By Emem Idio
YENAGOA—SIXTY-ONE-year-old Pius Waritimi, the aradical lecturer of Fine and Applied Arts at the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Niger Delta University, NDU, Wilberforce Island, Amassoma, Bayelsa State, is not new to staging a “one -man squad” protest.
His first public activism was in 2009 when he staged a solo protest against the governance style of the administration of former Governor Timipre Sylva. An accomplished sculptor and visual artist, Waritimi’s imprimatur is visible in sculpturing works that adorn public edifices and roads in the state capital. Waritimi, who ventured into politics, contested the last governorship election in the state under the platform of the Democratic People’s Party, DPP, and lost to the incumbent governor, Seriake Dickson, is highly critical of the policies of the latter.
Rebellion on Valentine Day: On February 14, Valentine’s Day, while Governor Seriake Dickson, his army of supporters and ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, faithful in the state were in frenzy mood celebrating the fifth anniversary of the present administration, Waritimi chose same day to make public his grievances over nonpayment of eight months salaries.
•Mr. Pius Waritimi
Tagged, “No pay, No Work Dignity March,” the varsity teacher who walked tens of kilometres from Agudama to Peace Park, Government House Gate, told NDV reporter who caught up with him that he would not relent in his demonstration until his salaries were paid, lamenting that his dependants were suffering as he was not meeting his responsibilities.
‘My protest is against the system’ “My grouse is how I can work and not be paid for up to eight months with all my responsibilities as a father and husband. I have three children in the university, one is studying law, another is studying political science and another studying petrochemical engineering and their father is being owed eight months salaries and I am supposed to be responsible for their education. The pain is unimaginable. My protest is not against anybody, but against the system that seems not to care about the plight of the ordinary people, who put them there.
“I carried out a one- man protest during the administration of former Governor Timipre Sylva because I saw a lot of things wrong during that administration and if am passing through a similar thing worse than what happened during that era, I thought it was also necessary for me to come out to protest as well.
State of emergency in the educational sector
As a matter of fact, the man that is on board today had during his inauguration, five years ago, declared a state of emergency in the educational sector, only for him to turn around again to stop paying salaries of workers in an institution that is owned by the state government. The governor also told the world that he is going to inaugurate another university that is state-owned called the Africa University, Toru-Orua, and some of us see it as putting the cart before the horse.”
Overbearing rule: Waritimi asserted: “The governor seems to know it all, he has been so autocratic, he has so many advisers, but nobody can advise him. That is why those of us outside, particularly the opposition, feel it is time we check his excesses. Unfortunately some of my kinsmen who have been enjoying largesse of the governor seem to see the line I am toeing as counterproductive.
However, most people are not happy with what is going on but they expect people to come out and talk, but nobody is forthcoming and they see me as somebody, who is speaking their minds. If not for the threats from the state government, most people would have come out in solidarity with me.
‘ASUU helpless’ “It’s a daily thing till my salaries are paid and if my salaries are not paid I cannot work. You are not paying the people and you are telling the people no work, no pay, but me, I am saying ‘no pay, no work’ and I will challenge it in court. If you pay me, I will work, but if you pay me and I do not work, you have all the instruments to check my not working, but you are not paying me and you are asking me to work.
“The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, NDU Chapter, has tried its best, it is not their fault. In fact, I empathized with the union, they are doing their best and at the same time, I will not say that some of them have been bought over.”