Wike versus Fubara: Who laughs last?

A titanic battle is taking place in Rivers state, full of unpleasant and disgusting episodes. Already, it has reached its climax, producing political casualties. Former Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state, who is facing big challenges as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, is in a fierce war with the current Governor Siminalayi Fubara.

Reason? It is still the same political cancer that has deeply penetrated the fabrics of Nigeria’s democracy. It is the same chronic political endemic that has continued to defy appropriate remedy. Wike wants to control Fubara from far away Abuja after exhausting the period of his mandate, but the latter is resisting and fighting back with full force and deploying political re-enforcement. With this unfolding trend, Wike, now ambitious of wielding power in Abuja and Port Harcourt, simultaneously, is ending up buying more enemies than friends in addition to his anti-party activities in the last presidential election and his obnoxious policies concerning the administration of Abuja.

Like any political godfather who is disappointed and annoyed with his political son, the only option for the political emperor is to declare a war against the ‘stubborn’ and political ‘deviant’. It is, therefore, unsurprising that the former governor’s greatest ambition is to see the end of Fubara and herald the extension of his empire through manipulation from Abuja. In Nigeria’s democracy or Wike’s version of democracy, power, authority, influence can be extended even after one’s retirement from the corridors of power.  

This power tussle is not the first of its kind in Nigeria since the advent of the current dispensation. We have witnessed similarly awful cases of political brouhaha, thereby endangering our democracy. But in all these awkward scenarios, the greatest lesson is that some self-acclaimed democrats are the ones making democracy look undemocratic by the sheer display of inordinate desire to perpetuate power. They are bad students of democracy who do not want democracy to look awesome and work for our good.  

It is quite unfortunate that this political impasse is not culled from ideological contingency. If that had been the case, we would have been happier because it would be about the progress of the people, of the advancement of Rivers state, of the deepening of democracy. But none of the above has been case. The titanic battle is to entrench and enrich the political supremacy of a self-serving individual at the expense of collective interest.

In the Second Republic, there was a deeply rooted ideological conflict involving the leader of the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) Malam Aminu Kano and the late Governors Abubakar Rimi and Balarabe Musa of Kano and Kaduna states, respectively. It was a crisis that drew inspirations from the profound desire to improve human lives and not worship personal interest. Though the battle had its own negative effects in terms of physical fighting among the supporters of the warring parties, yet it conveyed the greatest lesson of leadership as a source of selfless service and not for self-indulgence.

The trend unfolding in Rivers state is a dangerous signal for the growth and survival of democracy. While Wike is recognised as a controversial minister in Abuja, opposed by the indigenous people for his unpopular policies that are detrimental to their living, as they protested, demanding for his resignation, he is also entangled in another rosy dream of ruling Rivers state from Abuja. This is re-defining democracy as the government of the powerful, for the powerful and by the powerful. The people are no longer a democratic issue.

In today’s Rivers state, Governor Fubara is fighting a political war for self-defence instead of concentrating on the mandate delivery to his people. What we read and hear from the state is both horrific and undesirable. The political crisis led to the impeachment of the speaker of the state House of Assembly, Honourable Martins Amaewhule, a loyalist of Wike. This was a swift response to the impeachment process against the governor.

What cannot be ruled out is the trouble culminating in political assassination which is not alien to Rivers political rivalry. The governor’s action of sacking all Wike’s loyalists in and around the government is a clear testimony that the stalemate has just started producing casualties. However, the greatest casualty may be Wike because his political career is at a stake both at the federal and state levels. 

One of the greatest menace of our democracy is influencing the legislative arm to do the needless. However, it is not surprising for the members of the legislature loyal to the former governor. They, like others before them in different parts of the country, are only answerable to powerful individuals, thereby weakening democratic institutions. The Rivers’ bitter experiment is re-affirming my repeated assertion that our democracy is producing powerful individuals rather than strong institutions. 

In fact, the institution of the executive was greatly ridiculed when it was reported that Fubara was at the state House of Assembly complex to address his supporters but came under sudden attack by the police drafted to forestall breakdown of law and order. This was the climax of degeneration of our democracy to see an executive governor, the chief security officer of the state, was himself not secure in the hands of security personnel. What would the poor people perceive here?

The Wikes will continue to subvert popular will of the people just to satisfy personal interest and political vendetta. And the people of Rivers will continue to be at the receiving end of this political fracas. Even for now, we have had enough shameful political show and it promises to produce many and more casualties and suspense. At least, the media will have something negative to disseminate, Wike will feel and dance to the tune of cheap popularity, Fubara’s attention on governance will be temporarily diverted, and the people of Rivers state will count their losses of democracy in the end.

The National Coordinator of South-south Leadership Forum, His Highness Anabs Sra-Igbe, lamented on this unhealthy development, “Wike controls Abuja and still wants to control Rivers state.” The political flamboyance of Wike is gaining momentum. He is unwilling to allow an elected democrat to be influenced by the cardinal principles of democracy just as he experienced when he was a governor for eight years. In eight years, he enjoyed a considerable political honour as he was not undermined and threatened by external forces.

For Governor Fubara, the best political weapon to use to liberate himself from the shackles of the political godfather is remaining firm, proactive, unyielding to diversionary plot, and concentrating on giving the people good governance. In the end, he will, definitely, laugh last.

Abdullahi writes from Ringim,

Jigawa state via [email protected]