Ceasefire in Gaza has just begun and the days allotted to it have specific things to achieve. This seems to be the expectation of the people of Rivers State in the ongoing political crisis in the state caused by the move by the former governor, Nyesom Wike, to oust his godson, Gov Sim Fubara.
Some political observers have thus wondered what the Rivers ceasefire was expected to deliver in the saga.
In Gaza, the four days of ceasefire have been dedicated to exchange of prisoners, release of hostages, and delivery of humanitarian reliefs. At the end of the agreed period, missiles may resume of no further deals were reached.
In Rivers State, however, no objectives seemed set, no timelines given, and no peace pillars or ambassadors identified for tasks.
Now, the fate which befalls every such porous and coarse deal seems to set in. Parties seem to begin to use the ceasefire for selfish ends and to advance their causes.
The crisis began when 25 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly led by the Speaker, Martins Amaewhule, concluded meetings at the weekend leading to the impeachment notice.
In the night, dynamites exploded and destroyed the Chambers of the House of Assembly.
The next day, Monday, October 30, 2023, the 25 sat within the ruins of the House and first suspended the Majority Leader, Edison Ehie, and few others that were later said to be opposed to the impeachment approach.
The 25 also deliberated upon and issued an impeachment notice. This immediately triggered off crisis. The governor moved with crowds and marched toward the nearby House of Assembly on Moscow Road.
On the way, a police squad intercepted them and the governor said they targeted him with bullets. Video clips showed busts of water and teargas at him from the police led by a deputy commissioner (operations). This raised uproar and allegations of attempted assassination.
In the midst of all this, the faction loyal to Fubara led by Ehie sat and voted Ehie the new speaker and sacked Amaewhule and suspended the 25. It now became a case of 25 versus 8, just like the case of 27 (for Amaechi) and 5 for Wike in 2014. The new ‘speaker’ and his group allegedly issued an order against the state’s chief judge and asked the governor to appoint an acting one.
The governor also responded and news of the sack of his security details, sack of all commissioners, sack of all local council chairmen, etc. resonated.
At this point, just in 24 hours, the nation shook and the president (Bola Ahmed Tinubu) who is seen to have benefitted immensely from the political structure that Wike controlled with which he willed unparalleled power, intervened.
Tinubu called for order and asked a return to status quo. The Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) were said to have met with the president and also announced the need for ceasefire.
Next, a group called ‘Rivers Elders’ moved to Abuja where they allegedly held meeting with Wike, the FCT Minister. They were not known to have also met with Fubara.
At the end of their meeting, they scolded at the governor and ordered him to take steps to douse the political atmosphere and to tone down. This raised eyebrows, according to those monitoring the crisis.
The governor seemed to obey, and began to play what many called the ‘good boy’. He authorized a statement that denied almost all the sacks.
For almost three weeks, many have waited for the real peace agenda to emerge, to no avail. What was on show was the governor going about ‘undoing’ what he did by preaching peace and commending his predecessor. On the other hand, quotes clips emerging from his godfather have been about threats and fuming statements with promise for hell and warning that nobody dare touch his structure. The ‘Elders’ have not shown any peace process and activities to achieve peace and reconciliation.
The two ‘Houses’ stayed out of the way, but have started sitting separately, thus showing that the patchwork is getting lose.
The governor too has started making assertive statements while still pandering to his godfather’s will in terms of project execution and commissioning. Many however wonder how long the peace of the graveyard would hold on in the absence of real pillars.
Instead, the state seems to get more polarized into two camps. Observers say if ceasefire is not properly managed and utilized, it often leads to restocking and mobilizing for bigger trouble.
That seems to begin to happen.
As the two ‘Houses’ begin to sit and the police cordoning off the area, the governor has made a significant move. Thursday, November 23, 2023, the Head of Rivers State Civil Service, George Nwaeke, in a circular dated 20th November, 2023, effected some sensitive postings in the state’s civil service.
In a memo titled, “Senior Staff Posting”, Nwaeke listed those affected to include Emeka Amadi, Clerk of the Rivers State House of Assembly now deployed to Scholarship Board, Calistus Ojirika, Deputy Clerk and Head of Legislative Department in the House of Assembly now posted to the Readers Project while Georgewill Otto, an Assistant Director in the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development is now moved to Rivers State Small Town and Rural Water Supply Agency.
All this with immediate effect. Many believe it’s the governor’s strategy to control the House by pulling the rug under the feet of some faction.
