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Relentless, but facts weigh heavily against Amaechi

Posted by By JOHN IGINEWARI on 2007/10/16 | Views: 2563 |

Relentless, but facts weigh heavily against Amaechi

Ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, it was, who described conflict as the defining property of a human community. To function properly, the social order, as of necessity, becomes a conglomerate of cleavages. It is from such disagreements, according to him, that the society derives its own vibrancy. It is a cycle that runs forever.

Ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, it was, who described conflict as the defining property of a human community. To function properly, the social order, as of necessity, becomes a conglomerate of cleavages. It is from such disagreements, according to him, that the society derives its own vibrancy. It is a cycle that runs forever.

We donít have to travel too far for illustrations. Imagine a town or community where everybody sleeps and turns in the same direction. Or where everyone wears the same hair-style. The picture you get is that of drudgery if not nausea.

Conversely, political contest surely also requires doses of Heraclitusí prescription unless we donít want it to be very interesting. The sharper the cleavages, the keener the race, the more robust the debate.

But were the Heraclitus scale applied in Rivers State today, we certainly would be affronted by a completely wishy-washy spectacle. The reason being that there, to borrow the title of a Shakespearean play, has been much ado about nothing. The political temperature is unnecessarily being heightened by what, ordinarily, should have been dismissed as non-issue. In this connection, precious resources (time and money) are thus dissipated unprofitably.

In the last six months, the people of the state have been treated to a needless argument on the validity or otherwise of the candidate fielded by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general elections. Once elections are over, you would expect that the victorious party would face the greatest trouble from the opposition party. Not the case of Rivers where the greatest challenge facing the sitting government is the distraction being orchestrated locally.

Fed by desperation and avarice, it is all about the political chicanery being foisted that the former speaker of the House of Assembly, Rotimi Amaechi, was the bonafide candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last gubernatorial elections.
But nothing could be more fallacious. If anything at all, the argument would seem contrived to profit mainly lawyers who are busy at the courts at the expense of the contestants. And perhaps the media also where these desperadoes and negative propagandists take out spaces to peddle falsehood. Which reminds one of the old parable of the patient and the undertaker. Of course, it is never in the pecuniary interest of the latter that the former get healed. That would mean liberation of the cash cow being milked mindlessly. Hollow in logic, their argument no doubt constitutes a clear offense to the sensibilities of both the objective and subjective environments.

The objective environment
At the last count, Amaechi had filed three suits: first at the Federal High Court where he sought to vacate his indictment by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); the second at the Appeal Court where he contended that he was the bonafide candidate of the party in the election. After losing the two cases in succession, he is now at the Supreme Court, praying the apex court to upturn the ruling of the Appeal Court which struck out his suit. Now, the Supreme Court is expected to give a verdict on the matter in the next two weeks.

At the Federal High Court, Amaechi urged the court presided over by Justice Babs Kewumi to quash his indictment by EFCC. But at the end of the day, Justice Kewumi refused his prayer on the grounds that his indictment already existed with the INEC and PDP before his name was substituted with Omehia. In any case, the matter had already been gazetted by Federal Government and a white paper issued on it. Besides, the Supreme Court, by way of precedent, has already affirmed that whether by selection or election, it is essentially the internal affairs of the political party to decide who represents it in an electoral contest.

In the past, political parties or the electoral body had disqualified aspirants or candidates without given any reasons. This was the order the day during the transition programme presided over by the military. During the General Sani Abacha regime, for instance, candidates were disqualified arbitrarily for "security reasons".
It is to guide against such arbitrariness that our lawmakers decided to correct the anomaly. The provisions of the 2006 Electoral Act (section 34 subsection 1 and section 34 and subsection 2) insist on "cogent and verifiable" reason(s) before either a political party or INEC can disqualify a candidate.

The judgement of the Appeal Court delivered in July in 2007 is sound and valid from the point of law. It rests on the interpretation of the aforementioned Section 34 of the Electoral Act 2006. That it is the statutory responsibility of INEC to verify the reason(s) for disqualification, determine whether the reason cited is cogent and verifiable.

Expectedly, the Amaechi camp have expended a lot of energies and resource in propaganda stunts in the media by trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to create the impression that the Justices in the earlier courts were biased if not "unlearned" to have passed a judgement that did not favour them. By so doing, they are casting aspersion on the integrity of the distinguished members of the judiciary. The surprising thing is that the judiciary they are battling hard to ridicule and discredit is the same institution they still hope will grant their desire.

