REVEALED: How Fubara fell out with Wike

16th December 2023

  • Dirisu Yakubu, Godfrey George and Dennis Naku

Ex-gov imposed commissioners, advisers, others on successor

Federal lawmakers protest, ask Tinubu to intervene, why N’Assembly can’t act yet – Reps spokesman

The list of commissioners, special advisers and other key aides as well as their portfolios was handed over to the Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, by his predecessor, Nyesom Wike, Saturday PUNCH gathered.

A close aide of the governor, who disclosed this exclusively to Saturday PUNCH, said Fubara had no input into the appointments as his predecessor was solely responsible for their selection and appointment.

The source said the resignation of some of the commissioners was a confirmation that they were not the governor’s choices, but were rather imposed by Wike, who installed Fubara as his successor.

The aide stated, “Yes, the resignation of the commissioners has shown that they were not appointed by the governor. They were never his nominees. The list of the commissioners and advisers was handed over to the governor by the former governor with instructions on portfolios and offices to occupy. Even security agents were handed over to the governor with clear instructions on where to post them.

“Is there a way the governor can appoint commissioners, advisers and others and they will be resigning this way? It is not possible. Don’t forget that we are just about seven months in office. Commissioners appointed by the governor won’t leave.”

Responding to the claim by the FCT minister that the governor and all elected officials in Rivers State did not buy nomination forms from their pockets, the source said, “Yes, the former governor was correct to say he bought the forms for everyone. But pray, with which money? You know the salary of a governor and you know the cost of nomination and expression of interest forms for the Peoples Democratic Party.

“Let those who want to go leave and the governor will assemble members of his team, and not moles planted to spy on the administration.”

More commissioners resign

The gale of resignation from the Rivers State Executive Council continued on Friday with three more commissioners joining the fray.

They are the commissioners for Transport, Dr Jacobson Nbina; Housing, Dr Gift Worlu; and Environment, Austen Ben-Chioma.

Their resignations were contained in separate letters cited by one of our correspondents and addressed to the governor through the Secretary to the State Government.

Both Nbina and Austen-Ben Chioma were also commissioners under Wike.

This brings to nine the commissioners who have so far resigned their appointments.

Nbina, who confirmed his resignation to Saturday PUNCH on Friday via the telephone said, “Yes, I resigned yesterday (Thursday).”

Asked the reason for his action, he stated, “The reason is personal to me and my family commitments. I don’t have any issue with the governor. It is very personal.”

There were reports that their action was preparing the ground for them to officially defect to the APC, though this had yet to be confirmed.

Earlier, Prof Zacchaeus Adangor, SAN (Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice); Dr Des George-Kelly ((Works); Emeka Woke (Special Duties); Mrs Inime Aguma (Social Welfare and Rehabilitation); Isaac Kamalu (Finance); and Prof Chinedu Mmom (Education), had resigned from Fubara’s cabinet

Mmom, Adangor, Aguma, George-Kelly, Nbina and Kamalu all served as commissioners under the immediate past administration of Wike and before being reappointed by Fubara.

On his part, Emeka Woke, who also resigned from Fubara’s cabinet as special duties commissioner, was Wike’s chief of staff for eight years.

Speaking to our correspondent on Wednesday, the Caretaker Committee Chairman of the APC in Rivers State, Chief Tony Okocha, said a formal launch of the new APC in the state was scheduled for this weekend, adding, “You will see the tsunami that will happen that day.”

Assembly demolition continues

Meanwhile, the demolition of the state House of Assembly complex continued on Friday with the hallowed chambers completely pulled down.

One of our correspondents, who visited the complex around 10am, reported that there were four bulldozers inside the complex pulling down other adjoining buildings.

The Commissioner for Information and Communications, Joe Johnson, had told journalists that the decision of the state government to demolish the complex built during the administration of Dr Peter Odili was because, after the visit of the governor to assess the damage caused by the October 29, 2023 explosion, he contacted a firm that reported that the building had integrity issues and was unfit for legislative business.

“So, the government will rebuild the complex. But for the meantime, the state has provided a place for the lawmakers to be sitting pending when the building is completed,” Johnson had stated.

A team of policemen in a patrol van was stationed at the Assembly entrance, while both ends of the Moscow Road leading into the complex had security blockades though human and vehicular restrictions had been relaxed.

‘Why NASS can’t intervene’

The House of Representatives has given reasons why it will not take up the functions of the Rivers State House of Assembly, which is currently embroiled in a crisis owing to the feud between Fubara and Wike.

