Recent events in Rivers State gives cause for concern and apprehension. It reminds one of the old Western Region in the first republic. As it was in the first republic, the police are active participants and not neutral observers. This is dangerous and it portends evil for the country. We forget so soon and refuse to learn from history.
As it was in the First Republic, the ruling party at the centre in order to control the Western Region decided to induce crisis using the Action Group’s deputy leader against the leader of the party. In the process, Action Group became polarized. The ruling party at the centre, Northern People’s Congress (NPC) decided to use its federal might to rig elections in the region. This blatant disregard for the electoral wishes of the people led to the crisis in the West, which gave birth to the first military coup and inevitably, the civil war. This also led to the long military interregnum that destroyed the democratic culture that was already developing.
The same scenario is playing itself out again in Rivers State. Rivers State is gradually becoming the wild wild West of Nigerian politics. Governor Rotimi Amaechi due to his principled stance on due process and democratic best practices has been at log ahead with the centre. Formerly of the same ruling party as the centre, the governor was forced out of the party. Many factors are responsibility for the political crises we are currently witnessing in the state. The president is from the neighbouring state of Bayelsa while his wife comes from Rivers State. The centre will want to ensure that the state votes massively for the ruling party come 2015. This may not be guaranteed if Amaechi is not checked as the governor is not
prepared to compromise on his democratic principles. While the governor is thinking of national interest and unity, others are thinking of selfish gains.
The best way then of limiting the governor’s growing influence in the state is for the centre to prop up another individual as the NPC did in the Western Region. With encouragement from vested interests, this new entrant is prepared to let the state burn in as long as he achieves his aim of becoming the governor come 2015.
Democratic principles were jettisoned in favour of anarchy. First, the governor who won re election as the Chairman of the Governors Forum was not recognized by the centre. Rather, someone else who lost in the democratic election that produced Gov Amaechi as Chairman was recognized. A man who got sixteen votes as against Gov Amaechi’s nineteen was recognized by the centre as the Chairman of the Governor’s Forum. Minority wins the vote!
Another absurd move to weaken and probably impeach the governor was hatched. Five members out of thirty two members of the state House of Assembly in connivance with the police went ahead to illegally impeach the Speaker of the House and other leaders of the House. The police looked on while this rape on our nascent democracy was going on. The centre applauded this move of might is right. Five became the majority while twenty seven
became the minority. Today, Nigeria has become a laughing stock in the comity of democratic nations.
The state is gradually being made ungovernable. The attempts to cause confusion and crises in the state are increasing by the day. Events organized by the civil society groups to sensitize the people on the need for peace in the state are being disrupted by the police. The Save Rivers Group has taken it upon itself to preach peace in the state and to advocate for democratic tenets to reign supreme, yet their commendable actions are not allowed to see the light of day by the police. The law enforcement agency has on two occasions disrupted the peaceful gathering of the people of the state who are yearning for peace. There have been allegations of the police shooting to disrupt the gathered crowd. Let the self centred
politicians know that it is only the living that they can govern. If they are prepared to massacre the people in order for them to assume power, posterity will never forgive them. The people of Rivers State should not be used as canon fodders for someone’s selfish ambition.
Let us recall that prior to the coming of Gov Amaechi to Government House, Rivers State was in crises. Cult groups were openly at war with each other. Kidnapping was rampant. Niger Delta Militant Groups were also agitating. Rivers State was then Nigeria’s Mogadishu. Companies were relocating to neighbouring countries. Unemployment was high. Insecurity became the order of the day. Porthacourt was no longer the garden city it used to be. No
investor was prepared to risk his finance and the lives of workers by investing in the state. This was the sad situation that Gov Rotimi Amaechi met when he assumed office as governor.
The governor (has remained) undaunted. He confronted the problems headlong. He was bold and courageous at what some faint hearted people would have assumed as insurmountable problems. Seven years on, cult groups have been chased out of the state. Kidnappings have been dumped where they belong – history books. Investors are coming back. Commercial activity is on the rise. Night life is back. Niger Delta militants are now respectable members of society.
This is the peace that some selfish politicians want destroyed. If this is allowed to happen, not only Rivers State but the nation will feel the effect of this. When the Western Region crises began, no one guessed that it will engulf the nation. After sacrificing over three million lives in a bloody civil war, Nigeria should not be allowed to tow the same line again. No country goes through two civil wars and survives it. Those who are desperate to assume power should think of the consequences of their actions. Persuasion wins votes and not violence. Our politicians should learn how to persuade the people with the laudable programmes they have rather than using the “do or die” politics of rigging. This way, our democracy will begin to grow and development will be our gain.
I advise the centre to let Gov Amaechi be. Our problems can be resolved through the democratic process and not the use of force. The people of Rivers State are in need of basic things of life. They are not in need of who has more weapons of coercion. Nigeria should learn from the unforgettable experiences of the first republic. Thunder, they say, does not strike in one place twice. Nigeria needs peace and democratic leaders. This is the only way that the needed development can come.