- Ex-Gov. Wike handpicks Gov. Fubara to succeed him as Rivers state governor
- Wike, tackles godson, allegedly plots his impeachment as 27 House of Assembly Members defect to APC
- Elderstatesman, Edwin Clark writes Tinubu to intervene in the crisis
For close to six months now, Rivers state has been embroiled in tight political crisis; planned, executed and orchestrated by the immediate past governor Nyesom Wike and incumbent state governor, Sim Fubara.
After holding his party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the jugular during the 2019 general elections which led to the party’s monumental loss in the said election, Wike was rewarded with the position of Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, Minister.
However, back home in his state, Ex-governor Wike is said to not being comfortable with the way the incumbent governor, Sim Fubara has been running the state without his consent.
In one of his outbursts when the situation escalated in October, Wike was said to have accused the incumbent governor of trying to render him politically irrelevant in the state.
Sim Fubara, former accountant general of the state was literally handpicked unopposed by his political godfather, Nyesom Wike during the last PDP primary election. He eventually won the governorship election in the 2023 general election, scoring 302,614 to defeat Tonye Cole of the All Progressives Congress, APC who got 95,274 while Beatrice Itubo of Labour Party recorded 22,224 votes to come a distant third.
Litany of political godfatherism crisis in Nigeria
There is no gainsaying the fact that the crisis in Rivers state is not alien to Nigerian political system especially since the return of democracy in 1999.
In fact, it has become a recurring decimal in Nigerian political system, which some analysts have termed a show of political independence.
However, in 2000, it was between Governor Chimaroke Nnamani and his political godfather, Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo who literally brought him back from USA to become the governor of Enugu state.
In 2008, the table turned against Chimaroke Nnamani as he squared it up with his political godson, Sullivan Chime whom he handpicked to become the governor of Enugu state.
In Kano state, it was between Abdullahi Ganduje and his godfather, Rabiu Kwakwanso which led to the later forming a political party that swooped 26 state House of Assembly seats, governorship seat, and even National Assembly seats in the 2023 general elections.
In Anambra state, it was the same political squabbles between the former governor, Chinwoke Mbandinuju and his political godfather, Emeka Offor. After falling out with his godson, Emeka Offor allegedly crippled the machinery of the state, leading to two years non-payment of both primary and secondary school teachers’ salaries.
In summary, many states in Nigeria have had their own fair share of godfather muscling their way into the state governance with a view to controlling both the finance and government machinery of the state.
However, in the present crisis rocking the oil rich Rivers state, it has been like a case of a nation in its worse political show.
Rivers state is considered as the most resourceful state in the country as crude oil which is the bedrock of the country’s resources comes from there.
Evolution of the Rivers state crisis
In October, 2023, a seemingly political volcano erupted in the State as the upwelling crisis in the state spilt over. It was also reported that sections of the state House of Assembly were burnt as 24 lawmakers made moves to impeach Governor Siminalayi Fubara, who said he escaped an assassination attempt from police gunshots.
In the midst of the crisis, 26 members of the Assembly suspended the Speaker, Martins Amaehwule. and three others; and elected, and inaugurated the leader of the House, Edison Ehie, as the new Speaker.
This came following a crisis that rocked the Assembly, on penultimate Monday morning, over moves by some of the lawmakers to impeach Governor Fubara.
The development started from the burning down of the hallowed chambers of the legislative arm of the government, on two nights before.
There were gunshots and firing of teargas within the House of Assembly Complex as some lawmakers sat to begin an impeachment process on Fubara.
Following the crisis, the Assembly premises were cordoned off by fully armed security personnel with Police saying full-scale investigation had commenced and the perpetrators would be brought to book.
The House of Assembly suspended the Chief Judge of the State, Justice Chibuzor Amadi; and that the chairmen of the 12 local councils of the state, some commissioners, the Chief of Staff and Chief Security Officer to the governor had been axed.
Fubara tasks 24 legislators to list his offences
In a rare show of guts, Governor Fubara asked the 24 state lawmakers that commenced a process to impeach him, who are said to be loyal to former Governor Nyesom Wike, to show justification for their actions.
