Rivers drama of absurdity

The beauty of democracy is the blood of freedom that transfuses in the political system in form of people’s will and constitutionalism. Unfortunately, this seems to be on trial in Rivers state with the drama of absurdity that has created a template for a “graveyard peace resolution” midwifed by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in disguise of the quest for de-escalation of tension in the state.

On 19th December, 2023, a document containing eight point resolutions purported to be the conditions for peace in Rivers state surfaced in the media few hours after the president held a meeting with the invited stakeholders from the state. The resolution contains immediate withdrawal of all legal suits on the impasse from the court, re-presentation of the 2024 appropriation bill earlier presented and signed into law by the governor of the state, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, “open visa” for the defected 27 members of the House of Assembly to choose the location of their choice for legislative business, among others.

Meanwhile, section 109 (1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, stipulates that a member of the House of Assembly that engage in carpet crossing before the expiration of his or her tenure shall automatically be deemed to have vacated his position and can only return to the house if he/she wins a by-election that will be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. This shows that the power to return a member of the House of Assembly that has lost his/her seat resides solely with the people at the constituency not at the Aso Villa.

Surprisingly, the number one citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Tinubu, who ought to know better seems to have joined the drama of absurdity by presiding over a meeting where issues that seem to desecrate the constitution were tabled and turned to a directive that is synonymous with the Minuchi agreement made in 1938 by the European powers in order to prevent the outbreak of the second world war but never stopped the war from happening.

No wonder, instead of the resolution to bring peace it has continued to generate more controversies with the reports of street protests flowing like river of waters on the front page of the dailies with the demand for the president to hang his hands off from the Rivers state issues or face legal battle for his unconstitutional directive. This is an offence that would have attracted an impeachment notice in a society where the quest for building strong institutions is placed above the interest of building strong men.

That Nigeria seems to place the interest of the strong men above the struggle for building strong institutions is not in doubt. That is the reason the president came up with the directives that disregard the provisions in the constitution and reduced a sub national unit to a subsidiary of Aso Rock without any consequence.

Although, in the quest for peace there is nothing too big to sacrifice but the failure to give room for the parties to narrate the cause(s) of the crisis and debate the way forward at the meeting before the president’s pronouncement shows that the president is more concerned about protecting the interest of his machineries than the peace he acclaimed to be looking for.

Till date, none of the actors in the drama has publicly given tangible reason that can justify the magnitude the political impasse in the state has taken in recent times aside the allegations made by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Mr. Nyesom Wike, that the governor is trying to destroy the structure that brought him to power. This raises questions on the possibility of proffering solutions to issues which causes are not known.

That’s why some have argued that the president’s intervention in the political imbroglio only took away the dagger from the neck of the governor and placed it at his back because even the president himself cannot abide by the content in the peace resolution if he were to be in the shoes of the governor.

For instance, President Tinubu gained his fame when he resisted the attempt of the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration to desecrate the constitution on the altar of political manipulation and absurdity, especially on the creation of the Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) while he was governor of Lagos state by taking the matter to the court of competent jurisdiction even up to the Supreme Court.

The president’s directive is not unexpected because he is the leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, before being elected as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and nobody will see an opportunity to enlarge his camp and will not grab it. Also, the president needs to keep oiling the machinery that helped him navigate the hurdles in the state at the 2023 presidential election so that he can use the ladder again in 2027.

It is the struggle to finally move Rivers state from the “PDAPC” to APC so that there can be smooth ride in 2027 that seems to be the unwritten and unspoken part of the whole drama and the reason the president midwifed the lopsided peace accord that continues to generate confusion contributing to the pains and psychological trauma occasioned by the skyrocketed prices of goods and services in the state.

Fortunately, and unfortunately, the president and his machinery seems to be dealing with a governor that is loaded with Machiavellian tactics making it difficult to predict his next line of actions. For instance, while the governor continues to display gentleman approach in his words and resonation of the choruses of nothing is too big to let go for peace to reign, the governor has pulled down the assembly complex that was built with the resources of the state and tactically commenced the implementation of the so-called peace accord. This buttresses the point that action speaks louder than words.

To adequately resolve the political impasse, the president needs to uphold the constitution, respect the will of the people of Rivers state, and seek more legal advice on the relationship between the central and subnational units in a federal system. This will fast track the quest for building strong institutions in Nigeria and prevent the country from degenerating to a state of anarchy.

Femi Oluwasanmi,
Osun state.