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2023 GOVERNORSHIP AND
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[ANALYSIS] Will Wike vs Fubara feud rip Rivers NASS caucus apart?
Opinion

[ANALYSIS] Will Wike vs Fubara feud rip Rivers NASS caucus apart?

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By Order Paper

The unyielding political face-off rocking the Rivers state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is gradually eating into the brotherhood of the Rivers NASS (National Assembly) caucus that was hitherto united under the firm grip of Rep. Kingsley Chinda, minority leader of the House of Representatives. 

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The feud is between Nyesome Wike, Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and his successor and incumbent Governor of Rivers State, Siminalayi Fubara. Both gladiators have divided not just the party in the state but the national structure of the PDP is now also at the mercy of the tiff.

Amaewhule

A ‘Captured’ State Assembly

Before the factionalisation of the Rivers NASS caucus blew open to Abuja, the state assembly had been subjected to a bitter capture by Wike.

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The defection of 27 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, said to be loyal to the minister, from the PDP to the All Progressive Congress (APC) was a strategic move against Fubara. Martin Amaewhule is the speaker of the faction backed by Wike while Edison Ehie, a former leader of the assembly, who was removed for not supporting Governor Fubara’s impeachment, leads the faction loyal to the governor.

A coalition ‚Äėunknown‚Äô to parliament

The crack in the NASS Rivers caucus blew open into the precinct of the federal legislature when a group of opposition lawmakers addressed the media on Monday 8th April, 2024 ostensibly to put pressure on the Wike faction of the party. Led by Imo¬†Rep,¬†Ikenga Ugochinyere and¬†Fubara¬†ally,¬†Rep.¬†Awaji-inombek Abiante,¬†representing Andoni/Opobo/Nkoro federal constituency of Rivers State¬†of¬†Rivers State, the group of four demanded the immediate resignation of the Acting National Chairman of the PDP,¬†Umar ńįliya Damagum.¬†

Damagum is seen in some quarters as Wike’s ally, a belief that gained momentum when the former Rivers State Governor dared him to sanction him for alleged anti-party activities before, during and after the 2023 elections. The attack on the PDP national big wig was understood therefore as a proxy war with Wike being waged from Rivers. 

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The ‚Äėcoalition of opposition lawmakers‚Äô led by¬†Rep.¬†Ugochinyere approached the Rivers crisis from the Abuja angle.

But¬†Rep.¬†Abiante¬†revealed the real intentions of the group when he condemned alleged¬†illegalities being perpetuated in Rivers by the federal might. The press conference was widely reported by the media and in no time, the minority caucus of the House signed a joint statement dismissing the coalition, The¬†Chinda-led caucus, comprising lawmakers of the PDP and Labour Party, etc, said emphatically that¬†Ugochinyere‚Äės coalition is¬†unknown¬†to¬†parliamentary¬†practice¬†and should not be disregarded.¬†

Where does the Rivers NASS caucus stand?

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Given this scenario, OrderPaper delves into the politics of Rivers State to deduce the impact of the crisis on the legislative effectiveness of lawmakers from the state. Where do each member of the House and Senator from the state stand on the feud? Are they making any attempt to resolve it so that peace and stability can return to the state for good governance to thrive unhindered?

Chinda, leader of the Reps minority caucus
Rep Chinda

Rep.¬†Kingsley Chinda¬†‚Äď He is the minority leader of the House and close confidant of¬†Wike¬†for many years. While he has not openly taken sides on the feud, it is indisputable that his loyalty lies with the minister, who is believed to have pulled strings to ensure his emergence as a principal of the House.¬†Chinda,¬†highly cerebral and politically adroit, commands immense respect and following, not just among the Rivers caucus, but among all spectrums of the lower chamber of the House of Representatives.

Inclination: Chinda stands solid with Wike

Dum Dekor, Rivers NASS caucus leader
Dekor

Rep¬†Dunamenne Dekor ‚ÄstRepresenting Khana / Gokana Federal Constituency, he is the leader of the Rivers caucus in the House. Also, a staunch ally of the minister,¬†Dekor¬†is a quiet but highly tactical politician who served under¬†Wike¬†as commissioner for works after a brief stint as a member of the 8th assembly. A former deputy speaker of the Rivers assembly,¬†Dekor¬†showed his hand in the Rivers crisis when he cautioned his colleagues against attacking the minister to please the governor.¬†In December 2023, he signed a statement on behalf of the¬†Rivers caucus¬†cautioning Rep.¬†Boma¬†Goodhead¬†to be civil and mind her utterances on the political logjam in the state.‚ÄúGoodhead¬†went far beyond her calling by delving into a political issue that has no bearing on her person as if she has had a personal beef with her former principal for eight years.¬†As a caucus, we can‚Äôt sit and watch our members openly display and utter words that smirk of gutter behavioural patterns.¬†Hon¬†Boma Goodhead¬†should immediately tender an unreserved apology to her former principal,‚Ä̬†he had said.¬†¬†

Inclination: Dekor stands solid with Wike

Rep Abiante on the Wike vs Fubara feud
Abiante

Rep.¬†Awaji-inombek Abiante ‚ÄstHe is arguably the first member of the Rivers NASS caucus to openly identify with Gov.¬†Fubara.¬†While others were measuring their steps and weighing their options, Abiante moved in to fill a vacuum and is believed to be heavily supported by the governor to gain inroads into the federal legislature and counter¬†Wike‚Äôs¬†influence. The outing by the¬†Ugochinyere¬†group was a manifestation of his loyalty to the governor. The ranking member of the House however seems to have a long way to go if he must break into the stronghold¬†Wike¬†has on the Rivers NASS caucus.

