New Telegraph

Wike, Fubara Feud: Rivers Suffers as Cracks Widen

The intractable feud between Governor Simiminalayi Fubara of Rivers State and the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike, is one that has both political and legal dimensions. In this analysis, EMMANUEL MASHA writes that the judiciary might just be the only arbiter to resolve the dispute

The recent exchange of tantrums by the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike and Governor Simiminelayi Fubara of Rivers State points to one thing – the festering battle for the soul of Rivers State is one whose end is far from sight. Wike’s disclosure that his choice of Fubara as his successor was a mistake he is ready to correct sparked an equally vociferous retort from the governor who said, “if I am a mistake, may they continue to make mistakes…Jungle don mature.” Not done, he picked on his former Boss, disclosing for the first time his government’s readiness to probe Wike, whom he said left a debt burden, especially on various contracts to the tune of billions of Naira. Fillers from the state however, show that the current political crisis is completely outside the expectations of Rivers people. Many are unhappy that rather than an inviting environment for businesses to thrive, there is tension, panic and an atmosphere of turmoil due to political disagreement. Some Rivers people complain bitterly that they voted in the last election hoping that there would be a radical shift from the political bickering which trailed the administration of former Governor Nyesom Wike. Recall that while Wike governed the state, he consistently feuded with Rt..Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who was Minister of Transportation who blamed former President Goodluck Jonathan for preventing him from installing Dr. Dakuku Peterside as successor. It was Amaechi’s attempt to reclaim the state’s political leadership that fueled the bitter feud with Wike for eight years. What is understandable is that Amaechi was already a prominent member of the APC, while Wike remained in the PDP. That is why the eight years (2015 to 2023) of Wike, were the toughest that the state has witnessed in terms of opposition politics. But within Chose eight years, the State Assembly complex was peaceful and lawmaking was carried out under speakers who showed utmost loyalty to Wike. Fubara has not been that lucky. Politicians loyal to Wike, who were mostly picked by the FCT Minister to offer their wealth of experience in the running of the state openly worked against Fubara while proclaiming their loyalty to Wike.

Why the feud?

The questions that observers have asked are: Why should there even be issues between Wike and Fubara? What flaws did Wike not notice about Fubara throughout his eight years in office that he suddenly noticed less than six months after he left office? What is the bone of contention? In all of this bickering, is the interest of the state on the agenda of the feuding parties? How come it didn’t last up to a whole year before trouble started? In digesting these questions, there is a need to revisit the run up to the 2023 election. For eight years, after Wike had succeeded in fending off the attacks and plots of the APC and the other opposition parties to take over power, the 2023 election was conducted with less violence compared to what happened in 2019. Wike’s choice of Fubara as his successor among 15 other top contenders within the PDP must count for something. There must be some unique qualities of Fubara that must have endeared him to Wike. And other contenders recognized this fact and threw in the towel very early even before Wike had officially announced Fubara as his choice. That was why the majority of the contenders quickly settled for other positions. Some of the contenders were in the trenches with Wike in the build-up of the 2015 general elections. He knew their worth and the sacrifices they made to his political rise, yet none of them was as high as Fubara in his rating. For this reason, some observers have accused Wike of mistaking Fubara for a weakling who would do his biddings without scrutinizing them. Those who disagreed with Wike on Fubara, were the party leaders who are also kingmakers in their own right. They were the party chiefs who also opposed Wike’s presidential ambition, and teamed up with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who they felt was much more qualified for the job than Wike. Also, in a state where the political elites, chiefs and elders give strong meaning to the riverine and upland dichotomy, the fact that power was moving from Ikwerre after 16 years had already assured Fubara’s victory at the polls. Many voters, including some APC leaders felt comfortable with Fubara, hence voted for him. Fubara, an Ijaw from Opobo was up against Tonye Cole, another Ijaw from Kalabari contesting under the platform of the APC. Who would have told Wike that a man he initially saw as an accountant without any political history or background withstand the pressure mounted against him from different angles and ultimately save himself from impeachment. The truth remains that had Martins Amaewhule and others succeeded in their impeachment bid against Fubara, it would have dealt a huge blow to Fubara’s political career. It would have also left a huge leadership void whose impact would have simply taken the state years to recover from.

Godfather factor

But there are also some Rivers people who hold the view that any politician who is gifted a political structure or elevated politically by a godfather should always be loyal to the benefactor. Wike, they argued, must have seen some good in Fubara, and made him governor with the hope of maintaining a cordial relationship with him. It is, therefore, a sign of disloyalty, they argue, for Fubara to act against the internet of his godfather. Wike buttressed this point a few days ago at a function in Ogu Bolo Local Government Area, where he said he does not expect Fubara to worship him because he is not God. He also apologised to the people of the state for the “mistake” he made supporting Fubara. He vowed to correct the mistake at the appropriate time. Wike said: “God uses people to help others. So, when you have been helped, you appreciate them. God will know you have appreciated him. Nobody can worship man. All of us believe that it is only God we will worship. “I want to say this clearly: in life, we make mistakes. I have made a mistake. I own it up and I say God forgive me. I have said all of you forgive me. But we will correct it at the appropriate time. I am human. I am bound to make mistakes. So, forgive me for making a wrong judgment. So, nobody should kill.” Wike also called the court order stopping lawmakers that are loyal to him as an “odd hour injunction.” He said that: “If they like, they can go to anybody by 2am or 4am to get an injunction. The law will take its course. We must follow due process. “Don’t be afraid. Nobody will remove you as lawmakers. Most of you don’t understand. This is our work. Our business is to make them to fear. That is what I am doing. We will make them angry every day and they will continue to make mistakes. So don’t worry yourselves. We won’t give money to anybody to go and buy arms to kill anybody. I have maintained peace and I want to beg all of you to continue to maintain peace. “Nobody will tell me that I can’t live in my house or not go to my house. But all of you should maintain the peace. Follow law and due process. We will get to the end “In politics, when people with brains agree they disagree. Those who didn’t know what to do said they would bring me down. Who gave birth to them? They are nowhere. When you are in charge, you are in charge. “Everything will calm down. All these people running around, they would come down. Boma worked for his appointment, he showed loyalty and commitment, and that is why God placed him there. Don’t the other party; you won’t blame them and you must forgive them.