Fubara, the political godson of the Federal Capital Territory minister, has literally parted ways with the former governor in what has been described as the battle for the soul of the oil-rich state.

Earlier in the week, 27 lawmakers believed to be loyalists of Wike defected to the All Progressives Congress, and Fubara, who appears ready to damn the consequences, wasted no time in demolishing the state House of Assembly complex, a move seen as a masterstroke to nullify whatever decisions the lawmakers are likely to take against him.

Things have since moved very fast with a couple of top government functionaries resigning their positions in a replay of the Godwin Obaseki/Adams Oshiomhole feud a few years ago.

The tension in Rivers State has led to suggestions of possible intervention by the National Assembly to restore order by taking over the role of the state lawmakers until the return of normalcy in line with the provision of Section 11 (4) and (5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Subsection (4) provides, “At any time when any House of Assembly of a state is unable to perform its functions because of the situation prevailing in that state, the National Assembly may make such laws for the peace, order and good government of that state concerning matters on which a House of Assembly may make laws as may appear.”

Subsection (5) reads, “For the purposes of subsection (4) of this section, a House of Assembly shall not be deemed to be unable to perform its functions as long as the House of Assembly can hold a meeting and transact business.”

In an exclusive conversation with Saturday PUNCH, the deputy spokesman of the House of Representatives, Phillip Agbese, said the ongoing political turbulence in Rivers State had yet to be tabled before the Green Chamber, noting that until that was done, there could be little or no intervention in the interim.

Agbese stated, “It is true that there is a constitutional backing for the National Assembly to intervene where there are established instances of crisis in a state House of Assembly that is unable to perform its functions.

“The 10th House has not been notified of any crisis. If it is not formally aware, there is nothing much we can do by way of intervention in the crisis, but it is our wish that the matter will be resolved amicably so that Rivers lawmakers can go about the business they were elected to do by their people. This is all I can say for now.”

Protests against crisis

The political crisis in the state took a new twist on Friday as two members of the National Assembly from Rivers State and the National President of the Ijaw National Congress led separate groups to Port Harcourt to protest against the happenings in the state and registered their solidarity with the governor.

The two National Assembly members are Awaji-Inombek Abiante, who represents the Andoni/Opopo/Nkoro Federal Constituency, and Boma Goodhead, the representative of the Asari-Toru/Akuku-Toru Federal Constituency, both in the House of Representatives.

In a solidarity rally, the lawmakers led hundreds of youths who sang and marched from the popular UTC junction through Azikiwe Road, passed in front of the Government House and terminated at the entrance to the Rivers State House of Assembly complex.

Addressing the crowd, Abiante said the Rivers people were not slaves and the state was not a conquered territory.

In a veiled reference to the FCT minister, he said his local government area of Andoni did not witness any development while Wike held sway in the state despite his claims of touching every council area, and slammed him for orchestrating the planned impeachment of Fubara.

He also urged President Bola Tinubu to practice what he preaches by ensuring that good governance prevailed in Rivers State, pointing out that good governance was synonymous with respect for the rule of law.

The federal lawmaker said, “There are slaves who are always happy in chains. But if you go through the history of Rivers State, if you go through the evolution and the abolition of slavery worldwide, you will hear names from Rivers State.

“We are not slaves. We are not part of those slaves who are happy in their chains. I want to appreciate President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for telling the entire world and affirming that indeed one ingredient that can stop a violent takeover of government and that can stop the violence of humans is good governance.

“He preached it and is the chair of the Heads of Government of the West African nations. We implore him to preach the same in his country. You cannot sell what you don’t have. We cannot become a laughing stock in the comity of nations in the West African sub-region.

“I’m a member of the ECOWAS Parliament and I know that we deserve to have that respect, and he (Tinubu) has preached it. If there has to be good governance, Rivers State is a test case.

“Good governance hinges on respect for the rule of law. Some people, who we elected, have offered to vacate their seats. That is what the law says. A lawmaker should not be seen to be breaking the law.”

While taking a swipe at the members of the state House of Assembly who defected to the APC for their action, Abiante said the law stipulated that they would lose their privileges.

He added, “They should be courageous enough to park their things out of the official quarters allocated to members of the Rivers State House of Assembly. They are no longer members of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

“They should also stop being in contempt of court as the court has declared. And on their own volition, they have abandoned the responsibility given to them.

