As a full-fledged citizen, I am incensed by the damning swirling allegations of brutal and unrelenting serial pillages of the resources of Rivers State leveled against Mr Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, the immediate past governor of the State, by the integrity Group, a self-styled anti-corruption watchdog committed to the enthronement of accountability and good governance.
Whether this group is a witch hunt tool is a matter of conjecture but as a citizen, I am encouraged by the courage the Integrity group has demonstrated by its decision to seek judicial remedies in pursuit of its avowed commitment of bringing to justice, Amaechi and his co-travellers if they were found to be in anyway vicariously responsible for the barefaced stealing of the resources of the state. Apart from the fact that as a nation, we do not have the luxury of condoning or treating the monster called corruption with kid gloves because it will ultimately lead to our perdition, there is a new sense of urgency and belief that we should collectively deal with corruption before it kills us.
Buhari embodies our collective determination and aspiration to deal decisively with corruption, the cancer and archetype of our predicament malignant as a nation.
Decades of systematic corruption which shows no sign of abating have left the nation in financial ruins and held in abeyance the unfurling of the great Nigerian possibility. During the campaigns, Buhari’s anti-corruption mantra was reassuring and gave us hope of a fresh beginning. It is reinvigorating to note that the few months he has been in power have not diminished his resolve and determination to confront and deal decisively with corruption. Nigerians, the world and posterity will judge him by his actions and not by his words.
Former Governor Amaechi has proven to be a divisive political figure who means different things to different people. Before these allegations broke, I perceived him as a largely misunderstood leader who as a rite of passage had to pass through the crucible in defense of his convictions. This image was cemented in my psyche by the nature of his emergence as governor and the many political battles he has had to fight in the course of his political career.
But given these sleaze allegations and his unsatisfactory, infantile and laughable response to them have left a healthy dose of doubt on my mind as per his culpability. These allegations are grave in nature and point to economic crimes against a state. It bespeaks of high treason, mindless pillages and one of the most comprehensive looting of our collective patrimony and must be treated with the seriousness it deserves. If liable in countries such as China with zero tolerance for corruption, culpability in this instance means death.
Instead of insulting our sensibilities by telling us that everybody in Rivers State knows that he does not like money, it is in Amaechi’s interest to respond to each of these grave allegations. His public image is already in tatters going by these latest disclosures. It is only sufficient explanations and responses to them that will redeem his already battered image. Otherwise, he will occupy a prominent place in the nation’s hall of infamy and in our history a footnote. If he has a chapter, the chapter will chronicle how he serially raped Rivers State.
Instead of brinkmanship, Amaechi should explain to the world if actually he connived with his lieutenants to corner the mind-boggling sum of sixty billion naira being proceeds from the sale of the gas turbines of Omoku, Trans Amadi, Eleme and Afam.
Nigerians and the people of Rivers State are waiting for Amaechi’s explanation regarding this allegation that he mindlessly, callously and criminally caused to have siphoned the sum of $ USD 105 million (N21 billion naira) through hurried transfers using three companies as a conduit. We are waiting for Amaechi’s explanation regarding the alleged unlawful payment and fraudulent conversion of N8 billion meant for the construction of a multi-storey Karibe Whyte Specialist Hospital in Portharcourt using Clinoriv Specialist Hospital and Leisure Ltd as a front. The long-suffering people of Rivers State are anxiously waiting for the former governor’s explanation as par his alleged criminal role in the unlawful enrichment of Collect (Nigeria) Ltd with public funds to the tune of N1.5 billion.
So far, Amaechi’s response to these allegations is far from satisfactory, and constitutes a gratuitous insult on the victims of kleptocracy which allegedly flourished under his rule. His statement thus far that everybody in Rivers State knows that he does not like money is bravado taken too far, and calls to question his understanding of the gravity of these grave acts of corruption which he is accused of. The people are so incensed that they may visit jungle justice on him should he walk the streets of Port-Harcourt without police protection.
It would appear that Amaechi’s arrogance may stern from his belief that his relationship with President Buhari makes him untouchable. The fact that Amaechi expects the people, the very victims of his alleged mindless pillage of their resources to empathize with him, is the height of delusion, impunity and arrogant display of raw power.
As repositories of power, the people of the state voted for him between 2007 and 2015. His aghast at the people for not defending him in the face of these allegations does not in any way obviate the fact that as governor, he bears full responsibility for his actions and inactions in office. This is why the foundation upon which leadership and governance is built and cannot be manipulated at the whims of political demagogues and clowns who see themselves as agents of change.
Nigerians massively support Buhari’s anti-corruption stance and his pledge to wedge an unwavering frontal war against corruption. During his recent visit to the United States while responding to allegations of the selective nature of his war on corruption, he stated in clear terms that no one, not even his party members would be spared. Nigerians again applauded him. If Buhari rises above powerful interest within his party in this anti-corruption, he would have succeeded in writing his name on the pantheon of the immortals.
Given the rot and the pandemic corruption which had shackled the nation and held in abeyance our emergence as an economic behemoth, the cleansing of the Augean Stable has assumed even a greater sense of urgency and should not be sacrificed to satisfy selfish interests. If the resources used in funding the Buhari campaign is a product of the sleaze in Rivers State, and Amaechi is shielded from justice, then Buhari’s anti-graft war is dead and buried on arrival.
Is Amaechi the only political leader who contributed to the victory of Buhari and All Progressive Congress? Is it right to steal money as an APC chieftain and wrong to steal as an opposition politician? In ordering for a thorough investigation into these allegations, these are some of the posers that the president should have a moment of introspection.
While the President is making headway on all fronts in tracing looted funds beyond our shores as he has assured Nigerians, he should also order the probe of the corrupt allegations against Amaechi in the national interest. Nigerians, Africa and indeed the international community are watching. How the president, the Economic and financial Crimes Commission and all the anti-corruption agencies treat this matter has grave consequences on the anti-graft war. The anti-graft war could get a shot in the arms as it gathers momentum or it would be buried before it even commenced.