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Umahi: APC, PDP’s fight over ownership of electoral votes

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By Ehichioya Ezomon

Court rulings on the sacking of Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi and Deputy Governor Kelechi Igwe are shaping up to becoming a “locus classicus” – an authoritative passage from a standard work that is often quoted as an illustration; a classic case or example.
The issue at stake is whether votes from an election belong to the political party or its candidate, and if morality should take precedence over legality in deciding electoral matters in court.
One high court has categorically held that a political party owns electoral votes, while two high courts and an appellate court have literally affirmed that votes belong to the candidate.
Another appellate court is looking at the matter that’s dogged the polity, with politicians’ switching of political parties regarded more as an issue of morality than of legality in keeping with laws guiding elections in Nigeria.
From the lower to the appellate courts, Judges seem to uphold this view to be true, and decline to allow sentiment influence their decisions when morality clashes with legality in electoral matters.
If it were otherwise, Judges would be writing laws, and thus usurping the legislative function of the parliament to make laws for the Judiciary to interpret when there’re conflicting issues.
Even as the amended 1999 Constitution punishes defection by members of the legislature with forfeiture of their seats, the courts cautiously apply the rules, hence the rampant decamping by politicians.
The instant matter comes to the public domain aftermath of the ruling of an Abakaliki High Court that upheld the defection of Umahi and Igwe from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in November 2020.
But Umahi and Igwe’s judicial victory was cut short on March 8, 2022, by an Abuja Federal High Court, which sacked the duo from the positions of governor and deputy governor of Ebonyi State.
Umahi and Igwe’s sacking refocuses the issue of who owns the votes between a political party and its candidate in an election, and the moral and legal implications of defection by politicians.
Thus, the March 8 judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja has attempted to solve the twin matters, holding that votes belong to the political party, and ipso facto, morality should take precedence over legality, to curb the unbridled decamping of politicians.
In a case filed by the PDP, Justice Inyang Ekwo held that having defected to the APC, Governor Umahi and Deputy Governor Igwe have lost the legal and moral rights to hold the positions, as the PDP owns the votes that the defectors took to the APC.
The judge relied on the celebrated, but outdated Supreme Court judgment in Amaechi vs Omehia, that electoral votes belonged to the political party and not the candidate sponsored by the party.
Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi had won the PDP primaries for the 2007 governorship poll in Rivers State, but was denied the ticket via an infamous “k-leg” (problem) spun by then President Olusegun Obasanjo, who “awarded” the ticket to Mr Celestine Omehia.
Amaechi was in “self-exile” in Ghana when the 2007 general election held, and Omehia won, and was sworn in as governor, a position he held for a few months before the courts sacked him.
Relieving Omehia of the post, the Supreme Court stated that Amaechi, who secured the PDP ticket at the primaries, was the lawful person to inherit the votes that belonged to the party.
The Amaechi vs Omehia case is overtaken by judgments of the appellate courts, that votes belong to the candidate, who uses the political party as a vehicle to get into office. That’s why election results are declared for the party’s candidate.
Yet, Justice Ekwo ruled that parties own votes, and sacked Umahi and Igwe, and asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw their certificates of return, and issue fresh ones to PDP nominees for governor and deputy governor.
But in what some analysts describe as “a Daniel come to judgment,” the Appeal Court sitting in Enugu has affirmed the decision of a High Court in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, that a governor or deputy governor can only be removed by constitutional means.
The court ruled in a suit by the governorship candidate and running mate of the APC in the 2019 elections, Sen. Sunny Ogbuoji and Mr Mbam Ogodo, seeking to be sworn-in as the governor and deputy governor in place of Umahi and Igwe.
Following the defection of Umahi and Igwe, Ogbuoji and Ogodo took out a writ at the high court, praying to be enthroned, as they’re the first runners-up behind Umahi and Igwe in the 2019 polls.
They argued that having decamped from the PDP, Umahi and Igwe had lost their positions, and urged the court to declare them (Ogbuoji and Ogodo) as the governor and deputy governor.
Ruling on the pleadings, Justice Henry Njoku of the Abakaliki High Court dismissed the suit as “lacking merit,” as Umahi and Igwe didn’t offend any provisions of the Constitution or the Electoral Act.
Ogbuoji and Ogodo approached the Appeal Court in Enugu, to reverse the Abakaliki court ruling, a plea the court refused, declaring that the appellants lacked the locus to supplant the respondents.
In a lead ruling by Justice J. O. K. Oyewole, the Appeal Court held that there’re no express constitutional provisions for consequences on a governor or deputy governor that decamps to another party.
Justice Oyewole stated that, while Umahi and Igwe’s defection from the PDP to the APC “might appear immoral, they have freedom of association,” as guaranteed by the amended 1999 Constitution.
“Defection of elected executives is not novel in our political system but their removal must be in accordance with the constitution,” the judge said, adding that it wasn’t the court’s duty to make laws or insert words “in the express provision of the constitution.”
A Federal High Court in Abuja, taking “judicial notice” of the Appeal Court in Enugu, held that the defection of Cross River Governor Ben Ayade and his deputy, Prof. Ivara Esu, didn’t offend the Constitution and the Electoral Act, to warrant their removal, as the PDP had prayed.
Delivering the judgment on April 7, Justice Taiwo Taiwo said that going by “the principle of ‘stare decisis’ (judicial precedence),” he was bound by the earlier judgment of the appellate court in Enugu.
Justice Taiwo noted that defection isn’t part of the grounds in sections 180, 188 and 189 of the amended 1999 Constitution for the removal of a governor or his deputy from office.
“The 3rd and 4th defendants (Ayade and Esu) cannot be removed except by constitutional provisions,” the judge said, adding, “Hence, this court has no power to declare their seats vacant except by constitutional provisions. I so hold.”
With all but one court virtually declaring, by implication in the interim, that votes belong to the candidate and not the political party, the question remains contentious, as an Appeal Court in Abuja looks into Umahi and Igwe’s sacking.
Umahi and Igwe have lodged the appeal, to reverse the judgment of Justice Ekwo that dismissed them from office, and mandated the INEC to recognize PDP’s nominees for their positions.
Will the Appeal Court in Abuja affirm the decision of an Abuja Federal High Court that the political party owns votes, and sustain the sacking of Governor Umahi and Deputy Governor Igwe?
Or will the court align with the Appeal Court in Enugu, the Abakaliki High Court and an Abuja Federal High Court that although decamping “might appear immoral,” there’re no legal consequences on the defectors?
It’s a ding-dung affair that keeps the polity guessing, puts Umahi and Igwe in suspense, and leaves INEC in a difficult position to choose which to obey from a plethora of court judgments, to advance Nigeria’s electoral system and democracy.

