The Rivers State Government has faulted the former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Chief Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), on his condemnation of the recognition of Sir Celestine Omehia as a former governor of the state.
The State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, last Thursday, restored the rights and privileges of Mr. Omehia as a former governor of the state while hanging his (Omehia) portrait on the wall reserved for ex-governors at the Government House, Port Harcourt.
Omehia, who was sworn in as the governor of the state on May 29, 2007, was sacked by the Supreme Court in a landmark ruling on October 25, 2007.
The apex court had ruled that Rotimi Amaechi’s name was wrongly substituted with that of Omehia as the PDP candidate for the election and ordered him to immediately relinquish the mandate to the rightful owner.
Since then, Omehia has not been recognized as a former governor of the state.
All that changed last week when Wike, in a bid to end “politics of bitterness”, which he said was the hallmark of the immediate past administration of Amaechi, restored all rights and benefits due to Mr. Omehia.
In his reaction to Wike’s action, Agbakoba described Omehia’s recognition as a former governor as useless, unnecessary and capable of overheating the system.
But the State Commissioner for Housing and former spokesman to Omehia, Mr. Emma Okah, maintained that the state government had the powers to accord a special privilege to anybody without reference to any court judgment.
Expressing surprise that the reconciliatory and uniting action of the state governor could annoy the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Okah said in a statement in Port Harcourt on Sunday that litigants could still seek peace outside court ruling as such a step would heal old wounds.
According to him, “This is purely a political concession, far away from the courts. There must be an end to acrimony and bitterness or politics of hate. As a people, we should encourage harmony, peace and consensus building so that we can put the agony of yesterday behind us and together, move the state to greater heights.
“In all jurisdictions, litigants can still seek peace outside the court room or even after judgement and such agreements calm frayed nerves and heal wounds better and faster. A time comes when as leaders, you need to think outside the box to solve political problems and create happiness for the people.
“Nigeria did the same for Chief Ernest Shonekan who headed the Interim Government, which the Court declared as illegal. In Ekiti State, Governor Ayo Fayose accorded similar recognition to Chief Segun Oni, even though the court said he was not a governor in law. People are happy with these situations and that of Rivers State cannot be different”.
The commissioner further stated that Agbakoba had more pressing things to worry about in Nigeria like the current developments in the National Assembly where statesmen “like him” were expected to make their voices heard for democracy instead of dabbling into Rivers politics and its complex dynamics.
He also expressed surprise that as a respected senior lawyer, who has fought for the rights of the oppressed in society over the years, Agbakoba was among those who kept mute and played no major role to reprimand ex-Gov. Amaechi when his administration in Rivers State locked the courts and emasculated the judiciary for over one year.
“Many thought that Chief Agbakoba would have risen to the occasion, but the plight and agony of detainees, lawyers, judges, litigants and judicial stakeholders arising from the closure of courts could not move him to strongly condemn the evils that Amaechi inflicted on the judiciary.
“Even the emasculation of the legislative arm of government by the same Amaechi administration, who moved their sittings to the banquet hall of Government House, Port Harcourt was not enough to catch the attention of our respected Agbakoba at a time when many well-meaning Nigerians saw it as an aberration and embarrassment to democracy”, Okah added.