Balancing the Political Equation in Rivers State: Pathway to Sanity in 2015
Since the resurrection of democracy in 1999, Rivers State can at best be described as an aberration in the sense of where the Governors come from. In 2015, the upland area essentially from the same Senatorial District would have ruled for 16 years. This excessive monopoly of power negates every grain of what democracy stands for and good governance for that matter.
In Bayelsa State the first Governor came from Bayelsa Central Senatorial District while the second and the third came from Bayelsa East and West respectively - ostensibly respecting the zoning principle so every segment aspires to the highest office of the State. The same zoning principle is applicable in so many States. Rivers State has certainly defied that principle. The zoning principle also applies in Imo, Abia, and so many States while not undermining merit and good governance.
From 1999 to 2007, Dr. Peter Odili was at the saddle. The administration did very little to alleviate the poverty of the people and to deliver good governance. He was widely criticized for engaging in spending spree among the political class with little infrastructure to show for it. The Interim Report of EFCC also indicted the Governor of having misappropriated more than N100 billion. He entered a plea bargain to save his head from the claws of jail. He has since maintained a low profile life, perhaps a sign of remorse and regret, but the past cannot be corrected.
Perhaps it was his intention to hand over power to his PAMO Clinic Personal Assistant, who was Speaker then Mr. Chubuike Rotimi Amaechi, but the PDP and the K-leg saga delayed him for five months. When Mr. Amaechi became Governor he convinced every Rivers man that he was ready for business. Projects were awarded with definite time lines for completion.Those who could not meet deadlines had their contracts revoked. On his power bike, Amaechi personally inspected projects. Demolition was done and compensation was promptly paid. Roads were dualized with speed such that even ardent critics of the administration conceded that Amaechi was a shining star in the South-South. So where and when did all that glamour evaporate in spite of the fact that most of the construction works were awarded to his kinsmen?
For the first four years, Amaechi worked but he suddenly became a politician during his second tenure having been goaded by the power hungry North and some Yoruba elements that he would be Vice President of a Political Party that is yet searching for a soul. This is the same bobby trap his master could not avoid. Since that promise was made, four events have occurred frequently.
First, Buhari, Bola Tinubu and the dissident Governors became very frequent in Rivers State to sell the idea that Governor Amaechi would be Vice President in the new political arrangement. Secondly, Governor Amaechi became recalcitrant and disrespectful to President Goodluck Jonathan. As a student of organizational behaviour, we are told that one of the virtues of an organizational man is to respect hierarchies and to buy-in to the goals of the organization. Amaechi being a man schooled under Dr. Peter Odili failed to do so because he has never identified with the Federal Government's transformation Agenda. He rather used the Nigerian Governor's Forum to antagonize President Jonathan, as if he does not know the powers of the President. It was his highhandedness at that Forum that led to its balkanization. Thirdly, to actualize his supposed Vice Presidential ambition, Governor Amaechi has been taking inexplicable loans running into N200 billions of naira ostensibly to fund his new found love - the All Progressive Grand Alliance at the sufferance of the of on-going projects and the wellbeing of Rivers people. Fourthly, Amaechi has since resorted to fasting and prayer - leading to his figure being decimated. Even the holy book teaches us to be respect constituted authorities. How can a man bribe God with fasting on one hand and malign the President and his hitherto Man Friday Chief Nyesom Wike on the other? Amaechi started the race very strong and he is finishing a diminished man gasping for breath.
When Amaechi completes his tenure in 2015, the upland would have ruled Rivers State for 16 uninterrupted years. The geometry of politics commonsensically dictates that the next Governor of Rivers State should come from the Riverine area of the State to strike a credible balance between the upland and Riverine dichotomy. The upland-Riverine dichotomy is an imaginary division that has been laminated into the psyche of the people. When Late Chief Melford Okilo was Governor of old Rivers State, he chose an upland man - Dr. Frank Eke as his Deputy. Chief Ada George also followed his footsteps by selecting Dr. Peter Odili as his Deputy.
A scenario is emerging that of the ruling Party PDP being hijacked by a section of the people because of their perceived connection to the Centre. Those who have this kind of mindset are missing the point because they have not factored-in the reality of the 16 years uninterrupted rule of the upland Rivers State. The most equitable thing to do is to ensure that political power is given to the Riverine areas to make all sections of the State feel a sense of equity and fairness. This is what we should address urgently.
