• Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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BusinessDay

Road to peace in Rivers State and threats to the ‘Aso Rock Agreement’

Nyesom Wike, FCT Minister, has said he will obey the President to honour the Aso Rock agreement. On his part, Sim Fubara, governor of Rivers State, said he has accepted the peace agreement. Yet, observers say there are still visible threats to peace and operationality of the peace agreement.

Rivers State exploded in political crisis on Monday, October 30, 2021, when 27 out of the 32 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly served notice of impeachment in the rubbles of the burnt complex of the House against the governor. The 27 also suspended four others that did not agree with them to sign the impeachment notice. The four immediately suspended the 27 and soon, the 27 defected to the opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The small group went to court and obtained an order confirming that by defecting without a division in their party, the 27 had lost their seats. The court directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct fresh elections into the House. More court cases sprang up with motions flying around.

It was at this point that calls went to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to intervene. He called for a return to the status quo. Nobody seemed to obey it because the 27 lawmakers did not return to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that got them into the House.

Then, the matter took new turns for the worse and the President summoned the disputants to appear in Aso Rock. When they got there, the President was said to have got them to sign a peace accord of eight points.

The agreement itself has rather brought more opprobrium than peace. The Sim Fubara camp began to tear it to pieces.

Now, there seems to appear threats to the peace accord. BusinessDay seeks in this treatise to list some of the threats to the peace agreement.

President Tinubu:

Many see President Tinubu as threat number one. From Edwin Clark, Rivers Elders led by Ada George and Anabs Saraigbe to Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, many say President Tinubu did not deal with what led to the crisis, being the accusations that his Minister (FCT), Nyesom Wike, insisted on demands from the treasury of the state and to control almost all appointees. Worse, they say, is the failure of the President to protect the constitution and the courts in the agreements he asked them to sign. They say the greatest threat to the agreement is the illegalities and unconstitutional actions he wants Fubara to execute or condone.

The APC side led by Tony Okocha, Wike’s right hand man, also said the President’s directive breached the constitution by debarring the lawmakers from engaging in any impeachment, whereas, he insisted, impeachment was a constitutionally mandated role of the Rivers State House of Assembly or any other legislature for that matter.

The elders have accused the president of doing nothing when he ordered a return to status quo but the lawmakers rather defected to his party. The elders said the 27 lawmakers did not rescind their impeachment notice nor recall the four lawmakers they suspended. On the other hand, the four lawmakers did not recall the 27 either. The critics said the president did not enforce his appeal for return to status quo until the Fubara camp began to push the fight harder into the Wike territory.

Nyesom Wike:

Another threat to the agreement could be ex-governor, Nyesom Wike, now Minister of the FCT. He is said to have continued leading groups that do not show regard to the governor and to mobilise for antagonism. His public utterances are said to be going on and his efforts to cripple the PDP have continued unabated.

Fubara’s supporters:

Observers said that the supporters have continued to reject the peace accord. The two groups have so far taken the matter to court. Fears are rife that if courts continue to issue orders that require breach of the agreement, there would be more crisis.

Tony Okocha, the caretaker committee chairman of the faction of APC loyal to Wike, told newsmen that the threat to the agreement is the statement by the governor that in endorsing the agreement, he would not do it to the extent of hurting the interest of the state. Okocha said mischievous supporters of the governor would capitalize on that statement to press the governor to ignore one clause or the other.

LGA election around the corner:

Another major threat is said to be the fast-approaching local council elections in the state. Some claim it is the real cause of the crisis on who control the incoming ones.

The present LGA bosses have served two terms. Now, would it be Wike that picks the new ones or Fubara. When Wike was governor, nobody dared to dictate to him or give him a list. It is not clear who would handpick names this time around. So, if this does not scatter the peace agreement, nothing else would, sources said.

IGR:

Rumours were rife that Wike demanded for a certain percentage of the state’s revenue. Soon, a video emerged dispelling the cut on FAAC (federal allocation), saying it was rather the diversion of the internally generated revenue (IGR) that was the issue. No source has confirmed this and many Wike supporters say it is nonsense. If IGR was never the problem, why did the 2024 budget earmark N19.2 billion per month IGR when the state was used to N10 billion?

So, any attempt to look into the books of the state very closely may cause a crisis and may become a threat to the peace agreement.

Peter Odili’s face:

Some sources said where Peter Odili (first governor in the present republic 1999) faces would be an issue. Wike had for long leaned on Odili in many ways and had compensated him heavily with N500 million donations every year and 100 students on scholarship in his university every year; and more.

Now, sources told newsmen that Wike and Odili have fallen out. This seems impossible except the source that said it.

Now, would Odili face Wike or Fubara? Wherever he faces would mean much. Already, Odili produced the deputy governor and one commissioner, but these were believed to be directed by Wike. The bottom line is, can Wike and Odili afford a disagreement? Many say this because many things are involved.

Other factors:

Blessing Nwikina, a seasoned analyst and government watcher, said that the agreement is under heavy threat because it is a tool of manipulation of the populace with dead information. He said the law has harmed most parts of the agreement because if the law said a majority of the members of the parliament are no longer members, then some of the eight-point “agreement” are Dead on Arrival.

“They can’t carry out impeachment, therefore the issue of ‘withdrawal’ of instituted court cases is zero. Also, the issue of the Assembly conducting sitting anywhere is also dead-on-arrival. The representation of the state 2024 Budget is foreclosed and overtaken by events.

“Is there any more issue arising from the eight-point agreement? Since the entire matter had been trashed unintended, they therefore became extinct, and can’t be termed ‘agreement’. It’s just a political ego trip to serve the entitlement stature of a party in the fight; to be seen to be dominant.

“The only condition with a slight negotiable posture is the matter of the ex-exco members. As soon as d tenure of the LGA chairmen expires, all this will be buried, forgotten. The rush to form new alliances, and be with the Governor’s team will distract the ‘structure’, and a new order will sprout”.

On his own, Darlington Nwauju, publicity secretary of the Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi faction of the APC that are challenging the action of the national party chairman of the party to dissolve their state executive council to give Wike and Okocha a free range, said Wike is blowing the trumpet of obeying the President is because the agreement favours him.

“His antecedents clearly give him away as one who only dances to rhythms and tunes sweet to his ears.

“Governor Sim Fubara seems not to have any option given the fact that there is still a case pending at the Supreme Court against him and he knows the style of those he is up against. For me, he chose to postpone the doomsday by mouthing and struggling to implement the so-called agreement which clearly, to my mind, has several sidekicks from both the Constitution and the law court.

“That the Governor chose to ignore the subsisting court cases in competent courts tells me that some individuals including the Governor have chosen to suspend democracy in Rivers State.”

Nwauju said there were visible threats to peace and operationality of the said agreement. “The human beings involved in this whole regrettable episode could turn eccentric at any point in time. Secondly, the legalese surrounding the whole brouhaha still stands like the Rock of Gibraltar that must have to be excavated.”

He said there was no need for advice to people entering into covenants and agreements on behalf of the entire State in such an unholy manner. “The people are not aware of any private agreements held by these individuals and must not be made to suffer for it.”

Conclusion:

Most observers see threats to the peace agreement and by extension threats to peace in Rivers State despite the endorsement of the deal by the governor. They say obeying the agreements in breach of the constitution and the courts. Next, to fail to get the governor and his godfather to renegotiate before arriving at a new deal would only amount to playing for time or playing tricks.