The political crisis rocking Rivers State assumed a different dimension on Monday after what seemed like a short interlude, with 27 out of the 32 members of the State House of Assembly defecting from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Observers say the fresh crisis marks a failure of the reported mediation by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the rift between Rivers Governor, Siminalayi Fubara and Nyesom Wike, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
FLYINGEZE BLOG recalls that the irreconcilable political differences between Fubara and Wike had created tension and division in the state, leading to an attempt by the State Assembly to impeach the governor.
The House of Assembly complex was bombed in the process.
Wike accused Fubara of orchestrating the burning of a section of the State House of Assembly complex.
He claimed that Fubara took the step after learning about an impeachment attempt against him (Governor Fubara).
The development assumed a new twist when Fubara, accompanied by some aides, while visiting the complex to assess the level of damage caused by the explosion, was tear gassed by the police, leading to state lawmakers splitting into two factions – a faction backed by Wike and the second loyal to the governor.
Before now, a lawyer and Pan-Africanist, Chetam Thierry Nwala, had alleged that the political unrest in Rivers State followed unfulfillable demands by Wike.
Nwala spoke on Arise Television, alleging that the refusal of Governor Fubara to remit 25 per cent of the State’s allocation to Wike, his immediate predecessor, caused the ongoing face-off.
He claimed that Wike had demanded that 25 percent of all allocations to Rivers State should be given to him.
Nwala went further to allege that Wike demanded N2 billion from the N5 billion recently disbursed by the Federal Government to the states as part of palliatives to cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy removal.
According to him, the FCT Minister appointed most of the governor’s aides, including commissioners and the Chief Security Officer.
“Wike demanded 25% of Rivers State allocations. From what we heard, the governor even offered to give him 10%. This is what is happening in our State.
“Not just that, we had a situation where Wike appointed almost all the commissioners and appointed a chief security officer for the governor. “These are personal things that should be of concern to the governor. These are things that should make him revolt.
“We have seen a situation where even the commissioners appointed by Wike disrespect the governor. Naturally, everybody will revolt. You don’t expect the governor to stick to any agreement made before the election.
“Let me also shock you: out of the N5 billion palliative money that was sent to Rivers State, Wike demanded N2 billion from it. This is why some of us commend his (Fubara) moves,” he alleged.
While reacting to the allegation, Wike said his rift with Governor Fubara was purely political.
The Minister said it was politics if he demanded N20 billion monthly. He wondered where Fubara was when he was fighting.
Wike also vowed to remain politically relevant and maintain his structure.
“If I demand N20 billion every month and even award all the contracts to myself, that’s politics. Where was he when I was fighting?
“I have to be politically relevant, and I must maintain my political structure. I can’t allow anybody to cut me out immediately.
“If you like, accuse me all you like; I won’t have a sleepless night because the right thing must be done,” the minister said.
Wike had also once claimed that the political crisis in the State was a Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, affair and that the party was looking into it.
Fubara also toed the same line when he said there was nothing wrong with a “father and a son” having problems, apparently referring to the rift between him and Wike, who helped install him as governor.
“For our dear State, I know everybody is wondering what’s going on and what’s not going on. We are okay; there is no problem,” he said.
“If we have an internal issue, it will be resolved, and everything will go back to normal.
“There is nothing wrong if a father and a son have a problem if there is any problem, but I don’t think there is anything; whatever it is, we will definitely resolve the issue,” the governor said.
However, Fubara recently changed conciliatory tone, vowing never to surrender the State to blackmail and intimidation.
According to him, the State is the people’s inheritance, insisting he would protect and defend it from blackmail.
He spoke on Monday during a quarterly general meeting of the Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers in Port Harcourt.
“Let us not forget that Rivers State is our collective inheritance, presently under my watch, to protect, defend and advance it as the governor.
“I assure you that I will not fail in this responsibility nor surrender our mandate and progress to intimidation, blackmail and deliberate sabotage.
“I reaffirm my earlier statement and recommit myself to the path of peace as there is nothing to gain in a state of needless crisis,” the governor said.
However, the crisis rocking the State took a new turn on Monday, with twenty-seven members of the State House of Assembly loyal to Wike defecting from the PDP to the APC.
