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Of sadists, agonists and auctioneers

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By Tunde Olusunle

That allusions, references and reminiscences are always, ever made to the music of the maverick Nigerian Afrobeat musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, speaks to the immutability, even immortality of his work. Fela was in eternal battles with successive Nigerian governments, tirelessly speaking truth to them, even at the risk of his life. Trevor Schoonmaker in a 2004 critique of Fela’s work, notes that he “created Afrobeat, an infectious mix of American funk and jazz, with traditional Yoruba and highlife music and used it to rail against corrupt Nigerian governments.” Fela’s notable, radical compositions include: “Authority Stealing,” “Army Arrangement,” “Coffin for Head of State,” “Beast of No Nation” and “ITT.”

Were Fela still with us today, the news from the National Executive Committee, (NEC) meeting of the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC), held Wednesday April 20, 2022, would most probably have elicited a replay of his 1977 hit, “Sorrow, Tears and Blood,” (STB). Yes, if Nigerians were ever in doubt that the political party which has administered their country since May 29, 2015 was through and through an agglomeration of marauders and buccaneers, committed to their continuing pauperisation and political annihilation, the events of Wednesday April 20, 2022, should be instructive. That NEC meeting hosted by Adamu Abdullahi, chairman of the party, rolled out exorbitantly prohibitive, brazenly anti-people fees for expression of interest and nomination forms, for prospective seekers of political offices in the 2023 general elections.

Abdullahi by the way, was recently installed in this position under circumstances characterised by glaring coercive consensus. All his co-contestants for the position, where compelled in APC’s characteristic neck-on-the-chopping-block democracy, to attest to a pre-written letter, withdrawing their candidature. This has become typical of the operations manual of the APC. The NEC meeting was attended by the party’s big wigs, including Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president, and Yemi Osinbajo, his deputy who is aspiring alongside a dozen other contestants, to succeed Buhari, among other leaders of the party.

Aspirants to the office of the President are to pay the sum of N100 million for their nomination forms, while Nigerians aspiring for the gubernatorial ticket of the party, will be requested to pay half of the sum required of presidential aspirants, N50 million in their own case. Party members questing for the senatorial tickets of the APC, will remit N20 million to the coffers of the party, while those desirous of seats in the lower parliament, are expected to pay the sum of N10 million. Those who desire to fly the party’s flag in the state assembly elections, will be requested to pay N2 million.

Friday March 18, 2022, the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP), had rolled out the subscription fees for all levels of aspirants to various elective offices. And the window for the sale of the forms was kept open for over a month, closing Friday April 22. Whereas prospective presidential candidates were required to pay N40 million for their expression of interest and nomination forms, aspiring governors were levied N21 million. Prospective senators and house of representatives members, were requested to subscribe with N3.5 million and N2.5 million, respectively. Aspirants into the various state constituencies at the state level, were taxed N600,000 only.

Interestingly, the four-month old national leadership of the PDP, has for the first time in a long while, made public the aggregate sums realised from the sale of forms in the current politicking cycle. Some preceding leaderships of the party were notorious for opacity and lack of accountability in their record-keeping and operations. The PDP has indeed been the butt of taunts and derision by the APC for the non-completion of its purpose-conceived national headquarters for, for which an appeal fund was launched in the past and sumptuous sums realised, without a revisit of the project. The Iyorchia Ayu-led NEC of the party in a rare and uncommon display of transparency, however, recently announced that monies in excess of a whopping N9 billion, have thus far been realized from the sale of forms.

The Social Democratic Party, (SDP), which is positioning itself as a possible fallback for potential elective office aspirants, has equally set the fees for its expression of interest and nomination forms, en route to the 2023 polls. Presidential nomination documents are obtainable at N35 million; governorship aspirants are to pay N16 million, while senatorial contenders will pay N3 million. Contestants for the lower national parliament will pick up their forms for N1.7 million, while prospective aspirants for state assembly seats, are to pay N500,000 only.

Back in December 2014, a few months before  the general elections of 2015, the APC set its presidential nomination forms at N27 million. Buhari, Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s enigmatic former vice president; Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, a two-term  governor of Kano State; Rochas Okorocha, also a two-term governor in Imo State and Sam Nda-Isaiah (may his soul rest in peace), a newspaper publisher, were contenders for that ticket. The cost of the forms were perceived too expensive for Buhari at the time. He had built a public profile over time, of a modest, austere and frugal personality, who could possibly, not muster the resources for such an “expensive” ticket. His media managers threw a spin around the subject then, proffering that Buhari actually obtained a bank loan to pay for the forms! How very ingenious!!