This was as the governor alleged assassination attempt on him on October 30 by some compromised police officers, who allegedly shot live bullets at him to kill as he visited to assess the extent of damage caused by the Sunday night bombing of the Assembly complex by some hoodlums.
Fubara, while addressing thousands of youths at the Government House gate described as null and void the attempt to impeach him by the lawmakers, adding that it is an illegal legislative action.
The Governor commended the youths for standing up to protect the interest of Rivers State and said he is not scared about impeachment but such action had to be properly explained and justified.
In his words, “Let it be on record, whoever masterminded the attack at the assembly is trying to divert attention. If Siminalayi Fubara is impeached, I won’t be the first, neither will I be the last. But what is important is that any attempt that is not justified will be resisted. Let them come out and tell Rivers people the offence that I have committed to warrant impeachment.
“But my happiness this morning is that the people of Rivers State, represented by all of you here, are with us. I can go home and sleep. Let me assure Rivers people that we will continue to defend them, protect them and ensure that they will enjoy the dividends of democracy.”
Bombing of Assembly unfortunate
Fubara, who had visited the complex, accompanied by Rivers youths, on Monday, described as unfortunate the attempt by some disgruntled persons to forcefully take over the assembly and condemned the burning of sections of the building.
“The truth is that, everybody who knows me knows that I am a peaceful person. I can never ever, even if I am aware that there is a plot to impeach me for whatever reason, be part of such destruction.
“I am worried that a facility like this that we used taxpayers’ money to build will be destroyed for selfish reasons just to please somebody. From what I have seen, even the security is compromised because they were shooting at me directly. The DC operations were shooting at me.”
Ehie becomes new Speaker, asks aggrieved colleagues to go to court
Following the attempt to impeach the Governor, a new leadership has emerged in the House. Currently the 32-member Assembly has 31 members following the death of a lawmaker recently.
Although 24 of them were said to have signed an impeachment notice against Fubara, 26 of them later suspended Speaker Martins Amaehwule and three others. They, thereafter elected and inaugurated the leader of the House, Hon. Edison Ehie, as their new speaker.
Addressing newsmen after a brief plenary of the house at a chamber within the Government House, Port Harcourt, Speaker Edison promised to ensure justice and fairness in the process of legislation.
He said: “The House just rose from plenary, and with all humility, I must thank my colleagues, 26 Assembly members, who have just elected me as the new Speaker of the 10th Rivers State House of Assembly.
“My commitment to Rivers people is that I will be just and fair to all and sundry. And I will ensure that the rule of law takes its course.
“I will not betray my colleagues and Rivers people and I will not betray my constituency. I will also ensure that the independence of the Rivers State House of Assembly is adhered to, with mutual respect to the judiciary and executive arms.
“Everything due my colleagues as honourable members constitutionally will be given to them. The honourable members that have been suspended will also be given fair hearing.
“The Committee on Information will publish the names of those suspended. The House has also urged the Committee on Petitions to give them fair hearing.
Adjourns sine die
“The House has adjourned sine die because the Parliamentary Association of Nigeria has served us a notice of indefinite strike from Abuja. So, we cannot sit again. It means any sitting can’t hold water. The court is there, if you are aggrieved, approach the court.”
Police command launches investigation
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Police Command has launched a full-scale investigation into the fire that burnt down the House of Assembly.
Public Relations Officer of the Command, Grace Iringe-Koko, a Superintendent of Police, disclosed this in Port Harcourt, in a statement.
Iringe-Koko said police were on top of the situation in the state, adding that efforts have commenced to unravel those behind the act and bring them to book.
She said: “The Rivers State Police Command is on top of the security situation that occurred at the Rivers State House of Assembly Complex.
“Consequently, a full-scale investigation has been launched to unravel the circumstances surrounding the situations and take immediate policing actions against anyone found wanting.”
