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Where Lies The Truth In Magnus Abe's Claims?

By Lesor Wiko

We apparently live in an era where one man's madness has become the destiny of the masses; where his day dreams have to envelop the aspirations and vision of society. Group ideologies now run for societies' goals and democracy has been reduced to a smart witch-hunt of all voices not amenable to the desires of the powers that be, not minding how villainous and unholy those desires might be; or how else do we place recent, heart-rending incidents in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State, the Treasure Base of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs.

It is disheartening to note that a government which allegedly or professedly wriggled through injustice and denial to wrest power by fiat of the highest court of law in the country would allow itself and its functionaries to come as low as glaringly inhibit the constitutional rights of its subjects even after several acts of denials of their democratic privileges, and not by legitimate processes but by crude manipulations of the polity and unwarranted deceit, lies and misdemeanour.

Given the prevalence of the situation, one wonders when in history a beginning has not had an end or an end has been forestalled by the deliberate misdirection of human or societal destiny. It has rather been a case of “the harder they come, the harder they fall,” with the eventual impact often regretted.

The PDP in Rivers State has been in the limelight recently, not for those stories that would make the heart to go dancing but for reasons of obvious factional greed, over-ambition and the unholy desire to secure from the masses what mandate it could willingly not be given, and to the extent that many black legs are being spotted in the family circle and chased with the ferocity of a genocidal purge.

It all started most recently with the manipulative instruction for old State members to be re-registered same time as new members were admitted in a physical exercise detailed for the ward levels even though it ran contrary to the earlier directives of the party's national secretariat in favour of on-line registration.

Peculiarly Rivers, the directive by the state secretariat was all but targeted at allowing the people a free and fair democratic say. It was a usual ploy by the political elite to confiscate power and position themselves to decide the fate of the society come the 2011 general elections. What followed the intended manipulation was the shameless letting of blood and maiming of innocent youths. And since a house divided among itself is liable to collapse, the party, having publicly laid bare its factions, headed down the lane of internal squabbles which culminated into the August 9, 2010 factional clash in the State.

Before any mention of the so-called Abuja group, which parallel faction dictates the pace of politics in the state vis-avis the serving government of Rt. Hon Rotimi Amaechi, let the truth be stated that the government of the day has made the terrain uneven by what many see as its desperate effort not to fairly compete with rival groups for the people's mandate but to smartly (or stupidly?) ostracize these groups and have an unchallenged run in 2011.

To the ruling PDP caucus, opposition in the state is dead. So if a hard knock can be given to its internal rivals, then 2011 is as good as pocketed. This ambition it was, which gave rise to the recent fracas. Here was a government of the state which would want to dump most of its party members who did not sing its chorus with the conviction that those marginalized members would not give themselves a new direction and stress their democratic right and freedom as much as the men in power would want to do.

For the challenge thrown by the ruling class, the ostracized one saw to the setting up of a parallel state secretariat to handle their own affairs and remain relevant to the party, since the PDP is not just a Rivers affair but a national umbrella with many States and factions keeping affiliation. Thus emerged the Hon. Lolo Ibieneye-led PDP with a state secretariat at No. 25 Ohaeto Street in D/Line, Port Harcourt.

Several schools of thought have blamed the Governor Amaechi administration for the emergence of this faction. To them, the government, knowing fully well the circumstances surrounding its emergence, has never cared to bridge the yawning gap in the internal PDP structure. The governor has clearly denounced and berated the party in the state for attempting to rubbish his candidacy in 2007 and has often expressed heart-borne gratitude to the Supreme Court in the country for his eventual success into the Brick House in Port Harcourt. But even at this, the governor still displays determination to hijack the party structure in the state not by moves of peace and reconciliation but ostracism and destabilization, yet expects illustrious and founding members to sit still and watch his maneuverings as if they are babies to the process of party formation and administration.

It was their expression of freedom and democratic right that pushed government to clamp down on them with state machinery, arresting twelve members of the group and arraigning them before a magistrate the following for “the law to have its course.”

Situations like this only call for a serious consideration on the abuse of the law. Would the Rivers State government be so wise and right to use the law against subjects whose democratic rights and political freedom it has not guaranteed or has deliberately trampled? Is it not unjust and stupid for man to be law-abiding in an unlawful circumstance? What child of the rule of law is so wont to trampling the rights of others?

The crux of the matter here, however is the utterance of the secretary to the Rivers State Government (SSG), Mr Magnus Abe, who described the factional leaders as hired thugs and cultists. Mr Abe's position so smacks of political myopia that one wonders how infested the Rivers PDP is with not only sycophants but political brigands and buccaneers.

How much truth is in the position and utterances of the SSG? As a man who defected to the PDP from the ANPP, Mr Abe, who sat in the state assembly with Governor Amaechi when he was speaker under Ex-Governor Peter Odili, cannot tell Rivers State and the rest of the world that he does not know the true identities of Chief Lolo Ibieneye and the other members of the rival group arrested and labeled as “hired thugs and cultists.” Neither would he say he is ignorant of the identities of Dr Odili, the man who accepted him into the PDP from the ANPP and made him the State Commissioner for Information.

Knowing these to be founding members of the PDP in the State, is the SSG implying that he had left the ANPP to team up with and serve under thugs and cultists? Given that Governor Amaechi was assembly speaker in Odili's time, what picture is Mr Abe painting of himself and the serving government just because he seeks to have a political upper hand over his rivals?

In The Nation of August 13, 2010, police spokesperson in the state, Dr. Rita Inoma Abbey (SP) was quoted as saying that “policemen saw politicians setting up a parallel PDP state secretariat,” a conduct she said could likely cause a breach of the peace.

In the same edition of The Nation newspaper, the SSG was quoted as saying that “information received by security agencies indicated that, on Monday, some 'hired thugs and cultists' gathered in Port Harcourt and were conducting themselves in a manner likely to cause a breach of the peace. The security agencies, on receiving the report, acted swiftly to contain the situation, whereupon their political paymasters emerged.”

Is this what politics in Rivers State has become? Which security report was Mr. Abe referring to? Why would the state PPRO be talking about politicians setting up a parallel secretariat while the SSG was using hired thugs, cultists and paymasters for the same persons without remembering that he left the ANPP to join these people? Where lies the truth in his claims, considering the PPRO's position? This brand of, myopic and egocentric politics will definitely plunge Rivers State into the abyss of total, self destruction; for, by and large, the rival faction will not forget the experience or, if at all, not in a hurry.

In a swift reaction, the publicity secretary of the Ibieneye-led PDP, Pastor Jerry Needam took bold swipes at the action of the state government and the utterances of the SSG. He condemned Abe's allegation that the immediate past governor of the State, Sir Celestine Omehia, the former Deputy Speaker of the Federal House of Representative, Sir Austin Opara and the former Transport Minister, Dr. Abiye Sekibo are sponsors of cultism and the crisis rocking the PDP in the State, and wondered what was there to secure in the political gathering of “noble Rivers people” who had meritoriously served the State in past administrations and are now chatting a way forward for her.

According to some schools of thought, this stiff-neck political day dream will not help Rivers State and has capacity to eventually destroy the dreamers.###