In September 2018, a phoney “National Consolidation Ambassadors Network,” (NCAN), led by one Sanusi Musa, procured the presidential expression of interest and nomination forms for N45 million, ahead of Buhari’s second term election the following year. The group advanced that it raised the sum from contributions polled from supporters and admirers of the President. The gesture they said, was “in appreciation of Buhari’s achievements since he assumed office.” Buhari was subsequently adopted as sole aspirant and candidate, by consensus, by his party.

Buhari postured like a “born again” democrat when Nigerians finally gave him a chance as their overlord in 2015, after three earlier failed attempts. He was tearful when he addressed his supporters after his third electoral fiasco in 2011, swearing he would never seek the presidency anymore. His eventual ascent to the position, fuelled hope, promise and optimism in the polity. The pseudo- *talakawa* facade of his public portraiture, engendered palpable expectations. This was accentuated by the tepid testimonial of his predecessor, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Nigeria’s long expected messiah and liberator had come, at last, it seemed.

And exactly what has been the performance evaluation report of the Buhari-led APC administration seven years down the line? What has informed its subsisting puffiness, which in turn has fuelled the 300% hike in the cost of application forms into various political offices, between 2014 and the present? How well has the nation’s incumbent leadership fulfilled its electoral promises and pledges, within its constitutionally allowed two terms of four years, thus far? How well have the lives and wellbeing of the average Nigerian been positively impacted by this government?

A peek into the balance sheet of the APC, reveals bottomless deficits and lacunas, which stand in total contrast to its highfalutin pre-election promises of 2015. The security situation across the country has become a hydra-headed ogre. From the pre-2015 *Boko Haram* insurgency in the nation’s north east, every geopolitical zone in the country is contending with some security challenge or the other. Banditry and kidnapping have virtually overrun the north west, spilling into parts of the north central. In the course of a recent official visit to Sokoto State, Buhari himself confessed he didn’t know the profundity of the security challenges of the zone.

The vagrants in emboldened ruthlessness, recently attacked a commuter train in motion, within the geographical space of Kaduna State, killing many innocent travellers, and abducting several others, in expectation of ransoms by families and government. Herdsmen have serially plodded carefree, through farmlands in the north central, fuelling bloody confrontations with farmers. The international community was alarmed at a live coverage by the US-based Cable Network News, (CNN), early 2019, of the mass internment of over 70 victims of herdsmen’s belligerence, in Benue State, to underscore the herdsmen’s menace.

Road travel has become a mortally dangerous venture across the country, no thanks to the blossoming kidnapping industry in the land. In bold-faced derision of the phenomenally lax, maybe nonexistent security apparatus in the country, bandits brazenly mount sentry on our so-called highways and expressway, pleasurably harvesting hapless victims from their vehicles. Some are literally executed to the crimson delight of the perverts, women get raped, others get dragged through the thickets of labyrinthine forests. Hitherto unheard ritualistic practices, bordering on the dissection of innocent victims and harvesting of vital human organs, have become the vogue in a depressing milieu, which has accentuated a get-rich-quick desire among sections of the people.

Terror also reigns in parts of the country’s south east, where hapless dignitaries have been targeted and killed, mafia-style, on the streets of Igboland. Outlawed outfits like the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, (IPOB), the Eastern Security Network, (ESN), and a host of faceless groups and gunmen, have made it pastime to spring surprise attacks on law-abiding citizens in communities. Homes of notable Igbo leaders have been serially set ablaze in inexplicable mindedness. Security personnel and outposts are also targets of these ruinous sub-humans. Cannibalism has been reported in the enclaves of some murderous gangs, stormed by intelligence and security personnel. Significantly, all of these are happening under the nostrils of a president who was once-upon-a-time an army general.

We have in place a government which swore in 2015, to arrest the floundering electricity situation within six months. It has been the shameless job of the same regime in recent weeks, however, to announce the serial collapse of the nation’s electricity grid. The nation today in the main, runs on alternate power sources, mostly oiled by diesel fuel. The price of this product, used to power diesel generators, recently skyrocketed by 150% from the previous rate of N340 per litre, to well over N700 for the same quantity.

The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, (NBS), a few days back, announced an 83% increment in the price of cooking gas. A petrol scarcity, triggered by the importation of adulterated quantities of the fuel, has only begun to abate, after several weeks of winding queues on the streets of the nation’s cities and night vigils by our people in fuel stations. The naira has continued its free cascade all through the Buhari years, exchanging for nearly N600 to one US dollar, in recent days. Inflationary trends are sky high, flattening the erstwhile haughtiness of presumptuous wads and bales of naira notes, in the unsmiling marketplace.

