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Southern Nigeria Presidency: A case for Dr. Ogbonaya Onu

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With less than a year to the 2023 general elections the race for the presidential ticket of political parties is getting more intense. As political parties strategize towards holding their party primaries, the issue of which of the 6 geopolitical zones in Nigeria will their presidential candidate emerge has been a subject of national discourse. Equitable zoning of the presidency in the 2023 general elections by the two major political parties, the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), is currently one of the most contentious issues in Nigeria today. Although the concept of zoning electoral positions by political parties is not expressly captured in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Amended) it is in tandem with the Federal Character Principle as enshrined in its Third Schedule, as a way of promoting equity, justice and fair play and giving every constituent of the Nigerian society a sense of belonging. Zoning or Power Shift is a veritable instrument for protecting the equality of citizens’ rights and guides against the marginalization of the ethnic minorities. It ensures societal harmony through the equitable devolution of power and allocation of resources.

Power Shift or Rotational Presidency has been a major cause of feud in the Nigeria polity since independence in 1960. It carries with it a strong moral force that can threaten the existence of Nigeria as a sovereign entity. Rotational Presidency is a pragmatic means of stabilizing the Nigerian democracy and has been an ideological norm formally adopted by many political parties prior to Nigeria’s independence. Problems of cleavage along ethno-religious lines can only be addressed by this power sharing arrangement which although unlegislated upon, has been in prolonged usage and widely accepted by the people and commands the conscious obeisance by the majority of its citizens. Of the 62 years post-independence Nigeria, the North has ruled for 37 years, mostly as military Heads of State, and some political analysts belief this would have conferred some advantage on the region, as in the absence of parliamentary scrutiny many critical national assets, establishments and appointments can be inequitably sited in this part of the country by military fiat. In the current democratic dispensation, the North-West has produced two Presidents from the same state, and aside from the middle-belt, the core north is homogenous for language and religion and can conveniently cohabit as single ethnic entity. Southern Nigeria on the other hand, has 2 major ethnic groups, the Yoruba and Igbo that are clearly identifiable with little cultural inclinations.

Since the advent of the fourth republic, apart from the South-East and North-Central, the other geopolitical zones of Nigeria have had a shot at the presidency. The two major Political Parties, the APC and PDP have already zoned their party’s National Chairmanship position to the North-Central and barring any ‘extenuating circumstance’ and from antecedents and ‘their body language’, would choose their Presidential flag bearer from the South and the Vice-President from the North-East. Going against this arrangement no matter what expediency and zoning the Office of the President to the North or micro-zoning it to a Geopolitical bloc in the south that had already had a shot at it in the current republic will make nonsense of the zoning principle and defeat the spirit of its intendment with dire consequences on the stability of the country. Thus, contrary to arguments that there was no order of zoning, Nigeria has religiously adhered to this bipodal sharing of critical political offices as evidenced by the major political parties restricting their presidential tickets to a Presidential candidate who is a Christian from the South with a Northern Muslim Vice-Presidential running mate in the 1999 elections or vice versa since then, and mandatorily fielding Gubernatorial candidates paired with a Deputy from a different Senatorial Zone.

Proponents of the anti-zoning mantra, argue that zoning has outlived its usefulness and has no place in the Nigerian Constitution. They hide under their perceived regional numerical dominance, to posit that the President should be picked from any part of the country based on competence or merit. This call by critics of Rotational Presidency is unpatriotic, sounds politically arrogant and devoid of statesmanship as no segment of Nigeria has a monopoly of talents and will breed regionalism and ‘ethnic hegemony’ since the section with the highest voter population will always produce ‘the best man for the job’. Equity and fair play demands the status quo be maintained until the position of President alternates or rotates between all 6 geopolitical zones in Nigeria in full circle, before such proclamation can be made. Jettisoning zoning in the 2023 elections is tantamount to ‘changing the rules in the middle of a game’, and akin to the proverbial ‘elephant that breaks the pot after its turn to drink’. Besides, events in the Nigeria political space have shown that no geopolitical zone despite its voting strength can on its own meet the conditions precedent in the 2022 Electoral Act (as Amended) and score not less than 25% of votes cast in at least two-thirds of states in the federation to win the presidential election, especially with a stiff opposition from 3 or more geopolitical zones.

