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Analysis

Rivers Of Anomy

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By Kenneth Jude

When he reigned all of eight years (2015-2023) as governor of the oil-rich Rivers State, he more often than not posed as the only pebble in the beach. The rest of the people caught cold when he sneezed.

He did whatever he set out to do without caring a hoot, or whose ox was gored. Dissenters were treated pariahly. He was an overlord. A king of manor to whom everybody kowtowed.

To many people, he means different things. He is a divider of opinion. One who does his things without batting an eyelid. Combative and scratchy of voice, he’s not one to fear a foe and retreat from war.

Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, former two-term governor of Rivers State, now Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, is a man who doesn’t shy away from the spotlight. Whether for good or otherwise, he hugs the front pages with refreshing gusto and steely guts.

Today, the man whose one leg is in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the other, in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the party on which platform he governed his state for eight turbulent years, has in many weeks now, been in the news for reasons that are no longer breaking.

For all he cares, the man whom he supported to take over from him has derailed. And so, to him now, whatever it will cost, the mistake, so he said, must be corrected.

By correction, the rambunctious former Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area obviously means that his now estranged godson, Governor Siminalayi Fubara must be shown the way out of Brick House in the next round of elections in 2027. Fubara only got elected in 2023 and assumed office on May 29 same year.

Sadly, few weeks or months into his reign as Rivers State governor, the Opobo-Nkoro born accountant has seen his once all-cheery love relationship with his godfather and benefactor hit the rocks. During the campaigns, Nyesom Wike personally went round the 23 Local Government Areas in Rivers State to sell and drum support for Fubara. He did this with undying passion and relentless verve.

At every stop, it was Wike that always spoke at length. Though his accountant general, he took pains to always introduce Fubara to the people, reeled out his qualities and why he is the fittest candidate to take over the mantle of power from him after his tenure. He did so, every other day, with his trademark scratchy throat and highfalutin arrogance.

In all of those campaign stops, Fubara rarely spoke. Speaking for him everywhere and anywhere was Mr. Wike, his godfather. Fubara was only seen, not heard. When he spoke, his tongue oozed with shyness, the charisma of Wike wasn’t there. He did not speak with vim and élan. We did not see a “Wike-like” brio in him. He was way different from the current FCT boss. And so not a few observers wondered what prompted Wike to choose and anoint him as his successor.

The thinking was that, with his kind of person, taciturnity and all, Wike found someone that would be a yes-man. A loyal successor who would do his bidding without any scintilla of questioning or challenge. He was right if it were to be judged alone by Simi Fubara’s carriage and candour. The man was reticent and, almost always impassive. So, it was easy for Wike to settle on him as his successor.

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Alas today, the state is perpetually on the boil. It has become one big cauldron that is apparently unsparing of anyone in the state’s political turf. At first, it all began as though a rumour. But sooner, it was crystal clear that both men are no longer in good terms. Their once blossoming relationship had gone sour. When the issue hit public domain, both men appeared to deny any crack in their relationship when it first surfaced in the media, but sooner than later, like pregnancy, the cracks could no longer be covered with the hand.

The meat of the matter? It is understood that there was an agreement between Mr. Nyesom Wike and Fubara. Of course, there is possibly no way Wike would have backed Fubara without extracting some commitment or loyalty from him. So, it wasn’t long, as we have come to see, that the agreement was not kept to or has not been fully honoured by the beneficiary, Governor Fubara.

Now, the state is in chaos. The centre can no longer hold. It is now a battle of wits. A battle for the soul of Rivers State. A battle of supremacy. A battle over who controls the political structure of the state. Who will smile at last? The fight is still on, hence no one can say with exactitude who will win at the end of it all. Will it be Wike, the FCT Minister who commands far-reaching loyalty in his homestead and PDP faithful there? Or will it be Governor Fubara who recently announced plans to set up a judicial panel of enquiry to probe the administration of of his predecessor? When the chips are down, answers to the above posers will certainly come.

Wike says making Fubara governor was a mistake that will be corrected. Not a few people are wondering when and how. But those who know say it’s likely going to be at the next polls in 2027.
Will he succeed? How will he go about it? He may have a lot of clout in the political circuit of the state, having purchased forms for all elected officials in the state, imposed commissioners, special advisers, security aides and other appointees on Fubara his successor, but can he easily oust his former trusted ally from office with the former accountant general now with the yam and knife?

