THE political whirlwind blowing the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, became more ferocious on Monday with the National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party suspending him from the party.
The PDP said Amaechi would remain suspended until an 11-man panel set up to probe his “sins” submited its report. Chief Joe Gadzama (SAN), an Adamawa State indigene like the National Chairman of the party, Bamangar Tukur, chairs the investigative panel.
Coming in the wake of the controversial outcome of Friday’s election of Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Amaechi said he was being victimised by federal powers and that he feared for the safety of his life.
He asked the people of his state to pray for him not to fall into the hands of “desperate people at the federal level.”
‘I fear for my life’
“The way these people at the federal level are desperate, they may come after my life; so when you pray, remember to pray for me to remain alive. Now, you see political witch-hunt. It is so ridiculous; my party must rise above political witch-hunt,” the governor said during an interactive session with the youths of the state.
He said the PDP gave him no fair hearing and that his suspension by the party was politically-motivated.
Amaechi defied the order of the PDP to run for a second term as chairman of the NGF and reportedly defeated a coalition of PDP’s governors who queued behind Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang, believed to be the candidate of the Presidency.
Hours after Amaechi was declared the winner, the PDP governors and few collaborators from other parties announced their rejection of the Rivers governor’s victory, claiming that they recognised Jang as the winner.
Currently, there are two factions within the NGF.
Why we suspended Amaechi
The PDP NWC on Monday announced the suspension of Amaechi “for violating Article 58 1 (b), (c ), (h) and (m) of the PDP Constitution following his refusal to obey the lawful directive of the Rivers State Executive Committee to rescind his decision dissolving the elected Executive Council of Obiokpor Local Government Area of Rivers State.”
A statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Olisa Metuh, in Abuja, said the decision to suspend the governor was taken after an emergency meeting by members of the NWC.
He said the NWC at the meeting, considered a petition written by the Rivers State chapter of the party against the governor for violating some sections of the party’s constitution.
These sections of the party’s constitution read, “Subject to the provisions of this constitution, the party shall have power to discipline any member who (b) says or does anything likely to bring the party into disrepute, hatred or contempt; (c ) disobeys or neglects to carry out lawful directives of the party or any organ or officer of the party; (h) engages in any conduct likely to cause disaffection among members of the party or is likely to disrupt the peaceful, lawful and efficient conduct of the business of the party; (m) fails, refuses or neglects to treat a petition, complaints or appeal timeously.”
Metuh said the NWC derived the powers to suspend the governor from various sections of the party’s constitution.
He said, “The NWC after preliminary hearing, in exercise of the powers conferred by Articles 57 (3), 59 (3), 59 (5) and 29 (2.b) hereby suspends the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, as a member of the PDP and refers the matter to the appropriate disciplinary committee of the party.
“This is in furtherance of the determination of the leadership of the party to enforce discipline at all levels within the party.”
Metuh said Amaechi’s suspension would remain until Gadzama panel submitted its report.
Members of the panel included the National Legal Adviser of the party, Mr. Victor Kwon; Inalegwu Onche, Friday Nwosu, Udorji Amedu and Ola Kukuyi.
Others are Wakil Mohammed, Yusuf Jangwe, Bola Doherty, Tanimu Adamson and Anicho Okoro.
No time limit was given to the committee to submit its report.
Metuh said that at the end of the investigation, the governor would be re-admitted into the party.
“If at the end of the day, the panel clears him, the party’s constitution had been tried, tested and is working. We have not come to say he is wrong or he should be destroyed,” Metuh said.
But Amaechi faulted his suspension, saying he had nothing to do with the suspension of Obio/Akpor Local Government chairman over which he was being suspended.
He pointed out that the NWC of the PDP met around 7am on Monday and took a decision to suspend him for allegedly failing to rescind the decision of the State House of Assembly on the suspension of the council chairman.
Amaechi said, “Who has power to suspend Obio/Akpor council? The governor did not suspend Obio/Akpor council, I hope you know. My power is to dissolve and remit it to the House of Assembly, but I have not done that yet. What the Assembly has said is ‘we are investigating corruption’. Then the party says we should not investigate corruption. Is that fair?”
Split in PDP NWC
The Amaechi’s suspension has reportedly split the PDP NWC members with some kicking against the decision to suspend the governor.
Sources among the NWC members said some of the members disagreed on the reason for the action, saying that it could be termed to mean that the party was taking sides in the NGF election.
A PDP NWC source said, “We felt that it was wrong for the party to take that action now, when we all knew that the party did not support his emergence as the chairman of the NGF.
“Apart from that, we also felt that the reason for the suspension, which is because of the dissolution of a local government, is under the control of the State House of Assembly.
“Even though we know that governors have influence on the activities of the state houses of assembly, we should also pretend that there is the separation of powers as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic.
“We should not be seen to be encouraging other arms of government to force their opinion on the other.
“But unfortunately, such genuine arguments did not prevail at the meeting and those with might had their way.”
Metuh however tried to defend most of the matters raised by the NWC member, who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity.
He said, “We know that there is the separation of powers and we concede that, but on this particular issue, a lawful organ of the party, that is a state chapter of the party, issued directive to a member of the party who is a governor and who is supposed to be the leader of the party, the constitution expects the governor to obey a lawful constitutional organ of the party and at least make presentation or listen to what we are saying.”
Asked if this was the first time a local government would be dissolved in the country in any of the states being controlled by the PDP, Metuh said this would be the first time such an action would happen since the present NWC came into office.
He said he was not concerned about what would have happened in the past before the assumption of office of the NWC members.
Metuh also denied that the result of the just concluded NGF had anything to do with the suspension.
Northern govs to leave PDP?
In their reaction to the suspension on Monday, northern governors on the platform of the PDP were said to be considering leaving the party because of what they considered as “the narrowing of democratic options.”
Some of them, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The PUNCH on Monday that the alleged intolerance in the PDP was disheartening.
An aide to one of the governors in the region confided in one of our correspondents, in Abuja, that consultations on how to respond to the suspension of Rivers State were underway.
The source said, “We saw this coming and we have begun consultations.
“This is politics; there are National Working Committee members who are with us. We built this party from the scratch and we cannot be shoved aside.
“It is either they allow true democracy to prevail or we seek our political fortunes elsewhere. Alhamdulillah (praise be to God), there are other platforms available today.
According to the source, it would be fool-hardy for any governor to come out at this time to openly disagree with the party.
He said, “My boss and his colleagues are also happy that at least Nigerians at home and abroad see what is happening.
“No matter how much the PDP wants to conceal it, everybody knows that Amaechi is being victimised for daring to stand for and win the governors’ forum election.
“Amaechi’s suspension is meant to scare those who support him. Northern governors are aware that his problem stems from his perceived support for the emergence of a northern candidate for the 2015 elections.”