The lawmakers cited division within the PDP as the primary reason for defecting to the APC.
The defected lawmakers sat under tight security at the entrance of the Assembly complex along Moscow Road in Port Harcourt around 8am where the decision was taken.
In what could be termed a counter move, Fubara also summoned an emergency executive council meeting. The meeting, which was expected to discuss the defection of 27 State House of Assembly lawmakers from the PDP to the APC, also approved the 2024 budget proposal.
Meanwhile, the PDP national leadership has written to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, demanding fresh elections to replace the 27 Rivers lawmakers.
This was contained in a press statement signed by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba.
According to Ologunagba, the seats of the defected lawmakers have become vacant owing to the fact that they contested elections on the platform of the party in their respective constituencies.
Citing the party’s constitution, Ologunagba said, “The seats of the respective 27 former lawmakers have become vacant by virtue of the provision of Section 109 (1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).’’
The Labour Party, LP, has also requested the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly to declare vacant the seats of the 27 members who dumped the party that sponsored their election.
In another twist on Tuesday, a High Court Sitting in Port Harcourt confirmed Edison Ehie as the authentic Speaker of the state’s House of Assembly.
FLYINGEZE BLOG reports that Edison Ehie is one of the four lawmakers backing Fubara.
Edison was suspended and removed as leader of the house by his colleagues who are loyal to Wike.
Justice M.W. Danagogo, who made the ruling, also ordered Martins Amaewhule and Dumle Maol to stop parading themselves as Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly. The court warned against using thugs and Police officers to gain access to the Assembly Complex.
Speaking to FLYINGEZE BLOG concerning the matter, a Public Affairs Analyst and Communication Scholar at Peaceland University, Enugu, Nduka Odo urged the Rivers governor to win people’s hearts by engaging in life changing projects across the state.
According to him, ‘‘the best way to fight ruthless godfathers is to run to the people of the state.’’
While questioning how such a drama should be allowed to continue to the detriment of the development of the state, Odo suggested that Nigeria should create a system that checks such a kind of distraction by political godfathers.
He said, “You’re asking me what’s my view? My answer to you is a question: is this the first time we’re having this movement from one party to another?
“No. It’s not. And unfortunately, this will not be the last time politicians and strong men change the political landscape simply for personal gains.
“I would have taken side on the issue but there’s no reason yet to believe that any of the two parties to the crisis in Rivers state is involved in it for the interest of the people. Everyone is working hard to hold onto power at all costs.
“Let’s watch and see how long Fubara can fight on. Sooner or later, the plot will wear out and we see the whole story.
“My candid advice to him is to do what Chris Ngige did when godfathers were after him then as a governor. The best way to fight ruthless godfathers is to run to the people of the state.
“Embark on winning people’s hearts by engaging in life changing projects across the state.
“The second option is to fight dirty too. Sullivan Chime of Enugu did it against Chimaroke Nnamani. Nyesom Wike who is at the centre of this Rivers State political crisis, did the same thing to his predecessor, Chibuike Amaechi. He should follow the template of Obaseki of Edo who had to fight it out with his predecessor, Oshiomole.
“Fubara’s third option is to succumb; do what Wike wants. Then, at the end, Wike decides whether he stays or be thrown away like Ambode of Lagos.
“The 27 state lawmakers have shown to be loyal to Wike. Their fate hangs on whoever wins the battle. Fubara or Wike.
“We don’t know the agreement Wike had with Mr. President but he is strongly banking on his standing for the mandate of the Jagaban. Of course, he sang and danced to it in a recent video.
“However, his greatest undoing won’t come from Fubara, but Mr. President.
“As a sitting governor, Fubara could easily reach an agreement with Mr. President. That’s all. There’s no one who loves their position that wouldn’t want to protect it from another who has proven openly they could do anything to gain power.
“This is why I believe the president wouldn’t want Wike to continue having free control of Rivers. Not because of Rivers, but to safeguard his seat at Aso Rock.
“My advice is that Nigeria should create a system that checks this kind of distraction. How can we allow such dramas to continue to the detriment of the development of the state?”
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