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Rivers Crisis: Why the odds are against Wike

For example, if Wike thinks he sacrificed so much for Governor Fubara to emerge as the Rivers State chief executive, perhaps all he did could possible pale into insignificance if what transpired in Abia State before the emergence of Theodore Ahamefula Orji as Abia State governor in 2007 is juxtaposed and played out in context



Rivers Crisis: Why the odds are against Wike




Many reasons could have been advanced for the course of the current crisis threatening governance in Rivers State but one very thing that is very clear to discerning minds and political stakeholders is that the crisis in the oil-rich treasure base of the nation is as a result of fierce contest of wits between the godfather and his godson on the soul of Rivers State.




However, antecedents have shown that but for Lagos State and, indeed, the south west where the so-called respect or obedience to godfatherism have perhaps been ridiculed, with many state governors in the region at the whims of one man, albeit regrettably, sitting governors always have their ways when crisis such as what is playing out in Rivers State occurs.


You have defeated Wike already, focus on governance, and watch your back — Ayodele tells Fubara 


Not many people believed that Governor Sim Fubara would survive the seeming hurricane of the Federal Capital Territory minister and his godfather, Barrister Nyesom Wike but by sheer resilience anchored on backups from some major stakeholders and elders of the state, the governor is gradually gaining upper hand and may eventually have the last laugh.




However, the Nigerian political landscape is replete with history of sitting governors who deployed resilience to defeat their so-called godfathers.


For example, if Wike thinks he sacrificed so much for Governor Fubara to emerge as the Rivers State chief executive, perhaps all he did could possible pale into insignificance if what transpired in Abia State before the emergence of Theodore Ahamefula Orji as Abia State governor in 2007 is juxtaposed and played out in context. Then Governor Orji Uzor Kalu deployed his political dexterity to not only confuse the security personnel but ensured that a man under incarceration with security agencies was elected and sworn in as the state governor.


Theodore Orji was detained up to the eve of the swearing in and the then outgoing governor manipulated the process, ensured he was released and while personnel of security agencies were waiting to nab him at the swearing in ground, the governor-elect was taken elsewhere where the state chief judge administered oath on him, a development that then clothed him with immunity and made him to rise the state with so much power, leading to outcries in the God’s Own State.




Consequently, Theodore Orji’s regime was principally the extension of Kalu’s regime until the governor fought for years and eventually defeated him, deploying all state apparatus to free Abia from the grip of the former governor and his mother.


The case of Enugu State was another salient example of a sitting governor getting the better of his predecessor. Sullivan Chime was virtually at the beck and call of his godfather, Chimarole Nnamani, but he fought the battle of his life and shrugged off from the bondage and total control of Nnamani. Consequently, Sullivan made it difficult for his godfather to even visit the state, he once walked like a colossus.



In Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole lost the battle of wits against his godson, Governor Godwin Obaseki and, like Nnamani, he was ‘restricted’ in Edo State.



Now the same thing is regrettably playing out in Rivers State where the Federal Capital Territory Minister, Nyesom Wike, is untying all loose ends to ensure that he remains in power in the Treasure Base of the Nation (as their plate number name goes). Known for his fierce position on things he opposes, Wike is bent on undermining the administration of Governor Sim Fubara if the latter doesn’t allow him access to the control of the state’s political structure.



Wike, before leaving office as governor, had built a large political structure and almost replicated what has been the wrong antecedents in Lagos State, as he singlehandedly picked those who were elected to occupy office in the last election. From the local government chairmen to the members of the Rivers State House of Assembly and up to the federal lawmakers at the National Assembly, Wike solely selected each contestant and ensured they won. Not satisfied, he appointed majority of the cabinet members of the current administration, thus initially rendered Governor Fubara a political vegetable and one who is still tied to the apron of the FCT minister, would be shoved aside if he mounts the least opposition to commands from Abuja. The plan of Wike, although unvoiced, was to replicate the trend in Lagos and thus made the Rivers State governor a rubber stamp.



