…History of intra-party explosions in Rivers 1999 – 2023
…The explosion; gainers, losers
…Ceasefire: Elders! Elders?
…The treacherous days ahead
October 31, 2023, has come to assume what many now know as ‘Rivers’ Mad Monday.’ It was the day when the people woke from sleep to hear that the brand new governor most people are trying to interpret in the honeymoon relationship between him and his political godfather was being impeached.
The news was that he was fighting back. This thus threw everybody back to the memories of the ‘akpako master’ the drama that took place in the same Rivers State House of Assembly in 2014 which many now dub “House of Violence.”
That began the saga of the first impeachment attempt of a sitting governor in the Nigeria’s new democratic dispensation.
History of intra-party explosions in Rivers State: 1999 – 2023
In his book before his demise, the godfather of riverine politics, the Alabo, Tonye Graham-Douglas, recounted how he was given all the power to handpick the governor-to-be in 1998 by the board of trustees of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and to help set up the structure in Rivers State.
He claimed that he edged out others and even Kalabari persons to allow an upland (Peter Odili) to take and taste power for once. He said he fronted Marshal Harry (now late) to manage the process, but said before he died that he burnt his fingers.
This is because an intra-party explosion was heard and both men hardly saw eye to eye anymore. Odili’s men use to claim those days that Graham-Douglas was asking for too much, but the godfather kept denying it, saying he was owed hundreds of millions then and that the debt was used to strangulate him politically. He claimed that Harry died in the process and that twice he too was attempted; one in Lagos and one in Port Harcourt.
Both camps remained at daggers-drawn till death did them part (the Alabo is late).
The Odili camp this became the most viable camp with Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi as the prince of Rivers politics when the likes of Sergeant Awuse, Chibudom Nwuche, Austin Opara, etc, were whittled down.
When it was time to hand power to the obvious prince, crisis erupted and both Odili and Amaechi became sworn enemies such that if anyone was suspected to be an Odili man, appointment would never get to him.
Amaechi emerged as the new power wielder and brought Nysom Wike up first as Obio/Akpor local council chairman (they say Obio/Akpor is the richest LGA in Nigeria).
Soon, Amaechi was in trouble with Odili and Wike was said to have played very big part to rescue his governorship through the Supreme Court. Wike had money, contacts (chairman of LGAs in Nigeria) and long contacts around judicial avenues. Now, Amaechi and Wike became powerful and decided things.
In Amaechi’s last years, Wike, now a minister with Goodluck Jonathan close, sprang up to stage a war that upstaged the Amaechi political camp and handed the machinery of power to Wike who went ahead to win governorship to stop Amaechi from installing Dakuku Peterside or anybody.
Now, Wike conquered the world and ruled like an emperor and called all the shots in Rivers, Niger Delta, G-5, Nigeria and now FCT.
The Monday explosion:
The full power with which Wike was said to have singlehandedly handpicked a successor (though he denies it) was believed to be strong such that Sim Fubara would never think of pulling himself out of bondage, if that was the true case.
However, such hints came and disappeared. Weekend prior to Monday, hints emerged that the Rivers State House of Assembly (RSHA) had been bombed, and that the following day, Monday, would be war. Many did not give it any thought.
Monday came and it was more than fire. It was an explosion. Three persons are still feared dead and over 100 were arrested for protesting and gained freedom with bail sponsored by 20 persons. Those that died were said to have gone to the home of the Speaker (some call him former speaker) where they said armed security or whoever shot at them.
Fubara was part of those marching to the RSHA and reported that he was shot at and poured hosed water by a team said to be led by the deputy commissioner of police (operations), but the police through the Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Grace Iringe-Koko, denied shooting at him. The police said they did not shoot at all let alone at the governor. For water, they said it was inadvertent, the governor did not notify them he was marching.
If the police did not shoot at all, so who shot dead those that have been found dead, and where is the body of one particular man whose parents are wailing all over PH?
The RHA was seeing drama that Monday. It was learnt that Edison Ehie, the Majority Leader who ought to table the impeachment motion, refused to sign the impeachment loyalty memo with two others. So, first thing on the floor of the charred House of Assembly was a motion for their suspension. It was done easily and he was out of the way.
Next, the House tabled an impeachment motion which was to be sent to the Governor. Like Amaechi, the governor charged out of his safe entity and marched to the House. Many were said to have fled. It was at this point that the police enacted their part by shooting at ‘who go there’.
As if when the Cat is away, the mice do march parade in the house. Now, Ehie and team found space, sat and suspended all the others and announced many things: Suspension of Martins Amaewhule and other lawmakers, emergence of new Speaker (Ehie), suspension of the Chief Judge, empowerment of Gov Sim to appoint an Acting Chief Judge.
