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Rivers crisis: How Fubara developed thick skin against Wike, others

In a development that has caught many observers of the political intrigues in Rivers State by surprise, Governor Similanayi Fubara seems to have changed his…

In a development that has caught many observers of the political intrigues in Rivers State by surprise, Governor Similanayi Fubara seems to have changed his tactics in dealing with his estranged political godfather, Nyesom Wike, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). He has suddenly developed a thick skin against his perceived political detractors.

Few months ago, the governor was seen in the political circle as a weakling who couldn’t hurt a fly, or a man who didn’t know his left from his right. His simple, fragile and gentle look might have confused his estranged godfather into believing that Fubara was a man he could control at his beck and call, observers noted.

They said Wike’s overbearing influence on the governor before their fallout was because the FCT minister must have reasoned that having influenced his growth in public service from being an auditor to the accountant-general of the state and worked closely with him for eight years as governor, Fubara would not ruffle feathers with him.

It is believed that Wike nominated all the commissioners and key government functionaries of the Fubara administration and monitored the use of the state’s financial resources, as well as called the governor at will and dished out instructions. It is also believed in many quarters that the minister’s instructions were law and no one dared to challenge him. But following the crack in the duo’s political relationship, believed to be over the control of the state’s resources, Wike’s influence on the governor began to whittle down and there was an attempt to impeach him, which was stalled. Since then, the two politicians have maintained a cat-and-dog relationship despite the intervention of President Bola Tinubu.

What emboldened Gov Fubara

While many saw Fubara as taking a docile approach against the influence of the FCT minister, the realisation of the enormous powers he has as governor, coupled with the awakening he got from the fresh threat to impeach him, appeared to have spurred him to action. 

Similarly, the control of 27 out of 32 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) structure in the state, local government chairmen, as well as the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) by Wike may have awakened Fubara from his slumber.

Pundits also believe that the support and backing he receives from notable politicians within and outside the state would have also emboldened the governor, making him talk tough and develop a thick skin in recent times.

Those who have lent support to the governor include a former governor of the state, Peter Odili and his wife, Justice Mary Odili (retd); Dr Abiye Sekibo, former Minister of Transportation; Austin Opara, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives; Celestine Omehia, former governor of the state; Senator Lee Meeba, and Dr Azuta Mbata, a prominent politician in the state.

Other personalities outside the state supporting Fubara include the Ijaw National Congress (INC) and its youth wing, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC); an elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark; governors of South-South and South-East extractions, and notable traditional rulers in the state, such as the Amayanabo of Okochiri, Chief Ateke Tom and the Amayanabo of Opobo, Dandason Jaja. 

The governor’s political pressure group, “Simplified Fubara Group,” has also embarked on an advocacy campaign across the 23 local government areas of the state, garnering support for the governor and promoting his intention to bring the desired development across the state.

The Ijaw ethnic nationality seems to have rallied around the governor, who they see as their own. The recent visit of prominent leaders of the Ijaw ethnic group from Bayelsa State, led by a former governor, Seriake Dickson to Fubara, is considered a bold statement of support from the Ijaw.

Although Rivers State Government House press statements quoted Dickson as advising the governor to mend fences with Wike, sources informed our correspondent that the visitors encouraged Fubara to stand his ground and assert himself as the governor of Rivers State.

Daily Trust Saturday also gathered that the outcome of the PDP National Executive Committee’s (NEC) meeting also played into the hands of Fubara. Sources in the party’s hierarchy told our correspondent that while the Wike faction of the party initially celebrated their success in ensuring that Ambassador Umar Damagum continued in his role as the acting national chairman, they later realised that this only played into the hands of Fubara to assert himself.

“You know the 27 lawmakers of the PDP in Rivers who defected to the APC hinged their action on crisis within their party, but with the outcome of the NEC meeting, it is no longer possible for them to justify that because now, the party will insist that there is no crisis as the change of leadership that was expected to cause crisis was suspended tactically by the Atiku Abubakar faction and governors who are on the side of Fubara,” a source familiar with the situation explained.

