Lai Mohammed: Rivers State – A chronology of crisis

by Lai Mohammed


The situation in Rivers State is the worst nightmare for any democracy. The rule of Jonathan and the police has replaced the rule of law, and Rivers has become a police state in its most brutish form.

In its most recent intervention on the seemingly intractable crisis in Rivers earlier this month, my party said it is very important for Nigerians to pay attention to the situation in the state, because everything happening there suggests it is being used by President Goodluck Jonathan as a testing ground for fascism.

We made that assertion with all seriousness, considering the level of lawlessness, impunity and constitutional infraction going on in the state. As I intend to show shortly, democracy has been stifled in Rivers and this constitutes a clear and present danger to democracy in the nation at large, if left unchecked.

Suffice it to say that, shorn of all pretences, the root cause of the Rivers crisis is the 2015 elections, specifically the presidential poll.

Because he is hell bent on running and obsessed with winning at all cost, President Jonathan does not give a damn (to use his own language) if Nigeria, not to talk of Rivers, disintegrates in the process. That was why we alerted Nigerians to the

situation and quoted the Iate Irish political philosopher Edmund Burke, who said all it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing.

Back to the 2015 elections, I can say without equivocating that if the President and his puppets succeed in their current anarchic experiment in Rivers, they will simply re-enact the Rivers scenario in as many states as possible in the run-up to the elections, thereby ensuring the polls will be everything but free, fair and credible – with consequences too grim for anyone to contemplate.

Imagine the antics of the arrowhead of the presidential onslaught in Rivers state, Alternative Inspector-General of Police Mbu Joseph Mbu, being replicated in other states? Imagine an Mbu or his like as the Commissioner of Police in any state during an election? He will simply ask his men to disperse all monitors and party agents, coerce the electoral officers into writing the result and then dare anyone to challenge him (Mbu). In other words, he will give cover to uniformed thugs and assassins who will decide the outcome of the election.

Under President Jonathan’s watch and Alternate IGP Mbu’s self-assumed authority, Rivers state now has two parallel governments, one being run by Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, who was elected by the good people of Rivers State, and the other by the Commissioner of Police (now Alternate IGP) Mbu, who derives his unlawful authority from President Jonathan.

To those who may think we are exaggerating things, a few examples of what has transpired in Rivers State in the last couple of months will prove beyond doubt that we are not just crying wolf where none exists.

On the 6th of May 2013, Mr Mbu practically provided the needed backing for a group of hired thugs and ex-militants with dangerous weapons to unlawfully and forcefully invade the Rivers State House of Assembly to terrorize its members, sack them and other management staff members from the complex and prevent the lawful exercise of legislative functions.

A caretaker committee lawfully set up for Obi/Akpor Local Government Area was prevented from delivering governance to the people due to the sealing of the LGA secretariat by police operatives acting under Mr. Mbu’s directive.

Security details were withdrawn from the principal members of the state government, including but not limited to the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Attorney-General and principal judicial officers of the state

On the 17th of May, 2013, the same Commissioner of Police summoned the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Otelemaba Dan Amachree, to appear before him on Monday, 20th May, 2013, following an open letter written by the Speaker to President Jonathan to intervene to restore peace to the unnecessarily-charged political climate of Rivers State.

On the 22nd of May, 2013, Mr Mbu again provided cover for a sponsored protest by over 5,000 ex-militants and other criminal elements brandishing dangerous weapons to completely take over and parade the streets of Port Harcourt, thereby creating fear and an atmosphere reminiscent of pre-amnesty siege in the minds of right-thinking residents. Curiously, bus-loads of ex-militants from neighboring Akwa Ibom State, Bayelsa and Delta State, complete with their dangerous weapons and paraphernalia of secret cult membership, were cleared to join in the unlawful procession by the Police.

On the 26th of June, 2013, Mr Mbu almost engineered an unnecessary but deadly riot by directing his men to restrain over 500 people – including traditional rulers – from the Orashi communities of Rivers State from paying a scheduled and legitimate courtesy and solidarity visit to the State Governor at Government House, Port Harcourt.

In July 2013, a potential bloodbath at the Island Community of Bonny was averted only by the maturity exhibited by the young members of the Rivers Leadership Advancement Foundation in the face of serial provocation by members of the Rivers State Police Command

When sometime in August, five colleagues of Governor Amaechi – who felt they were exercising their constitutional  rights of free movement and association – had the temerity to pay him a solidarity visit in Port Harcourt, they were molested and humiliated at the Port Harcourt Airport by hired thugs under the protection of Mr Mbu

On September 26th, police operatives used tear gas to cause a potentially-deadly stampede through the forceful dispersal of 13,201 newly-recruited and trained teachers who had gathered at the Liberation Stadium in Port Harcourt for the final round of their training, orientation, mobilization and deployment to primary and secondary schools.

To cap it all, a few weeks back, the Rivers State Command blockaded a road leading to the Government House in Port Harcourt, forcing the Governor’s convoy to turn back and take another route to his official residence.

These are just a few of the reign of terror that has been unleashed on Rivers by Mr. Mbu, and it should be clear to any discerning mind that what is going on in Rivers State goes far beyond political or personal differences between the first family and Governor Amaechi. It is simply the takeover of an elected government by a clique aided and abetted by President Jonathan and Mr Mbu.

The situation in Rivers State is the worst nightmare for any democracy. The rule of Jonathan and the police has replaced the rule of law, and Rivers has become a police state in its most brutish form.

More worrisome is that in spite of the well documented allegations of abuse of office, high-handedness and disrespect for the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria against Mr Mbu, neither the Presidency nor the Police hierarchy has deemed it fit to subject his indiscretions to any review.

A petition to the Police Service Commission (PSC) by the State Governor, in his capacity as the Chief Security Officer of the State, has yet to receive any attention and, even if it did, its outcome is yet unknown. Similarly, resolutions passed by the National Assembly asking for the redeployment of Mr Mbu have been given the toilet paper treatment. Even the 21-day ultimatum issued to the Inspector General of Police and the PSC on Sept. 27th by the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress to redeploy Mbu or face an indefinite workers’ strike will fall on deaf ears.

Against this background, is anyone still in doubt that Rivers State is indeed in a state of anomie? Is anyone still in doubt that Fascism, in its classic sense, is far off? The theatre of the absurd in Rivers State must be stopped immediately to restore the rule of law and save our democracy.

Some people have accused the APC of crying more than the bereaved on the Rivers State issue. Our response is that we in  the APC are indeed the bereaved anytime the rule of law is supplanted with the rule of the jungle; and we are the bereaved anytime a democratically-elected President thumbs his nose at the Constitution of the Federal Republic.

The system of government that we operate does not make provision for an imperial presidency, who can neither be criticized nor opposed. Therefore, when an elected President begins tottering on the edge of Fascism, the mechanism built into the system to check that must automatically kick into action.



Read this article in the Leadership Newspapers


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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