By Comfort Obi
If anybody was in doubt of why the civilized world laughs at us, the open letter, written to the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, by Senator Magnus Abe, published in the ThisDay newspaper of Wednesday, September 26, puts a seal on the doubt.
I read it three times. And each time, my worries increased, with an exclamation to nobody: ‘Look at what politicians have reduced our country to.’
Both the Minister and the Senator are from Rivers state. The former, an Ikwerre man, and the latter, an Ogoni man. Until politics tore them apart, both were close friends. And belonged to the Dr. Peter Odili Political family – a family so strong, so influential, that every who- is- who in Rivers politics, from when Odili was sworn-in as Governor, owe their current and past “bigmanism” in government to it.
From being members of that political family, both men moved away, along with some others. So, enters, the Amaechi political family. They also dumped the PDP the same day for the APC.
For the records, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, was initially one of those who abandoned the Odili Political family for the Amaechi political family. But, according to him, in a story he told publicly, recently, sleeplessness became his companion. His conscience revolted against him, all, for moving away from his parent political family – the Odili Political family which raised him from a political nobody to today, a political leader in Nigeria who nobody can ignore. You ignore Wike to your own peril. Ask even his party, the PDP, where he has emerged a major power broker. This other day, he dared the party to change the venue of the Presidential primaries from PH, where it had already been scheduled to hold, to another venue, and see his red eyes. I will be surprised if the party would dare.
But, I digress. I was discussing Amaechi and Abe.
For reasons which, at various times, have been attributed to greediness, betrayal, selfishness, dictatorship and too much ambition, the Amaechi political family has broken into two. And they are at each other’s neck, revealing secrets only known to them before. And, now, you also hear of the Abe group.
In fairness to Abe, he says he still regards Amaechi as his political leader. Which must be why, even in the open, caustic, letter, he addressed Amaechi as Sir. ‘Sir,’ he began the letter with.
He had, also, a few days earlier, publicly declared Amaechi as his leader, a declaration that so incensed Amaechi that he swiftly rejected it with a rebuke. ‘I am not your leader’.
The Rivers state political story is a long and dirty one. It is a story of dog eats dog, many betrayals, intrigues, treachery, lies and more. It is not a story for this column, which is why I will, here, restrict myself to some of the unbelievable revelations made by Abe in his letter to his leader, Amaechi.
I found them disturbing. And all those who believe in Nigeria, and our struggle for true democracy, should.
According to Abe, he and Amaechi recently met before the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole and a few other party bigwigs. He neither disclosed why they met, or the date of the meeting, or on whose invitation it was. I assume it was to find a common ground, a ground that had since shifted, in order to save their party, the APC in Rivers. But Abe was very upset that the allegations Amaechi made against him at the meeting, which he thought were for the consumption of those present, had become public. So, instead of restricting his written response to Adams and co., he decided to respond in kind – through an open letter.
It’s a long letter. But the areas of interest to me here are limited to:
*Whether, he, Abe won the Senatorial election in Gokana LGA or not.
*The alleged despicable role Youth Corps members played in Gokana during that election.
* And, who was responsible for the removal of Ibim Seminatari as the Ag. MD of the NNDC.
Amaechi, according to Abe, had told Oshiomhole and co. that he did not win the election in Gokana; that he won only when one Chief Victor Giadom threatened the Electoral Officer with a gun.
Abe in the letter: ‘You said I did not win the election in Gokana, and that Chief Victor Giadom brought out a gun, and stuck it to the head of the Electoral Officer and threatened to kill him before results were changed in my favour.’
Abe dismissed this serious allegation by Amaechi with one word – laughable.
Before I get to his version of what happened, here is my opinion on Amaechi’s troubling revelation.
Just imagine the scene. Election results had been compiled and recorded. But this Chief, like an armed robber, in a Rambo style, storms the venue, pulled a gun, stuck it to the head of the Electoral Officer and threatened to kill him unless he reversed the results and declare Abe the winner? And everybody looked on.
Wonderful. Only in Nigeria.
So where were the thousands of security personnel – Army, Police, DSS and more?
Here is why we should worry. As you know, Policemen at polling stations are not allowed to carry guns. They stand there, with nothing to protect themselves, very vulnerable to political thugs and their masters. And, here is Minister Amaechi, a very high profile government official, telling us that this Chief actually pulled a gun, stuck it to the head of the Electoral Officer, threatened to shoot him unless he reversed the results and declare Abe the winner. He was not arrested. And this story only became public now because Amaechi and Abe are quarreling.