One of the lies often told is that INEC was not aware of the indictment of Amaechi by EFCC. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. This fact is notoriously self-evident in that when Amaechi took the case to court asking that the indictment be set aside, INEC filed a statement of defense and in the paragraph of the statement of defense, the electoral body said before the court that it did well by substituting his name with Omehia because the reason advanced by the party against the former Speaker was cogent and verifiable.
Doubtless, the indictment of Amaechi by EFCC for corrupt practices already constituted cogent reason for his being disqualified from the race. This fact could be verified from the gazette which is a public document.

But to confuse the issues, Amaechiís strategists only resort to drawing a red herring across the road. In this connection, these tireless purveyors of fallacy then twist facts while wallowing in the self-delusion that wishful dreams could translate to reality. With the landmark ruling of the Election Tribunal against the election of Governor Ibrahim Idris of Kogi State Wednesday, I bet the spin doctors of the former Rivers Speaker would soon come up with yet another stunt that "Oh, Amaechiís case is just like Prince Abubakar Auduís in Kogi" in their self-deceit.

To be sure, the Idrisí election was upturned because it is the view of the tribunal that the opposition candidate in the person of Abubakar Audu of All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) was illegally prevented from participating in the election. Note, the position of the tribunal is that it was wrong for INEC to have removed Auduís name from the ballot paper, not that his party (ANPP) had any issue with him. This is unlike the case of Amaechi where his party (PDP) had issues with him. So, when the sophists begin to parrot this line of argument in the days ahead, simply tell them to tell another story. No one is fooled.

Before now, the sing-song was that "Amaechiís case is just like Ararumeís case" because his party substituted his name without "any cogent or verifiable reason". But no argument could be more misleading. The fact of the Ararumeís case are quite straight-forward. For reasons best known to them, the PDP leaders in Imo decided to announce Charles Ugwu as their flagbearer despite that Ifeanyi Ararume was widely believed to have won majority votes in the party primaries. In any case, Ugwu came a distant sixth in that contest.

Feeling cheated, Ararume went to court to enforce his right. Fortunately for him, the case was disposed of by the Supreme Court before election proper. The plank on which his case was built is that he clearly won the primaries and it was improper for the party to have announced Ugwu instead. Note that the Supreme Court judgement was given before the election date. In which case, Ararume was technically the candidate of the PDP in the April elections in Imo State even though PDP later emerged on the eve of the election to announce its withdrawal from the race. Of course, that action on the part of PDP was aimed at destroying the chances of Ararume. Clearly, the party sacrificed its own interest if only to affirm its supremacy with or without the court judgement.

Now, contrast that with the picture in Rivers. In the build-up to the PDP primaries, a number of party members had signified their interest in Dr. Peter Odiliís job. They included Senator Martins Yellowe, Hon. David Briggs, Chief Isaac Wonwu, PaWariso Samuel Horsfall and Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs. At that point, everyone looked up to Dr. Odili to get the cue from him. Once it became clear that the outgoing governor had anointed Amaechi out of a conclave of disciples including the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Austin Opara, there was uproar within PDP. In fact, at some point, other leading aspirants like Yellowe, Lulu-Briggs withdrew from the race in protest of perceived lack of a level playing field since Odili had favoured Amaechi.

Indeed, it is common knowledge that the then outgoing governor did not waver as he told all his supporters to back the Speaker who had been his "boy" right from when he was a practising medical doctor at his Pamo Clinic (Amaechi was his Personal Assistant then).
But the dynamics changed following the indictment of the Speaker by EFCC. His name featured in the Corruption Advisory sent to parties by EFCC. Initially, against the dictates of commonsense and self-preservation, the outgoing governor would not abandon his godson. He stood solidly behind Amaechi and only changed his mind when it became certain that he was alone. Recall that even as at the time President Olusegun Obasanjo came to Port Harcourt Stadium and made his now famous statement that "Amaechiís case has a K-Leg", the then governor still had not withdrawn his support for the then embattled Speaker.

Given the weight of the case already established against Amaechi, the party surely had every cause to change its mind on fielding him as flagbearer in the then pending governorship election. One, it would have amounted to a big gamble if not political suicide for the party to have still fielded despite the damning EFCC report. It was either that the issue would be raised against him during campaign or EFCC could have taken the extreme step of arresting him and putting him on trial before swearing in the even that he had won the elections. Until one had been sworn in, there is nothing like enjoying constitutional immunity.

Determined to ensure that power still did not elude Ikwere land even if his beloved godson (Amaechi) would not get it, the outgoing governor decided to throw his weight behind the Speakerís own cousin from Ubima town in the person of Sir. Celestine Omehia. Incidentally, the same Omehia had earlier demonstrated good faith by distinguishing himself as one of the rigorous campaigners for Amaechi during the party primaries.

In fact, many used to call him the "poster man" (in the acknowledgement of the fact that he was actively involved in the distribution and pasting of Amaechiís campaign posters across the length and breadth of Rivers State). He never lobbied for the party nomination. His is surely a moving testimony of the divine counsel that power belongs to God and that only He alone determines who becomes king or governor. A big lesson indeed for all the desperadoes of this world who think that their might and money alone can fetch them power.