Few weeks after the initial squabbles and what seemed like reconciliation between Wike and his godson, it became clear that the crisis rocking the state may not be over in a matter of weeks or months.
The duo went back to their trenches, scheming and plotting to outdoor the other in what will be seen as a show of political might that may determine the relevance or otherwise of Almighty Wike.
Demolition of Assembly complex
The state government, yesterday morning commenced the demolition of the state House of Assembly building on Moscow Road, Port Harcourt City Local Government Area of the state.
The government said it took the action after the chambers of the state Assembly was burnt down by unknown political thugs on October 30.
It will be recalled that the legislative arm of the state has been involved in crisis, following the move by some lawmakers to impeach Governor Siminialayi Fubara.
About 5a.m., yesterday, no fewer than 10 bulldozers, excavators and other heavy-duty machines were brought to the assembly complex.
About 6 p.m., part of the building housing the Assembly and the conference hall used for public hearings had been fully brought down.
Building unsafe for Rivers State lawmakers
However, the Rivers State Government said that it demolished the state House of Assembly complex following advices from experts.
The government said that the experts noted that the integrity of the structure had been compromised due to the structural defects that arose mainly as a result of the recent explosion and fire incident at the Assembly, and that the building has been rendered unfit for human use.
A statement by the Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Joseph Johnson, said “After the visit of the governor to inspect the level of damage done to the building on the day of the fire incident, it became necessary to invite professionals to advice the government on the integrity of the building.
“It will be recalled that on the night of the attack on the complex, explosive dynamites were used, which shook it to foundation. There were visible cracks on the walls afterwards, and the entire structure looked frail and unsafe for legislative business.”
He noted that the government had tried all cost saving measures towards repairing the complex until it bowed to superior view of rebuilding the complex to a more befitting edifice.
Johnson said: “After the assessment of the integrity of the complex, the experts warned the government that continuing to use the building in its present state would be disastrous.
“In the interim, the Rivers State Government has provided an alternative venue for the House of Assembly to conduct their affairs pending the rebuilding of the complex.”
House resumes sitting, elects new leaders
Notwithstanding, the Assembly began plenary in an alternative venue provided for them by Governor Fubara pending the completion of reconstruction work on the burnt Assembly complex.
During the plenary, the House elected Adolphus Orubienimigha, the member representing Opobo/Nkoro constituency, as the Majority Leader, and Dr. Godsgift West, as the Substantive Clerk of the House.
Rivers State Assembly demands investigation into the burning of its chambers
Meanwhile, the Assembly has called on Governor Fubara to set up a Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate the burning of the state House of Assembly.
This followed a motion by Victor Jumbo, representing Bonny constituency during the plenary presided over by the Speaker, Edison Ehie, at its new sitting venue within the state Government House, yesterday.
Ehie said the attack and subsequent burning of the Assembly complex was a dastardly act, a clear affront on democracy, noting that those behind the act must be brought to justice.
Assembly declares 25 seats vacant
Also, the House deliberated on the recent defection of 25 of its members to the All Progressives Congress, APC, dumping the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, the platform on which they won the election to the house.
In a quick resolution, Ehie declared the seat of the 25 out of the 27 lawmakers that defected to the APC vacant.
Edison said that their action was in gross violation of 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended.
The speaker noted that there was no known crisis or divisions within the PDP, which they cited as reason for their defection, adding that their defection violated the law.
He said: “The house will duly inform the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, of the vacancies in the Rivers State House of Assembly and the need to conduct fresh elections to fill the above vacancies within the time frame provided by law.
“The House, as it stands now is left with six legitimate and constitutionally recognised members and in line with the provisions of the 1999 constitution, precisely section 102, the House will effectively continue to discharge its responsibility of legislation, representation and oversight, notwithstanding vacancies in the membership of the House.”
Leader of the House, Orubienimigha presented the state’s Medium Term Expenditure Framework for deliberation after it was seconded by Sokari Goodboy Sokari and with a unanimously vote, it was approved.
Two lawmakers allegedly reserve to PDP
Meanwhile, there are indications that two of the lawmakers, who earlier moved to the APC had returned to the PDP.
