Continued onslaught against Atiku Abubakar’s men in Rivers State by Governor Nyesom Wike is sign that reconciliation between the governor and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate may still be very far.
The party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) led by Adolphus Wabara, former Senate president, just left Port Harcourt where they came to attempt reconciliation between both camps in the PDP. They left without any definite sign of progress.
Few days after, Wike signed a law striping one of Atiku’s henchmen, Celestine Omehia, of any rights and status as a former governor. He got the state’s House of Assembly to pass such a law, thus showing that what Wike thinks is what the lawmakers think, according to observers.
They recalled that when Wike was in good relationship with Omehia, he said Omehia was entitled to the status of an ex-governor. Now that they have fallen apart to different camps in the PDP, Wike says Omehia is no more an ex-governor and the House of Assembly quickly passed a law endorsing the governor’s wish.
Omehia is the man who took over the candidacy of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi in the then PDP and used the flag to coast to victory in the governorship election in the state. He ruled for five months until the Supreme Court issued a shocking verdict to say that in the eye of the law, it is Amaechi (who won at the PDP primaries) that was the candidate at the main election, and not Omehia.
Amaechi was to rush back from self-exile in Ghana to be sworn in on October 25, 2007. The Amaechi administration said in the eye of the law, Omehia was never a governor, and treated him so (not a governor) by not putting his photograph on the row of former governors and in other things including protocols and benefits.
Wike who rallied all detractors of Amaechi into a political camp and force to win as Amaechi’s successor moved to recognise Omehia as ex-governor, arguing that as long as Omehia took decisions as governor, he must be recognised as ex-governor of Rivers State and would get entitlements.
As PDP primaries became a hot issue in May 2022, Wike asked to be allowed to decide who would become governor, lawmakers, and president of Nigeria. He rallied the PDP in the state to focus on him as the state’s candidate to be next president. Some members of the party however differed with him and chose to support Atiku. This seemed to infuriate Wike who launched all manner of actions against them. He has continued to remove them anywhere they were given appointments in the state.
Peacemakers have continue to mediate between Wike and Atiku, the latest being the visit of the BoT.
Wike however, seems not to be impressed by those appeals as he has gone ahead to kick out another Atiku man.
He has just (Friday, October 7, 2022) signed a legal instrument into law, as an executive action sequel to the resolution of the State House of Assembly.
With the signing, the recognition that accorded Omehia the status of a former governor of the state, with accruable rights and benefits are now cancelled.
Governor Wike signed the instrument at the Executive Council Chambers of the Rivers State Government House, Port Harcourt on Friday when it was presented to him by the State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Zacchaeus Adangor.
The governor disclosed that he had always respected resolutions from the State House of Assembly and never had any reason to disagree with them.
He stated: “Yesterday, I received a resolution from the Assembly de-recognising Sir Celestine Omehia, who had enjoyed the privileges of a former governor of the state.
“But you will recollect that sometime in 2007/2008, my predecessor, His Excellency Chibuike Amaechi, did not recongnise Sir Celestine Omehia as a former governor of the state.
“When we came on board, there were issues and the Assembly felt that, having served as governor, he should enjoy the status of a former governor. I’ve always respected the resolutions of the Assembly. I’ve never one day disagreed with anything the Assembly has sent to me.”
Wike pointed to the reasons adduced by the leader of the Rivers State House of Assembly that the strength of the information they have now has compelled them to reverse what they did in 2015.
The governor noted that the hallmark of leadership is being able to acknowledge that there was error done in the course of administration and having the courage to correct such error.
“The leader of the house said they have better facts and what are the facts? The facts are the Supreme Court judgment categorically stated that Sir Celestine Omehia was never a governor, because he never stood for any election and that it will be inappropriate for their (Assembly) legacy that they didn’t respect the judgment of the Supreme Court.
“In this part of our country, people will praise you when it suits them, but when you do the uncommon thing, people will not praise you.”
Wike stressed the need why people should keep politics away from what had been done. He further urged people to get a copy of the Supreme Court judgment and understand that it is the right thing to derecognise Omehia in the eye of the law.
“I had to call the Attorney General for him to give me his legal opinion as regards the resolution of the Assembly, and rightly the Attorney General said they (assembly) are right.
“That in the first instance, the recognition was extra-judicial, that the Assembly has no power to change the judgment of any court, not to talk about the Supreme Court. So, people should understand and not to begin to play politics.”
Wike explained as untrue that the insinuation in the media that Omehia was derecognised because he had ceased to be his ally, and now a member of the presidential campaign council of the PDP.
He stated the Assembly had woken to conscience and did not want posterity to blame them for an error they had done which they could correct.
Wike likened it to the position members of the National Assembly also found themselves when they were working on the Electoral Amendment Bill.
