Rivers: Uchendu Laughs Last



By Eddy Odivwri

eddy.odivwri@thisdaylive.com   08053069356

The quaint legal lingo that says, “the wheel of justice grinds slowly but surely”, couldn’t be truer considering the long walk to victory recorded by now Senator Andrew Igbonule Uchendu, who was recently declared the rightful winner of the Rivers East senatorial election held last December, 2016. The three-man Appeal court had dismissed the appeal filed by now ousted Senator George Sekibo who had challenged the ruling of the Election tribunal which had, on June 29, declared Uchendu , the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the election.

For those who have followed closely the politics of Rivers State, the eventual declaration of Uchendu as the winner of the election would not be a surprise. The PDP, it appeared had merely wangled its way to victory without the electoral endorsement of the voters.

Uchendu had been in the House of Representatives Between 2007 and 2011 and had demonstrated exemplary legislative capacity, the reason his people had desired from him, higher service, in the Senate.

But, as the pattern had been in recent times, the election was far from being free and fair. The fact that the election had to be shelved from March 2015 to December 2016 was for the same reason of trying to avoid violence which had characterised the electoral contests in Rivers State ever since the sitting governor, Nyesom Wike, often crude in his ways and appearance, got into the political arena as a contestant.  Earlier this week, he had predicted that the 2019 election will be violent as he would be ready to die to prevent the APC from winning the state. Quite ungubernatorial utterance!

Right from the time he directly got involved in contests, elections have virtually been a matter of life and death, with the state turning literally to rivers of blood. I can’t forget those horrible images of beheaded politicians in Omokwu and its environs during the 2015 polls

It had become a contest of brute force, where bullets and not ballots were largely the determinants of winners of electoral contests in Rivers.

It is remarkable that after the March contest, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was said to have won two senatorial districts while the APC won only one.

The result was challenged by Uchendu, while the PDP candidate (George Sekibo) got sworn in as the valid senator.

Expectedly, Senator Sekibo had done everything to embarrass the All Progressives Congress and the minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi.

It is recalled that Sekibo, it was who brought a whistle into the hallowed Senate chamber in the wake of the Osbornegate scandal. Sekibo had suddenly blown the whistle during a debate, with a shrieking loudness, in the chamber claiming that he was blowing the whistle against Amaechi whom he and his master (Wike) had said, owned the $43.4million, N23.3million,  and 27,800 British Pounds,  found in the Osoborne Towers, adding that the said money actually belong to Rivers State government.  Gov Wike had himself given a seven-day ultimatum to the federal government within which it   should release the money to Rivers State or face legal action from the state. Till date, Wike has launched no action, five months after, even as the money remains in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

It must be stated that the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) led by its suspended DG, Mr Ayo Oke had since owned up to being the one who kept the money in the said flat on behalf of the NIA.

Sekibo, ever since that whistle-blowing fiasco, had remained a sub-factor in the Senate before he was sacked some ten days ago.

That his botched victory was procured by financial fiat is no longer in doubt. It was in that same election that Gov Wike was allegedly caught on tape threatening to kill some INEC officials if they failed to cooperate with how he wants the election conducted. That matter had remained inconclusive because of the immunity clause shielding Gov Wike.

It is also on that election that the Police are currently prosecuting some INEC staff who allegedly collected monetary gratification from Wike to compromise the outcome of the said election. Many of the accused INEC officials have long returned their share of the bribe. The police tendered the sum of N111million (which they recovered from the INEC personnel) as part of the N360million allegedly used to bribe the INEC staff by Gov Wike.

Well, the said bribe helped to get Sekibo and co in

as winners. But the victory badge has become brief and now yanked off with ignominy.

Yes, over two years or so of the legislative tenure has been stolen by Sekibo, yet the fact that Uchendu is now in the Senate with all the accolades of propriety and justice, gives him the last laugh on this matter.

It is consoling that justice has finally smiled on Uchendu, an act that reinforces confidence in the judiciary.

And so with his rich legislative experience, Uchendu, former Managing Director of Risopalm and holder of National productivity award, will walk into the Senate with his shoulder high, to resume legislative duties. I cannot forget the three major Bills he moved and followed through while in the House of Representatives. Uchendu, it was who sponsored three fundamental Bills in the House. They are the Standard Tendering Procedure for the Award of Contracts in the Public Service (otherwise called Due Process), the National Youth Development Programme, and the Amendment to the Petroleum Technology Development Fund Act.

No doubt, his rich administrative and parliamentary experience will come to play for the people of Rivers South East senatorial district. I congratulate the Distinguished Senator Andrew Uchendu.


Okorocha’s Merciless March on the Masses


Last Saturday, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State behaved like a military ruler. While the traders in  Ekeukwu market were sleeping in their homes, Okorocha ordered the bulldozers, guarded by heavily armed security men (soldiers and policemen) to not only pull down the ancient market on Douglas road, Owerri, but to also crush the wares of the traders in an irrecoverable manner. Many traders who rushed to the scene on hearing the news struggled with security men to salvage whatever they could.  A young boy of about ten, (the only son of the mother), Somtochukwu Igboanusi, trying to rescue her mother’s wares was allegedly shot dead. The Police have denied shooting anybody even as many others with bullet wounds are being treated in hospitals. So who killed the poor boy? Investigations have commenced. But from experience, that will be the end of the story. We will likely never hear of the outcome of the findings.

