by Stanley Azuakola
Careful, careful, what you believe – so much spin being sold as real these days.
Since the tension in the Rivers state house of assembly came to a head, the two sides and their supporters have been making claims, counter-claims, insinuations, innuendoes and spinning things in the media just so they can curry sympathy, absolve themselves of the blame and create the impression of having the upper hand.
Not so fast! Let’s try to separate some truth from chaff.
If there’s anyone still ignorant of the issue, it’s about the 2 camps in the Rivers assembly. The minority camp of 5 is led by Evans Bipi, and loyal to the Rivers state court recognised PDP executive, the minister of state for education, Nyesom Wike, and Aso Rock. The majority camp of 27 lawmakers is led by Otelemaba Dan Amachree (house speaker), although Chidi Lloyd (the majority leader) is a much more visible face in that camp. They are loyal to the state governor, Rotimi Amaechi.
8 themes which both camps are trying to spin would be looked at – 4 anti-Amaechi, and 4 pro-Amaechi.
Anti-Amaechi (1): The anti-Amaechi side is doing a mighty job of trying to divert emphasis away from their action which is at the centre of the crisis – that 5 people – in an assembly of 32 – plotted, sat and allegedly removed the speaker who is backed by a whopping 27 members. The audacity and the gravity of the impunity is jarring.
In the first place, the Bipi led flock disregarded the House rules which requires a quorum comprising one-third of members to be present. They had nowhere near the 11 needed to even sit. Worst of all, the constitution clearly requires in Section 92, subsection 2(c) for not less than “two-third majority of the members of the House” to pass a resolution before a speaker can be said to have been impeached.
But Bipi is not a smart man. Even when he came out to address the press, he claimed that he had 15 members backing him, if he did his arithmetic properly, he would have noticed that two-third of 32 is approximately 22 which is what is needed to effect an impeachment.
But he probably did not even know the law. That’s why his group conducted what they called an impeachment but did not vote – video evidence shows that someone simply moved the motion for the impeachment and someone else seconded and the next thing they were calling for nomination of a new speaker. Such poor attention to details!
They took their impunity a notch higher when they smuggled a fake mace into the chambers. Yes, the mace which Chidi Lloyd viciously used in slamming Kingsley Chinda was a fake. This group attempted to import the factionalism fad currently bedevilling various groups in the country into the Rivers assembly. Those who support this, especially the Rivers PDP are also guilty of disregarding the rule of law.
Pro-Amaechi (1): The rhetoric of the Amaechi government can be very misleading at times. On Wednesday, the Information Commissioner, Ibim Seminatari made a ludicrous attempt to create an impression that the Government House was under attack by the police. She sent an ‘SOS appeal’ on social media that shots were being fired into Government House. That was a lie through and true. Yes, Mbu Joseph, the state commissioner has acted as a partisan a lot recently but his men did not attack the Government House. They sealed the assembly complex; blocked all roads leading into the assembly, High Court and Government House which all lie in the same axis; they dispersed protesters from those places with tear gas cannisters and at some point shots in the air, but never was it targeted at the Government House.
Anti-Amaechi (2): Videos on You Tube have shown how Chidi Lloyd hit his colleague mercilessly with a mace (more on that later). Hence, the anti-Amaechi team tried to spin the situation as if the attack was started by the pro-Amaechi people. It wasn’t. As a matter of fact, it was Evans Bipi who threw the first punch even before any official sitting that morning. By then the news cameras had not started rolling but eyewitnesses in the assembly confirmed to The Scoop that video cameras permanently stationed on the House floor and which beams in all the offices in the assembly, showed that Chidi Lloyd was first punched by Bipi and further hit with a tripod used in mounting the assembly cameras. Chidi Lloyd did not retaliate at that time, which prompted another pro-Amaechi lawmaker to comment during an interview later that it was “unlike him.”
Now, thankfully to further buttress this point, there are video recordings of Bipi confessing to his supporters that he punched Lloyd first. So if the question is: Who started it? Answer: Evans Bipi and co.
