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Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo: Missing the maskless masquerade five years after

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By Tunde Olusunle

It was four days to his 57th birthday. Exactly five years ago on Sunday March 5, 2017, however, Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo, one of Nigeria’s finest, most innovative and most resourceful journalists of all time, died in continually befuddling circumstances. He had attended the 80th birthday celebration of his erstwhile benefactor and boss, Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s pioneer president in the current democratic milieu in Abeokuta, earlier that day. He was being chauffeured back to his base in Abuja, by a kinsman and friend, Adas Sadiq, a chartered accountant. The evening was speedily creeping in, dusk decisively outwitting the day in the horizon. He had attuned his mind to night stop in Akure or Okene, his hometown, a situation which diminished every thought of a long haul to the country’s capital city on Nigeria’s capricious roads, where he set out from, two days earlier.

According to accounts, Onukaba and his friend, ran into a roadblock mounted by armed robbers, around Ilara Mokin community, on the Ilesha-Akure road, about 10 minutes away from the Ondo State capital, that evening. Seeing that commuters were fleeing their vehicles and seeking refuge in the vegetation on either side of the road, he followed suit with Sadiq. They took cover in various sections of the bush in the melee.

A vehicle which reportedly escaped from the immediate jurisdiction of the daredevil criminals, lost control and skidded into Onukaba’s haven, killing him instantly. Probably oblivious he had killed someone, or still jittery that he was still within the span of the robbers he had just outwitted, the driver dragged his car from the scene and fled. It was a police team which, typically, arrived after the fact, that discovered his body in the *agbada* he wore on that day.

Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo’s reputation went far ahead of him, before our eventual meeting, in the buildup to Obasanjo’s ascension to the presidency, late 1998. He had built the reputation of a fearless, fiery, dogged and prolific journalist, an inspiration to would-be professionals. His reports, mostly from the aviation beat, domiciled primarily at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, (MMIA), Lagos, bore a novel vibrancy. They got featured prominently in the newspaper he worked for, *The Guardian.* It was on this beat he first met Obasanjo back in 1984, and they subsequently struck a *father-son* kind of relationship. Onukaba, who departed Nigeria for further education in 1989, had obtained a masters degree in journalism and a doctorate in performance studies in New York University, (NYU). He had kept in touch with Obasanjo over the years.

In furtherance of this preexisting relationship with Obasanjo, Onukaba returned to Nigeria late 1998 to lend a helping hand, in the publicity directorate of the campaign infrastructure. The division was very ably led by Onyema Ugochukwu, one of Nigeria’s iconic media professionals. I was already the campaign press secretary to Obasanjo, accompanying him everywhere he went on the political trail and coordinating my small media team to ensure comprehensive and timely reportage of events. Onukaba was seamlessly integrated into the publicity directorate and that was our first encounter. We hit it off straightaway.

I was curious about Onukaba’s doctoral thesis, which he explained to me, focused on masked masquerade performances in Ebiraland. Having watched some masquerade engagements, notably the *echane* and *ekuechi* festivals in Okene the heartland of the Ebira, I spontaneously coined a nickname for him, “masquerade!” This was my trademark for addressing him till the very end. A number of our mutual friends adopted my coinage. Whenever I told my wife I needed to see masquerade, she knew who it was.

Onukaba equally had a subsisting relationship with Atiku Abubakar, who was selected as Obasanjo’s running mate ahead of  the presidential election of February 1999. The same year he first engaged Obasanjo in 1984 at the Lagos airport, he equally met Atiku who was the area administrator of the Nigerian Customs, with his office at the Lagos airport. They got on well in the line of duty and became good friends. Fortuitously therefore, Onukaba had two “foster fathers” in the emerging political structure.

Following the inauguration of the Obasanjo/Atiku presidency, May 29, 1999, Onukaba was appointed Special Assistant on Media to the Vice President. The administrative template established by the new administration was somewhat convoluted. It provided that appointees were first and foremost, personnel of the President, before deployment variously, to offices, agencies and departments. A curious component of this arrangement was that the President could reassign or fire officials across the board in his government. After a few months in office therefore, Obasanjo redeployed Onukaba to Lagos as Managing Director of the Daily Times of Nigeria, (DTN).

He returned to Abuja in May 2003, upon the inauguration of Obasanjo and Atiku for a second term. This time, he was designated Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Vice President on Media. Barely two years on the job, Onukaba was sacked by Obasanjo, for an innocuous press statement. Onukaba had attempted to absolve Atiku from complicity in a purported bid for the erstwhile residence of the vice president in Lagos, under the monetization and sale of government properties’ programme of the administration, in the line of duty, an undertaking Obasanjo construed as insubordination.