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

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Opinion

Nigeria, the compromised Society

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By Jibrin Samuel Okutepa
Nigeria society seems to be a place where everything now appears to be compromised in favour of bad and corrupt practices. Nigerians are in hell in their own land. Those who worked hard to see that the right things are done are discouraged by decisions that support the continuation and approval of wrongs as rights. Nothing appears to be done to promote the greatest good of all in the governance and in decisions in judicial adjudications.

Justice appears polluted in favour of evil men in power and positions. The institutions that are supposed to protect us have left us to the whims and caprices of those who cheat us out of our rights. The pillars of justice appeared to have collapsed. Many have lost hopes. The ability to manipulate is required to be in the systems that need no manipulations. The judgment delivered today, the 27th day of May 2024, by the Kogi State Election Petition Tribunal
In petion No: EPT/KG/GOV/03/2023, YAKUBU MURTALA & ANOR. VS. INEC & 2 ORS clearly turned the law on its head. The Tribunal closed eyes to evidence and struggled to do what it did. It was pure judicial summersault in support of wrong processes.

The foundation for the collapse of justice was laid by those who have the responsibility to lay solid foundations for sustainable justice in legal processes. Justice suffers in the hands of those who are to serve it in the most undiluted form.Those who are trained to enforce the laws are doing it incorrectly and inconsistently and not within the letters and the spirits of the law. They closed eyes to injustice. They lament behind but lack the courage to do what is right.

We live in compromised systems.
The evil doers dictate everything that goes on in every department of the systems we operate. No system operates independently of interference. Those who do not want to compromise are living in agony and are daily agonizing. That is why democracy in Nigeria appears to be heading to catastrophic destruction.

Sovereignty does not belong to the people. It belongs to a few tiny cabals in and out of powers. We live in a completely compromised democratic corrupt system in Nigeria.There is nothing like the rule of law in Nigeria.
Justice has developed eyes and acquired sight to follow evils and to support and sustain them in Nigeria.

Nothing good will be seen and work in Nigeria until Nigerians collectively agree to do what is right and just. A just and egalitarian society can not be attained when truth and justice are compromised on the primordial partisan interests in judicial adjudications. Where cases are decided to support the subversion of democratic processes, anarchy is eminent.

