By Paulinus Nsirim
The attention of the Rivers State Government has been drawn to an article titled: "Edo Polls and Threats of Violence" published in the Politics page (Page 14) of The Nation Newspaper, August 24, 2020.
Unfortunately, the entire write up leaves a sour taste in the mouth and a disturbing realization of the dubious and sinister intent of how a respected title like The Nation Newspaper may have wittingly breached the ethics of the profession and subjected itself to the objective scrutiny and judgment of the hate speech code.
First of all, the article has no bye-line and this observation, from every objective analysis, puts a question mark on the professionalism of the Newspaper.
Even though the organisation may likely claim, that it was an error of omission, but what it is certain is that the views, opinions and allegations contained in the article are wholly and incontrovertibly the those of the publication. Its editors should be prepared to accept vicarious responsibility for any action emanating from the interpretation of the article.
It is important to state here that as an Independent publication, The Nation Newspaper is at liberty to align with any ideology its editorial focus desires to embrace and if, in the promotion of such an ideology, it finds itself in tandem with the opinions and informed commentaries expressed in any written contribution or commentary it chooses to publish for public consumption, then the management of the publication should do the needful and either classify such a write up as either an editorial of the publication, or put the name of the author on the said publication to give it identity and credibility. They did neither in the said article.
We will refrain from joining issues with all the snide innuendos and direct attacks casting libelous aspersions on the personality of the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike. It is quite provocative and disingenuous to invoke situations, circumstances and events over which one has incomplete knowledge about, as illustrations to justify a conclusion, as the write up has so brazenly concocted as regards the election in Rivers State.
Addressing the vicissitudes and complexities that are already defining the forthcoming September 19, Edo State governorship elections, we wish to place on record that prior to every election he has contested, Governor Nyesom Wike has always been the prime advocate for violence free polls and has loudly insisted that all election must be free and fair and the votes of the people must count. Most importantly, he always advocates that people should be vigilant and guard their votes to make sure every vote counts.
This is the stance of a confident politician who believes in the tenets of true democracy and the process of free and fair polls and we want to state categorically here that the popularity, admiration and overwhelming acceptance of Governor Nyesom Wike as a bold, fearless and charismatic politician is not and has never been in doubt, not just in Rivers State, but across the country.
Those who followed the 2019 governorship elections in Rivers State, which, fortunately, was comprehensively covered by the media including The Nation Newspaper, will recall the outstanding and courageous acts of spontaneous bravery across the state and particularly by the heroic resistance of the women of Ogu-Bolo LGA, who stood their ground and revolted against armed soldiers who invaded their local government polling units to ostensibly hijack electoral materials and truncate the collation of the March 9 elections results in the locality.
Immediately after he was appointed the Chairman of Edo State Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Governorship Campaign Council, one of the very first initiatives Governor Wike undertook, was an interview on a popular national television network where he urged the Security Agencies and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to be impartial in the forthcoming Edo State gubernatorial election. He equally appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari, to prevail on those saddled with the responsibility of conducting the election, to ensure that the polls were free and fair.
Governor Wike has since appeared on several more live television interviews with respected news networks to stress the same point that all efforts must be put in place to prevent violence and ensure free and fair polls in the forthcoming Edo State elections.
These admonitions, coming as they are from the Chairman of the Edo State PDP Campaign Council is a clear indication that the party is solidly advocating for free and fair election in Edo State and is prepared to do everything legally and legitimately possible to protect and defend the votes of Edo people.
Of course, it is only to be expected that Governor Wike will appear like a nightmare to those who believe that intimidation of voters and the deployment of force and might as was widely reported in the last Governorship election in Kano State as well as the Governorship and National Assembly elections in Kogi State for example, will give them victory.
Interestingly, Governor Abdullahi Gabduje is the Chairman of the Edo State All Progressives Congress, APC Governorship Campaign Council and quite coincidentally too, Kogi state has featured prominently as has been widely reported in some media, on matters relating to insecurity in the forthcoming Edo State Election.
To put this disturbing scenario in proper context, we recall the attack on the PDP Campaign Council during their visit to the revered Oba of Benin, the attack on Governor Obaseki's campaign train in Apana (Ward 10), Etsako Local Government Area and the very instructive video of the APC Governorship candidate holding a meeting with a group which described themselves as 'Lions and Tigers" which went viral a few weeks ago.
The Edo State Deputy Governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu, has gone on National media (both print and electronic), to make far reaching revelations, including providing names and photographs and narrating detailed plots of how certain persons are planning to derail the Edo State Election, breach the peace with widespread violence and even assassinate certain persons in his party. He boldly declared that he has already forwarded these information to the security agencies for expected appropriate action.
It is also quite sickening and a stark revelation of the wicked mindset of those challenging Governor Wike, that a benevolent act commiserating with the families of those who lost relatives and loved ones as a result of election violence, has now been twisted in their warped, devious logic to justify election violence.
We will not dwell much on this tragic turn of events, except to state that Governor Wike has zero tolerance for election violence and note that for the first time in our political history, a proper panel was set up to identify and ascertain the magnitude of loss and it was not just civilians but also military families were commiserated.
The intention of that heart touching gesture was to send a clear message that all Nigerian lives matter and, in recognition of the fact that families have lost breadwinners as a result of needless election violence, there was the need for government to show care and empathy and identify with the families who were grieving and mourning.
It is indeed quite sad and unfortunate that human lives mean nothing to those who wrote this article as it has already revealed, even before the votes are cast that they are prepared to waste lives because they want to get power at all cost.
We want to state categorically that we take very strong exception to the vile and uncouth attempt to blemish the image and reputation of Governor Wike by the faceless authors of this article. We understand the fact that the mere presence of the Rivers State Governor, has sent uncomfortable shivers down the spine of those who may be plotting to disenfranchise the people of Edo State in the September 19 Governorship election. He has become a scourge to their shenanigans and we are not unmindful of the deliberate media campaign to discredit him, for which of course, we are taking appropriate action. This one too will not be an exception.
On a final note, we want to assure those attempting to smear Governor Wike that their efforts are like pouring water into a basket because the Rivers State Governor is not at all perturbed and is certainly not going to lose any sleep over their uncharitable comments. This rejoinder is to put The Nation Newspaper and those connected with this article on notice that we have seen and read it.
Let us reiterate for the purpose of emphasis, that as the Chairman of the Edo State PDP Governorship campaign council, Governor Wike is once again calling on the security agencies, INEC and President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure a free, fair, violence-free election in Edo State. We equally call on Edo people to defend their votes in line with the laid down election guidelines and take their own destiny in their hands to decide who becomes their next Governor. Power belongs to the people and the voice of the people is the voice of God. In the end, God will win in Edo State.
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State