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Rivers State: The Dümb Now Speaks

Rivers State: The Dümb Now Speaks %Post Title













In Rivers State, a miracle has taken place. It is a miracle different from the every second miracles often claimed by some “men of God”. We don’t see those miracles. We don’t watch them unfold. They just noisily claim they are performing miracles; that they have performed miracles; that the deaf is suddenly hearing; that the cripple has just leaped and began to walk. We have no proof. It is like magic, more magic than African Magic. And some people believe.

But what is happening in Rivers State is different. It is real. It is unfolding, as they say, “before our very eyes.” It is a miracle unprecedented. Suddenly, the dumb is not just speaking, he is screaming and roaring. The cripple is not just walking, he is galloping. The weak is not just strong, he could challenge our own  Anthony Joshua to a boxing bout. And, boy, not a few people are excited. And  clapping. And cheering.

Short of a miracle, I don’t know how else to describe the  just unraveled Governor of Rivers State, Siminalayi Fubara. This Fubara is so different from the Fubara Nigerians saw in the months leading to his election as a Governor. He is different from the Fubara  we saw on the day he was sworn-in,  the Fubara who told the crowd, literally, that he would be incapable of governing the State without his predecessor. He is different  from the Fubara we saw in the first three months of his Governorship. He is different from the Fubara we saw during the Governorship campaign. Then, he was hardly seen. He was even a fugitive. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,  EFCC, had declared him wanted. So, he was in hiding over allegations not a few people felt he did not commit. They felt he was not the main target. They felt his boss then, Nyesom Wike,  was the target. Afterall,  Fubara was a civil servant, answerable to his Governor, not just any Governor, but a Wike.

Unlike the scenario at the Federal level where we are  told that the signature of then President Muhammadu Buhari was, atimes, allegedly forged, and hundreds of millions of Naira and Dollars signed away and stolen without his knowledge, or the scenario just unfolded in Imo State which alleges that the Governor’s signature had, on a number of times,  been forged for land allocation racketeering, nobody would try that with Wike. The person “wan die?”

Without an express order or approval, people argued,  Fubara, then the Accountant General of the State, would not dare release funds, a point he emphasized the other day.

With Wike, the EFCC was helpless. As a Governor Wike had immunity. So he took over Fubara’s Governorship campaign. The very few times Fubara managed to appear at campaign grounds, he looked as dull as dodo. Quiet. Face, expressionless. Unsure of himself. The Fubara we saw then looked weak.  He could hardly campaign for himself. It was Wike, the powerful, the roaring lion, who was all over the place. Nothing was too much, too bad,  too controversial, or too sacred for him to say. Even confidences he shared with a couple of people were thrown to the dogs.

And why not?

Wike is a powerful man. One doubts that at one’s peril. He walks where Angels fear to walk on. He oozes power. He stamps it; so much so that not a few people call him terror and/or emperor. They run when he approaches. They cower when he talks. He once, publicly, (and to his face), referred to aTraditional Ruler as  “this small boy.” That insult was for nodding in agreement with what Wike was saying. The Governor lashed him for trying to impress him by nodding his head!

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Siminalayi Fubara , Governor of Rivers State

Examples of Wike’s power abound. And  for the records, his power was obvious long before he became a Governor. In 2015,  as a Minister of State, Education, under the Goodluck Jonathan Administration, he ran incumbent Governor  Chibuike Amaechi out of town, almost, and defeated his candidate in the Governorship Election. Don’t forget that at the time, aside from being the Governor in full  control of Rivers State treasury, Amaechi was, also, the Director General of then Candidate Muhammadu Buhari’s Presidential Campaign. So, Amaechi had  much money to throw around. Yet Wike gave him a bloody nose. If you thought it was because of Federal might, since the PDP was in power then at the centre, Wike performed the same feat in 2019. With Amaechi’s Party at the Centre, with Amaechi as the Minister for Transportation, with Amaechi as, again, the DG of  President Buhari’s Presidential Campaign, Wike gave Amaechi’s Candidate a technical knock-out. He proceeded to “banish” Amaechi, almost, from the State. He went after him, and finally set up a Panel of Inquiry  to look into a couple of Amaechi’s actions as  Governor of the State. (By the way, what’s the status of the outcome of that probe?)

But it was in early 2023 that  Wike raised the ante of his powers. He weilded it with decisive precision both in his State and  National  levels. In Rivers State, he made all contestants under the banner of the PDP, from Governorship, State House of Assembly, Federal House of Representatives to the Senate look stupid by purchasing the forms on their behalf. It ran into an obscene amount of money. He went after those who insisted on paying for the forms from their own pockets. At least, one of them was arrested, and  detained till after the Primaries. A couple of them alleged he went after their businesses. And Wike never failed to shout from the roof tops that  he paid for their forms each time  they dared say any “pim”, or make any “gra-gra”.  And as if they are under a spell, or they “swore for them”, none of them has had the courage to ask if Wike used his personal money to buy the forms for them. Or, if that is even allowed, morally right, or appropriate. Would that happen in any civilized climes without consequences?

