in his own defence, insisting he is deserving of his award.
Like I said in “Silverbird award: Matters arising” in my Treasure’s column (New Telegraph, Wednesday, 28th February at page 14), I have not been in Rivers state for a while; so I honestly wouldn’t be in a position to judge beyond what I have read or heard of Wike’s activities but the Sunday after his award, a very influential national daily on its cover page carried three damning photographs of decrepit and derelict structures at a secondary school in Rivers State, which appeared to cast aspersion on the integrity of the award received by Wike. Bare floor; decrepit furniture, and, even at that, inadequate; torn and caved-in roofs; and roof-less and window-less buildings were the sordid picture portrayed of Igwuruta Community Secondary School, Ikwerre LGA.
Coincidentally and instructively – perhaps, even suggestively – these damning and reveal-it-all photographs were taken on the same Friday Wike was receiving his “Man of the Year 2017” award in Lagos. What makes it more poignant and laughable at same time is the fact that the plank on which the Rivers governor won the award was his being tagged “Mr. Project”, according to Silverbird chairman and “Common sense” senator, Ben Murray-Bruce. That, then, is ironic. Was the timing of these photographs a mere coincidence? It could be; it is a good story on its own that did not need more than the captions. But as someone who had taken courses in African philosophy in the University and is aware the African theory of causal explanation goes a step beyond the Whiteman’s “what”, “when”, “where” and “how” to ask “why”, we must ask why those photographs that impugned on Wike’s advertised achievements came up at that point in time.
Was the story planted and could it have been politically-motivated? It could be but if I were the editor, I would still have used the photographs anyway because they made a good story, never minding whether or not they came straight from the pit of Hell. The photos also helped the newspaper perform its critical functions of holding the government accountable to the people by adverting Wike’s focus to a responsibility he was yet to discharge. Was the newspaper “used” – because that is likely going to be the explanation of those around Wike? My answer is that newspapers are “used” every day, whether they know it or not; whether they subscribe to it or not; and whether or not they benefit from it as individuals or as corporate entities.
There is hardly a news story, opinions, letters, editorials, and even photographs published by newspapers that Public Relations people and quacks cannot take advantage of to reap pecuniary benefits and or political gains unintended by or unimaginable to the newspapers concerned. Myself as newspaper editor many times over, I saw this happen again and again. It is, however, interesting that the photographs in question are of a secondary school in Ikwerre; Transportation minister and ex-governor of Rivers, Rotimi Amaechi, is from Ikwerre. Amaechi and Wike, hitherto bosom friends and political associates, are today fierce political opponents doing absolutely nothing to conceal the no-love lost relationship between them. So, if the Wike people read politics into the damnation as well as timing of the Igwuruta photographs, I can understand. If accusing fingers are pointed in Amaechi’s direction, the cap fits.
One thing is sure, even if Amaechi knew nothing of the photographs or had no hand in its placement, he would still be the happiest man on earth that events played out the way they did! Was Wike rubbished with the publication of those photographs? It depends on how he reacts. If he picks a battle with the newspaper that published the photographs, he will be making a terrible mistake, even if he has irrefutable proof the photographs were planted or that it was the machination of his political opponents. Photos don’t lie; so the picture of decay presented of Igwuruta Community Secondary School is real and cannot be wished away.
Moreover, I have not seen anyone, least of all a politician, who fought a battle with the media and won. Even where they go to court and win libel cases and receive cash awards, it usually turns out Pyrrhic victory. Wike should take the photographs in good faith and move to Igwuruta and do the needful. No sensible person thinks any governor can fix all the problems or do so all at once. The simple definition of politics by A. Appadorai is that it is the allocation of scarce resources; and of who gets what and when. It is the good fortunes of Igwuruta that the photographs in question have drawn public attention to its plight. It is only if Wike drags his feet or still neglects to act that he will lend himself to accusations that he harbours vendetta against Igwuruta because, like Amaechi, it is Ikwerre.
