Politics

Rivers: Court compounds Wike’s woes, as Ijaws rally behind Gov. Fubara

Published

on

When in 2023, Nyesom Wike, then outgoing governor of Rivers State, successfully installed his largely taciturn accountant general, Siminalayi Fubara, who was haunted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), as his successor, he would have been convinced that he had cemented his hold on the state’s political structure.

Wike, now minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), had allegedly subsequently, named most of Fubara’s cabinet, even as the state assembly remained staunchly loyal to him. But things have fallen apart, and one year down the road, the FCT minister, having admitted it was a mistake to have settled for Fubara, is learning why no other political leader in much of Southern Nigeria, or indeed Nigeria in general, has been able to replicate the feat of President Bola Tinubu in Lagos.

The battle between the political godfather and godson has continued to rage. Wike and his supporters are adamant, convinced, perhaps, that with federal might, victory would eventually be achieved. But with each passing day, Gov. Fubara gains an upper hand in what has partly become an ethnic warfare between the Ijaws and the Ikwerres, and President Bola Tinubu, apparently weary of the potential consequences of playing a heavy hand, largely withdrawing to allow events play out.

The ruling on Friday, of the Appeal Court in Port Harcourt, the Rivers capital, that the status quo be maintained with respect to the fate of 25 state House of Assembly members loyal to Wike, whose seats were declared vacant by the High court of the state for defecting from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), has been celebrated by both camps as a win. But it is a decision that further strengthens Fubara’s position.

Recall that in December 2023, 27 of the 32 members of the assembly loyal to Wike defected from the PDP to the APC, a move that led to a political impasse in the state. Their defection had come two months after Ehie Edison was elected Speaker of the factional assembly, following his removal as house leader by the pro-Wike members led by Speaker Martin Chike Amaewhule, amid the plot to impeach Fubara.

One of the lawmakers, Dinebari Loolo, had died in September 2023. Edison later resigned as a lawmaker to become Chief of staff to the governor. And recently, Jumbo, the lawmaker representing Bonny constituency, was elected factional Speaker.

Amaewhule, the embattled Speaker, whose seat, among others, was declared vacant in an interlocutory ruling delivered on May 30, by Charles Wali of the High court in Port Harcourt, following a suit filed by Hon. Jumbo, and two other pro-Fubara lawmakers — Sokari Goodboy and Orubienimigha Adolphus Timothy, had filed an appeal seeking to vacate the order.

But a three-member panel of the appellate court, comprising of Jimi Bada, Hamma Akawu, and Balkisu Aliyu, during a virtual proceeding on Friday, ordered the parties involved to maintain the status quo and adjourned till July 20.

The panel also tasked the parties not to take any step that would affect the merit of the matter before it and directed that the notice of appeal be served on the defendants before the adjourned date.

In the interim, Amaewhule, and his pro-Wike colleagues are restrained from parading as lawmakers, and Fubara, who has since come out of his shell, has since declared victory.

The court had also held that all the laws made by Amaewhule and others were a nullity until the determination of the matter.

“I am happy that you are telling me this morning that when I call on you, you will respond. But I do not need to call on you because we have already defeated them,” he told members of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), who paid him solidarity visit on the occasion of Jasper Adaka Boro’s 56th anniversary recently.

“By the special grace of God, we are here celebrating our one year in office and they are the ones sleeping with their two eyes open, restless. It shows that we have the Ijaw blood. And what is that blood, it is the blood of more action less talk, more action.”

Fubara, from Opobo/Nkoro, a largely Ubani-Igbo speaking local government with mixed history, but identify as Ijaw, enjoys the support of much of Rivers stakeholders, the populace, and the Ijaw nation, the latter having interpreted Wike’s effort to assert control, as an attempt to undermine Ijaw interest in the state.

Ijaw Rally

The Isaac Boro anniversary rally last month by the IYC was only one of the many of such rallies that have been held in Port Harcourt by the Ijaw in support of Fubara since his rift with Wike started, an ironic turn of event, given that APC’s Tonye Cole, thought to be more proper Ijaw, was said to have enjoyed more support during the election.

Advertisement

Regardless, whatever misgivings the Ijaw had about Fubara, has dissipated amid what a number of them now see as a battle to asset political strength. Few weeks ago, Evans Bipi, one time factional Speaker of the state House of Assembly, at a rally in Opobo in support of Fubara, reaffirmed the Ijaw-ness of Opobo, while throwing jabs at Wike and his Ikwerre identity.

“One year ago, one man, who is now a living corpse – if you see him, you will know he’s already dying – said Opobo people are not real Ijaw people,” declared Bipi at the rally, before telling the crowd, “He said you are Ikwerre people. Are you Ikwerre people?” To which they yelled, “No!”

