The nation and the world at large got a shocker on Tuesday, 9th July 2013 when the simmering crisis in the state’s chapter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Rivers State House of Assembly resulted in a free-for-all in the House chamber.
Members of the Assembly were seen attacking one another with dangerous objects which left some of them seriously injured and hospitalised.
The faction of five members of the House opposed to Governor Chibuike Amaechi, threw caution to the winds and assembled early that day and announced they had impeached the Speaker, Hon Otelemabala Amachree. In his place, Hon Evans Bipi presented himself as the new Speaker.
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 stipulates that for the impeachment of any elected official to be valid, not less than two-thirds of the members of the House must vote in its favour. This clearly did not happen.
The most regrettable part of it was that the Police, having been intimated of the possibility of trouble, drafted scores of their men to the Assembly.
And yet, it did not stop the grievous assault on members from taking place. The Police simply watched while the law was being broken with impunity. In fact, some uniformed officers were seen helping to perpetrate evil as reminiscent of the horrific scenes seen on NTA in 2003 following the Governor Chris Ngige kidnap saga in Anambra State.
We are at a loss how people described in many media reports as “thugs” were able to find their ways into the Assembly grounds and even the public gallery when security men reportedly screened people getting into the arena.
One would have thought that with crisis forewarned, strict steps would be taken by the law enforcement agencies to keep out non-members and to arrest anyone who abandoned their legitimate duties as legislators and opted to foment trouble.
We condemn what happened in Rivers State last Tuesday in the strongest terms. This was a day that decorum was thrown to the winds, while the monster of lawlessness reigned supreme. It smacks of political madness for a handful of five legislators to purport to impeach a Speaker in total contravention of the constitution.
We must find a way to severely sanction politicians and public office holders who perpetrate such constitutional iniquities. Otherwise, our democracy will continue to be mired in political backwardness. Perhaps, it is time for us to consider the long suggested establishment of constitution courts to deal with matters such as these.
We commend the House of Representatives for quickly intervening and taking over the legislative functions of the House until tempers cool and members come back to their senses.
The House and the Senate should conduct a joint inquiry into the roles played by the law enforcement agents, particularly the Police, on that day. Those who failed in their assigned duties to enforce the law must be made to face the music.
The crisis in Rivers State is beginning to acquire a more dangerous turn, with the supporters of both sides now confronting each other in the streets.
We are living witnesses to the horrors the nation went through as a result of the activities of political thugs and cult groups who later became militants and went into the creeks to disrupt the peace and economic wellbeing of the country.
The nation has paid dearly to pacify and stabilise the Niger Delta. We must not allow ugly recent history to repeat itself. The political combatants must sheathe their swords and allow the people of the state to live peacefully with one another.
There is no substitute to politics without bitterness.