The police eventually allowed a public rally where citizens aired their views on the prevailing political situation in the state, contrary to the police sacking of a similar gathering in the same Rivers State, a week earlier.
The adherence to the rule of law came less than a week after a major political party, the All Progressives Congress, (APC), directed its members in the National Assembly, to perform their duties as provided for in Nigerian constitution by checking the excesses of the Presidency, which had been violating the autonomy of states clearly preserved under the constitution. The Judiciary and National Assembly are so empowered under the constitution. For the Judiciary to perform that function, it must be approached by the offended party while the National Assembly can act all alone depending on the voting strength interested parties acting as a group can muster. That is the practice in any democracy all over the world.
Completely unserious if not ignorant groups made vain attempts to befog the issue with baseless allegations and threats of unleashing security apparatus. Only the future and history will adequately appreciate those who, at least for now, are patriotic enough to stabilise the rising political tension in the country. It can only be hoped that the return to rule of law in Rivers State is permanent. Meanwhile, was it without reason that a major political party had to alert the National Assembly to check the Presidency from sustained and seeming unrepentant violation of the constitution?
The facts need to be summarised to appreciate the magnitude of violation of Nigerian constitution. For over a year, a Commissioner of Police has not only been confronting but also defying the Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Amaechi (henceforth the state governor) duly mandated by the people of that state to conduct their affairs for the stipulated tenure. If the state governor deviated from the mandate, Nigerian constitution provides relief for the electorate to call him to order, even if it means impeaching him but strictly, not on instigation from outside political interests especially for purposes of vendetta. What is more, it is not the business of a Commissioner of Police and not within the power of the same officer to obstruct a state governor from performing his duties or his movements within his official residence or the state.
Among those who have been subjected to this intermittent humiliation by the Commissioner of Police, along with the state governor are visiting fellow state governors, former speakers of state houses of assembly, serving speakers and the governor’s local and visiting political associates. Reports of these ugly incidents are regularly carried in local and foreign media. Stripped of all sentiments, there is only one word for this breach of constitution –subversion. A Commissioner of Police is under the direct supervision of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), to whom the state governor had severally reported his officer. Better still, is the Inspector-General of Police unaware of the regular media reports of the unpleasant events in Rivers State?
Owing to the fast deteriorating situation in Rivers State including instigated violence in the state House of Assembly to make sittings impossible, the House of Representatives had to assume constitutional responsibility. Still, the situation did not improve. What reports were the Inspector-General getting from the Commissioner of Police in Rivers State? That is really begging the issue. The Inspector-General of Police directly reports to the Presidency, that is President Goodluck Jonathan. Is Jonathan not aware of the violation of the constitution in Rivers State? If Jonathan is unaware, that will be bizarre. But if Jonathan is aware of that breach of constitution in Rivers State, what has he done about it? When successive service chiefs could not conquer Boko Haram insurgents, Jonathan fired them, one set after another. What therefore, is peculiar about the ongoing subversion in Rivers State not to attract the concern of the Presidency?
This was the apparent background to the step of the All Progressives Congress in alerting the National Assembly to check the deliberate or unconscious indifference of the Presidency. By the time the National Assembly stall executive bills, including finance bills, the message will be sent that Nigeria cannot finance subversion in whatever guise. If the National Assembly fails to act and allows the Police or even the Presidency to have their way in Rivers State, the remaining 35 states will be similarly vulnerable to be politically slaughtered.
There should be no pretence about the root of the tensed political situation in Rivers State. Governor Amaechi is known not to support President Jonathan’s second term bid. Is that a crime for any state governor even if a PDP member? Under the Nigerian constitution, every citizen is free to hold and express political views different from another’s. Even if the PDP constitution compels a member to support the re-election of a sitting President, (there is no proof of this), it is always the argument of Jonathan’s supporters that whatever prior agreement to which he might have committed himself to any group or person, such commitment, according to Jonathan’s supporters, is rendered null and void by the supremacy of Nigerian constitution, ala various rights. If therefore, Jonathan enjoys the supremacy of Nigerian constitution, all other members of the PDP are equally entitled to the same rights. The beginning of Nigerian constitution is the end of any other agreement, documented or not.