Rumours were to spring up soon after that the governor has dissolved all the 23 LGAs and later the State Executive Council. He was said to have first fired his chief security officer (CSO) and chief of staff.
The government house was to later issue a statement that the Commissioner of Information, who was resuming after swearing in at the last working day or so, was not aware of such grave announcements.
So, who was dissolving things and who was resolving them? What is obvious however was that meetings began all night in the Brick House in Port Harcourt and Abuja. The next day, Fubara flew to Abuja where Aso Rock, an APC man, intervened in a PDP state, to demonstrate the meaning of APCDP system of political unity. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was quoted by a PDP Governor of Bauchi to have ordered return to status quo in Rivers State.
What caused the crisis?
Most Nigerians have continued to hunt for what exactly caused the explosion, why did a godfather want to swiftly get rid of a godson?
Wike has said things must be done properly, but many ask what is proper and what it is not?
This has allowed the street to fill in the blank spaces. The Amaechi boys seem to know more and to even cry more than the bereaved. Sources from the Amaechi camp openly claim that Fubara was caged, was asked not to approve anything above N5m, was asked to give somebody 25 percent of the budget, was to drop N2bn monthly, etc. Fubara has not said any of these things.
More sources especially from Amaechi camp say Fubara was accused of going too fast into Amaechi projects’ revival such as the N3.2bn Rivers Songhai Farms Initiative (RSFI) which seems to be overwhelmingly loved by the people but was squeezed to death by Wike administration along with all other economic or agric projects: Tai Banana Project, Abonnema Fish Farm, Etche Farm Project with the Israeli company, etc. The Wike administration has always explained why he did not continue them, but his explanations on crippling the RSSDA which sent hundreds of scholars abroad and the consequent strangulation of Rivers scholars abroad did not seem to get assimilated by most people, especially the families.
Many said there are two government houses in PH, one at Rumueprikon (actually the former governor’s private home that looks imposing and like a fortress with full sortie of security.
Many claim that Fubara was being made to run to Rumueprikon (the real Govt House?) every now and then to clear things. Others claim that all the commissioners and projects including the N195bn PH Ring Road belonged to the former governor.
No attempt has been made to clarify, confirm, or deny any of these issues. Press aides to both men have not been focusing on such matters. They remain at the realm of rumours. So, it has remained impossible to decode what Wike means by “the right thing must be done.”
In an era when people are quoted by unauthorized persons or people deny what the said, it has been difficult getting both combatants speak directly. One source has however quoted Wike to have stated that nobody can take his political structure in the oil-rich South-South state. “Yes, we have talked about the crisis in the state but let me tell anybody who cares: nobody can intimidate me, nobody. It doesn’t matter whether you go and bring thugs on the road, it doesn’t matter whether you are Ijaw, if I want to do something, I will do it. Impeachment is not a military coup; impeachment is provided under the constitution. “Nobody can take away our political structure, no one.
“You cannot work and people begin to bring enemies, those who fought you when you are struggling for the person to be in office, nobody does that.
“I am not a political ingrate, I am not — but don’t touch the political structure of Rivers State. I will not shut my eyes.”
“My conscience is clear, nobody can rubbish me,” he added.
Ceasefire: Elders! Elders?
What seems to be important is that there is ceasefire. Fubara is speaking in conciliatory tones: causing government to deny sack of anybody, saying fights are normal between fathers and sons, etc. But the masses seem to bay for more blood. The two speakers are still in office, nobody has ordered one to step down.
The ceasefire was said to be brokered by those described as ‘Elders’ of Rivers State, but led by a full time PDP chieftain, Ferdinand Alabaraba. They came out and supported the Wike side.
A report of their position after endless meetings in Abuja said: “The group led by a chief, Alabraba who pledged its unflinching loyalty to the former governor cautioned the ‘new found friends’ of Governor Siminilayi Fubara to reconsider their actions which could lead to total confusion and disorder in the state.”
Speaking at a news conference in Abuja on Wednesday, November 1, the elders accused supporters of Gov Fubara of fueling the crisis through misleading information against the former governor and warned those urging Fubara to fight with Wike to stop immediately and allow the governor to do his job.
“While stressing the need for reconciliation, the elders asked Fubara to take urgent steps to correct the false narratives against Wike. The elders’ position comes a day after President Bola Tinubu waded into the matter and reconciled the two men.
But recent developments in form of protests, allegations of fleecing the treasury and others appear to signpost a new dimension to the crisis.
The report shows that even the Wike camp does not believe that the war was over. Wike was quoted to have said that the right thing must be done and any attempt to crash his structure would be resisted fully.
Many have thus urged Fubara to know that things would never be the same with his godfather and that trust would be difficult to rebuild, like an apple that never gets repaired once injured.
