By Paulinus Nsirim
Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike of Rivers State is without doubt, the most energetic, pragmatic, proactive and charismatic national figure and political leader in Nigeria today.
He is greatly admired across board for his boldness and forthrightness. The patriotic enthusiasm and chivalry, which he exudes in his honest, robust, unfettered and crusading for all the right causes endears him to many.
The events of Thursday, July 16, 2020, captured especially the leadership authority and courageous audacity with which he stormed the home of Dr. Joi Nunieh, erstwhile Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to rescue the helpless woman, from the menacing siege of armed security operatives, hell bent on abducting her, has already been chronicled in the already burgeoning heroism of Governor Nyesom Wike.
The gravity of the situation in which Dr. Joi Nunieh was rescued by the Governor Wike can perhaps be best comprehended, not only in the very graphic video footages, some of which showed people breaking down the backdoor of her house to gain entry into the main building like determined assassins, but indeed in the fact that both the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, CP Joseph Mukan and the Inspector General of Police, IGP Adamu Mohammed, were reportedly not even aware of the operations of the armed security operatives without an official warrant of arrest.
This kind of situation in Nigeria, often translates into very sinister and in many instances, terminal outcomes.
Governor Wike’s arrival had therefore being quite timely and fortuitous, as the hapless Dr. Nunieh, who had been billed to appear before a National Assembly committee that morning, suddenly found herself obviously at her wits end in her room looking down on her diabolical persecutors and visibly in frantic panic, until the reassuring sounds of the Governor’s siren brought overwhelming relief, sanity and freedom to a sordid episode.
Intriguingly, many Rivers State and NDDC watchers may have guffawed and scoffed with the predictable retort of their old cliché “Wike don come again”, only a few days ago, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, when the Rivers State Government had released a statement, calling on those involved in the ongoing investigations in the NDDC, to ensure that a daughter of Rivers State, Dr. Joi Nunieh, does not suffer any harm in the course of their undertakings.
The statement noted that the Rivers State Government is not interested in the drama unfolding in the NDDC and
will never support any action that will jeopardize the laudable intentions of President Muhammadu Buhari to positively reposition the NDDC and fulfill the yearnings and aspirations the Niger Delta people.
The statement stressed that Rivers State owes it as a duty to protect her citizens from danger no matter their political affiliations and that it will not fail to protect their daughter ,Joi Nunieh from actual harm or perceived danger.
“We cannot fold our hands and watch anyone harm her or indeed any Rivers citizen. We advise those involved in the present altercations in the NDDC to thread with caution in their actions and utterances” the statement concluded.
Two days later, the scenario which the Rivers State Government had envisaged, actually came to pass, with the besieging of Dr. Joi Nunieh’s house by armed men from unknown quarters, without a warrant. Governor Wike’s anticipated scenario had manifested and like a true leader and a man of his words, the Rivers Governor physically stormed the residence, dislodged the frustrated agents with characteristic authority and took the greatly relieved former NDDC acting managing director to the safe confines of Rivers State Government House.
Governor Wike himself summed up the day’s event thus: “What has happened today is a disgrace. Who knows what would have happened to her if they had gained access to her main room. I went there personally to see things for myself and rescued her. She is supposed to testify before the House of Representatives Committee and here we are having armed men wanting to abduct her.
“We came out to protect our daughter and we will do so to every Rivers citizen. That is the oath of office I swore to. It doesn’t matter the political affiliation. We will not allow anybody to destroy Rivers state.”
He also called on the Inspector General of Police to investigate the circumstances that led to over 50 armed policemen storming the Port Harcourt residence of Dr. Nunieh at 4am on Thursday, July 16, 2020, in an attempted abduction operation, and ended with a terse warning : “From what has happened now, I want to say that Rivers State is fully out. Anybody who is responsible for this attempted abduction of our daughter, should know that enough is enough.