When those he bought forms for protested that he gave them false hope, and sent them on a wild goose chase when he knew he already settled for who his successor would be, he declared them enemies. He said they had no political clout; that they were 10 for a kobo. Cheap. That they didn’t matter; that they had since expired as politicians. And, no jokes, all of them, big men, true to Wike’s boasts, he made them politically irrelevant in the State. Combined, they hardly had enough political clout to challenge him.

One of them, Celestine Omehia, Governor of the State, until sacked by the Supreme Court in favour of Amaechi, Wike set  out for a special humiliation. He told him, I should add,  rightly, that he was no longer to be referred to as a former Governor. He stripped Omehia of the State Honour he, Wike, conferred on him. To rub it in, Wike made a show of  personally removing Omehia’s portrait from the photo gallery of past Governors at Government House. Then, he did the unbelievable. Omehia was asked to refund pensions and all allowances paid to him as a “former Governor”. The Court saved him that refund ordeal.

Here’s the irony.

Amaechi, as a Governor, rightly, did not recognize Omehia as a former Governor. If you are sacked, you have lost title. But not in Nigeria. They cling to it.

It was Wike, to spite Amaechi,  who recognized Omehia as a former Governor as soon as he was sworn-in. And then, suddenly, he woke up one morning, and  stripped Omehia of all.

Wike’s power and influence peaked in 2023. It was the year he destroyed the Political Party which made him what he is today.

It was Wike who rubbished any chances the PDP had of winning the Presidential election in 2023. To the disbelief of not a few people, Presidential Candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and then National Chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, held unto their pride and ego and allowed Wike retire them from politics. He factionalized the Party, took four Governors along, as well as a number of top Party members,  formed a formidable opposition within the Party, and made sure PDP went to the election a divided house. He prevailed in a style that would make Nollywood green with envy. And, he did more.

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Nyesom Wike

Only a Wike would perform the magic that happened  on the day of the Presidential and National Assembly Elections where the Electorate voted, same day, for an APC Presidential candidate, and  PDP National  Assembly Candidates. But that is the Wike power.

With Wike’s installation of Fubara as Governor, and his own appointment as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, not a few people thought Wike couldn’t ask for more. Everybody thought he was now on a gravy ride. With his State Governor completely subservient to him, with the President treating him like an egg, a special child, Wike could have been walking like he had springs attached  to his heels.

At a time, Wike owned Rivers State, literally. Before him, Governor Fubara was dumb. Looked very docile.  Wouldn’t talk. Took orders from him.  Fubara’s job was to answer “Yes Sir”. No questions. No arguments. No suggestions. If Wike asked him to jump, he would ask: “How high Sir?”  He appointed all his political appointees for him. Chief of Staff. Commissioners. Special Advisers, Special Assistants. And more. He dictated who occupied which position in the State House of Assembly. And more.

Money was not an issue between him and Fubara.  Unconfirmed sources alleged that Fubara, as agreed, parted with N2.5b every month for the boss. Even without that, Wike is rich, very rich. He is wealthy, very wealthy. He had Fubara in his pocket. Unconfirmed sources said even when Wike, allegedly, ordered Fubara not to allow his wife play the role of a First Lady, the Governor said “Yes Sir” – to the extent, it is alleged,  that once, when Nigeria’s First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, invited Wives of 36 State Governors to a meeting in Abuja, Fubara was forced to ask his wife, who was already at the Airport, to return to Government House Port Harcourt because Wike allegedly said so. If true, Mrs Fubara must be a good woman. I know a number of other First Ladies who would have ignored that order and proceeded to Abuja. Let the heavens fall thereafter. And let the scandalous story leak.

So, what was the problem? What destroyed the Master- servant relationship between Wike and Fubara? Like a fowl, people now say,  Wike has scattered everything he labored to gather. They say he has destroyed the house he labored to  build. Just imagine, if the relationship had not gone sour, Wike could have been entering Rivers State like a king. Each time he came to Rivers State, Fubara would have been at the Airport to receive his lord and master.

Neither Wike nor Fubara has said, exactly, what the problem is. All we heard from Wike is: “I don’t want my structure tampered with. I need to keep my structure.” Now, if money was not the problem since the alleged N2.5b deal was not threatened, one can only conclude that excessive control of the Governor was the problem. He says he regrets picking Fubara to succeed him. He made a mistake, he says. He has threatened to throw him out from office, and so.

correct his mistake.

