Sunday, July 14, 2013

Rivers crisis can lead to revolution –Deputy Speaker

The Deputy Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly, Kwanee Leyii, in this interview with CHUKWUDI AKASIKE, commends the National Assembly for intervening in the crisis rocking the state
HOW would you describe the intervention of the National Assembly in the crisis rocking the Rivers State House of Assembly?
It is constitutionally permissible and they are acting in line with the 1999 Constitution as amended. It is a welcome development. If you recall, at various fora, I have always bared my mind that the current Assembly under the leadership of Mr. Otelemaba Amachree has been very mindful that we do not play into the game plan of certain anti-democratic elements, who are, at all cost, trying to frustrate the present democratic governance. With the intervention of the National Assembly, I think it is a welcome development. It will permit time for this crisis to die down.

The crisis was initially at the surface but deepened up to the point that the state House of Assembly has been seriously affected. At what point did the House begin to experience division among its members?
We are all human beings with different backgrounds, just like you and I. We cannot always look at issues the same way. I think the division is traceable to when the House sat back and reviewed the activities of the executive arm of government under the leadership of Mr. Rotimi Amaechi and we said ‘this man had done so well, why don’t we give him a pat on the back?’ That was when we realised that we were not speaking with one voice. At the end of the day, some of our members disagreed, saying there was no need for commendations. We started noticing that we were not all together.

The division among members of the House became obvious when a court in Abuja ruled that Mr. Felix Obuah should take over as the state chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party.
A judgment is a judgment until otherwise. If you also look at it this way; every man that is fair-minded will always disagree with that ruling. Felix Obuah did not buy a form to contest during the primary election. He (Obuah) was not even on the shores of this country during the state PDP primary. If you are fair-minded, sincere and God-fearing, of course, you would want to disagree with such a ruling. Most times, some of us don’t look beyond the present because of whatever interest we have.

After the brawl in the House of Assembly complex, Mr. Evans Bipi insisted that he was the Speaker of the House and Mr. Otelemaba Amachree also said he was still in charge. How would Rivers people reconcile this?
I don’t intend to deal with that matter, if not for the fact that it is important to keep the record straight. I have to bare my mind on this issue. Even in a community setting, town hall meetings, market women have rules that guide their conduct. They have rules that they stand by. When you talk of Bipi being elected as the Speaker, what is the percentage of the lawmakers who elected him? The House is made up of 32 members and five members cannot sit somewhere to say they have elected one among them as the Speaker. There are rules. If you want to remove a Speaker, you need two-third majority of members, which is about 22 or 23. How many of them seated, so to speak? If Bipi is saying a thing like that, then it is more or less a coup against our democracy and it cannot stand. Like the legal maxim will say, you cannot place something on nothing and expect it to stand.

Do you think there is somebody drumming support for the five anti-Amaechi lawmakers for them to have thought of removing the Speaker?
I will neither say yes nor say no. As someone who comes from a traditional farming setting, I used to follow my mother to the farm. If she sees a small bird dancing on the road, my mother would always tell me that there is somebody somewhere beating the drum for that bird. If not, there is no way you can see such zeal and confrontational attitude of the five lawmakers. If you were around the Assembly yesterday (Tuesday) you would have been shocked that my brother, Bipi, was the one issuing the order under the nose of the police authorities.

As it is now, who is the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly? 
Amachree is the Speaker and I am his deputy. There is no controversy about this because the House sat yesterday (Tuesday) and considered a request from the state governor, who requested for a minor amendment on some areas of the 2013 budget. The deputy governor, who represented the governor, was there in session and we sat. It was considered and an approval was given to the executive arm of government to carry on with that expenditure. So, Amachree still remains the Speaker, I am his deputy. Nothing has changed, as I speak to you. Nothing has changed until they (anti-Amaechi lawmakers) are able to get the required majority. That is our rule; it is a standing order.

What do think has been the role of the police in this crisis, especially as it concerns the fight in the chambers of the House?
I don’t want to join issues anymore with the police, but I want to commend the National Assembly under its current leadership. They have done excellently well. They are not folding their arms, watching the police allow this state to degenerate to a state of lawlessness. With the maturity they have demonstrated, I think the current commissioner of police is out of the way. When a professional policeman comes to the state, we will not have any issue because, as far I am concerned, the current police hierarchy in the state seems to be more political than even the politicians.

Bipi, who was about reading his acceptance speech before Governor Amaechi came in, decried the presence of the governor in the Assembly complex. How do you react to that?
Don’t forget that the governor is the governor of the whole state. Don’t forget that the governor was voted in to protect lives and property. Don’t forget that at the point the governor came, it was more like a distress call. If the governor had not come in with his own security, maybe I would have been dead by now. It was his presence that saved the situation. Of course, wherever the governor goes, his security men go with him. It was the governor’s security men that came to salvage it.

Was it that the policemen on the ground could not save the situation?
They watched and they never reacted. It was very ugly and very sad that this same police institution that  is  managed with tax payers’ money could not protect the life of the ordinary man in Rivers, as enshrined in our constitution.

Thugs were present in large numbers on the day the lawmakers fought one another in the chambers of the House. Were they working for both Bipi and Amachree?
I have served as Amachree’s deputy for over two years and to the best of my knowledge, he does not patronise thugs. I believe that the issue of  the thugs brought into the House was planned by our opponents. Don’t forget that we served out notices. Letters were sent to all the 32 members. The former Speaker, Tonye Harry, was going to Paris and had to postpone his trip because the third session of the House was about to sit. Everybody was invited. I believe that since they were ready for war, they may have brought all of those thugs.

Are you saying Amachree has been vindicated because he raised the alarm in the past over security issues?
Yes. If you also listen to a comment by my brother, Bipi, yesterday, he said if there was a need to remove the governor, he was going to come to that. These are all mapped-out programmes. How can five persons come and say they have removed the Speaker? If that Speaker is out of the way, of course, the next target will be the governor. This morning (Wednesday), he (Bipi) also said he was going on inspection. This is madness; it is rascality of the highest order. No right thinking man in Rivers or Nigeria should fold his arms and watch this thing happen. It is a very dangerous signal because, if you recall the story of Egypt, it started this way. You might be thinking that it is just Rivers State, but if the rule of law is not allowed to take its rightful course, and we degenerate to the state where the rule of men is allowed to reign supreme, then we may soon move into anarchy and there is no guarantee that a revolution will not come out of it.

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