By Comfort Obi
“A mad person feels no shame. The shame is felt by relations”
The above is an Igbo saying. It’s one I take seriously. On a number of times, it has guided me.
I think President Muhammadu Buhari should think about this saying as the scary situation in Rivers state unfolds.
Going through national newspapers, everyday, these past few weeks, my question has remained the same: Does Mr President know the truth about Rivers? Or, have they been giving him a different story line? The problem in Rivers, a top government official told me recently is, this is the first time a real election is being held. Really? Nigerians are worried. And so should Mr President.
The worry stems from what Rivers state means to Nigeria. It stems from the impact a full blown crisis in the state would have on our lives. Nigeria’s fragile economy would slip into recession, again. And may never recover.
It gets worse day by day. With the number of deaths recorded during the Presidential and NASS elections of February 23, many thought the worst was over. But, that has turned out to be a dress rehearsal.
The violence which accompanied the March 9 Governorship and House of Assembly elections was unbelievable. It stretched from almost all the local government areas in the state to the INEC headquarters in Port Harcourt. And, the questions again:
Does the President know how bad it is? Does he know that politicians in Rivers state are using his name to play football? And, that in so doing, they are soiling his much touted reputation garnered as an Army General, a former General Officer, Commanding – GOC; a former Head of State, and now, by God’s grace, a-two-term elected civilian President? Not many people are privileged to preside over the affairs of their country as a Military Head of State, and as a civilian President. In Nigeria, President Buhari and President Olusegun Obasanjo are the only two so privileged. It is a big deal, not one to be toyed with. At times, they seem to forget.
President Obasanjo toyed with his membership of the club because of an ill-advised third term agenda. He, it was, who handed over power, on time, the first in Africa, to a civilian regime. As a civilian President, Obasanjo left behind many positive democratic legacies, forget the story line now. The truth is known. Yet, during some discussions, the third term agenda, usually, is a sore thumb. It pops up its ugly head. And it remains a minus from his legacies.
In almost, four years, depending on your beliefs, President Buhari has made some positive impact. He has his negative sides. But more than those negatives, the violence and some mago-mago that accompanied the 2019 General elections in many states take the cake. And now, an unbeatable record is being set in Rivers state. If not promptly checked, everything the President tells us he stands for – discipline, honesty, incorruptibility, straight-forwardness – will be rubbished. History is a detailed recorder of events.
In my adult life, I have seen, monitored, and voted during General elections. But none has been as confusing, and as demeaning as the 2019s. It doesn’t matter what anybody is telling Mr President. He should think about it in his “quiet moments.”
It takes the cake as the worst organised in our country. It is the most violent. The number of deaths is unbelievable. The brazenness of thugs, the impunity freely and publicly exhibited by security agents, their open display of lawlessness; their open intervention in the electoral process, all leave one breathless. Court processes have been abused. In the middle of collation of votes, a court would order a halt – as witnessed in Bauchi. In the middle of elections, a court would order a stop – as witnessed in Adamawa. And, in the middle of collation, INEC would, on its own, stop the exercise over the safety of its staff – as witnessed in River state. So, you ask, where were the security agencies which budget ran into billions of Naira just to keep us safe, and protect the electoral process?
I am one of those sincerely happy that we have crossed, almost, the 2019 general elections bridge, and we remain one country.
It is for the need to still remain one country that Mr President should, not only dispassionately put an eye on Rivers state, but put his feet down. And, like a good Muslim, stand on the side of truth and justice. Above everything else, the peace and unity of our country beckon.
As I write, the results of the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections in Rivers state, held on March 2, are still hanging. It is the shame of a country that three weeks after, we are still battling with the collation of results. The only reason is that we are a people, a country, with so many crooked, selfish and dishonest politicians and leaders. It is for this crookedness, selfishness and dishonesty that some people would describe the 2019 general elections as the freest election ever conducted in Nigeria. It is for this reason that somebody would see the video and pictures of what happened in Kano state, last week, and give thumbs up. It is for the same reason that some characters in Rivers state would embark on a road show, giving thumbs-up to the brazenness of the shame the state has been reduced to by its sons. These people, from whichever political divide they are from, are out to deceive the President. They are out to rubbish his name and legacy.
It is because of them that I began this write-up with that Igbo saying. Unlike Mr President, they have no name to protect. They can run naked in the market place. This is why the President should play the statesman that he is, and protect his name. He should look at posterity in the eye and say: “This is who, and what I am. This is the legacy I want to leave for my country which has done so much for me”
Here are why.
The buck, as they say, stops on the President’s table. If anything goes wrong anywhere in Nigeria, to his knowledge or not, he takes the rap. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I took responsibility for what were published in The Source which I had no knowledge of.
Nigeria is a big country. Its population, in one state alone, is more than those of several countries of the world. The President is not a spirit, and, so, cannot be everywhere. But, there are those which he sees, or reads, or gets briefed on.
As the collation of votes resumes in Port Harcourt on April 2, nobody needs to tell Mr President that even though INEC is independent, it is his legacy that is at stake. Nobody needs to tell him that his name is being thrown about by all the parties in the state – positively, negatively. Nobody needs to tell the President that the political gladiators in Rivers state are dragging his name in the mud. They are presenting him as not in charge. Mr President should shame them, and rise above party politics.
Here are why:
He is our President. All the political gladiators shaming him in Rivers state are young men. They are in their 40’s and 50’s. The President is in his, late 70’s. He is old enough to be their father. Politically, they are beneath him. The President was a Military Governor of a number of states, put together, when these guys were probably in secondary schools. The international community know as our President, not them. He is more exposed than all of them. He had seen war, and partaken in it. The shame in Rivers state will ultimately be the President’s. In future, when the sordid story is told, the question will be: who was the President?