It was earlier reported that two lawmakers, Tonye Adoki, representing Port Harcourt City Constituency II, and Linda Stalwart, representing Okirika, had denounced their movement to the APC.
But, Adoki, who quickly took to social media pages to debunk the claim, noted that he has not changed his decision.
He said: “It has come to my knowledge that some jobless and misguided youths are being used to spread fake news that I, Tonye Adoki have reneged from my defection move. It is on record that I was among the lawmakers that advocated this defection to the APC, and I owe no one any apology. “And I am still a member of APC. I am also using this medium to warn anyone carrying such news in his or her platform to be ready to defend it when the time comes. I am not the kind of politician you toy with.
State APC chair disowns 27 defected lawmakers
Chairman of APC, in Rivers State, Chief Emeka Beke, has said that his party would not accept the 27 lawmakers that defected from the PDP.
Beke said the party at the moment was not aware that lawmakers elected on the platform of PDP have moved to the APC, adding that their intention with the style of the defection was evil.
Beke said his position stems from the fact that the intentions of the decampees lawmakers was not genuine, rather they were moving to destroy the APC. He said the APC would welcome the 27 lawmakers if they show good intentions for the APC.
He regretted that the 27 persons have not truly proven that they were moving to the APC, adding that they ought to first go to the world level to declare their intentions.
He said: “As the chairman of the APC in the state, duly elected, I am not aware that anybody has defected to our party. They know that APC has a process we accept defectors. They will have to go to the ward level to indicate their interest, before they can come to the centre.
“Politics is grassroots-based, so they must indicate their interest at the local level. We will not accept them. These are the same set of people that worked to destroy our party. They are the people who attacked former President Muhammadu Buhari, and President Bola Tinubu and other leaders of APC when they visited Rivers State during the formative stage and now they want to come over here, we will not accept them. But if their interest is for good, we will accept them.”
Reactions of the well meaning Nigerians to the crisis
Clarks, others call for FG intervention
However, the former Federal Commissioner for Information and South South Leader, Chief Edwin Clark has asked President Bola Tinubu to intervene in the Rivers State political crisis where the governor, Siminalayi Fubara and his predecessor, Nyesom Wike have been engaging in political war.
Clark said that the problem must be nipped in the bud by President Tinubu against the backdrop that Rivers State is very important to the stability of the Niger Delta and the overall national economy and if there is any breakdown of law and order, it will not be in the overall interest of all.
According to the Elderstatesman, he must speak out because unfortunately those in his category and those he sometimes say have already collected their boarding passes and seeing this country evolve through thick and thin are very few, while some others are not willing or prepared to talk about issues.
Clark is asking why the former Rivers State Governor and the present Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, Nyesom Wike should be keeping structures when there is a sitting Governor and that during his days as Governor, he attacked the concept of godfatherism, describing it as totally unacceptable.
The Elderstatesman is also appealing to the President to call Wike who is his minister to order and face the work in the quietness which is demanded of him, just as he said that he should focus on his office and know that he one among a cabinet of 48 persons, besides the Vice President and the President, adding that the country has enough problems which the present government must sit down to solve.
Clark’s letter dated 11th December and made available to Journalists on Monday is titled, ” ANOTHER CLARION CALL ON MR. PRESIDENT TO INTERVENE IN THE SITUATION IN RIVERS STATE.”
The letter is coming barely twenty four hours when he wrote a letter to President Tinubu to as a matter of urgency adopt former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon eminent persons doctrine of necessity as the only way of resolving the political crisis in Ondo State.
The letter read, “ I would like to write again as promised to call your urgent attention in dousing the state of deep political divide in Rivers State. As you would recall, I had earlier addressed a press conference four weeks ago when the political crisis started in Rivers State, appealing to you to personally handle this matter. I thank you for the action which you took at the time, including urging the Governor, HE Siminalayi Fubara and his predecessor in office, Mr. Nyesom Wike who is today a Minister in your government to sheath their swords. However, let no one be deceived, the situation is not yet over and things seem to be degenerating by the day.
