A few weeks ago, the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike had promised that he will not interfere with the processes leading to the emergence of chairmen and councillors for the 23 local governments of the state.
His declaration was greeted with applause from his party members, especially those with the ambition to contest the election. The moment that statement was made public, so many people who had hitherto feared that as usual, perceived godfathers could hijack and influence the processes in their favour started throwing themselves into the ring, with the hope that the governor would make sure that the processes are not just transparent, but also seen to be transparent.
A lot of them must have sold their property to raise money for the election, the first step being the primary. Of course, since the opposition had since announced their intention not to take part in the election, for obvious reasons, one of which was the PDP's refusal to wait for the Supreme Court's decision on the tenure of the sacked chairmen, it is already given, that whoever wins the PDP ticket is on his way to the council.
But it is worrisome that with the turn of events, Wike has disobeyed the law he made. And it presents him as a lawmaker and lawbreaker. It also presents him as a man who cannot respect his words. It paints the picture of a man who is not just a dictator but an emperor of some sort.
Penultimate week's announcement by Wike, of the disqualification of all PDP chairmanship aspirants in Degema Local Government Area shows that the governor has arrogated to himself, the powers of a sole proprietor. With the declaration, he had clearly usurped the powers of the PDP as a political party.
In making the announcement, which came through his special assistant on electronic media, Simeon Nwakaudu, Wike shut out all the aspirants from Degema for the chairmanship position. There were no reports that the aspirants were tried by their party and found guilty of sponsoring the said violence in their domain, to warrant their disqualification from the race.
We are worried that the way the governor is going, democracy might just be threatened. What it means is that there may have been other decisions that the governor may have taken, independent of the party leadership, on the same election.
It is doubtful if Wike will accept from anybody, if assuming his party leader at the national level decides to disqualify him and other contenders, under similar circumstances, when it is time for his own primary election.
As much as the governor is recognised as the leader of PDP in the state, we think it would have been better for the party to discipline its members after due process, instead of the governor taking a unilateral decision on the fate of numerous senior members of the party who had dreamt of becoming their party's flagbearer, and by extension, chairman of the local government.
For the governor's statement on neutrality to be taken seriously by his party members and by the people of Rivers State, we implore him to live by and act according to his pledges. He should, as much as possible, endeavour to present himself in secret and in public, as a team player and not as someone who is power drunk and ready to whip his boys at the slightest provocation. As a governor, he owes the people of Rivers State the responsibility to lead them rightly, with integrity. The action he took in the case of Degeme was clearly not a democratic decision and should be reserved.