On the heels of this development, Onukaba’s mother-in-law, Anna Ebikere Ogirri, who heard the news of his exit from office in Benin City where she lived, got into a commuter vehicle, destined for Abuja to support her son-in-law and her daughter, Rachael his wife, who was pregnant. The date was April 5, 2005. She never make it. She died in an accident. A concerned Atiku, encouraged Onukaba to take a break with his young family which had earlier produced Asuku his little son, and proceed to the United States for a while.

Atiku placed Onukaba on a generous monthly stipend within that span. And the restless writer he was, Onukaba used the opportunity to firm up the manuscripts of a biography he was writing on Atiku. It was later published as: *Atiku: The Story of Atiku Abubakar.* Ebikere, named after her late grandmother, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, within the period. While he was away, the government-owned property Onukaba lived in, was reallocated and his properties almost thrown to the streets. I speedily rallied friends around to salvage his belongings, which we transferred to a property I had just developed at the time.

August 29, 2009, Rachael Akiomuado Ogirri Onukaba his wife, tragically died of cerebral malaria at 32. A thoroughly flustered, despondent, bewildered and despairing Onukaba, soldiered on bravely for six years before marrying Memunat Aliyu-Onukaba, at a quiet ceremony attended by just a handful of we his close friends, in Kaduna. The union produced Onyeche, the baby of the family.

Amidst the general lachrymose and pervading gloom which attended Onukaba’s demise, Atiku established an “Adinoyi-Ojo Onukaba Endowment Fund,” to support the young family. At the fundraiser in Abuja, May 2, 2017, about N13 million was aggregated in cash and promissory notes. Atiku made the single largest contribution of N10 million. A Board of Trustees, chaired by this writer, which includes select family members and intimate friends of Onukaba, was emplaced. Side by side with this effort, Taiwo Obe, a longstanding friend of Onukaba, rallied friends and colleagues on the Lagos stretch, to poll resources for the family.

Happily, Onukaba’s family is wearing a brave face and trying to cope without their father. In the absence of both biological parents for Asuku and Ebikere, Memunat their stepmother is filling the gap, as well as she can. Onukaba’s siblings, notably Audu, have also been supportive. Frugal management of the Endowment Fund, ensured that Asuku and Ebikere continued their educational progression in one of the topmost private secondary schools in Abuja. They completed their Senior Secondary School Education, (SSCE), in flying colours in that institution without being dislocated from an environment they had aclimatised in over time.

August 24, 2019, Atiku from his abode in Dubai, fulfilled his pledge, two years earlier, to grant fully-funded scholarships to any of Onukaba’s children desirous of studying at the American University of Nigeria, (AUN), in Yola, owned by him. Asuku Onukaba who turned 19 recently, is in his third year studying Software Engineering, in the institution. Ebikere has been taken up by her maternal uncles, Festus and Kenneth Ogirri, who both live in Houston. Because she’s just 16, she’s been enrolled in a community college, pending her transfer to the university, when she is of age. Ebikere’s aunt, Ethel Ogirri-Omeye, lives next door in Canada, with her family. Last year, the proprietor of the “Cradle To Harvard” schools in Abuja, Phrank Shaibu, awarded a full scholarship to Onyeche, now five years old.

Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, a kinsman of the late Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo, visited Onukaba’s family house in Ihima, Okene, during the muslim three-day prayer for the departed, in March 2017. He promised to buy a property in Abuja for his family, when he learnt Onukaba lived in rented accommodation at the time of his demise. He noted that this contrasted with his looming public profile.

Bello directed his chief of staff at the time, Edward Onoja, who is now his deputy, to set up a meeting to this effect, between him and officials of the Endowment Fund, on the subject. Five years after, the meeting has not happened. Bello’s finance commissioner, Ashiru Idris, recently committed to reopening the matter with the Kogi State governor, to push it to a successful denouement, when I brought the issue to his attention.

Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo, the masquerade who never donned a mask, continues to be missed by many. He was a gentleman par excellence, cerebral, imaginative, forthright, unsuited for Nigeria’s political madness and rapacious rat race. I reminded him in our several debates, that he was not cut out for a country like ours, which continues to confound the world with its self-inflicted ordered disorder, and disorderly order. I would tell him that a certain measure of *agbero* DNA, is needed to navigate the Nigerian conundrum, which I equated with Daniel Fagunwa’s 1938 novel in Yoruba, translated to English as *The Forest of a Thousand Daemons,* by Wole Soyinka.

I always insisted he was better a professor and knowledge producer in a Western country, where he would thrive as the journalist, playwright, biographer, scholar and arts connoisseur he was. To be sure, his authorial production which includes eight published and performed plays and four biographies, among others, would be the envy of many professors today. At the time of his departure, he was collaborating with Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru, a former chairman of the Federal Internal Revenue Service, (FIRS), on a landmark publication on Nigeria’s multifarious ethnicities, which had many respected intellectuals and professionals as contributors. The first volume was all but ready before he left.