A local leader of the party in Rivers corroborated this game plan, adding that “losing their seats would mean that Wike has lost the legislature and can no longer control Fubara and the Rivers treasury, which is very crucial to him as he would have loved to control not just the state but also the party at the national level. This is why Wike’s enemies at the national level rallied behind Fubara to break his chokehold on the PDP.”

The leader, who asked not to be named, said it was the realisation of this advantage that gave Fubara the impetus to declare the 27 pro-Wike lawmakers “nonexistent, and suddenly, a new loyal Speaker has emerged. 

“He visited the legislative quarters and issued an executive order relocating the assembly sitting venue. And immediately, a court issued an interim order restraining the entire pro-Wike lawmakers from parading themselves as members of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

“Also, the governor is not leaving anything to chance with the pro-Wike chairmen of local government areas. Because he is already planning their exit next month, he has cut off funds to some of them,” he added.

Daily Trust Saturday also gathered that the mass resignation of pro-Wike commissioners was engineered by Fubara through his recent actions and bold statements.

Sources informed our correspondent that at a State Executive Council meeting at the Government House on Wednesday, the governor made it clear to cabinet members that he was in charge and would henceforth take decisions.

Before the commencement of the weekly meeting, Governor Fubara had told the commissioners that they had two options: either to resign or stay and be loyal to the man in charge, one of the sources said.

Speaking on the development, an elder statesman in the state, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, said he had never seen anybody in the political history of the state that was as loyal as Fubara. He said that even when elders decided to challenge Wike’s chokehold on Fubara in court, the governor maintained an unconvincing position.

“But when a man wants to kill you, if he shoots you once and you survived, when he wants to shoot you a second time, you need to react.

“Now, Fubara is out to uproot the broken bones that have been buried. Rivers people want to see that Sacaba dance. Let the probe continue. By the time he is exposed to the world, I will see if Tinubu can still retain him,” he said.

Also, the executive director of the Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC-Nigeria), Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface, said Fubara was emboldened to challenge his so-called godfather and even threatening to expose their alleged financial fraud because he is tired of being on the begging side of the crisis when he cannot really figure out what his offence is.

Fyneface said the governor’s emboldened stance was because he had been pushed to the wall, and he is bouncing back with double force, using his executive powers as the sitting governor of the state.

The activist further said the current emboldened stance of the governor, not only fighting back but threatening to probe his predecessor, was a strategic move to achieve peace in the state. As he puts it, “War is diplomacy in a different way, and the fear of being investigated would make the FCT minister soften and call some of his boys who are making the state ungovernable to order, thus maintaining some level of peace and stability in Rivers State.”

Darlington Nwauju, a former spokesman of the APC in Rivers State, said the manifest and latent content of Fubara’s recent remarks only pointed to the fact that he has broken loose from the rope of godfatherism.

Another chieftain of the APC in Rivers, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, said Governor Fubara was doing the right thing.

“To me, Wike wasn’t wise in trying to frustrate the government of Fubara, knowing very well that all his alleged illegal financial dealings are well known to the governor. So, the governor needs to take some strategic measures not only to safeguard his government but also to expose to the world the challenges he is facing in executing projects,” he stated.

But the chairman of the Caretaker Committee of the APC in Rivers State, Tony Okocha, described the Governor Fubara administration as clueless and directionless.

“Every single day, and at every twist and turn, Fubara continues to lend vent to our description of a government that is rudderless, clueless and directionless, leading the hitherto respected state very fast into shameful oblivion and atrophy,” he said.

Also, one of the leading voices in Wike’s camp, Senator Olaka Nwogu, told Governor Fubara that his plot to probe the past administration is a mere witch hunt that would escalate the ongoing crisis.

The former senator and elder statesman, who represented Rivers Southeast in the National Assembly, said any attempt to initiate any probe at this stage of the crisis would be viewed as vendetta.

 

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