APC’s ongoing auctioneering of its expression of interest and nomination forms, its imposition of treacherous and intolerable rates on the subscription forms for intending aspirants, is a pertinent reminder of the traditional Yoruba song: *Bamu, bamu la yo/Bamu ba la yo/Awa o mo pe ebi n’pa enikankan/Bamu bamu la yo.* This translates as: “We’ve feted ourselves and had our fill. We are unaware that anyone is famished.” We have emplaced leaders who have not only ravaged our commonwealth, they have literally erected barricades to the desires and ambitions of the mass of the people. Let him stand up to be recognised, that public officer including the president, whose publicly stated remuneration can fund the recently enunciated tariffs of the APC expression of interest and nomination forms. It has been suggested that the president’s salary for four years is N57 million. How many private aspirants to the nation’s top job, can aggregate twice this sum, in the current economy?
Unconsciously, the APC has only formally issued an evaluation on itself, about the magnitude of the degeneration of the socioconomy, under its watch. Simply put, the party certifies that a minimum inflation of 300% has been experienced by the economy in the last seven years, if its presidential nomination forms, have quadrupled from N27 million in 2015, to N100 million in 2022. Yes, the party has just told Nigerians, that ascension to elective office in Nigeria, is the exclusive preserve of the nouveau riche. Nigerians have also been taught a new trick, to cultivate a grabbist appetite, a desire for voluptuous consumptiveness, whenever they find themselves in public office. It behoves on Nigerians to choose to continue the *follow follow* behind the special purpose vehicle, (SPV), in which its present overlords rose to power, which has inflicted unfathomable, multidimensional pain, discomfort and agony on them. The onus is on them, to embrace an alternative vessel which will assuage their angst, anger and agonies, post-2023. 

Olusunle, PhD, poet, journalist, author and scholar, is a Member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, (NGE).

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Opinion

Rivers political crisis: Fubara raves as Wike likely retreats (2)

