Rumblings in the Rivers State’s house of cards morphed into a battle royal yesterday between the two power brokers and their loyalists. Without warning, in the early hours of yesterday, the lid blew open that all was not well between ‘godfather’ turned Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike, and his ‘godson’ Governor of Rivers, Siminalayi Fubara, when suspected thugs invaded the state Assembly complex and burnt the building using Improved Explosive Devices (IED).
That set the tone for the high-wired intrigues that were to follow later in the day, in the unnerving game of thrones between Wike and Fubara.
The sequence of events that followed later was a chess game of counter-balancing between the two sides, which has factionalised the House of Assembly.
Fubara, The Guardian learnt has dissolved the State Executive Council allegedly packed with Wike’s loyalists. As at press time last night, some eminent personalities in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were locked in a secret meeting at the Rivers State Government House with the governor over the crisis.
Some of those sighted by The Guardian include Chairman of PDP Elder’s Forum, Freddie Anabrabra; former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA), OCJ Okocha; chairman, Rivers State Traditional Rulers Council, Sargent Awuse; former Rivers PDP chairman, Felix Obua among others.
Sources close to the governor said the visit was an intervention to remotely reconcile the aggrieved parties. Journalists, who milled round the government house, were asked to leave and return today for update.
The meeting was in lieu of the political shakeup in the state, which saw some lawmakers serving an impeachment notice on the governor and the counter-impeachment of the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Martin Amaewhule.
The police in Rivers have, however, continued to keep mum over the attack on Fubara by some of their operatives in Port Harcourt. Some police operatives had fired teargas and water cannons at the governor while he was walking along the road in Port Harcourt with some security aides and political supporters shortly after the Assembly was engulfed in crisis following an impeachment attempt against the governor. The governor had attempted to visit the burnt Assembly complex.
Lamenting the turnout of events, Fubara said security in Rivers had been compromised. “They were shooting at me directly. But it doesn’t matter, somebody will die one day,” he said.
The police, at 2:36 p.m., posted a message on its X handle about the crisis in the state but the statement avoided the attack on Fubara and the explosion at the Assembly complex. The police headquarters in Port Harcourt is along the same road as the Rivers House of Assembly complex.
“The Rivers State Police Command has commenced swift security actions on security situations that occurred at the House of Assembly complex. Anyone found wanting will be arrested and prosecuted. Further development will be communicated to the general public please,” the statement said.
Amid rife speculations that Fubara’s predecessor, Wike, was behind the impeachment attempt, six months after he helped install Fubara as governor, the former governor was yet to publicly comment on the latest crisis.
The factional Speaker, Edison Ehie, has promised to ensure equity, justice and fairness prevails in the state. Ehie, former Majority Leader, who was impeached by lawmakers loyal to Wike, claimed that 26 lawmakers elected him at a plenary held at the Government House.
Ehie then went ahead to impeach the Speaker, Martins Amaehule; his deputy, Dumle Maol, and suspended the Chief Judge, Justice Semion Chibuzor Amadi, and directed the governor to appoint an acting Chief Judge for the state.
Speaking, Ehie said: “The House just rose from plenary and with all humility I must thank my colleagues, 26 Assembly members, who have just elected me as the new Speaker of the 10th Rivers Assembly.
“My commitment to Rivers people is that I will be fair and just to all and sundry. And I will ensure that the rule of law takes its course. I will not betray my colleagues, I will not betray Rivers people and my constituencies. I will also ensure that the independence of the Rivers House of Assembly is adhered to, with mutual respect to the judiciary and the Executive arms of government.”
In a swift reaction, Fubara congratulated Ehie as the new Speaker, with a one-liner on his X account. The governor simply wrote: “Congratulations Mr. Speaker.”
The Labour Party (LP) governorship candidate, Beatrice Itubo, has condemned what is playing out, which she termed the effect of godfatherism.
Itubo insisted that her mandate was stolen in March 2023, adding that the person who assisted the governor to steal her mandate wants loyalty like God and wants to use human beings as a slave.
“As a human being, he (Fubara) needs fresh air. It’s like giving a child food and refusing the child from eating the food.”Also, the state Publicity Secretary of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Darlington Nwauju, condemned the destruction of public assets at the Assembly complex.
He warned political actors not to jeopardise the fragile security of the state because of their political greed, saying: “We had warned Rivers people of the third term ambition of Wike and the unpatriotic agenda to continue to emasculate the state and keep our people perpetually in poverty with the consolidation of a convoluted economy powered by mercantile distribution of state resources.”
Also, erstwhile National Publicity Secretary of the defunct New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) and APC chieftain, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, has cautioned Wike to refrain from his custom of overbearing indulgence targeted against efforts to resist his sense of entitlement and over-lordship.
Reacting to the fuss between Fubara and the FCT Minister, which has morphed into a secessionist struggle for freedom and self-determination for Fubara and his government, Eze said the governor has earned his commendation for relying on his instincts by putting up a manly fight against acts that plague the conscience.
Eze said: “Fubara had also rejected Wike’s moves to shut him out of every political engagements and decision within and outside the state to the extent that he was cautioned never to attend any political meetings in Abuja including PDP Governors’ Forum where he holds sway as Vice Chair.”
Similarly, the PDP leadership in the state has called on both the Legislative and Executive arms to exercise restraint in the ongoing impasse between them.
PDP, in a statement by its chairman, Desmond Akawor, said it was not unaware of the impasse between the two arms, but expressed confidence that the situation would be cordially handled.
According to the statement, the party said they were consulting with party elders and other notable personalities in the state to resolve the situation at stake. The party expressed optimism that the conflict, which they described as a family affair would be resolved amicably at the end of the day.
MEANWHILE, leader of the Ijaw nation, Edwin Clark, has warned strongly against any orchestrated plot by Wike to remove Fubara and replace him with an Ikwerre man. In a statement he personally signed, Clark asked President Bola Tinubu to immediately call Wike and the security agents to order before the situation degenerates further.
“I have been reliably informed that there is a plot to unlawfully remove the governor of Rivers, who has spent only about five months in office. I understand the sad episode is being orchestrated by Wike and that the intention is to remove the governor, force his deputy, Professor Ngozi Odu to resign, and install the Speaker, another Ikwerre person, as the governor.
“The state should not be allowed to degenerate again into its dark past, and the Niger Delta region by extension. The consequences would be dire for the stability of the region and the economy.” He asked rhetorically: “What has Fubara done wrong apart from refusing to be further ‘remote controlled?’
“Wike was governor for eight years, nobody hassled him. He governed Rivers like an emperor, he did not show any iota of respect and regard to anyone, not even those who imposed him on Rivers people in 2015.
“President Tinubu must act fast and avert the unfolding crisis in Rivers in the interest of his administration, the nation’s democracy, and the country at large.”