I have heard and read so many write-ups that the situation in Rivers State portends danger for our democracy. I cannot agree more. However reading through the opinions I note that they all concentrate on personalities instead of the system. One thing is clear; these personalities will all fizzle out when they have finished their role but the system they will leave behind is likely to be worse off. I am therefore more worried about what befalls our democratic institutions in this entire imbroglio.
I am not oblivious of the sentiments involved in the case; hitherto that there is disquiet between Rotimi Amaechi and his former friends on one hand and a yet to be accepted break in relationship between Rotimi Amaechi and the Presidency. I have earlier advised in a write-up that Rotimi Amaechi needs wisdom. One therefore needs to tread carefully as whatever you say can be misconstrued in this case. There are many hangers-on who are fuelling the fire and will likely say I am either on one side or the other. I am not an apologist of any one but a stake holder and a strong believer in the continuous growth of our democracy especially as it is in our dear State.
The Nigerian system of democracy clearly identifies three arms of government- Executive, Legislature and Judiciary and our constitution states the need for separation of powers among these arms. And until such a time when each of these component arms is able to stand as independent but working for the whole, we shall continue to remain in our political darkness.
I say this because; judging from what has been happening in our democracy, there is always one arm of government which tries to cage the other. But I believe this not necessary. Many people say this is what Hon Tambuwal and his team have started in the current House of Representatives showing that they want to be independent. Some argue that such desire for independence is akin to not wanting to work together or even being disrespectful. It is therefore not a surprise to see various publications in the news media on suspected face-offs between the Hon Tambuwal led House of Representatives and the Jonathan led Federal Executive. The good thing is that both parties have come out to the open to deny any disagreement.
In one sense this is good for our democracy if the law makers will continue to exercise independence and ensure the Executive does not take governance for granted. But as we all know politics is an octopus with many legs some which may even be false legs but appearing like true legs. The obvious is that no arm of government wants to be caged by the other including the Judiciary.
Our democracy as entrenched in the constitution identifies three arms. However in Rivers State we seem to have a different system operating for some time. I am asking where are the three arms of government i.e. the executive, legislature and the judiciary. We know that the National Assembly took over the role of the State House of Assembly of Rivers State earlier in the year as a result of infighting. We have also been reading about the judiciary being stifled since the retirement of the substantive Chief Judge and Rotimi Amaechi’s appointment of an Acting Chief Judge pending National Judicial Council decision on the next substantive Chief Judge. It is obvious that the absence of a viable judiciary and legislature erode the system of checks and balances to ensure that one arm does not have a stranglehold on the others. I do not think there is any justification for this to continue if not to satisfy egos.
What has happened in Rivers State has shown where the Executive has caged the Legislature and the Judiciary. It did not start now any way. I remember throughout the tenure of Rotimi Amaechi as Speaker of the Rivers State Assembly with Governor Peter Odili, the State Assembly was in Dr Odili’s pocket. The Assembly never found Dr Peter Odili wanting in any thing he did. I am therefore not surprised that this is also what is playing out now. A situation where an elected house endorses everything by the Executive portends more danger for the system than the fight they have had in the hallowed chamber.
I also believe it is this control and power Rotimi Amaechi has that made him go to the Assembly with his security and witness the ‘roforofo’ fight with his aides getting involved on camera when he heard of trouble and misunderstanding in the house. But could he have avoided this? If you ask me yes.
Rivers State is not alone in this democratic mess. We know that most state legislatures are pocketed by their state governors as these elected lawmakers look up to the state chief executives for pecuniary benefits. That is also why speakers of State Assemblies are easily impeached especially those who fall out or suspected not to be loyal to their state chief executive. I think state legislatures all over the country should at least learn from the House of Representatives.
As it appears that in Rivers State, today, there is, effectively only one arm of government-the Executive courtesy of the National Assembly and the National Judicial Council. The question is at what time will the National Assembly and the National Judicial Council do the needful and quickly to restore the moribund two arms. Rivers people should not be subjected to the whims and caprices of a few individuals and be denied of the practice of true democracy as practiced in other states and the Federal level.
As we prepare for 2015 to elect new legislators and a chief executive, it will be very unfair and undemocratic for the citizens of Rivers State to lose out in their relationship with their elected law makers who are being paid but not doing their duties because of personality clashes among friends. Our liberty depends upon upholding the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is time to preserve our systems and not individuals who will fizzle out with time. Long Live Rivers State. Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.