BusinessDay

Wike’s massive aides recruitment sets tongues wagging in Rivers

...Announces plans for 100,000 special assistants on politics after 50,000 aides which opponents call ‘polling henchmen’

Governor Nyesom Wike who has since boasted of ability to deliver entire rivers votes to any party of his choice has made his first moves which sound like bombs.

He had sued candidates of almost all political parties aiming to disqualify all of them from contesting against his handpicked candidate of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). They are all battling in the various courts in the state.

Now, he seems to release twin bombs. First, he has put a wedge in the ability and liberty of political parties to campaign in the state with rallies.

He has issued an order against rallies but the opposition political parties said the Order 21 is wicked.

The order:

The order says anybody wishing to use any primary school in the state must get written approval from the Ministry of Education, and pay a deposit or caution fee of N5m.

He said it is to curtail violence in the state. Wike 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 drew 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.

Governor 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.

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.”

Governor 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:

(a) obtaining permission from the Commissioner of Education not less than the two (2) weeks before the date of the rally; and

(b) paying a non-refundable security fee of N5m.”

Ferocious reactions: Come with your caskets

Reactions have come hard and harsh. The Senatorial Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Rivers South-East Zone, Oji Ngofa, blasted Wike and his supporters over the order.

Responding, Ngofa said, “If you are coming to stop our campaigns, come with your casket,” as the 2023 general elections come closer.”

The Senatorial Candidate made the statement while speaking at the Tonye Cole/Barikor APC Governorship campaign office inauguration in Tai LGA, Rivers State.

He added: “Everybody standing and seated here who understands the imperative of change knows that we want to bring about a new Rivers State.

“His (Gov Wike’s) backhand tactics to regulate other political parties from competing with the PDP will not work.

“The State Governor has no right to regulate campaigns and he cannot. The only institution or person that can regulate the use of public properties is the police. The moment the police commissioner approves, no PDP person will stop us from using public schools, nobody.

“I challenge them, in my Local Government Area, and we will meet on Saturday. If PDP has what it takes, they should stop us. It is an open challenge. If you are coming to stop us, come with your casket.

“If you are coming to stop us when we have police approval, please come with your casket. If you cannot come with your casket, then we can give you back to the police to do whatever they like with you.

“Enough of this impunity in this state! This state belongs to all of us, no one individual will claim ownership of this state more than the other.”

Fire for fire

The Chairman of Eleme LGA, Obarilomate Ollor, fired back and dared Ngofa to use any public school without Government approval.

He assured those coming with him on Saturday of visiting their forefathers earlier than imagined.

Abe plays ‘good boy’

Magnus Abe, now the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), who had worked closely with Wike over the years while his feud with his own party (APC) lasted, has indicated intention to comply with the dreaded law.

He said: “People have called me to say that the government passed a directive to say all those who want to use public schools to campaign should pay 5 million naira and people are threatening fire and brimstone”.

“The SDP will not fight anybody. I will rather say that I have advised Distinguished Senator Wilson Ake to reach out to the Commissioner for Education and discuss with him how we can make the SDP campaign peaceful and easy where we need to use public facilities without attacking anybody, without fighting anybody”.

Lawyer’s view

A legal practitioner and APC chieftain, Young Arney, has described Order 21 as draconian.

He said: :”Whereas Wike’s said Executive Order is highly draconian or at least undemocratic, it should be noted that it is made with highly mischievous intent. And that intent is to use the executive order to instigate the Police (I don’t know if the Police should be called Wike Police, PDP Police or Nigeria Police) and the Rivers State Judiciary against APC members which could result in the indiscriminate arrest and arraignment without bail, etc. of APC members.

“The advice is that APC should gird her loins and establish strong links with the Nigeria Police high command and the Judiciary particularly, the Federal High Court in PH, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

“A mere effort by APC through multitude of persons might not be sufficient to repel the threat implicit in the executive order.”

Read also: Stop sending people to beg me, Wike tells PDP

Wike’s 100,000 election Ninjas coming

Wike’s second bomb seems to be the announcement of appointment of over 100,000 aides for the elections. He called them special assistants, advisers in polling units and ward advisers.

The governor, in a statement signed by his Special Assistant on Media, Kelvin Ebiri in the week said the advisers will play a pivotal role in the administration.

“In addition, Governor Wike has also appointed 319 Ward Liaison Officers and 40 Local Government Area Liaison Officers. The appointments are with immediate effect.”

This has set off alarm.

The governorship candidate of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Leyii Kwanee, said their attention has been drawn to the media interview granted by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, today where he told the panel of Television Journalists that he would increase the appointment of Special Advisers, Special Assistants and Liaison Officers to a whopping 100,000 people.

Speaking at the Government House, Port Harcourt, the Governor was reacting to a question on his recent decision to appoint an 14,000 persons as Political Advisers, 319 Ward Liaison Officers, 40 Local Government Area Liaison Officers, a subsequent appointment of 28,000 Special Assistants and within 24 hours increasing the number to 50,000 for over 6000 polling units in the State.

With the continued escalation of the figures, we do not know what the final numbers would be with the increase on a six hourly basis!

We submit that a Government has the power to make appointments. However, were same is made without disclosing the identities of the so- called Governor’s Special Assistants, Special Advisers and Liaison Officers at the Wards and Local Government Areas levels, they would raise eyebrows and call for concern among the citizens of the State.

Preliminary investigations reveal that this act of the out-going Governor of Rivers State, is a support strategy to the newly approved Executive Order 21 – an Order that now serves as a tool to monopolize the physical political space and exclude opposition parties from participation in the traditional medium where political parties attract votes through campaigns designed to sell their programmes and policies to the Voters. To us as a political party that has submitted her candidates by law to the decision of the Rivers electorate at the next general elections in 2023, these appointments also constitute an advanced vote-buying technique.