Naysayers also argue that since the return to democracy in May 1999, by the end of the current regime a northerner would have occupied the Office of the President for only 10 out of the 24 years, and that the north would have held power under the PDP Government for just 2½ years. Therefore, to strike a balance, there is the need for the Office of the President to remain in the North for additional 4 years, making 12 years back-to-back. This view is jaundiced, bereft of logical reasoning and has no historical basis. The unfortunate demise of President Umaru Yar’Ardua in 2010 was an act of providence and Nigeria as an independent nation has been in existence for 38 years before 1999. Therefore, for the sake of the country’s current fragile democratic governance and in the interest of natural justice, there is the need to run a politics of inclusion and all political parties should as a matter of exigency zone their Presidential ticket come 2023 to the South. This resolution of the Southern Governors Forum has been re-echoed by some prominent Northern political leaders such as Governors Babagana Zulum and Nasir El-Rufai of Bornu and Kaduna States respectively and some regional socio-political groups. The pros of zoning clearly outweigh its cons and therefore jettisoning it will be a dangerous precedent for the country’s nascent democracy and an affront on the collective will and peaceful coexistence of the people.

With the expected power shift to the South at the end of President Buhari’s statutory 8-year tenure, equity and national cohesion demands that the Office of the President of Nigeria be ceded to the South-East. This is because, the South-East is the only geopolitical zone in the south that is yet to produce a President or Vice-President since the return to civilian rule in 1999 and remains the most deprived of the Presidency. Therefore, in the eyes of equity it is imperative that all political parties rise above partisanship and regional sentiments and field presidential candidates from the South-East in the forthcoming election. This is within the tenets of democratic norms and ideals especially in a pluralistic society like ours. Egalitarianism cannot be fostered when a major component of society is nursing a feeling of discontentment. Hence, the collective interest and sanctity of the Federal Republic should be of paramount concern over the political interest of a few individuals, groups or political party. A political arrangement like zoning must accommodate the emotions and sentiments of those it is intended to serve for if not to out leave its usefulness.

The clamour for a President of Nigeria of Igbo extraction has continued to attract the attention of political actors in the build-up to the elections. This has received measurable support from the apex Igbo socio-cultural group the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other regional bodies such as the Arewa Consultative Forum, Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, Afenifere and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF). The Igbo are indigenous to South-East Nigeria and aside the Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba are the third largest ethnic group, accounting for about 19% of its population. An Igbo President will assuage the feeling of real or perceived marginalization among them, guarantee their full re-integration into the post-civil war Nigerian state and end their agitation for socioeconomic and political emancipation, as happened to the militancy struggle in the South-South with the election of Dr Goodluck Jonathan as President in 2011. It will give the civil war veterans including former Heads of State a sense of fulfilment, seeing their dream of a truly unified Nigeria which they have fought for, materialize in their lifetime.

Ndigbo have been blamed for being their own detractors and architect of their misfortune. Igbo political leaders including the South-East Governors have been accused of not showing enough commitment towards the actualization of this regional agenda because of personal political interest and considerations. This was exemplified in their irregular attendance to crucial meetings of the Southern Governors Forum where issues critical to Igbo survival and advancement such as Zoning of the 2023 Presidency, Anti-Open Grazing Law and Regional Security Outfits, are discuss, even when the meeting was hosted at their doorstep in Enugu. The vacuum created by this lack of directional leadership is affecting the Igbo political struggle for self-determination and expressed in their “taking their destinies into their hands” in form of agitations for restructuring and struggles for outright secession.

Pundits have also argued that the South-East lack the voting strength to swing the pendulum in any direction in the political dynamic. This pessimistic view has made Ndigbo resign to second fiddle by playing the ‘spoiler role’ for political parties. They have been admonished for not being united, forming a common front and speaking with one voice. ‘Power they say, is not given but taken’ and in a multi-ethnic democracy like ours, the only way to win political power through the ballot is for the Ndigbo to close ranks, form an alliance and embark on constructive engagements with counterpart regional bodies through negotiations and persuasion in order to gain their confidence. They should remain politically active and consciously mobilize their electorate in order to boost their power of negotiation.

