By Samuel Oyadongha, Yenagoa
The ongoing feud between Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State and his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike, has left many perplexed.
The ownership of oil fields/oil wells in Soku, Kalabari, Rivers and Oluasiri, Nembe in Bayelsa, appears to be the bone of contention.
Interestingly, the dispute over the oil fields/oil wells predates the administration of Wike and Dickson.
Unfortunately, they have thrown decency to the dogs by washing their dirty linens in the public.
When Bayelsa was carved out of the old Rivers State by the late Gen Sani Abacha, Soku oil fields became a source of worry to the two states as a result of the revenue that comes from the area.
Political and traditional leaders from outside and within the two states intervened but it all amounted to nothing as both parties claimed ownership.
Alamiyeseigha, Jonathan, Odili
The administrations of former governors Diepreye Alamiyeseigha, Goodluck Jonathan, Timipre Sylva and now Dickson spent many years battling Rivers State over the issue.
It was also the same situation in Rivers where Peter Odili, Rotimi Amaechi, and Nyesom Wike insisted the oil fields belong to their state.
However, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on December 15, 2019, ordered the transfer of Soku oil field from Bayelsa to Rivers State.
Delivering the judgement in a suit instituted by Rivers State government, Justice Inyang Ekwo, ordered the National Boundary Commission, NBC, to rectify the error in its 11th edition of Administrative Map, which designated San Bartholomew River as the boundary between the two states, instead of River Santa Barbara.
The error was said to have surfaced in the 11th edition of the Administrative Map produce by NBC in 2002. And the NBC admitted its error and promised to rectify it in the 12th edition of the Administrative Map.
The failure of NBC to do so made Rivers State to file a suit against the Attorney General of Bayelsa State and the Attorney General of the Federation in the Supreme Court in 2009.
The Supreme Court ruled in favour of Rivers State in 2012. But in August 2019, the mistake was yet to be corrected. Again, Rivers State government went to the Federal High Court in Abuja seeking the order of mandamus compelling NBC to correct its error.
Consequently, during a media chat in Yenagoa, Dickson accused Wike of inciting ethnic disharmony in Ijawland in pursuit of a supremacist agenda.
The latter had threatened to sanction the Amanyanabo of Kalabari, an Ijaw monarch, for hosting Dickson without his permission.
Dickson, who said Wike does not deserve to be extended any courtesies due to his actions, alleged that he was using the disputed oil wells to create disunity and cover-up “deliberate underdevelopment” of Ijaw communities in Rivers by pretending to be their champion.
According to him, Wike’s comments on the oil wells were reckless, childish and uncivilised, adding that there was an evil intention to attack age-long bonds between the two states.
Dickson declared that Wike’s vituperations towards him and Bayelsa people would no longer be condoned after years of restraint.
He dismissed Wike’s claim that Bayelsa was laying claim to Soku, explaining that while Soku is a Kalabari (Ijaw) community in Rivers, the disputed oil wells are located in Oluasiri, Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa.
Dickson said he championed a pan-Ijaw agenda, which has culminated in the unity of the Ijaw across six states of the Niger Delta region. He added that Wike considers the unity a threat.
Also, Dickson accused Wike of engineering an expansionist agenda in all the neighbouring states of Imo, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa.
Dickson condemned what he called Wike’s needless antagonism towards him and Bayelsans over the years.
He said it remained an issue of grave concern to Bayelsans and indeed the Rivers people that their governor cannot appreciate the grave implications of his actions.
He also condemned the Supreme Court decision on the issue that directed the NBC to carry out a fresh delineation and demarcation in the affected area.
Dickson, however, reminded Wike of how the Rivers delegation, led by then-Deputy Governor, Tele Ikuru, pulled out of the peace talks in 2013.
He called on the Ijaw in Rivers not to fall for what he described as Wike’s antics, adding that there is no intention to annex any part of Kalabari land.
Dickson said: “The good people of Rivers State should not be preys in the hands of Wike who wants to promote disunity and hatred in Ijawland because he is promoting ethnic and supremacist political agenda in the state.”
On Wike’s allegation that he visited the Amanyanabo of Kalabari without following protocol, Dickson explained that he visited the foremost traditional ruler in April to condole with the people on the killing of Ijaw sons and daughters during the gubernatorial election.
Dickson noted that he made efforts to contact Wike without success and directed his Chief of Staff and the Aide de Camp (ADC) to speak to their counterparts in Rivers who promised to inform his boss of the impending trip, which they did.
He stressed that any governor of Bayelsa and leader from the Ijaw nation did not require permission to visit Ijaw traditional rulers, leaders and elders in Port Harcourt or any part of Rivers State for any purpose whatsoever.
The governor said he planned to lead other Ijaw leaders to participate in any activity that may be put in place to celebrate the foremost monarch, the Amanyanabo of Kalabari, who would be 90 next month.
He said while it is normal to extend courtesies, such conditions cannot apply in an abnormal environment encouraged by Wike.
He said: “The governor of our neighbouring state, Wike of Rivers State, who is used to making careless and childish remarks from time to time, displayed his habit a few days ago.
“This is the first time I will formally respond to Wike’s childishness in this formal way. I have always ignored with pain and regret all the previous vituperations and his attempt to belittle and intimidate this state and our leadership.
“His unfriendliness towards this state is not hidden. It is not just about me. It is about our state and our people. He has done that a couple of times but I decided not to respond for several reasons.
“Also, my involvement in the affairs of the Niger Delta and my commitment to the wellbeing of our people made me to always shy away from having open confrontations with a brother governor, particularly of a state that is so closely related to our state.
“Many of our people and leaders live in Port Harcourt. I have been very reluctant since he started his hostility towards us.
“I have been very reluctant even to respond publicly, out of respect for our historical ties, respect for the good people of Rivers State, whom he is misrepresenting. Wike can attack Bayelsa because he doesn’t have his indigenous Ikwerre people in Bayelsa state.
“But the Governor of Bayelsa has indigenous Ijaw who are major stakeholders in Rivers State. As a result of these, for the past four to five years, since he started his childish and unguarded behaviour, I have been very reserved in responding.
“But I have to formally do so and Governor Wike knows that I am not someone who shies away from issues. Out of respect for our people in Rivers, I had held back, but this time, no, he has gone too far.
“I want to use this opportunity to condemn the manner he threatens and shows disrespect to our leaders in that state and I want to particularly respond to what he said concerning my visit to our revered leader and father, the Amanyanabo of Kalabari, who will be 90 years next year.
“I want to make it clear as governor of this state that we don’t need Governor Wike’s permission to visit our traditional rulers and elders in Port Harcourt or any part of Rivers State.
“Since he doesn’t understand courtesy and is not prepared to show courtesy, that courtesy will not be extended to him. Bayelsa is not an annex of Rivers State that he can intimidate at will.
“If we are quiet, it is because we are strategic, especially with me as the oldest governor even in the Southsouth, but this nonsense from Wike must stop.’’
However Wike’s anger, according to analysts, goes beyond the disputed oil fields fields/oil wells.
They cited what they described as Dickson’s shoddy handling of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, primary allegedly designed to ensure the emergence of his anointed candidate as against that of other stakeholders, a development that resulted in the party being defeated at the governorship election in Bayelsa.
Dickson is yet to respond to claims by Wike that he deliberately traded Bayelsa to the All Progressive Congress (APC) for a soft landing.