Trouble started when the governor decided to take responsibility as the number one citizen in the state. Surrounded by hawks in the name of cabinet members and lawmakers who were planted to mount oversight over him, Fubara understood the enormity of his action but, nevertheless, he took the plunge to rescue the state from the tight grips of his predecessor and that decision, seen by Wike and those loyal to him, as the highest demonstration of audacity, has been what kept the state at this level, leading to the realignment of 25 members of the State Assembly still very loyal to Wike decamping to the All Progressives Congress (APC), a party Wike has huge sympathy for on the strength of being a minister under President Bola Tinubu.



While Wike was having the upper hand at the start of the crisis, he allegedly ridiculed the executive when it was reported that Fubara was at the state House of Assembly complex to address his supporters but came under sudden and sustained at Assembly complex to address his supporters but came under sudden and sustained attack from the police drafted to forestall breakdown of law and order. This was the climax of degeneration of democracy to see an executive governor, the chief security officer of the state, himself not secure in the hands of security personnel.


The political crisis had earlier led to the impeachment of the speaker of the state House of Assembly, Honourable Martins Amaewhule, a loyalist of Wike. This was a swift response to the impeachment process against the governor.


The way and manner the crisis was going before, what then cannot be ruled out is the trouble culminating in political assassination which is not alien to Rivers political rivalry as a number of such had happened in the past.


The governor’s earlier action of sacking all Wike’s loyalists in and around the government is a clear testimony that the stalemate has just started producing casualties. However, the greatest casualty right now may be Wike because his political career is at a stake both at the federal and state levels.


After the decamping of the twenty five lawmakers to the APC, the fight for the sole of Rivers State was taken to the PDP at the national level as Wike, it was alleged, planned to create a crisis to justify the ship-jumping of the lawmakers when they could not justify their reasons for leaving the party under whose platform they emerged state lawmakers. That was also because a court has restrained them from parading themselves as members of the Rivers State House of Assembly on account of that defection without any crack in their party.


As a result, DAILY INDEPENDENT learnt that Wike decided to use Umar Damagum, the acting national chairman of the PDP, who is his person, as the sword of Damocles on the PDP with intent to leverage to justify the defection of his loyal Rivers Assembly lawmakers. DAILY INDEPENDENT gathered that having stepped on toes at the last election where he practically and openly worked against his party, a number of PDP bigwigs, including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, want to cripple him at the PDP. So they played along at the NEC meeting and allowed Damagun to remain as the acting national chairman. The action was said to be an intended one in order not to play into Wike’s hand of allowing a crisis because shoving the defected Rivers State House of Assembly members aside, the PDP stakeholders reasoned, means shoving Wike aside.


This is because the Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt has also barred the pro- Wike lawmakers from parading themselves as members of the state’s House of Assembly and through that, the FCT minister would lose grip of the House.


Recall that the judge, Charles Wali, ordered them to stay away from the House and restrained them from taking any action in their capacity as the state’s lawmakers pending further hearing in the case fixed for 29 May.


He gave the ex parte order in a suit instituted by Victor Oko-Jumbo, a factional speaker of the Assembly and two of his colleagues loyal to Governor Siminalayi Fubara.


Given the scenario and following the resignation of a number of his appointees in the current setting in Rivers, the FCT minister, it has been gathered, is in a fix with uncertainties hanging over him. This is also coming as a lot of political stakeholders in Rivers State like former Governor Celestine Omehia, former governor, Chief Rufus Ada-George, Annkio Briggs, Professor Dagogo Fubara, Dr Gabriel Toby, Ibim Princewill, Rear Adm. P. Fingesi (retd.), HRH Iraron, Ede Obolo, Anabs Sara-Igbe, Senator Bennett Birabi, Captain Nwankwo, Prof. A.W. Obianime, Prof. E. T. Bristol, High Chief Marcus Atata, Senator Wilson Ake, Dr Silva Opusunju, Sen Andrew Uchendu, Kalada Iruenabere, Atamuno Atamuno, Prof. N O Nyenke, and Godwin Abbey, among other elders are solidly behind the governor and against the FCT minister whom they viewed as trying to cause confusion in the state because of his innate ambition of controlling Rivers from the FCT.


