Amaechi and the agony of democracy in Rivers


For some time now, the governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi,

has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. If he is not abusing or

making jest of the President of the Federal Republic and the First Lady,

he is probably on a roadshow with the leaders of his new-found political

party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) with brooms in hands sweeping

away in frenzy, perhaps, unwittingly their own shadows.

The other day, Governor Amaechi was claiming that his name is the number

one on the alleged list of enemy politicians that President Goodluck

Jonathan is planning to eliminate with trained snipers, while in another

breadth, he is being accused by the police of trying to assist a murder

suspect, Chidi Lloyd, the majority leader in the Rivers State House of

Assembly, and the governor's handyman, to escape justice. Such is the

comical low that governance has plunged in Rivers State.

Sadly though, while Amaechi is fiddling, the people of his state are

groaning under his abuse of power, lack of respect for the electorate and

utter irresponsibility. While Amaechi is too quick to point a finger of

guilt at lack of federal presence in in state, yet many wonder what the

governor is doing to make life easy for the people of his state especially

those living in the capital city of Port Harcourt with the huge outlay of

resources available to him.
For example, what ordinarily should be a ten-minute drive from Artillery

Junction to Mile 1 Park in Port Harcourt now takes a whole day to

complete. Thus an ordinary early morning school run in Port Harcourt city

today is now a whole day's job and the governor is only interested in

throwing tantrums and making infantile allegations!

Although Amaechi has been one of the most vociferous critics of the

President and his former party, the ruling PDP as agents of impunity, yet

what confronts the public every day is Amaechi's intolerance to opposing

ideas and his despotic disposition. This is the same governor who sacks a

duly elected local government council executive without due process; a

governor who has vowed not to respect a court decision that recognised his

state's former party executives simply because he cannot control them; a

governor that dismisses school principals without hearing from them first;

a governor who marches with thugs and his police orderlies to Rivers State

House of Assembly to do battle with a handful of legislators not loyal to

But by far the Amaechi's greatest assault on democracy is his recent

takeover and relocation of the Rivers House of Assembly. For those who do

not know, the all-powerful governor of Rivers State has converted the

state legislature to an annex of the state government house. Just a few

days ago, the Sun Newspaper reported that the State House of Assembly,

siting in Governor Amaechi's office, received and passed a budget of

N485.5 billion the same day. Just like that!
Though this may sound like a fiction in children's comic book, it happened

in an APC state that grandstands as epitome of democratic practices. Yet

the trivialisation of democracy and the charade going on in Amaechi's

Rivers ought to worry all genuine democrats-not just the PDP in Rivers

State. There are so many things fundamentally wrong with the impunity

that Rotimi Amaechi is unleashing on his state.
First, in a democracy, of all the organs of government, the legislature is

the one closest to the people in terms of representing the interest of the

electorate. Beyond that, the legislature is the most democratic of all

the arms of government, perhaps, due to the deliberative process through

which they arrive at decisions. It is therefore not surprising that the

main law-making function in a democracy is assigned to the legislature.

One of such laws that the legislature enacts is the appropriation act,

which the executive branch presents as a bill for the rigorous

considerations of the lawmakers. Given the importance of this Bill,

before it is passed into law, lawmakers must extensively cross-check what

is before them item by item in the interest of the people whose mandate

they hold in trust. But when an Assembly receives a budget from a

governor and passes it into law minutes after as the Rivers Assembly has

just done, then democracy is in trouble. By the way, even the military

regimes of the past did better.
Second, because it is a settled matter in political theory that the

executive branch is naturally inclined to arbitrariness, democracy evolved

the principle of separation of powers, which allows each organ the

independence in its area of jurisdiction. What is happening in Rivers

State with the relocation of the Rivers House of Assembly to the

Governor's office makes a huge mockery of the independence of the

legislature and consequently parodies democracy. The danger inherent in

this development to democracy and the lives of the poor people of Rivers

State is grave enough. Already Governor Amaechi has shown the tyrant he

is but to now add the power of the legislature to his office promises hell

to the people of his state.
Yes, the PDP executives in Rivers State may have one or two things to say

about the matter of illegality in relocating the Rivers State House of

Assembly to the Government House, but the greater problem is in the

denying of the citizens of some of the constituencies whose

representatives in the House do not have access to or who feel very unsafe

in the Government House their rights. The fact that such citizens are shut

out, when the most important decision concerning their life chances this

year, which the budget proposal represents, is unjust and antithetical to

What is happening in Rivers State under Amaechi typifies the travails,

which democracy suffers in our system. A situation where members of the

state assemblies are all in the pocket of the governor is as obscene as it

is dictatorial. Yet Amaechi is one of the governors who claim they

defected from PDP to APC because their former party is undemocratic. If

democracy according to APC means the annihilation of the legislature and

the enthronement of executive tyranny, then Nigerians must watch carefully

those congregating under the aegis of APC. That the APC is even

celebrating the shenanigans and charade going on in Rivers State, under

Amaechi, their celebrated catch, suggests that the party is preparing to

wage war on Nigerian democracy!
West-Greene, a pro-democracy activist, wrote in from Port Harcourt.