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Rivers State: No to state of emergency

Like a revolving door that opens a new chapter every day for an unending descent into the vortex of turbulence, the raging political crisis in…

Like a revolving door that opens a new chapter every day for an unending descent into the vortex of turbulence, the raging political crisis in Rivers State may have degenerated to a new level whereby some decisive actions by the governor Siminalayi Fubara to take effective charge of the situation, have elicited reactions comprising interpretations, insinuations and recommendations. One of these brainwaves is the advocacy for a declaration by President Bola Tinubu, of state of emergency in the state, coming as it were from elements in the All Progressives Congress (APC) including Tony Okocha, a self-styled Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of a faction of the Rivers State chapter of the party, currently the leading opposition party in the state.

However, wise counsel and good judgment should sway the Bola Tinubu administration from embarking on such booby-trapped venture, in the interest of its longer term political fortunes and the overall health of the nation. Much as the option may be attractive from the perspective of crass power mongering as may suit the hawks in the system, its play-out may elicit a most devastating turn out for the administration, and place it on a collision course with several strategic interests in the country.

Ordinarily, the administration has its hands full with a plethora of burning issues that provide enough headache for its drivers, including the looming threat of avoidable riots over severe food shortages and other privations. Hence the addition of managing a state of emergency in the economically strategic Rivers State should constitute a far-shot for the Federal government for now.

Apparently, the various calls for a state of emergency constitute sundry responses to the frequency and rapidity of twists and turns in the raging political storm in Rivers State, featuring the face-off between the former governor of the state Nyesom Wike, and the incumbent Siminalayi Fubara which has been further deepened by the proclivities of proxies of the former, and who are also calling the shots on his behalf. The latest episode ensued last week Monday June 17, 2024 when the tenure of the chairmen of local government councils lapsed, but they would not leave office, citing as excuse a controversial new law passed by a defected faction of the Rivers State House of Assembly (RSHA).

Hence crowds of irate youth visited and occupied the secretariats of the respective local government councils in order to prevent the former chairmen from staying in office beyond their tenures. In the course of this process, fights ensued resulting in several casualties across the state, including a police officer who died in the course of carrying out his duty. Following the development, the Police cordoned off all the 23 local government headquarters with the intention of safeguarding them from further exposure to turbulence.

Meanwhile, in an earlier development, the state governor Siminalayi Fubara had through a state wide broadcast, declared the chairmen as having ceased to be in office with the expiration of their tenures as elected officers, and replaced them with Caretaker Committees. This was just as he also directed the Caretaker Committees to conduct forensic audit of the tenures of the outgone chairmen. And as if anticipating a likely resistance to their start-up of business, the governor advised them to adopt alternative locations to commence their activities if necessary.

Juxtaposing the calls for a state of emergency with the course of developments in the running crisis which started in October 2023 with a failed, strange attempt to impeach the governor Siminalayi Fubara by then RSHA, throws back the history of the entire sordid drama as one which President Bola Tinubu is largely seen in the public domain, as literally complicit, even if for nothing else, for doing less than is needful. And the reasons are legion, just as they are clear and include the following two. First, the man at the centre of the political storm in Rivers State is none other than its immediate past governor Nyesom Wike who even as a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is presently serving in the enviable office as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The fact that APC President Bola Tinubu has routinely turned a blind eye to the meddlesome proclivities of Wike who uses the platform of his ministerial office to wreak havoc in the affairs of Rivers State as an agent provocateur, indicts the president as inexcusable as one of the problem factors in the scenario.

Second is the avowed stand of the leading lights of the APC (with the aid of Wike) to capture Rivers State in future elections – starting from 2027. In that context therefore the ongoing shenanigans may constitute the preliminary steps towards making the state ripe for takeover, through rendering it ungovernable by the Fubara led PDP administration.  This second scenario renders the political crisis as deliberately spawned just to provide political windfalls for vested interests.

Against the backdrop of these two premises, lies the question of whether the Tinubu political machinery has considered the fuller implications of their power-grab venture. For instance, the reality on ground now with respect to the political value of Nyesom Wike in Rivers State, is that his clout has plummeted so significantly that he is little beyond what in local parlance is called ‘bad market’.

This situation is the outcome of several revelations that filtered into the public domain featuring protests by allegedly short-changed associates of his. Also in tow are protests by public officers who suffered various privations with respect to their career circumstances. These scenarios may have rendered Wike ineligible as a credible arrowhead for any serious venture to take control of Rivers State from PDP to APC.

Yet the bigger elephant in the room is whether the Tinubu political machinery and the entire country can sustain traction with a destabilised Rivers State, given its strategic importance to the country.

The foregoing clearly demand a rethink, just in case President Bola Tinubu by default, also shares that brainwave of a state of emergency for Rivers State.


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