The video recording showed the heavy gunshots that characterised the operation. But this was described by the police authority in Imo State command as “minimal force (teargas)”. The traders say no notice was given before the demolition. I do not believe. The state government claims enough notice was given and an alternative market had been provided. But the traders say not even a shop in the said alternative market has been completed. If that be the case, how did Okorocha expect these traders to resettle in an uncompleted market with no infrastructure? Why was he in such an ungodly haste to demolish the market, even when there is a court order forbidding him from doing so? Is there a better example of naked impunity?

Describing it as the”best thing to have happened to Owerri”, Okorocha explained that the market is the headquarters of brigandage: robbery, rape, kidnap, drug abuse, etc.

But Mr Governor, if that was the challenge, was it enough to march over the poor traders whose livelihood depends on the market?

Could the market not have been better policed and manned by security operatives including intelligence personnel?

Now that the physical structures have been demolished with the said criminals spilled into the streets, will Okorocha also go demolishing wherever the criminals try to gather? Assuming they all stream to the new market, will the bulldozers also bring down the new market?

Is it true that Okorocha vengefully brought down the market because he was denied the plan to acquire some land thereof?

In a state where civil servants are owed many months of unpaid salaries, pensioners are forced to sign off 70 per cent of their pension arrears and now petty traders are kicked away from their commercial hearths with the jackboot of the military, we just imagine the hardship and poverty being shoved down the throat of the people of the state in place of the promised dividends of democracy.


So, What Has Changed?

I have been waiting and been in search, but it keeps looking elusive. Don’t know when I’d find it.

What is it you are looking for? Perhaps I can help you find it.

 Em, em, it is not an object per se. It is an experience.

Not an object? So what is that experience? Is it without name? 

I am not in the mood for rapid rounds of questions. I am in a frantic search for the new dawn promised by this government. It has been a very long night. The more the new dawn beckons, the more the dark night envelopes us all. It looks like the waiting will be forever, as if we are waiting for Godot.

(bursts out in loud laughter). New dawn! You mean you are still in darkness? You have not seen the new dawn?

You don’t need binoculars to see that the misty dawn is already here. You should be able to observe the features of a new dawn, made less clear by the thick mist. Soon, the sun will rise and it will become all very bright and clear.

It looks like you are speaking in parables. What do you mean by misty dawn?

You must understand that not every break of day comes bright and shiny. This is one of them. But with the rise of the sun, the mist will clear and everything will be bright and fair. 

I still feel we are in thick darkness. We are still groping for direction in this government. That is what I am saying. We cannot feel the misty dawn you are talking about. All we see and hear is a very long night of Babellian dialogue moderated by confused leaders. The features of the promised dawn are still miles away. We only imagine their reality and hope we touch it while we yet breathe.

The things we see are not cheering. Or did you not hear that about N400 billion is paid as bribe every year in Nigeria? This is from a government institution, Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Did you not hear that the Nigeria Police and the Nigerian judiciary are the worst culprits? Does this not worry you? Are these not the things this government said would change? Those are the two organs of dispensing justice—police and judiciary. And if they are deeply imperiled by bribe taking, are we not all doomed? Did you not hear the allegation of Senator Hamman Missau on the corruption of the Police? Have we not been assailed by the mess in the judiciary? With that huge sum offered as bribe every year, where is the misty dawn you are talking about? Is it not the continuation of the status quo ante, in another style and by new characters? So what has changed?

Hmmmmm, you have raised a lot of issues.  You do not understand the depth from which the present government is struggling to pull Nigeria from. Look, it was really very bad before this government came for this rescue mission. We probably would have been all doomed. You are struggling to see the misty dawn because of the thick and sticky darkness we were plunged into by the previous government. That is why the sun is taking time to rise to clear the mist so we can experience brightness. But soon, very soon, you will see what I am saying.

You are still rambling. What are the signs that the new dawn will be here soon?

You are looking for sign? Just this week, did you not hear that the EFCC recovered, within the first eight months of this year alone, the sum of N409 billion, $69,501156.67; 231,118 British Pounds; 610,816.20 Euros; Dirham 443,400 and 70,500.00 Saudi Riyal? And that N329 Billion was also recovered from a group of oil marketers for the NNPC, just as the anti-graft agency has secured 137 convictions within the period? Did you also not hear that the Ministry of Agri…

(cuts in) Oh, please, please, spare me those dry and opaque statistics that do not help our course. Of what use are those fabled recoveries when people are dying of hunger and poverty? Where are all the monies they claim to have recovered all these years? We keep hearing of huge recovered loot. Where are they? Have they been re-looted? Why is this government behaving like Chukwuemeka Ezeife, former governor of Anambra State who saved up so much money in the treasury while the state and its people languished in lack and squalor until the military seized power and threw him out of office?

And talking about 137 convictions, why have the big thieves of the land not been convicted? Why is the EFCC elated about convicting bread and goat thieves while the mega thieves are left alone?

As I said, you will begin to see all the changes on board, just a little patience. You must realise that corruption has been struggling to fight back. 

It remains mere illusion. As long as Mr President still leads the pack of medical tourists, Babachir Lawal remains unpunished for unholy grass-cutting deal, the big men of the land still send their children to schools abroad, university teachers and medical doctors still embark on indefinite and incessant strikes, appointments sacrifice merit and ethnocentric, terrorists and kidnappers still harass us, I will continue to search for the promised change.

Don’t be a pessimist. Rome was not built in a day.