Jonathan, Amaechi and culture of self-help

To properly grasp the far reaching implications of the mayhem that took place in the Rivers House of Assembly last week, we will have to situate it within the larger context of a ‘self-help culture’, a euphemism for anarchy which has come to define the fourth republic since its advent in 1999. When I suggested diarchy on this page last week as one possible way of curing those who have institutionalized a’ culture of self-help’ of their madness, many thought I was dragging the nation backwards.

General Obasanjo, as the chief guardian of the military decreed 1999 constitution, undermined the legislature and the judiciary. Accused governors were impeached by a handful of state legislators who themselves must have compromised their positions from a hotel room hundred of miles from the scene of their crime.

The culture of self-help became institutionalized. Serving governors rigged elections through the help of the police and directed their victims to go to court while brigands held on to their priced loot- the governor’s seat. NNPC and Nigerian Ports were unabashedly and openly used as sources of patronage. Legislators, without qualms awarded themselves scandalously indefensible salaries and allowances.

The current crisis in Rivers is about 2015. The president and his men want 2015 without opposition and without the electorate, if resorting to self-help would achieve the same goal. Timipre Sylvia of Bayelsa became the first victim. Amaechi of Rivers seems to be the next.

But beleaguered Amaechi, who became governor in spite of PDP, is proving to be a good product of self-help culture. Trying to exploit the sentiments of his people over Rivers/Bayelsa oil well issue he had openly cried out: “They have taken our oil wells from Etche; they have taken our oil wells from Kalabari; they have taken our oil wells from Andoni and they are battling to take over those in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni. We are losing our oil wells everyday; If I speak, they will say that I am stubborn, but we have to defend our rights; Part of the problems were facing now is that we are fighting to protect our oil wells.”

Ignoring the president body language, he seduced the opposition by sharing their sentiments on Sovereign Wealth Fund, Excess Crude Account, fuel subsidy, East-West road, Adamawa PDP case amongst others to win a Nigeria Governors Forum election by 19 to 16 votes. Humbled in its own game, the presidency scandalously embraced Jonah Jang the loser in the election. The Rivers State House of Assembly suspended the chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area allegedly for corruption. Amaechi hid under the doctrine of separation of power to ignore the presidency pressure to reverse the decision. Again, beaten in its own game, Abuja resorted to self help. Obio-Akpor LGA was taken over by the Rivers State Police Command who chased out the council officials without any legal authority and without information or consent of the state governor. Dakuku Peterside, a federal legislator from the area described the action as ‘the height of lawlessness which each day moves us closer to anarchy’.

Amaechi lost out in Rivers PDP intra-party feuds. But he secured a moral victory because the judgment in favour of Obuah who did not participate in the Rivers PDP congress nine months earlier was thought to have been influenced by powers that be in Abuja. The Abuja FTC court judgment by Justice Ishaq Bello, was described by Professor Itse Sagay as having ‘the capacity of derailing our democracy.’

Joseph Mbu, the Rivers State Commissioner of Police claimed he has the mandate of the National Security Adviser (NSA) in far away Abuja to chair the Rivers Internal Security Council while Amaechi, as the chief security officer of his state wanted it rotated. Mbu, publicly called the governor names, supervised a demonstration led by militants but insisted the governor would need a permit to lead his own protest against Mbu and his Abuja backers. Amaechi once again got sympathy from far away Niger State whose governor Babangida Aliyu, said, “Mbu, allegedly, with the backing of federal government, has virtually taken over the security functions of democratically elected governor”.

In June, in a show of power, the First Lady shut down the Rivers State capital ostensibly to attend the wedding of Evans Bipialaka. In July the same man at the head of five legislators procured a fake maze and proceeded before the arrival of 23 other members, purportedly impeached the speaker and declared self the new speaker. Even while the perversity was still going on, the Obuah led faction of Rivers PDP, loyal to the presidency, congratulated Bipialaka . “The lawmakers who elected Bipialaka as their Speaker had once again demonstrated the unity and sense of purpose that characterized the hallowed chamber before the crisis”; the party’s spokesman, Monday Oyenzeowu asserted in a statement. Gulak assertion that ‘Jonathan, a man of peace’ is not behind Rivers crisis only make critical minds chuckle.

Betrayed by Mbu and abandoned by Abuja, Governor Amaechi also resorted to self-help. He rallied round a few loyal security men ostensibly to rescue his 23 loyal lawmakers and dislodged the’ five law makers’ loyal to the president. In the ensuing melee, Okey Chindah, a member of the President’s army of self-help enforcers was battered with the fake maze he and his daring four law makers had procured. He has since been flown abroad by the federal government for treatment, on tax papers account following his injuries.

Now, the presidency, the god father of a ‘culture of self-help’ is blaming Amaechi for resorting to self help to chase out rascals and hoodlums that took over the state House of Assembly. His political adviser, said, “I am not aware of any plan to impeach the governor …what I know is that the House of Assembly intended to change their leadership, rightly or wrongly, they have a constitutional right to do it if they have the majority.’ Ahmed Gulak conveniently forgot to say, the presidency’s five foot-soldiers tried to impeach a speaker backed by 23 lawmakers.

The Inspector General of Police M.D. Abubakar and the Police Service Commission chairman, Mike Okiro are more interested in the professional misconduct of the governor’s security aides. But many Nigerians, because of their own antecedents, unfortunately see their emergence as arising from a ‘culture of self-help’. Okiro, critics claimed was a card carrying member of PDP and an alleged government contractor before his appointment. Very few similarly forgot his role in the humiliation of Ribadu who as chairman of EFCC was demoted before being chased out of office and the country because he stepped on the toes of corrupt PDP leaders notably the British-jailed James Ibori and other ‘South-south’ indicted governors. Abubakar, the IG on his part, was alleged to have been indicted by the Justice Niki Tobi Commission of Inquiry examining the 2001 Jos crisis as Commissioner of Police in Plateau State, for allegedly taking sides in the sectarian violence which led to the death hundreds. In other words the outcome of the probe would be taken with a pinch of the salt by cynical public.

But perhaps as the2015 battle becomes more vicious with both Abuja and Port Harcourt relying on ‘self-help’ to outwit each other, both sides may need to weigh the observation of  Dr. Junaid Muhammad that the culture of self-help as demonstrated by the ‘current developments in the PDP and especially in Rivers State bear an uncanny resemblance to the old Western Region, which led to the collapse of the First Republic, with very serious and bloody consequences. Then and now, the popularly elected leaders of those parts of the country were prevented from exercising political power and control, and the operations of the police, the army and the rump of security services were interfered with in a brazen political manner.’

Perhaps we should add by reminding ourselves that when decent men such as Awo, Rotimi Williams, Enahoro, Adegbenro, Soroye opted to tackle the brigands and their federal backers in court, the judicial process was manipulated. And when they appealed to the British Privy Council, the federal government overnight changed the laws. One would have thought the travails of our nation since 1966 would have been instructive to those in Abuja who think they are invincible. But do people ever learn from history?

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