I am happy for Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. On January 27, 2016, the Supreme Court upheld his victory at last year’s governorship election. The governor has been singing victory songs. He deserves it. But he has to choose his dance steps carefully, else he may be like the antelope that dances its legs to pieces even when the dance is yet to begin.
A few days ago, the governor, as part of his victory dance, declared 27 January of every year as public holiday in Rivers State to celebrate the Supreme Court victory. He enthused, “Every January 27 will be observed as a public holiday in this state because that is the day God came down to save Rivers State. What people must understand is that power comes from God. We know God speaks last and he has spoken.”
I find this curious and disturbing. Granted, the election itself was war. There were pockets of violence here and there. There were reports of rigging in some areas. The opposition was formidable. It was led by no other person than the then governor, Chibuike Amaechi. Even, there were enemies within Wike’s Peoples Democratic Party who did not want him to emerge as governor.
The real battle started after the Independent National Electoral Commission declared Wike the winner. His main challenger, Dakuku Peterside of the All Progressives Congress, went to court to seek a nullification of his victory.
Stories started flying that the governor was going about secretly to bribe the judges who were billed to handle the case. The more he denied the rumour, the more it manifested like a festering sore. To cut a long story short, the matter went through the election petition tribunal to the Appeal Court and finally to the Supreme Court.
Given the suspense, trepidation and tension that trailed the court sessions, the celebrations in different parts of Rivers State become understandable. The governor himself led in most of those celebrations.
But then, declaring an annual holiday to mark the day, to say the least, is frivolous. We already have too many holidays in this country: New Year Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Worker’s Day, Democracy Day, Id-el-Fitri, Independence Day, Id-el-Kabir, Id-el-Malud, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. Outside these fixed holidays, there are some notable dates when some people decide to give themselves some form of a holiday. Valentine’s Day is one of such. That day, a lot of people work half day and close to have some fun. Most times, their idea of a Val’s Day is having wild sex with concubines.
Also, some states declare public holiday to observe one event or the order. Sometimes, it is to mourn a departed citizen or to celebrate one festival or the other. The same Rivers State also declared a public holiday for Friday, February 5, 2016, to enable all Rivers people to prepare for rerun elections earlier scheduled for February 6. INEC has just rescheduled the elections for March 19.
The fact is, if all the states whose governors won in the Supreme Court declare such days as public holiday, then we may be unwittingly telling the whole world that we are a nation of unserious-minded fellows. Remember that the Supreme Court also upheld the elections of Oyo, Delta and Yobe governors. Will these governors also declare public holiday every February 2 to mark their victories?
That will amount to one chasing rats while one’s house is on fire. Wike and other governors should think more of how to salvage their states and the country from the looming economic crisis.
Many states are not able to pay salaries. Our oil fortune is dwindling. Companies are laying off staff. Nigerians are dying of hunger and deprivations. Perhaps, the only group not suffering as such are the politicians, especially the governors. As former President Olusegun Obasanjo put it, the governors are living like emperors.
Leaders need to be more careful with their actions and pronouncements. No productive economy thrives on holidays. A time like this, when many people do not know when the next food will come from, demands that we devise ingenious ways of making money to feed our people. It demands that we look beyond oil if we must survive the financial crunch ravaging the country now. It demands that we become more serious with our lives and cut off any frivolity that will present us as being a bunch of clowns.
While Wike is savouring his victory, he should occupy his mind more with enduring legacies he needs to bequeath to his people. At the end of his tenure, people will assess him not based on the number of holidays he declared but on how many kilometres of roads he built, the schools and hospitals he equipped and how many people he was able to gainfully employ.
Wike’s Victory Holiday