The Rivers State monorail project
The intention expressed by the governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike to discontinue the monorail project because ‘Rivers people have told me not to touch the monorail project left behind by the other government’ is wrong and, in the interest of the people, should not be given effect.
It is assumed that Governor Wike recognises the responsibility of his office, the cardinal point of which is the greatest good of all the people of Rivers State irrespective of any inclinations. It is assumed too that he will execute that office with the utmost nobility.
Apart from the fact that Governor Wike did not provide a shred of evidence, opinion poll or referendum result, to support his claim, it does not stand to reason that the prospective beneficiaries of the project would suggest its cancellation.
That Wike would consider this course of action at all tells badly on his understanding of political leadership as a trust from the electorate to put the people’s interest above any other.
But, of course, lately, the story of political leadership in Rivers State has been characterised by immaturity and intolerable personalising of lofty and serious matters of state and of public interest. Governor Nyesom Wike and his predecessor, Chibuike Amaechi, now Minister of Transportation, have both carried their political differences to irresponsible levels. This has resulted in such violence, in words and deeds, as has earned the state the unflattering tag of ‘Rivers of Blood.’
What manner of interpretation, for instance, can be given to one government’s description of its predecessor in such contemptuous, dismissive phrase as ‘the other government’?
It is trite to state that the principle of development strategy is anchored on some essentials. Following health and housing, transportation infrastructure is arguably the next human imperative and critical factor essential to development. Government is a continuum and it is to be expected that whoever is in charge has an abiding responsibility to make the movement of people, goods, and services as easy as ever possible.
The economic, other benefits of light rail transportation system for intra-city purpose are so obvious that an argument in favour of it is unassailable. It eases the movement of people and goods; it takes pressure off the roads and makes them last longer; it reduces the vehicular consumption of fossil fuel and in turn, the attendant environmental pollution. The list could go on. In sum, a prudently, transparently-funded and efficiently managed monorail system in Rivers State or anywhere else, as proven from other climes, is a demonstrably wise investment in the economy and also the convenience of the people.
The monorail project is, therefore, meant to serve the people of the state; it is neither personal to the governor who initiated it, nor his government.
Any government should be reminded of its constitutional duty. Section 14 (2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) states that ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government’ and to fulfill this is the only reason the people voted governments into power.
If the governor has reason to review the project on the grounds of prudence, transparency, design, or any other, he not only has the right to clear this up but should be encouraged to do so. But only with a clear and convincing aim of making the project serve its purpose even better.
In addition to the unreasonableness of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, abandoning the project would constitute a waste of public funds, which would be unacceptable especially at this time of scarcity. To seek to destroy everything for reasons that are more personal than reasoned policy is small-minded. And, it is not governance, not to talk of good governance.
Certainly, the game of politics has, in Rivers State, degenerated into personal wars at the terrible expense of the citizens and has claimed lives including that of a youth corps member on national service. This, again, is not acceptable.
The principal actors in Rivers State should, therefore, rise above petty politics and be leaders who act in the present for the good of the future.
Governor Nyesom Wike is privileged to be in office today and he has the chance to write his name in gold. This he will do only by shunning the distractions of partisan politics, putting himself at the service of all the people of Rivers State and doing all that will make life more abundant for them, including the completion and smooth operation of the monorail project.