By Egufe Yafugborhi
PORT HAR-COURT— Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Kukah and Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, yesterday, expressed divergent views on how best to salvage Nigeria’s democracy, particularly in Rivers State, from a contemptuous culture of violence.
Both personalities disagreed in Port Harcourt where Bishop Kukah delivered a public lecture on Democracy in Nigeria: Still Many Rivers to Cross, as part of activities to mark the ongoing 3rd anniversary celebration of Governor Wike’s administration, with Prof. Ben Nwabueze as Chairman of the occasion.
Kukah had, among other pathways for enduring democracy in Nigeria, advised that stakeholders need to be patient because democracy in the African environment was peculiarly volatile. But Wike, in his objection, noted that patience cannot be stretched to where individuals and state institutions subvert the course of justice, citing the recent attack on a Rivers State High Court.
According to Kukah, “We are being impatient. The only elections that are free and fair are the ones that brought our friends, brothers and associates to power or government. When the result does favour us, they are not acceptable. And those who have grabbed power do not want to leave.
“We are being impatient. When we hear in Europe that somebody has resigned on grounds of xyz, the question we ask is, can it happen in Nigeria? The truth is that the environment in which democracy is contested in Africa is sufficiently volatile and it requires not the same set of laws as we have in other places.”
Governor Wike on his part, said: “I differ in the manner you say we should be patient. On May 11, 2018 the courts in Rivers were locked, depriving the state, lawyers and the people the liberty to use the judiciary.
“The perpetrators were individuals and the police. If security agencies who should be protecting democracy and people had shut the courts for one week, what do we do? Are you saying we should be patient? The people must take their destinies in their hands when democracy and their freedom are being threatened.
“Government awards contract to construct roads in all parts of the state. The people should be happy. We have expanded, but because it is in the nature of some persons that one man must preside over who says this road must be done or not, one man says I am the one who must determine what happens in Rivers State. That is the problem.”
In his remarks, Prof. Nwabueze said: “Why should anybody consider to search the residence of a ruling governor? I laugh.
“We cannot do without democracy. Anybody who thinks there is a better option than democracy is just deceiving himself. Sectionalism and nepotism have bedeviled Nigeria’s leadership.
“We are charging you, Wike, as leader of this young generation of Nigerians, not only in Rivers State, we want you to help us save democracy in Nigeria. Under you, Rivers State’s dynamic leadership is thriving.”