Today, Rivers State is a pariah and suffers a leadership void because of the inordinate ambitions of one man - Amaechi. Good governance has been turned on its head, while infrastructural deficit stares at people in the face. Crimes such as kidnapping, cult related killings, executive brigandage and recklessness now walk on four legs and even the crime control officers are watching helplessly because of the utter disrespect of Brick House of any known ounce of civility. The economy is hemorrhaging; civil servants' salaries are in areas. TIMARIV Staff and teachers easily go on strike and all these are symptomatic of leadership infamy in the land.
I am reminded of the words of Hon. Nimi Walson -Jack who said 'I enjoin all Party members in government to remain with the Party under the leadership of the Chairman, Chief Felix Obuah, and continue to work for the best interest of Rivers State. Members of the PDP in the Wards and Local Government Areas are also enjoined to remain steadfast and committed to the political legacy of our Party and the ideas of the founding fathers. Let us not be seen as a set of people who cannot articulate sound political judgement due to squabbles that could be resolved'
Said he again 'Let us embrace the politics of inclusiveness and shun the 'winner takes all' syndrome as 'the Umbrella' is big enough to cover all. As I had said before, politics need not, indeed must not be a zero-sum game. The idea that "winner takes all" has no place in a democracy, because if losers lose all, they will opt out of the democratic game. Sharing is essential in a democratic society - the sharing of power, resources, and responsibilities. Together we shall weather the storm, resolve our differences within the Party and chart a better course for our dear Rivers State'
The assertion above shows patriotism and hope that Rivers State shall rise again under the leadership of the PDP, and I do believe that the State will rise under PDP when there is a conscientious leader, committed and resolved to move the State forward beyond the realm of petty fogging, ethnic-oriented, parochial politics. Politics is all about good governance and good governance is all about the wellbeing of the people.
I am shocked to my marrows that this once lucrative treasure trove has been reduced to a State that is almost impecunious and this is so because Governor Amaechi has his hands on every pie. His actions remind me of foolhardiness of Mussolini the Halana leader of Italy and his bravura epitomizes the doggedness of Adolf Hitler of Germany when the Red Army invaded his bunker of the genocidal Nazi generalissimo during the dying days of the dark regime.
One thing is obvious in 2015. The Governor of Bayelsa State must be a competent, committed and focused person from the Riverine area of Rivers State and this is the consensus of public opinion. Just as King Alfred Diete-Spiff and Late Senator Melford built old Rivers State, so will a Riverine Governor take the State to the next level. My only worry is that the next Governor has to contend with the massive dead weight debt burden to be bequeathed by Governor Amaechi. I believe and rightly so that another riverine Governor will move Rivers State forward. This much we owe generations yet unborn and we cannot shirk this onerous responsibility.
Governor Rotimi Amaechi bought the dummy sold to him by the cruel oligarchy. It was on the basis of those utopian promises that the occupant of Brick House suddenly turned himself into a Czar, a Pol Pot, a Pinochet and Dada Idi Amin of sort. Amaechi has committed several impeachable offences but we are in a democracy where people are allowed to make mistakes if only they have a listening ear to retrace their steps. Sadly, Governor Amaechi listens to only himself and claps with one hand. The concern of most lovers of democracy is that having been dumped by the APC, he will be humble enough to pick up the ladder with which he climbed from nothing to be Governor - a feat most of his contemporaries have not achieved.
For now, Amaechi should recover whatever resources he has invested in the APC and come back to rebuild the PDP. I know he has demonstrated so much ingratitude and wrecked so much havoc to the Party but he should muster-up the courage to come home. East or West, home is the best. Then, he can throw his weight behind a riverine candidate and still maintain some relevance in the political system. Inability to manage this crisis will determine whether he will be confined to the dustbin of history or put his head high among his contemporaries. Here lies the binary option before the dictator of brick house. The latitude to make such informed choices lies with Amaechi who has been duped by the Hausa-Yoruba conspirators and oligarchs. He has a binary option to offload the moral burden or continue to live with it for the rest of his life.
Idumange John writes from Calabar