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Rivers political conundrum: Lawyers, politicians, elder statesmen, others react, urge Tinubu’s intervention to avert the state going up in flames

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There is no governance in Rivers State. I think it would not be out of place to say that what is happening in Rivers State today is very unfortunate. The consequences are quite huge. In my interpretation, former governor Nyesome Wike has not lived by his own words —Barrister Fadipe

With the political situation in Rivers State gradually snowballing into a full-blown crisis, lawyers, politicians, and well-meaning Nigerians have dispatched an urgent call to President Bola Tinubu for his intervention to save the nation from sliding into anarchy.

The political intrigues, godfatherism, accusations, counter-accusations, and recriminations between the Governor of Rivers State, Similayi Fubara, and his predecessor, who is the current Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr. Nyesome Wike, have thrown the oil-rich Nigeria-Delta state into crisis.

The duo has been at loggerheads over control of the political structure in the state. The crisis between the two politicians, however, heightened in November, culminating in an attempted impeachment of Fubara with their loyalists at daggers drawn, particularly the members of the Rivers House Assembly.

Reacting to the crisis, an Abuja-based legal practitioner, Mr. Tunde Fadipe, in an exclusive interview with Persecondnews, described the situation as “unfortunate,” saying “there is no governance in Rivers State.”.

“I think it will not be out of place to say that what is happening in Rivers State today is very unfortunate. The consequences are quite huge. In my interpretation, former governor Nyesome Wike has not lived by his own words.

“Wike is known to have said ‘anyone who has served in government, particularly as a governor, should allow his successor to also have his own time’. A predecessor should allow his successor to rule the state in the way he understands it and in line with his own philosophy, as well as the manifesto of the political party that brought him to office.

“So, in the current Rivers situation, I think it is unfortunate that after a few months, Wike and his supposed godson will fall out over what is not very clear to us,” he said.

He further called for the intervention of President Bola Tinubu to prevent the issue from escalating into a violent crisis.

“The president of the country is the chief security officer of the country. The need for the president to intervene is very urgent. He has the responsibility to make sure every part of Nigeria is well secured, and that’s why the security architecture of the country is a federal responsibility.

“The current situation in Rivers can snowball into a major crisis if not well managed, particularly in a country where we are very sensitive to religion and ethnicity. Wike is from Ikwere, and Gov. Fubara is from Ijaw. Do you think the Ijaws will keep quiet and fold their arms?

“Secondly, Rivers State, along with some other oil-producing states, is one of the states that provide the sustaining power for this country. If this crisis goes beyond this point, the Ijaw boys can go back to the creeks and remember that we have not forgotten very quickly how they held this country to ransom through the Niger-Delta militancy activities.

“We wouldn’t have forgotten so quickly the ingenuity with which the late former President Musa Yar ad’ua resolved the Niger-Delta militancy that had prevented us from maximizing the benefit of our crude oil reserve.

“Now that we are beginning to pick up gradually again, we cannot allow the country to slide into that underproduction because of the current economic situation we are going through in the country. You can see the security implications, the economy, and the reason why the president has to act fast on this matter.

“Also, the governor of Rivers State, who is a major party to this crisis, has taken the initiative to go and demolish the house of assembly under the excuse of a structural defect. When did they discover that the legislative building had structural defects? a building that has been there since the time of Odili.

“I can assure you, governance is no longer going on in Rivers; everybody is now for himself or herself. We must understand that the governor has the upper hand. Wike was there, and we saw how he frustrated the PDP and their presidential candidate, Alh. Atiku Abubakar, and contributed in no small measure to the loss of the PDP’s presidential seat.

“In this matter, it’s going to be very difficult for Wike to win. Already, some of the 27 PDP members of the state house of assembly that decamped to the APC are beginning to retrace their steps to go back to the PDP. So, governance is barely going on in Rivers State, and it portends danger for our economy, security, and the wellbeing of the people of Rivers State and adjourning locations,” Fadipe said.

Also weighing into the matter, another legal practitioner, Mr. John Ndukauba, who is based in Abia, told Persecondnews in a telephone interview that “the crisis is one that one could predict from day one.”

“The history of our country is a repeat of situations like that. A situation where a godfather decides to dictate or call the shots for his godson, and the godson tries to resist him, take his stand, and be firm, and in the process, it will definitely lead to a quarrel. It happened in Abia between Orji Uzor Kalu and T.A. Orji. It happens everywhere.

“The governor is at a loss for demolishing the national assembly complex and the state too, because eventually the assembly complex will have to be rebuilt, and it will be rebuilt with state government funds and not funds from the governor’s pocket.