“Both the Minister and the Governor are my sons and that informs my particular interest to ensure that peace returns as soon as possible to Rivers State. Besides, Rivers State is very important to the stability of the Niger Delta and the overall national economy. Therefore any breakdown of law and order there will not be in the overall interest of all.
“I am very sure that your security and media people could have kept you abreast of what we see happening every day. First and foremost is the fact that the Governor of Rivers State has since gone on to apologize to the people of the State over what he considers to have been how the political intrigues created anxiety and tension in the state when it occurred. As a former Governor, you will agree with me that this is gentlemanly and commendable of the Governor.
“However, I am surprised that the public utterances by the Minister, Mr. Wike and other related developments do not give an impression that he has moved much forward in resolving this matter. On one occasion, he stated that “impeachment is not a military coup”, a total outrage when all hands are on deck to consolidate this democracy under your leadership.
As a matter of fact, if anything at all, the continued press statements and interviews by the Minister of the FCT leaves no one in doubt that nothing is okay. In fact, in his recent interview held on Friday, 24th November, 2023, the Minister charged to one of his group of guests that the Governor is ungrateful, concluding that “I cannot stand ingrates”.
He continued stating how he had helped the Governor to become what he had become today and threatening publicly that he would continue the fight if the Governor “changes the structures which I left in the state.”
Related to this is the report that was in the public that members of the Rivers State House of Assembly loyal to the Minister trooped to Abuja to hold a retreat which is obviously intended at enabling them stay out home to strategize and re-strategize with their principal.
“Mr. President, I want to seek your clarification, why is the Minister keeping structures and for what purpose. I recall that in his days as a Governor, he had attacked the concept of godfatherism as totally unacceptable. As a matter of fact, this made him to fall out with his predecessor, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, the immediate past Minister of Transportation, whom we know was not even directly interfering in the affairs of the state.
So, what purpose are the structures supposed to serve when there is a governor in place? This is a question that he owes you and all Nigerians.
If all governors who as a matter of right, insist on allowing their favoured candidates as successor, insist on controlling them, insist on controlling the State Assemblies, insist on controlling the structure which they left behind, what manner of confusion will we have in Nigeria?
“To further put themselves against the Governor and possibly drag you and your political party, the APC, we are now receiving a breaking news that “27 Members of Rivers State House of Assembly (all of whom are PDP like the Governor) decamp to the APC.
The question is what is going on? In his state, at a relatively young age of 55 years, my son Wike had been a Minister of State, Minister in Federal Ministry of Education, before serving as Governor for 8 years and now Minister of FCT.
So what does he need a structure for? This is very curious. If strong politicians such as yourself and other former presidents never talk about controlling structures, so how can a minister be threatening a governor not to touch a structure he has left in place.
This is a bad precedent and if other Ministers in your government follow this trend, then it will be total confusion!
“Another very disturbing development is the interview granted by the Minister at another occasion on Thursday, 23rd November 2023 that made the front page of almost every newspaper to the effect “I have no intention to contest election in 2027”.
At the age of 96 and half years and having spent 70 years in politics in this country, I have never heard such an audacious statement being made by a Minister insisting that he has no ambition to contest against his principal who occupies the highest office of the presidency of Nigeria.
This is a minister that has been in office for only 4 months with a very huge portfolio, more than perhaps 80% of his colleagues and from an opposition party, the PDP, talking about not interested in contesting against the man who appointed him. This will hardly happen under someone like President Obasanjo whom I often disagree with and even former President Goodluck Jonathan who some accuse as too soft.
“Having served in the Federal Executive Council myself under General Yakubu Gowon, to some of us, the Office of the President is highly exalted and a minister serving in the Federal Executive Council cannot therefore equate as whether he will be contesting against him in 4 years’ time or not.
As a member of your cabinet, you may need to call this minister to order to face the work in the quietness which is demanded of him. He should focus on his office and know that he is just one among a cabinet of 48 persons, besides the Vice President and yourself.
