Friday, January 17, 2014

Rivers State: The looming anarchy

Mbu-AmaechiTHE violent disruption of a rally by supporters of Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi by the Police was another unfortunate episode in the unfolding anarchy in the state. Not only was an event for which a police permit was ostensibly granted (never mind that, as established by Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution and reaffirmed in a Supreme Court  judgment,  such a permit is not at all required)  invaded in the rudest manner,  participants were attacked with teargas and  shot at. One of the victims, Senator Magnus Abe has been flown abroad for treatment while many others are at home, nursing their wounds. This descent into lawlessness occasioned by a politics of bitterness and exacerbated by police high-handedness is condemnable.
   With each step towards brigandage, this newspaper has had cause to repeatedly call attention to the worsening  political and security situation in Rivers State. All warnings against a do-or-die politics  and the misuse of state security apparatus to pursue narrow interest have gone unheeded. It is increasingly clear now that with bitter political differences having aggravated  into a clash of personality and ego, the  political bigwigs in Rivers State, each acting on behalf of self  and/ or a higher power, together with their respective  foot-soldiers in the state legislature and elsewhere,  are  determined  on a fight-to-finish course. Not to be forgotten, of course, is alleged involvement of First Lady, Patience Jonathan and the Presidency in the politics and related matters of the state. What is clear is that, in the long run, the endless crisis will do neither the antagonists nor Rivers State any good.  Indeed, every incident in the tragic drama has also taken its collateral damage in human, material, reputation, and other costs. A few weeks ago, two court  houses were bombed and sensitive documents destroyed; also the secretariat of the state chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) located in the building of the Ahoada High Court suffered damage.  Now, the national NBA is up in arms against the federal authorities, demanding “an immediate and thorough investigation...and a report, even if interim within 30 days of the date of the incident.” 
   The Police in Rivers State, as represented by Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mbu have to all intents and purposes, become an active participant in the political imbroglio or worse still, a willing tool in the hands of politicians to perpetrate high-handedness. Furthermore, beyond the call of professional duty, Mr. Mbu has, it seems, become personally involved in the political crisis of Rivers State. When he is not countermanding the orders of the governor who is the state’s chief security officer, Mbu is engaged in verbal altercation with one or other high state official or, on spurious excuses, causing to be disrupted events organised by one party to the crisis. 
   But his job, as far as can be constitutionally discerned, is supposed to be one of an impartial professional. All indications are that the state police under Mbu are severely compromised now and cannot be trusted to impartially maintain law and order in Rivers State.  Sadly, all these untoward acts occur and no one has deemed it fit to heed the call to move Mbu out of Rivers State. His attitude and conduct are not right and are against all the rules of professionalism in the disciplined forces.  The way the Police carry on in Rivers State is a serious damage to the collective reputation of the Force. This should stop.
  The crisis in Rivers State is also giving democracy in Nigeria a very bad name and, from both the overt picture and the undercurrents, it is appropriate to hold the  ruling elite, from the President, as father of the nation, to the state governor, and all other actors, fully responsible for how bad things have gone.
   Elected leaders are on oath  to ‘not allow any personal interest to influence [their] official conduct or [their] official decision...[to] do right to all manner of people  according to law,  without fear or favour, affection or ill-will’.
  To avert the looming anarchy in Rivers State, the state’s political elite must embrace decency and a deep sense of responsibility, while Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the President, will do well to give credence to his oath by doing what is right, devoid of personal interest, to enthrone peace in Rivers State.

Guardian Editorial