With the recent bombing of an Ahoada High Court, the political crisis in Rivers State seems to have assumed a dimension that portends a great danger to the survival of the Fourth Republic, write Ademola Adeyemo, Ernest Chinwo, Shola Oyeyipo and Ojo M. Maduekwe
Last Monday, an explosion rocked the Ahoada High Court and destroyed sections of the court, including the building housing the office of the state’s branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). The same day, the Okehi High Court in Etche Local Government Area of the state was also razed by yet-to-be-identified arsonists.
Although no lives were lost in both incidents, they signalled a new twist to the political crisis that has engulfed Rivers State since 2012 and which seems not to be in a hurry to go away. Already, fears are being expressed that if nothing is done urgently to curtail the crisis, especially as the 2015 elections approach, it may sound the death knell for the Fourth Republic. The fears are being expressed against the backdrop of the events that led to the collapse of the First and Second Republics.
Collapse of the First and Second Republics
After independence in 1960, when Nigeria was moving on with its democratic experience in the First Republic, the new political dispensation was threatened by several crises, chief of which was the situation in the defunct Western Region, which eventually led to the imposition of a state of emergency on the region.
The crisis worsened as it took different dimensions, including the arrest of the then leader of the opposition, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and other party stalwarts for an alleged coup plot, the massive rigging of elections in 1964 and the attendant violence and general insecurity (wetie) that compelled the military to take over power
The seed of discord was sown with the political crisis within the Action Group, a party that controlled the Western Region. Following the crisis, the national executive of the party deposed Chief Ladoke Akintola as deputy leader and asked him to resign his appointment as premier of the Western Nigeria. But Akintola nevertheless stayed put.
The premier advised the governor of Western Nigeria, that in view of the political crisis which had developed in the region and of the rival claims of the two factions to a majority support of the electorate in the region, the prime minister should exercise his powers under Section 31 of Part III of the Constitution of Western Nigeria to dissolve the legislative house of the region. The governor refused.
On the same day, the premier asked the speaker, for the same reasons, to convene the Western House of Assembly to consider and pass a motion for a vote of confidence in the government of Western Nigeria but the speaker also refused.
Later, the governor moved to exercise the powers vested in him by Section 33(10) of the Constitution of Western Nigeria and removed Akintola from office as the premier of Western Nigeria. Akintola, thereupon, filed a motion in the high court, challenging the power of the governor to remove him from office in the manner he did. The governor, nevertheless, proceeded to appoint Chief Dauda Adegbenro, as premier of Western Nigeria, who subsequently summoned a meeting of the Western House of Assembly.
An attempt was made to hold meetings of the Western House of Assembly, the first one ended in violence as fight broke out in the house. For several weeks, law and order broke down and there was no validly constituted government in Western Nigeria in the light of the violent incidents of May 25, 1962, which badly shattered the two Houses of Assembly. Many people were killed and property destroyed.
At the Federal House sitting on May 29 of the same year, the Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, moved the resolution for the declaration of a state of emergency in the Western Region. His motion was seconded by the Federal Minister of Finance, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh.
However, the declaration of emergency failed to stop the mayhem. Awolowo, the leader of the Action Group, was thrown into prison and the then Western Region boiled over, prompting the military to terminate the First Republic in the first coup that also claimed the lives of Tafawa Balewa, Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Okoti-Eboh, Akintola and several prominent political leaders. The First Republic collapsed due to the immature handling of the Action Group crisis, and the senseless orgy of killings that followed.
Many would have expected the fall of the First Republic to have taught the politicians some lessons on how to avert the mistakes of the past. But as soon as Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1979, which marked the beginning of the Second Republic, it became immediately obvious that no lessons had been learnt. It was business as usual.
Corruption, impunity, thuggery, arson and lawlessness became the order of the day. The general election of 1983 were massively rigged and again, the protest against the misrule engulfed the whole of South-west as many people were killed, especially in Ondo State, where the late Akin Omoboriowo, who was corruptly declared winner of the governorship election could not assume power but had to run for his life.
The attendant confusion and violence again prompted the military to take over power and clamped down on political leaders as many were thrown into prisons for various cases of corruption, violence and election rigging. Again, in similar fashion, the Second Republic collapsed.