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By Ehichioya Ezomon

As noted in part one under this header on Monday, April 29, 2024, Governor Siminalayi Fubara voluntarily and freely signed the peace agreement emanating from his solicitation for President Bola Tinubu to intervene in the political crisis in Rivers State that’s pitted the governor against his predecessor in office and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Chief Nyesom Wike.
Fubara signed the “Eight-point Resolutions” in the presence of his backers, such as former Rivers Governor Peter Odili, Deputy Governor Ngozi Odu and chairman of Rivers chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Aaron Chukwuemeka, and with Prof. Odu and Mr Chukwuemeka also appending the document.
When Fubara’s newfound political allies railed and raised hell against the agreement, claiming the governor didn’t sign it – and if he did, it’s under duress from the almighty Presidency, and a betrayal of the Rivers people, who’ve lined behind him in his fight for political supremacy with Wike – Fubara confirmed that he endorsed the document willingly.
The governor, in a Christmas message on Monday, December 25, 2023, said the resolution brokered by Tinubu to resolve the crisis was “not a death sentence,” but would ensure lasting peace, and he’d implement it in a way to restore political stability in Rivers.
But implementating the peace accord appears a “death sentence” to Fubara, who – short of repudiating the document as urged by his supporters – is dilly-dallying, signalling that he might not honour the spirit and letter of the agreement, so as not to hand victory to his opponents.
Looking at the items in the agreement, it’s evident that Fubara’s sidetracking the sticky issues that caused and fueled the crisis in Rivers. For example, Fubara and his team – as urged in the peace agreement – haven’t withdrawn matters they filed in court against the Rivers Assembly and others.
The likely Fubara-engineered cases in court triggered the resignation of the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor, who, in an April 23 letter, accused Fubara as barring him from cases against the Attorney-General, and Government of Rivers State.
Adangor’s letter reads in part: “It is important to mention that the Governor of Rivers State had, in the past couple of weeks, willfully interfered with the performance of my duties as the Hon. Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Rivers State, by directing me not to defend, oppose, or appear in suits instituted against the Hon. Attorney-General and the Government of Rivers State by persons admittedly hired and sponsored by the Government of Rivers State.” However, Fubara – in a no-holds-barred speech on Monday, May 6, when he received a delegation of political and traditional leaders from Bayelsa State, led by former Governor and Senator Seriake Dickson – alluded to Prof. Adangor sabotaging the interest of his administration and that of Rivers State, as reason for redeploying him to the Ministry of Special Duties (Governor’s Office), which Adangor declined and quit the government within 24 hours of the letter of redeployment issued on April 22 by Secretary to the State Government, Dr Tammy Danagogo.
Recall that Mr Isaac Kamalu, Commissioner of Finance, moved to the Ministry of Employment Generation and Economic Empowerment, resigned his post same day, citing “inability to function properly in an atmosphere devoid of peace,” and disputed Fubara’s claim of doubling the Rivers internally-generated revenue in 10 months, noting a steady rise in internal revenue receipts for years, “culminating in what the state is presently generating though not the figures (Fubara) erroneously claimed in the media.”
Drafting this piece the upper week, I posited that the Rivers Assembly, led by Martin Amaewhule, maybe in name and in place, and sitting in a location of their choice, but wasn’t recognised by Fubara because 27 of its members had dumped the PDP for APC when there’s allegedly “no fictionalisation of the party nationally.” Hence Fubara’s vetoed bills passed by the Assembly, which then overrode the governor, and passed the bills into law.
Fubara’s now publicly proclaimed the pro-Wike 27 APC members in the Rivers Assembly as “not existing,” going by law, and stressed he only accommodated them as his former political allies, and for the sake of peace in Rivers. Also, Fubara, during the Bayelsa delegation’s visit, dismissed the Tinubu brokered peace deal between him and Wike “as not constitutional.”
Fubara’s words: “It (peace deal) is a political solution to a problem. I accepted it because these (APC lawmakers) are people that were visiting me and we were together in my house. These are people that I have helped in many ways even when I wasn’t a governor.
“Yes, we might have our disagreements, but I believe that one day, we could also come together. That was the reason I did it. But, I think it has gotten to a time when I need to make a statement on this thing, so that they understand that they are not existing.
“Their existence and whatever they have been doing is because I allowed them to do so. If I don’t recognise them, they are nowhere. That is the truth. So, I want you (the visitors) to see the sacrifice I have made to allow peace to be in our state.
“I can say here, with all amount of boldness, I have never called any police man anywhere to go and harass anybody. I have never gone anywhere to ask anybody to do anything against anybody.
“But what happens to the people that are supporting me? They are being harassed, they are being arrested and detained. There is no week that somebody doesn’t come here with one letter of invitation for trump-up charges and all those things.”
Fubara boasted that with the powers at his disposal, he knows what to do to put in check those that don’t want peace but to destroy Rivers State. “I know that I have always taken the path of peace. I have shown respect. I’ve subjected myself to every meeting of reconciliation for peace. And what happens, each time we come out from such meetings, we are faced with one thunder or lightning,” Fubara said.
“Even when I have all the instruments of State powers, I have shown restraint, and I believe that whoever is alive, and has been following the activities of our dear state, knows that I have acted as a big brother in the course of this crisis.
“I have not acted like a young man that may want the house to be destroyed but, I have behaved like a mature young man that I am. This is because I know that no meaningful development will be achieved in an atmosphere of crisis.
“And because our intention for Rivers State is to build on the foundation that had been laid by our past leaders, it will be wrong for me to take the path of promoting crisis. That is why we are still recording the development that you are hearing around Rivers State.”
In line with his declaration of “non-existence” of the 27 pro-Wike members, and the leadership of the Rivers Assembly, Fubara’s refused – contrary to the peace deal – to represent the state budget of N800bn he presented on December 13, 2023, to his loyal five PDP lawmakers, headed by former “Speaker Edison Ehie,” who passed the budget within 24 hours, and signed by Fubara the next day. A 48-hour wonder!
But on Monday, January 22, the law came on the side of the Rivers Assembly – and by extension the presidential peace agreement – when a Federal High Court in Abuja set aside the N800bn budget because both the presentation and passage of the appropriation “amounted to nullity, and a wilful breach of the court order made on November 30, 2023,” the court ruled. Justice Omotosho also restrained Governor Fubara from frustrating the Amaewhule-led Rivers Assembly from sitting or interfering in its constitutional and legislative functions, and barred the National Assembly, the police and any member of the state executive arm from interfering in the assembly’s affairs.
Similarly, a Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, January 30, dismissed a suit seeking to stop Governor Fubara from re-presenting the N800bn 2024 budget of Rivers State, with Justice Joyce Abdulmalik, ruling that a similar suit in the matter had been decided by a sister court on the day she had granted an interim order (which she subsequently set aside) to the plaintiffs, who claimed that Tinubu, Fubara and the Rivers assembly have no right nor entitled to enter into any agreement that has the effect of nullifying or undermining the provisions of Section 109(I)(g) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal has reserved judgment on appeal by some Rivers elders, led by a member of the Rivers State Elders Council, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, and nine others, questioning the legality of the peace agreement that they asked to be declared unconstitutional, and the representation of the Rivers 2024 N800bn budget to “a properly-constituted Rivers State House of Assembly for approval,” as demanded in the peace deal.
A Rivers High Court, presided by Justice Chinwendu Nworgu, had struck out the suit, seeking interpretation of the Constitution on whether the president has the legal right to direct Fubara to re-present the budget to 24 lawmakers, led by Amaewhule, “even after their seats were declared vacant.”
As first reported by PUNCH, the dissatisfied claimants appealed the high court ruling, joining President Tinubu, Governor Fubara, Rivers Assembly Speaker, Martin Amaewhule, the state House of Assembly and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
On Wednesday, May 1, the three-man panel of the Appeal Court, led by Justice Elfreda Oluwayamisi-Dawodu, reserved judgment to a date to be communicated to parties after they’d adopted their final written addresses. While the counsel for President Tinubu and Governor Fubara didn’t file any brief of argument in the suit, no lawyer represented the PDP during the proceeding.
In support of his adopted written address, counsel for the claimants, Wilcox Agberetor (SAN), argued that the appeal be allowed, and the matter transferred back to the Chief Judge of Rivers State, for reassignment to another judge, while counsel for the House of Assembly, K.C Njemanze (SAN), urged dismissal of the appeal.
Equally unimplemented in the eight-point peace accord between Fubara and Wike are issues of the caretaker committees in Rivers local governments, and dissolution of the Local Government administration, which the peace deal declared “null and void and shall not be recognised.”
This has added a fresh layer to the power tussle between the governor and Rivers Assembly, which’s overriden five bills Fubara’s vetoed, including the revised Local Government Law that paves way for election into the local government areas of Rivers State.
Is Governor Fubara intent on honouring the peace resolutions? If he does, what’s worth doing at all is worth doing well! No need to continue digging in; it only profits the puppeteers and “where-belly-face” politicians egging him on to renounce the agreement. Many of them were with Wike yesterday, they’re with Fubara today, and will be with another governor tomorrow for “stomach infrastructure.”
Fubara should free himself of the sycophants and bootlickers in and about the corridors of power in Rivers State, so he can clearly see and directly hear from the masses, who suffer more as his fight-to-finish with Wike lingers! Or does he want a no-end to the Rivers crisis?
Fubara talks about being patient, tolerant and restrained in his dealing with the Rivers crisis. Will his patience snap, and pull off completely the gloves, and bare-knuckle his traducers in Abuja and Rivers? How will he carry out the struggle? Defensive or a blitzkrieg?
That’ll be taking a page or two from former Rivers governors, who hounded and/or probed their predecessor-governors over real or phantom allegations! And he’s at liberty to tread that path in Rivers peculiar, firebrand politics. More in the next piece under this header!

Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria

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Opinion

What’s Gwan with Ajuri Ngelale

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By Maikudi Tanko Yahaya

Many of my generation can relate with a very popular song; What’s Gwan released in the early ’90s by Aniocha North-born Okeleke Elumelu, better known by his stage name, Ras Kimono. The dread locked wearing reggae exponent who brought his rustic village, Onicha Olona in Delta state to national, regional, and to reasonable extent global recognition ruled the airwaves along his other colleagues like Mandators, late Majek Fashek, Orits Williki and few others. The wide-eyed dance hall crooner who by the way would have being 66 years old this month, according to news reports slumped at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos while waiting to board a flight to the United States of America was pronounced died moments later at an Ikeja-based hospital on 10th June 2018 at the age of 60.

While working on this article, the title of that lyrically strong and masterful produced song which by every standard was a marketing success came to mind. With the frequency of snide remarks and subtle attacks on the presidential media adviser, Ajuri Ngelale, one can’t help but ask “what’s Gwan.”

During campaigns and after his emergence as the president-elect of Nigeria, Bola Tinubu was equivocal and unapologetic about his intentions to include youths in sensitive positions in his government. Weeks after his inauguration on May 29, 2023, Tinubu set the ball rolling by putting action to his promise with the appointment of Ajuri Ngelale as his Special Adviser, Media. This to a large extent, came as a huge surprise to many in the country’s media fraternity. Hitherto, some familiar names had being flying around as likely choice for the position.

Indeed, with the emergence of Ngelale as the chief spokesman and publicist, Tinubu, in some ways has ingeniously created history, and broke away from the norm. Appointing Ngelale, in his late ’30s to such high-profiled position further confirms Tinubu’s commitment to youth inclusivity in his government. Also, Ngelale when juxtaposed with his predecessors, since 1999, from Doyin Okupe to Late Tunji Oseni, Late Remi Oyo, Segun Adeniyi, Reuben Abari, and Femi Adesina seems to be less popular, accomplished and experienced. All but one of these former media advisers are (were) distinguished fellows and members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, (NGE). That Tinubu entrusted the management of his media and publicity to someone derogatorily regarded as “rookie” by some people speaks volume about his penchant for youth-growth, and capacity development.

Further to this, Tinubu has shown that he is conscientiously committed to grooming the younger generation for leadership with the appointments of more youths into his government. Betta Edu, suspended Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation Minister; Khalil Halilu, Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive of National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure, (NASENI); Jamila Bio-Ibrahim, Minister of Youths Affairs and her colleague the Minister of state; and few others are all in their 30s. The appointment of 37 year old Ngelale, and that of his contemporaries succinctly confirms Tinubu’s status as a leader passionate about grooming youths for the future.