Inclination: Abiante stands solid with Fubara

Goodhead

Rep.¬†Boma Goodhead¬†‚Äď Strong-headed and unabashed,¬†Boma Goodhead¬†is also a ranking member of the House of Representatives. Representing Akuku/ Asari Toru federal constituency, she had, on December 15, 2023, led a solidarity protest in support of the programmes and activities of the incumbent governor of the state and dared the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory to return to Rivers State.¬†According to¬†Rep. Goodhead, ‚ÄúI want to send a clear message to the Federal Government of Nigeria.¬†Tinubu believes that¬†Wike¬†delivered Rivers State to him but even Wike failed in his unit. He failed in his ward and even in his LGA.¬†We are here to tell Ahmed¬†Bola¬†Tinubu¬†to call Wike to order because the next time he comes into Rivers State to disturb the peace of the state we will not fold our hands and watch.¬†Wike should come to Rivers State and we will show him what it means to hold Rivers State. We dare you to come back to Rivers State again if you are a man.‚Ä̬†Wike¬†had been to the state a couple of times after that outburst and returned safely to his base in Abuja. Curiously,¬†Goodhead¬†was not on the lineup when the¬†Ugochinyere¬†group briefed the press.

Inclination: Goodhead stands solid with Fubara

Rep Emerengwa iswith Fubara
Emerengwa

Rep.¬†Boniface Emerengwa ‚ÄstThis is another member of the House of Representatives,¬†representing the Ikwerre/ Emohua federal constituency, who has openly declared support for Governor¬†Fubara¬†thereby denouncing his long-standing political alliance with¬†Wike.¬†Emerengwa,¬†a third termer in the House made the declaration during a visit to Governor¬†Fubara¬†in Port Harcourt some weeks ago and said ‚Äúhe (Fubara) deserves the support of the people to grow the State.‚ÄĚ

Inclination: Emerengwa stands solid with Fubara

Allison

Rep. Anderson Allison representing Okirika/Ogu-Bolo of the APC who is the only member of the House of Representatives from Rivers State, elected under the platform of APC,  supported Wike’s appointment as minister. There is no doubt that Wike has been romancing with the ruling APC hence his appointment by President Tinubu which is automatic for Allison to queue behind the FCT Minister for fear of losing out his reelection bid come 2027.

Umezuruike

Rep¬†Manuchim Umezuruike¬†‚Äď The Labour Party (LP) member representing Port Harcourt Constituency 1 is not keen on being a neutral observer in the fight. Despite belonging to a different political party,¬†Umezurruike¬†is aligned with Governor¬†Fubara.¬†This is no surprise because the gubernatorial candidate of the LP in the State,¬†Beatrice Itubo¬†is also in support of¬†Fubara.

Inclination: Umezuruike stands with Fubara

Rivers NASS
Opuzor

Rep.¬†Obuzor Victor Chukwuemeka¬†‚Äď This member representing the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni/Ahaoad federal constituency is a newbie. He has kept mute in the Rivers PDP brouhaha thus far.

Inclination: Obuzor is perceived to be undecided

Godwin

Rep.¬†Hart Cyril Godwin¬†‚Äď This lawmaker who represents Degema/Bonny Federal Constituency had in July 2023 reportedly described Governor¬†Fubara¬†as ‚Äúa leader with¬†foresight.‚ÄĚ This was concerning¬†the signing of the N195.3 billion Port-Harcourt Ring Road project. But since then, lots of water has passed under the bridge, political pundits are unsure where he stands on the crisis.¬†

Inclination: Hart is tilted to Fubara

Uche

Rep.¬†Nwaeke Felix Uche¬†‚Äď This lawmaker is undeniably an ally of the former governor,¬†Wike,¬† judging by the closeness between the duo but he has neither openly condemned nor supported any side in the political crisis in the State.¬†

Inclination: Tilted to Wike

Nwogu

Rep.¬†Nwogu Kelechi¬†‚Äď This federal representative is a former member¬†of the Rivers State House of Assembly. He maintains a close relationship with former governor¬†Wike¬†who is believed to be instrumental to his election to the House of Representatives. He has been sighted with¬†Wike¬†at different events within the FCT.¬†The FCT Minister had in June 2021 while commissioning a road project described¬†Kelechi¬†as¬†‚Äúa politician you can trust, a politician that will stand by you and fight when it is time to fight and a politician while working with, one can go home and sleep with two eyes closed because he will not betray‚ÄĚ.¬†Nwogu¬†might be mute but from his latest antecedents, his loyalty seems to lie with¬†Wike.¬†

