Mr. Ibrahim Mark, a legal practitioner and former General Secretary of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. In this interview, he speaks on the Rivers State crisis, the prevailing political situation in the country, the role of individuals in the crisis and other national issues. Excerpts:
By Innocent Anaba
As a stakeholder in Rivers State, how do you feel about the political crisis rocking the state?
I will call it a political disagreement first, only to add that to bring violent dimension to it is highly condemnable. It is normal to disagree in politics, but it should not degenerate to violence where cudgels and other dangerous weapons will be used. It is, therefore, important that we play by the rules at all times and remember that posterity will judge us.
What do you consider to be the real cause of the crisis?
It is the refusal to preach, adhere to and follow the rule of law. On April 15, an Abuja High Court, gave judgment declaring Felix Obuah as the duly-elected Chairman of PDP Rivers State. The erstwhile chairman did appeal to the Court of Appeal, but the governor, Mr Rotimi Amaechi and his side of the divide failed, refused and neglected to accept the verdict of the court and have been pouring invectives on the judiciary.
The governor in collaboration with the House of Assembly suspended duly elected local government officials, including the 17 councilors, and setup a caretaker committee contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and Local Government Law of Rivers State. The alleged allegation was against the chairman, but the councilors were joined in the suspension.
What is the provision of the Rivers State Local Government law in this respect?
The Local Government Law of Rivers State provides that where the council is suspended, the Director of Personnel will hold brief and not a caretaker committee. The Nigeria constitution in Section 7 has outlawed the phenomenon called caretaker committee. The members they call the group of five had their constituency projects, allowances seized and any contrary view is regarded as a looter. Somebody has decided to play godand the lord of the manor. No respect for constituted authority, no respect for elders, no respect for dissenting views. Somebody wants to close the political space.
When the current PDP chairman, Felix Obuah went to court to reclaim his mandate, the government went after him by compulsorily acquiring his hotel in the village of Omoku for purposes of primary school. This is a village that has land in surplus. The chairman had to go to court to halt the intended acquisition. In a democracy, all these will be resisted, hence what you may term crises.
On speculations that the crises are externally motivated
Certain persons outside are trying to exacerbate the problem. Obuah went to court to reclaim his mandate, the opposition lawmakers are in Port Harcourt, so no external motivation, save as I did say that some external persons through their utterances tend to make the matter grow in size. All the gladiators are Rivers sons and daughters and ordinarily resident in Rivers State.
The politicians termed external influence in the matter are the four PDP governors that went for a so called solidarity visit, namely Babangida Aliyu, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Murtala Nyako and Sule Lamido.
What is their business in Rivers State if not to escalate the crises especially in their blind rage and hatred for President Goodluck Jonathan? In the coming days, we shall see how their visit has helped their host.
The North has been a very good ally of Rivers people but now, they have started sowing the seed of discord for their selfish interest. Our people still appreciate our Northern brothers and sisters and will not like the malfeasance of a minute crowed of four self seeking vain glory come between us.
It is widely speculated that the Presidency has a hand in the crises, what is your reaction to this?
I am not competent to answer for the presidency. They have made statements in respect of the crises. They are in a better position to do justice to this question.