Odiliís decision to back Omehia was, therefore, easily interpreted by many as a profound gesture of faithfulness to Amaechi in particular and in general to the people of Ikwere who, though are in the majority, had not tasted power for over forty years in Rivers. But, apparently, the Speaker believes he and only he deserves to become governor. Not even his own cousin who had laboured tooth and nail drumming support for him earlier in the primaries when almost everyone was against him! So much for the spirit of reciprocity.

Besides, Chief Edwin Clark, the self-styled Ijaw leader, recently launched a virulent attack against key political figures in Rivers, both in the present dispensation and the immediate past administration, by accusing them of cultism. He named names and was unsparing. Governor Omehia thereafter came out with a stout denial of any link with any cult group, challenging Chief Clark to prove his allegation. Similarly, the deputy governor, Engineer Tele Ikuru, denied being a cultist. In fact, contrary to Clarkís claims that the latter was rusticated from the school on account of cult activities, his alma mater came out strongly with a statement puncturing the claim, affirming that he is a bonafide graduate of the institution. Curiously, of the key figures mentioned by Chief Clark, only Amaechi is yet to make a stout denial.

In summary, we could then see that the idea of Amaechiís substitution is clearly not the same as Ararumeís as being falsely projected by his spin doctors. Anything more is nothing short of an academic exercise. Perhaps, that should be expected. For, I am aware that the former Speaker is currently trying to conclude a law programme abroad. There is no law yet forbidding one from making oneself a guinea-pig in academic research or experiment.

The subjective environment
If truly Amaechiís motivation is service, by now, commonsense would have dictated that he sheathed his sword and joined in the widely acclaimed on-going sincere and courageous efforts to move Rivers to the next level. But the truth is that inordinate ambition is at the root of all of this. For this reason, the former Speaker now seems resolved to destroy what is best described as an highly rewarding relationship he had had with his mentor of close to two decades.

Were Amaechi the listening type, he would by now have heeded the strident calls from all over his native Ikwere land to join hands with his cousin and defend the collective interest of their homeland. Were he a true Ikwerre nationalist, he wonít need any prompting before coming out openly to express pride in the single-mindedness with which his townsman has handled the cult crisis in Rivers State so far. Unlike the past when cult gangs were treated with kid gloves, the Omehia administration has been decisive in dealing with criminal gangs leaving no one in doubt that he bears no allegiance to any of such groups. Now, normalcy has returned to Port Harcourt. For the first time in a long time, armed cultists no longer operate with impunity in the open anymore.

In fact, Omehia had left no one in doubt where he really stood even while campaigning for the April elections. Everywhere the campaign train stopped, he would pointedly say that he would fight cultists and cultism if voted into power. At some point, party leaders began to grumble, expressing fears that the powerful gangsters might come together to block his way to power. Truly, that wasnít a politically correct statement to make. But Omehia is not your run-of-the-mill politician who, proverbially speaking, spits saliva and conceals blood behind the tongue. He simply said what he planned to do. His actions so far clearly demonstrate that he really meant all he had said. Such is the hallmark of someone with the strength of character and the passion of conviction. In any case, only the thugs and the undesirable elements were unhappy. The good people of Rivers, long tormented by these cultists, certainly shared his passion. Little wonder that they voted for him massively in the elections. Now, he is acting out his promise: which is an all-out war against cultism in Rivers.

Destroying old bridges
Following the outbreak of political "hostilities", I have watched and read the Amaechi camp mount vicious attacks on Odili for his failure to clinch the party nomination, without being conscientious enough to acknowledge all the extra efforts the man made to ensure that he win. Not only that, they go as far as joining his spouse, the respected Justice Mary Odili, in this campaign of calumny.

Since they didnít get the ticket, they blame Odili. And once they donít get favourable judgement at the court, they heap the blame on Justice Mary Odili. Haba! Here is an innocent woman who, even as Rivers First Lady for eight years, steered clear of partisanship, preferring to mind her calling in the legal profession. In the Nigerian context, the average spouse of a sitting governor would rather engage in ostentatious parade, flaunting her status before the public. Not Justice Mary Odili, who remained humble, preferring to stay in the background, content with playing the meek wife, supportive of her visible hubby. Poor woman!

The allure of the Port Harcourt Government House must, therefore, be very overwhelming indeed to make a man forget the story of his humble beginning and begin to sponsor articles abusing the very man who made him politically. What ever happened to the old injunction ascribing nobility to repaying good with good and this wise counsel that respecting elders is not a mark of weakness but a sign of good breeding?

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