It’s been five years on and we miss Onukaba, every day.

Tunde 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 (3)

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By Ehichioya Ezomon

As the Rivers political crisis reaches – or being pushed by the feuding parties to – its crescendo, Governor Siminalayi Fubara’s adopted a strategy of one-day, one-taunt, one-threat, one-allegation to deal with his opponents, or enemies of Rivers State, as decreed by the governor.
Hence such headlines as, “Rivers crisis: ‘I have defeated my enemies, they now sleep with two eyes open’ — Fubara,” “Fubara: ‘Small thing I did they no longer sleep,'” “You haven’t seen anything yet, wait for joker, says Fubara,” “We’re battling huge debts left behind by Wike’s government — Fubara,” “Fubara vows to probe Wike, says ‘jungle is mature,'” “I’ll liberate Rivers from oppression, says Fubara,” “Rivers crisis: ‘Conduct yourselves, nobody has monopoly of violence,’ Fubara warns LG chairmen.”
To rein in his traducers, Fubara’s decided to probe the administration of former Governor and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, Chief Nyesom Wike – ironically his political godfather-turned nemesis accusingly fueling the Rivers crisis.
On Monday, May 13, at the inauguration of Dagogo Israel Iboroma (SAN) as Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, to replace Prof. Zaccheaus Adangor, who resigned after he’s redeployed to the Ministry of Special Duties (Governor’s Office), Fubara vowed he’s “not going back on it (probe).”
He told Mr Iboroma – who’s sworn in after screening by the pro-Fubara three-member House of Assembly, presided by Victor Oko-Jumbo – that he’s brought on board as the Attorney-General to tackle the legal matters faced by the government “with bravery and courage.”
Fubara’s words: “My brother, Dagogo Iboroma, you are going to be the brand new Attorney-General of our dear State. SSG (Secretary to the State Government), give him his letter, he is the Attorney-General
“Why are we bringing you at this very critical time? We have a lot of issues around us. We believe that you are not going to be the one that, when they send (court) service to you, you go and file ‘nolle prosequi’ (a formal notice of discontinuance) or you go and file one thing that would kill us here.
“Let me also say this. You have a big task. We will be setting up a judicial panel of inquiry to investigate the affairs of governance. So, brace up, I am not going back on it (probe).
“Please, defend us. We know that you are going to defend us because your record is clean. You are a gentleman and peaceful. You are not a noise maker. People like you are endowed, and they have the fear of God.”
Prof. Adangor didn’t escape Fubara’s censor for allegedly sabotaging the administration “he served as chief law officer,” even as Adangor, in his resignation letter, claimed Fubara interfered in the discharge of his duties.
Adangor’s letter reads: “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.”
But as Fubara said: “It is good that you (Iboroma) were already a SAN (Senior Advocate of Nigeria) before your appointment. This means that you’re a very thorough lawyer and has earned your appointment. Not like the one (Adangor) we had here.
“Instead of you (Adangor) to close your mouth, you go publicly to claim that you are a learned person, and go publicly to tell people that you were the chief law officer. Chief law officer?
“You were here and you went to stand before a Magistrates’ court. At that time, you didn’t remember that you were a chief law officer, going against the ethics of your job. Like I said, you will get your reward, not in the next world, but in this world.”
Though Fubara’s elated to’ve found “a well- constituted House of Assembly” (of only three members out of 31) to discharge legislative duties, and “the appointment of a seasoned lawyer as Attorney-General,” he doubts the resolution of Rivers’ crisis amicably due to alleged “deliberate sabotage” of his government.
“It has become very clear that… there is no way to resolve it (crisis) amicably, and for a lot of reasons. There is visible evidence that there is sabotage, deliberate attempt to sabotage this administration,” Fubara said, adding, “for that reason, we have to move forward, and moving forward, if it means taking decisions that are going to hurt anybody, we are not going back.”
One such decision is Fubara’s avowal to rehabilitate the Rivers State House of Assembly Residential Quarters in Port Harcourt, launched in 2022, thus pre-empting the report of experts he’s commissioned to carry out integrity tests on the quarters that houses the lawmakers and their families, and also serves as a legislative house, which Fubara’s lately relocated to the Government House via an Executive Order.
With opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers alleging the governor intends to demolish the structures, as he reportedly did to the House of Assembly complex, Fubara, on Thursday, May 9, displayed the attitude of the typical politician to regard – and appropriate – state resources: financial and material as theirs.
After he “stormed” the residential quarters – and journalists wanted to know his mission to the place, Fubara asked what’s amiss if he visited his own property. He said: “Is the assembly quarters not part of ‘my property’? Is there anything wrong in going to check how things are going on there? You are aware of the developments. We have a new Speaker, and I went there to see for myself how things are. There might be a few things I want to do there for the good of our people.”
