By Kenneth Esele
Perforated wisdom is man’s greatest foe right medieval times. In Nigeria, dearth of personal scruples and the commensurate eclipse of moral etiquettes have cast many into damning hell with selves. Most leaders in Nigeria today, only define virtues and values from their narrowed prisms of what is beneficial no matter how weird or even thrusted to them by the devil.
Nigerians have had to bear this burden for ages. And the trend seems to be worsening each passing day. It is reason for the commonplace and boldface reeling of lies, falsehoods and concocted “truths” even in sacred places. The proclivity to freely churn out unconscionable lies by supposed leaders is persuasively heartbroken. It is worse with some politicians or the clan of leaders bestriding the land today.
Even in church, the unrestrained proclivity to deceit, lies and mindless hoot of empty pride and integrity haunts some leaders like the putrefying smell of rotten meat. Only in Nigeria, do some clergymen and prophets fake miracles and feign spiritual powers they do not possess.
Some Nigerian politicians have “strong rooms, or shrines” which house earthly deities in the fortress of Government Houses they retreat in supplication every day before retirement to bed. But in public glare, they grasshop from one church to another in pious haughtiness and artificialized portrait of saints. But to the clairvoyants, of course, they are saints and apostle of darkness. It reflects in their thoughts, words and actions.
In this clime, it’s extremely difficult to find leaders who accurately fit into the description of upright, selfless, conscionable, honest and truthful men and women with proven emblems of integrity. That they are scarce does not presuppose their total absence. But the subsisting and insurmountable problem is that such personalities of honour and integrity are very few in this clime.
And certainly, Rivers state Gov. Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is the least option in this illumination of integrity. His records of political and public life in his home state of Rivers reeks with resentful odour and filth, the type that trails the credentials of ex-convicts. In Kenya, the great people of Masai have a proverb which says; “The night has ears.” But Wike is oblivious of this reality.
But before smuggling himself into national political limelight under the Jonathan Presidency, Gov. Wike had the reputation of a dreary and scary kingpin of armed political thug for various political masters in his home state. It was his license to prominence and ascension to leadership.
Its inexplicable, but some Nigerians believe in adorning persons with crooked backgrounds. It is Gov. Wike’s incontrovertible badge in public. He could be a saint in shrines before his earthly gods, but a valiant and an evil one in public estimation.
It was therefore, baffling where Gov. Wike got the moral strength and a conscience which bespeaks of integrity to the extent of scolding the institution of the Nigerian Military and directly, the venerated Nigerian Army in such profane diction in a church, directly or vicariously guilty, with blood stained hands.
The Ambede people of theDemocratic Republic of the Congo warned in an adage that “If you carry the egg basket do not dance.” Apparently, Gov. Wike has ignored this wisdom. So consistently, the Governor haughtily brandishes his piteously deprived integrity.
Gov. Wike mouthed on Sunday, January 12, 2019 at the Inter-denominational Church Service to mark Year 2020 this Armed Forces Day Celebration at the Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, Rumuepirikom, Port Harcourt that “It is unfortunate that the military has lost its integrity because of some unprofessional personnel. Nobody is afraid of the military because of their unprofessional conduct. Those who come to rig election or kill Rivers people, Heaven will never remember them.”
Incredible! Assuming Nigeria is not a country of polluted values, characters like Gov. Wike have no business near the corridors of power. Now for the same man to unconscionably poohpooh the professionalism and integrity of uniformed men and the Army or its leadership smacks of the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.
While delving into detailed antecedents of Gov. Wike’s pathetic past is wasteful and needless, a rewind of one or two incidents would really hint of the concealed persona in Gov. Wike. In 2015, during Wike’s permutations to grab power, he allegedly sponsored silent elimination of opponents in the state. Gov. Wike violently hijacked the 2014 PDP governorship primary in River state and crowned himself the party’s flagbearer for the 2015 guber polls.
This undemocratic act generated multi-layered controversies and crisis in the state. The then sitting President Goodluck Jonathan summoned a meeting with all the 15 rival aspirants’ to Wike, party stakeholders and chieftains at Lagacy House, Abuja, the headquarters of his 2015 Campaign Organization. Gov. Wike stunned Abuja residents when he stormed the venue of the meeting with armed thugs before the arrival of Dr. Jonathan. The seated guests were mercilessly tortured and scattered.
