A theme that ran throughout Celestine Omehia’s inauguration speech as governor of Rivers state was the emphasis that he will continue from where Peter Odili stopped.
He was very emphatic that he would build on Odili’s legacy. The question is: Which legacies did Odili leave behind? Any indigene or resident of the state can easily count Odili’s legacies to include insecurity in the state, bloodshed and gangsterism, celebration of bribery and corruption, enhanced looting of state treasury for fraudulent personal investments including Arik Air, sponsorship of cultism and assassinations, and so on and so on. So which of those legacies is Omehia talking about?
Anyway, there is the popular saying that ‘a snake must give birth to a long thing,’ as it is beginning to be evident in the state.
The description of the current street battles in the state by the Omehia government as “not an isolated scenario, but part of the Niger Delta crisis, which would take time to resolve” was a clear indication of the insensitivity and helplessness current leadership in the state.
Hear what the government had to say: “The Governor Omehia-led Government from the first day in office had demonstrated a clear commitment to give the State purposeful and people-oriented leadership.
Governor Omehia has a pedigree for accomplishments and no matter the ploys of a few disgruntled persons, the Government will not be distracted from its avowed commitment to serve the people”, this is pure nonsense. Who is interested in praise singing now in the state as the armed crisis is becoming more and more devastating and the fire is fast spreading to areas that were previously peaceful.
It is really unfortunate that the Rivers State Government could say that “the sporadic gun fire experienced a few days ago in Port Harcourt was the handiwork of people who plan to discredit Government for their own selfish gains.” As far as the Omehia government was concerned, “the scenario has not degenerated because if you want to achieve peace, you have to embark on reorientation and this process takes time before yielding result.”
Maybe, the result would start manifesting when everybody in Port Harcourt and environs has been killed by bullets of the warring government-sponsored gangs,” may God forgive all of you in government.
Rivers state could be rightly described as a huge theatre of absurdity. Just few weeks ago, the Douglas/Needom- led Rivers State Peace and Rehabilitation Committee (RSPRC) was doling out a whopping sum of one million (N1 million) to any one who professes that he or she is a cultist, militant or gangster and would quit the trade.
As was widely reported in the media both national and Port Harcourt-based, hitherto blood-thirsty militants, cultists, and other criminal gangsters were clutching their bibles shouting hosanna in the highest and trooping to Rivers State Government House Chapel as Pentecostal born-again Christians even though Douglas a Sunni Moslem is the events manager of the Rivers State Government’s ‘who wants to be a millionaire’ promo.
Leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, Alhaji Asari Dokubo as a person, would always be the man of the masses of the oppressed Niger Delta people particularly Rivers state. In what could rightly be described as a state of the region address, Asari in his usual matter- of -fact statement accused both the former and incumbent governors of Rivers state, Peter Odili and Sir Celestine Omehia of involvement in the shocking wave of violence and kidnap operations in the state that have attracted both national and international attention.
The fearless NDPVF leader chose to make his well-intended accusation at the Police Headquarters in Abuja where he had gone to inform the acting Inspector General of his intention to depart for Saudi Arabia . He alleged that Odili and Omehia were both direct and proxy collaborators with those who are kidnapping people and shooting on the streets of Port Harcourt .
Whether the Rivers State Government likes to hear this or not, the latest ‘free-for –all Port Harcourt AK-47 and K-2 riffle street show’ arose because a cult group was said to be angered by the alleged patronage of a rival group by the political powers in the state.
This allegedly made rival groups to want to prove that they were relevant as well. Although both actors have denied involvement, it was alleged that the aggrieved group is the coalition led by Soboma George while the government-patronized group is led by Ateke Tom, the ‘peace maker’ and recently born again former warlord.
Commendably, immediately Asari was released from hostage by the Abuja government abductors, he reportedly entered into a peace treaty with Ateke Tom. Both former enemies resolved to forget the past and forge an alliance in the interest of the Niger Delta struggle and the peace between the two seems to be holding.
The question now is: why has it become so difficult for the Rivers state government that has been “actively involved” in brokering peace between warring groups to reconcile Soboma and Ateke? Both men used to be very close allies in their joint military face-off against the Asari –led group until they parted ways after being covertly encouraged by government anchormen to do so.
For the records, Soboma George was the detainee that escaped from Port Harcourt Prisons and the scandal that followed led to the sack of the prison comptroller. The man (Soboma) was declared wanted by both the Police and Odili-led Government. However, he freely moved and socialized around town particular in the old Port Harcourt metropolis part of the city in broad day light to the knowledge of both Odili and the then police commissioner, Mr Sylvester Araba.
Ateke Tom was also declared wanted - dead or alive ‘preferably dead’ by both Odili and the police on the orders of the then crown king of Rivers state Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. He went underground and resurfaced during the Omehia -engineered peace and reconciliation propaganda and declared a turn around from his ‘evil ways’.
Their boys participated together at a training and re-orientation forum held in Calabar, Cross River State recently. The Greenlanders, the Bush Boys and members of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force were also directly engaged in the project. But that was just few weeks ago.
Interestingly, just as the governor’s initiative on peace and reconciliation was about to be adjudged as producing results, both Soboma and Ateke suddenly renewed their hostilities and overnight assumed ‘the greatest threat’ to the peace effort. The two foolish brothers should read in between the lines.
This was exactly the same path that the duo of Ateke and Asari treaded which finally culminated in the adoption and detention of the latter for almost two years. It took both of them rivers of blood to realize that they were remotely manipulated and armed from the same source for selfish political gains which of course turn out to be an outing for national disgrace for the actor.
Between the people who are championing calls for a state of emergency in the State and the cultists at the Government, who qualifies more to be called “agents of destabilization?” What else does anybody expect from the helpless and endangered people of the state but to look for help outside the state at least now that Obasanjo is no longer at the helm of affairs at the Presidency before it will be too late.
The people occupying the Government House from all indications have failed to help protect the masses either because of their involvement or outright lack of ideas on how to solve the problem that is fast engulfing the entire state.
Governor Omehia and his predecessor, Odili should know that Rivers people are anxiously waiting for them to publicly deny the allegation of complicity or explain their innocence in the current gun duel between Ateke and Soboma- led groups.
The explanation would help the people of the state to know whether to encourage Omehia to continue to build on Odili legacies or start a fresh bloodless foundation or at best quit the stage. Omehia as the governor has a lot to do if really he wants to continue from where Odili stopped.
Since Omehia and his people are yet to appreciate that the situation in the state has reached an emergency status, there is nothing wrong in calling the entire state, ‘a state of emergency’ whether declared or undeclared. Let the interest of the entire state override the myopic interests of a few cabals occupying privileged positions.
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