Fubara’s query reminds of the late media sensation and Kano State Governor Sabo Bakin Zuwo, during the short-lived Second Republic (1979-1983). Sen. Zuwo had hardly spent a few weeks in his three-month stay in power (October 1 to December 31, 1983) when he appropriated the state resources to the Government House for quick disbursements.
When anti-graft operatives had intel about – and actually saw – the stacked amount of Kano State’s money in the government house – where Zuwo handed it out at his whim and fancy – and was asked for an explanation, the following dialogue ensued:
Zuwo: “Whose money is this?” Security operatives: “Kano State’s money.” Zuwo: Whose house is this?” Security operatives: “Kano State’s Government House.” Zuwo: “You found Kano State’s money in Kano State’s Government House, is there any problem with that?” Security operatives: Tongue-tied, no response!
Fubara’s claim of Rivers property as his also recalls an apocryphal (unverified) saying, attributed to Louis XIV, King of France and Navarre, “L’État, c’est moi” (“I am the state,” literally, “the state, that is me”) – allegedly said on April 13, 1655, before the Parliament of Paris – is a phrase that “symbolises absolute monarchy and absolutism,” according to Wikipedia.
In the context of Nigeria’s politics, the President and Governor act as absolute monarchs, who equate themselves as the State, and do what they like with its resources, without questioning from the legislative arm of government under their stranglehold. That’s where Fubara’s veered lately with his proclamation of a three-man Rivers State House of Assembly, to make laws for the state, and oversight the executive that installed the chamber itself.
Getting away with a five-member Rivers Assembly that passed a hefty N800bn budget within 24 hours, and signed into law the next day – a 48-hour wonder – Fubara gambles now with three members in a 31-member assembly, to “guard” his government in the next three years before the 2027 general election.
And seemingly free of the political bondage he’s been held by Wike, Fubara’s ploy – barring any unforeseen circumstances – is to put the final nail into the political coffin of his opponents: Wike and his sacked loyal members of the Rivers Assembly, depending on several factors, chiefly, the direction of cases in court, resistance from the sacked pro-Wike lawmakers, and local council chairmen, whose tenure ends in June, and the courage by Fubara’s three-member legislature to go the whole hog with the governor for the ultimate showdown with Wike.
Top of these challenges is the Wike probe, which sing-song Fubara took a notch higher on Tuesday, May 14, when he alleged that Rivers’ huge debt overhang was incurred by Wike, who also didn’t pay contractors for projects executed for the state, as reported by Premium Times on May 15.
Fubara revealed this at the commissioning of reconstructed 10.89km Aleto-Ogale-Ebubu-Eteo road at Ebubu community, Eleme local government area, where he said he’d lived and worked to get to Level 14 in the Rivers civil service.
His words: “This is to let the world know that if there is one problem this administration has, it is the huge debt burden. Most of the projects being commissioned, the contractors are coming for their balance-payment, and it is running into billions.
“I have said that I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to talk because I was part of that system. But, when you (Wike) keep pushing me to talk, I will say it so that the people will know the true situation of things and be properly informed.”
Fubara’s charge counters claims by then Governor Wike in November 2022, that he’s fully funding the multi-billion naira projects executed by his administration, and that he wouldn’t leave any debts behind for his successor.
Wike said he’s deploying arrears of 13 per cent of oil revenue – (later with additional refunds of N78bn incurred by the prior Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi government (2007-2015) to rebuild federal roads in Rivers) – paid by then President Muhammadu Buhari to Rivers State.
Wike, inaugurating the Rivers State campus of the Nigeria Law School (NLS) declared: “That is why, since 2019 till now, we have been commissioning projects in the state,” and threw a challenge to other governors in the South-South zone “to account for the oil revenue they have received.”
Whatever, Fubara’s poured cold water on Wike’s claim of financial prudence and accountability, as he’s in a postion to know – as then Accountant General of Rivers – the actual financial health of the state, and challenges Wike to account for how he spent Rivers resources in eight years!
On the launching of the road, Fubara said he’s happy to be there (Ebubu community), and “to join the good people of Rivers State to start this wonderful celebration of our first anniversary in the face of all the troubles. It shows that we are still focused, not minding the level of distractions.”
“This project was awarded at the cost of N6.7 billion, and I can say boldly that no kobo is remaining. We’ve paid the contractor its complete sum. Our gathering here is to tell our people that their problem is our problem,” Fubara said.
Obviously as a parting shot at Wike, Fubara said he’d invited Abia State Governor, Dr Alex Otti, to inaugurate the road because Otti is not a man of “artificial integrity,” but a “pragmatic man.”
Now that the die is cast for the probe of the eight-year tenure of governance of Rivers State by Nyesom Wike, how will Governor Fubara proceed with the task? This and other issues will form the next installment of this article!

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

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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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