Despite Tinubu’s noble, novel initiative, and determination to encourage the participation, involvement, and elevation of youths in his government, it thus appears that some people are opposed to Ngelale. From careful analysis, he has being subject of criticism, complaints, and characterisation by people who somehow detest his ambitious, audacious, and unusual confidence and operations. For some people, they feast on any issue to not only pour their frustrations and anger on Ngelale but also throw tantrums and invectives to mischievously whittle down his hardwork. Any unintended slip from the United Arab Emirates issue to USA’s NASDAQ and Maersk incident are used as avenues to roll out salacious and jealousy-imbeded comments and statements.

For now, it’s apposite to ask those opposed to Ngelale, why now? Criticisms are good, necessary for effective and efficient deliveries and performances. But when hate, dislike, and anger are clothe and cloaked in garment of constructive engagement it impedes concentration, confidence, character, and capacity. For now, contrary to the moonlight tales and negative narratives of those who appears miffed with Ngelale, the Rivers-born publicist who is the youngest occupier of the position is not doing badly. Given his professional background as a hard-nosed and hardworking reporter in AIT, and CHANNELS before his transition to public service as aide on public affairs to former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and now as Tinubu’s spokesman, the light-skinned, and six-foot tall son of former water resources Minister, Precious Ngelale is improving on the job.

As someone who strikes as receptive to new ideas, professional initiatives, and constructive criticism from genuine quarters, the writer believes Ngelale would be willing to hear, listen to robust engagements from any person. Rather than resort to regular “exposure and vilification” of his “errors and gaffes” it is advised that these professionals should offer genuine counsel whenever necessary to help grow and nurture the career growth of their younger brother and colleague.

Maikudi Tanko Yahaya is a Public Affairs Analyst based in Kaduna

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Opinion

Rivers political crisis: Fubara raves as Wike likely retreats (1)

