Wike, Fubara Move To Consolidate Strength Ahead 2027 As Crisis Festers

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The political crisis that has been raging in Rivers State since last year has entered a new phase of consolidation of strength, with stakeholders now publicly queuing behind the two political gladiators in the ring, Bellnews on Sunday reports.

The crisis, which many believed had defied every intervention, including that which was mediated by President Bola Tinubu, has since seen the two parties in the fight – the state governor, Siminalayi Fubara, and his estranged political godfather and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike -continuously take regular covert jabs at each other and work hard to consolidate their strength in the all-out battle that analysts believed had only been postponed to the 2027 general elections.

Fubara, a first-term governor, is expected to seek a second term and would seek to use the opportunity to prove a point that he has come of age and does not need any political godfather to offer him the governorship seat.

Wike, on the other hand, is gearing up to use the next electioneering phase to teach his former protege a political lesson by ensuring, by all means, that he (Fubara) does not return as a second-term governor in the oil-rich state.

About a month ago, Wike, at a church gathering, said he did not see anyone that could challenge him in the 2027 election circle.

“I can tell you that with the forces we have, I don’t know anybody who will challenge us. It’s like tomorrow should be 2027 so all these would be put to rest. For me, it is still very far, and I can’t wait. The leaders of the two parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – are here. Where else can you find that unity? Only in Rivers,” he said.

Analysts have observed that from the onset of the crisis, Wike had kicked off the process of consolidating his hold on the political arena of the state by not only controlling the leadership of the PDP in the state but also taking over the leadership of the APC.

Two days after the dissolution of the state working committee of the APC in the state, the national chairman of the party, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, inaugurated Chief Tony Okocha, an ally of Wike, as the chairman of a seven-man caretaker committee to oversee the affairs of the state.

This had come after 24 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, who had initiated the impeachment proceedings against Governor Fubara, defected to the APC. The lawmakers, despite their switch of political parties, remain loyal to Wike and are said to have continued to play the opposition role by vetoing several decisions of the governor.

Speaking at an event earlier in the week, Wike alluded to the role the lawmakers are playing in the political drama and how he has refused to intervene despite entreaties.

“Instead of you (referring to Gov Fubara) to go and check the Assembly you are fighting with, you want me to talk to them that they should not be independent, but you want to be independent. Continue to be independent. Continue to save the democracy of Nigeria,” he said.

Aside from this, observers of the development in the state also noted that Wike has been ensuring that his loyalists secure federal appointments, a move believed to be crucial to his planned bid to reclaim the state in 2027.

Aside his role in the appointments of his erstwhile commissioner of works, Dr Dakorinama Alabo George as the director-general of Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA), and a former PDP chairman in the state, Desmond Akawor as the federal commissioner of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), his appointments of a former chairman of the PDP in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers, Chidi Amadi, as chief of staff; erstwhile state chairman of the PDP, Felix Obuah as coordinator of the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council; Michael Chinda as Senior Special Adviser on Land, Urban and Regional Planning, and Barivure Fred, another senior aide on environment and waste management, among others, have been cited as strategic for building a formidable war-chest ahead 2027.

Consolidation of strength using chieftains and foot-soldiers

But Governor Fubara has also been increasing his ranks with erstwhile loyalists of Wike, in a move analysts believe is targeted at weakening the FCT minister at the grassroots, where the governorship election in the state is won and lost.

On Thursday, top chieftains of the PDP in the state, including its former national chairman, Uche Secondus, declared loyalty and support for President Bola Tinubu and Governor Fubara.

This, as many observers have noted, was a significant move in the battle for the soul of the PDP in Rivers and the survival of Governor Fubara in his battle with his predecessor.

A former Minister of Transport and the director-general of the PDP-PCC in Rivers State for the 2023 presidential election, Dr Abiye Sekibo; Secondus; former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Austin Opera; a former governor of the state, Sir Celestine Omehia; a former deputy governor of the state, Tele Ikuru; Senator Lee Maeba; and former Secretary to the Rivers State Government, Dr Gabriel Pidomson, among others, were part of the group of party leaders that met and decided to pitch their support for Fubara.