Here are the implications of the Minister’s revelation: The Gokana election was rigged in favour of Abe. The Senator did not win the election. The Electoral Officer was forced, at gun point, to change the result in favour of Abe. What a country!
The questions are: Now that this allegation is public, what will happen? Will anybody be invited for more details, more explanations? Or will it be dismissed with a wave of the hand? Was the Chief authorised to carry a gun to a collation centre? If so, was he authorised to use it to compromise results? Again, why was he not arrested?
However, Abe denies Amaechi’s Gokana story in his open letter.
His words: ‘This is laughable. The issue in the Gokana election was that party leaders in some wards who promised the Youth Corps members refreshments, deliberately refused to keep their word to the personnel even when they had the means to do so. In anger and frustration, a lot of the Corp members started changing results or mutilating results in favour of PDP chieftains who came to take advantage of the widespread anger among the Electoral personnel’
True? Lord have mercy!
Abe also admitted that ‘Chief Giadom got there and called my attention to what was going on. That was the call for which I thanked Chief Giadom’.
So, who do we believe between Amaechi and Abe? For both men, one fact is constant – Giadom’s role – either as a gun carrier, or as a phone maker. But, the most important thing is that both men agree that the election was compromised by either a gun-totting Giadom, or Youth Corps members who re-wrote the results.
Those Youth Corps members were on election duty. They were paid by INEC which recruited them. The questions then are: Why would party bigwigs, in this case, the APC, according to Abe, promise them refreshments? Or, was it more than that? You know, financial inducement? Did the Youth Corps members ask for it? What was the intention? The answer is simple. To compromise the results. And they did, if Abe’s version is believed – except that he quickly added that it had no effect on the final result. But, how do we know?
If they got angry because the promise to give them refreshments was not fulfilled, and so, began to change the results, it means the will of the people was subverted. It’s simple.
And, this is the shame we have been having in the name of elections – elections where Youth Corps members and Electoral Officers brazenly subvert the will of the people. The irony: these are the youths who shout: “Give the youths a chance.”
If Abe is correct, these youths are already deeply involved in electoral fraud. Where is the hope for a better future then?
Also, not less serious is the bickering between the two men concerning the removal of Seminatarin as the Ag. MD of the NDDC. Amaechi accuses Abe of deceiving him into removing her from office to make way for Abe’s man, Derek Mene, to be appointed as an Executive Director.
But Abe denies, insisting that Amaechi is picking on Mene because he disobeyed his instruction to lead a protest against him, Abe, in Ogoni, and had, also, for not doing that, threatened to report Mene to the EFCC. Abe: ‘Seminatarin was removed because a new board was appointed.’
Let us here, for the sake of my next point, take Amaechi’s allegation seriously. If, indeed, he was deceived, what does that say about the judgement of our leaders? You remove a competent administrator because somebody, probably, whispered somewhere about the person? No investigation is carried out, nothing.
Truth is: Many competent Nigerians lose their jobs to beer palour and vindictive gossips. Just like that.
This other day in Ebonyi state, Governor Dave Umahi confessed to sacking one of his Commissioners over a vindictive advice given to him by his former SSG. He then publicly apologised to the ex-Commissioner and, appointed him a special adviser. To my disappointment, the guy accepted the job instead of saying: Thanks Your Excellency. But I don’t want the job.
I wanted to clap for Umahi for the public apology. It takes some for a big man to publicly apologise to his subordinate. But how come there was no investigation before the sack?
Our leaders listen to too much gossip. They are comfortable with gossip. It’s a sign of idleness.
But back to Amaechi and Abe. It’s shocking they could make the serious revelations they made. Those kinds of revelations are at the root of our problems in the country. That security agents were there and neither arrested Giadom nor the Youth Corps members tell our sorry story. Anything goes. Nobody cares.
Isn’t that why with about 40,000 security personnel in Ekiti and Osun states during the recent governorship elections, we still had situations of ballot box snatching, gun shots and violence? It is our collective shame.
Just in case anybody was forgetting, the alleged pulling of a gun by Giadom and the re-writing of results by the Youth Corps members are criminal offences . Such offences are not time-bound. It will be good for our country if they are invited for questioning. And it will serve them right.
Their bosses exposed them. Nobody else did.