The Battle Of Control Between Wike And Fubara Still On
Despite President Bola Tinubu’s call for truce, AMAECHI OKONKWO, reports that the camps of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr Nyesom Wike and that of Governor Siminalayi Fubara are still stoking the fire over the soul of Rivers State
The raging political conflict between Chief Nyesom Wike, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Governor Siminalayi Fubara, Governor of Rivers State blew open in the early hours of October 23, with the State Assembly Complex providing the main battle ground.
The Assembly was blown up in an incident that was preceded by a reported fire outbreak at the main chamber of the complex said to have been caused by yet-to-be identified assailants. But as the day wore on and further events began to unfold, it was clear that the state was being led into a period of political turmoil with the main gladiators being the two most recent political benefactor (Wike) and his beneficiary (Fubara). The crisis was like a bolt from the blues as there was no known serious indication of misunderstanding between both actors before then, other than some muffled rumours of disenchantment by Fubara on the overbearing control and influence of the immediate past governor, Wike on his (Fubara’s) running of the state.
Crux of the matter
The events at the state assembly complex clearly showed the reasons for the fight. It was a clear demonstration that Wike and Fubara, his political son, were no longer agreeing. The governor was beginning to feel frustrated at his inability to act with little independence as events in the state indicated. Twenty-six members of the house led by the Speaker, Honourable Martin Amaewhule, despite the fire at the main chamber the previous night, held plenary that morning and the main item on the order paper was to serve impeachment notice on Governor Siminalayi Fubara. At the unusual sitting, which took place between 7am and 9am, the members stated that the governor’s sin was “misconduct unbecoming of the person of the governor,” without any further details. Before the announcement of the decision of the house on the impeachment proceedings, the lawmakers had suspended Majority Leader of the assembly, Honourable Edison Ehie and five other members of the assembly.
That morning also, the governor visited the assembly complex ostensibly to inspect the scene of Sunday night fire, an occasion which his supporters capitalised on to demonstrate their support. It was also incidentally during the visit that the governor was allegedly shot at by some men of the state police command and a chain of other events that pitched the supporters of Wike and Fubara against each other, thus making the state a hotbed of political crisis. The reactions of the two major dramatis personae, Wike and Fubara threw more light on the main reasons for the struggle for the control of the soul of Rivers, which the immediate past governor, Wike called structure. In an address to the state, Fubara stated: “For me today, whatever it is that wants to happen, let it happen. If Siminalayi Fubara is impeached, I will not be the first or the last and I’m saying, if it happens. But what is important is that any attempt that is not justified will be resisted. Let them tell Rivers people that offence, come out and tell the people of Rivers State, that offence that Fubara committed that is warranting impeachment. My happiness this morning is that the people or Rivers State represented by everyone of you here are with us. Let me assure you that we will continue to defend you. We will protect you people and you will enjoy the dividends of democracy.”
Wike, who later gave his own account of the development in the now famous statement on political structure, declared that he would not allow anybody to take away his political structure saying he would do all it would take to maintain it. He bore his mind after meeting with some governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abuja. The immediate past governor of the state, who said he could not be “intimidated” by anyone, explained that impeachment was not a coup, making reference to the planned impeachment of Fubara by his pro-24 legislators. “Nobody can take away the political structure in Rivers,” Wike declared. “Nobody can intimidate me. If I want to do something, I will do it. The impeachment is not a military coup, it is provided under the constitution,” he added. Wike said the allegations of money being the cause of the faceoff were false, describing the claim as “absolute rubbish. I just left the office (governor); how many months ago? And I am the FCT Minister. So, which money? But nobody can take away our political structure. No one! You cannot work and people will begin to bring enemies – those who fought you when you were struggling for the person to be in office.
“I am not a political ingrate but don’t touch the political structure of the state. I will not shut my eyes. I am not disturbed, I will do what is right and my conscience is clear. I am not the person you think that you will now go to social media and say all kinds of things. You must be careful, I have the capacity to fight back.”
However, to the relief of Nigerians, especially people of Rivers, President Bola Tinubu intervened to contain the raging war by getting both parties to drop the gauntlet, but this was not before the state was torn between the warring parties. Politicians across party lines, like the members of the state assembly are sharply divided with some supporting Wike while others are queuing behind Fubara, all for their own different reasons.
Political watchers in the state and across the country had expected that, with the intervention of the president, both parties would have maintained the cease fire and allow peace to reign in the state but this has not been the case. Each camp and its sympathisers have been busy searching for undercover ways to outsmart the other while maintaining a volte face externally. For example, while the FCT minister and the governor would still attend public functions and even sit side by side, their sympathisers are in the battle field with smoking guns waiting for the slightest opportunity to draw the blood of their opponents. Just last week, the two factions of the assembly held plenary at different locations and for different purposes. This was less than 24 hours after the factional Speaker, Edison Ehie took to the airwaves to raise the alarm of an alleged attempted assassination bid on him in his abode and expectedly pointing accusing fingers at the other faction, claiming the reason was because of his continued support for Governor Fubara.
