Mr Phrank Shaibu, a public communication consultant, in this interview, speaks on the crises in Rivers State and the way out. Excerpts:
BY GBENGA OKE
ON why Rivers State has become a theatre of war
The past few months has portrayed Rivers State as being in a season of societal lunacy and political deadlock with very embarrassing actions meted on the Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi and members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, political office holders and other officials of government. These actions are considered highly repressive and against the tenets of a true democracy.
I condemn the repressive actions and characters behind the Rivers State situation as I believe that the present political deadlock in the state is already having devastating effect on many things including business and social order and unless this deadlock is broken, Rivers State may witness serious breakdown of law and order with a high probability of being another centre for violent crimes which may be worse than the present Boko Haram terrorist activities in some Northern states of Nigeria.
How do you reconcile the recent behaviour of members of the State House of Assembly with your description of the state?
We are all witnesses to the events preceding the shameful acts at the Rivers State House of Assembly on July 9, 2013 by the five pro- Dame Patience Jonathan legislators led by Evans Bipi. We are witnesses to the power struggle between the Governor of Rivers State, the wife of the President on one hand and the Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike as well as the unvoiced support enjoyed by the duo of Dame Jonathan and Wike from the PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan who abhor Governor Rotimi Amaechi for his independence and outspokenness regarded as stumbling blocks to the president’s ambition to win another term of office in 2015.
In the first instance, how on earth will five be greater than 27? How can five men seek to remove a Speaker who has the backing of 26 of his colleagues? My take is that if this group of five pro-Dame Patience legislators are not censored, it will propel others similarly inclined to engage in legislative truancy.
On comments that the Governor shouldn’t have gone to the Assembly complex on the said day
So, they expect the state government to wait until those rambunctious group of five legislators wake up one morning to order the sequestration of the Governor and his cabinet? They mean,the Governor as the Chief Security officer should have allowed a break down of law and order when it was obvious that a federal agency that is meant to protect the citizens was busy supervising the rebellion against the constitution by the renegade five.
Who in your opinion is behind the crises in Rivers State?
The two Presidents of Nigeria.
How do you mean? Nigeria has only one President.
No! We have two Presidents. One is Dame Patience Jonathan and the other is Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Did you hear Dame Patience Jonathan when she openly told 16 Bishops from the South-South who visited her in Abuja that Amaechi defied her request that some structures should not be demolished in her hometown, Okrika? So a request from a First Lady should automatically become sacrosanct, isn’t she a president?
But the Presidency has denied involvement in the Rivers crises?
Reuben Abati and Doyin Okupe cannot be absolving the presidency of complicity in the Rivers crises while Dame Patience Jonathan, Nyesom Wike and Ahmed Gulak are spitting fire and brime stone against Governor Amaechi. ?Despite those repeated denials, it is difficult to disentangle the President and his wife from the show of shame in Rivers State. More worrisome is the heresy displayed in the explanation of the leader of the Pro-Dame Patience Jonathan camp of lawmakers in River state, Evans Bipi, on the reasons he led an onslaught against the state’s House of Assembly members and Governor Amaechi recently,where he stated that he could not stand Governor Amaechi insult the person of Patience Jonathan.
It is an affront on our collective sensibilities for anyone to say that the President and his wife are not behind the Rivers crises. How come the police in Rivers State provided security for five members of the 32-member state House of Assembly to sit and attempt removing the Speaker illegally and you say the President is not involved?
Why did the same police turn a blind eye when hired thugs attacked four northern governors who paid a solidarity visit to Amaechi in Port Harcourt?
Why has Mr Joseph Mbu, the Rivers State Police commissioner been openly confrontational to Governor Amaechi without being called to order? Above all, why is Mr. President still waiting to be briefed by security chiefs on the Rivers situation even after both the Senate and the House of Representatives have invoked Section 11 of the constitution and effectively took over the responsibilities of the Rivers state legislature?
Don’t you think it is about 2015 and Amaechi’s vice presidential ambition?
Assuming that Rotimi Amaechi actually nurses the legitimate ambition of being a running mate to a Northern presidential candidate, if such an ambition is actualized, how is it likely to affect the outcome of the 2015 presidential election? With the unequal power relations between Governor Amaechi and the President, Governor Amaechi automatically attracts public sympathy and support any day any time.
But let me add that, if as Jonathan’s loyalists claim, Governor Amaechi is preparing to run on a joint ticket with Governor Sule Lamido or any other Northern Governor, I do not expect the Jonathan camp to clap for him. We all know that the contest for political power is rarely for the fickle-minded anywhere in the world, but Mr President should carry on with civility and finesse.
What is the way out?
The biggest issue is the President himself and not Amaechi. In fact his agenda is his ambition. He is not bothered about the polarization and crises his ambition has caused and that is not the hallmark of statesmanship. Rivers State is a perfect example of a major tragedy occurring in front of our eyes with no one taking action. History will judge what actions you take or fail to take on this issue at this time.
It might take immense global pressure to stop President Jonathan, his wife and Wike but it has to be done. The most disappointing aspect of this issue is the failure of the PDP leadership to broker a truce between the warring factions. Having taken sides with the President, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur has lost all moral justification to intervene in this matter.
It was believed that these crises in Rivers state was as a result of Governor Amaechi’s refusal to withdraw from the NGF chairman race when the body language of the President was not in his favour?
Governor Amaechi has the right to vote and be voted for. In exercising that right, he put himself forward despite the trifling and forlorn attempt by the PDP and the administration of President Jonathan to remove him from his position as the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum. His subsequent triumph in getting re-elected as Chairman of the forum with the support of 19 governors and the telling undemocratic decision of the administration of President Jonathan and the PDP to recognize Mr. Jonah Jang as the chairman of the forum in the face of evidence that Mr. Jang did not obtain the support of the majority of Governors is public knowledge.
On this, I strongly believe that in a democratic free society, people should be allowed to vote according to their conscience and freely. Not necessarily as they are instructed by the President because they are under a seeming oath of loyalty or fear of the EFCC.