“Remember, last time, the National Assembly, when they were making the amendment of the Electoral Act, everybody said they should include the card reader and that was in 2018/2019.
“The National Assembly did not do it, particularly, the All Progressives Congress (APC) members and people told them what they were doing will hunt them. Posterity will not forgive you if you do not allow democracy to thrive.
“In the new Electoral Amendment Act, because they knew they did not do the right thing, they had to include it and you can see that members of the National Assembly are happy that they have done the right thing.”
Wike also pointed to the sum of money paid to Omehia as a proof against those who peddled tales that government was not paying such benefits at all.
“If this did not happen, nobody will even know that the State government has been coughing out such amount of money to pay as benefits.
“I’m sure, they must have told you that no benefits and all entitlements were never paid, that is what you hear everywhere.
“But yesterday, when it was revealed that the State government coughed out such amount of money to pay as benefits as recommended by the Assembly and now, they have sent the resolution to me, I thank God today, without looking back, I have signed it as instrument and it will be gazetted for record purposes.”
Parties to pay N5m for venue of rallies
Governor Wike has also hit at political parties over venue of rallies. He has enjoined political parties and candidates standing for election in 2023 in the State to avoid acts or conduct that could instigate political tensions.
The governor has drawn the attention of all political parties and their candidates in the State to the Executive Order 21 prohibiting use of public schools for rallies without permission from the State Commissioner of Education that has been signed into law.
Wike gave the advice in a state-wide broadcast on Friday, in which he emphasised that the prevailing atmosphere of peace and security in the State will not be compromised.
He noted that as the campaign for the 2023 general elections begins, political parties and their candidates need to be reminded of their legal responsibility to foster an enabling civic environment for peaceful campaigns and elections.
“We clearly respect and guarantee the rights of all the political parties, their candidates and their supporters to unfettered political campaigning throughout the State.
“We cherish this sustained atmosphere of peace and security in our State and would therefore count on the cooperation of the political parties and their candidates to ensure that Rivers State remains peaceful and secure for everyone to go about with his or her legitimate endeavours.”
Wike pointed out that as a government, enormous time, effort, and resources have been spent to achieve and sustain the prevailing peace and security across the State.
He, however, stated that his administration is conscious of the supreme duty to protect lives and property in Rivers State.
The governor expressed the need why the forthcoming campaigns should not be characterised by violence, but carried out within legal limits, coupled with a high sense of responsibility.
“Consequently, we will neither allow nor allow any political party, their affiliates, candidates, and their supporters to violate the prevailing peace and security in the State under any political pretext.
“Let me, therefore, enjoin all the political parties and candidates standing in the 2023 general elections to avoid any act or conduct that could instigate political tensions and ignite flames of election violence in the State or any part thereof.”
Wike drew the attention of all political parties and their candidates to the Executive Order 21, that has been signed into law.
He said the Order specifically prohibits the use of public-school buildings, structures for and premises for political rallies without prior permission from the Commissioner of Education.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the use of public school buildings, structures and premises for political rallies is lawful only when there is compliance with the following conditions: obtaining permission from the Commissioner of Education not less than the two weeks before the date of the rally; and paying non-refundable security fee of N5m.”
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Wike explained that the prohibitive order has been put in place as part of government’s responsibility to protect and secure public school infrastructure from damage or destruction.
He said further, that it will also prevent the disruption of effective learning activities in State schools as a result of political rallies.
“We have said it before that the law is no respecter of political parties or persons, irrespective of size, status or station.
“We, therefore, wish to reiterate our determination to bring the full weight of the law to bear on any political party or candidate who dares to break the rules by plotting, conniving, instigating or perpetrating any act or conduct that may trigger or contribute to triggering electoral violence and related incidents in the State during the campaigns and the general elections.”
Wike warned that any public school administrator who connives with political parties to violate the prohibition against the unlawful use of public school structures and premises for political rallies will be appropriately sanctioned.
“The Commissioner of Education and the Local Government Chairmen have strict instructions to enforce the Executive Order 21 prohibiting the use of public school structures and premises for political rallies.
“Furthermore, owners should refrain from allowing their business premises, hotels, cafeteria, relaxation lounges or private homes from being used for unlawful political gatherings and other criminal acts by party thugs and other criminal elements, including cultists, as we will bring down or seal up any of such buildings, structures or premises without further notice.”
The Rivers State governor commended the security agencies for their sacrifice and successful effort in securing the peace and safeguarding lives and property in the state.
Wike assured every resident that his administration would continue to provide requisite logistic support and encouragement to the security agencies to strengthen their capacity to operate effectively.
“We also enjoin members of the public to be vigilant and cooperate with the security agencies to deliver on their security duties to the state.”
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, in a State-wide broadcast on Friday at Government House, Port Harcourt.