The country has enough problems which your government must sit down to solve. The FCT itself is full of challenges all over and he has more than he can chew and therefore avoid these distractions.
“I have to speak out because unfortunately those in my category who I sometime say have already collected our boarding passes and seeing this country evolve through thick and thin are very few, while some others are not willing or ready to talk about issues, I have been too active and owe it a duty to add my voice to these issues which need to be corrected. I wish you and your government the best and pray for your success.”
Prof. Johnson Nna speaks
Prof. Johnson Nna of University of Port equally said that the situation in the state is not palatable at all.
In his words, “it is very saddening, but we had expected it to happen. It is saddening in the sense that in the past 23 years in Rivers State, we have been going through more and more dictatorial rules, which climaxed during Wike’s administration.
“In 2019, Wike singlehandedly sponsored all the executive members in the state… including the governor himself. And he could do this because up till this minute, he remains the richest man in the state [and most powerful]. And it was with this whole power that he solely sponsored the election of Governor Fubara.
“That is why he has been trying to exercise too much control and influence over the governor since the beginning of the new administration in the state. But then, I fear that with the current political situation, the state may likely be going back to what happened in 1999 when armed gangs were ruling the state. That is my fear and it is not even safe for Nigeria.
“In the past eight years, many companies have left Port Harcourt. You can hardly see any big company functioning any longer in the state capital that used to be a big industrial hub. And it is because of insecurity.
“But with this development now, it is believed that more companies and investments will also be taken out of the state, and the poverty rate will soar greatly therein.
“Meanwhile, there is a growing fear in the state that the crisis may take another dangerous twist anytime soon. This is because Governor Fubara is from the Ijaw part, while Wike is from the Ikwerre side. As it stands now, the Ijaws are scared that they may likely lose power should Fubara be booted out of office. So, it is apparent that ethnic conflict is brewing again.
“If you look closely, you will see that prominent Ijaw leaders like Chief Edwin Clark and others have been supporting the governor, asking President Bola Tinubu to call Wike to order. In the same vein, we have also seen leaders on the Ikwerre’s side also speaking in support of Wike. So the state is obviously in for trouble as ethnic warfare looms in it.”
NLC Speaks on the crisis
Lending their voice to the current crisis in the state, the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC has said that they will take action against the state government over the ugly development.
NLC said the development was a ploy to distract the sitting governor from delivering good governance to the state, calling on all those involved to stay action.
The State Chairman of NLC, Comrade Alex Agwanwo, who spoke in Port Harcourt, after a joint organized labour meeting in the state on Friday, December 15 said the crisis has mounted unnecessary tension in the state.
Agwanwo condemned the crisis in the state, adding that workers are being affected with the uprising as it is delaying their welfare.
He said: “We categorically condemn in totality the crisis in Rivers State and we call for immediate peace between all the political actors involved so that we can have peace and prosperity in the state. Honestly, this crisis is not helping us. When two elephants fight the grasses suffer. As workers, we are feeling the impact.
“The state is tensed. Our members are beginning to complain about the uprising and how their welfare is now being delayed. The N35,000 wage award has been implemented by the federal government, but the state workers are yet to benefit. We have been engaging the state governor on how to implement this, but due to this crisis, the governor has not been able to have time with us. He has been very busy. For us, this distraction must stop.”
Agwanwo noted that the hope of workers of the state to have good festive season has been dashed as the political war has barred the governor from giving attention to governance and welfare of workers in the state.
He said: “It is affecting governance, because the crisis has not given the governor time to concentrate on the issues of state. In this is festive period, we expected that workers would rejoice because, we hoped that we would been paid the 13th month which has not happened in this state for years.
“This is what we wanted to discuss with the governor, but with these distractions, we have not been able to meet with the governor who has proven that he is workers friendly.
“If this whole crisis continues and the political actors will not allow peace to reign in this state, workers will have no choice but to make effort to protect the benefits of our members. We will take every step legally to make sure we advance the course of our members.”