No society can grow and develop when people are allowed to profit from their own wrongs and wickedness perpetuated in sabotage of law that was promulgated for the promotion of a just and fair process.
Society of compromises is a society destined for destruction.

It is a society where people are held accountable and punished for evil they do that can produce and promote enduring democratic legacy for the happiness of the vast majority of the people. Nigeria appears to be far from such an egalitarian society given the intolerable spirit of compromises by those who should not tolerate evils and violations of our laws.

By Jibrin Samuel

The purpose of law is to ensure orders and good behaviour. Those who interpreted the law upside down to achieve a predetermined outcome are enemies of a just society. But let me say that despite all these compromises, we must ensure that light is not overwhelmed by this darkness hovering in our land.

Calm down. We will not run away from practice. We will show light in darkness. One day and not too long, our light will outshine the darkness in the firmament of legal practice in Nigeria. Be calm. Congratulations to my colleagues on the wonderful legal team who displayed unparalleled legal dexterity despite all odds.

Jibrin Samuel Okutepa

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Opinion

Rivers political crisis: Fubara raves as Wike likely retreats (4)

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By Ehichioya Ezomon

Seeming to belie the header for this article that’s run three installments, a couple of weeks has witnessed the return of former Governor and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Chief Nyesom Wike – from his semblance of a sabbatical leave – to rejoin Governor Siminalayi Fubara in shadow-boxing, and stoking the metatarsising Rivers political crisis.
On Saturday, May 11, 2024, in Ogu-Bolo, Rivers State, at a grand reception in honour of Chief George Thompson Sekibo for his 20 years of public service, Wike – who no longer has the luxury of daily political rhetoric as when he’s governor – addressed five issues Fubara would likely tackle on separate days.
They include: A mistake he’d made, without elaborating; his deliberate bullying of the Fubara camp, to create fear, and make it to commit mistakes; that nobody can remove his pro-lawmakers sacked by the court; denying asking anyone to worship him; and the need for beneficiaries to show appreciation to their benefactors.
This comes as Fubara says he’s records of his duties as a civil servant, and the Accountant General of Rivers State under the Wike administration (2015-2023), stressing that all activities he carried out were based on “approvals” from his superiors.
In a veiled reference to his promise to probe the Wike government, Fubara, during the inauguration of Egbeda internal roads, in Emohua local government area on Thursday, May 16, said he’s ready to answer any queries, as his records would show that his previous official activities in government “were based on approvals.”
In similar masked remarks obviously referring to Fubara, Wike said he made a mistake in his political calculation, by shutting out an array of chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the Rivers governorship in 2023, and settling for Fubara. “But nobody is above mistakes,” Wike said, and asked Rivers people to forgive him.
His said: “I want to say this clearly, in life we have made a mistake. I have made a mistake. I own it up and I say God forgive me. I have said all of you forgive me. I am a human, I am bound to make a mistake. So, forgive me for making a wrong judgment. So, nobody should kill (because of it). But we will correct it (mistake) at the appropriate time.”
On the sacked lawmakers loyal to him, Wike said the law and due process would take its course, irrespective of whatever happened, adding, “If they like, they can go to anybody by 2 a.m or 4 a.m to get an injunction. The law will take its course. We must follow due process.”
Wike urged the lawmakers not to be intimidated, saying, “Don’t be afraid. Nobody will remove you as a lawmaker. Most of you don’t understand. This is our work. Our business is to make them fear. That is what I am doing. We will make them to be angry every day, and they will continue to make mistakes.”
Rounding off, Wike said he isn’t God, and as such, had never demanded that anybody should worship him. “Nobody can worship man. All of us believe that it is only God we will worship. (But) as politicians, we appreciate people who have helped us.”
On the latter issue, Fubara’s previously said he appreciated the fact that Wike played a pivotal role in his governorship, but that it’s God that used him as a vessel to fulfil His purpose, and so, only God deserves his worship and not any human.
Fubara said: “God can do anything He wants to do when He wants to do it. It is only for us to realise that God will not come down from Heaven but will pass through one man or woman to achieve His purpose. So, for that reason, when we act, we act as humans; human vessels that God has used, and not seeing yourself as God.
“I want to say this clearly, that we appreciate the role our leaders, most especially the immediate past governor (Wike) played. But that is not enough for me to worship a human being. I can’t do that.”
On the hot-potato matter of probing Wike, whose government Fubara served as Accountant General, the governor told his audience at the Egbeda roads’ inauguration in Emohua that he wasn’t entertaining any fears, but ready and prepared to defend himself whenever he’s queried or called to answer alleged financial impropriety under the Wike government.
