THEWILL EDITORIAL: Travesty Of Democracy In Rivers State
“Given that the annulled June 12, 1993 election won by Chief MKO Abiola led to many Nigerians losing their lives, it is incumbent for Nigerian leaders who are today enjoying the benefits of democracy to apply wisdom in their conduct. The protracted current crisis in Egypt ought to serve as a standard lesson for our misfiring politicians.”
SAN FRANCISCO, July 11, (THEWILL) – The democracy that Nigerians shed their blood to win has been put to the sword in Rivers State. The Rivers State House of Assembly was literally turned into a war zone on Tuesday, July 9, after two months of adjournment, as legislators in support of Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi had to fend off five of their colleagues who were opposed to the governor. The five minority lawmakers, supported by ill-assorted thugs, decided to impeach the Speaker, Otelemaba Amachree, and other principal officers of the State Assembly. The renegade lawmakers overtook the House of Assembly at about 8.30 am, armed with an illegal mace.
Incidentally, eight legislators loyal to Governor Amaechi, including Speaker Amachree and the Majority Leader, Chidi Llyod, were already at the venue. Fists started flying, and a free-for-all ensued.
In the ferocious fighting that ensued, Governor Amaechi’s supporters had no choice than to run for dear lives on account of the many thugs backing the five legislators. The renegades then chose their own “Speaker”.
When Governor Amaechi was alerted of the mayhem in the Assembly, he personally led the way to evict the usurpers. One of the opposition legislators actually shouted that the Governor should be shot! Governor Amaechi took charge of affairs by ordering his security men to dislodge the dissident lawmakers.
With the restoration of a semblance of calm just before noon, the Speaker, Dan-Amachree, presided over the affairs of the house with 22 lawmakers present.
It is a great shame that democracy is being so crudely desecrated in Rivers State. It is no secret that there is no love lost between President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Amaechi. It is still fresh in the memory how Governors who touted the support of President Jonathan refused to accept the result of a free and fair Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) chairmanship election won by Governor Amaechi. The five dissenting lawmakers in Rivers State equally boast the backing of the Presidency, thus literally dragging the exalted office to the mud.
A major stalwart of the infamy happens to be the Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, whose faction of the state Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) reportedly wrested control of the party from Governor Amaechi after a court judgment. It is indeed very curious that the police who ought to restore order did not lift a finger, as though in cahoot with the State Police Commissioner Joseph Mbu, who is not in good terms with Governor Amaechi.
We are alarmed that the Nigerian Constitution, which the lawmakers swore to respect, is being turned on its head. It is inconceivable that only five legislators can boast of the bravura to oust the Speaker in a 32-member Assembly. The unconstitutionality of it all is quite alarming. The consequences of going outside the Constitution to remove duly elected leaders are too grave for Nigeria’s democracy.
What is at issue is the basic norm of democracy, and this is beyond President Jonathan and Governor Amaechi, and all the other contending forces. The Constitution in a democracy is superior to any individual. The resort to barbarism is highly condemnable as this may lead the country to anarchy.
It is a shame that the perpetrators of the mayhem in Rivers are not yet under arrest. The promotion of impunity can only harm the country in very deep ways. To a large extent, all types of renegades across the nation take the laws of the country for nothing because bare-faced criminals are allowed to go unpunished. For instance, Chief Chris Uba who boasted of leading the kidnap of then Governor Chris Ngige of Anambra State in July 2004 was allowed to walk the streets free as a sacred cow by then President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Given that the annulled June 12, 1993 election won by Chief MKO Abiola led to many Nigerians losing their lives, it is incumbent for Nigerian leaders who are today enjoying the benefits of democracy to apply wisdom in their conduct. The protracted current crisis in Egypt ought to serve as a standard lesson for our misfiring politicians.
We insist that the leading characters in the Rivers State show of shame should be punished according to the laws of the land. This should serve as a deterrent to all goons seeking to go outside the dictates of the Constitution to settle political matters. The invasion of the Rivers House of Assembly by hoodlums should serve as a test-case for the Presidency to wash its hands of the evil-doing by making sure that all indicted invaders are punished.
The breakdown of law and order can only lead to the derailment of democracy. Making Rivers State ungovernable by any means bodes ill to the general health of democracy in the country.
The buck stops at the table of President Jonathan, and it does not do his exalted office any good that his name keeps cropping up in the mess that is at work in Rivers State. Even if the culprits are Mr. President’s acolytes, it is still incumbent on him as the President of all Nigerians to insist that the hoodlums should constitutionally face the music. That is the only way to ensure the survival of Nigeria’s democracy.