The Rivers Dimension
The enduring struggle for political space in Rivers State is now creating unnecessary tension in the country. Over the last few months, Rivers State has been the epicentre of a seemingly intractable, but avoidable political crisis. Leading members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state are at loggerheads over the control of the party.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Robert Clarke, said recently that the situation in Rivers State was a frightening development, stating that politics was the life of a nation and a dominant factor in any civilised country.
Clarke warned that if what happened in Rivers state was not looked into, it might spread to other parts of the country. “If this dominant factor is being threatened in a way or manner that will disrupt the whole existence of the country, then something has to be done. No matter how much we are developing economically, if there is no political stability, that development will be crushed in one night.”
He also stated that the bombing in River State was not a new development in the country, “but it is happening in a court where a pending case was to be held the following day which has political connotations. That’s where we have problem. If nothing is done here, I’m afraid it might spread.”
Clarke was reacting to the bombing of the Ahoada High Court, which was not the first since the onset of the crisis in the state. In the early hours of December 18, 2013, an improvised explosive device had gone off at the office car park of a court judge, Justice C.N Wali. Wali had two days earlier granted an injunction restraining the self-acclaimed Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Hon. Evans Bipi, from parading himself as such.
According to a source, the car park and office of the judge were damaged while his security guard and car were still missing as at the time of this report. The incident came barely 24 hours after a similar occurrence at the office of the state Deputy Governor, Mr. Tele Ikuru.
Although government officials tried to play down the incident, THISDAY gathered that what was suspected to be an improvised explosive device (IED) was hauled into the deputy governor’s office from the William Jumbo Street end of the premises at about 3am. The explosion damaged part of the building, but nobody was hurt in the incident.
When contacted on both incidents on the telephone, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Ahmad Muhammad, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), said he was not aware of the incident at the Ahoada High Court, but confirmed the explosion at the deputy governor’s office, saying the police were already investigating the incident.
“I am not aware of the Ahoada incident but we are investigating the incident at the office of the deputy governor,” he said.
On the incident at the Ahoada High Court, the police also claimed ignorance of the explosion but said they recovered unexploded devices from the court. Muhammad said there was no explosion in Ahoada, rather a yet-to-be detonated explosive device was discovered and was evacuated before it could go off.
In her reaction, the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, said “The bombing of the Ahoada High Court has the imprimatur of the Grassroots Development Initiative (GDI), the political platform of the supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike.”
On the High Court in Okehi, she said eyewitnesses had disclosed that the fire started in the early hours of the day.
She added: “We don’t know what the intentions of the arsonists are, but it may not be unconnected with the ongoing court cases in both courts which are related to the current political crisis in the state. The bombing and arson look like the handiwork of people who are close to the supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike and the member of the House of Assembly, representing Ogo-Bolu Constituency, Evans Bipi.
“Members of the GDI and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as it is currently constituted, are those likely to be behind these sorts of violence. You will recall that there was an explosion at the office of the Deputy Governor, Mr. Tele Ikuru, towards the end of the year. You know also that there was an explosion at the Abonema Wharf last year.” The state Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Worgu Boms, lamented that the actions were designed to instil fear in the judiciary.
“This is worrisome. We need to remind the police that it is their duty to watch over Rivers State; the people of Rivers State and the property of the people of Rivers State,” he said.
Also, the state chapter of the PDP, while condemning the Ahoada incident, said the state government was responsible.
The Special Adviser on Media to the state party Chairman, Jerry Needam, said in a statement in Port Harcourt that “the case that temporarily restrained Hon Evans Bipi from parading himself as speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly, was to come up today (that day) at the Ahoada High Court.
“Our team of lawyers made up of over 10 Senior Advocates of Nigeria from Abuja and Lagos arrived at the Ahoada High Court this morning to argue for the vacation of the interim order, and saw the senseless and barbaric destruction of the court.
“The PDP makes bold to suspect that the reported bombing was carried out by agents of the Rivers State Government to prevent the court from sitting, so that the court would not be able to vacate the interim order made by the Ahoada High Court Judge, Hon Justice Charles Wali.
“Their aim also of bombing the Ahoada High Court is to further create a state of insecurity in Rivers State, to justify their continuous call for the removal of the state commissioner of police. The PDP wishes to remind Rotimi Amaechi and his agents of darkness that the interim order issued by Justice Charles Wali of the Ahoada High Court lasted for only seven days, and it had since expired.
