The impunity in Rivers……Guardian editorial

THE current political crisis and reign of impunity in Rivers State is one perfect illustration of Nigerian politicians’ warped sense of duty and their disrespect for democracy. For instead of concentrating on service to the people, their primary concern remains who is up that must be brought down or who is down that must be buried.

In their love of power for its own sake, the only use to which they put it is intrigues and vanities, sparing no thought for the people in whose trust the power is held.

Despite the public outrage at the political crisis in Rivers, pitting the state governor, Rotimi Amaechi against known loyalists of President Goodluck Jonathan, it worsens by the day and now stretches the fragile peace in the land. This is unacceptable and must stop forthwith. What started as a disagreement on policies such as the Sovereign Wealth Fund and the location of some oil wells between Bayelsa and Rivers State has now become a petty ego battle over who has more powers between Abuja and Port Harcourt. And expectedly, the Federal Government-backed forces have been baring their fangs, and are poised to pummel Amaechi to submission.

Even though, they have seized upon the crisis over the dissolution of a local government management committee, the real reason for the raging feud is common knowledge. Loyalists of the Jonathan presidency have variously accused Amaechi of aspiring to contest as a running mate to another governor in 2015 in a manner considered an affront to the second term ambition of the incumbent president. The Nigerian Governors’ Forum, which he chairs, according to them, has also been run like a trade union and it is so antagonistic to the Federal Government of Nigeria notwithstanding that he is a member of the ruling party. Amaechi’s opponents, obviously backed by powerful forces in Abuja, have enlisted the support of the PDP leadership with the result that he is more or less a persona non grata within his party.

As an indication of its outright displeasure with him, and as a first step in the battle to subjugate him, they sought to prevent him from continuing as the chairman of the Governor’s forum. And as a ploy to remove the carpet from underneath his feet, the party created its own Governor’s forum and made Akwa Ibom’s Godswill Akpabio its chairman.

As is typical of “Abuja,” the almighty Abuja politicians began to pile pressure on Amaechi.

To achieve maximum effect, they began to look for his sins. They then laid their hands on documents relating to the purchase of a private jet by Rivers State Government and came out to say that the purchase price was inflated. Thereafter, it was alleged that the aircraft did not belong to Rivers State and at another time, its papers had expired for which reason it was grounded at Akure airport for several hours. The aircraft’s operation in Nigeria was also deemed illegal. The latest is that clearance documents used by the aircraft for its registration were forged.

To a discerning mind, this is no more than blackmail. Abuja has always been notorious for deploying its might to settle scores with perceived political enemies. President Olusegun Obasanjo did the same to his deputy, Atiku Abubakar, and all the governors who refused to follow his line.

The question now arises; why is it now, if not for mischief, that the Federal Government and its agencies are taking up the issue of the purchase of the aircraft by Rivers State Government? Where was the Federal Government or its pretentious agencies at the time all the ‘sins’ were being committed? Is it not curious that no one saw anything wrong with the certification of the aircraft until the disagreement between the presidency and Amaechi began? Does it not amount to an indictment of those overzealous aviation officers charged with the responsibility of certification that they did not adhere to due process before allowing the aircraft to berth or fly?

Assuming for a while that these allegations are true, isn’t there a lawful way of handling it? Is there no statutory way of enforcing compliance with aviation laws without having to resort to brigandage that embarrasses the nation?

By all means, Rotimi Amaechi or any governor who breaks the law should be brought to justice, and all of their excesses, if any, should henceforth be investigated for eventual prosecution. But the ongoing charade smacks of persecution and nothing else.

Whereas, rule of law as an adjunct of democracy requires that state powers must be deployed only for the good of the people, and never as an instrument to settle scores with perceived enemies. President Jonathan may not be directly involved but he cannot claim ignorance of the crisis in Rivers. Some of his aides and known Abuja politicians actually flex muscles around like despots in the way they speak and operate like demi- gods. Because of the awesome power and influence of the presidency to whom they are attached either as ministers, or presidential aide or mere sinecure and hangers-on, they ride rough-shod and do all they can to take control of state machinery from the governors. And when their arrogance and greed are backed by the federal might, the state government becomes crippled. This is the unenviable lot Rivers State is grappling with now; as it totters undeservedly under the weight of impunity. The State House of Assembly cannot meet; one of its local council headquarters has been sealed off by the police on orders, obviously, “from above”and made inaccessible to its officials, while its party leadership, one sacked by the court and replaced with another, is now ineffectual as one faction battles the other.

President Jonathan must arrest this trend urgently so that his government is not identified with impunity. Dispute must be resolved amicably and in the most civilized manner without heating up the polity. Aspiration to any office is a constitutional right of every Nigerian. No one should be victimized for that.

Preserving order, peace and harmony is the highest objective of statecraft. There is enough cataclysm and wailings in the land to which there has been no solution or respite. Nigerian leaders need not open new terrains of chaos.

JD:Your views on this piece will be highly appreciated

1 Comment

  1. There is no doubt Amaechi has to be brought to book concerning the way he spends his state money. However, Nigerians would appreciate the government of GEJ only if it is seeking to probe Amaechi for common good of the people of River State and Nigerians as a whole instead of settling score. Of course, Amaechi corrupt tendency is disgusting, but much more is GEJ goverment handling of corruption in its entirety. His government fails in every sphere. He really needs to set his house in order before lookin out.

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