A couple of times, the President, sadly, missed the opportunity to stamp his authority. When his Minister for Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, and Senator Magnus Abe, former allies, embarked on the destruction of the President’s party, the APC, Mr President should have called them to order. When Amaechi publicly threatened fire and brimstone, sang and danced to an Igbo war song in PH, before the President, he should have called Amaechi him to order. When a new GOC posted to an Army Division chose to pay courtesy calls on the governors of neighbouring states, and not on the host governor, the President should have asked the Army leadership questions. The governor complained.
When some military men and policemen invaded Rivers communities during elections; when they were caught, on camera, interfering with the voting process; when they invaded INEC headquarters, over which a high ranking INEC official, on national television, told the world that these men in uniform had prevented them from entering their offices to do their job, the President should have intervened. When they were invading people’s homes – Ateke Tom’s, where they descended as low as shooting to death, three dogs, the President should have asked questions. When the home of the Rivers state Commissioner for Education, including his wife’s kitchen, was invaded, the President should have called somebody to order. Now, they tell us they were fake soldiers. So, we agree. But questions: Why were they not arrested? How can fake soldiers and fake policemen, in uniform, flaunting guns, invade the state, homes, INEC office, and nobody is arrested? Where were the real soldiers and policemen whose job was to protect the people and the state? The consolation: The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai has promised to fish out those involved. This is important so we also know the circumstances under which a couple of our soldiers were injured and hospitalised.
The drama in Rivers state is beneath contempt. And should shame us all. But the President has a chance to shame those shaming our country; to stop them from doing damage to his name and his administration. This opportunity comes from April 2 – April 5, when INEC says it will resume the collation of votes.
Mr President’s schedule is extremely tight. Damaging allegations are being made from left right and centre. This other day, an Akpe Yeeh made the mother of all allegations. Akpe Yeeh? Remember him? Definitely not. Don’t feel bad. It is all thanks to Amaechi that we heard his name politically.
Here is his story.
The APC had no candidate to present in any of the elective offices, thanks to the indiscipline, impunity and power play in the party. With Amaechi and Abe as arrow heads, the party denied itself an opportunity to present any candidate for NASS, governorship and House of Assembly elections. Bent on seeing Governor Nyesom Wike out of office, Amaechi adopted the African Action Congress, AAC, an unknown party in Rivers state. He then ordered the APC (his faction) in Rivers state to vote for the AAC. This was just a couple of days to the governorship election. Ayee was the Deputy Governor of this unknown party. This other day, he quit the party, quickly followed by his state Deputy Chairman. By any means possible, Amaechi, it seems, wants to shove the party down the throat of Rivers people, not a few people allege.
It is for this reason that the mayhem, the blood-letting and the confusion in the state has persisted. It is for it that, till date, there is no result in Rivers state. It is for it that there are, now, street protests in the state everyday, almost – either sponsored by the Amaechi group or the PDP. The PDP claims that its sitting governor, Nyesom Wike won the governorship election. The AAC, please, don’t laugh, also claims it won.
Yeeh, who played along with his party and the Amaechi-led APC, this other day, developed a cold feet. Acting remorseful, he quit. But not quietly. He made very damaging allegations against Amaechi. In his resignation letter, he alleged that Amaechi told them, in the AAC, while adopting the party that:
*He would do everything, including using the Military, the Police and the DSS to shove the AAC down the throat of Rivers state.
*Forced him to sign a resignation letter so that, on winning, he would install his own deputy governor.
* 90 per cent of the appointees would come from him. And much more.
*That no collation of votes and/or results would take place in the state, as he, Amaechi, had concluded arrangements to use the Military, Police and the DSS to disrupt it.
These allegations should worry the President. Are they true? If so, who are providing the security agents to be used for the alleged “dirty job?” If not, Ayee should be made to prove his allegations, with evidence.
Not a few people are alleging a plan to impose a state of emergency in Rivers state. Is that really what is needed in Nigeria now? Is that why some people, somewhere, are stoking crisis in the state? Is that why there are protests in the streets, especially, praising the military activities, and calling for the removal of the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr Obo Effanga? Many people, including AAC members say they don’t believe that the AAC, a party which never campaigned, which name and symbol nobody knew as such in the state, could pull an upset in the state? The AAC governorship candidate, Engr. Awara this other day, insisted he won. True? One of AAC’s officials, while debunking Yeeh’s allegations against Amaechi insists that the Minister gave the party no conditions on adopting it. True? As the Americans would say, “Tell that to the Marines”. No politician will be that stupid. But the President could pull a fast one on everybody. Shame them by standing on the truth.
So, I have a shopping list for Mr President
*Call all the attack dogs in Rivers state from both sides of the divide to order.
*As the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, order a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the activities of the Military and the Police in the Rivers state elections. A number of their names have been like recurring decimals. Ask why they are permanent in the state.
*Ask them to protect INEC office in PH and INEC staff, and let the results be honestly and transparently collated and released.
*Read the riot act for them, and walk the talk. You don’t need this type of wahala in the state.
*Ignore any pressure to declare a state of emergency in Rivers state. The reason will be too obvious. When you leave office, at the end of your tenure, the people will never forgive their sons. They would know who were behind the state of emergency. It is already public secret.
In sum, Mr President, shame all those dropping your name in the war in Rivers state.
Here is why you should.
Many find it hard to believe that you didn’t know about the alleged shameful actions of the military and police during the general elections, and in Rivers state in particular. Show them that you are a father to all. Shame them, Mr President. Shame the name droppers, trouble makers and blood suckers. They are no good for you. Or for our country.