If the court position over the 27 defected lawmakers is eventually upheld by the higher court, it means that Wike has lost his grip on the state legislature, through which it planned to unseat the governor and perhaps do other untoward things in the state.


Meanwhile, sensing that Wike’s game is up and with support from some stakeholders, Simi has now come out full swing in his bid to fully take charge of the state. He has declared the defected PDP lawmakers as non-existent and ensured a new loyal speaker emerged. He visited the legislative quarters and issued an executive order, relocating the Assembly sitting venue. That was immediately followed by the court’s issuance of an interim order restraining the entire defected lawmakers from parading themselves as such. Not done yet, the governor has cut off finances to the local government chairmen loyal to Wike and there is hue and cry right now in the state.


According to a lawyer, Mr Tamuno Martins who is based in Port Harcourt, the saving grace of Fubara is his decision to deviate from the purported peace deal at the presidential villa. He spoke to our correspondent.


“That deal would have seen the governor becoming a puppet and I doubt if he would even still be governor now if he had allowed the terms of the deal to see the light of the day,” Martins said.


For remembrance, the peace deal signed by the president, Wike and Fubara included the reappointment of all the commissioners (Wike’s loyalists) who resigned from the Rivers State Government (and that was obviously to spite Mr Fubara); the restoration of the 25 lawmakers whose seats were declared vacant because they defected from the PDP to the APC, and for the governor to present again the state’s 2024 budget, which he had already signed into law, to all the lawmakers, including the ones whose seats had been declared vacant.


Fubara was assured in the deal that the lawmakers loyal to Mr. Wike would drop their impeachment plot against him, while he and his loyalists were to withdraw all the court cases related to the matter.


The pro-Wike lawmakers, in keeping with the terms of the peace deal then, withdrew the impeachment, notice against Governor Fubara on Wednesday.


As of today, the lawmakers have their fate clouded in uncertainties as the governor and the few lawmakers loyal to him are running the state.


Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, substantiated this, saying unless the defected lawmakers were able to prove that there was indeed crisis in the Rivers PDP, they are no longer lawmakers in the state.


“Citing the constitution, unless you can show and demonstrate that there is division in a political party that sponsored your election, you cannot remain in any legislative arm if you decamp to another party.


“The whole idea is that the constitution set out to ban political prostitution on the part of legislators.”


The human rights lawyer noted that there was a court order restraining the 25 lawmakers from representing themselves as legislators in the state, as well as prohibiting the speaker from identifying himself as the speaker of the house.


“It may be very difficult to persuade the court to allow them to remain in the legislative house unless they are prepared to go back to the people and have their mandate renewed by the people.


“The Supreme Court made this clear in the case of Adetunde and the Labour Party that you cannot decamp and then remain a member of a legislative house in Nigeria unless you can show that there is a division in your party.


“It doesn’t mean a division in a local government or a state. It has to be on the national level. That is the position of the court,” he said.


Hinted of plans to set up a judicial panel of inquiry to investigate how the affairs of governance were conducted in the state before he assumed office on May 29, 2023.


Fubara gave the hint at the swearing-in of Mr. Dagogo Israel Iboroma as the new Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of the State at Government House, Port Harcourt.


He said; Let me also say this, you have a big task. We will be setting up a judicial panel of inquiry to investigate the affairs of governance. So, brace up, I am not going back on it.


“Please, defend us. We know that you are going to defend us because your record is clean. You are a gentleman and peaceful. You are not a noise maker. People like you are endowed, and they have the fear of God.”


This position is backed by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Wahab Shittu, who said the governor is legally empowered to probe the immediate past government of Nyesom Wike.


While the scope of the probe was not explicit, Mr. Wahab said the Rivers State Commission of Enquiry Act and the Nigerian Constitution empower Fubara to investigate any government including that of Wike.


“If you look at the Rivers State Commission of Enquiry Act (Section 1), the governor of Rivers State has powers to probe the former governor,” the legal practitioner said on Tuesday’s edition of Channels Television’s Politics Today.


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