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Vandalism And Looting Of Rivers

ACHILLEUS-CHUD UCHEGBU     e-mail: achilleus.uchegbu@theunion.com.ng

I wish that Wike is able to bring just one of the gangsters that vandalized Government House Port Harcourt to book. I bet, he/she will sing. From the song, the rest of the story will be known

Images emanating from River State make a huge statement about the characters that had managed such a strategic state in eight years. It would mean that Rivers degenerated after the Peter Odili years. Those who are independently minded will see those pictures as stamps of the hungry, the desperate, the wicked and indeed, the thief. There are insinuations that something similar happened in Delta State but not at the level it occurred in Rotimi Amaechi’s Rivers.

Unfortunately, River State has been the focus of so many a pundits prior to the general elections. The state attracts interest for its voter strength. But this time round, it attracted much greater interest because of Amaechi’s decisions, and more particularly, because of Okrika and the name Dame Patience Jonathan. No doubt, Amaechi tried to exert strong influence and control over the state, its resources and people as much as he could. In doing that, he reached for people who may have had strong cultism backgrounds, who would help him silence even his former boss and benefactor, Odili. The characters he brought into government rubbished whatever public service meant. They worked for themselves and never for the state.

These encouraged Amaechi to live like the conqueror of an empire. The leaders of the state lacked both presence and voice in what he did. While sycophants baptized him lion of Ubima, he acted the lion and moved on to devour the beauty of Rivers. For close to two years, Amaechi suspended governance in the state he swore on oath to govern, and took on the armor against himself, operating in a manner that redefined democracy. His was some form of authoritarian administration having effectively shut the two other arms of government. With this, Amaechi became the legislature and the judiciary rolled into one. Advice from those who knew better fell on plugged ear.

He listened to no serious-minded but to the band of hammer-throwing and mace-hitting boys he surrounded himself with. At a point, Amaechi’s aides believed that River State was at war with the Federal Government. They exemplified this in the way they spoke and acted publicly. In reality, when the object of your anger is no more, you have your madness to contend with. By stealing even teaspoons and tea cups, doors, chairs, tables, pots, plates, table knives, rugs, decorative wall fittings, wall clocks, chandeliers etc, some persons in the administration expressed a psychological disposition. It is not that those fittings were the best the world had seen, or money could ever buy.

It is rather to satisfy an inner desire. It is psychological. Besides, it also expresses something stronger. There is always an effort by lower people to copy what the higher people do. In this case, there is the possibility that those who vandalized Government House Port Harcourt did so in the understanding that their bosses had engaged in looting higher sums which is not reachable by them. So, descending on household items would be the only way to share in the bazaar. So, the spree could be an effort to play the catch up with ‘superiors’ who it is believed will never be caught in the looting of public resources. This is not to say that Amaechi supervised the looting.

It rather says his boys may have done it. That goes further to say, he selected persons of low moral value and quality to work with in a Rivers state where quality human capital is not in short supply. The further implication is that Amaechi, in his touted strength, is actually weak and may have lived cowardly but only using state security apparatus to cover such weakness. What it means for him is a possibility of a difficult political future. There are expectations that he would tie down a place in the Buhari cabinet.

If it happens; good for him. But that would mean that he carries a moral baggage –that of inability to restrain those he appointed to the service of Rivers from vandalizing and looting public property. That act alone, stands as a stain on his 16 unbroken years of service to Rivers. That is the baggage he carries with him. Interestingly, snippets from a northern leaders meeting with President Buhari, indicate that it has already been suggested that Amaechi be settled off, in cash, and then kept away from government. It is being argued that he will be a very bad image of the Buhari administration.

Whatever it comes to, fact is that Amaechi capped his political life very badly. He ought to have left on a high, with cymbals singing on his exit. But he made a choice. Like Jim Reeves would say ‘one faulty deed, and misery will start’, Amaechi allowed much of his ego to rule him. That way, he started a descent. He may come of it stronger, nothing says he can’t; he is just 50 and has so much more for his future. But that again is dependent on how he manages outcomes and effects of the troubles he needlessly brought unto himself in Rivers.

Much of the fights he engaged in were needless. They also created room for mismanagement of state resources. The level of rot in Rivers will become clearer when Nyesom Ezenwo Wike (NEW) is seized of accounts of the state in the last 18 months of the Amaechi’s government. If Wike acts as tough as he speaks, and remains as open as he had vowed, Rivers people may need no reminding of that classic Amaechi saying that “we steal because you don’t stone us on the streets”. I wish that Wike is able to bring just one of the gangsters that vandalized Government House Port Harcourt to book. I bet, he/she will sing. From the song, the rest of the story will be known. Such shameful vandalisation must not be repeated elsewhere where sane humans inhabit.

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