By now, every Nigerian with a sense of decency who has seen the video, which has since gone viral, of the impeachment drama in Rivers State should be disheartened. The power play that blew up after the crisis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum chairmanship election is inching towards an unpalatable conclusion. It is not sufficient that 35 governors could not resolve between their bumbling selves who won a simple election, the story keeps taking unpleasant twists and turns. It is increasingly obvious that as long as the “Ogas-at-the-top” from our corridors of inordinate power remote-control the crisis, there can be no fairy tale ending. The continuing skirmish feeds their insatiable savage egos; where the whole affair is headed is pregnant and nursing a baby at the same time.
As the sordid tale emanating from Port Harcourt goes, five lawmakers, who were probably high on their own supplies, decided to “impeach” the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly. The fact that their numbers put them in the minority was not going to stop them from their scripted act. Yes, they are lawmakers but their thuggish tendencies were not going to be disturbed by such propriety. These knaves, instead, took the route of “anything goes.” (After all, in Nigeria, as in the famed Charly Boy Show, anything can happen.) Their acts are a shame to not only themselves and we-the-people, they also threaten the whole construct called “Nigerian democracy.” From the recent twist in the democratic tale of Egypt, we should have learnt that the seemingly small –yet unscrupulous — things we allow to stand could easily imperil the big gains of democracy. In Nigeria, small is gathering maniacal pace and before we know it, it will cease to shock us. From the cases of Joshua Dariye in Plateau State and Chris Ngige in Anambra State, Nigeria’s stories all follow the same pattern of jeopardising democracy to achieve despotic ends.
Most tellingly, in this regard was the case of Rashidi Ladoja in Oyo State in 2005/2006.
The crooked drama that unseated Ladoja as governor blew open when he clashed with his godfather, Lamidi Adedibu. It generated a crisis that distracted and detracted from meaningful governance. Adedibu — the unpretentious politician he was — declared on television that the governor would go because he was not hoeing enough state resources in his (Adedibu’s) direction. He swore he would replace the governor with his lackey who also happened to be Ladoja’s deputy, Adebayo Alao-Akala. Not only did Adedibu publicly announce his plans to scuttle a democratic process, he unabashedly stated he had the backing of Aso Rock. His claims were never refuted.
When the impeachment was eventually staged, it was a certain Lateef Salako –Eleweomo — who presided over the process. His fellow thugs stormed the House, kicked out the lawmakers and in an abominable moment, Eleweomo announced that on behalf of the lawmakers, the governor had been impeached. And indeed, the governor stood impeached for a while.
It has been a while since the Ladoja episode and a lot has happened. Adedibu is dead; both Ladoja and Alao-Akala have suffered electoral defeats and the pro-Adedibu/Alao-Akala camp that spearheaded the illegal act has found other idleness; Eleweomo himself was gruesomely killed in another thuggish act that involved the then Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin. However, the culture of impunity and disrespect for democratic processes these political actors fostered subsists. Like the cases of Ladoja, Dariye and Ngige, the hands of Abuja shape the emerging drama in Port Harcourt; obviously someone has been reading Olusegun Obasanjo’s playbook and is not even imaginative enough to improve on the familiar script. The plot remains as barbaric as it was when Eleweomo used it to subvert a democratic process. This renascent do-or-die mentality from an animal called man has seen far too many episodic repetitions.
From Awka to Jos to Ibadan, and this past Tuesday, to Port Harcourt, thugs and pretend-lawmakers would never have had the effrontery to invade and desecrate the Hallowed Chamber if they were not confident of the backing of other scoundrels in high places. If they were not given the assurances that they would get away with it, they would not do it; at least not with so much impunity. Chris Uba and his men walked away as free men after abducting Ngige. And did so till date. The Plateau Eight equally got away with their boorishness. Eleweomo and his band of merry thugs, as they took over the Oyo State House of Assembly in an orgy of violence, were beamed on television but so what? What action did the state take against them? Rather, the old thug remained at the behest of the governor and was still doing his bidding when he was killed.
The case of Port Harcourt is not likely to be very different. If it would, the fighter-lawmakers would have been arrested and charged with assault at least. By now, their sober faces should be on the evening news, but will that happen? Will the rogues in Abuja move against their stooges? Hardly.
The thugs in Port Harcourt might look better dressed than the ones in Ibadan but they are the same philistines, used by sadists to upset the political cart of the state. When five lawmakers become so desperate to want to “impeach” and they feel empowered enough to proceed with such an illegal act, then we should ask if they –and their paymasters — have the most basic idea of what democracy means at all. If they want to be thugs, why not write their own constitution? An unprepared mind will always exhibit its crude nature, sooner than later when dissent is espied. And so has been the case since 1999. What passes for statesmanship and statecraft most times will shame even the wild animals roaming in Yankari Park.
The consequences of violating the legislature are legion but let those who are puppet-controlling the strings of the crisis in Rivers State not forget this: When you throw ashes into the wind, it blows back right into your face. You cannot make a mockery of democracy — by grabbing and fighting over the mace, beating up and pushing out fellow elected lawmakers, taking over the legislature — without also suffering the consequences eventually. Those who sit in lofty places and engineer crisis to prove their power (or lack of it) should know that if Nigerian democratic processes go down, no one is immune. We will all go down with it.