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Editorial

RIVERS OF CRISIS: WAY OUT OF THE WOODS

“Only a foolish cab driver would insist on his right of ways when he sees a trailer heading his direction. If he does, he may not be alive to tell the story”

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Ocean waves typical of the crisis in Rivers State
Ocean waves typical of the crisis in Rivers State

It is now common knowledge that Rivers State is in deep turmoil, with Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi at the centre of the crisis. It is no doubt an uneasy time for the governor, who has contributed immensely to enrich the lives of the people of Rivers State.

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His landmarks dot the state, from good roads to beautiful classrooms and some of the best that a governor could have bequeathed to those who voted him into power. But all that now seems to be in the past as whirlwind of crisis has enveloped the state, leaving analysts to at best conjecture how things will turn out to be.

The crisis however came to head last Wednesday, 10th July, 2013, when five lawmakers out of 32 in  Rivers State House of Assembly impeached Speaker of the House, Hon. Otelema Dan-Amachree and adopted Hon. Evans Bakapaye-Bipi as new Speaker. What followed was mayhem of the highest order.  Evans had declared that Amachree was removed due to incompetence and promised that his leadership would take the House to a higher level.

It was while making his speech that Chidi Lloyd, House Leader rushed in with some security operatives in company of Amaechi and unleashed mayhem.  Chinda who was at the receiving end of the attack had some of his teeth knocked out with the House of Assembly Mace besides sustaining broken skull and lips.

Speaking from his hospital bed at St. Patrick Hospital, Rivers State,  Chinda explained that  the election of the new speaker was concluded before the mayhem ensued.

“I was about leaving; I never knew that Chidi Lloyd, was very close to me in the House. I was misled by my closeness with him. I never had any idea that he could be so brutal to use such a weapon on me. My colleagues rushed me to this Saint Patrick Hospital in the pool of blood”, he said before his operation.  But Lloyd was not his only assailants.

ADC to the governor, Debewari Seimeikumo, and Chief Security Officer to the governor, Tony Iwelu were also caught on tape, physically assaulting Chinda.  A gale of condemnation followed what has been described as ‘show of shame’ in the Rivers House, with many attributing the impasse to interference in the affairs of the state by President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, Patience Jonathan.  The Action Congress for instance called for impeachment of the President, while the Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka advised the President to call his wife to order. From Abuja, the House of Representative acted swiftly through a resolution,  calling on the National Assembly to take over functions of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

For the Trade Union Congress, what has taken place in the House is nothing but dishonourable. “Without mincing words, the spectacle of honourable legislators turned pugilists can best be described as very dishonourable and a show of shame,  proving that politics in Nigeria is seen more as a most lucrative business than a call to service. We could only wish that the blood stains we saw on the wall of the House and in hospitals two days ago happened in one of the nollywood movies”, the union said in a statement signed by Comrades booby Kaigama and Musa Lawal, President and secretary of the union. The union descried the fracas as fallout of long drawn-out disagreement between President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Rotimi Amaechi over conflict of interests and aspirations in the 2015 elections.

“An inescapable conclusion for any onlooker would be that each of the lawmakers has been well compromised with some form of pecuniary and/or political inducement or the promise thereof from either of the political gladiators”, the union said, stressing, “ little wonder that the honourable members could not manage themselves properly and proved themselves very dishonourable. Worse still, from media reports, it appears that the war between the foot-soldier legislators and their
respective godfathers cum war generals is not yet over. And while the elephants fight, the grass – in this case, the people of Nigeria in general and the people of Rivers State in particular – suffer”, TUC,
said and called on  well-meaning Nigerians to step in and reverse the tide.“On our part we say “No” to any continuance of this show of shame and insist that President Jonathan, Governor Amaechi and their respective misguided yes-men in the River State House of Assembly cease forthwith from embarrassing the rest of Nigeria with their egoistic, crazy and ill-advised power-play.  The end of the era of madness in high places in the Nigerian polity is long overdue.  Enough of bad rubbish by our so-called leaders”, the TUC warned.Besides the TUC, the Anti-corruption Network, led by Hon. Dino Melaye has also threatened to mobilise youths to march on the President and the Inspector General of Police. “What is going on in Rivers State is African Magic. We leave Amaechi’s life in the hands of Mr. President and his wife. We give the IGP one week to remove the Commissioner of Police of Rivers State, failures do so, we shall mobilise Nigerians like never before to occupy the force Headquarters in Abuja. The President should get ready for ‘Egyptian Treatment’. Touch Amaechi and touch Nigeria. The abuse of law and order by both the anti-Amaechi legislators and the Nigerian Police is not only disgraceful but will not be tolerated by the masses of the people in the country. The presidency cannot absolve herself from this satanic manifestation”, Melaye explained.But analysts are of the view that neither the takeover of the House as proposed by the House of Representatives, nor the call for impeachment of the President would douse pervading tension in the state since all the suggestions can at best scratch the matter on the surface.  A lecturer in the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Dr. Abiola Sanni believes that the key lies in attacking the matter from the root.“The solution lies at going to the root of the problem by addressing the illegal dissolution of the local government”, he said in Lagos, adding that the chairman, his vice and the councillors are elected representative that can only be removed through a due process, stressing that the lawmakers dissolved the council only to appoint people seen to be loyal to the governor.He also condemned what he described as a horrid motion and resolution from the House of Representative to take over legislative matters in Rivers State, stressing that to act in such a hurry without full knowledge of what has transpired only portrays members of the House of Representatives to be flying the cart of an interested group.  Besides he argued that taking over the duties of the Rivers State House of Assembly has dire consequence since it could precipitate a situation where the President would be left with no option but to exercise some powers which may not be in the interest of Amaechi.

In his reaction to the brigandage and ways of getting out of the impasse, Founder Oodua Peoples Congress, Dr. Fredrick Fasehun advised Amaechi to accord due honour to the President, irrespective of the differences. “What you sow you reap. Sow respect and you reap respect; sow dishonour and you reap dishonour. Not only the holy books alone,  good home training teaches this and the Governor ought to know,” he advised.

While assessing the development and argument that Hon. Chidi Lloyd and his cohorts acted in self defence having been attacked at the initial stage, Dr. Chima Nnaji, also a legal practitioner reasoned that the argument would not hold since the retaliation was not simultaneous and that time has elapsed, while the level of devastation was disproportionate.  Nnaji called on Amaechi to exercise restraint, warning that only a foolish cab driver would insist on his right of ways when he sees a trailer heading his direction. “If he does, he may not be alive to tell the story”, he said. While condemning members of the House of Representatives for acting in haste, the lawyer explained that politics is about bread and butter thing, adding that most of the utterances, even from the civil societies are based on interest.

The lawyer called on the governor to be wary of those who pay him courtesy call only to speak in glowing terms about the crisis, stressing that they are not helping matters.

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“The governor should have cerebral content. There are people who are feeding from the crisis”, he said, stressing that Amaechi would be the one to do down when the chips are down and not those fanning the embers of war. He also called on the Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar to look into the allegations against the Commissioner of Police Rivers State, Mr. Joseph Mbu and commend him where he is seen to have acted professionally, cautioning that the commissioner should however not be seen to be confronting the governor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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