“Therefore, bombing the court to prevent it from sitting was a wasted, wicked, callous and shameful exercise by agents of Governor Rotimi Amaechi.”
While the parties in the political divide in the state were trading blame, the incidents accentuated the political divide in the state. They amplified the crisis that had rocked the state since 2012 which is festering by the day. The state has been under tension since Amaechi and his former Chief of Staff, Wike, began their supremacy battle.
Initially, both denied any rift between them. However, the rift came to the open in April 2013 when an Abuja High Court presided over by Justice Ishaq Bello, sacked the state executive of the PDP led by Chief Godspower Ake. The court recognised Chief Felix Obuah as the authentic chairman of the party. This incident magnified the crisis and forced Amaechi and Wike to open up on their differences.
The crisis began to deteriorate with the suspension by the state House of Assembly of the elected chairman, vice chairman and councillors of Obio/Akpor Local Government Council, the home area of Wike. The incident pitted the governor against supporters of Wike and also polarised the state assembly as five lawmakers came out in support of Wike while 27 members of the 32-member assembly aligned with the governor.
Reacting to the suspension of the leadership of the council, the Obuah-led PDP executive gave the legislators and the governor, who were then all members of the party, an ultimatum to reverse their action or face the wrath of the party. The party, ultimately, on April 29 suspended the 27 members for failing to reverse the decision of the assembly. But a competent court of law reversed the suspension order.
Addressing a press conference on their suspension, Obuah said: “You will recall that on Monday, April 22, 2013, the party issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the Rivers State House of Assembly to rescind the order on the dissolution of Obio/Akpor Council, which was flagrantly disobeyed, the party hereby suspend all the 27 members of the House of Assembly that carried out such action while their matter is referred to the disciplinary committee for further action.”
The failure to reverse the suspension order on the Obio/Akpor Council leadership was also later cited by the National Working Committee of the PDP as reason for the suspension of Amaechi from the party. Both the assembly and Amaechi had instituted cases in court challenging their suspension from the party.
Indeed, Amaechi went further to seek an order of the court restraining the assembly from impeaching him unconstitutionally. While the assembly answered the summons, the five ‘anti-Amaechi’ lawmakers refused to be represented by the counsel to the other 27 members, insisting that they did not share common interest in the case with the rest.
The court, on July 2, granted the five lawmakers leave to have independent representation in the matter filed by Amaechi. But while all these went on, the assembly, after its sitting on May 6, adjourned indefinitely, a move believed to be a strategy to ensure that there were no surreptitious attempt to impeach either the leadership of the assembly or the governor.
But when the lawmakers reconvened on July 9, violence erupted in the assembly when the five Wike loyal lawmakers announced the impeachment of the Speaker, Hon. Otelemeba Amachree, and picked Bipi as the new speaker.
As the lawmakers were fighting each other, thugs, allegedly imported into the assembly by the anti-Amaechi lawmakers, also had a field day as they harassed and attacked people, even in the presence of the policemen.
At the end of the first fracas, the Leader of the House, Chidi Lloyd, escaped from the complex but returned later with the state governor; the Speaker, Otelemaba Amachree, and others. But while he was away, the five lawmakers, Michael Okechukwu Chinda, Victor Ihunwo, Michael Amaewhule, Godspower Kelechi Nwogu and Evans Bapakaye Bipialaka, had sat in the chambers.
They passed a vote of no confidence on the leadership of the assembly and announced the impeachment of Amachree, based on a motion moved by Amaehule and seconded by Wogu. They also announced the election of Bipi as the new speaker of the house.
It was while Bipi was about to assume his new ‘office’ that Amaechi and the leadership of the assembly walked into the chambers. Round two of the fracas began. Lloyd disrupted the inaugural speech and snatched the ‘imported mace’ that was used for the sitting.
He hit Chinda severally with the mace, chasing him even when he (Chinda) ran out of the chambers. At the exit of the complex, Chinda was held by a security personnel and another unidentified civilian where Lloyd also caught up with him and dealt him more blows with the mace. At the end of round two, Amaewhule and Chinda were badly injured and rushed to St. Patrick’s Hospital, Port Harcourt for treatment, before flown abroad for further treatment.
