GOVERNOR WIKE AND THE POLITICS OF COVID-19

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In recent times, the governor of Rivers State has been taking some very controversial decisions as far as his measures to curtail the spread of the dreaded virus called corona virus is concerned. The recent one being the pulling down of two hotels for contravening what the governor called executive order no.6. The general understanding of the order is that itprohibits the operation of hotels in the state until further notice.
This opinion will not dwell on the legalese of whether the executive order 6 constitutes a law under our legal jurisprudence. This write up will concentrate on the policies of the Wike’s administration on the curbing of the world pandemic ravaging the entire globe.

Governor Wike would want to be given an award as the first governor that took pro active step in curbing the virus in Nigeria. He claims to be the first governor that locked his state borders amidst criticisms. This is not correct. If there is any governor that deserves such an award, that would be the governor of Lagos State. The governor of Lagos State
could not shut some of the state borders because they are international borders, and he wanted to act within the ambit of the law unlike Wike who throws the law into the winds in his self acclaimed fight against the covid-19 virus. The Rivers State governor has lost ideas and lack coherence in handling the virus in the state. This is despite the fact that the state is one of the lucky states with minimal confirmed cases of the virus. On the Easter week, the governor made a statewide broadcast, and told everyone who wanted to listen that the state has made tremendous success in the curtailing of the spread of the virus,
therefore, having achieved such success, both the Christian and Muslim communities should hold Easter church services and the Friday prayer with their full congregation. People criticized this, and in just a few hours, the governor recanted his decision. Since then, we have not seen a clear cut vision in the fight against the corona virus. The attention of the government has shifted from curtailing the virus to exerting its
authority on the people. The governor has been acting like a classic tragic figure. If he is not taking on the federal government, he will be threatening the people of the state. He once accused journalists of no positively reporting his efforts in the state, rather they down play it.
Like every classic tragic figure, the governor of Rivers State has become law unto himself. He makes the law and executes the law. Curfew and total lock down of the state is no longer a means of fighting the virus; rather it is now a means of punishing the people. First, it was the 24 hours curfew imposed on some areas of the state because they
disobeyed government directive on public gathering. Later he imposed a total lock down on some parts of the Port Harcourt City and Obio\ Akpor local government areas for refusal to adhere to government directives after repeated warning. Later, like a cannon let loose, the governor placed the entire local government areas under a 24 hours total lock
down. For him, we must learn how to obey constituted authority. Before that, he had called all the traditional rulers in the state, and was addressing them like school boys condescendingly, threatening to depose any of them that allowed his domain to flout his government directive.
For the past one month in Rivers State, sadly, the news is no longer about the virus, but about the politics of the virus. The Rivers State governor has so much politicized this issue of corona virus that one finds it difficult to understand the policy of government if any as far as curtailing the spread of the virus is concerned.

For close to two months now, Rivers State has been on lock down. The markets, schools and the streets are not being decontaminated which is what the government should be doing. Nobody is hearing anything about the virus again. Nobody knows how many patients have been discharged.
While other states are announcing the discharge of patients, Rivers State has announced the discharge of only two patients for about three months now. Even Kano State has announced the discharge of more patients than Rivers State. Treatment of the virus started about two weeks in
Kano. The Chief Medical Director of the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital put the blame on the door step of the governor. The CMD noted that if the governor had corroborated with the federal government, more patients would have been discharged, and those who died may not have died. The governor should understand that nowhere is the
lock down indefinite. Let him cite anywhere in the world where the lock down was made indefinite. Governor Wike should not apply methods that have never worked anywhere in the world. His inconsistent policies have thrown the people in the state into confusion. Today, the news reads that 10 new cases of the virus have been confirmed in the state. This is despite the lock down in the state for over two months now. What I expect Wike and his government to do is to study the pattern of transmission in case if all 10 of them are not index cases. If they are people who entered the state at any point, then it means that the borders have to be properly monitored. If they are contacts of the index
cases, then prevention measures is the only solution, and not lock up, lock down and what have you.

The WHO has noted that the corona virus may not go away even with a vaccine that can cure it. What this presupposes is that lock down may not continue for long. The purpose of lock down is to curtail the spread of the virus to a point where citizens can now take personal responsibility. That personal responsibility is wearing of nose mask, observing personal hygiene- this way the virus cannot spread. But what we see in Rivers State is a show of power. It is unfortunate that some people we thought to be responsible citizens will support the despicable act of the governor of demolishing people’s properties. While the rest of the world is opening up their economy which Nigeria has cued into, the Rivers State governor is locking down the state. Even other states worst hit in Nigeria like Lagos, Kano, FCT and others states are opening up their economy. The Rivers State governor in his broadcast (there areso many of them coming up almost every day) claimed that Kano State is under 24 hours total lock down. That lock down has since expired before
governor Wike’s speech. This shows that he is not even properly appraised with the facts on ground. But despite the lock down governor
Wike talked about, the Kano citizens were given a 3 day window to go to
the markets for the purchase of food items. In Rivers State, the markets
have been closed for two months now. Lives are being put in jeopardy.
People’s livelihoods have been cut out. Jobs are being lost. Hunger is
biting hard on the people, yet the governor after two months of fighting
corona virus, will be pronouncing an indefinite lock down of the economy
hubs of the state. Wike has linked the fight against the corona virus to
a war. But even in a war situation, people find way to go to the markets
to buy food stuffs, and hospitals still open. Governor Wike should begin
to cease the lock down and allow people go back to work. The only
solution for now is that people must take personal responsibility- wear
your nose masks, wash your hands regularly. Avoid handshake and maintain
social distancing. Go out only when it is necessary and avoid crowded
places, corona virus will be shamed.

Chimezie  Elemuo is  a lawyer and Public affairs analyst

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