The political drama series from Rivers, By Kazeem Akintunde

NLNG, Professor Amadi and neonatal death in Nigeria
Kazeem Akintunde

The Christmas Season is finally here. It is a period to make merry and rejoice. It is also a time to reflect on the outgoing year; look back at what was achieved, the lessons learnt, missed opportunities, and to also plan for the coming year.

Most Nigerians are simply happy that they survived the year due to the harsh economic policies being implemented by the current administration which has made life more difficult. With that, however, Nigerians are faced with yet another political drama series acted and produced by the elite politicians from the Garden City.

Even though the plot forms a serious matter that should elicit tears from right-thinking Nigerians, I intend to treat the issue with humour and in view of the Christmas season that is upon us. Apart from that, nobody should develop high blood pressure over Nigeria and the ‘peculiar mess’ brought upon us by our politicians. And I mean that from my heart to especially my readers.

Wike and Fubara are yet to inform Nigerians what actually led to this theatrics between godfather and his godson. Expectedly, at the heart of it would be the control of the treasury of Rivers state, one of the wealthiest states in the country with its crude oil revenue.

Episode One

It all started few weeks back, when majority members of the Rivers State House of Assembly started contemplating serving their Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, ‘breakfast’ after just a few months in office, on the allegation that he was hell-bent on disrupting the political structure upon which he rode to power in May.

To thwart that impeachment plan, some members of the Assembly loyal to the Governor, and assisted by political thugs, set the State Assembly building on fire. The aim was to prevent those planning the impeachment move from making use of the hollow chamber of the House for their dastardly act. Till date, nobody has been arrested or charged to court for the arson.

When Fubara heard that the Assembly was on fire, he embarked on an on-the-spot assessment, only to be welcomed with tear-gas and water cannon. Fubara fingered a senior police officer, whom he claimed was loyal to his godfather and predecessor in office, Nysom Wike.

Wike, now Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, in his defence, claimed that Fubara was bent on making him irrelevant in Rivers State politics. “This”, he fumed from Abuja, “is someone that I was instrumental in his becoming the Governor of the state, I used my money and structure to put him in office, yet he is bent on destroying the same political structure that put him in office”.

In a bid to nip the lingering problem in the bud, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu invited all the gladiators to Abuja, and they soon worked out a political solution to the crisis with a handshake. End.

Episode Two.

To many political watchers, the peace brokered by Tinubu could be regarded as that of the graveyard, as many knew that it would not last. Both parties were not likely to sheathe their swords as the stakes were too high and too good to let go. Wike picked Fubara as his successor believing that he would be able to control him. He also appointed many of those working with Fubara in the State Executive Council and bought forms for majority of the lawmakers.

It is therefore not surprising that 27 out of 32 lawmakers in the State Assembly are fiercely loyal to Wike. Soon enough, the peace brokered in Abuja collapsed as both parties returned to their drawing boards to plan how to outdo the other.

There were rumours that Fubara had a secret plan to defect to the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) without the consent and approval of his godfather, Wike. The aim was to ensure that Wike won’t be in a position to continue to lord it over Fubara as there would be a presidential shield for the baby-face Governor.

Wike and his group got wind of the plan, and in a bid to break the sails from Fabura’s wings, 27 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly announced their defection to the ruling APC. In a House made up of 32 members, Fubara clearly has little or no hold on the lawmakers. He has to act fast if he is to retain his seat as the Governor of the state.

Fubara got the remaining five members loyal to him to declare the seats of their colleagues vacant and urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct fresh election to fill the vacant positions.

Again, armed with an integrity text report conducted on the partially burnt Assembly Complex which found it not good for human habitation, the Governor ordered its immediate demolition. Last week Wednesday at 7a.m. the multi-billion complex was reduced to rubble.

Fubara had, however, allocated a section in the Government House to serve as chamber for the lawmakers loyal to him to hold their proceedings. While the demolition was being carried out, Fubara appeared before five members of the House of Assembly to present the 2024 Appropriation Bill for consideration.

It was his lucky day, as he got immediate approval from the lawmakers, who compressed the first reading, second reading, committee stage and defence of the budget by various Ministries and parastatals in the state to a single sitting. Fubara got his budget passed within one hour. Twenty-four hour later, Fubara signed the budget into law. Nigeria should apply for a Guinness World Record in legislative recklessness!

