Workers in Rivers State are currently not with Governor Nyesom Wike in his 2023 presidential aspiration. Concerned activists in the state say the organised labour has every reason to oppose Wike’s presidential ambition until he meets their demands.
Despite Wike’s combative posturing, checks by this reporter tend to show that there is a larger threat looming from the governor’s current disposition.
The aggrieved labour in the big oil and gas state says it has since longed for a negotiable settlement to all outstanding issues which the state has the resources to implement. But the Wike administration does not seem to be eager to play ball pretty soon.
It is even being argued that if Wike becomes president, he might not be willing to negotiate with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to find solutions to the intractable problems in the education sector where he was once a junior minister.
Wike of Rivers state is already pumping millions of public funds into the polity to prosecute his ambition of becoming President Muhammadu Buhari’s successorin 2023.
Wike, a stalwart of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), brands himself as a very courageous man. Arguably, he is one. He has also stood firm with the PDP since the inception of the party.
For some concerned activists and the organized labour, there are ominous signs that if Wike becomes president, he might not listen to the plights of the ordinary folks nor subscribe to dialogue as a means to resolving grievances which is the hallmark of democratic governance.
‘’If Wike becomes president, it is possible he could even deploy the judiciary to intimidate his opponents’’, a pro-IPOB activist, Ogbonna Ike, said.
It is being alleged that Wike has refused to heed the workers’ plea for his administration to pay pensions and gratuities arrears owed them.
Chairperson of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in the state, Mrs Beatrice Itubo, says while the governor pays the monthly pensions, he has refused to negotiate the payment of the arrears. She is painting a very pathetic picture of the tragedy resulting from Wike’s alleged refusal to accord priority to the welfare of starving civil servants.
In an interview she granted The Punch newspaper earlier, Mrs Itubo argued that if a civil servant retires from the service, the individual will be left for about two years without payment of such entitlements.
‘’Once the individual is keyed into the pension system after the period, the past years are not accounted for; the arrears are pocketed and unaccounted for.
‘’In an economy where many live from hand to mouth, workers are not only dying in droves but forced into homelessness’’, the labour leader said.
Labour is also alleging that schools in Rivers are running with overburdened teachers with some teaching courses from primary one to six. This is an indication that the Wike administration has notbeen able to strike a balance in those areas that remain key priorities to stimulating comprehensive economic growth.
Silent critics in Port Harcourt, the state capital, say Wike has instead concentrated his focus on projects that yield high revenue to his pocket, thus enabling him to engage in reckless spending and donations to further his political ambition.
For a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC), Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, ‘’Wike’s concentration in demolishing and rebuilding flyovers across the state capital has beautified the Garden City but it comes at very high cost to the public good. It’s no wonder the NLC chairperson refers to Wike as ‘an overhead bridge governor.’
‘’A man who prefers threats and intimidation to negotiations is sending a message that the people will be taking a big risk supporting his candidacy.
‘’A governor that sees governance from the prism of just providing potable water, electricity and roads to the people in a society where development has become more complex beyond mere provision of basic infrastructure is obviously not the right person to aspire to become Nigeria’s leader at this point.’’
While the governor’s spokesman, Kelvin Ebiri, could not be reached for comments because of his trademark of not picking his calls from colleagues, it is obvious that his principal needs to settle Rivers workers who have since longed for a negotiable settlement to all outstanding labour issues which the state has the resources to implement.
Rather than do that, he has continued to brag about his courageousness, his uncanny ability to rid the country of all terrorists and their paymasters.