From Fubara, nothing has been heard as such, not even now that he has miraculously been cured of his “dumbness.” But it has since been garnered from here and there that the main cardinal sin Fubara committed was to dare appoint one Commissioner -Information – without Wike’s permission. So, Wike hit the roof. And so, for that, Rivers State has been turned inside out, upside down. Anybody that dared ask Wike to thread “softly-softly, or let “your boy be”, became an enemy. Big mistake.

Now, Fubara has suddenly woken up. He has been pushed to the wall. The humiliation was too much, watchers say. For him now, all is fair in war. From his favorite song “Dey your lane,  I dey my lane”, he has jumped to the centre of the lane.

The worst thing that happened to Wike is the “awakening” of Fubara. It is Fubara “wisening” up. It is the untying of Fubara’s tongue.  It is Fubara’s realization of the  powers he has, the powers of a Governor. An Executive one for that matter. Governors like to prefix their offices with “Executive” so no one doubts their powers and reach. Powerful office!

So now, Fubara knows all that. And he is enjoying it. Who could have believed that Fubara could threaten to probe Wike’s administration?  Who could have believed that Fubara could face members of the State House of Assembly, headlong, and tell them they “no longer exist”, or that they are there at his own discretion. Just imagine that Fubara has, on his own, appointed his own Commissioners, those that would be loyal to him and the people of Rivers State, and not to Wike?

I mean, just look at this: Fubara has become so independent that he is even now using “ungubernatorial” language. “The jungle has matured”; “the wind will blow, and we’ll see the ‘nyash’ of the fowl”; “there is a rat in the house eating our garri and I have the ‘otapiapia’ for it.”

And Fubara  is now sure-footed. He is winning souls everyday. And he flaunts them. To those who tell him: “If you probe Wike, you are probing yourself.” The Governor has an answer: “I am ready. Bring it on. I have all the papers for approvals from him. I kept them.” Fubara kee? Interesting.

So, has Wike finally met his nemesis? His waterloo?  Not a few people think so. It is an irony that this could come from a man he mercilessly stumped on other people’s feet to install a Governor.

So, what to do?

A number of people think Wike should surprise himself and  make peace with his “boy.” Call him in and remind him of the early beginnings, of how two of them worked together. They also advice he should pay a nocturnal visit ta a couple of others, especially, the Odilis and make peace. Money is good, they say, and so is flaunting of power, but they are not everything.

Yet, others advice that Wike should have a conversation with himself; that he should interrogate himself. And ask himself questions like:

  • Why is it that I always end up quarreling with those I was close to – the Odilis, Amaechi, Dr Abiye Sekibo, Austin Opara, Lee Maeba, Prince Uche Secondus, Celestine Omehia and more?
  • Why is it that, right now, I don’t get on with any of my predecessors in office?
  • How come I think that everybody is wrong and I am the only person right.
  • At the Party level, why is it that I fell out with all the National Chairmen I helped bring into office – Ali Modu Sheriff, Prince Uche Secondus, Dr Iyorchia Ayu? How come I install them and pull them down?
  • Why is it that anything I don’t get, I tend to destroy? See what I did to PDP because I was not picked as Atiku’s running mate after I was defeated at the Party Primary.
  • Why do I go back on my promises? For instance, insulting and mocking the Odilis when I had publicly acknowledged their positive roles in my life, and promised to stick to them forever?
  • I had also said I would never interfere in the Government of my predecessor. So why am I giving Fubara a breathing space? Must I be in control of everything?
  • I had called APC cancer, and said I would have nothing to do with it. Yet, now, not only am I serving in an APC Government at the Federal level, all loyalists of mine in the Rivers State House of Assembly decamped same day from the PDP to the APC because of me. What does the future hold for them if the Constitution is followed to the letter?

I kind of like Wike. He is strong. Bold. Courageous.I have no use for weak men. He did quite some good job as Rivers State Governor. He opened up Port Harcourt, forget that we now hear that he did not pay for most of the projects he commissioned. At least, the projects are there. They are in Rivers State.

Wike was one of the reasons I stayed glued to the television and social media during the campaigns for the 2023 General Elections even when I was battling for my life outside our shores at the time. Watching him dance and sing and talk made me laugh and helped me handle my low moments. Watching him made me yearn to get back home quick and be part of the action. I would, therefore, hate to see him, one day,  struggling to breathe – politically.

So, my unsolicited advice: Wike should get up and clean up untidy surroundings. He had done it before with the Odilis. Nothing stops him from toeing same path again.

Comfort Obi is the Editor-in-Chief/CEO of The Source (Magazine),  Email: [email protected][email protected]

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