Having watched with pain and keen interest developments in Rivers State since my last article on the simmering crisis in the state nine weeks ago, I wish to state unequivocally that the crisis has now reached a frightening stage. It has got to a level that every right-thinking Nigerian should express some concern and outrage. Instead of improving, the situation is becoming more chaotic. Curiously, as the crisis degenerates, it produces more interests. These interests, having added their voices and resources, leave the polity more tense and asphyxiating.
If what we read daily in the media is anything to consider then we are sitting on a keg of gunpowder, which if allowed to explode, will lead to catastrophic consequences. I wonder why the actors in the current imbroglio in the state have shunned all entreaties to sheathe their swords. Rather than embrace peace, they have vowed to “fight-to-finish”. Given they are allowed to fight-to-finish, what sense does it make then to engage in a fight in the first place? Or, given they succeeded in the end in destroying the state, which state then will they superintend?
Some people have imputed a curious motive that the crisis is targeted at 2015. Whatever that means! What is the big deal about 2015 that we should fight and maim one another? Have we forgotten too soon that all these things we are fighting over pale into insignificance when we recall that one day we shall die and return to our creator? How would history judge us? Or shall we be remembered as political brigands and anarchists or peacemakers and nation-builders?
I am sorry for anybody involved in fuelling the crisis, thinking he would profit from it ultimately. Such a person needs to think again. How many of us are sure to be alive in 2015? Have we paused to ask how the crisis will affect generations of Riverians unborn?
No true lover of peace and progress would allow Rivers to suffer this kind of humiliation. What are the gladiators squabbling over, if not for their self-aggrandizement? The evidence is everywhere. My belly aches when I read news reports on the crisis with such screaming headlines as: “We will make Rivers ungovernable” “We will frustrate …” What is really happening for goodness sake?
The unfortunate reality is that the gladiators underestimated the scope the crisis was going to assume. They had thought that it was just a minor operation, which incidentally has overstretched their capacity and placed the people at the receiving end. At least, I am certain no new laws have been made by the state House of Assembly since the crisis started. The Rivers State House of Assembly has been on an indefinite recess ever since. When will the House resume normal legislative duties? Even the Rivers State Government, figuratively speaking, is at a standstill, because no true governance activities have taken place since the battle line was drawn. So, you see, nobody is actually profiting from the crisis except the boot-lickers, hagiographers, thugs, political jobbers, praise-singers, and other never-do-wells.
Has anybody pondered how much resources have gone into maintaining the retinue of hangers-on who mass behind the gladiators? It is enormous. I had imagined what amenities the resources would have fetched for the people if they had been deployed prudently for developmental purposes.
I was compelled to write again on the crisis in Rivers State, because of the dimension it is assuming. I warned in my article on the crisis nine weeks ago entitled, We can make peace in Rivers about the dire consequences of allowing the situation to degenerate. But it seems nobody paid any attention.
I have decided to reproduce a part of the said article in order to refresh the memory of the reader and, maybe, stir you to add your own voice or make personal effort, in some other positive ways, at resolving the endemic crisis. The nation woke up last week to read the embarrassing story about how the police prevented Governor Amaechi from gaining access to Government House, Port Harcourt, after receiving President Goodluck Jonathan at the Port Harcourt Airport. If that report was actually true, then something is amiss somewhere. Worse things could happen if we fold our arms, watch and do nothing.
Below are excerpts from my article nine weeks ago. Read on:
“The curious thing about the crisis in Rivers State is that it takes a new dimension as it deteriorates. First, it was the fingering of Amaechi’s former Chief of Staff and Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike. Wike is leading the Abuja onslaught against Amaechi. I must confess that I was intrigued by the rift between Amaechi and Wike. I had thought the two men were five-and-six-pence. I started smelling a rat when Wike, as Amaechi’s Chief of Staff, was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), interrogated and later released. Soon after that he was appointed minister and posted to the Ministry of Education.
That was when everything changed. Nobody can tell exactly what agreement he struck with the commission before he was released. His carriage at the ministry since his appointment as Minister of State smacked of somebody drenched with power. He speaks with so much confidence you would think he was the defacto minister. So, his strength must come from somewhere not too far.
As if not to give Governor Amaechi any breathing space, the intrigues were extended to the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) of which Amaechi is (or was) the chairman. PDP went for Amaechi’s jugular when it asked him not to contest for a second term as chairman of the forum. Calling the bluff of the party, Amaechi threw his hat into the ring, contested and won. But his victory was immediately contested, leading to the emergence of a parallel NGF, led by governor of Plateau State, Chief Jonah Jang. Before the election of NGF held on March 24, 2013, a new PDP Governors’ Forum had been born, with Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom – a fierce loyalist of the President – as chairman.
The birth of PDP Governors’ Forum took Amaechi’s Camp by storm. The 16 governors that voted for Jang outside the official venue have since opened a new secretariat in Abuja and appointed a Sole Administrator, Osaro Onaiwu, to administer the place. Interestingly, the Jonah Jang faction has been endorsed by the Presidency as the authentic forum of Nigerian governors.
No matter how any other person looks at the entire thing, however, what I know is that Amaechi is being boxed to the corner day by day. And this does nobody any good. There are speculations that there are subterranean moves to impeach him as well.
In all of these, I would want to offer my own advice. First, to the President: I want you, sir, to openly intervene in the crisis in Rivers State. By openly endorsing the Jang faction, it may be safe to conclude that you are incensed with Governor Amaechi.
