• Friday, July 12, 2024
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BusinessDay

The Celestine Omehia conundrum

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A conundrum is a difficult and intricate situation. That is exactly what the problem of defining the status of Celestine Omehia, the stand-in governor of Rivers State for five months in 2007.

A conundrum also is a problem or question having only a conjectural answer. This too is exactly what the Omehia question in the Rivers State governorship history is; you can only guess.

Governor Nyesom Wike has been guessing the answer for seven and half years, and is still searching. He began by declaring Omehia a former governor, brought his photograph up on the hall of fame in government places in the status of a former governor. Things were well between the two Ikwerre sons. By Wike’s action, Rivers State has had three Ikwerre sons; Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Omehia, and now Wike. Then, the upland has had four straight governors since the return of Democracy if Peter Odili is added, none from the riverine.

Suddenly, or not too suddenly because they have parted political camps, Gov Wike began to threaten to de-robe or derecognize Omehia. True to the threats and true to how he does his things, the Rivers State House of Assembly which is believed to be of only his handpicks, woke up and ‘discovered’ that Omehia was actually not qualified to be former governor. They quickly passed a law with its usual speed and de-recognised Omehia. They also ordered him to refund almost N700m spent on him as former governor.

Gov Wike moved swiftly and penned his signature. He has threatened to seize Omehia’s property if he did not pay back the money in seven days.

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With the signing of the law, according to a statement by Kelvin Ebiri, the governors SA on media, the recognition that accorded Omehia the status of a former governor of the State, with accruable rights and benefits, are now cancelled.

The matter began many years ago when Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi won the primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state. His name was substituted outside the provisions of the law by that of Omehia, his kinsman, in those days of impunity by the then ruling PDP especially under Obj.

Amaechi went to court but many did not give him any attention due to the powers wielded by the presidency.

Omehia went ahead to win the election and even governed for five months (May 29 – October 25, 2007). Then, the Supreme Court ruled that Amaechi was the true governor and that it’s the PDP and Amaechi that won, not PDP and Omehia.

By that, in the eye of the law, Omehia never contested, never won, and never governed.

Wike won the election to replace Amaechi (with Odili and Omehia now behind him against Amaechi) and compensated Omehia by setting aside the decision of the Supreme Court to impose the status Omehia did not have on him as a recognized former governor.

Omehia continued to enjoy and milk the situation until Wike fell apart with Abubakar Atiku and asked all his henchmen to also hate Atiku. Omehia and few others refused. Wike sacked the others from various board positions and procured a law from the RSHA to dethrone Omehia.

Now, he says he has realised what the law is saying. But, who refunds the mistaken salaries to Omehia? Many say if it must be refunded, then Wike and the lawmakers should refund it, not Omehia.