By Dakuku Peterside
I watched Governor Wike spend more than one hour of precious time on three national television networks paid for with Rivers tax payers’ money responding incoherently to an interview I granted earlier . It was a one hour that exposed his ignorance and made Rivers State Government an object of ridicule before the whole world. Gov Wike did not fail to prove right those who say Rivers State does not deserve a comedian and an Area Boy as Governor. He literally went to the mud, his natural territory, and muddled up serious issues of statecraft.
Wike’s main argument is that I said the budget of a state or an organization is indicative of the aspiration and performance of the economy. He wondered how a doctorate degree holder can say such a thing. First is to admit I said so. Let me repeat it, that the budget of a Local Government, State or Nation is the most important document year on year and it encapsulates the hopes and dreams of the people. It reflects the capacity, imaginative thinking, ambition and direction of the government. I would not bother to dignify Wike with a reply but will set the record straight for posterity sake.
A budget is an expression of the economic history and aspirations of any organization including a state. It is painful to school the Governor of a state, let alone Rivers State, about the basic import of the financial estimates of public economic activities; that, like the world over, public income and expenditure estimates are the bedrock of economic activities. He may like to know that the revenue estimates are an indication of the size and health of the private sector as captured in taxation; that the expenditure estimates and history are an indication of the growth trend and developmental trajectory of a state or nation.
I was more embarrassed when I read the statement he authorized his Press Secretary to issue, that one has to respond at the cost of engaging Wike who has expressed clear ignorance in the importance of the document his entire government designs and implements. What is clear here is that by these statements, we can now confirm that Wike does not know what he claims to be doing in the government house. No wonder there are ‘seven’ bridges that solves nothing on the same road in nearly seven years of clear ignorance and mismanagement.
If the State’s income and expenditure pattern is not the core indicator of your economic life, Wike should come and tell us what then is. It is noteworthy that in his confessions of ignorance about the import of the budget, Wike did not offer one reason why the budget is not an indication of economic health as I asserted. Budgets as I stated in my interview are supposed to be a reflection of the government’s economic, social and policy direction and that from what I have seen and read Wike is taking Rivers State nowhere.
We now know why things are so deplorable in Rivers State after trillions of Naira expensed over the nearly sssSseven inglorious years of Wike so far. Rivers people should note that, at least, Wike has confirmed he does not know why (and how) his government prepares her budget and its impact on the Rivers economy. Now we know why the State has been rudderless because it has been in the hands of a confessed economic novice like Wike. We can now understand why private investment is completely absent or is sparing. It is because public investment is unplanned, not targeted, and uncoordinated, and that growth is impossible in such a “boys-o-yeah” or “breast pocket” approach to public policy. Though painful, we take solace in the knowledge that this ill-wind shall soon pass for good and we can restart the growth and development of our state through appropriate budgeting.
I am happy Gov Wike agreed that it has been six years of no real governance in Rivers State. Since he did not challenge this assertion, I will not bother as my position was so clearly stated in the interview under reference. He made reference to courts being shut down for almost two years. You can now see how an accidental Governor addresses serious matters of statecraft. Wike also talked about the road to my hometown of Opobo which he played less than 5 percent role in the completion as an indicator of good governance. We are unlucky to have a joker as a state Governor and I am confident Rivers people will also come out of this nightmare that forces of darkness foisted on us. I rest my case.
Written by Dakuku Peterside, PhD., former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA)