The news from Rivers State will get nastier before it gets nice, if it ever will. What started as a small disagreement between Governor Rotimi Amaechi and First Lady Patience Jonathan over the renovation of a local school in Port Harcourt about four years ago has deteriorated into a full-scale war, with no weapons spared.
The fight took yet another dramatic turn recently when the majority leader of the Rivers State House of Assembly and prominent Amaechi supporter, Chidi Lloyd, was arrested and later charged for multiple murders. There’s no use trying to figure out if the charge makes any sense at all. That’s the last thing on the mind of the police. In their furious bid to teach Amaechi a lesson, the police seem quite pleased to suspend common sense and make a complete fool of themselves so long as it makes Aso Rock happy.
Lloyd is not the target. To charge him with an offence, which at best could have been manslaughter, shows just how ridiculously desperate the federal government has become in its war on Amaechi. Why? Lloyd’s car was involved in an accident at a checkpoint along the East-West Road at about 10:30pm on December 30. The man wasn’t driving himself; his driver was behind the wheels. The accident led to the tragic deaths of two persons – a policeman and Kingsley Ejihuo, state lawmaker and supporter of Amaechi’s rival, Nyesom Wike.
How the bitter rivalry between the two camps would play out in this way is an inexplicably cruel twist of fate. Except he is a mad man, Lloyd is already in enough trouble to compound his misery in the reckless manner being suggested by the police. After the brawl at the State House of Assembly last July, Lloyd was charged with attempted murder and is currently on bail. If, in spite of his current predicament, Lloyd would grab a car, chase his opponent all around town and stalk him to a police checkpoint where he would defy a trailer, run over a policeman and finally crush his target, then, the police obviously want us to believe that the man was on a suicide mission.
I will not put anything past politicians but the whole thing comes across like a cheap imitation of Mafia 2.0, produced and directed by President Jonathan’s men with state police commissioner Mbu Joseph Mbu playing a lead role. Even the police account of the accident is as ridiculous as it is self-indicting. It said when “facts” emerged that the accident was not an accident, the police assigned four of its men to the hospital where Lloyd was hiding. Yet while he was under guard of the four policemen, Lloyd, who had just survived an accident, “sneaked out through the backdoor into one of the three bulletproof cars that accompanied him to the hospital and escaped”.
Fiction doesn’t get any better. The police have a duty to keep the peace and to get to the root of crimes, great and small. An accident that cost two lives – and potentially more – including the life of a policeman on duty is not the sort of thing to play politics with. I’m not sure Mbu understands this. One account said after the accident occurred, Lloyd reported to DPO Kingsley Anyanwu at Rumuji Police Division, where he made a statement and his driver was detained before he went to a private hospital for treatment. How a charge of multiple murders can be sustained under the circumstance and in a case that would ultimately be prosecuted by the state prosecutor is difficult to see. Of course, the cause of politics would have been served. But what about justice for the dead and fair trial for the accused? What about the lessons from diligent investigations and prosecution, which would have enriched both the law and public safety?
Since the crisis in Rivers State worsened last year, Mbu has given the impression that he is bigger than the Police Service Commission, bigger than the inspector-general and only answerable to the president and his wife for whom he is on a personal mission. This is wrong. For the sake of the people of Rivers State where he is deployed and out of respect for the uniform that he wears, Mbu must stop playing politics.
Amaechi’s camp has its problems, especially a penchant to over-dramatise, which sometimes diminishes his office.
Regrettably, the war in Rivers is personal. It’s personal for Amaechi; it’s personal for the president and his wife. They have lost the school renovation battle, lost the Okrika local government chair, lost the Governors’ Forum chair and almost certainly lost the battle to impeach Amaechi. The coming election will be the last stand and it appears hard for them to overcome the temptation to teach Amaechi, the habitual mocker, the lesson of his life.
Yet, for the sake of his oath of office, the president should summon the will to rise above the fray and call Mbu to order before he goes mad. In the last 50 years or so, two conflicts in the area that started as small political sparks – Adaka Boro and the Ogoni struggle – led to serious fallouts in the region and threatened to inflame the country. Last Tuesday’s court bombings in Rivers show how perilously close the state is to the slope.
Neither the state nor the country can afford one more wrong step. Whether in drama or politics, the lessons of the volatile history of Rivers State are too dire to repeat.
When I said last week that the Central Bank governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, should expect to pay a heavy price for his $49.8billion letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, I didn’t know that the governor already had it coming.
The president has asked him to resign, the same way I’m told he also asked the aviation minister, Stella Oduah, to resign. Sanusi will not go, for good reasons; Oduah will not go, for the wrong reasons. Yet both cases send the same telling message: a presidency without balls.
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