Inclination: Nwogu is strong with Wike

Chigeru

Rep.¬†Amadi Blessing Chigeru¬†‚Äď This female representative is believed to stand behind¬†Wike¬†because she had expressed her profound gratitude to President¬†Bola Tinubu¬†for appointing him to his cabinet. She was a former Rivers state Treasurer of the PDP before emerging as a member of the House of Representatives representing Port Harcourt II. But she is not known to have openly taken sides in the conflict.¬†

Inclination: Amadi Blessing stands with Wike 

Rivers NASS
Rep Bob

Rep¬†Solomon Bob (PDP) ‚ÄstSolomon Bob represents the Abua/Odual and Ahoada East federal constituency in the House of Representatives. He was first elected in 2019. He is a former Special Adviser to¬†Wike.¬†Although he has remained mum amidst the political chaos, it is unclear if¬†Bob¬†has shifted loyalty to¬†Fubara.

Inclination: Bob tilts to Wike 

The three senators representing Rivers State in the National Assembly appear to be acolytes of the minister.

Sen. Banigo Ipalipo-Harry (Rivers West)- She served as deputy to Wike for eight years and was loyal all through. It is believed that her loyalty has not waned.

Inclination: Ipalibo-Harry stands with Wike

Sen.¬†Onyesoh Alwell¬†(Rivers East) ‚Äď This senator was one of the two longest commissioners who served in the administration of Dr¬†Peter Odili¬†as Commissioner for Education, and later Sports.¬†Wike¬†consequently supported his nomination and eventual emergence as the Rivers East Senatorial flag bearer. With¬†Odili¬†backing¬†Fubara,¬†is¬†Alwell¬†still with¬†Wike?

Inclination: Alwell is perceived to be undecided 

Rivers NASS caucus
Sen Mpigi

Sen.¬†Mpigi Barinada ‚ÄstThis Rivers South-east senator is a proven¬†Wike¬†loyalist.¬†He served as a member of the House of Representatives, representing the constituency of Tai‚ÄďOyigbo‚ÄďEleme for two terms between 2011 to 2019 before he was elected into the red chamber. In December 2023,¬†Mpigi¬†expressed the displeasure of his senatorial district with Governor¬†Fubara.¬†He said,¬†‚ÄúAnybody that sows must also reap. We have all sown. So it is not Wike now, because I want things to be very clear. We the leaders of this State are not happy with what the governor (Fubara) is currently doing. So he should not say it is Wike. I represent the governor I know what is happening, so I‚Äôm not happy.‚Ä̬†He recently tried¬†to sideline Fubara for Wike.

Inclination: Mpigi stands solid with Wike

Odili

Will Peter Odili’s verdict sway the Rivers NASS caucus?

Former Rivers State Governor and highly regarded political icon, Peter Odili, recently declared the incumbent governor as the political leader of Rivers State, a move that may further worsen his frosty relationship with Wike, who is hitherto seen as a godfather to the minister. He made this known on Thursday, April 11th 2024 while commissioning a primary healthcare centre in Ogba-Egbema-Ndoni Local Government Area of the state, Mr Odili said, “Having secured electoral victory through the ballot and the courts, Mr Fubara is now the political leader of the state. Will this declaration by Odili sway the NASS members in favour of Fubara?

2027 NASS tickets in view? 

The Rivers NASS caucus is not seen to be making any move to broker a truce between Wike and Fubara; rather alliances are being formed for their political benefits. Out of the 13 House of Representatives lawmakers and 3 Senators, totalling 16 in the federal legislature, 3 House of Representatives members have openly challenged Wike and thrown their weight behind Fubara. The remaining 10 House members appear to be still loyal to their godfather while the 3 Senators have remained mum.

In a recent meeting summoned by Chinda at the National Assembly ahead of Thursday’s National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party PDP, it was said that the main agenda of the Pre-NEC meeting was to pass a vote of confidence on Damagun by lawmakers loyal to Wike. 

This attempt failed woefully as the group of lawmakers under the auspices of the opposition lawmakers coalition maintained their ground that the acting chairman should resign and someone from the North-central zone take the position.

Meanwhile, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the Party on Wednesday, 17th April 2024 passed a Vote of Confidence on the party’s Acting National Chairman. The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said this in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja.

In another dramatic twist, loyalists of Governor Fubara, including the lawmaker representing the Ahoada West Constituency of the state House of Assembly, Sokari Goodboy; were reported to have been arrested at the FCT, Abuja.

Also arrested by the police was a chieftain of the PDP in the state identified as Ezebunwo Ichemati. The duo were arrested by policemen outside the venue of the National Executive Committee meeting of the PDP in Abuja on Thursday (18 April 2024).

It is interesting how this political war will pan out. Would there be more grandstanding and alliances? What becomes of the ordinary masses in all these fights and would it define those who will be returning to the National Assembly in 2027? All these are questions begging for answers as the Rivers NASS caucus toggles from both ends.

OrderPaper


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