Faction suspends 27 pro-Amaechi lawmakers
Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka warned yesterday against the debasement and manipulation of the judiciary to avoid anarchy.
The dramatist spoke in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital where two factions are battling for the soul of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Also yesterday, the Chief Felix Obuah-led state executive of the party suspended 27 of the 32 members of the House of Assembly, who are loyal to Governor Rotimi Amaechi. Among those suspended is Speaker Otelemaba Dan Amachree. Their seats were declared vacant.
But the lawmakers insisted that they had secured a Port Harcourt High Court injuction barring the party from suspending them.
Soyinka, standing in front of the Governor’s Office in the Government House — Amaechi beside him — also described the choice of Port Harcourt as the World Book Capital 2014 as a great honour for Nigeria, the state and Port Harcourt.
He said he was glad to be in a position to assist the state government, using the instrumentality of literacy, education and knowledge to counter “the negativists”, “violent negativists as represented in movements like Boko Haram”.
On the deepening Rivers PDP crisis, the playwright said: “The judiciary right now, while it is trying to reform itself, recognises the fact that there are still some dark areas. It is the effect of the dark areas that seems to be creating a crisis in Rivers State right now.
“I am just alarmed. I am alarmed that a situation exists at all, where it strikes me. It appears to me that the judiciary is being manipulated. That is the impression which I had and that is an alarm which should be sounded in every corner of the nation.
“Witch-hunting is a very heavy word. Let me just say this generally, that I hate evidence of pettiness in governance. Pettiness at any level is unbecoming of any democratic situation.”
Commenting on the grounded state government aircraft, Soyinka said: “I am a citizen of this nation. So, I am affected personally by what is happening at the opposite end of the nation. Those who feel that any kind of transgression of the collective rights of groups will not affect, will not have a kind of ripple effect, which will affect other parts of the nation, must be living in a cloud.
“I am concerned and I will be quite frank with you. I am very much concerned about the imbroglio in which the state (Rivers) appears to be involved at the moment and my main comment is, for heaven’s sake, whatever happens internally between parties and so on, please do not debase and do not manipulate the judiciary. That is my appeal to governance at all levels.
“Please, do not manipulate the judiciary, because when you do, you have chaos, you have total anarchy and you reduce the nation to a space of complete breakdown of law and order, of what is known as anomie, which is what this nation had better avoided.”
The PDP leadership dispute was pending in a court in Port Harcourt when Justice Ishaq Bello of an Abuja High Court assumed jurisdiction in the matter. He handed victory to the faction loyal to the Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike.
Obuah, with whom was party Secretary Walter Ibibia and other members of the executive, also stated that the 48-hour ultimatum given Amaechi would enable him to explain the status of the aircraft.
He noted that the controversy generated by the real ownership of the aircraft and its operation had brought embarrassment to the party.
The factional chairman stressed that the party’s decision to suspend the 27-pro Amaechi lawmakers was in view of their refusal to rescind the April 22 suspension of the Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government, Prince Timothy Nsirim, his vice and all the seven councillors loyal to Wike, at the end of the 48-hour ultimatum given to them to do so.
He said: “The party views with grave concern, the unfolding facts surrounding the ownership of the purported aircraft and will not fold its arms and allow monumental fraud to be perpetrated in Rivers State. It is unacceptable and embarrassing to our great party, that public funds are hopelessly mismanaged. As a result, these questions must be answered by the Rivers State government:
“Where is the aircraft purportedly bought with Rivers State fund and tax payers’ money? Where have the billions of naira taken from the coffers of the Rivers State government gone and for what purpose was it appropriated and where is it diverted?
“The government of Rivers State, led by Rt. Hon Rotimi Amaechi, owes a public explanation to the entire people of Rivers State and the PDP in particular, as to the true owners of the Bombardier BD 700. They should also explain the identity and the role played by the Bank of Utah of the USA in the purchase of the aircraft and the identity of the owners of the said company to be unveiled.
“On Monday, April 22, 2013, the party issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the Rivers State House of Assembly to rescind the order on the dissolution of Obio/Akpor council, which was flagrantly disobeyed.
“The party hereby suspends all 27 members of the House of Assembly that carried out such action while their matter is referred to disciplinary committee for further action.”
The five lawmakers loyal to Wike, who are not affected by the suspension, are: Michael Chinda (Obio/Akpor II constituency), Kelechi Godspower Nwogu (Omuma), Evans Bipi (Ogu/Bolo), Martins Amaewhule (Obio/Akpor I) and Victor Ihunwo (Port Harcourt III).
Those suspended are Otelemaba Dan Amachree (Speaker, Asari Toru I), Augustine Paul (Abua/Odua), Ewor Nname (Ahoada East I), Nwuche Ibiso (Ahoada East II), Dr. Chigbo Sam Eligwe (Ahoada West). Onari Brown (Akuku Toru I), Anabaraba Benibo (Akuku-Toru II), Ikuinyi Owaji Ibani (Andoni), Horsfall Godstimes (Asari-Toru II), Aye People Atamah (Bonny).
Others are: Tonye Harry Ezekiel (Degema), Chidi Lyold (Leader of the House, Emohua), Amadi Victor (Etche 1), Golden Ngozi Ben Chioma (Etche II), Barikor Innocent (Gokana), Wanjoku Chikere Azubike (Ikwerre), Legborsi Nwidadah (Khana 1), Leyii Kwanee (Deputy Speaker, Khana II), Gift Nwokocha (Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni I), Lucky Odili (Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni II), Belema Okpokiri (Okrika), Miller Andrew Anderson (Opobo/Nkoro), Victoria Wobo Nyeche (Port Harcourt 1), Irene Martins Inimgba (Port Harcourt 11) and Felicia Taneh (Tai).
On April 15, Justice Ishaq Bello of an Abuja High Court confirmed the election of Obuah and members of his executive, which led to the sack of Chief Godspower Ake, a former National Vice Chairman (Southsouth) of the PDP, and members of his executive.
Ake and members of his executive emerged from the state congress of the PDP at the Alfred Diete-Spiff Civic Centre, Port Harcourt on March 17, 2012.
Amaechi, addressing his supporters at the main gate of the Government House, Port Harcourt, described the judgment as the desecration of the temple of justice, calling on the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Maryam Mukhtar, to quickly intervene.
Wike, who wants to be governor in 2015, is a former Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt and doubled as the Director-General of the Amaechi Campaign Organisation in 2011. Amaechi and Wike are Ikwerre. The governor felt somebody from another ethnic group should succeed him.
Source: The Nation