“When you demolish the building, are you saying the lawmakers won’t sit anywhere again? All they need to do is carry their maze, take it anywhere, and turn it into an assembly ground.

“So, both sides are at a loss—both the supporters of Wike and the governor. It’s really sad that he had to go to the point of pulling down the House of Assembly,” he explained.

Speaking on the president intervening in the issue, Ndukauba said: “Bola Tinubu is in a dilemma. If you remember clearly, it was the vote from Rivers State that set the groundwork for him. It was Wike that worked for him, so are you saying he will call Wike and admonish him?

“The president will have to have a large heart and stand out for him to be able to call Wike and advise him to slow down because he needs the vote of Rivers in 2027.

On the defection of the 27 lawmakers, the lawyer said: “The rule is that if you defect, you automatically lose your seat. But you can see the trick they used. As they were announcing their departure from the PDP, they said they were leaving based on the crisis in the PDP. Is the crisis at the state or national level?

“That is the only excuse or reason for a legislature to defect; without that, automatically, he forfeits his seat. So, they want to latch on to that as a means of holding onto their seat. The PDP I hear is going to court to challenge the defection, so the court will hear it out and settle the matter.”

Also speaking with Persecondnews, Prof. Abdulhamid Ozohu-Suleiman, a professor of public administration and policy analysis at the University of Abuja, said Sim Fubara was elected by his people to lead them and provide good governance to address their common problems and should be allowed to do his job.

“The current crisis is a big distraction and a huge disappointment. The governor has barely settled down to provide good services to his people; he is engaged in face-off with his predecessor,” he said.

On the legality of the five-member State House of Assembly led by a factional speaker, Mr. Edison Ehie, greater than the factional 25 members, Ozohu-Suleiman said in other climes what is considered an anathema is normal in Nigeria.

The professor declared:“So don’t be surprised that within the Nigerian context, five is greater than 25. We muscled democracy to the sidelines that people now know what they wish for and what is consistent with their whims and caprices.

“It is unheard of that a governor will present the most significant bill of the state to just five members; it is unfortunate that most of the members were not carried along, and we are tempted to believe that five is greater than 25.

“At this time, the people of Rivers State need the State Assembly most to receive the governor and the appropriation bill. A considerable number of the members of the State House of Assembly defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

“I am aware that a few of the defected members have returned to the party with an apology letter to Governor Sim. The politics in Rivers State can be described as “the more you see, the less you understand.”.

Throwing more on the legality of the five members and the factional 25 members, he said: “The constitution is the ground norm in democracy; it provides the law that leaders must follow. According to Section 109, Subsection 1(G), it is stated clearly what happens when a defect from a party brings you into power.

“The phenomenon of Godfatherism in Nigerian politics can no longer work; it is not sustainable.”

Also, elder statesman Chief Edwin Clark has urged President Tinubu to call the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to order over the political situation in Rivers State.

Clark said if all former governors insist on controlling their successors, there will be chaos in the country.

According to the nonagenarian, it might degenerate into a full-blown crisis if urgent steps are not taken to immediately nip the political crisis between Gov. Sim Fubara and his predecessor, Wike.

The one-time Minister for Information noted that the crisis might be antithetical to the interests of the APC-led administration considering the socioeconomic challenges the government is already grappling with.

Chief Clark, who is the convener of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), raised the concerns in a letter addressed to President Tinubu on Monday.

He appealed to the President to call his Wike to order in the interest of peace and security.

He said: “As a member of your cabinet, you may need to call this minister to order to face the work in the quietness that is demanded of him. He should focus on his office and know that he is just one of 48 people in a cabinet, besides the Vice President and yourself.

In a similar development, a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, also called on President Tinubu to, as a matter of urgency, intervene in the political crisis in Rivers State.

The 2015 governorship candidate of the APC said President Tinubu’s intervention has become necessary to save the state from going up in flames.

Peterside, in a statement, also said he has watched with shock, disgust, and disbelief the ongoing ugly descent into anarchy of governance and public affairs and the naked display of anti-democratic and anti-people actions by some political actors in Rivers State.

He further said that from the reported defection of 27 supposed members of the Rivers State House of Assembly to the demolition of the permanent site of the Assembly complex for renovation, there is no better phrase to describe what Rivers State has become than a shameful state of anomie.

“We see there is a ranked display of mockery of democracy and mindless destruction of everything democracy by the same people who should be defending it.