The governor left the assembly, the pro-Amaechi group now sat to deliberate on what they termed a ‘minor amendment to the 2013 budget’ of the state, presented on behalf of Amaechi by Ikuru.
The incident clearly marked a new dimension to the political crisis in the state, with both camps mobilising their supporters to the assembly. The violence that erupted in the assembly between both camps on July 10 led the National Assembly to pass a resolution taking over the legislative functions on the state assembly.
Amaechi blamed the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Joseph Mbu, of taking sides in the matter. He accused Mbu of being a stooge of the federal government and Wike, sent to the state to ensure that the wishes of forces fighting the Rivers State Government were actualised.
In the crisis, Amaechi also alleged that his security and that of other key members of his administration had been compromised with the withdrawal of security details from them.
Respite however came the way of the suspended officers of Obio/Akpor Local Government Council as a High Court sitting in Port Harcourt ordered the immediate reinstatement of the officers.
The court presided over by Justice Adanma Iyayi-Lamikanra ordered the reinstatement of the Chairman, Timothy Nsirim; the Vice-Chairman, Mr. Solomon Eke and the 17 councillors of the council who were in April suspended by the state House of Assembly over allegations of financial impropriety and breach of security.
The officers had approached the court to challenge their suspension.
The judge said the suspension of Nsirim and other elected officers of the council was illegal, unconstitutional and uncalled for. She declared that the elected officers of the council were entitled to three years in office and could only be dissolved by the state governor.
While making reference to section 7 sub (1) of the 1999 Constitution and section 64 of the Rivers State Local Government Law, the judge said Amaechi lacked the right(s) to appoint a caretaker committee when the chairman of a council is unlawfully suspended. Lamikanra also ordered that the sum of N50,000 be paid to each of the claimants for inconveniences.
But the state governor, apparently exploiting the open window provided by the judge that he could only dissolve the council, did so the next day, a move seen by many to be his counter political move to ensure that the loyalists of Wike did not have a foothold in the state.
Amaechi, after the dissolution of the council, appointed the Head of Personnel Management to take over the affairs of the council. Attempts by Nsirim and other elected officers and their supporters to gain access to the council secretariat were rebuffed by security personnel deployed there in the wake of the crisis.
The policemen at the secretariat said they had not received any orders to allow anybody into the secretariat.
When contacted on the matter, Muhammad told THISDAY that the police stopped the officials because they were yet to get a copy of the judgment.
“The police stopped them because the police do not have a copy of the judgment yet. The police cannot act on mere hearsay. When we get the judgment, we will react accordingly,” he said.
Addressing journalists at the council gate, Nsirim said the court had vindicated their position that they were wrongly suspended. He said he was prepared to resume duty as soon as possible but that he was waiting for an order that would ask the security personnel deployed to the council to vacate the premises.
In his reaction to the judgment, the Caretaker Committee Chairman, Chikaordi Dike, said he was still in charge of Obio/Akpor Council despite the court ruling. He rejected the judgment and said he was consulting his lawyers on his next line of action.
Nsirim and other elected officers of the councils ignored the governor’s pronouncement and said they would not vacate the secretariat and have since remained there. The head of the personnel in charge of the council has been operating from the office of the Chief of Staff, Government House, Chief Tony Okocha, who also comes from the same local government area.
Further issues however arose as the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, in a judgment, nullified the takeover of the legislative functions of the state assembly by the National Assembly. Although the National Assembly has appealed the judgment, efforts by the state assembly to sit were rebuffed by the police who insisted that they were yet to get a certified true copy of the judgment.
When the lawmakers from both sides of the divide attempted to resume sitting at the assembly, the police prevented them from doing so and at a point, policemen fired several canisters of tear gas to disperse the lawmakers who were insistent on gaining access to the assembly complex to resume legislative duties. The police later said the lawmakers must sign an undertaking to be of good behaviour before having access to the assembly complex.
While the lawmakers loyal to Amaechi signed the undertaking, those opposed to him did not, stating that they had not been communicated to by the clerk of the assembly. As the controversy raged, the state PDP and the anti-Amaechi lawmakers raised the alarm that the governor had planned to use legislators loyal to him to receive and approve the 2014 budget at the Government House.
