Rivers State : A Bad Case-study For Democracy

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Nigeria’s oil-rich state, Rivers has been in the news for a while now for very repulsive reasons, losing its temper to the sad political rivalry between a self-acclaimed political godfather and his protégé.

Prior to the 2023 general elections, the relationship between Nyesom Wike, who was then governor of the State and Siminalayi Fubara, the present governor was nothing but cordial. He was then the state’s Accountant-General, as a Wike’s scion and a loyal disciple.

Wike, it was alleged did everything to ensure that he installed a loyal successor, which he found in Fubara, against the wishes of many party bigwigs and faithful in the state, who argued that the latter, being a political rookie and having not contributed anything to the People’s Democratic Party, should not have been given the plum job.

One of the fallouts of the disagreement was that Dr Sekibo, Senator Maeba, and Chief Opara, who were governorship aspirants of the party, along with Sir Omehia and other chieftains of the party, like former Commissioner for Employment and Economic Generation, Dr Leloonu Nwibubasa, turned their backs on Wike.

While Wike saw them as state enemies for aligning with Atiku, one of them and former senator, Maeba, voiced his concerns bluntly thus, “A candidate has emerged for our party. So, we don’t need anybody to tell us who to support for the President in the coming election. What we should do is to come together and support the candidate that has emerged”.

Most of what we know is now history as Fubara contested the election, won by a landslide and was sworn in as governor in Port Harcourt, on May 29, 2023, after Wike had handed over state power and authority to him in the public glare.

Within the first three to four months of the new administration, things were going smoothly between the godfather, Wike, and his godson, Fubara, until things began to fall apart between.

We learnt that the immediate salvo that opened the animosity was the former governor insistence that four commissioners – Works, Education, Attorney-General/Justice, and Finance, as well Chief of Staff and SSG, who worked under him when he held sway be reappointed and assigned the same portfolios by his successor.

It was alleged that Wike had the say in several other appointments, leaving the incumbent governor to appointing special advisers and related aides, coupled with the fact that he hardly took any major decision without the express approval of his predecessor, which he (Fubara) began to find unjustifiable.

 Again, it was said that Governor Fubara, against his godfather’s advice, started attending PDP stakeholders’ meetings outside the state and interacted with bigwigs and heavyweights, a development that Wike neither found funny nor palatable.

Then began moves to unseat the governor, who was barely six months in office, by the state House of Assembly, led by Martin Amaewhule.

After the move to impeach the governor failed, Wike, who was already the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, himself had alleged that there was a move by Fubara to change the leadership of the state legislature and install one loyal to him in a bold effort to start building his political structure as a sitting state chief executive.

While the unfolding political drama had set the stage for 27 members of the state House of Assembly loyal to the FCT Minister to execute their plan, the night before the planned impeachment proceeding, precisely on October 30, 2023, an explosion rocked the state House of Assembly and destroyed the hallowed chamber.

Not deterred, the 27 lawmakers went into the bombed chamber under heavy security and announced a notice of impeachment against the governor, who demanded to know the sin he committed to warrant the plan by the lawmakers, amid all the hullabaloo and pandemonium that occurred, including teargas and water shelling on Fubara.

The demolition of Assembly took place on the orders of the governor as the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Joseph Johnson, at a news briefing in his office, said the facility had integrity issues, made worse by the bombing, adding that engineers had advised that the facility was no longer safe for legislative business due to the structural defects.

During the melee, former House Leader, Edison Ehie, who had earlier been removed and suspended, claimed that he had been elected Speaker by his colleagues and announced the suspension of some of his colleagues, including Martin Amaewhule.

Too worsen the political drama is a court judgment declaring 27 members who defected to their People’s Democratic Party to firm up their support for Wike who is now hobnobbing with the power at the centre as Minister under the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.

It seems to be an unending quagmire that blows no good wind for the people of the state who will bear the brunt of this long distraction. As the axiom goes when two elephants fight, the grass suffers.  

We call on all political bigwigs in the state without prejudice to their political leaning to quickly call for a truce to end the show of shame in this once remarkable political entity in the country.

We indeed call for altruistic leadership rather than self-centered recriminations. It is on that note that we find Fubara’s vow to probe Wike’s tenure in which he was a ‘loyal’ Accountant General as a vindictive and self-indictive move.

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