Rivers of blood

PERMANENT bitterness, primordial violence, rule of the jungle, anarchic language, pumped-up steroids, senseless cruelties, demonic ambition, installation of gangster governance, Orwellian reign of terror have all seized the centre-ground of Rivers State politics so much that both the oppressing and opposing groups are laying claim to a monopoly on the means of violence. Nigerians are watching with horror the limitation of our analogue minds that simply cannot solve all the different political equations daily generated by a rogue state that is drawing savage strength from a secretive cabal whose interior mental workings are to make Rivers State ungovernable at all costs.

Violence as a means to political end has climbed to a totemic pyramid in a state known for its space for accommodation. The most forceful observable paradox is the flight of reason and the pursing of lips by the central actors and chief combatants, as they pursue their own carnal comforts and ignore the rivers of blood flowing around what used to be Garden City. Rivers State violence is becoming symptomatic of a deep political flaw in our democratic experiment. In fact, all the known apostles and architects of politics of do-or-die would be shocked to see that Rivers State has turned out to be the battleground of its barbaric enforcement. What the brutalising political situation in Rivers State is encoding almost daily is the total defilement of democracy, reason, consensus, neutrality, letting-go, political accommodation and total disrespect for the rule of law and decency.

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The electoral gunfight in Rivers State is hard to disinter neatly. On the one hand, is a group of politicians in the APC, who have a political axe to grind; on the other, are the PDP party heavyweights, who want Rivers State permanently controlled by their party. We also have the APC party combatants who go about with the language of the aggrieved and accuse the State Governor of intimidation, deployment of assassins, bribing of judges, obsession with power and democratic illiteracy. What is at play is the enthronement of messy democracy of a pre-historic time; what is at play in Rivers State is the reign of political polarities, contradictions and disconnection from the safe haven of democratic consensus. In the place of political magnanimity, what is at play is hate tantrums being thrown at opposing politicians.

The rerun Rivers elections have been able to showcase the bald absence of dialectical capacity to hold in tension two sides of political argument and resolve matters through common- sense, fairness and yielding to the genuine interests of the people of the State. In a breathless space of two days, Rivers State reconfigured our democracy and turned it into a dysfunctional, obsolete and a veritable conduit for violence, mayhem and political terror. Prior to the rerun election day, the Chief Security Officer of the State and its Governor, Nyesom Wike, was totally powerless to roll out bold strategies, innovations and progressive initiatives to stem the bookmakers’ certitude that there would be rivers of blood during the elections; rather, his most dynamic energy was concentrated in verbal exchanges with the APC arrowhead and Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, former Governor of the embattled State. Amaechi, on the other hand, also proved himself to be a wayward democrat. He was accused of sinister plots to rig and manipulate the elections but found it impossible to achieve.

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Yes, there have been condemnations and criticisms of the violence and the state of anarchy that engulfed Rivers State during the rerun elections. However, the brutal truth is that we are yet to arrive at a formula that would dissuade our politicians from their near-religious belief in the orthodoxy of do-or-die, even though it is the very demon ruling the calculations of our politicians at election time. We cannot allow the horror of violence and narrow interests of our politicians mar the continued progress of our democratic journey with all its imperfections and frailties.

We congratulate the neutrality of President Muhammadu Buhari in the whole sorry saga of violence in the Rivers’ rerun election. We are tempted to say that his approach is a testament to his ongoing credentials as a born-again democrat, respecter of the will of the people, patriot and leader of all Nigerians regardless of political and tribal differences. But the political thugs who unleashed violence and terror during the rerun elections, must be caught and speedily dealt with, within the ambit of our laws. Justice for the death of the innocent youth corper, Mr Samuel Okonta, is justice for all Nigerians who are willing to serve their fatherland at a moment of national emergency.