The elections of 2019 have come and gone; justice has prevailed as the resolute and unmistakable voice of Rivers people through the democratic instrument of the ballot box has been upheld; glory be to God. How social commentators, academics and historians will treat the episode will unfold in time.
As we nurse our wounds from the harrowing experiences, there is the need for us to ask ourselves certain questions; questions that would enable us burrow beneath the observable outcomes of the experiences with the objective of learning lessons and guarding against an encore. This piece seeks to point out how the people of Rivers State individually and collectively primed and ratcheted Rt. Honourable Rotimi Amaechi to heat up the Rivers State political firmament unnecessarily. Restated metaphorically, the paper pries into how we seeded and precipitated the vicious thunderstorm and torrential rains that pounded us so hard they almost consumed us.
Ab initio, Amaechi was taught that the way to the apex of the superstructures of public office is by destabilizing the system. Since his entry and meteoric rise in politics was through undermining participatory democracy, he was psychologically primed and ratcheted to fatigue and enfeeble the system at every rung of the ladder. So, he naturally has no respect and regards whatsoever for the processes and procedures of government; resultantly, this reflected in his attitude, behaviour and actions. Generally, such individuals never have the neuro-physiological experience of being satisfied with their situation, body or mind no matter how lofty and comfortable; this is the mindset of insatiability. And for any individual who is in this state of mind, life is a string of battles in an endless war; here, we see the explanation for the war songs at the soapbox of a peaceful process.
If we objectively search our minds and conscience, we would agree that the truth is that in our collective docility and resultant gullibility, we watched as the doors of Rivers State judiciary were shut for eighteen months and the legal profession went into comatose; as a result, our sons of the learned profession turned their cars into kabukabu and there was talk of some on the other side of the gender hedgerow sojourning at the Magdalene Lanes and Red Light Districts of metropolitan Nigeria as a survivalist mechanism. While many marriages caved in under the weight of the situation, some of the learned gentlemen died out of frustration and depression. We also watched helplessly as the mace morphed from an instrument of law to an implement of war; in the process, the legislature was thoroughly brutalized, cowed and forced to hold its proceedings and sessions in the kitchen of the executive arm of government while Baron de Montesquieu turned in silent rage in his grave.
Furthering on our docility and collective responsibility for the experience, I would ask: how many well-meaning Rivers men and women reached out to Amaechi to appeal or call him to order? What about Ogbako Ikwerre? We may never know the answer to these questions, but this is part of our problems. At about 9.30pm on Saturday, March 2, 2019, I saw the portraits of Minister Amaechi and Governor Wike hanging side-by-side on the walls of the international wing of Port Harcourt International Airport. Moved by the irony of the harmony between them on the wall, I sent a WhatsApp message to Amaechi in which I addressed him as Rotimi, bemoaned the dangerous effects of his line of action, demanded that he should stop forthwith and reminded him that “there’s life after public office.” Interestingly, he replied shortly. Impressed by the civility and humility of his replying, I wrote again addressing him this time as Rt. Honourable. I thanked him for replying but expressed dissatisfaction with the noncommittal essence of his response; then I reiterated my position and suggested that “if there is any way I can be of use in the [proposed peace] process please let me know.” He did not reply to this. The point here is that by replying me, Amaechi demonstrated a human side and humility; therefore, if many well-meaning people he knows, especially those who knew him in his humble days, had reached out to him, addressed him the way he used to be addressed before he became powerful and said certain hard truths to him, he may have had a rethink and spared us the bad experience.
To all and sundry, I would say thus: humility is a virtue and a reflection of inner strength, not weakness. As we navigate the turbulent waters of life, we should learn to know when to stop in whatever line of action we are taking; life after office can be warm or frigid depending on our actions and inactions while in office. Therefore, we must learn to be circumspect and encourage people around us to tell us the gospel truth, no matter the circumstance. In our public and private lives, we should engage the services of a “devil’s advocate.” This is usually very beneficial; it is entrenched in US corporate governance and, incidentally, it is part of the Nigerian culture of traditional governance. Even in the household, there is always the need for someone, wife, husband or child to be able to look us in the eyes and tell us certain hard truths. What are the lessons learnable from this episode? We should all be conscious of when the clouds commence gathering and procure umbrellas so we are not beaten by the rain. We all watched the storm gather without buying umbrellas; resultantly, we were stressed beyond limits and lost many innocent lives during the vicious thunderstorm and torrential rain. Never again should we subject ourselves to such harrowing experience; never.
In summation and the point of lesson, when you take someone who never held any employment in a formal organization, you maneuver the judiciary and legislature and hoist him on a State as number three citizen; and thereafter, in total disregard for the “vote and be voted for” requirement of the electoral laws, you use the apex body of the judiciary to hoist him on the State as the Chief Executive Officer, you have succeeded in exploding his pituitary and thus creating a superman, a Frankenstein monster that would have no regard whatsoever for participatory democracy, the processes and procedures of the institutions of government and rule of law. The gospel truth we must tell ourselves is that through our actions and inactions, we collectively created the chaos we experienced in 2019 elections; and that is the lesson to learn if we intend to avoid an encore.
Dr Osai is a lecturer at the Rivers State University, P.H.