Wike’s struggle to grab power at all cost in 2015, orchestrated the violence and killings in 11 out of the 23 LGAs in the state. At least 19 persons were killed in Rivers state as revealed by the Prof. Chidi Odinkalu-led Rivers Commission of Inquiry set up by the then outgoing Governor, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi.
The report ranked Rivers topmost in electoral violence and killings. The same scenario played out during the National and State Assembly rerun elections in the state, with Gov. Wike now as substantive Governor. And exasperated Odinkalu remarked, “It also shows how and why Rivers State and Nigeria must end impunity for political violence.” It was a tacit reference to Wike’s barbaric actions.
The Commission of Inquiry probed a total of 275 different violations centered on killings, injuries to persons, arsons and destructions. And from the suspected 236 alleged perpetrators identified in the course of testimonies, 120 named perpetrators were Gov. Wike’s staunch political thugs/supporters.
The same scenario repeated during the 2019 general elections in Rivers state, where Gov. Wike was desperately seeking for reelection. A short dossier of that elections indicated that a soldier and five other persons were killed; several others injured in the instigated violence that trailed the Presidential and National Assembly elections at Abonnema, headquarters of Akuku Toru LGA of Rivers state.
A chieftain of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Chairman of Andoni LGA , Chief Mowan Etete, was killed alongside his elder brother and cousin in Asarama by suspected thugs of Gov. Wike; just as APC’s state Publicity Secretary, also Chris Finebone disclosed the cold blooded murder of the party’s ex-officio, Ignatius who was shot dead at Ajakaja Andoni by suspected thugs.
These are some of the many odd deals Gov. So, the Army or the APC could have masterminded the murder of their members? Wike and his supporters used every violent arsenal to either compromise or thwart the 2019 electoral process in the state. Security agents arrested top officials of Wike’s government and loyalists in possession of illegal and sensitive INEC electoral materials, as they were ferrying to secret places for massive thumbprinting.
That Gov. Wike’s mandate both in 2015 and 2019 have been confirmed by the courts based on Nigeria’s defective laws and justice system does not vitiate the fact that Gov. Wike is a serial election rigger or fraudster, who is savouring a mandate soaked in blood of the innocent. Where such a leader got the impetus to shout or feign integrity is the greatest tragedy of the democratic cum leadership experience in Nigeria.
Everyone is imagining what persuasions’ compelled Gov. Wike to mouth integrity crafted to mock the Nigerian Army. When did the word lose its genuine meaning to levels where dishonorable leaders like Gov. Wike plays basketful ball in its court? That’s why an African proverb says, “Birds sing not because they have answers but because they have songs.” Wike’s grandstanding is rooted in this African crack wisdom.
Like the Gambians say, “If your only tool is a hammer, you will see every problem as a nail.” Gov. Wike’s main problem in life is barren integrity and he feels every other person or institution suffers from his deformed morality and disfigured conscience.
What else does anybody expects from Wike who is perpetually at war with himself; at war with antigraft agencies and physically fights security agents, including the DSS? His deviation into the recent attack on the reputation of the Nigerian Army is a belated effort to salvage his battered image. It has failed and would continue to fail, unless he embarks on genuine self- reformation and internal cleansing.
And it is not something achieved by trick or such childish antics. The Ethiopians say, “You cannot build a house for last year’s summer,” and it will take Gov. Wike’s genuine efforts to erase his polluted past.
Cheryl Hugheswarns that “The truly scary thing about undiscovered lies is that they have a greater capacity to diminish us than exposed ones. They erode our strength, our self-esteem, our very foundation.” Sadly, Gov. Wike has found himself on such limiting humiliations in spite of his rise to leadership because his lies and hypocrisy are exposed. It’s an understandable nightmare for him of some sort!
But the Nigerian Army is consoled by the words of American novelist Frederick Douglass who said, “I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.” The Nigerian Army prefers to be true to itself, uphold its stainless integrity because like Stephen Covey; “Moral authority comes from following universal and timeless principles like honesty, integrity, treating people with respect.”
If Gov. Wike’s antagonism to these virtues is what he terms integrity, then the Nigerian Army should stay miles away from Wike’s brand of integrity. It only exists in Wike’s thinking faculties and vocabulary.
Esele is a public affairs commentator and wrote this piece from Badagry, Lagos.