We were all witnesses to what happened to Mr. Chibuike Oluwarotimi Amaechi eleven years ago, when his legitimate ambition to govern Rivers State touched off on Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidential ego. We saw how the president wielded an undemocratic stick. We were concerned that Nigeria’s nascent democracy was visibly under threat, when the president unilaterally withdrew the people’s mandate, freely given to Amaechi to contest the 2007 gubernatorial election.
At that time, Amaechi wasn’t the lion they call him today. So he couldn’t fight back. He was obviously helpless as one man single-handedly confiscated his mandate. Amaechi even fled Nigeria to avoid Obasanjo’s body language. After all, two rams are not expected to drink from the same bucket. He hardly realized that he was abdicating his office as Speaker of the state House of Assembly. We all pitied and rallied round Amaechi because we considered Obasanjo’s impunity, even as president as an affront to the people’s political will.
His friends, Sen. Magnus Abe inclusive, rose stoutly in defence of Amaechi’s fundamental human right. Some others assisted Amaechi find refuge in Ghana where he lived as a political fugitive between February and October 2007. Injury to one, at the time, was considered injury to all. How could Amaechi who wants to be venerated as a leader forget so soon?
At the core of Amaechi’s travails was the trampling on the very essence of constitutional democracy-the rule of law. Amaechi’s predicament therefore became a litmus test to Obasanjo’s successor, who made the rule of the law the optic to evaluate his government. But going by Obasanjo’s antecedents, it was difficult to believe that with the powers at his disposal the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, would genuinely subscribe to the hallowed tenets of the rule of law. The stage was therefore set to put to test the superiority of the rule of law over the rule of might.
The world had watched with bated breath to see the Supreme Court of Nigeria live up to its billing as the last hope of the common man. Meanwhile, Amaechi’s only hope of returning to Nigeria, probably not as a governor, but as a citizen, at the least, given the circumstances was the court of law. That the rule of law finally trounced the rule of might was the reason Amaechi transmuted from a political fugitive to into a governor. Who then, would’ve believed that Amaechi in his lifetime will throw tantrums at his saving grace when Obasanjo took it personal?
Some have argued that the Supreme Court overreached her powers in declaring Amaechi governor, but the Court had done what it had to do to ensure that the law reigns supreme; that every citizen is equal before the law; and that our fundamental human rights are guaranteed and respected. If I read the Supreme Court correctly, Amaechi became governor not because his name was on the ballot, or because he campaigned to be voted for in the general elections, but because the ultimate injury he would’ve suffered from the point his ticket was wrongfully withdrawn would’ve been the denial of his occupation of the office of governor.
It was a good thing that the law had been interpreted and employed to address injustice and high-handedness, whilst offering remediation to the injured party.
To think that the man who so benefited from the rule of law, now carry on like a bull in a china shop makes decent minds want to puke. Aside whatever grouse he holds against Sen. Abe in his political calculations, is there any justification for Amaechi to spite the Supreme Court of the land in his current voyage of petulance and egocentrism?
Amaechi, has since becoming governor, carried on as if Nigeria, and particularly, the Judiciary owe him a thing. Amongst Amaechi’s many sins against the court are: disregarding court summons, flouting court orders, and presently his pretentious, but outright flouting of court rulings.
Amaechi holds the unprecedented infamy as the governor who shut down the courts for well over a year. As a public servant, Amaechi is still to show remorse for that infamous act of impunity. Closing the courts from functioning in a constitutional democracy even for one minute is something no right thinking public officer should contemplate, but Amaechi enforced it in a heartbeat. Not even under the military did any governor exhibit such act of impunity.
Like Obasanjo, Amaechi was frank and vehement in his ruthlessness to stop Sen. Magnus Ngei Abe in his legitimate desire to govern Rivers State. But Amaechi, like the man before him had in his ego trip forgot that the rule of law, not the rule of man takes precedent in a democracy.
But having taking the title of a lion, and for as long as Abe has refused to shelve his ambition, even the courts and the rule of law must suffer indignity if they choose not to genuflect before the man of the moment.
Interestingly, as the time ticks away Amaechi, the lion leader, leading his pack, gives himself away as a man ready to confront the judiciary, the courts and the rule of law. What is however pathetic is the fact that none, among his host of legal friends, has got the courage to whisper to Amaechi, in his sober moment, that the voyage against the rule of law is doomed ab initio; and that it only leads to a dead end.