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By Ehichioya Ezomon

In my copy of Monday, January 15, 2024, entitled, “Shaibu’s talk about Obaseki’s betrayal laughable,” I posed the question, “Do politicians have conscience, and if they do, does it prick them?” This followed the declaration by the lately impeached Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu, that Governor Godwin Obaseki had betrayed him by refusing to back his aspiration to succeed him on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Comrade Shaibu had reckoned that Obaseki supporting his ambition would be reciprocal for what he did to aid his first and second term elections, and his governments (under All Progressives Congress (APC) and PDP, respectively). Rather, Obaseki “anointed” a Lagos-based lawyer and financier, Dr Asue Ighodalo, to succeed him in November 2024.
In the article, I likened Shaibu’s accusation to “the kettle calling the pot black,” nudging him to recall “how he betrayed former Governor Adams Oshiomhole – whom he still addresses as ‘my father,’ perhaps to humour him – in order to ingratiate Mr Obaseki, who also betrayed Comrade Oshiomhole.”
Then, I took Shaibu through Oshiomhole’s unilateral endorsement of Obaseki against opposition from formidable foundation members of the defunct Action Congress (AC) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), “and did a yeoman’s campaign” for him to win the 2016 governorship.
But not long after, Obaseki broke with Oshiomhole for allegedly “attempting to lord it over him and his government as a ‘godfather,’ – which Oshiomhole really assumed in 2016 to swing the candidacy for and ‘crown’ Obaseki as Governor of Edo State.”
In closing, I noted that, if Obaseki could undermine “Oshiomhole’s benevolent spirit that broke his palm kernel for him,” and reward Oshiomhole with a series of betrayals, who’s Shaibu to escape retribution from Obaseki, who’s already “anointed” by Governor Oshiomhole as ‘Governor-in-waiting’ before Shaibu’s picked as his running mate?
That intro question of whether politicians have conscience, and if it pricks them, needs emphasising, owing to what’s happening in Rivers State between Governor Siminalayi Fubara and his “political godfathers” and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr Nyesom Wike, who Fubara’s rebelled against for alleged overbearing influence on his government that came into office on May 29, 2023.
Ahead of the general election – and the March 18, 2023, governorship poll that ushered in Fubara – Wike had “anointed” him against opposition from PDP chieftains, who’d assumed that Wike would pick one of them for governor after he’d “encouraged” them to so dream. They accused Wike of picking Fubara because he’s of his Ikwerre ethnic stock, whereas Fubara’s an Ijaw.
During the campaigns, Wike’s everywhere, as if he’s gunning for a “third term” in office. Like the mother-hen that protects her chicken from the predator-hawk, Wike shielded Fubara from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which declared him wanted for alleged financial sleaze perpetrated in his office as the Accountant General of Rivers State. Due to EFCC’s intense manhunt for Fubara, Wike literally assumed the candidate for the election.
Wike took all the arrows, darts and bullets aimed at Fubara, and made him governor under the PDP even when Wike – in support of the candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (now President of Nigeria) – worked against the interest of the PDP presidential candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
This was similar to what former President Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007) did for the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (2007-2010), when his bid for president was hampered by ailments that kept him mostly overseas from the campaign trail. Obasanjo more or less “swapped” position with Yar’Adua and campaigned for him to win the 2007 presidential poll.
Ditto for Senator and former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State (1999-2007), who campaigned for his then Chief of Staff, Theodore Orji, who’s detained in a Lagos jailhouse over corrupion allegation. On the strength of Dr Kalu’s campaign under the defunct Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), Orji won the governorship from prison, and was released to assume office in 2007.
In 2016, Oshiomhole, so to speak, “carried on his back” Godwin Obaseki – the nominal chairman of his government’s Economic Strategy Team (EST) – while campaigning for him to succeed him as governor in November of that year, which Obaseki did.
There’s no crystal ball to foretell if Yar’Adua would’ve estranged Obasanjo had he lived beyond 2010 when he died, but he’s beginning to question some of Obasanjo’s policies, and even the election that brought him (Yar’Adua) to power in 2007 as indeed “rigged” in his favour. But Governors Obaseki, and Orji dealt with their political benefactors, Comrade Oshiomhole and Dr Kalu, accordingly.
Not surprising – given the MO of Nigerian politicians, Governor Fubara’s toeing a likely line, forgotting so soon Wike’s political sacrifices for him, and thus proving a liner from a book by former Rivers Governor Peter Odili (1999-2007) – and quoted by Wike – that, “Give a man power and money, that’s when you will know the person.” 
“If you have not given a man power and money, do not say you know the person,” Wike adds in an interview on African Independent Television (AIT), in reaction to the torching of the Rivers State House of Assembly on October 9, 2023, in attempts by pro-Wike lawmakers to impeach Fubara, who pulled down the complex to prevent the lawmakers’ action against him.
With power and money, Fubara’s graduated from “bended knee” (sevant) to straightened knee (master), and daily challenges Wike’s political clout, and his professed love for Rivers State. For instance, on April 27, on a visit to condole with “former Governor Celestine Omehia” on the death of his mother, Mrs Ezinne Cecilia Omehia, Fubara vowed he’d not kneel (to Wike) to govern Rivers.
(By law, Omehia’s never a governor of Rivers State, as his few weeks/months in office was vitiated by the Supreme Court, which declared Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as the duly-elected governor of the PDP in 2007, sworn-in and ruled for eight years (2007-2015) – even though he only won the PDP primary, and didn’t participate in the governorship election, as he’s exiled in Ghana, afraid for his life from alleged officially-backed political goons. It’s Omehia who, supported by Wike, that campaigned and “won” the poll, which the Supreme Court voided because Amaechi won the primary for the governorship poll.)
Fubara’s words: “Anybody who claims to love this state should not be party to anything, directly or indirectly, that will bring us backwards. We will continue to support every course (cause) that will advance the interest of our dear Rivers State.
“And I am happy to say, and I’ve said it over and again, it doesn’t matter the number of people that are standing with me, I will stand on the side of truth. I will not, I repeat, I will not govern our dear state on my knees. If that was the purpose, I will not do that. I will stand to govern our dear state and stand continually on the side of (what’s) right.”