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The same day that the drama of the absurd was taking place in Rivers State, Fubara also took time out to remember his boss, Wike, who was celebrating his 56th birthday. In a full-page advert in some national dailies, Fubara described Wike as his ‘Oga’. I quote: “I congratulate my Oga, His Excellency, Chief Nysom Wike, CON, GSSRS, life Bencher, the immediate past governor of Rivers State and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, on his 56th birthday, today, December 13, 2023”.

Few hours after the show of shame by the legislative arm, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, Professor Zacheus Adangor resigned from the cabinet citing personal reasons. He was nominated into the cabinet like many others by Wike. As if on cue, eight other Commissioners in Fubara’s cabinet loyal to Wike also threw in the towel, just as the Governor also directed all of Wike’s appointees in his cabinet to resign or be dismissed. The war is in full swing. End.

For now, Wike has elected to keep quiet. His boys have however resumed their legislative functions by holding proceedings far from the government house, indicating that the political drama series in Rivers state is not about to end.

If politicians, with their unbridled ambition, do not kill this democracy, nothing would. It is sad that the personal ambition of select individuals can lead them to committing atrocities without batting an eyelid or regard for the rule of law. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has been desecrated and raped by these politicians due to their ego and personal ambitions.

It is on record that the Rivers State Assembly was torched by members of the House who are determined in their quest to stop their colleagues from sitting in order to thwart any impeachment move against the Governor. Nobody has been arrested or jailed for this. Again, the entire complex that cost tax payers several Billions of Naira to build had to be pulled down due to the damage to it, all in a bid to prevent the lawmakers from sitting to contemplate any impeachment process against Fubara.

How is it okay for only five members out of 32 to have sat and passed the budget of an entire state for 2024 after few minutes of deliberations? And without consideration for due process, Governor Fubara also went ahead to sign the budget into law. Total recklessness!

A similar scenario played out in Ibadan, Oyo State, when in December, 2005, 18 out of 32 members in the Oyo State House of Assembly held a meeting at D’Rovans Hotels, where they issued a notice of allegation of misconduct against the then Governor of Oyo State, Senator Rashidi Ladoja and commenced impeachment proceedings against him. The 18 lawmakers succeeded in impeaching Ladoja, who headed to Court, where the impeachment was eventually upturned.

The matter travelled from the High court to the Supreme Court where a seven-member panel of the apex court in December, 2006, invalidated the impeachment and returned Ladoja to his seat on the account that the lawmakers breached the provisions of Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution.

The Supreme Court specifically faulted the impeachment process against Ladoja, as it pointed out that the 18 lawmakers that impeached him unconstitutionally met in a hotel and not the chambers of the House of Assembly to issue notice, which required assent of two-third of total members of the House of Assembly. The apex court also noted that the lawmakers did not even serve the other 14 members of the House.

The ongoing drama in Rivers State will most likely end in the court of law, but not until the dramatis personae entertain Nigerians to the fullest.

Nigerians should get ready to watch more episodes of the unfolding drama series in the coming weeks. As for me, I am already set with my popcorn and zobo drinks.

Wike and Fubara are yet to inform Nigerians what actually led to this theatrics between godfather and his godson. Expectedly, at the heart of it would be the control of the treasury of Rivers state, one of the wealthiest states in the country with its crude oil revenue.

In spite of that, majority of the people of the state are unemployed. In actual fact, the figure from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that Imo State has the highest rate of unemployment in the country, with 48.7 per cent, followed by Akwa-Ibom State and Rivers State with 45.2 per cent and 43.7 per cent respectively. But Wike and his godson are locked in a political battle of their lives for the control of the state without a whimper about the welfare of the people.

Karma is indeed, a b***h, as Wike did same to his former boss and predecessor, Rotimi Amaechi, who he ran out of Rivers State. Whether Fubara would also succeed in forcing Wike out of Rivers politics remains to be seen, but recent developments suggest that the ongoing political battle for the soul of Rivers is unlikely to abate any time soon.

Nigerians should get ready to watch more episodes of the unfolding drama series in the coming weeks. As for me, I am already set with my popcorn and zobo drinks. This is not the democracy many Nigerians died for to enthrone in this country.

See you next week.

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