From Tony John, Port Harcourt
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has assured that he would continue to conduct the affairs of government in a manner that will not undermine the interest of any ethnic group resident in the State.
Governor Wike gave the assurance on Monday when he played host to leaders of Northern Elders Forum (NEF) led by its Chairman, Prof Ango Abdullahi, at Government House, Port Harcourt.
Prof Abdullahi identified what he called a ‘leadership pandemic’ confronting the nation, saying that it requires an urgent solution.
The Northern leaders were in the State to meet with their co-ethnics in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests that was hijacked by the proscribed Indigenous People Organisation of Biafra (IPOB) in Rivers.
Governor Wike applauded the leaders for the visit to ascertain what actually happened during the #EndSARS protests.
According to him, it was sad that people would do the wrong and tie any effort made to correct them to politics and ethnic bias just to deepen the divide among Nigerians.
‘The #EndSARS protest was very peaceful in Rivers State. Oyigbo Local Government is one of the biggest in terms of population in the State. Miscreants woke up one morning because people are doing EndSARS protest and began to kill innocent people. They burnt down police stations, killed police officers and soldiers and destroyed courts,’ the Governor said.
‘When you say what you’re done is wrong, we can’t allow it, they say you’re against a particular ethnic group. How can that be? That action almost led to big violence between this group and that group. I am the Governor of the State; how can I allow my State to be a centre of war? That can’t happen.
‘Nobody can sack anybody here. Everybody has the right to live in the State. But no group can say it is their own place. I won’t allow that. We also have Rivers people who are living outside. So, I can assure you that I will not do anything that will not be fair to any ethnic group,’ he declared.
Governor Wike said he had raised the alarm against the danger of insecurity after cultists killed over 100 persons on a particular Christmas’ eve in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government of the State.
He regretted that the Federal Government reduced the issue to politics, saying that insecurity is ravaging every state of the federation.
The Governor also recalled how Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad’s (FSARS) brutality against Rivers People was also ignored.
He noted that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had issued a report that indicted the FSARS commander in the State, but instead of addressing the issues, the erring officer was rewarded and promoted.
‘The primary responsibility of every government is to make sure that life and property are being protected. When that is lost, then, there is nothing like governance again.
‘But it appears there is leadership pandemic like you said. If truly leadership is serious, if we don’t politicise the issue of security, we won’t have been where we are today. God has made it possible for us to be part of one country, that means where you come from should not be a factor in order to move this country forward,’ the Governor stressed.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Northern Elders Forum, Prof Abdullahi, said though they had received complains from Northern residents of what happened during the #EndSARS protests, the NEF had decided to visit the South to ascertain the facts.
He explained that based on the Forum’s interaction with Northerners living in Rivers, they seemed fairly comfortable and satisfied residing in the State.
According to him, the kind of empathy, sympathy and care that Governor Wike has shown as a leader, was worthy of emulation.
‘There is no doubt in my mind that this perhaps can be explained by history. The greatest history in terms of the political relationship between the people of the North and the Southern part of the country can always been found deeply rooted here in the Niger Delta area.
‘We, not only on behalf of Northern Elders Forum, but on behalf of Northern community world over, thank you very sincerely for what we have heard and, indeed, what I have seen in terms of what you have been able to do to help ameliorate some of the challenges and difficulties faced by our brothers living here,’ he stated.
Abdullahi said if the harmonious coexistence between Rivers people and Northerners living in the State could be replicated all over the country, the country will be a peaceable place for all.
‘You have a leadership role to play in terms of what the country requires. If you put your heads together, this country will not only survive, but it will also thrive.
‘Your Excellency, from the discussion we have had with our brothers and sisters who live here, and they are almost more yours than ours, is that there is a lot of hope in this country. What is missing is whereas we are having virus pandemic, we are also having leadership pandemic and something has to be done about it,’ Abdullahi said.
Other members of the NEF delegation included former Speaker of the House of Representatives Ghali Umar Na’Abba, former NRC presidential candidate Bashir Othman Tofa, Hakeem Baba Ahmed and General Saleh Maina (retd).