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Judging Rotimi Amaechi: Between legalism and sustainable justice

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AmaechiThere’s no controversy that former Governor Rotimi Amaechi was among the acknowledged few performing state governors of the past political dispensation,

particularly up to the middle of his second tenure. The landscape of Rivers state was a bee-hive of infrastructural development projects in roads, education, health, and other sustainable development initiatives; his detractors could not help acknowledging the landmark achievements, even if privately. 

[Photo: Former Governor Rotimi Amaechi]

But the situation dramatically changed with the state PDP political crises that eventually pushed him into the waiting arms of the mainstream opposition that metamorphosed to the present APC party in power at the centre. It requires courage and marked patriotism to objectively appraise the current spate of hatred against Rotimi Amaechi from his political enemies and those not well informed about the state’s governance by cronyism.

Amaechi’s sympathizers claim that he is hated primarily for the alleged sin of deviating from the conventional path of governance in the state and the South-South region – he refused to play the Machiavellian politics of god-fatherism and “settlement”: he did not “respect” the traditional, religious and political power brokers in the state; he did not run a “chop-I-chop” populist administration of prioritizing the interest of the powerful and vocal political cults at the expense of people-oriented projects for the powerless and voiceless majority; no, Rotimi Amaechi did not acquire chieftaincy and religious titles; he failed to enlarge the coasts the opulent royal majesties and their lords spiritual; he refused to purchase the badges of their lordship’s bequeathal of “chief” and “knight” from any, but pandered to the voiceless like a unicorn; he did not care for the applause of the power brokers. 

Worse still, he went on to engage and quarrel with “our own son, the first President from our zone”. His opponents’ hatred knew no limit, and they seemed to have vowed not to rest until his blood flew on the streets of Port Harcourt – a hatred that is only comparable with the hatred of the Jewish Scribes and Pharisees. This animosity was manifested in the 2015 gubernatorial and state assembly elections, of which the wide spread violence and controversial results are the subjects of adjudication at the electoral tribunals.

The landmark projects started or completed under Amaechi’s administration are the reasons the voiceless and non-partisan majority are saying (though quietly) that Amaechi performed more than his immediate predecessors in office. But not being anywhere close to ascertaining the veracity of the loud accusations of monumental corruption against Amaechi, his silent supporters feel that his very good works qualify him to be, if not loved and respected, given a fair hearing before credible and impartial judges. 

Unfortunately, the climate of insecurity, intrigues, controversies, and uncertainty currently enveloping the state judiciary and governance machinery does not suggest that anyone in Amaechi’s camp and sympathy can be persuaded to profess a faith in the integrity and impartiality of any contemplated judicial inquiry. This is the sorry state of affairs occasioned by the brazen politicization of the judiciary in the state, no thanks to the condemnable civic irresponsibility of traditional, religious, professional and conventional NGO elements of the civil society that should constitute a critical third sector in a democracy. 

Unfortunately, and more reprehensible, notable senior lawyers and justices with roots in the state are also being associated with the ugly scenarios that have played out.

These ugly scenarios seem to remove the wind from the sail of the anti-Amaechi groups’ call for the investigation and immediate crucifixion of former Governor Amaechi: the vehement anger and hatred against him call for caution and restraint on the part of any one with responsibility to act, whether the President,  police or EFCC; no, not when there are reported cases of violent crimes and a pervading sense of insecurity in the state, of which cause even the state’s 2015 election petition tribunals still sit in Abuja. But the call for an investigation of a past administration is a legitimate demand that cannot be ignored without undermining the case for accountability.

A truly non-partisan citizenry should be interested in ascertaining the true state of affairs in this matter, which is while the new administrations at all tiers are urged to take every step necessary to imbue transparency and accountability to both their present activities and those of their predecessors. Rivers, like other states, has need to substantiate the wild allegations of misgovernance against past leaders; even the administration before Amaechi’s has an unresolved EFCC case alleging that the then governor misappropriated huge amounts of state fund but curiously obtained a perpetual court injunction restraining the EFCC from investigating him.

A synthesized position on former Governor Amaechi’s case is that in spite of his acknowledged remarkable performance in office, he incurred the wrath of a vociferous and powerful interest group that maliciously wants to visit him with veritable vendetta; the current state of animosity and insecurity in the state tint the motive and admissibility of the emotive allegations, and thus call for caution and restraint in response. 

Greater public interest demands that the critics compile their allegations and evidences for an inevitable investigation that should be undertaken as soon as normalcy returns in the state, especially at the judiciary. The EFCC and allied state agencies must take steps to remove all legal and constitutional issues preventing it from even prosecuting already investigated cases of misgovernance in Rivers and other states. 

The incumbent governor is encouraged to take appropriate steps in identifying and recovering all clear cases of stolen state assets and misappropriated funds, as to imbue transparency and accountability in governance, and thus create the credibility and congenial atmosphere for objectively judging the allegations against the immediate past governor.

Non-partisan and informed elements of the civil society have a duty to speak objectively and return the combatants to the path of reason.

Victor TC Anyanwu – Snr. Economist/Policy Analyst; 08036676651, managewell2000@yahoo.com

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