Odili/Amaechi’s reconciliatory kiss and Yar’Adua’s regret

By Casmir Igbokwe
Published: Sunday, 5 Apr 2009
IN October 2008, an English woman gave her partner, Mark Coghill, what turned out to be a painful kiss. The man was actually celebrating his 45th birthday at Newcastle. Midway into the celebration, his woman, Tracy Davies (40), remembered that she wanted a baby but pregnancy eluded her. She grew upset.

Seeing her mood, Coghill reportedly went to comfort her. She asked for a kiss. He obliged. But within a few seconds, she planted her teeth on her man’s tongue. As a prosecutor told a Newcastle Crown Court early last month, the woman bit a third of Coghill’s tongue off. The man’s major regret is that he would never enjoy a curry nor distinguish between cheese and toast again.

No doubt, Dr. Peter Odili and Mr. Rotimi Amaechi still enjoy their curry and pounded yam. But what used to be a rosy relationship between the former and incumbent governors of Rivers State respectively goes beyond the crushing of a tongue. Trouble started when Amaechi’s ambition to govern Rivers clashed with Odili’s political interest. The two men fell apart. The rest, as they say, is history.

Between Odili‘s tenure and Amaechi‘s administration, a lot has happened. Different cult groups sprang up here and there. Gang leaders terrorised Rivers citizens. Communities fought against one another. Thousands of people died. Kidnappers added a new dimension when they started taking people‘s wives and children for ransom.

It was under this confusing situation that Amaechi set up the Kayode Eso Commission to unravel the truth of the crises and reconcile different warring parties. Eso and his team went to work last year. They listened to the tales of the warriors and their victims. They flipped through pages of memoranda. They even went to Abuja to hear from Odili and Co.

On March 10, 2009, they submitted their 571-page report to the Amaechi-led administration. The panel identified the problems of governance, cultism, chieftaincy and some others as the root causes of the crises in the state. Quite troubling was the idea of giving out N250,000 to militants in exchange for each old gun. They simply used the money to acquire more sophisticated weapons. The panel reconciled 15 communities, but indicted the Odili-led administration for hobnobbing with gang leaders.

As expected, Odili and his group have cried foul. They accused the Eso-led panel of bias and said Amaechi set it up to deliberately malign and indict them.

This is rather unfortunate. I do not think that a person of Eso‘s calibre would deliberately set out to undo anybody. Eso and his members, I believe, looked at issues before them critically before reaching their conclusions. Is it not strange and ironical, for instance, that the former governor denied allegations of insensitivity to the destruction of Okuru Ama community, whereas the evidence of the Police and the State Security Services indicated otherwise?

Odili and Co. had earlier shown their disdain for the panel when they failed to appear before it in Port Harcourt, citing security reasons. The major problem the former governor has with Eso is that the respected jurist had, in a public lecture some two years ago, condemned a court order stopping any trial of Odili with regard to what transpired during his tenure as the governor of the state.

Unlike most other panel reports that have not seen the light of the day, Eso‘s report could be an exception. Last Thursday, the Rivers State Government issued a White Paper on it. Among other things, the government ordered a further investigation of Odili and Abiye Sekibo and adopted the panel‘s recommendation for a fresh judicial commission of enquiry to investigate the killing of Marshal Harry and Gospel Bilogbolo.

As if on cue, President Yar’Adua the same Thursday announced amnesty for Niger Delta militants, who are ready to lay down their arms. He touched the heart of the matter when he regretted that Nigeria was not among the G-20 nations that met in London last week. South Africa happens to be the only African country in the G-20. He urged every Nigerian to reflect upon the sad scenario.

Mr. President, I have reflected and come to the conclusion that apart from the problem of poor leadership, the crises in Rivers, nay Niger Delta, constitute the greatest impediment to our growth as a nation. Oil, as we all know, is the greatest gift nature has graciously given us. The crises have drastically affected oil production and oil companies. A report in the Financial Times of London yesterday indicated that a potentially groundbreaking court case alleging that Shell Petroleum Development Company was complicit in the execution of the former President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, Ken Saro-Wiwa, would open in New York on April 27.

While we continue to grope in search of solutions to our problems, it has become imperative to implore the combatants in the Niger Delta to lay down their arms. The starting point should be in Rivers. Guilty or not guilty, the honourable thing for Odili to do as a leader is to accept responsibility for whatever happened when he was in charge in the state. Going to court to stop the implementation of the report of the panel will not help the matter. Already, a Port Harcourt High Court on Friday reportedly rejected the moves by the former governor to stop the report.

I dream of the day when Odili and Amaechi and indeed all the warriors in the Niger Delta will drop their weapons, come together and share a genuine kiss of love, peace and reconciliation.

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