Frankly Speaking: Tinubu, Wike, Fubara and  Rivers Crisis

Olatunde Abatan
Olatunde Abatan
Wike and Fubara
There is a saying  in Yoruba: “Agbalagba ki wa loja, ki ori omo tuntun wo,”  meaning, that when elders are in the market, the head of the child must be placed properly. For women who  are used to strapping  their baby on their back, it is those behind her who could notice if the baby’s head is not placed properly, and if it is, they would draw the attention of the mother since the baby cannot talk.
There is also a saying, “Agba ko si ni Ilu, Ilu baje, Baale ile ku Ile dahoro, meaning that when elders are no longer in town, the town becomes a ghost of its glorious past.
Elder statesman, Chief Olabode George, in spite of his being a politician and member of the leading opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), must have had the above saying in his mind when he drew the attention of both  President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and elders of his party, the PDP, to intervene in the prolonged power tussle in Rivers State, whose remote causes could be traced to the struggle for power between former governor Nyesom Wike and Siminalayi Fubara, incumbent Governor.
They were obviously struggling for control of the political structure of states, just as it happened in the first republic when the duo of the late Chief Ladoke Akinola, Premier of the Region, and his predecessor, Obafemi Awolowo, were struggling for control of the Action Group, AG, and the region, barely two years after Awo left the region and emerged as the as the opposition leader at the centre.
The distinction George fails to draw is that while Akinola wanted to dine with the Tafawa Balewa-led Northern People’s Congress (NPC) and carry along the region with him, Awolowo, the then leader of the party, and his supporters thought otherwise.
They did so because  they see themselves as a party of different ideologies and  as the political party that may take over power at the centre in the near future.
The ensuing crisis led to the suspension of Akintola  during the 1962 Jos national convention of the AG for what the party’s leadership described as anti-party activities.
 It was  there and then that the battle line for control of the Western Region was drawn between the incumbent Premier and his predecessor.
It is also important to point out the fact that the seed of the deep polarisation of Yoruba political followership between the progressives and conservatives was sown during this period, and the followership in a way subsists till now.
The difference in the scenario then and now is that unlike Awo, who went to the centre to be the leader of the opposition, Wike, Fubara’s predecessor, is winning and dining with Bola Tinubu as a serving minister.
He also wanted to keep his anointed successor, Fubara, and his PDP as a bargaining chip to strengthen and negotiate his political future with Tinubu and his All Progressives Congress (APC), the party he and four other PDP rebels helped to power at the centre in 2023.
But early in the day of his government, Fubara showed his hands that he wouldn’t want to be a puppet but his own man, contrary to Wike’s political calculations.
Wike, like Akintola, wanted to eat his cake and have it, while Awolowo, who remained as Leader of the Action Group, also wanted to remain the boss in the Western region by subterfuge and holding the region as his launching pad to Federal Power in terms of his being the leader of the opposition party.
Yes, like George recalled, the power struggle in the Western region set in motion a crisis that led to the collapse of the First Republic. It also changed the course of Nigeria’s political history.
The difference in the unfolding political scenario is that both Wike and Tinubu wanted to change the political behavior and  alignment of the people of Rivers for the better, while Fubara also wanted to become a new political force, his own godfather in Rivers, and also  help the opposition, the PDP,  retain its control of Rivers and, by extension, South South region politics, which George maintained belonged to the PDP.
Fubara’s stranglehold on Rivers State began early in the party, and not long after he took power in 2023, he also had the unseen hands of PDP leaders like Abubakar Atiku and other stakeholders who   felt, Fubara could help them undo what Wike did by making Rivers people vote Tinubu during last year’s presidential election.
This is where, Fubara’s interest, albeit political survival, has sympathy for PDP elders like George.
But then, the fractitious nature of the elders of the party, who wanted Atiku to remove his lordship over the party, posed another obstacle for Fubara.
This makes George’s cry on Elders to intervene, which is rather difficult to attain given their divergence of interest and the attendant schism in the PDP, which Atiku’s ambition has not helped.
But then, the political maneuvering of Tinubu, especially his interest in retaining Wike’s support towards his re-election in 2027, is also a defining factor in the unfolding power game in Rivers.
 This may raise  the difficulty  in Tinubu heeding the counsel of George for purely political maximization and gains. After all, politics is about Power and interest
The controversial execution of the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway, easily the biggest project in the country in recent years, and the apparent infrastructural benefit derivable by the South South region may be Tinubu’s double-edged sword to rein in the people of the region to his party and electoral support.
It also sort of strengthens Wike’s political capital as the strongest political officeholder from the region in Tinubu’s government.
His performance in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT),  a position reserved for the North, with it’s capacity to dispense political favour back home, will definitely strengthen his influence on the regions politics.
Besides, George’s alarm may also not sound like a big  threat enough given Tinubus’s allocation of its oil and gas portfolio and positions to Heineken Lokpobiri and other  strategic Niger Delta Development Corporation (NCDC) positions to others from the region.
This decision comes with loyalty to him and his political agenda to retain a foothold in the region, traditionally a PDP stronghold.
The people are now obviously divided between staying in local politics and embracing the federal position with it’s perks of office and influence.
But in spite of the apparent weaknesses of Fubara’s local structure, his willful destruction of institutions of governance  to remain in power is far-fetched and akin to pulling down the roof on his own head, not minding the collateral damage inflicted on the state institutions.
This situation makes Fubara like the proverbial drunk in the Chinese shop. You have to separate him or push him out carefully before doing much damage to himself and the shop.
For a governor who pulled down the state house of the Assembly complex in December last year, sitting in need of renovation, he can still go a long way to do other bigger damage to make himself difficult to remove.
Though Joseph Johnson, his then information commissioner, said the reason was to renovate the complex, you wonder why the suddenness in the action.
That this is coming a few months after he attained power is strange and points to a capacity to rein in more damage to himself and the system.
Now, more dangerously, the division in the state house of assembly over the impeachment threat coupled with  signals to pull down the roof on recalcitrant assemblymen poised to remove him is also another desperate move by Fubara to compound the state’s politics.
In other words, Fubara is determined to destroy all institutions of governance except himself.
Fubara’s  desperate game plan is also akin to an adage that says, Eniyan ti o titori pe oun nlo si Ede to ba Odede je, to ba kuro ni Ede, Odede lo maa pada si,meaning he who destroys his home because he is embarking on a journey will return to meet the ruins of his home, that is, if there is anything left after the destruction.
However, given the far reaching implication of instability likely to happen in case there is a conflagration in Rivers State—which reality is quite obvious except something drastic is done to bring the two warring parties together the days ahead are full of challenges.
The casualties of political haemorrhage likely as a result of the battle for the soul of Rivers State are not likely to be limited to emotional casualties of office and powerful losers, but like in John Pepper Clark’s poem in Nigeria’s Civil War, emotional casualties then included the stay at home of the poor, weak, and innocent citizens struggling to survive Nigeria’s suffocating economic environment .
It is also not impossible that the Rivers implosion may ignite the sleeping dog in the Niger Delta militants, who may be recruited by external forces to disrupt economic activities in the region, with it’s implications on Nigeria’s daily crude production already far below the OPEC  allocated quota.
While it is also incumbent on President Tinubu to play a statesman role like he did when the. conflict started last year, the PDP and other concerned stakeholders also have to set politics aside and bring the warring parties to jaw jaw before the unexpected happens.
A stich it time,saves Nine
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