In response, Omehia expressed appreciation, on behalf of his family, to Governor Fubara, his delegation and other friends, among whom were those he described as “mature elders,” for the show of love.”
Then, Omehia massaged Fubara’s ego, saying, “I have taken a decision to be SIMplified (an alias derived from the governor’s name, Siminalayi). Wherever you (Fubara) go is where I will go. If you say tomorrow you are no more interested in this position, I will also stop fighting for anything in Rivers State.”
Omehia stated emphatically that almost the entire people of the State, including chiefs, elders, opinion leaders, women, youths, civil society groups and professionals across all spectrums, “were praying and working assiduously for the success of the Fubara administration,” stressing it was that support and prayers of the people that he needed to succeed, because, “one with God, is with majority, and would always excel and succeed.”
The inevitable questions: Wasn’t Fubara on “his knees” when he’s aspiring to be governor of Rivers State? Didn’t he bow, cower, crawl, cringe, flatter and genuflet to Wike to achieve his ambition? If Wike had asked him to commit a criminal act against Rivers State, would Fubara be his own man he claims, and stand straight and look the governor in the face and say, “no, I won’t do it?” 
Why does Fubara think he loves Rivers more than Wike; that only a few Rivers people, like Omehia, “understand that Rivers State belongs to everyone of us,” and “we must, therefore, fight together to sustain the soul of this state,” and that, “anybody who claims to love this state should not be party to anything, directly or indirectly, that will bring us backwards?”
Really? Because Wike – who single-handedly brought Fubara into his government, appointed him Accountant General, and anointed and crowned him as governor – asked him to honour a behind-the-scenes gentleman’s agreement Fubara entered into, Wike’s become an enemy intent on destroying Rivers State he’s helped to develop in his eight-tenure as governor (2015-2023)?
Does Fubara equate his fight over personal political and other hidden interests as a fight for the soul of Rivers? No, Mr Governor! Your fight isn’t for Rivers State nor for Rivers people, who weren’t there when you probably signed an agreement(s) you knew would mortgage the state! Now, you claim victimhood, stirring up, and blackmailing the innocent, but gullible citizens of Rivers to assist you to fight your self-induced battles with Wike! 
If Fubara actually believes “politics of bitterness will not take us anywhere,” he should shealth the sword, stop rattling the sabre and threatening fire and brimstone everywhere and at any opportune moment – such as he did during a solemn occasion of condoling with Sir Omehia over the death of his beloved mother.
There’re no half measures for peace. It’s holistic and enduring. If you want peace, you continually talk peace. If you talk peace, you cultivate peace. If you cultivate peace, you walk peace. If you walk peace, you drop the stick for the carrot. If you preach peace, you don’t pursue war. For war doesn’t achieve peace, but eternal enmity. 
You don’t pretend to preach peace, and do the opposite. It amounts to betrayal of trust, and the cause. It cuts deeply, even in politics where there’s no permanent friend or permanent enemy but permanent interest.
The road to peace – which Fubara preaches openly while also fanny the embers of discord – is to honour another gentleman’s agreement he publicly endorsed at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on December 19, 2023, before President Bola Tinubu, his (Fubara’s) representatives, and Wike and those in his camp.
Agreed that controversy trailed the eight-point agreement, which’s the outcome of Fubara’s reported personal invitation to Tinubu, to intervene in the crisis in the Rivers polity. Yet, contrary to claims by newfound political allies, Fubara didn’t object to any of the items, and he signed the document in the presence of his backers, some of whom also signed the agreement.
Fubara, in a Christmas broadcast on Monday, December 25, 2023, said the resolution brokered by Tinubu to resolve the crisis was “not a death sentence,” but would ensure lasting peace in the state, and pledged to implement the agreement in such a way that would restore political stability in Rivers.
This was as the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP warned Fubara against implementing the accord without its input, while some Rivers elders filed writs against President Tinubu and others for allegedly violating the amended 1999 Constitution, by finding political, rather than legal solutions to the Rivers crisis. Just imagine, faulting the deployment of a political strategy to solving a political issue!
Present on the government side at the parley were President Tinubu, Vice President Kashim Shettima, National Security Adviser (NSA), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and the president’s Chief of Staff, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila; and on Wike’s side we’re Wike, Rivers Assembly Speaker Martin Amaewhule, and APC Chairman, Rivers State, Mr Tony Okocha
From the governor’s camp were Fubara, former Governor Odili, Deputy Governor Ngozi Odu, and PDP Chairman, Rivers State, Mr Aaron Chukwuemeka; and those who signed the agreement included Fubara, Wike, Prof. Odu, Ribadu, Amaewhule, Okocha and Chukwuemeka. 
As a governor, who claims to “stand by the side of truth and the side of (what’s) right,” it behoves, and is incumbent on Fubara to wholeheartedly respect President Tinubu and his intervention in the Rivers palaver, and honour the “peace agreement” fully, and not pick-and-choose for piecemeal implementation that’s the potential to exacerbate tension in Rivers State. The eight-point Resolutions are as follows: 
• All matters instituted in the courts by Fubara, and his team shall be withdrawn immediately.
• All impeachment proceedings initiated against Fubara by Rivers Assembly should be dropped immediately.
• The leadership of the Rivers Assembly, as led by Amaewhule, shall be recognised alongside the 27 members who resigned from the PDP to APC.
• Remunerations and benefits of members of Rivers Assembly and their staff should be reinstated immediately and the Rivers governor shall, henceforth, not interfere with the full funding of the Assembly.
• The Rivers Assembly shall choose where to sit and conduct legislative business without interference and/or hindrance from the Executive arm.
• Governor Fubara shall represent the state budget to a properly-constituted Rivers State House of Assembly.
• The names of commissioners, who resigned their appointments due to the political crisis in Rivers, should be resubmitted to the Assembly for approval.
• There should be no caretaker committees for Rivers State local governments. The dissolution of the Local Government administration is null and void and shall not be recognised.”
Looking through the items in the agreement, it’s evident that Governor Fubara’s continued to sidetrack the sticky issues that backgrounded the political crisis in Rivers. This, and other matters will be treated in the next installment!

Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria

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