North’s duplicity on Boko Haram
The North is duplicitous and deceitful on Boko Haram – and annoyingly so because the resources wasted on this silly insurgency are sorely needed in other critical sectors of the economy. The lives and limbs being lost to the insurgency are also dear to their families as well as to the nation. If there was any doubt before about the political games the North is playing with Boko Haram, the recent abduction of another set of school girls in Dapchi, Yobe State, dispelled it. We now know that there is a conspiracy in high places to allow Boko Haram pull off such unimaginably daring raids. Troops withdraw and then Boko Haram steps in. The blame game between the Yobe governor, military authorities, and the police on Dapchi exposes the monkey game going on in the name of fighting insurgency. Some people simply do not want the insurgency to end. It is now their pot of soup. Placed side-by-side stories that troops closing-in on the Boko Haram leader, Shekau, had been ordered to pull back on a number of occasions, and the solicitous statements of Northern leaders in support of Boko Haram in times past, including those by President Muhammadu Buhari himself, it is obvious that the Northern political and military class are economical with the truth on this issue. With the benefit of hindsight, can we again blame ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, the irrepressible Patience, for lingering on their doubts concerning whether Boko Haram’s kidnap of the Chibok girls is phantom or real? We must not forget that Boko Haram, to start with, is a Frankenstein monster created by the North itself; that they supported, aided, and defended it vociferously and ferociously when a Southerner/Christian was president; and that even now that a Northerner/Muslim is president, their unalloyed support for the anti-insurgency efforts is suspect, to say the least. The Borno State governor’s bombshell that the anti-insurgency war has yielded better dividends under Southern commanders bears testimony here. Buhari, who castigated Jonathan on Boko Haram, took over since three years; yet, those who know say there has been no appreciable improvement in the weaponry available to the troops or in their welfare package. Yet, trillions have been committed to the military – and, like Oliver Twist, they are still yelling for more! In the wake of Dapchi, Buhari was in his village holding meetings on his second term with APC chieftains. Yobe governor, only a few days after the kidnap, found the stomach to proceed to the state university to collect honorary doctorate degree! Neros, not leaders! Those who have the power to end the Boko Haram charade appear to share consanguinity of purpose and ideals with the insurgents. In their heart of hearts, they are themselves sold out to Boko Haram’s political and Islamic agenda. Government unwittingly – some have vowed that this is done deliberatively – strengthens Boko Haram with the billions of Naira ransom money paid to the insurgents. Any wonder, then, that Boko Haram’s rag-tag army is said to be better armed than our own soldiers? By releasing hardened commanders of Boko Haram in dubious prisoner swap deals, they continue to stoke the fire of insurgency. Recently, they also released those they called “repentant” insurgents! Who told them they had repented? Did we not hear one insurgent say recently that if he was released this moment, the next he would find his way back to Sambisa forest? Pray, is that the same Sambisa they said they have cleared of Boko Haram insurgents? Unfortunately, we are not able to say “their good grief” because many of those caught in this vortex and intricate web of elite conspiracy are ordinary people, hapless minorities, and Christians strewn across the North’s vast landscape. Who does not know what will become of the committee set up by the Presidency on Dapchi should read this: Many such committees litter the landscape; for instance, the one on Maina. Has the man been found? Has he been arrested? Has he been brought to justice? Yet, he stays in a safe house from where he throws tantrums and mounts court challenges. The committees’ goal is to deceive the people by giving them cold comfort; they give the impression that something is being done when nothing, really, is purposed to be done. They set them up to buy time, hoping and believing that some other issues would soon crop up that would lessen or completely take away our attention. In this shithole country of one scandal, one day, has that not been how it has been? Can you remember again all the scandals of this Buhari administration, not to talk of those carried over from the Jonathan era? Committees are diversionary tactics par excellence. Once tempers cooled, they are swept under the carpet. This government is the most unorganised, most uncoordinated, most confused, most rudderless, most leaderless, most divisive, most visionless, most unprepared, most rapacious, most destructive, most corrupt, most intellectually and morally bankrupt this country has ever had!