What plans do you have to protect the party from money bags hijacking it again?

The PDP was formed by people, who were independent (minded) and who were free from any particular encumbrances. So, it means our problems were self inflicted. So, these are the things we have to look at when we meet. By the time we come together, we will reconcile. You know money is very important but it is not all about money because others made sacrifices in forming the party. Why should supporting your party be a problem?

What are your impressions of the APC and its impacts on the political landscape?

The All Progressives Congress ( APC) is a formation of hate; a formation of evil; a formation of malice and envy. The amalgamation is a combination of all these things put together. There was nothing like a Nigerian vision or ideology behind it and they knew that no matter what, they can’t defeat the PDP in a fair contest. The party had no philosophy beyond just grabbing power, and that is why in 2015, the nucleus of the Buhari’s government was PDP; all the big shots were products of PDP. I said that APC is the paralysed part of PDP because up till today, most of the key elements in government are from the PDP. Even the current National Security Adviser, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, who is he? He was discovered by the PDP and made the pioneer Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. So, you can see that with the exception of people like Bola Tinubu and Adams Oshiomhole, who came from ACN, the bulk of the other key actors since 2015 are from the PDP.

The Tinubu administration will soon be celebrating its one year anniversary; do you think it has done well?

I am in opposition and for fairness and justice, you don’t go to an opponent and ask ‘how is your opponent doing?’ You don’t do that because whatever I tell you could be taken as the opinion of a man, who is not happy because he is out of power. They will say I’m talking because my party failed and was voted out. I think it is better you go out on the streets and ask the Nigerian people, whether they are better and happier under the APC, than they were when PDP was in power. So, it’s not me that should rate their performance. Let Nigerians do it. Don’t ask me whether they are doing well because I was in government and they accused us of failing. Now, Tinubu is there. So, go and ask Nigerians if their lives are better now than when they were under the PDP.

What is the performance of the legislature under the Tinubu administration?

Is the National Assembly doing well in the task of checkmating the executive? You see, the word is not checkmating. You don’t checkmate. It is the same Nigerian government. The President is like the Chief Executive of Nigeria and therefore, our sovereign symbol. So, you don’t checkmate him. The principle of checks and balances is what is enshrined in the constitution and every arm of government has a role to play in maintaining the balance of power. There are clearly defined roles for the executive, legislature and judiciary under our Constitution. Now, if one arm of the government allows the other to oppress or suppress it, what can I say? If the executive has a lot of appetite for power, it is going to consume the judiciary and the legislature. It is not for me to say don’t do it. No. It’s for them to assert themselves as separate arms of government with distinct constitutional roles.

How would you rate Tinubu’s economic policies in the last one year?

Again, I’m in opposition and would rather leave that too to the Nigerian people. However, all I can say is that before a policy is pronounced, government must have clear purpose for it and should be able to anticipate the likely impact of that policy on the people. Now, in the event of some repercussions following the announcement or implementation, what is the arrangement put in place to be able to contain it? So, as a government, you should plan with foresight and ensure that you also plan on how to address the likely consequences of your policies. The is because anything you do, should be in the interest of the people. So, in the event of that policy hurting Nigerians, whom you’re trying to lead and better their lives, you must put measures in place to mitigate the pains of that policy before it matures. I feel that whatever the government is doing today is simply ad hoc. There is nothing like deep thinking behind it to be able to plan and mitigate the impact of the policies on the people and the future.

Nigeria will be celebrating 25 years of uninterrupted democracy by the end of this month. Don’t you think Nigeria should do away with zoning of offices and adhere to merit in the choice of leaders?

I beg of you, don’t be detached from Nigeria because you’re part of Nigeria. The way you’re talking, it is as if you’re outside talking about Nigeria. Your generation appears impatient and thinks that everything should have been achieved between 1999 and now. Democracy needs time to mature, from generation to generation. This is why when people say Constitution, Constitution, I say give it some time because if we have the right leadership with commitment, sacrifice and capacity to be able to meander through these difficulties, we will make progress. Instead of changing Constitution, changing the processes of government because you encountered a small challenge, why don’t you try to change your attitude first? Let us be united, do the right thing and may be, in the next 50 years, the next generation would build on what we have done. But, if you are too impatient, you’re not law abiding, you can’t make sacrifice and you’re not disciplined, how do you build a nation? You don’t believe in your own laws or you’re obeying it in the breach. You’re impatient, you’re intolerant, you’re not disciplined, how do you hope to achieve your goals as a people? Let’s learn to be patient.

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