The pro-Wike legislators were also recently captured in a photograph with the minister in Abuja where they claimed to have gone for a retreat. There was no inkling of such planned retreat or what was the outcome, only the picture of the ‘retreat.’ Tongues have been wagging about the real motive of the “unannounced retreat.”
On their part, the pro-Fubara lawmakers went to a Port Harcourt High Court and obtained an order directing the two factions in the Rivers Assembly to maintain the status quo ante and suspend further deliberations until the matter before it is dispensed with. Justice Phoebe Ayuba of a Federal High Court Port Harcourt, gave the order while ruling on suit No: FHC/PH/CS/240/2023, by Honourable Edison Ehie, who approached the court praying to stop Rt. Honourable Martins Amaewhule and the other lawmakers from presiding over the activities of the legislative arm of the state government. The notice was filed together with the main suit by Ehie, as the new Speaker of the Assembly and the House of Assembly. The plaintiffs in the suit are Rivers State House of Assembly, as first plaintiff, and Rt. Honourable Ehie Ogerenye Edison (Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly) as second plaintiff. The defendants are the factional Speaker of the House, Honourable Martins Chike Amaewhule; Honourable Dumle Maol (former Deputy Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly); the Inspector-General of Police, Director, Department of State Security Services, Rivers State, and Commissioner of Police, Rivers State.
Ruling on the motion filed in the suit, Justice Ayua ordered that none of the parties on record should do anything about the matter since all the parties are expected to respect the court.
The order reads in part: “That an order is made directing the plaintiffs/applicants to put the respondents on notice forthwith; That an order is however, made directing that all parties on record respect the court and should not take any step concerning the subject matter, since the matter is already before this court – sub judice – pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.” In the suit, the factional Speaker, Ehie and the Assembly itself, was seeking, amongst others, a declaration that the former speaker and his former deputy, having been removed and suspended from the House, are not entitled to participate, disturb, interfere or obstruct the performance of the legislative proceedings of the House and the legislative duties of the new speaker in accordance with the provisions of Sections 90 to 104 of the 1999 Constitution.
Expanding structure to APC
Individuals and groups have also continued to speak for or against the warring parties depending on their sympathy and allegiance. The gladiators themselves are equally catching on the opportunity to consolidate and expand their structures and sphere of influence and authority. For the Minister of FCT, Wike, he is said to be deploying his closeness to President Tinubu, and by extension, to good effects. Last week, in a move which critics described as reminiscent of the APC to self-destruct in the management of its affairs in Rivers and an apparent display of readiness to hand over the control of the Rivers APC to Wike, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party announced the dissolution of State Executive Committee (SEC) of the party and set up a caretaker committee for the party in Rivers. Surprisingly, Chief Tony Okocha, a Nyesom Wike loyalist, whose membership of the APC, the dissolved executive has consistently been questioned, was appointed chairman of the caretaker committee. This, observers in the state have concluded, is to make it easy for Wike to assume full and total control Rivers APC structure, in addition to that of the PDP, which he has boasted that nobody should try to tamper with.
However, before the swearing of the caretaker committee on Monday, in Abuja, Chief Okocha had already mounted a spirited defence for Wike declaring that he (Wike) had no interest in taking over the APC structure. The former Chief of Staff, Government House, stated that, as a founding member of the PDP, Wike has not indicated any interest in leaving the party he laboured to nurture when others deserted it to die. “If you are talking about an alliance, I aligned with Nyesom Wike and I am still aligning with him. The issue of handing over the party to Nyesom Wike; he is not a member of the APC for crying out loud and everybody knows that he is a staunch founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He has boasted times without number that he has benefited a lot from the PDP and that he was not in a hurry to leave the party. I am not aware; he hasn’t mentioned it to me and he has not mentioned it to anybody.
“Of course, he is not a man that will hide a decision like that from Nigerians. If Wike wishes at any time to enter any other political party different from the PDP, Nigerians will hear; Nigerians will know. So, as we speak, he is a staunch member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). For anybody to assume that the president is handing over APC structure to a PDP member, that person will be missing the point.”
Given the latest scenario, the supremacy tussle between the camp of Wike and the governor seems to have assumed a more curious dimension. The battle for the soul of the state could be a long-drawn battle, notwithstanding the intervention by President Tinubu for ceasefire by the belligerent forces. But, what is the import of the decision of the Appeal Court to uphold the election of Fubara as the governor of Rivers on the ‘fight’ between the mentor and his mentee?
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