Fubara said: “What we bring to our people is service delivery at record time and cost-effective. Everything we are doing is in my white paper (record of activities). I carry it along. There is no issue of any manipulation. Call me any day, any time, it is there.
“Even the ones l did (as a civil servant) before this time, I still have all the records. If you call me any day, I will bring my records of all my activities in government. I know that as a civil servant, what is most important is record-keeping.
“I am not scared of anything. Anybody who calls me up any day, any time, I have my records to show. I have all the approvals to show that I acted based on approvals, and not personal decisions. We are not going to rest until we make everyone happy in Rivers State.”
This leads to the questions: If Fubara’s that sparkling clean, as he claims, why did he allegedly hide, and refuse to surrender himself to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for investigation during the 2023 general election? Or was it then Governor Wike trying to shield him from the EFCC, to prevent him from spilling reported malfeasance in the Wike government? Members of the public Fubara’s called to witness his incorruptibility deserve a plausible answer to the query!
Meanwhile, as the probe of Wike looks to proceed apace, only a miraculous intervention in the crisis – which Fubara doubts can be settled amicably after President Bola Tinubu’s brokered peace deal between Fubara and Wike looks to breakdown – would prevent him from declaring soon that, “enough is enough,” and go for Wike and his members’ jugular, deploying the enormous powers at his disposal that he’s said “he doesn’t know what to do with power,” as “the most hit and abused governor” (in Nigeria). So, when he’s decided, the scenarios may look as follows:
First, there’re a few strategies that Fubara’s outlined to deal with the recalcitrant lawmakers he’s described as “not existing.” The governor could evict them from the Rivers State House of Assembly Residential Quarters in Port Harcourt – where the legislators and their families domicile, and also use as a legislative chamber – to deny them the venue and avenue to make laws and/or plot his impeachment.
Second, Fubara could mimic some of his counterparts, and withhold the lawmakers’ emoluments, and allocations to the legislature, such as he allegedly did to the April 2024 allocations to Rivers local councils, whose chairmen, majorly loyal to Wike, have vowed to remain in office after their tenure in June 2024, “in line with the law” passed by the pro-Wike lawmakers, extending their tenure until elected local government officials are installed.
Remarkably, a Rivers High Court has struck down that “law” as illegally enacted by the lawmakers whose seats had been declared vacant on account of their defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC) from the PDP, which sponsored them in 2023.
Prior, Fubara had warned the council chairmen that they’d a few days remaining in their tenure, and shouldn’t forment trouble within the period, as “nobody has monopoly of violence.” He handed down the warning at Egbeda community in Emohua, during the official flag-off of the Elele-Egbeda-Omoku road project.
As reported by New Telegraph, this comes as miscreants, allegedly at the behest of the aggrieved council chairmen, attacked some persons who attended the governor’s inauguration of the Aleto-Ogale-Ebubu-Eteo road project in Eleme local government area on Tuesday, May 14.
Fubara said: “Let me also say this here. When we left Aleto the other day, some people went there and attacked our people. There is no need for that. Nobody has the monopoly of violence. So, I’m begging everyone, please, conduct yourself. As a matter of fact, I am the one who is most hit and abused as a Governor who doesn’t know what to do with power. Is it not? Have I said anything?
“So, I am advising those people, who call themselves local government chairmen: you have a few days in office. Please, conduct yourselves in a peaceful manner. Politics will come, politics will go, but we will still live our lives. Let nobody deceive you, if you deliberately hurt anybody because of expressing your useless support, nobody will forgive you. You will pay for it.
“Just endure until when you finish, then you go your way. I don’t want trouble. I don’t want anything that will bring any problems in this state. I know what they want to do, but we will not give them the opportunity.
“We have made our promise to our leader, who happens to be the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, that we will take the path of peace and that is the path we are taking. We will continue to take that path.
“Don’t mind what they say. Don’t mind what they do. Peace remains the path to take. (But) while taking the path of that peace, it does not mean that we won’t defend ourselves… No, no no. We need to also protect ourselves in a lawful manner.”
The next installment of the serialisation under the running header will conclude what Governor Fubara could do to cage former Governor Wike and his loyalists in the cascading political crisis that daily produces different scenarios in Rivers State!

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

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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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