Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, yesterday blamed President Goodluck Jonathan for the political crisis rocking Rivers State, warning that Nigeria was fast sliding towards monarchism; the system of government where too much power is vested in one person.
This is even as Governor Rotimi Amaechi cried out yesterday that the state is under siege going by the prevalent violence, disturbances and fracas going on in recent times. This culminated in Tuesday’s chaos witnessed at the House of Assembly and its ripple effects on Wednesday.
Addressing a press conference yesterday on “A presidential emergency: A people under siege,” at the Freedom Park in Lagos, Soyinka also advised President Goodluck Jonathan to curb the excesses of his wife, Patience, who he said, was being used to destabilise Rivers State.
He said: “The spokesmen of the President have distanced him from what is happening in Rivers State, but what do you expect, they have to keep their jobs. “The President bears Nigerians the responsibility of what is happening in the state. I have been asking myself: Are we not moving towards absolute monarchism even though we are talking about not just a democratic dispensation but a federal system of democracy.
“I am not laying direct culpability of the crisis on anyone, I want to make that quite clear, but I am saying that one can by action or omission establish certain forms of conduct in the minds of one’s followers on which goes around the word impunity.
“There are certain ways, which you can convey to your followers or officials that they can act with impunity. For instance, you can expose a prey until that prey is available for pluck, and even silence can do it.
“We know how monarchs behave; they can deny involvement, absolutely.”
On Wednesday’s incident in which it was alleged that Rivers State Government House was tear-gassed by policemen, Soyinka said: “I read in the papers the police claim that the Rivers State Government House was not tear-gassed, but let me categorically state here that the premises was tear-gassed because I had a running commentary on what was happening from a junior colleague who was at the Government House at the time of the incident.
“There was actually a siege to the Government House and it was teargassed, so anyone who is saying that Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s office was not tear-gassed is either ignorant or lying. In addition to that, some of Amaechi’s security was withdrawn.”
He warned on the dangers of the developments in Rivers State to the polity, saying: “We are pretending that nothing is happening when the democratic ground on which we are supposed to stand on has been eroded. “After the tear gas, there may be the smoking gun and in the ensuing confusion, an accident can happen and we go back to the days of the Unknown Soldier, or as in this case the Unknown Policeman.
“We have returned to the notorious days of IGP Sunday Adewusi, who constituted himself as the spokesman of the then government in power, pronouncing insolent declarations.
“Not since that time have we had a policeman like Joseph Mbu (Rivers State Commissioner of Police) taking the stage and talking to a governor in a most disrespectful way, as if he is not being paid from the coffers of this nation. I am not talking based on what was said or not said about him. No. I have read his statements on the papers.
“And the governor has said, ‘I want this man out because I am the chief security officer of the state’ but the powers that be said no.
“So, is anybody surprised then that tear gas would accidentally be thrown at the Governor’s Office? What are we waiting for?
“Like I said, we are waiting for the smoking gun to be thrown there and Nigerians would be told that we have lost a governor.
“If I had not been too busy, I would have gone to Port Harcourt to witness the siege that we experienced before being reenacted before our eyes. It is important for us to go there and get evidence of how we, whether deliberately or through negligence, are close to existing under a feudal monarchy.”
Taking a swipe at the First Lady, Soyinka decried the privileges accorded to the office, which was not provided for in the country’s constitution.
“The President should curb the excesses of his wife, it is too much. Is she the first First Lady that we’ve had in this country? The siege to Port Harcourt for 11 days by security operatives during the First Lady’s visit to me is beyond that Madam herself.
“But my last word for her is that she should be a lady first before being a First Lady. In fact, you cannot be a First Lady without first, being a lady because it is evident that she has the backing of her husband, the President, and that she is being used politically to destabilise Rivers State.
“Nigeria is the only nation where a mere domestic appendage of power can seize the control of a state for 11 days and because of her presence, the governor of that state is told by a policeman that he cannot pass through a particular place. “What sort of jungle are we living in? I am saying that the responsibility for the crisis in Rivers State must be laid at the doorsteps of President Jonathan.
“I am also saying that if anything happens, President Jonathan should be held responsible.”
The Nobel Laureate added that Nigerians had been through the scenario playing out in Rivers State before, and that like the ones in the past, it was aimed at causing confusion in the polity, so that a state emergency could be declared.
“It is the same old game of politicians,” Soyinka said, recalling that it was for the same reason that the late novelist, Prof. Chinua Achebe, rejected the national honour bestowed on him by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and even President Jonathan.
He said that rather than instigate crisis, the President should be mobilising Nigerians against the Boko Haram insurgency in the northern part of the country, which had resulted to loss of lives, including school children.
He also admonished the media to stop treating the “clown in Port Harcourt” as the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly to avoid programming the public into accepting the machinations of those behind the crisis.
Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN), who also spoke at the briefing, said the silence of President Jonathan on the crisis was an official endorsement of the impunity going on in Rivers State.
“The silence of the President is a confirmation of the official endorsement of the crisis that is going on in Rivers State.
“Why has the President not issued a statement to direct all parties in the