The quality of ceasefire:
Postponing the doom’s day?
A longtime political activist and immediate past commissioner of information, Chris Finebone, told BusinessDay that ceasefire and peace very often add value to all sides by providing opportunity to reflect and reconsider one’s position and the way forward. “But speaking more particularly about the crisis in question, the ceasefire ordered by Mr. President appears to me to have achieved just one thing – postponement of the final onslaught.
“My position is arrived at considering the ostensible hardening of position by the Minister of FCT. If there’s one thing you must give to the Minister, it is the fact that he can hardly conceal his feelings. His bitterness over the matter is palpable as it is visible to the blind and audible to the deaf, except if you haven’t followed up in the past few days.
“I believe that Gov. Sim Fubara, by his body language and almost zero utterance on the matter, has substantially reined in most hawks in his support urging him to declare an open war once and for all. Yours truly is one of those. We don’t betray people but that doesn’t mean that we suffer fools gladly. I hope you know the history of King Jaja; we harbour a bit of Jaja in each of us. We don’t dread outcomes, we confront them.”
For the Minister, he went on, everyone can attest that he has been speaking bitterly about the whole issue of late. “If an assessment of the Minister’s body language and utterances is anything to go by, the dice has only been cast. Of course, the Minister hasn’t put forward anything capable of ending the crisis. It is obvious!”
The Opobo-born chief said there is no question that this matter isn’t ending soon. “I pray I’m wrong but my instincts hardly fail me on matters like this. If I’m seeing anything, it is hardening of positions by both Speakers and their groups. Reason is that the matter has become existential to both sides. In this thing, loyalty is 100 per cent or nothing less. How do you imagine Gov. Sim Fubara sleeping with both eyes closed with Martin Amaewhule as Speaker? Or do you think that the Minister will ever live with Edison Ehie subsisting as Speaker of the RSHA?
“For me, the earlier the decisive battle is fought, won or lost, the better for my mental health. Something must give. Quite frankly, if I were Gov. Fubara, I’ll go for it. I’ll take out all those positioned by the former governor to sabotage my government both in the judiciary, cabinet, security, etc. All the Minister has is the belief that he has the federal government of President Tinubu in his pocket but he’ll be shocked if he were to read the minds of the President and his men. They are critically watching him because they understand power game better than most other Nigerians.”
On what to expect, the one-time pubicity secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the pro-Amaechi wing of the party said sadly, the horizon is gloomy, to be honest. “But that can change if he (Fubara), in whose hands lies the de-jure power, decides to apply the power in his hands effectively.”
On pillars of peace during the ceasefire period, Finebone said there is absolutely nothing put in place to protect the governor. “Mr. President obviously knows who the aggressor is. He merely wanted the aggressor to stop and step back the way adults ought to behave but little did Mr. President know that here (Rivers State), the more elderly the more rascally.”
Another hardnosed political activist, Darlington Nwauju, told BusinessDay that what was achieved was temporal peace of the graveyard.
“How I see it is that Gov Sim tried hard to please his “father” but political sins are hardly forgiven. The FCT Minister on his part may have made up his mind not to forgive his “son”.
“From the little I understand about politics, egocentrism is always at the center of political decision-making, therefore, it will be difficult for any of the “Speakers” to de-robe himself of the Speaker’s garb or if you like, climb down from their olympian heights.
“I don’t want to turn a seer in this matter, but will unfold including dark secrets of the eight years of misrule in Rivers State. Don’t forget that one of the factional Speakers (Martins Amaewhule), was actively involved in the July 2013 failed impeachment attempt on then Speaker Otelemaba Dan-Amachree during the 7th Rivers State Assembly. He was amongst the group of five lawmakers that did everything to overrun the majority, so it’s like history being repeated in a harsh way.”
On where most of Amaechi henchmen just crossing to Wike in the face of Tinubu choosing Wike over Amaechi to lead Rivers APC, Nwauju said majority of those leaving Amaechi were people who never wanted to hear that the feeding bottle of government contracts was removed or government favours stopped flowing. “So, moving from Amaechi to Wike and from Wike to Sim Fubara and back are all routine maneuvers. For now, I can’t speak of their moods since an not a mind reader but I believe that Rivers people are learning some lessons with all the political upheavals happening in the state.
Nobody in Rivers State sees the peace from the ceasefire as genuine and nobody seems to believe it would yield lasting resolution of the crisis.