Earlier in the month, former coordinators of the Grassroots Development Initiative (GDI), a political group formed by Wike in 12 local government areas of the state, pledged their support and loyalty to Fubara.

The former coordinators represent Obio/Akpor, Ogu/Bolo, Port Harcourt City, Opobo/Nkoro, Gokana, Bonny, Ahoada West, Ahoada East, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Oyigbo, Asari-Toru, and Akuku-Toru local government areas.

Collins Onunwo, a former chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, who led the former coordinators, said, “Our concern is that we voted for the PDP and Sir Siminalayi Fubara, and we must protect that mandate with all we have.”

A former public relations officer of the GDI ACF, Christian Abu said, “Getting simplified means that the strategies, movements and vehicles that always conveyed electoral successes to previous administrations have brought the same support to Governor Fubara.

Stand with me, I won’t be dictator like…

On his part, Fubara, on Tuesday, took an opportunity of a state event to throw a jibe at his predecessor, while also canvassing for the support of traditional institutions.

“We are at a crossroads in our state, where we all need to stand for what is right. It happens once in a lifetime. So, for now, be one of those people that will be in the course to liberate our dear state,” he said while presenting a Certificate of Recognition and Staff of Office to the Amanyanabo of Okochiri Kingdom, King Ateke Michael Tom as a first-class tradition ruler at the Government House in Port Harcourt.

“I know strongly that having the support of a peace-loving Amanyanabo of Okochiri Kingdom, the wonderful Council of Chiefs and the great people of Rivers, we will bring peace to our state. We will do those things that are right to develop our state.

“We will continue to consult. We will not act as dictators. We will act as people who know that one day we will leave, and when we leave, the way we have acted will speak for us. We will not force people to talk good about us. Our legacy will be a signature of how we led,” he added.

‘No wasted energy on those against us’

Two days before this, Wike, known for taking no prisoners, hit back at those who had decided to pitch their tents with Fubara, saying, “Forget people going from one place to another saying they are forming this or that; they are allowed. Don’t dissipate your energy, don’t worry yourself. When the time comes, we will say, ‘who knows the game should play the game.’

“I hear they have a judicial consultant now who says they should not worry, and that as long as she is there, nothing will happen. That is their business.

“Every day, they say they are doing thanksgiving. They were lucky they didn’t show this hand early. When we have finished winning for them from polling units to tribunal, from tribunal to Court of Appeal, they now say they want to remove them at the Supreme Court. That’s how they collected money from them and appointed somebody as a judicial consultant,” he said last Sunday at an event in the state.

He challenged the governor and his associates to file a petition against him before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) if they feel he has done some things wrong in his time as the governor of the state. He also challenged the governor to a live media chat where journalists would be allowed to ask him questions the way he (Wike) has been doing.

Wike also said the so-called counsellors that have reportedly left him for the governor were unknown to him.

But David Briggs, a chieftain of the PDP and an ally of Fubara, advised Wike to “learn to be quiet the way the governor is, so that we can enjoy peace, not to come weeks after weeks to create tension in the state.”

He also advised the FCT minister to stop insulting Peter Odili, “whether by action or words because each time he does that, he is agitating the minds of Rivers people.”

‘Fubara, a student of Wike’s political class’

Also sharing his thoughts, Biokpomabo Awara, the governorship candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the 2019 election, said what is happening between Wike and Fubara “is just like karma playing out.”

Awara, who spoke during an interaction with News Central TV within the week, said, “Wike is complaining about how Fubara is doing thanksgiving every day, forgetting that he also did the same. Fubara learned from him.”

On a permanent solution, Awara said it was possible to resolve the crisis if Wike would put the interest of the state ahead “and stop this 2027 calculation to make sure the man (Fubara) fails and Rivers State is at a standstill.”

He said what the state desired from Wike was to attract federal projects to the state so as not to attract the same criticism he levelled against his predecessor (Amaechi) of not doing enough to bring projects to the state because of political differences.

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