Continuing in a tone of mockery, Bipi said, “He’s the one, who gave birth to the Opobo man. He’s now telling you where you came from. That’s what happens, when you don’t know where you come from. He says he’s from Benin; they say they are Benin people. Do they dress like Benin people? No! If you see people, who came from Benin you will know.

“Let me also say this, Yesterday, that man, who is a living corpse went to Ogu/Bolo and was talking out of frustration, saying that he took me to the Villa. But I am saying that I, Evans, took him to visit Jonathan. He was begging everyday to take him to Jonathan. In fact, I want to apologize to Rivers people: to you in Opobo local government, that I made the biggest mistake of my life. I am sorry.”

The political rift is fast assuming ethnic colouration, an indication of what the 2027 contest may look like. Although support for both camps, particularly, among the political elites cut across ethnic groups; while Fubara tend to enjoy the support of the neutrals, who argue that Wike is overreaching himself, the Ijaw street have taken up the fight as an opportunity to make a statement.

During the Boro Anniversary rally last month, Jonathan Lokpobiri, president of the IYC, declared that the Ijaw youths will not stand by and watch anybody or any group of persons to cause distraction to the the governor.

“This is not an ethnic war, it is about Rivers people,” he said. “You have been accepted by the Rivers people; the vast majority of Rivers people are with you. The Ijaw Youth Council will not stand by and watch anybody or any group of persons to cause distraction to your government and Rivers State.”

Fubara emboldened

Having initially appeared weak and disinterested in open confrontation with Wike, whom he continued to address as his leader, Fubara reversed course few months ago in April, when he used two occasions to fire shots at his predecessor, after the Amaewhule led assembly threatened to resume impeachment proceedings against him for what they termed ”disregard to the laws passed by the House.”

The threat had come days after PDP stakeholders loyal to the governor, including Dr. Abiye Sekibo, Rt. Hon. Austin Opara, Senator Lee Maeba and Prince Uche Secondus, on March 26, addressed the press, expressing support for Tinubu, while disparaging Wike and describing the state assembly as an unconstitutional one.

Fubara hasn’t looked back. Today, the pro-Wike assembly members are fighting for their seats in court, far too distracted to contemplate any further impeachment proceedings or threats, while Fubara, who has won former militant leaders like Ateke Tom and Asari Dokubo over, is on the offensive.

“Maturity is not about age. I chose not to respond to people I assumed were mature, but are immature in attitude,” Fubara had said before the friendly crowd running into thousands within the Government House premises, when local government employees from 23 local government of the state paid him a visit in late March.

Anti Wike Sentiment Fubara’s strength

By its very character, Rivers politics has always been anti godfathers, and it’s not surprising that many in the state agree that Fubara enjoy more widespread support, because everyone is tired of Wike imposing himself on the people.

“Most people here are pro-Fubara,” said Charles Ugwu, a business owner in Port Harcourt. “He has popular support, not because he has done so much, but because people don’t like what Wike is doing. He has completed his own two terms as governor, he should allow Fubara to govern.”

Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of the state, who had a political battle with Wike shared the same views during his visit to a leader of the APC, Okorinama West, at his private residence in Port Harcourt last week.

Advertisement

“What Sim thinks is popular today, is because he is anti-Wike. That’s his popularity, not that Sim is the best man on earth. It’s because he is anti-Wike and because the state is tired of Wike”, he said.

Meanwhile, with the tenure of council chairmen set to expire today, tension is building in Port Harcourt. Fubara’s loyalists have threatened the council chairmen who are pro-Wike to stay away from the council headquarters. Their own supporters argue, however, that no council election has been held as provided for by the constitution.

Pro-Wike lawmakers adamant

Meanwhile, following the decision of the Appeal Court on Friday, the 25 lawmakers, who are in Wike’s camp, addressed a press conference, insisting that they would not allow what they said was an attempt by Fubara to destroy the state legislature.

Amaewhule, who addressed the press, maintained that he remained the Speaker of the assembly, while vowing to resist any attempt by Governor Fubara to install caretaker members in the 23 local government areas of the state.

“Many Rivers people have been calling and worried, particularly, with regards to the tenure of local government chairmen and vice-chairmen as their offices elapse in few days. People want to know the position. Let’s make it clearly that we have not received any request from the governor for members of the Caretaker committee to fill vacancies in local government,” he said.

“We have not received any such communication. We believed that section 7 of the 1999 constitution, as amended, has guaranteed a system of local government with democratically elected local government officials. The governor should not send any list to us. We are not expecting any list, because Caretaker committees are, indeed, an aberration.

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Engaging

Exit mobile version