Although temporary calm might have returned to Rivers State following President Bola Tinubu’s intervention in the feud between Governor Siminalayi Fubara and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, many still believe the current truce is a postponement of the evil days. Wale Igbintade writes
Those following the politics of Rivers State, knew it was only a matter of time before the honeymoon between Governor Siminalayi Fubara, and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr. Nyesom Wike, collapses due to the indecorous and brazen behaviour of the latter.
Fubara, a former Accountant General in the state, was single-handedly imposed on the state by Wike as his successor. The immediate past governor had literally forced other governorship aspirants in the state to step down, thus paving the way for the ‘unwilling’ Fubara to emerge as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate and eventually, the governor of Rivers State.
The hitherto papered cracks has started to become noticeable after the FCT minister allegedly handpicked, as well as forced virtually all the members of the State Executive Council (SEC) on the governor.
A source in the state informed THISDAY that Wike was frequently giving directives and instructions to the governor on what he should do and who to appoint into positions in the state, including approving files.
Practically all the personal aides, including the governor’s Chief Security Officer (CSO) were appointed by Wike. All the local government executives were also handpicked by the minister, sources said, adding that, members of the state House of Assembly and their leadership were also put in place by the minister to gag the governor and get him out of office if he attempted to resist his dominance.
The development, it was learnt, made the commissioners and local government chairmen to have very little regard for the governor.
It was further gathered that there was one instance where Wike was said to have driven into the Government House and openly chastised the governor for gifting the Government House staff some money after a project inspection.
An embarrassed Fubara was said to have taken the situation with equanimity. Even the appointment of the state Chief Judge, Justice Simeon Chibuzor Amadi, was allegedly perfected to quicken Fubara’s exit from power should he “misbehave”.
Investigation revealed that when Justice Adama Iyayi Lamikanra was to retire from service in 2021, Justice Joy N. Akpughunum, who was the most senior judge in the state, was sidelined by Wike, who preferred Justice Amadi, who was number three in seniority ranking, to head the state judiciary because he needed a pliable chief judge in the plot to remove Fubara from office.
The minister had also allegedly limited the governor’s movement within the state to prevent him from sharing his unpleasant experience with other sister governors and other national figures, who might advise him on ways to free himself from Wike’s grip.
This was believed to have accounted for Fubara’s failure to attend PDP governors meetings, which had been held several times since May 29, 2023.
Observers believed that attempts by Fubara to resist Wike’s excesses lately had led to a frosty relationship between the duo, culminating in the alleged instigation of the state House of Assembly to impeach the governor.
Many further believed that the last straw that broke the camel’s back was the governor’s nomination of Commissioner for Information, which he added to the four commissioners that Wike brought in the last batch of five commissioners.
Wike was said to have insisted that the information commissioner must be dropped, a directive the governor was said to have resisted.
“Even the governor’s friends were disallowed from visiting the Government House without Wike censoring them through the retinue of aides he surrounded Fubara with.
“When the governor could not take it any longer, he offered to give Wike back the governorship seat. He packed out of Government House and refused to continue to commission projects,” a source said.
The height of the feud was when 24 out of the 32-member state House of Assembly, last Monday, attempted to impeach Fubara as governor, resulting in the open crisis that engulfed the state, following the protest that rocked the Assembly complex against the impeachment plot.
Earlier, there had been the bombing of the assembly by suspected arsonists on Sunday night, which damaged a chamber in the assembly and several otherstructures.
Even though President Tinubu had intervened in the feud, it was clear from Wike’s utterances after the intervention that the crisis won’t go away soon.
Tinubu was said to have told Wike to come to terms with the fact that Fubara had become governor and should respect him as the leader of the state. He noted that respecting the governor and his office would help to reduce tension and stave off unnecessary ill-feelings between them, even among their supporters.
According to a THISDAY report, the president pointed out that the minister might have assisted Fubara to become governor, but, ultimately, it was God, who made him governor and as such, he must lead the state with the fear of God and be just to all.
Tinubu, who promised to meet with the governor privately for proper briefing on the situation, however, condemned Fubara’s outburst on national television. He said it was too early and not strategic in any way to have put up a combative poise on national television.
But reacting to the efforts to bring peace between him and his estranged political son, an obviously unrepentant Wike said he would not allow anyone to hijack the political base he had built over the years, and insisted that any politician whose base was usurped would automatically become irrelevant, adding that he was not bothered about the allegations against him, especially on the social media.
His words: “Everyone wants to be politically relevant. Would you allow anybody to just come and take over your political structure? Everybody has a base. If you take my base, am I not politically irrelevant? You can say anything you want to say, at the appropriate time, we will know who is right and who is wrong.”
Wike’s utterances on how all the elected leaders in the state had become his personal investments because none of them paid for their nomination forms,showed the minister’s desperation to run the state as his personal estate, without regard to the fact that his predecessors did not interfere in his running of the state during his eight-year tenure as governor.
Unfortunately, this is an indication that Fubara’s headache is far from over, despite Tinubu’s intervention. This is why the president needs to vehemently warn the minister before he throws the state and the entire Niger Delta into chaos.
Tinubu also needs to listen to leaders and groups in the state and outside, including foremost Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, and civil society groups such as Coalition of Democratic Vanguard, that have issued a strong warning to Wike and his allies against attempting to undermine Fubara.
While Clark called on Tinubu to call Wike to order, the group in a statement jointly signed by its Chairman, Mr. Thompson Orumbo, and Secretary, Chief Peter Nwabunna, condemned any attempt to undermine the democratic process and urged all parties involved to respect the will of the people and also prioritise the betterment of the state.