As political activities and permutations gather momentum ahead of 2023 election, most presidential hopefuls have commenced behind the scene consultations across the country. Others have deployed proxy groups and cronies to begin grassroot mobilization, while others have openly declared their intentions to contest the highest office in the land. Yet, their performance as politicians over the years and how they have fared in their respective parties is another issue to be considered in the zoning discourse. While we expect the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a free, fair and credible election that will respect the aspiration of the Nigerian masses, there have been debates on key attributes the presidential candidates are expected to possess to make them suitably qualified to occupy the coveted office. Nigeria at this precarious time needs a detribalized leader that will foster unity, put the interest of all Nigerians above sectional interest, fight endemic corruption frontally, tackle widespread insecurity pervading the land headlong and prosper the lives of its citizenry through economic emancipation and job creation.

A formidable contender from the South-East is the current Honourable Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, who has been an indigene of 3 South-Eastern States (Imo, Abia and Ebonyi) at different times. Dr Ogbonnaya Onu’s political career, like that of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar spans over 3 decades, and he is the most senior political office holder amongst all the aspirants currently jostling for the Office of President. He was elected the first civilian Governor of the old Abia State in 1991 and became the first Chairman, Conference of Nigerian Elected Governors. He is 70years old, sound in mind and body and is one of the most educated aspirants. Dr Ogbonnaya Onu is a First Class honours graduate of Chemical Engineering from the University of Lagos, with a PhD from the reputable University of California, Berkeley, USA. He was the pioneer Head of Department of Chemical Engineering and Member of Senate and Governing Council of the University of Port Harcourt before his foray into politics.

Dr Ogbonnaya Onu is a foundation member of the All People’s Party (APP) that metamorphosed into the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) for which as National Chairman in 2013 he carried the ANPP flag to the union with the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) to form the APC. Dr Ogbonnaya Onu was the presidential flag bearer of the APP in 1999 but forfeited his presidential ticket to Chief Olu Falae who contested under the AD/APP joint platform. This move was to assuage the feelings of the Yoruba in their yearning for the presidency due to the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election convincingly won by Chief MKO Abiola. As National Chairman, most of ANPP’s presidential candidates were Northerners, and Dr Ogbonnaya Onu stands out as one of the very few politicians pre-2015 that remained in the opposition despite its deprivations, because of his diligent and consistent nature. It is noteworthy that of the three major political parties that merged to form the APC, the ANPP stock appears to have been most short changed in the tripartite power sharing equation.

A multicultural society like Nigeria requires a nationalistic leader like Dr Ogbonnaya Onu that can be entrusted with its unity and treasury and can provide a transformational leadership devoid of sentiments and rancour. He has never had any brawl with the anti-corruption and security agencies, and this gives him the moral justification to fight corruption. Dr Ogbonnaya Onu prefers meritocracy to nepotism as a way of earning the confidence of the people. He has demonstrable capacity to work with every Nigerian irrespective of religious or tribal persuasion and his political sagacity, requisite experience, managerial acumen and comportment will earn him the respect of the government and people. The APC should therefore put its best foot forward and adopt Dr Ogbonnaya Onu as its consensus presidential standard bearer in its legitimate quest to retain power at the centre post-2023, as he is not only acceptable to the Ndigbo and APC, but to all Nigerians due to his broad appeal for which the majority of voters will coalesce.

Those in support of a President of Nigeria from the South-East have harped on the need for Igbo Elders, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other Igbo socio-political groups and Opinion Leaders to make a clarion call to all Igbo political leaders, especially present and former Governors, Federal Ministers and Legislators, to synergize, pull resources together, build bridges across party lines and rally support from the various regional interest groups for Dr Ogbonnaya Onu. He has been projected as the ideal President for Nigeria come 2023 as he belongs to an endangered species of statesmen who can galvanize all facets of this country and provide the much needed modern day progressive leadership. The election of Dr Ogbonnaya Onu as President will pull Nigeria back from the brink and sustain its existence as an indivisible entity. This worthy course if left to slide can only be realised in the next 16 years with the sustenance of the current democracy. I rest my case!

Prof Hakeem Fawehinmi
Former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)
University of Port Harcourt, 08037076033

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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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