“As you leave here, go back home and begin to select those who will represent you in the House of Assembly. I have somebody who is supposed to be representing me and I saw him shamelessly saying he signed for the impeachment of the governor given to us by God.

“What does he want to impeach Fubara for? Is it the fact that for eight good years, not even a toilet was inaugurated in the life of the immediate past administration of Rivers State in Andoni?

“Not even a toilet was inaugurated and the pride is I have done everything in all the local government areas. I challenge anyone to come and tell me what was done in Andoni. Less than six months, we now have a good road to the headquarters of Andoni LGA and somebody that we elected to represent us is telling us that he wants to impeach that governor. Can that ever work?

“So, we have just sent a message to Mr President to entrench good governance and begin from Rivers State. I want to tell the Inspector-General of Police again. I stood on the floor of the House and condemned the attempted assassination of the Rivers State governor and the IG told me that it was fake news.

“How can he tell me it was fake news, something that was watched all over the world? We will forgive him. Otherwise, we would have said that a character like that is not qualified for the position. But we have forgiven him. It should not happen again.

“Governance led by Sim Fubara is for Rivers people. Any of the person or group of persons parading whatever, they are not sent by us.”

On his part, the INC President, Prof Benjamin Okaba, led many Ijaw youths to the Government House in solidarity with Fubara, whom he described as a true Ijaw son.

Amid singing and dancing, the youth displayed placards with several inscriptions to drive home their message.

Some of the inscriptions read, ‘Rivers must be from impunity and tyranny’, ‘Rivers and Ijaw people are in support of Governor Fubara’, ‘The governor must be allowed to govern’, and ‘Let’s end godfatherism’ among others.

Addressing journalists on the sidelines, Okaba stated, “These are Ijaw people gathered here on this fateful day. We are from seven states of the South-South. As we speak, over two million Ijaw youths are in Port Harcourt.

“We have decided to embark on this symbolic solidarity march to the Government House, Port Harcourt. Ijaw men and women are coming from Bayelsa, Edo State, Ondo State, from Lagos and Akwa Ibom states. If need be, we shall bring Ijaw people from all the coastal regions to show our solidarity for our son, the legitimately elected governor of Rivers State.

“The purpose of this rally is to call on President Tinubu to advise his minister to take his knees off the neck of the governor of Rivers State.”

He expressed dismay that even after the intervention of the President, the PDP governors, Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers, elders and many democrats across the country, “Wike is still hell bent on cutting short the tenure of Fubara. We are here to resist any attempt to scuttle the process.

“We are here as Ijaw people to say that Wike has won a lot of battles, but this is a war against the Ijaw people. Let him go to the history of the Ijaw nation. The Ijaw nation has never been conquered since pre-colonial times. And we shall never be conquered.

“Wike has dared the Ijaw people. Wike has declared war against the Ijaw people and we are ready for him.”

The INC boss emphasized that Tinubu’s refusal to call caution the minister showed that he was supporting him to cause a crisis in Rivers State.

Okaba added that the Ijaw nation had suffered marginalisation for too long despite hosting oil resources and installations that sustain the country, noting that the people of the Niger Delta could no longer guarantee the safety of oil facilities in the region.

He stated that for the President to remain quiet while Wike was causing embarrassment in his own state showed that he was supporting the minister.

He added, “We are already angered that the government of President Bola Tinubu has marginalised the Ijaw people. In Delta State, where three persons were picked for federal appointments, none of them is from the Ijaw nation.

“Meanwhile, in that state, the Ijaws are the most economically viable. We are noting all of this. But for him to keep quiet and allow Wike to misbehave shows that there is some tacit support. And we shall not take that.

“As we speak our people are so angered; our people are so frustrated to the extent that we can no longer guarantee if things continue in this way the safety of the oil installations in Ijaw land and in our region.

“And if you (President) are taking us for granted; continue. A day shall tell whether the Ijaw people are still Ijaw people who will say a thing and make it come to pass.

“Since 1958, the Nigerian nation has been surviving on the oil that comes from Ijaw land. Till today, we are crying about marginalisation and we are crying over environmental degradation.

“When you talk of climate change and all that, the Ijaw nation is most affected. But daily, we are treated as if we are not humans. This must stop.

“Forty million Ijaw people are angered and aggrieved. And they are saying that a slap on Governor Fubara is a slap on the entire Ijaw nation. Any attempt to further close up the political space to remove Siminalayi Fubara from office is a call for fire.

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