SOMEBODY SHOULD CALL GOV AMAECHI TO ORDER
Times are everything but normal for politics in Nigeria. It hurts like pins of fire in the lips to see what politicians are doing with that blunt instrument called power.
It hurts even deeper when youngmen in politics who are looked up to as models for the much desired generational shift become examples or folders for the things we distaste in our politics. Indeed, political power ought to be used for the greater purpose for public good, not for self-aggrandizement. Politics matters. But, it becomes self-serving and amount to building monuments to one's ego when those in political office, apparently afraid of life after politics, initiate legislations that will make them continue to enjoy the perks, privileges and appurtenances of the office they hold in trust for the people.
This is why politicians all over the world are always advised to spare a moment and think in terms of their place in history. This is because history is often in the future. But, it is written by the events of today. Unfortunately, most times, our politicians scoff at this advice.
They fail to see the 'red flag', the signal to change to course and do the right thing. When a politician does well in office, history certainly will be kind to him, regardless of the circumstances thereafter. In that regard, the thought of leaving office and being addressed as ex-governor.. should not be something to be dreaded. Of late, something evil, obnoxious, vexatious and, indeed inciting, has crept into the hallowed chamber of the Rivers State House of Assembly. It has thrown up alarm bells. This of course, ought to engage our attention. If not stopped, it will, if not now, but in future, have a cataclysmic effect on our politics.
What I am talking about is the current Executive Bill before the state legislature entitled: The Public Office Holders (payment of pension) Bill. In other words, this bill has the imprimatur of the state governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. Both the premise and contents of the Bill represent the worst piece of legislation coming from any Executive branch of government in the present democratic dispensation. To describe it as just an abuse of legislative power, is to say that money is the lifeblood of politics and every politician is seeking it to stay alive even after politics. That bill is an outrageous mishmash and should be thrown out. I see it as the smartest and roguish way to remain in power and enjoy its privileges for life. If you like call this bill another tenure elongation in Rivers state, albeit in disguise.
Let's look at the content and meaningless of the bill. Contained in the bill is a provision that will secure permanently, the governor and his deputy a mansion each in the state capital, Port Harcourt and any cozy house of their choice in Abuja when the leave office. And, if you may ask: why Port Harcourt and Abuja? Besides, other 'benefits' in the bill include 20 percent funding for utility, 10 percent of their salaries for entertainment.
This is in addition to other ridiculous sundry benefits like free medical expenses for both the governor and his deputy and their immediate families and security details, plus two officials of the State Security Service (SSS), one officer of the same department, eight police officers for personal and domestic security, a domestic staff, a cook, steward, gardener, etc. now, this is one of the obsene aspect of this provision.
All the domestic staff, including drivers, shall be pensionable. Speaker of the House, Hon. Otelemba Daniel Amachree who is reportedly rushing the passage of the Bill into law, sees nothing wrong with the bill. He says the bill should be able to take care of the officials, provided they are not impeached before their tenures expire. Note that this bill is targeting no other person as beneficiaries apart from the sitting governor and his deputy. We are not told yet the other quid pro quo for the legislators if they pass the bill into law, which they will, anyway. And they must have asked for one benefit or the other, at least, for the house leadership.
This must however be plain for the lawmakers. There will be no place in history for them if they pass this bill. For Gov Amaechi, what else can one say for a man to whom God has shown so much impartiality and unusual kindness. For me, and until now, Chibuike Amaechi was one of the success stories of our present democracy. His story is etched on the fact that when God favours you, there is nothing your political enemies can do to topple you.
This youngman attained power in two different situations and under conditions that allowed him to play sort of apprentice to the master, whose power, by careful political calculation, he would use later to increase his own authority until he has surpassed his master's accomplishments or position, to be what he is today - Executive Governor of, arguably of the richest state in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As Speaker of the state legislature for eight unbroken years, Amaechi learnt through the informal channels of power, watching, weighing and balancing all the intricate levels of power. The former governor of the state Dr. Peter Odili never hid his love for him.
He, Amaechi, was Odili's ultimate preference to succeed him until ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo said in his fiendish way, that Ameachi's nomination process had a 'K-leg'. Yet, Obasanjo wish didn't last. Does that teach any enduring lesson that 'when God says 'Yes', no one can say 'No' Amaechi's travails and triumph drive that lesson more poignantly.
Since he became governor, those who have visited Rivers state say he has done remarkably well. They cite his achievements in infrastructure development and education as areas worthy of emulation. He sometimes projects the image of a guy as tough as nail. His leadership ability has not been in doubt. He has also demonstrated his political stubbornness many times over as Chairman of the Governors' Forum and his stance on issues ascontentious Excess Crude Account and Sovereign Wealth Fund which he opposes strongly. However, one thing is clear in politics. You may get almost all things right, but a politician may not be easily forgiven for one serious error made.
The Bill before the state legislature may turn out to be Amaechi's biggest political miscalculation if he does not quickly withdraw the bill. If one may ask: what else does Gov Amaechi need in life after 13 years in the top political positions Does he need a house that he doesn't have already? Can't he afford the luxury of personal security staff and other perks that the bill seeks to give him? I find it difficult to imagine that the governor would want to rubbish God's faithfulness and kindness towards him.
On the contrary, I think at this stage of his political career, the governor should be looking for a bang, a song of great sweetness as a goodbye. Leaving a political office in grace, with substantial accomplishments to your name is every one's dream. Amaechi has been a nice guy with emollient political skills. But as one-time American President, Richard Nixon warned in his memoir, those who 'do big things' should be careful of 'stumbling on little things'. The so-called Public Office Holders (payment of pension) Bill may well be that 'little thing' that could overshadow every other worthy thing the governor has done so far in office.
I see the 'benefits' contained in the bill as a Greek gift that also contains a Greek Fire. It will put the governor in harm's way in the long run, politically. Therefore, whoever articulated this bill does not have the interest of the number one citizen of Rivers state at heart. The risk of this obnoxious Bill is that it could be aped by other states, especially with so much fund to burn, like Delta, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom. It holds bitter foreboding for democracy in Nigeria. It is capable of inciting the people against their own representatives. Since the Bill sneaked into the state Assembly, every body, except the governor's party members, have roundly condemned it. This bill should be a test of the governor's sensitivity or otherwise to the yearnings of the citizens of Rivers state.
One sorry fact about Nigerian politics is that it will always do with sycophants. The fact remains that a politician succeeds or falls by his own correct judgment or error of judgment. Does Gov. Amaechi want to leave office as waka just pass? A waka just pass does not care about public opinion. He leaves no last impressions. He embarks on a flight of fancy: He hears the voice of God and ignore it, but when Satan speaks, he refuses to ignore it and eventually get punished. My prayer is that somebody should call the governor to order. He should tack back to the centre. For that is where majority of Rivers people who voted for him are. It will serve him well if he listens.