By Alfred Omolewa
The orchestrated delay by the Senate to confirm the ministerial nomination of Rotimi Amaechi is a brazen display of what happens when open and honest process is brushed aside so that the wiles of backroom and vengeful politics may take control of a vital constitutional function of the upper house of our National Assembly. The rule of fair law has been transformed into the rule of muddled evil.
They claim there is a petition against Rotimi Amaechi, immediate past Governor of Rivers State and a ministerial nominee. A court order enjoining his nomination is also alleged but no one seems to have seen the court order and none can authoritatively state the name of the court that wrote the phantom order. Now, we have a phantom law and visible injustice.
This is but a slice of the bitter meal Senator Saraki hopes to serve Nigeria if he is allowed to continue to be the Chief Cook of the proceedings of the National Assembly. This ugly strategy against Amaechi shows the disregard the PDP and its allies have for constitutional and legal processes. To settle a local political score that resides only in Rivers state, they are willing to lay waste to the inner workings of the national government, particularly trashing the relationship between the Presidency and the National Assembly.
While we do not know from what court the order comes from, we fear with good reason that Saraki and company are turning the National Assembly into a court of kangaroos. There is a political gang-up against Amaechi by those who were his enemies in Rivers State. They were unable to touch him while governor; now they seek their pound of flesh.
We might expect this form of vindictiveness from the abrasive and embattled Governor Wike. Although, parading about with bombast and bluster as the governor, Wike knows his heavy skates are cutting into thin ice. The selection process by which he came to office cannot justifiably be deemed an election. If the electoral tribunal does as it ought, Wike’s tenure will be aborted. He will be removed from the Government House and put on the streets. This fall he can’t abide. He has nursed his wicked ambition too long to have it pulled from him after just as he is getting accustomed to it.
Thus, he has set himself on a most selfish mission. He has raided the cupboard of his state to pull out some of its precious funds to buy those senators, who would be bought, so that he can distort the national process to satisfy his parochial mission. Wike seeks to hold Amaechi hostage as long as the electoral case against him is pending. He hopes to trap Amaechi in among the worst of double traps. He attempts to roadblock Amaechi. Amaechi must somehow get the APC to abandon the tribunal case or Amaechi’s nomination shall remain in abeyance. However, to jettison the tribunal, Amaechi would have to beg the APC candidate as well as President Buhari and the party leadership. Not only would this be shameful, it would be political suicide for it is such a toxic entreaty that it has no prospect of success. Wike seeks to make Amaechi so desperate as light himself aflame politically.
Thus far, Amaechi has been smart and disciplined. He has not put his neck in the noose. While Wike’s scheme is cunning, it will enjoy a short shelf life. The rumor of court orders cannot stand. No federal court would dare issue such an order because federal jurists know that such an order would be an improper judicial encroachment into what is essentially a legislative function. Any order from a state court is an automatic nullity because federal institutions have primacy over state organs. As a son should not dictate to his father, a state court has no business entertaining an issue concerning the procedures of the National Assembly processes and a state court is certainly not in the position to enjoin the National Assembly. Again, this not the rule of law; it is rule of the lawless and the law of disorder.
While we should not be surprised at the craven behavior of Wike, we should be taken aback that the senate could allow itself to be brought so low, so swiftly. It is as if a stiff wind came and blew the stony edifice down as if made of crumbled paper and old rag.
Ironic that Senate President Saraki would allow this to happen. Amaechi and Saraki were close allies as governors. That he would sell Amaechi down the river for so cheap a blandishment should give all other Saraki allies pause. The man is so loyal and concerned about self that he has no loyalty and concern to bestow to others, to advance his cause one inch, he will slice the political neck of a friend. To be his ally is to begin to count the moments when his self-interest will make him turn against you.
Yet, in all of this, there is an even greater irony. Saraki has climbed the summit of hypocrisy. Amaechi has not been indicted much less convicted of any crime. One cannot be barred from high office merely by the shadow of rumor and the craft of those who monger them. In a chamber where the presiding officer is undergoing a court trial for corruption and where scores of other senators are under investigations by various graft agencies, they have no moral standing to sidetrack Amaechi’s nomination. Like the Senators, Amaechi is yet to be tried and found guilty by any court of law. Thus, he stands innocent until proven guilty. He should not be denied his rights and we, the people, should be denied our right to the fair and honest operation of the National Assembly in the exercise of its constitutional duties.
The change the people voted for was that our elected officials would abide the constitution and rule of law. What we did not vote for is that they would invent new, more odious ways to shackle democracy and undermine governance for all in pursuit of their narrowing agendas.
If the Senate insists in not confirming Amaechi because of the allegations against him, then the Senate should begin to purge itself of members in like circumstances. The extraction should start at the very top. If the senators cannot treat Amaechi’s nomination due to the extra-judicial allegations against him, then the Senate should suspend Senate President Saraki, who actually has a formal corruption case against him. Also, the other senators who are subjects of official investigations should be relieved of their duties until their matters are resolved. Put another way, if the law protects Saraki and others by regarding them innocent until proven guilty, that same rule must also apply to Rotimi.
The machinations surrounding the nomination of the former Governor of Rivers state show that an unfortunate segment of the political class still fails to realize that change has come to Nigeria. They still seek the bankrupt politics of old where money trumps right and affluence means more than the rule of law and decency. These people seek to keep us in the past.
Therefore, we must demand that the Amaechi nomination is moved forward. We do this not for Amaechi. Whether he comes or goes is in some ways irrelevant. It just so happens that, once again, he finds himself in the midst of a constitutional and political maelstrom. Eight years ago, the Supreme Court had to save his governorship seat. They did so, not out of personal favor to him, but to insert the rule of law in place of the rule of naked power.
We come again now to a moment where Amaechi is in the eye of the tempest but we recognize that the issue transcends him. The stakes are big.
We fight those who still believe they can purchase our institutions because Nigerian governance and democracy remain for sale. We must say that they are wrong and that if they persist in this misconduct, they will be facing more than allegations. They shall face the rebuke of the people and the close scrutiny of our judicial system.
Before they decry the speck on Amaechi’s shoes, they better clear the mud from their own.
Alfred Omolewa lives and works in Lagos.
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