Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and Most Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah, the Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, on Monday disagreed on the best way to entrench and consolidate democracy in Nigeria.
Bishop Kukah, who was the guest speaker at a public lecture organised by the Rivers State government to mark Wike’s third year in office, lamented the assault against the judiciary, and how the long years of military dictatorship has impacted negatively on the country’s nascent democracy.
He said that there was something seriously wrong with the level of bloodletting across the country, adding that many Nigerians had been trapped in their respective states due to violence.
“We cannot be in a society where so much lives are being wasted. We must come to terms with the fact that something unacceptable has happened in Nigeria…”
Speaking on the theme, “Democracy in Nigeria: Still Many Rivers to Cross” at the event which was chaired by Prof. Ben Nwabueze, the Catholic Bishop declared that “the country still has a long way to go.”
Kukah, however, pleaded that Nigerians had the responsibility of exercising patience for the democratic process to gain root in the country, a statement that prompted the governor to “disagree” with the cleric, saying that certain circumstances demand urgent and immediate actions.
Governor Wike, who spoke after Kukah’s lecture said that the people have a key role to play in safeguarding democracy, just as he stressed the need for the Federal Government to obey the rule of law.
The governor said that those who seized the Rivers State judiciary complex on May 11 had the intention of toppling his government but were prevented by the people who insisted that the complex must be opened in order for the courts to discharge their duties.
Kukah, in his lecture noted that the subversion of the country’s democracy by the military was having consequences on the country, adding that “in an authoritarian state, the loyalty of security operatives is to the man in power.”
Going back to the years of military dictatorship, “when the military began to appropriate individuals from the judiciary and made them the head of tribunals,” he noted that “such individuals only went there to validate the intentions of the army.”
Kukah also harped on the country’s political culture which has made it very difficult for the average politician to remain in one political party.
“This has consequences in our democracy. There is need to stay the course. Political parties cannot be created as a vehicle to capture power. Whenever we join a political party, we are extending the frontiers of enmity. Nobody wants to be against the party in power,” he said.
Wike decried a situation where the Federal Government selects the court order it obeys, and also intimidates the judiciary, rather than complying with the rule of law.
He said that the closure of the judiciary complex should ordinarily attract condemnation from the Federal Government, pointing out that nothing has been said about it.
“The only way for democracy to work is for people to make sure that things work. You may call it taking the laws into your hands… If the people had not gone to the court and said no, the courts must open. What happened was a coup but the people said no,” he said.
Wike also noted that he has a mandate to ensure that the will of the people prevails, and to ensure that injustice is not allowed in Rivers State.
Earlier at another programme Monday, the governor said the issue of soot challenge must be blamed on the Federal Government which has developed cold feet in preferring solution to the problem.
Governor Wike accused the APC Federal Government of playing politics with the environmental challenge.
He said the claim by Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transportation, that his political party can resolve the soot challenge in six months was indicative of the fact that the APC Federal Government was involved in negative politics.
The governor said that the crude way security agencies demolish illegal refineries was responsible for the soot.
He said that the Rivers State Government was working with three oil majors to institute a measure towards addressing the soot challenge.
He said in the interim, the Rivers State Government was involved in sensitisation of members of the public.