Governor Amaechi may not be believed in his denial of any interest in 2015 presidential elections. But then, who is that Nigerian politician to be believed? Goodluck Jonathan? Northern Governors accused him of reneging on a 2011 agreement not to contest in 2015. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo only recently also confirmed Jonathan’s commitment not to contest in 2015. Jonathan not only denied any such agreement, but conveniently demanded written proof. Yet, these same governors and Obasanjo were the chief backers of Jonathan in 2011. That such strong backers later conspired to concoct a non-existing commitment against Jonathan? This does not mean Obasanjo is better than Jonathan. A major dent on Obasabjo’s recent otherwise timely letter to Jonathan was that he (Obasanjo) must acquire the necessary credibility for such an exercise considering his futile attempt to mutilate an amended constitution in 2005 to enable him stay in office for a third term. Obasanjo was to later deny telling anybody of a third term bid, the very denial, in exact words, Jonathan echoes today. Yet, Jonathan is expected to declare himself soon. Or what is the Rivers State war about?
As noted earlier, President Jonathan might pretend not to know about police violation of Nigerian constitution in Rivers State. Today, Jonathan, after the alert of National Assembly by the APC, can no longer claim to be unaware. By the time National Assembly informs President Jonathan for necessary action, the man has no option except to stabilise the subversion in that state. If still, Jonathan allows the Rivers State issue to prolong, he would be rendering himself liable to necessary sanctions by the National Assembly under relevant sections of the constitution for being unwilling or unable to perform his duties, especially in violation of the Oath of Office to which he swore. Among others, President Jonathan swore that “…I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions; that I will, to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people without fear or favour, affection or ill-will…”
How are personal political interests involved in the Rivers State issue? Section 143 (11) also clarifies possible impeachable offence of gross misconduct to mean “…a grave violation or breach of the provisions of this constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts, in the opinion of the National Assembly, to gross misconduct.” What are the chances with a hostile National Assembly such as is building up?
President Jonathan should, in fact, be grateful to the APC for an unsolicited gift in alerting the National Assembly on the grave situation in Rivers State, which should not be underestimated or disregarded. Consultations or persuation might have been an alternative, and if none worked, so be it. As Shakespeare writes, “The fewer men, the greater share of honour.” Noticeably, almost all the remaining PDP governors are keeping quiet in the full if embarrassing knowledge that Rivers State is not it. In short, none of them would like a similar experience.
The risk is not worth it. By all means, Jonathan can proceed to contest the 2015 presidential elections. The worst that can happen is that he may not win Rivers State, which is only one. In contrast, Obasanjo lost the entire six states in the South-West in1999, yet, he became the elected President. Due consideration should be given to life after Aso Rock. Admittedly, 2015 is not 1999 or 2011. The more reason Jonathan should reflect on his past since his days as deputy governor of Bayelsa State. Fate, rather than agitation, was the sole determinant all through to the seat of power at Aso Rock. That is how it should be in the affairs of men.
At the end of the day, the choice is Goodluck Jonathan’s.
•Postscript: This headline is the personal philosophy of the masses as displayed on Izuchukwu minibuses plying Lagos-Benin -eastern highways.
If Bamanga Tukur forgets
Eventually, erstwhile National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bamanga Tukur, had to step down despite all the assurances to the contrary, leading him to deny any intention to quit. Only Bamanga Tukur could not have seen it coming from the very day he was installed in office. He never belonged to that gang and he was so warned in this column from the first day. Acknowledging him as a nice man and a business expert, he was warned on this page that politicians would use him, destroy him and dump him. Why Bamanga Tukur continued to believe any of them especially in the last one month in office, would not be clear. Regretfully, the media were particularly used to portraying him in bad light, especially that he vowed that even President Jonathan could not sack him. Tukur had occupied public positions for decades and would realise that the boss, in that situation is always the boss even if the rules are to be bent. It would be a surprise if he indeed spoke in that tone.When the moment called for it, Tukur was used by some state governors to provoke some of their colleagues out of the party, so that the schemers could consolidate themselves around the seat of power. Even when the law courts nullified the expulsion of some key national officers, one of whom was the national secretary of the party and former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, those schemer governors pushed the party under Bamanga Tukur’s chairmanship to resist Oyinlola’s resumption of office. The pretext was that the party appealed against the court judgment. Tukur was thus portrayed as the only stumbling block to the return of peace to the party. After the bitter experience, it is most unlikely that Bamanga Tukur will ever mix with political vampires again.