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The challenge of change
- By Saturday Ikoro

Published  August 30th, 2015

Change by any definitions is usually met with skepticism, resistance and opposition as is the case between the current and past administration in the Rivers State government. It is about time for each side to step back and devise a mean to destroy the demon that is destroying the state. It is about time for someone to act as the adult in this schism that is shaking the foundation of governance to the core. As long as there are intrusion and obfuscation by external forces in the act of running the affairs of government, the present administration would be constantly and consistently distracted from its duties to serve the people of the state the best it can.

Serving the people of Rivers State is what Governor Wike was elected to do. He should be given the space necessary to perform his job. Sam Walton, the owner of the world's second retail organization said this. "In the end, what matters is what you have done for others". From all published accounts, Mr. Wike is given the opportunity the electorate bestowed on him his best shot  and this electorate will decide in four years if what he has done for others merit another four years.

We all should and must be aghast by actions of the former governor, Mr. Rotimi Amechi which is below the belt in boxing arena parlance. But the recent ruling by a Port Harcourt High Court Justice Simeon Amadi stating that Wike has the constitutional authority to set up a commission of enquiry has kept our hope alive. The ruling was fundamental in upholding the rule of law which Amechi seems to have forgotten. In his decision, the trial judge left a solid mark on the judicial hall of fame because he interpreted the law instead of creating new laws. He eschewed judicial activism that we have so often been identified with. Some key points in that ruling were worthy of note. He debunked Amechi's challenge of the commission of enquiry by stating that the governor (Mr. Wike) has constitutional authority to exercise that executive power. The judge also challenged Mr Rotimi Amechi to prove any harm or injuries suffered as a result of the enquiry commission's establishment. The judge said..." The judiciary is not the only last hope of the common man, but it is also the last hope of the mighty and movers and shakers of democracy. Those, who by the benevolence of the judiciary got to power, should resist the temptation to emasculate the judiciary". Interpretation of the last sentence speaks volume and is a swipe at Amechi and thus a euphemism for initially coming to power using the court and has therefore lost whatever probity he has left by pursuing frivolous law suits.

These frivolous law suits are making me sick and tired and I am indeed sick and tired of the report on The Vanguard newspaper of August 21, 2015 in which the former governor claimed to have left N10 billion Naira for his successor. Now listen to the ridiculous explanation of how he accounted for the eight to ten billion figure." Amechi said N7.5 billion cash was the balance in the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) account with Skye bank, FAAC account with Zenith Bank, balances with Access Bank and funds in the state's reserve fund account in First Bank. This is besides other balances in the Government House account with Zenith Bank and other government MDA accounts, like the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP). By the time you pull all these together, we are looking at readily available cash in the region of eight to 10 billion naira left for the Wike administration. It's also pertinent to point out here that former Governor Amechi also left economic assets worth tens of billions of naira for the state. Just like cash, the assets store value. These assets that are scattered in diverse sectors of the economy were developed or built or procured with revenue that accrued to the state during Amechi's tenure". Should not it be the responsibility of Amechi to “pull all these scattered assets worth tens of billions of naira together” rather than kicking the can down the road for Wike to do it? These winding statements were well articulated but with a huge problem hanging all over them. This begs the question. Were all of these accounts records provided in the handover notes? Lest we forget, Mr. Amechi did not hand over anything. Furthermore, the Amechi administration was unsure if the amount was 8 or 10 billion naira which suggests that Amechi spokesperson was actually inaccurate or certainly bloviating. Former Governor Rotimi Amechi, the man of God as he has relentlessly claimed should appear before the commission of inquiry to prove that indeed he is a Nigerian in whom there is no guile. If Governor Wike declared an empty treasury upon his assumption of duty, it is not his job to prove the negative. That job of proving the negative belongs to Amechi. And he has done a poor job of it due to lack of transparency of his administration and refusal to hand over official responsibility to the new administration. Again, he must show up in the inquiry session to set the record straight and making vitriolic statements is not the answer.

Transparency is required today in Nigeria more than ever before. Wike must ensure that he brings all stakeholders in when making strategic decisions that affect our lives. Since we interact closely on a local level, the Wike’s administration must make sure that the local government chairmen and women are executing their official functions with the aim of delivering benefits that are expected but rarely provided. Wike can accomplish a lot by having a bi-monthly or quarterly meeting with these guys. This will ensure they are being not only good but excellent stewards of the government resources also. According to our local expression, ‘a defective yam sets itself apart in the barn’. That is, incompetency or misappropriation of funds would be noticed and caught in a timely fashion. Or as President Ronald Reagan used to say when he negotiated arms reduction treaty with the then Soviet Union, "Trust but verify". That's the phrase or principle we must hold dear in this generation and by leadership and emerging leaders.

"There is no thrill in easy sailing when the skies are clear and blue. There's no joy in merely doing things anyone can do. But there is some satisfaction that is mighty sweet to take when you reach a destination that you thought you'd never make"(Spirella). For Governor Wike, the destination would be an enduring legacy that gave hope and aspiration to many. It is his choice to give us all the change we can believe in.


Saturday Ikoro

Atlanta, Georgia USA.


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