“It is sad that in the past few weeks, the peace, stability, and development of the state have been sacrificed on the altar of selfish political agendas, egos, and narrow interests of a few.

“It is clear from these political actors’ utterances and body language that the only goal dictating their actions is controlling the soul of Rivers State to the detriment of the state’s people. The people and their interests have been relegated to the background, while political jobbers hold the state on a knife edge.

“Many of our past patriotic leaders sacrificed a lot to build a peaceful, united, and prosperous Rivers State, which these handful of political actors seek to destroy. The Rivers people would resist this brigandage, and I urge them to do so urgently. Posterity is going to judge all of us.

“At this point, as a leader and stakeholder in the affairs of Rivers State who has personally invested a lot in the development of our state, I call on the president and commander-in-chief to intervene and save Rivers from going up in flames.

“Mr. President should note that Rivers State is gradually sliding into total anarchy. As a statesman, he cannot afford to fold his hands and watch the destruction of the state and institutions of democracy.”

Peterside further told President Tinubu that it was incumbent on him to place the interests of the state and its people above other considerations, even as he called on Rivers people to oppose politics of destruction and personality cults.”

Persecondnews also recalls that Wike had threatened “action” against Fubara for allegedly “tampering’’ with his political structure in Rivers within three months of becoming governor.

Fubara, a political son to the FCT minister, had apologized and promised to make peace with him, following Tinubu’s intervention by inviting both of them to Aso Rock.

However, after the apology, the fractured godfather-son relationship seemed to deepen every day, and this has been sending waves of anger to the people of Rivers State as well as the rest of Nigeria.

Wike had opened up about the political crisis in Rivers at a media parley in Abuja in November.

According to Wike, Gov. Fubara is “trying to create” a political crisis for himself.

“Let me tell you, I don’t like ingrates. I can’t stand it. What is happening now in Rivers is what Odili said in his book: ‘Give a man power and money, then you will know the person.’ If you haven’t given manpower and money, then you don’t know the person.

“I left projects for him to commission so he would showcase them during his hundred days, then politics came in. We are just starting. God gave you something; you are now importing crisis.

“God gave this power on a platter of gold; there was no crisis. The federal government is not fighting you; nobody at home is fighting you. You are the one trying to create a crisis for yourself,” Wike said.

Also In the heat of the crisis, 27 out of the 32 lawmakers loyal to the minister had announced their defections from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the state to the All Progressives Congress (APC), a development that led to their seats being declared vacant by the factional group of about five members loyal to the state governor.

The feud, however, took a turn for the worse on Wednesday, when Governor Fubara ordered the demolition of the River State House of Assembly Complex, barely 72 hours after the defection of the 27 lawmakers loyal to Wike.

The governor claims that he took action in response to the burning down of the state assembly’s chamber on October 30 by unidentified political thugs.

About 10 bulldozers, excavators, and other heavy-duty machines arrived at the complex around 6 a.m., and at 7 a.m., part of the building housing the Assembly and the conference hall used for public hearings had been fully brought down.

Amid the ongoing demolition of the State House of Assembly complex, Gov. Fubara on Wednesday morning presented N800 billion 2024 budget estimates to some lawmakers at the Government House, Port Harcourt, which is the alternative building for sitting for their legislative businesses pending the reconstruction of the complex.

The governor had presented the budget to only five lawmakers, with Mr. Edison Ehie as the factional speaker.

The demolition and presentation of the budget to a five-man panel have elicited criticism from several people.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has washed its hands off the ongoing political crisis in Rivers State involving the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike, his loyalists, and Governor Siminalayi Fubara, saying the government does not share the position of the former governor.

Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, said this while responding to questions from State House correspondents on the development after a briefing on the outcomes of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at the presidential villa in Abuja.

He emphasized that the Federal Government has no hand in creating the crisis, which has seen the FCT minister and members of the Rivers State House of Assembly pitted against Fubara.

“Well, he is a federal cabinet member; he is involved in the situation in the state. That cannot be a federal government position. How can it be the Federal Government’s position?”

Idris said the Federal Government is keen to ensure peace and tranquility in every part of the country, including Rivers, saying: “Well, the Federal Government is always interested in the well-being of all the states, and in that direction, the Federal Government will always align with everyone in Nigeria to make sure there is peace and tranquility in all parts of this country.

“But you know, what has happened in Rivers is not a creation of the Federal Government. It is a political problem that is brewing in the state.

“Of course, the government will ensure there is peace and stability for all Nigerians, including River State, but you can’t say this is a creation of the Federal Government. The Federal Government never had any hand in creating that problem.”

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