And your anger is natural. I know the governor must have done certain things that portrayed your highly-exalted office in bad light, making you take extreme measures to call him to order. Remember, Mr. President, to err is human and to forgive is divine. Rotimi Amaechi is not a match to you in any way. Fighting him with all the might of your office is tantamount to killing a fly with a sledgehammer. You have the 36 states, plus the Federal Capital Territory as your constituency. Singling one of them out for such a fight is not healthy and square. I recall with nostalgia the circumstances that led to your emergence as President and they make me feel bad at the protraction of the mess in Rivers State. Mr. President, you are a child of circumstance, and should always see yourself in that light. My fear is that unless you took urgent steps to restore normalcy to Rivers State, the ongoing crisis may lead to dire consequences for the state and our nation.
I am sure you can invite the governor and talk sense into him as your citizen instead of the current approach of chastising him. Your consideration to intervene should be driven by the love you have for the people of Rivers State, from where Bayelsa State was carved out. So, no matter the geographical differences, Rivers and Bayelsa States are one. Mr. President, some of those fighting Amaechi with or in your name are doing so to advance their selfish political cause and not necessarily that they are loyal to you or love you. Human beings are very funny and sly: they stand by somebody when the going is fine and dump him as soon as things turn sour. If the ‘war’ in Rivers State is because of your aspiration in 2015, then there is an urgent need to distance yourself from it. You should know that 2015 is still in the bowels of history. It is only God that can determine what will happen. If it is the will of God you will be President in 2015 and beyond, then there is nothing anybody can do about it.
I know deep inside me, sir, that the goings-on in Rivers State are quietly troubling your heart, because they are unnecessary distractions. You have enough troubles on your hands and numerous challenges to tackle. Then, why add Rivers State to the list? Seeing the state of emergency you declared in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa through requires total concentration. Removing Amaechi as governor will not add to or remove anything from your office, which is already exalted. God placed you where you are today out of His kindness – to make you a leading light to the world. So, it behoves you to show similar kindness to others, especially those that offended you. I challenge you to restore normalcy in Rivers State today and see if God will not surprise you with an uncommon favour.
To Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, this is the time to wear your thinking cap and beat a retreat fast. There is no need squabbling with the President, because it is a battle you cannot win. The office of the President of Nigeria carries enormous powers, and when these powers are evoked, they crush anybody in their trail. You should not look at the President as a former deputy governor and vice president. Level has changed. He is now the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He has an unfathomable capacity to make life miserable for you. Forget all the noise your supporters are making: they will desert you the moment you cease to be governor.
From the support you have received from the state legislature, members of the National Assembly from your state and other groups, it is certain you are liked and very popular. But that is so long you remain the governor and control tangible financial resources. Bear in mind that the forces massed against you are formidable. Think over all that has happened so far and you will discover to your consternation that your state is suffering from the burden of the crisis. Your priority should be to leave lasting legacies for which generations unborn will remember you. That being the case, you should choose between your personal interests and that of the Rivers State people. They accuse you of harbouring a vice-presidential ambition.
Though there is nothing wrong in that. Nonetheless, you should dump that if it makes some people uncomfortable. Think about your future, safety of your family and the welfare of the people of Rivers State who would be collaterally affected should anything untoward happen to you. God forbid! God has been gracious to you – raising you from grass to grace. You had been Mayor of Port Harcourt, Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly during the tenure of Peter Odili as governor, and now a two-term governor. What else do you want? If it is the will of God, you would be vice president or president, nobody can stop you. They said you contested for a second term as chairman of NGF against your party’s directive. If that is true, then, it was wrong. So long you remain a PDP governor, you must subject yourself to your party’s directives.
If you want to do things your own way, the proper thing to do is to found your own party or resign from PDP. Your suspension is a prelude to a stiffer action against you, which you may find unpalatable. As your name, ‘Chibuike’ (God is my strength) goes, all will be well with you if you hearken to the voice of reason. God will desert you the moment you fail to listen to the small still voice.
Now to those that fuel the crisis in Rivers State: You should search your conscience and desist from fomenting trouble. If you love President Jonathan as you openly profess, then you have a responsibility to make him succeed. And one of the ways to attain this objective is to make peace between him and his perceived adversaries. You should, for once, bury your selfishness and work for peace in Rivers State.
Let me make it very clear: the crisis in Rivers State will not lead to victory for either President Jonathan or Governor Amaechi or their teeming supporters; rather it will end up tearing the entire nation apart, because those involved in the fight are too powerful and connected to be ignored, and their tentacles stretch to as far as Damataru and Jigawa in the North, Lagos and Ogbomosho in the West, Abakaliki and Awka in the East, and Calabar and Yenagoa in the South.”
When I wrote the above article nine weeks ago, it was as if I foresaw what is happening. I knew deep inside me that Satan has joined the fight to destroy that which the Lord has instituted. It may not bother the gladiators whether the people suffer or not as a result of the crisis so long their political ambition is on course. But they are mistaken. The crisis is like a Californian bush fire – it consumes everything in its wake. Already, we have had some victims from the crisis and many more will follow suit unless something is done very fast to arrest it. That notable men and women of God had visited the parties to the crisis without any solution in sight tells us all that the situation is graver than many of us had thought. It has one single objective: remove Amaechi, but will that solve the problem? You answer.