The political crisis in Rivers State appears far from over.
There were signs of peace Monday night when the warring parties signed a pact after a closed-door meeting at the presidential villa.
During his first official outing after the meeting, Governor Siminalayi Fubara expressed his commitment to ensuring peace in the state.
He said: “There is no price that will be too big to pay to ensure that peace prevails.”
However, there are doubts on whether he (Fubara) and ex-governor Peter Odili actually signed the 8-point resolution, which is considered to have highly favoured the immediate past governor, Nyesom Wike.
Fidelinfo reports that the power tussle in Rivers over the last two months has attained a dramatic height, creating tension and anxiety before the latest intervention by the president.
Amid the crisis, Wike was alleged to have demanded a certain percentage of Rivers revenue, a claim he has denied.
There has also been an attempt by the State House of Assembly to impeach the governor.
The Assembly complex was bombed in the process, with Wike accusing Fubara of orchestrating the act.
The House of Assembly complex was subsequently demolished on the state government’s order for renovation purposes.
Also, twenty-seven members of the State House of Assembly loyal to Wike defected from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the All Progressives Congress, APC, in an attempt to impeach the governor.
The lawmakers cited division within the PDP as the primary reason for defecting to the APC.
But with a High Court order, which gave legal backing to the factional House of Assembly loyal to him, Fubara presented the 2024 budget proposal to the four lawmakers led by Rt. Hon. Edison Ehie at the government house.
The budget proposal was subsequently approved and has since been signed into law by the governor.
The period also witnessed a gale of resignations by some of the members of Fubara’s cabinet. They were claimed to be persons sympathetic to Wike’s cause.
Fidelinfo reported that seven commissioners tendered their resignation as the crisis deepened.
However, the Monday meeting, which had in attendance Fubara, his Deputy, Mrs Ngozi Odu, former governors of the State, Peter Odili and Nyesome Wike, and other stakeholders, was believed to have opened windows of reconciliation.
Vice President, Kashim Shettima, the National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, and the President’s Chief of Staff, Femi Gbajabiamila, were also reported to have attended the meeting.
DAILY POST gathered that the resolution reached at the meeting, which may have placed Wike in control of the political structure in the oil-rich state, has not gone down well with Fubara’s camp.
According to the eight-point resolution signed at the end of the meeting, Governor Fubara was directed to re-present the 2024 appropriation bill, which he had earlier presented to the four-member state House of Assembly to the full House.
Tinubu also ordered that all litigations instituted in the courts by Fubara and his camp regarding the political crisis in the State be withdrawn immediately.
It read: “All matters instituted in the courts by the Governor of Rivers State, Sir Fubara, and his team, in respect of the political crisis in Rivers State, shall be withdrawn immediately.
“All impeachment proceedings initiated against the Governor of Rivers State by the Rivers State House of Assembly should be dropped immediately.
“The leadership of the Rivers State House of Assembly as led by the Rt. Hon. Martin Amaewhule shall be recognised alongside the 27 members who resigned from the PDP.
“The remunerations and benefits of all members of the Rivers State House of Assembly and their staff must be reinstated immediately and the Governor of Rivers State shall henceforth not interfere with the full funding of the Rivers State House of Assembly.
“The Rivers State House of Assembly shall choose where they want to sit and conduct their legislative business without interference and/or hindrance from the executive arm of government.
“The Governor of Rivers State, Sir Fubara, shall re-present the state budget to a properly constituted Rivers State House of Assembly.
“The names of all commissioners in the Rivers State Executive Council who resigned their appointments because of the political crisis in the State should be resubmitted to the House of Assembly for approval.
“There should not be a caretaker committee for the local governments in Rivers State. The dissolution of the Local Government administration is null and void and shall not be recognised.”
There are indications that all is still not well, with the PDP insisting that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, must set a date to conduct fresh elections to replace the 25 vacancies in the Rivers State House of Assembly.
In an apparent rejection of the truce brokered by President Tinubu, the PDP, in a statement by its acting National Chairman, Umar Iliya Damagum, said: “Our Party insists that having now vacated and lost their seats, the only option available for the former lawmakers, if they wish to return to the House of Assembly, is to seek fresh nomination and re-election on the platform of any political party of their choice in line with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and the Electoral Act, 2022.
“The 25 former Rivers lawmakers freely and without any cause vacated their seats, being fully aware of the consequences of defection from the Party upon which they were elected into the Rivers State House of Assembly without the conditions stipulated by the 1999 Constitution.
“For the avoidance of doubt, there is no division in the PDP at the national or any other level for that matter to justify the defection of the 25 former members of the Rivers State House of Assembly from the Party. They therefore vacated their seats for reasons best known to them and cannot return to the House of Assembly without passing through a fresh electoral process in accordance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act, 2022.
“Moreover, the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly Rt. Hon (Barr) Ehie O. Edison DSSRS officially declared the seat of the defected now former members vacant in line with Section 109 (1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). The Rivers State House of Assembly, having become Functus Officio on the matter, cannot re-admit the former lawmakers unless through the channel of a fresh election.
“Our Party therefore counsels the former members of the Rivers State House of Assembly not to be deceived by anybody giving them the false hope and impracticable assurances in Abuja that they can return to the Rivers State House of Assembly without a fresh election or that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can be stopped from conducting fresh election into the 25 Rivers State Constituencies where vacancies have occurred by reason of their defection.