Although officials of the state and pro-Amaechi lawmakers denied the move, 23 out of the 32 members of the assembly on January 7 received and speedily passed the budget as presented by Amaechi. The PDP in the state has challenged the passage of the budget and vowed to use constitutional and legal means to ensure that the budget is not implemented.
The PDP said the governor and the Deputy Speaker of the assembly, Mr. Leyii Kwanee, lied to the people of the state that there were no plans for the lawmakers to sit at Government House.
A statement issued by Needam, said: “The PDP condemns Governor Rotimi Amaechi and Leyii Kwane who had at several fora denied, even in the morning of Tuesday, January 7, 2014, a day democracy and the rule of law was slaughtered on the altar of impunity, attempts to present and pass the 2014 budget in Government House, Port Harcourt.
“Both Governor Rotimi Amaechi and Leyii Kwane are pathological liars, lacking in character and credibility. They owe Rivers people and indeed Nigerians an apology.”
He said the party would continue to fight against what he described as the impunity of the present administration in the state.
“We reaffirm our sincere desire to fight impunity of Amaechi's government, and call on Governor Rotimi Amaechi and the likes of Leyii Kwane to apologise to Rivers people for deceiving them over the presentation of the 2014 budget,” he said.
The next day, Amaechi assented to the bill, a move the PDP said it would challenge.
But in the wake of the crisis in the state and what he described as the connivance of President Goodluck Jonathan with his political enemies to make the state ungovernable, Amaechi defected from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Justifying his defection, he accused Jonathan of not working in the interest of the people of Rivers State, saying the federal government under Jonathan has ceded oil wells belonging to Rivers State to neighbouring states and challenged Jonathan to return the oil wells as a condition for his return to the PDP.
He specifically accused Jonathan of ceding Soku oil wells to his home state, Bayelsa, adding that both the governor, Seriake Dickson and Jonathan were distorting facts about the oil wells.
Amaechi, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. David Iyofor, said: “The facts on the Rivers State ownership of the Soku oil wells are immutable, no matter how the Bayelsa State governor tries to stretch, twist or spin them. Even in his statement, he conveniently left out the fact that from colonial times up till the 10th edition of the Administrative map of Nigeria, the boundaries between the Kalabari communities in Rivers State and the neighbouring Nembe communities of Bayelsa State have been clearly delineated, with the boundary clearly marked as the Santa Barbara River.
“The 11th edition of the Administrative map, prepared by the National Boundary Commission and the Federal Surveyor General’s Office in 1999, but published in 2000, strangely shifted the boundaries between Rivers and Bayelsa States from the initial boundary between Kalabari and Nembe, west of the Santa Barbara River, to San Bartholomew River, contrary to the delineation by all preceding administrative maps of Nigeria and all historical records.
“Irked by this distortion of facts, the Rivers State Government, under Dr. Peter Odili, petitioned the (then) chairman of the National Boundary Commission, His Excellency, Vice President Atiku Abubakar. In a letter dated July 3, 2002, the Director General, National Boundary Commission, acknowledged the error and apologised, stating, ‘I have discussed this issue with the Surveyor General of the Federation and wish to state as follows: that the National Boundary Commission has taken note of the state’s observation on the inadvertent misrepresentation of the Bayelsa/Rivers interstate boundary on the San Bartholomew River as shown on the map.”
The director-general also said: “I am to assure Your Excellency that your observations have been noted and necessary corrections shall be reflected on the 12th edition of the map currently under production. I am to assure you that the boundary line as reflected in the said edition of the map shall in no way have bearings on the current efforts.”
Amaechi said revenues from the disputed Soku wells were originally fixed in an escrow account to await the resolution of the boundary dispute, adding that the situation remained as such until recently when the authorities decided to release the monies from the disputed oil wells to Bayelsa State.
“This unjust and illegal administrative decision resulted in Rivers State Government instituting Suit N0 SC/106/2009 (Att. Gen of Rivers State State vs. Att. Gen of Bayelsa State & others) at the Supreme Court.
“The court decided that it would be appropriate to await the final delineation of the boundary by the National Boundary Commission. For completeness, we quote the court: ‘It is on account of the foregoing and because of the technical nature of the dispute and the claims of the parties that the court finds that the NBC as an authority vested with authorities and expertise, know-how in dealing with this matter, should have, once and for all, conducted an exhaustive exercise of delineating the disputed boundary, hence the long awaited 12th edition of the Administrative Map when completed soonest would have been of tremendous assistance in settling the lingering dispute.
