Blame Jonathan If Rivers Governor Is Killed, Says Soyinka
President Goodluck Jonathan will be vicariously liable if Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi is killed, Nobel laureate Prof Wole Soyinka warned yesterday.
He said despite the Presidency’s denial that Jonathan is not behind the protracted trouble in the state, the President’s handwriting is on the wall.
“The perception out there in the world is that he (Jonathan) bears a vicarious liability with what is happening in Rivers State,” Soyinka said.
Soyinka and activist-lawyer Mr Femi Falana (SAN) jointly addressed a news conference in Lagos on the state of the nation, particularly the political crisis in Rivers.
Soyinka said he had first hand information from his colleague who was in Rivers State Governor’s Lodge when a tear gas was thrown into the premises.
“My colleague was with the governor during what amounted to a siege. Anyone who said teargas was not thrown into the premises is either ignorant or is lying,” he said.
The dramatist accused First Lady Patience Jonathan, whose office he called an “unconstitutional appendage”, of contributing to the crisis.
He said Mrs Jonathan “cannot be a First Lady without first learning to be a lady.”
“She is getting away with murder because she has the backing of her husband,” Soyinka said.
He urged President Jonathan to call his wife to order, saying: “Please curb the excesses of your wife. Too much is too much. The vulgarity has become intolerable. We have now reached the bottom of obscenity and it’s got to stop.”
Describing the five lawmakers who claimed to have “impeached” the Speaker as “the five fingers of the controlling hand”, Soyinka said democracy in the state had been threatened.
“We’re sitting down here, pretending nothing is happening. The democratic ground on which we are supposed to stand is being eroded,” the playwright said.
He added that if not the President, then there must be those around him who want Amaechi out by all means.
The poet chided Rivers Commissioner of Police Mbu Joseph Mbu, describing him as “a political policeman in Rivers State”.
He said the governor had rejected the police chief, yet the powers that be have refused to remove him.
“Are we waiting for a smoke bomb to be thrown into the Governor’s Lodge before we take action?” Soyinka asked.
Either that, or there could be an “accidental discharge” similar to the case of the “Unknown Soldier” only that in Amaechi’s case, it will be “the Unknown Policeman”, said Soyinka.
He compared Amaechi’s situation to that of the 12th Century Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, whose life was extinguished by a sword’s crushing blow on a cold December evening at the King’s instance as he struggled on the steps of his altar.
Becket’s troubles with King Henry II, Soyinka recalled, reached its peak when the Archbishop excommunicated the Bishops of London and Salisbury for their support of the king.
Becket, he said, remained steadfast in his refusal to absolve the bishops.
According to Soyinka, the news threw King Henry into a rage in which he was purported to have shouted: “What sluggards, what cowards have I brought up in my court, who care nothing for their allegiance to their lord. Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest!”
The consequence was that the king’s outrage inspired four knights to sail to England to rid the realm of the annoying prelate.
Becket fled to the Cathedral where a service was in progress. The knights found him at the altar, drew their swords and began hacking at their victim, finally splitting his skull to pieces.
“Are we not moving towards absolute monarchism?” Soyinka said.
He said the signals emanating from the Presidency bother on impunity, conveying to “followers” that they too can act with equal impunity.
First, he said the Federal Government took away Amaechi’s aircraft in dubious circumstances, making it imposing for a “duke” of the kingdom to be with a “carriage.”
According to Soyinka, Nigerians are being treated to the same kind of experiences under the President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration where governors were illegally removed from office.
“It’s insulting; it’s condescending. I feel, as a citizen, personally insulted. So I wonder what we have done to deserve this level of governmental banality. What is happening in Rivers is only a variation of our old familiar theme,” Soyinka said.
According to him, the Presidency ought to be more concerned about the worsening situation of insecurity, the latest of which manifested in the “butchering of our children in school”.
“We should be bothered about the wastage of our future, and the closure of schools. It is a defeat for schools to be closed,” Soyinka said.
He explained that his condemnation of the brigandage in Rivers State does not mean he is calling for a mass protest akin to those of the Arab world.
“We haven’t reached that moment where anyone is calling the citizens to action,” he said, adding: “We all have a duty, including the media.”
For instance, Soyinka said it was wrong to refer the so-called new “Speaker” in media reports as if he is legitimate.
“Stop treating this clown as an equal of the elected Speaker, though you can quote him. You can describe him as ‘self-declared’ speaker.
“Help the public to put everything in the right perspective. Preparation of the mind of the public is critical. Don’t call them by a title which they have not earned properly.”
Falana said it was shameful that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has congratulated a man unconstitutionally elected by five lawmakers as their new leader.
“Those who set the engine of illegality in Rivers State are currently outside the country. It follows the same pattern,” Falana said.
According to him, he will not be surprised if the Presidency soon hosts “the new speaker” just as President “received a man who scored 16 votes and grounded the plane of a man who scored 19 votes”.
“Just this morning (yesterday) the Minister of Finance issued a statement from abroad that she was not responsible for the darkness in the country.
“Why hasn’t the President issued a directive as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces for the security forces to restore order in Rivers State?
“We are calling on the Inspector-General of Police to begin enforcing the Police Code of Conduct fully and by removing the Rivers Commissioner of Police Joseph Mbu without further delay.
“He has treated the court of law and the Code of Conduct of the Police with contempt. He should be sanctioned by the Police Service Commission,” Falana said.