We understand that these acts are borne out of fear, desperation and unwillingness of the PDP to compete with other political parties at the 2023 general elections, haven identified that it is, as a party, totally disconnected from the voters and well-meaning stakeholders in the State. But proceeding in the manner Wike has done without consideration of its consequences is most deplorable and an uncharitable demonstration of leadership to the generality of Rivers people.

We therefore appeal to the good people of Rivers State to join our movement and use the 2023 general elections in the State to vote out these two brotherly formed political party arrangement of the PDP and APC in the State. The Rivers electorate should be courageous enough to take their destinies in their own hands by voting to replace the APC and PDP with the candidates of the Zenith Labour Party who are men and women full of character and capacity to run a people-oriented Government of Rivers State. Together we can.

APC will not accept this – Darlington Nwauju

Reacting, the All Progressives Congress in Rivers State says it views the moves to engage over 100,000 polling unit advisers by the Governor of Rivers State as a confirmation of the rate of joblessness in the state as documented by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). This to our mind is an indictment on the outgoing administration.

One of the questions begging answers for this knee-jerk politically-motivated decision is – Will government fund these bogus appointments? Why is this exercise not done with recourse to Section 196 sub 4 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which covers the appointment of Special advisers? Where in the “missing” budget for 2022; are their stipends or salaries captured?

This heavy deployment of polling unit advisers is a clear danger signal to the violent disposition of the Governor and an attempt at contravening the Electoral Act.

APC further says this confirms the fact that the government only has the political will to make decisions for selfish political reasons and not in the interest of the state or the suffering masses who have endured seven long years of reactionary and vindictive governance!

“We call on the people of Rivers State to hold the state government to convert this political recruitment exercise into befitting Pensionable Employments through the State Civil Service Commission, rather than recruiting 100,000 innocent youths as mere seasonal political jobbers!”

They may be footsoldiers – Action Alliance spokesman, Beke Anyalewechi

Having made the persons Rivers State Government officials, Gov Nyesom Wike would automatically direct that the state pays their salaries and other entitlements as long as they last in that position. But what is vague is who they are and how they were selected; whether there was a selection process, or just one of those his regular arbitrary decisions.

For me, until the governor comes public with the identities of those “persons”; how the processes that aggregated their choices were supervised; what their actual functions would be, I shall continue to insist that he embarked on a PR stunt.

Even though the Nigerian Constitution (as amended) makes provision for the appointment of Special Advisers by either a President or Governor, and doesn’t peg the number, commonsense would ordinarily conclude that what the Rivers State Governor had said is an aberration. If he wanted to set a record for the “Guinness Book of Records”, it should be in sustainable, productive and competitive activity.

We all listened or read the Rivers State 2022 budget, and so are acquainted with its contents. But let’s not forget that Governor Nyesom Wike is a man who sees budgeting and its appurtenances as mere fiscal rituals not worth an ounce of respect. By his precedence, I’d be shocked if he turned to budgetary demands to tailor his actions. The open saying is that the use of the left hand is not learnt in old age.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can only make statutory pronouncements while those statutory, serial outlaws thread their usual paths.

This is simply the earliest signal that the ruling party in Rivers State has begun to oil is war paraphernalia for the 2023 General Elections are all over the state. That’s why my earlier position was for the identities of those “persons” said to have been “appointed”, or would yet be “appointed” the so-called SAs and PAs be made public. They might just be pseudos for election militia determined to be protected by the state, and so their identities would remain shrouded in secrecy. I’d suggest that Gov. Wike allows free democratic space and electioneering, and not choke it with his over-bearing silhouette in the political space.

Wike is free to appoint – Chris Finebone

It is important to mention that State government puts it’s actions through the necessary legal crucibles to ensure it doesn’t progress in error. What that means is that government knows the law allows the governor who is the symbol of govt to employ such Special Advisers (PAs) and Personal Assistants (PAs) and they are to be remunerated by govt. I do not know of any ceilings placed on the number.

Their appointments obviously are covered by law as they are not political operatives but Advisers and Assistants to the State Chief Executive.

If their pay is not covered in the budget, one way or another, I don’t think they will be appointed in the first place.

Obviously, the sweeping statement attributed to the INEC Chairman (if exactly true), has the task of determining what constitutes ‘Power of Incumbency.’ How the appointments by the governor contravened whatever that omnibus and convoluted power of incumbency means is left to be seen.

The opposition shouldn’t dissipate whatever is left of their ragtag energy chasing shadows. They should be able to decipher politics from governance.

Oby Ndukwe – Analyst

Definitely, the appointees will be paid with Government funds. They were appointed by the Governor and not even INEC. So, it’s obvious they will be paid by the Governor. Don’t forget that Governors are entitled to Security vote. The Governor may use part of it to pay them.

They are not employed but appointed, so, they are not Civil Servants. This is further confirmation that the Due Process office is not functional.

No one has seen the Budget. Except it will be covered under Appropriation before they commence work

INEC seems to be a toothless bulldog. Recall that Mike Igini (Resident Electoral officer in Akwa Ibom) made so much noise about the primary elections of APC in Akwa Ibom State, especially concerning the eligibility of Godswill Akpabio to run for Senate. But the FHC overruled them.

It is obvious INEC dwells on selective justice. Nobody should be deceived by their antics.

I think that rather than the opposition’s crying foul, they should appoint their unit and ward monitors, just like what the Governor has done. It’s either they match him word for word and action for action, or they watch him outplay them again.