When the renowned play writer, Ola Rotimi wrote the fiction with the above title used in this piece, he never envisaged that the actions of some of our present politicians in Nigeria will perfectly correlate to his message. But before I delve into the crux of this piece, I will love to commend the passion and zeal dissipated so far by the Governor of Rivers State, in his bid to combat the spread of the dreaded coronavirus in the state. The efforts put in in making sure that the executive order made by the Rivers State Executive Council mandating all residents of PHALGA and Obio/Akpo Local Government Areas to stay at home indefinitely was fully adhered to. But the intent of the executive order forms the bulk of the message of this piece.
I had expected that the intent of the executive order that gave life to the lockdown which restricts the movement of persons and vehicles should have been preceded with the fumigation of all public places, parks, markets, etc. as one of the measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the state, but to my surprise, none of these have been done and there appears to be no plan, at least judging from all the public statements made by the governor of the state since the outbreak of the coronavirus in the state suggests that there are plans in the offing in this respect in the nearest future.
Also, the arrest and trial of those who have violated the executive order, especially those who came into the state from other states, not minding that the state was under lock and key is commendable, but the intent of the governor to auction their vehicles and all the contents of the vehicles are steps that will be taken too far. The governor may have to make a rethink about this.
The Rivers State governor must also understand that there are exceptions to every rule, hence the directive to close down all business, including private clinics and pharmacists cannot be said to have been done in the interest of the people. One would have expected the governor to have granted exception to medical stores and private clinics operating within the streets and estates so as to be able to attend to emergency health situations. There are already reports of some deaths recorded as a result of this directive due to the insensitive actions of security personnel, acting on the directive of the governor not to allow anybody without the government permission to leave their houses. This is unacceptable and unfortunate.
The controversial demolition of two hotel buildings in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State for disobeying the governor’s directive not to operate while the lockdown law was still subsisting was unconstitutional and draconian. One would have expected the governor to seal the buildings and afford the owners of the hotels fair hearing in the matter before jumping into such crazy action of demolishing their buildings and source of livelihood. The lockdown is not only observed in Rivers State and the action of the governor cannot be justified. In some other states that have had such report, such buildings had been sealed by the government bending further actions; which may not exclude the charging of the offenders to court and legally prosecute them according to the extant laws.
It must be noted that some of the utterances and show of raw power by the Governor of Rivers State falls short of any democratic principle. He must also understand that we operate a constitutional democracy which is above the government and the governed. Since the demolition of the two hotels in Rivers State by the state government, some legal experts and members of the Civil Society Groups have criticized the action of the governor as being out of place. They argued that the governor lost the mark in this action. The intent of the lockdown is yet to be ascertained given the present report of seven new index cases of the coronavirus in the state. The governor must have a rethink in the continual lockdown of the state under the guise of trying to protect the lives of the residence of the state as some persons have already died and many more will follow should this lockdown continue, because there are rising cases of starvation and failed health of persons in the state who cannot access medication or food to eat for fear going out of their houses less they will be arrested by the state government taskforce.
By Azowue O. Emmanuel