Pro-Amaechi (2): However, if the question is: Whose attack was the most vicious? No doubt that it was the incredible stark raving mad attack by Chidi Lloyd on Michael Chinda and Kelechi Wogu (who was also beaten by a security official). Lloyd is a most combustible character who has been frequently described as a “tout” by some who know him. His actions were inexcusable and shameful.
The pro-Amaechi group has been claiming that Lloyd did it in self-defence. Bleh! It was revenge in good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. He wasn’t under attack when he did it, and his group which had quickly recovered from their initial setback had the numbers and the security from the Government House to boot. If the Rivers assembly ever gets to sit again in this dispensation, the first thing it must do is remove that “leader” in front of Lloyd’s name; but then who will replace him?
Anti-Amaechi (3): In that same video, a security official was seen beating Kelechi Wogu and is soon joined by two others (including Lloyd). Several sources confirmed to The Scoop that during the melee at the assembly, Wogu told his security detail to “Shoot the governor! Shoot the governor!” At that time, Amaechi was in the assembly. Utterly reckless statement made in a moment of heat, which if heeded by the security detail, could have resulted in a monumental tragedy. What is the penalty for threatening the state’s chief executive? Beating? Was it excessive? Does the law say anything on this? Hon. Amadi, who represents Etche constituency said in a radio show that “ordinarily, anyone who makes such a threat against the governor should have been shot on the spot. Yes that’s the law.” We were not aware of such a law.
Pro-Amaechi (3): But why was Amaechi even at the assembly? But more importantly, why did the governor of the state and the chief security officer believe that the solution to the problem – even when his group had the numbers, and thanks to him had the Government House security – was to unleash more violence? The governor was at the assembly premises (we cannot confirm if he entered into the chambers), when the fighting broke out a second time inside and outside the complex. He had his own supporters/thugs as well. His commissioner and spin doctor’s attempt to claim that he came to mediate is nonsense. If mediation was ever conducted that way we’ll all carry maces.
Anti-Amaechi (4): This one is dicey and crucial at once. Aso Rock and some of the president’s loyalists are straining to sell the argument that the president and his wife have no hand in the crisis and are blissfully unaware.
That claim was punctured somewhat by Evans Bipi again in another viral video in which the state’s deputy governor who came to the assembly to present the budget amendment after the second fight was seen pleading with Bipi to calm down. But Bipi would have none of it. He kept saying, “Why will Amaechi insult the president? Why will Amaechi insult my mother, the first lady?”
It was Bipi’s wedding which the first lady had recently graced in Port Harcourt during her unprecedented 10-day visit.
Bipi’s words effectively injects the occupants of Aso Rock into the discussion, chiefly because he is a key character and also because he is loyal to Aso Rock. It would take a lot more than Doyin Okupe’s bombastic press statements to convince otherwise. Saying that GEJ knows nothing about the crisis in Rivers is like Amaechi saying, “Oh, I can’t recall the sacked Obio-Akpor council executive because it wasn’t I who sacked them, it was the assembly that did it.” Oh yes, of course.
Pro-Amaechi (4): The fact is the pro-Amaechi lawmakers cannot claim any ounce of moral superiority in this affair. It is sad that something as important as the state’s budget was considered and approved by the assembly on the day of this fracas. They wanted a ceremonial meet to show that they were in charge, and of all things to discuss, it was a document as important as the budget. That’s how seriously they take their duties. Without any rigour, they approved the executive’s request.
This assembly has been the most embarrassing form of rubber stamp imaginable. Hardly anything emanating from the Government House is scrutinised painstakingly. Not even the Rotimi Amaechi led assembly from 1999-2007, which was also famous for rubber stamping anything the former governor, Peter Odili sent, was as notorious as this one.
It’s important to state these facts so that Nigerians can follow the situation objectively and based on the law, not based on personalities or sentiments or which camp’s talking point is the loudest or who is being cheered on by the media.