“In the light of the observations I have clearly expressed above, I do not feel comfortable to grant the declarations sought until the NBC concludes its exercise of delineation of disputed boundary to finality. It will be futile and premature to determine the boundary of the two parties in the present circumstance.”
According to Amaechi, “The Supreme Court judgment is clear- that it could not and will not decide the boundary based on the erroneous 11th edition administrative map the Bayelsa State governor is relying on and using as his basis to claim Bayelsa ownership of the Soku oil wells; but that it will await the final delineation to be heralded by the promised 12th edition of the map.”
Intimidating the Judiciary
Clearly, the courts and the judges are gradually becoming victims of politically motivated attacks despite the very important and highly sensitive pivotal roles they play in the Nigerian democratic experience. The situation is even more worrisome because the men and women in the profession have played their roles with greater caution, amidst near squalor, when compared to their counterparts in the executive and the legislative arms, who are stupendously amassing wealth.
The attacks, mostly designed as scare tactics against members of the bench, are gradually increasing by the day.
For instance, in the wake of the politically motivated security breaches in Kogi State, especially in the central senatorial district, the judge of the Ihima High Court, in Okehi Local Government Area of the state, Justice Moses Gwatana, only escaped death by a whisker when a robbery gang, whose member was standing trial in an alleged kidnap case, stormed the court premises in an attack and released the suspect, Abdulrazak Nasiru.
The court sat and adjourned the case while Nasiru (now at large) was ordered to be remanded in prison custody. He was released to the prison officer for custody at the Okene Medium Security Prison. But before prison officials could leave the court premises with him, about 12 armed men who had been lurking in a primary school near the court stormed the place and started shooting indiscriminately.
Though the judge escaped unhurt after scampering for safety, his official car was sprayed with bullets. The court registrar, Mr. Bakare Sunday, was not so lucky. He was shot in the ear while a prisons warder was killed in the process. The incident sent shockwaves across Kogi State back then.
Similarly, the judge of the Warri High Court in Delta State, Justice Marshal Mukoro, narrowly escaped death, last year when gunmen attempted to shoot him at close range on the Okuokokor/Agbarho expressway, just before the army checkpoint on the road to Warri, the state capital. The reason adduced for the attempted assassination was that he stepped on some powerful toes with some lead judgments delivered at the time.
In August, gunmen abducted the judge of the Delta State High Court, Justice Marcel Okoh, at Oria-Abraka in Ethiope East Local Government Area of the state on his way to Warri, when he was newly appointed. Before his appointment, he was the Director-General of Public Prosecution, (DPP), in the state. He was released after being held in captivity for some weeks. He was also on his way to serve as a vacation judge in Warri, when he was taken at Abraka by yet unknown gunmen.
There is no doubting the fact that the court is the bastion of democracy, but the danger is that if the courts are under persistent threat of violent attacks, it portends grave implications for the system. Where the judiciary loses its efficacy, there would be trust deficit on the part of the people, many of whom could seek extra-judicial means to seek redress for grievances. And when this happens, it is even more dangerous for the polity.
The totality of this would therefore mean that the judiciary, like other arms of government, would no longer enjoy the confidence of the people and this could even translate into anarchy and the eventual collapse of the present democratic experience.
The Senator representing Edo North in the National Assembly, Senator Domingo Obende, while reacting to the development said “This trend is very dangerous to the forthcoming elections and it must be stopped.”
According to him, the reason is that, “The ripple effect will spell doom and disaster in the forthcoming election and confidence of safety in the international community will be critically affected.”
Maintaining that the judiciary remains the hope of every common man and that of the weak, Obende added: “I will strongly suggest that they (the judiciary) should not be dragged into the dirty politics of Rivers State.”
While charging the federal government to wake up to its duty of securing the nation for Nigerians who have no capacity to help themselves, Obende said: “In fact, the security agencies must wake up to check the excesses of desperate politicians and hoodlums who are no good and are a great risk to the existence or the peace and unity that Nigerians enjoyed up until the 1980's.