“All the Niger Delta States should find out if any of their citizens have a hand in the unfortunate incident and call on such people to leave our daughter alone. She is no longer the Managing Director of NDDC. The way things are going now, it seems people want to destroy Rivers State and it is unacceptable. They can’t treat her as a common criminal. I am sure that President Muhammadu Buhari is not aware of this,” he said.
It is important to remind those who may be nursing the belief that Governor Wike was only playing to the gallery with his earlier warning that no harm should befall Dr. Nunieh and indeed his storming her house on a rescue mission, that the Rivers Governor’s pledge to protect the former NDDC boss, actually dates back to November 2019, when Dr. Joi Nunieh, in her capacity as the then newly appointed managing director of the NDDC Interim Management Committee, visited Governor Wike in Government House, Port Harcourt.
The Rivers Governor not only endorsed and congratulated the then newly inaugurated Interim Management Committee of the NDDC, but also affirmed his allegiance and commitment to protect anything that concerns Rivers State.
“As a true Rivers person, I cannot do anything that is against the interest of Rivers State. Political affiliations come secondary. What matters to me is the development of Rivers State.
“The appointment of the Interim Management Committee is purely an executive function and there is no reason for our people to be fighting over it. I will protect anything that has to do with Rivers State,” he declared then.
In fact, what happened at Dr. Joi Nunieh’s house is indeed not the first time Governor Wike has risked his life in the fight for justice against the terror and impunity of armed security operatives on innocent citizens.
Rivers watchers will recall that fateful day on October 8, 2016, when Governor Wike foiled the attempted arrest of Justice Mohammed Liman, a Federal High Court Judge, in a nationwide gestapo-like sting operations against Judges in the country.
Agents of the Department of State Services (DSS) had stormed 35 Forces Avenue, Port Harcourt, where Justice Liman had been residing in an ungodly midnight hour and forcefully broke into the compound with the intention to arrest the Judge, when Governor Wike arrived and ensured that Liman was not arrested, even after the recalcitrant security operatives had reportedly “pushed and shoved him” in a bid to intimidate and scare him away.
Governor Wike’s comments on that fateful night in October 2016, had not only been consistent with his statement on July 17, 2020, that the security agencies did not follow due process in the discharge of their duties, but had also been uncannily prophetic in capturing the reenactment of the same impunity four years later at Dr. Nunieh’s house.
He said: “Not under my watch will I allow this kind of impunity to take place. That is why we are here. I don’t know which judge they were detailed to abduct. I didn’t bother myself to know which judge. All I am interested in is that, at this level, it is not allowed.
“He is not a criminal and he is not an armed robber. If the person has committed an offence, invite him. It is only when he refuses to honour the invitation that you can adopt this commando style. The Commissioner of Police is here, the Director of DSS is here. Their operatives cocked their guns and threatened to shoot me. I have never seen that before. Again, this is to tell you what we are facing. We know that more will come. For us in this state, we shall continue to resist it.
“It doesn’t matter what it will cost. When you talk about liberty, sacrifices must be made. We are not trying to stop an arrest. All we are saying is that things must be done decently and in line with the rule of law. Rivers State is under siege. For you to see a governor out at this time of the day, something is wrong. A siege is an understatement. If this type of thing happens next time, the people will resist it to the last.”
The unsavoury incident which played out in the near abduction of Dr. Joi Nunieh and her timely, dramatic rescue has revealed once again that Governor Nyesom Wike is not just a man of his words alone, but a leader who is ever ready and willing to brave the odds and even put his own life on the line to protect the interest of Rivers State and secure the lives of Rivers people, any day any time. He had done it countless times in the past, he did it again on July 16, 2020 and will continue to do it whenever the need arises.
Like one prominent leader and elderly citizen of Rivers State, in his reaction to the near abduction of Dr. Nunieh said: “His Excellency, Gov. N. Wike has once again proved that he is a real statesman with his prevention of abduction of Dr Nunieh from her house at such ungodly hour by ‘security operatives’. ITS KUDOS TO HIM. My warmest regards to him. Rivers people are proud of him,” the elderly citizen gushed with real pride.
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State