People speak out:
Oby Ndukwe, media consultant, publisher and a political strategist said: “The Elders that met with Nyesom Wike appear economical with truth. It is wrong to blame those sympathising with Gov Fubara and blaming them for the crisis they did not start. This kind of thing has been happening and is expected, though too sudden.
“Any governor will want to be a man, an adult, so you cannot dictate to him 100 percent. If he was not qualified to be governor, then allow him to think and act. Yes, you can give advice here and there.
“This one is not partisan politics. The masses are united now not about party. Those rallying round the governor knew this would happen. They know Wike. The only surprise is that Wike is too involved in day-to-day governance. Yes, he went too far to make him governor but that does not mean you should wrap around him. If you push him to the wall, he will bounce back.
“This kind of thing will not end with Wike because it did not start with him. Its obvious the Governor is uncomfortable plus disrespect for him by those planted around him.”
Ndukwe further said: “Wike was a powerful man even as LGA boss. He did not take dictation from anybody but wants to dictate. Elders did not play their role well. They saw nothing wrong with impeaching the governor in broad day light? People burnt the RSHA they did not build. It is people we are talking about here, why are the elders saying this?
“I do not have communication with Gov Fubara, so it’s my free support. If they say its an insider matter, then keep it inside. Elders? How can they hear one side and take decision. That is why the youths are taking the law into their hands
“Sympathisers do not care. These are Elders on payroll. It is because of Wike’s powers the President gave him that they hang around.
“Many of us are not supporting according to friendship because Wike was even my friend before but its about democracy. Kudos to Tinubu for intervening. Gov Fubara deserves respect, but can be corrected. Governor can also decide to resign if he does not like excessive interference. But if you resign, people don’t fight for you in this country.
“It is good that he met the President whose word is last. Afterall, Wike supported Ikpeazu who did not do well. We will also criticise Fubara if he derails, not by bringing young men to insult him or elders to take sides.
“Lesson: If money is being taken out of the treasurer, let it not be to purposes outside governance or that will affect governance.”
Nwauju is a known voice in Rivers. Speaking with BusinessDay, he said: “Firstly, those group of Elders are known Wike men and so one would have been pleasantly surprised if they took a different route outside supporting him. “The crisis should rather be blamed on the fact that we have had five months of governorship with castrated executive powers. It was not supporters or friends of Gov Fubara because he actually does not have a support base in Rivers State. It was Rivers people who are disenchanted with the proxy Governorship.”
According to him, “There is changing narrative in the media space or in the hearts of minds of Rivers people who know the truth. Obviously nothing will ever be found against former Governor Wike by that particular group of Elders. The House went on recess but they rushed back to impeach somebody.”
He further said: “While I empathise with these Elders because they need to protect their contracts and small, small pecks, let me say that they have just succeeded in conflagrating the crisis rather than diffuse it.
“We knew before the elections that it would amount to a ponzi scheme if Wike’s third term bid succeeds through Gov Fubara. The best that can happen to us is for the sitting Governor to break free like Chris Ngige did in Anambra and the people of that state witnessed real governance. Anything less than this will be disastrous.
“Lastly, we have all seen firsthand what the reign of strongmen can do to our democracy. The happenings in Rivers State, once again calls to question the strength of our institutions.”
“What is unfolding is quite unfortunate. It is even more befuddling that supposed elders of PDP mischievously tagged themselves as elders of Rivers State. That is the height of dishonesty.
“Secondly, it is obviously dubious for a group of individuals who consider themselves peacemakers would tow the despicable path of declaring upfront and without a dint of shame that they stand with Minister Nyesom Wike. That very moment they simply surrendered the moral right to intervene because they effectively joined the conflict. Who does that?
“I’ve been asking: which honest peacemaker would claim to make peace for two family members by first picking who they support?”
Fine bone further said: “The so-called elders are no more than soldiers of fortune who have acted to protect their largesse and ensure more. My interpretation is that they weighed in on the side of who they believe ultimately will ensure their hands remain in the till of Rivers State resources.
“Many including family members have urged me not to speak up but I won’t be quiet. I’m ready to retire from politics and I have nothing to lose. Even if Gov. Sim Fubara loses out (God forbid that) I’ll be very glad to retire from politics because I’m already above 60.
“The so-called elders rather than solve the problem have further complicated things by selling a completely mischievous narrative. What do they really mean when they said that the governor misunderstood a strictly legislative action for an existential threat to himself? The day’s Order Paper had Impeachment of Gov. Sim Fubara clearly stated in it. So, who’s fooling who?
“Obviously, the so-called elders must have concluded that Gov Sim Fubara had no chance to survive a clash with the Minister hence the need to stand with the latter instead of being neutral.
“Their decision did not accommodate the God factor. But I can assure you that what God started must end in line with God’s wishes.”
There seems to be treachery ahead and return to status quo may mean strange bed fellows in bed. How long it will last can only be conjecture.