GIST OF THE DAY: Bloodshed at Rivers Assembly as Jonathan, Amaechi Row Peaks In Violent Clash

The political feud between President
Goodluck Jonathan and Rivers state
governor, Chibuike Amaechi, spilled into a
deadly clash Tuesday on the grounds of
the Rivers state House of Assembly,
between state lawmakers with ties to
both sides, leaving at least four members
Lawmakers known to back either the
president or the governor clashed
physically, fighting off each other with
weapons that included a broken mace,
after five anti-Amaechi members moved
to sack the speaker, Otelemaba
Amachree, an ally of the governor and
replace him with Evans Bipi, a loyalist of
the presidency.
Reports say the chamber rapidly erupted
in violence on the first day of resumption
from a forced break as “thugs” backing
both sides allegedly teamed up to cause
mayhem. There was bloodshed and some
lawmakers were rushed to hospital.
Videos posted online show a member of
the House smash a broken mace on
another lawmaker, and later hunting him
around the chamber before a policeman
cornered the assaulted lawmaker and also
attacked him.
Mr. Amaechi later arrived at the chamber
amid the chaos as he sought to rally
protection for lawmakers loyal to him,
amid reports they were denied protection
by the police.
By late Tuesday, Mr. Bipi, believed to be
a relative of the president’s wife,
Patience, whose wedding last week was
witnessed by the First Lady, claimed he
was the new speaker, “elected” by five
members of the assembly out of 32.
The Amaechi faction rejected the claim,
and made it clear Mr. Amachree
remained in charge.
“As far as this Assembly is concerned, the
leadership has not changed. I am the
Speaker of Rivers State House of
Assembly and all the other officers and
the Clerk are here with me. The
leadership of the House is intact,” Mr.
Amachree said after the crisis.
The numerical disadvantage
notwithstanding, a faction of the state
ruling Peoples Democratic Party, known to
be against Mr. Amaechi, welcomed Mr.
Bipi as the “new speaker”, in a sign of a
far more complicated crisis that has
apparently pitched the five lawmakers,
the state police leadership, the PDP
leadership apparently on one side; and
Mr. Amaechi, and 27 lawmakers on the
other end.
The faction, in a statement by its publicity
secretary, Monday Onyenzeonwu, called
the “election” of Mr. Bipi a “unanimous”
one to bring the legislature back to
The clash marked a troubling new twist in
the crisis that has gripped the chamber
and the state for months, apparently over
Mr. Amaechi’s feud with the president.
Mr.Amaechi’s has been embroiled in a
long-drawn feud with the presidency over
speculations the governor might team up
with a northern candidate to challenge
Mr. Jonathan for the presidential ticket of
the PDP in 2015.
Amid the crisis, a court replaced the
state’s former PDP leadership loyal to Mr.
Amaechi. The present executive is
supported by the presidency, and was
met by Mr Jonathan in Abuja last week.
Tuesday’s fighting drew wide
condemnation, and critics, mainly online,
linked the president to the crisis despite
his repeated denials of responsibility in
past troubles in the state.
“I guess Mr. Reuben Abati, Mr. Reno
Omokri, did not read about what
happened in Rivers state today,” one
Twitter commenter said. Many critics
pointed at the police’s refusal to halt the
chaos as well as Mr. Bipi’s ties with First
Lady, Mrs Jonathan.
Mr. Jonathan arrived in China as the
events unfolded. By early Wednesday, the
presidency had issued no comments on
the events.
The violence and the alleged
impeachment of the state speaker drew
even more condemnation, many
concerned about its potential to return
the nation to the dark days of blatant
abuse of state powers.
Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar,
warned in a statement that any disregard
for the sanctity of the constitution or due
process in the removal of elected public
office holders would seriously harm the
nation’s democratic order.
“It is sad that those who are seeking to
subvert our nascent democracy are some
of those who never fought for what many
laid down their lives for. These persons
are advised to take heed to the festering
crisis in Egypt following a forced change of
leadership in that country,” Mr. Abubakar
“We can either dismiss what happened
today in Port Harcourt as one more
incident in the long line of impunity and
constitution abuse, or we speak very
strongly against it, sending thereby an
unambiguous message to the powers-
that-be that sweat and blood of fathers,
mothers and children, which were used to
nurture the tree of our democracy, must
not go in vain.”

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