“My advice to the Rivers people is for them to face the serious business of development, appreciate and embrace development. Any political activity that cannot put food on the table of the common man, take our youths from the street of unemployment, create human capacity building and ensure the safety of lives and properties cannot be liken to politics. We must embrace peace to grow.”
The view of a political analyst and consultant, Clem Aguiyi, is that it is difficult to provide a straitjacket answer to this crisis. “Let me explain that it is possible that the bombings were carried out by some fifth columnist who want to set the state on fire to incite a coup or win undeserving public sympathy or by a party to the crisis who wants to score cheap points that will justify the call for the removal of the police commissioner.”
Aguiyi maintained that the judiciary should not be dragged into the political crisis rocking Rivers State, saying “the attempt to drag the judiciary into the fray is something terribly ill and outright dangerous. The judiciary should work hard to insulate itself from partisan politics because it remains the last bastion of hope for the common man. Also, politicians must see the survival of democracy as a collective responsibility.”
Advising that politics should not be a do-or-die contest, Aguiyi said, “I am personally concerned about the escalating violence, threat and intimidation coming from the opposition. I have always called on politicians especially those in the opposition to prepare for election in 2015 instead of preparing for war. Beyond the quest for power, the survival of democracy and the nation should be most paramount to all of us.”
Former president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) said: “The national security situation is frightening and urgent action is required to contain and reverse it from degenerating into a major political crisis.”
Lagos-based lawyer, Greg Nwakogo, believed that the use of bombs in court premises is a new and dangerous dimension in terrorism that must be stopped, because, “any attempt at intimidating the judiciary also portends an attempt at the perversion of justice. It portends imminent danger on the security of lives and property of the people whom the politicians seek to govern and whom they profess a desire to serve."
“If the perpetrators of these heinous acts are not brought to book and speedily too, then it will be most unfortunate because a wrong precedent would have been set and the use of bombs in court premises would then be seen as an instrument that can be deployed for politicking. The judiciary is the last hope of the common man. It is unacceptable to play politics with justice or the judiciary. I lend my voice to the call of the NBA for the immediate investigation of the bombing and that the report of the investigation is made public within 30 days.”
President-General of the United Middle Belt Youth Congress, Abuka Onalo Oma-Baba, said: “Sadly, this appears to be the beginning of many crises as we approach the 2015 general election.”
According to him, the Rivers crisis and all the others that continue to plague Nigeria as a whole need to be addressed once and for all through the national conference.
“The issue here is that Nigeria needs a new definition. For us to be able to nip the Rivers crisis and others in the bud, we need to have a genuine national conference, so that this nation can move forward. The reason we are witnessing political thuggery as we are seeing in Rivers State is because it is already endemic in our system. Sitting down at the national conference, we will determine a national ideology to give Nigeria a new direction and eliminate all these crises."
In the same vein, Secretary-General of the Lower Niger Congress, Tony Nnadi, believed that, “the Rivers crisis as well as all the other crises we are witnessing around the country are microcosms of the larger problems we are trying to solve as a country.”
According to Nnadi, “Something must be at stake for all the parties in the Rivers crisis to be acting the way they are doing. Until we figure out the cause of the problem, the crisis in Rivers State is bound to escalate. It is in the same way that the cause of Nigeria’s problem in the 60s wasn’t figured out, which then later led to the 1966 crisis that almost tore the country into pieces.
“The issue today- the cause of all the fighting in Rivers state- is because while some people want to retain power, some others are bent on taking power from them. Both parties are doing this so that they can gain control of the oil resources that belong to the people. The ownership of the proceeds of oil has been hijacked from the people. It is all about the 2015 elections.”
Nnadi therefore advised that “Let us reconstruct the basis of our existence as a nation to eliminate the kind of cut-throat politics being witnessed today in Rivers State. Unless we halt the journey to that sure calamity, then we are going to witness more of Rivers State across the country.”
A Jigawa-based economist, Sani Ya’u Babura, said: "The bombing is condemnable. The act of lawlessness in this country is now reaching a new dimension and it will continue in this manner unless we take drastic actions in conforming to other civilised and developed countries.”
Watchers of the ongoing developments in the state have expressed fears that if things continue the way they are going, the failure of the Fourth Republic may well start from Rivers State. Whether these fears are justified or not will depend on the management of the issues involved in the political crisis in the state.