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May 23, 2024

Fubara, Wike feud: Why Jonathan’s antidote is a big no-no, by Ikechukwu Amaechi

Fubara, Wike feud: Why Jonathan’s antidote is a big no-no, by Ikechukwu Amaechi

AS the political crisis engulfing Rivers State festers, many leaders have proffered solutions. Former President Goodluck Jonathan joined the bandwagon on Monday, May 20, at the flag-off of the multi-billion naira Trans-Kalabari Road project where he warned that the impasse, if unchecked, has the potential of destabilising not only the Niger Delta, but the entire country.

He, therefore, called on the warring parties – Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, and his predecessor, who is also the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, to sheathe their swords, put the past behind them and work together in the interest of the long-suffering people of Rivers.

Of course, Jonathan, a man of peace, means well, but he is shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. He is coming rather late to the reconciliation party. Not only that, asking Wike and Fubara to cease fire so that the crisis will not snowball into a bigger regional and national challenge with deleterious consequences is too cosmetic a solution.

Jonathan’s antidote evokes memory of the drama at a Federal Executive Council meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja in mid-February where Vice President Kashim Shettima in his own attempt at reconciling the putative Rivers political godfather and his estranged godson requested Fubara to greet Wike, and he complied with both shaking hands firmly. Impressionistic Nigerians applauded but it was mere theatrics – symbolism without substance.

The issues in Rivers political crisis are very fundamental and deep-rooted and cannot be addressed by such posturing choreographed to win political points for optics.

Though neither Fubara nor Wike is coming clean, at least publicly, on the real issues that put their hitherto robust relationship asunder, discerning political observers know it has to do with who makes the authoritative allocation of the State’s abundant resources. The reason why outgoing governors ensure that their stooges are installed willy-nilly as successors is to maintain control of the resources and political structure of their beleaguered states. The idea is not to promote common good. It is base and self-serving.

Wike has been unequivocal in his claim that he not only made Fubara governor but bought nomination forms for everyone who contested election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Speaking at a New Year luncheon in his Rumueprikom, Obio/Akpor country home, on Sunday, January 7, 2024, he boasted: “I paid for the nomination forms of everyone who contested the PDP ticket for governor, House of Assembly, and National Assembly seats. Let one person raise his hand and say he bought forms … If I sought an Ikwerre governor, nobody could have stopped me.”

Of course, in a country where there is no difference between public and personal purse and accountability is zilch. 

He was on the cusp of replicating Bola Tinubu’s stranglehold on Lagos State politics and its resources in the last 24 years. Seeing Rivers State as a fiefdom he had conquered for himself, his ultimate political playfield where he alone will decide who gets what, how and when, and being a man who brooks no opposition no matter how benign, he saw Fubara’s attempt to act not only as the de jure but also de facto governor as impudent.

Fubara was supposed to be a figurehead, a leader in name only, without actual power. His attempt to claw back some of the powers of his office enraged Wike and precipitated the crisis in the State and Wike’s response, predictably, was an attempt to use the spineless lawmakers to impeach him. The plot failed leading to the factionalisation and destruction of the Assembly complex.

For Wike, who has publicly apologised for the “mistake”of making Fubara governor and who has vowed to correct the mistake, nothing short of the political annihilation of the impudent governor will assuage his bruised ego. Is that what Jonathan wants?

The former president seems to have forgotten that Fubara, at a meeting called by President Tinubu at Aso Rock, signed a peace deal with Wike to end the contrived imbroglio.

Though many Nigerians saw the eight-point resolution, which included Fubara and his team withdrawing all court cases; recognition of the Martin Amaewhule leadership of the House of Assembly alongside the 27 members who resigned from the PDP; representation of the already passed budget; resubmission to the House for approval names of all commissioners in the State Executive Council who resigned their appointments, etc., as tantamount to the governor committing political suicide, he kept to the terms of the agreement.

When those who knew what was at stake ridiculed his political naivety, Fubara admonished all to steer clear, insisting that he was willing to pay any price, including committing political hara-kiri by vacating office, for peace to reign in the state. 

“No sacrifice will be too big for me to pay for the success of this administration, and the reason is very simple… If leaving this position is what is needed to bring more peace to the state, I can even tell them to come and take it. It is not about me. Definitely, I will go but Rivers State will still remain,” he said.

But rather than reciprocating the governor’s peace overtures, Wike, sensing weakness and baying for the governor’s political blood, continued stoking the embers of discord. The Amawhule-led faction whose members ceased being lawmakers by virtue of their defection from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress, APC, went back to the trenches, frustrating every move of the government.

Provocatively, and ostensibly at the instigation of Wike, the “lawmakers” passed the Local Government Law No. 2 of 2024, which elongated the tenure of the state’s local government chairmen, knowing full well that the law contravenes not only the 1999 Constitution but also Section 9(1) of Rivers State Local Government Law No. 5 of 2018 which fixed a three-year tenure for local government chairmen and councilors.

So, it is naïve for Jonathan, who knows Wike well, being also in his crosshairs, to prescribe a therapy that will only aggravate the ailment. He knows that Nyesom Wike is a power absolutist who takes no prisoners. For him, politics is a zero-sum game where the winner takes all. He does not subscribe to the win-win philosophy.

Jonathan’s solution amounts to appeasement. Wike is an implacable bully and pandering to the whims and caprices of a bully is a dangerous gambit. The best option is confrontation and the only way Rivers State and its people will know peace is to confront and possibly defeat the tendencies Wike brings to the political table, and not by massaging his elephantine ego. Peace is never achieved by submitting to a bully.

For peace to reign in Rivers, Fubara must win this battle, and decisively so. That was what happened in Anambra State when Chris Ngige, as governor, took on his political godfather, Chris Ubah, who rigged him to power and lay exclusive claim to the state treasury. Ngige won and Anambra survived and the state is better for it till date. That is what needs to happen in Rivers.

Jonathan knows that the interests of Fubara and Wike cannot align right now. If they do, Rivers people will bear the brunt because Wike’s interest in the battle is self-serving and cannot promote common good.

Lest, I am misconstrued, this is not a validation of Fubara. Far from it. But truth be told, his intention is nobler than that of his traducers. It may well be a survival strategy but he is perspicacious enough to know that his political redemption lies in aligning with the people and taking actions that will promote public good. If he wins, Rivers people win. That is political sagacity.

But beyond Rivers, the fascistic tendencies of Nigerian politicians must be checkmated if the country’s much abused democracy is to have any fair chance of surviving. No democracy thrives where one man or a clique arrogate to themselves the power to determine the political height attained by others. That is a budding autocracy. Unless and until this democracy is weaned of these supremacist inclinations, it is headed for disaster. It is gratifying that so far, no other wannabe godfather has been able to successfully replicate Tinubu’s Lagos exploits.

Rivers people have a duty not only to themselves but the entire country to ensure that Wike does succeed. That is the solution that works, not Jonathan’s. 

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