“The national leadership of the PDP charges all members of our great Party in Rivers State to remain united and resolute in the defence of Constitutional democracy and Rule of Law in Rivers State.”
Similarly, Ijaw national leader, Chief Edwin Clark, in a reaction, while speaking to journalists on Tuesday, picked holes in the resolutions.
According to him, the resolution was aimed at handing over the political leadership of the state to the current Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
He said from the terms of the purported settlement, it was obvious that Tinubu used his role as a mediator, to show gratitude to the FCT minister for “delivering” Rivers state to him during the last presidential elections.
“We will resist any attempt subtle, subterranean, covert, overt, to make an elected Ijaw son, Siminialayi Fubara, the Governor of Rivers State, a servant, a stooge to Nyesome Wike, who had boasted that any attempt by the Governor to touch his so-called ‘Wike’s structure’, with the connivance and support of President Bola Tinubu, will be resisted by us.
“Like I said, we will go to court to resist this oppressive action using all available constitutional and legal means. It is on this note I wish to appeal to the youths who are aggrieved, to remain calm, as we will use legal means to dethrone this hydra-headed monster, called oppression”.
Similarly, elder statesman and lawyer Robert Clarke, SAN, said that the President has no constitutional right to have waded into the Rivers State controversy and power tussle between Fubara and Wike.
Clarke made this known in an interview with Arise News, saying that the idea of independent candidacy in elections will solve the majority of the political issues in Nigeria.
“The constitutional role of the President in all this fracas – there should have been none. Because we were not expecting it, none has been provided for.
“The only time, the only constitution that allows the Federal government to put its mouth in a local thing, was during the first republic when a declaration of emergency was declared in the west.
“The president has no power; he knows that. The best legal brain cannot help him. You can’t bring Robert Clarke to come and change the law to enable the president to come and intervene. Under what constitutional provisions? So, the law by itself as of today did not provide (a constitutional right for Tinubu to intervene in State matters).”
A former federal lawmaker, Shehu Sani also agrees with those who believe the crisis is far from over.
Sani, a former Kaduna Central Senator, said the peace resolution is against the Rivers State governor.
He likened the peace accord to removing the knife from Fubara’s neck and setting it behind his back.
The former lawmaker argued that the accord would only buy time for another battle round.
“I have now read the Rivers agreement. The accord will remove the knife from the neck of Sim and set it behind his back.
“The accord will bury the hatchets with leaves. The accord outwardly sells peace but internally buys time for another round of war.
“However, It can be better if the dialogue is periodically assessed and improved upon,” Sani wrote on his X handle.
Commenting on the development, Kenneth Ibuchukwu Nwodo, a former Special Assistant to Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, ex-governor of Enugu State, told DAILY POST in an interview that the peace accord could be seen as an encouragement of godfatherism in Nigerian politics.
Nwodo, who described the resolution as unacceptable, said the nation could not grow with godfatherism.
He said, “This is just a matter of taking a case of a man who believes in one wife, one husband to somebody who believes in a polygamous family. You and I know the kind of judgement he would give.
“This kind of peace accord is just an encouragement of godfatherism in Nigerian politics, which is not acceptable to some of us.
“If we continue with godfatherism in politics, I wonder when the nation will grow; the nation can’t grow. And because the man at the centre believes in such a system, I think that’s why such a resolution can be upheld.
“For me, it’s unacceptable. But what can we do? The nation belongs to them, and they can do whatever they want.”
Speaking further on the resolutions, he added, “the resolution said members of the House can decide where they want to have their sitting. No! The executive has the power to give them security.
“They can’t choose where they want to be. Do you say they can have their meeting in someone’s living room? Is that the best?”
On his part, Onyebuchi Igboke, the Project Manager of Advocacy Partnership for Good Governance and Convener, Office of the Citizens, told DAILY POST that people were surprised that the governor agreed to sign the resolution.
He said, “It’s a very dangerous thing for him to have agreed”, describing most of the items listed in the resolution as a risky trap.
He said, “The issue in Rivers State or the political misunderstanding between the incumbent governor, Fubara, and his predecessor, Wike, many people are interested in it because of the recent character and attitude of Nyesom Wike, even before and after the election.
“He was trying to be a political emperor, and people were uncomfortable.
“These are the things that even civil societies will not encourage because democracy is tenured. And it’s expected that you will give way to another elected governor once you finish your tenure.
“Most people are surprised that the governor acceded to signing the resolution. It’s a very dangerous thing for him to have agreed.
“People are already supporting him because people thought he was one stooge Wike brought; people are aware that Wike single-handedly, whichever way he did it, brought him right from the party primaries to the election.
“People have already started building confidence in his government. But all of a sudden, the President convened a peace deal, according to what is in the public domain.
“Most of those things listed in the resolution seem to be a dangerous trap. The governor should be very careful and sensitive.
“So, people are watching. It’s not all about signing documents; it’s about acting it out.
“It’s a political fight. Wike is a fighter, but the governor should watch out.
“People expect Fubara to win this struggle because Wike has made a lot of noise and political manoeuvrings that were even against the law.”