The governor, showing no sign of blinking, says he will probe his predecessor. But observers say he will equally have his fingers burnt if he toes that path, given that he was an integral member of the Nyesom Wike led administration. But in defence, the governor had this to say: “Even the ones I did before this time, I still have all the records. If you call me any day, I will bring my records of all my activities in government. I know that, as a civil servant, what is most important is record-keeping. I am not scared of anything. Anybody who calls me up any day, any time, I have my records to show. I have all the approvals to show that I acted based on approvals and not personal decisions. We are not going to rest until we make everyone happy in Rivers State,” he boasted.

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But when or whether he will still go about the probe remains a knotty matter for which many have folded their arms and are watching with keen interest. Fubara has the backing of some bigwigs in Rivers State. Among those in this category is a former governor of the state, Mr. Peter Odili whose fractious relationship with Wike is playing in favour of Fubara.

Speaking at the inauguration of the Omoku-Egbema Road in the state recently, Mr. Odili urged Fubara not to be apprehensive, but remain focused in delivering democratic dividends to the people of Rivers State as they are with him. He assured the governor that the people-oriented projects he has embarked upon are enough to earn him re-election in 2027.
“Don’t be afraid because when the people are with you, be assured that God is with you and no man can shake you,” Odili was governor from May 1999
to May 2007 submitted.

To win this epic battle, Wike is banking on his strong support base among his party faithful and loyalists in Rivers State. With one leg in APC and one in PDP, will he be able to manage both ends and still come out unscathed? Despite being a PDP member in an APC led federal government, it is no news that some core loyalists of President Tinubu are not overly at ease with Wike. Not a few members of the party who are influential in the current administration of Tinubu are keeping Wike at arms length. They just can’t trust him, given his fiery nature and thorny reign as governor of Rivers State.

On his part, President Tinubu, in candour and body language, is seemingly not willing to take sides in this ongoing father and son feud, at least for now. He had of course helped broker a peace accord between the two gladiators that have been clearly broken when the fight reared its head with consuming fury. Now, that the flames of war have been ignited again in full blast, the president may prefer to sit aloof as we have seen, because those involved are no kids. He knows he has to tread with caution in order not to dent his relationship with Wike or Fubara. He needs Wike to stand by him in 2027, same as Fubara who is now in control of the state’s public till. For Tinubu, it’s a bit of a dilemma, but one has a feeling that he may be devising ways to wade in once again, and calm frayed nerves in Rivers State. Will the two elephants give peace a chance when the president eventually (hopefully) steps in again?

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In all this, the losers are Rivers people who have been denied their full democratic gains. It is the grass that suffers when two elephants duel, says an age-long dictum. So, while the political warlords are locked in battle of power and might, the important aspect of governance is put in abeyance. Governor Simi Fubara may pose as though all is well, the truth is that, he is a distracted man. The wheels of governance is not running as it should because of his fight with his erstwhile godfather. If he had his way, he would not have allowed this to creep into his administration, atleast not this early. But he was imposed by a man who is known to be impatient, an overlord who takes no prisoners. For Fubara, he faces a long, tricky battle to keep his seat as governor of Rivers State.

On his side, he needs people like Peter Odili, even former governor Amaechi and other top political juggernauts in the state. Wike is a force, and he Fubara knows it. But then, he is not God. So, Fubara must play his cards well, win the hearts of Rivers people with projects that will gladden their hearts, then begin the process of taking charge of his government. It is good that some commissioners and appointees imposed on him by Wike are still resigning. He should leverage on it, get his calculations right and pick his own loyalists to work for and with him. It may be difficult, but to solidify his governorship chair, he needs to take full charge of his administration.

Not one to retreat from fight, Wike has vowed to correct the error of supporting Fubara to become governor. “I want to say this clearly, in life we have made a mistake. 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 a human, I am bound to make a mistake. So forgive me for making a wrong judgement. So nobody should kill.”

How will Wike correct this? Can he single-handedly elect a governor of his choice devoid of mistake in 2027? Impeaching Governor Fubara may not be feasible.

When an attempt was made, the House of Assembly structure went down. The lawmakers are now divided.
The political climate in Rivers State is on a keg of gunpowder. Who will blink first?

The days ahead are pregnant. When will peace return to Rivers State?

Kenneth Jude, a Journalist, writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. 08065998880


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