Rivers Crisis: Aggrieved Dame Jonathan Moves In To Douse Tension

By Lateef Adegbite

After watching on the sidelines for months about the political crisis in Rivers state, Dame Patience Jonathan, a- one- time Nigerian First Lady, who is not happy over what is happening in her home state appears to have moved in to save the situation from degenerating.

The former Nigerian First Lady, who is worried that the face-off between Nyensom Wike, immediate past governor of the state and  now minister of Federal Capital Territory, FCT, under the present President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Administration  and Fubara Simalayi who incidentally  had served as the Accountant General of the state during his  Administration  and now governor of the state on the promptings of Wike is doing everything within her powers to resolve the rift between  the two political gladiators and return the state to normalcy.

Wike/Fubara, when the going was good

The former Nigerian First Lady who may have intervened on the promptings of the peace loving former President Goodluck Jonathan, and who had engaged the services of Wike, a former Local government Chairman in the state as his minister of state Education and who was later elevated to be the ministry’s substantive minister when there was vacancy with the resignation of the then minister of Education.  

Many believe that serving as a minister in the Administration of former President Jonathan may have brought her close to the former minister meaning that the former Nigerian First Lady would still have some level of influence on him irrespective of his present position in Tinubu’s Administration.

Appealing to Wike, Tinubu’s political ally and minister of FCT,   ‘’to allow the present Administration of Siminalayi in the state to run smoothly without interference’’, she had said that it is the only when peace will return to the state.

Many believe that if former Wike had kept to his words that he will’’ come and go without trying to superintendent who becomes whatever in the state, as Dr. Peter Odili, a former governor of the state had come gone after his eight years in office.  Recall that the former Rivers sate governor had said that if such can happen in Lagos state, where Tinubu still superintendents who becomes whatever in state,’’ it will never happen in Rivers state’’.

He was said to have repeatedly said towards the tail end of his Administration in 2023, that ‘’the day his tenure ends, he will go’’, stressing that he is not going ‘’to impose anybody in the state’’.  He may have shot himself on the leg when he said that if there is anybody one wants to impose anyone  in office to do as he wants, ‘’the person must be joking in his life’’.  

The question on the lips of most people was: how did he suddenly make a U- turn to superintendent Siminalayi’s Administration in Rivers state.

Wike : FCT, minister

Unconfirmed report has it that he may have started thinking along that line after he had struck a deal with Tinubu, and who incidentally was a former governor of Lagos state to support his electioneering Campaign to win the Rivers state majority votes as the Candidate of the rulling All Progressive Congress against former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, during Olusegun Obasanjo’s Administration and flag bearer of the Opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, he is s a partytill a card carrying member. It was not surprising why he was rewarded as the minister of FCT, but has refused to withdraw his membership of the Opposition party for fear of the unknown.

The FCT, minister had said that he is fighting Gov. Siminalayi, because he is ‘’hobnobbing with his political adversaries in the state, noting that when he and his group were struggling for him to be in office these political jobbers did not join in the battle. He may have alluded to the fact that the battle has been fought and won   but now Gov. Siminalayi  is bringing  into his government his political adversaries  to reap where they did not sew.

Contrary to reports making the rounds in the state that he was ‘’seeking   financial gratification from the Siminalayi’s government, the minister had denied it. He may have come out to state clearly why he is fighting his successor in office to the fact that he was trying ‘’to take control of the PDP structure in the state which he had successfully nurtured over the years’’.

Dele Momodu, a Chieftain of the PDP, had described the reason adduced by the FCT, minister for fighting his Successor, Siminalayi as Laughable.  The PDP, Chieftain, may have hit the nail on the nail on the head when he revealed that the political rivalry between Wike and his godson, Siminalayi, was due ‘’to control of the Rivers state treasury’’.

Siminalayi: governor of Rivers state

The fight between the duo, which may have spilled over to the state House of Assembly and the 23, Local government Area Councils, believed to be under the total control of Wike as he had superintended who becomes elected as their Chairmen. This may have informed why some of the 23 Local government Chairmen in the state had refused to take orders from the present Rivers state governor, let alone attend meetings called by him in the government House.  The Local government Chairmen, believed to be loyalists of Wike, the FCT, minister preferred taking orders from him.

The state House of Assembly under the Leadership of Martin Amaewhule, an arch loyalist of Wike, who may be preparing himself to be the next governor of Rivers state in 2027, may have taken advantage of the 26 House members who are loyalists of Wike as well to heighten the crisis in the state by tampering with a Constitutional matter that has to do with tenure of elected Local Government Chairman elongation. 

Going by the 199 Constitution as amended, the tenure of elected Local government Chairmen expires after every three years.   The Association of Local Government of Nigeria, ALGON, in one of their meetings in 2021, had reached a resolution which was said to have submitted to the 9th National Assembly,   an amendment of the 199 Constitutional Provisions  ‘’to extend  the tenure  of Local  government Chairmen  to the statutory  four years’’.

The then Leadership of ALGON, had asked its members and affiliates to pursue the matter through persistent engagement with both state Legislators and National Assembly Lawmakers   to ensure that the amendment is enacted in the process in the Constion.

Even without the National Assembly tinkering with the 199 Constitution, to amend the tenureship of elected Local government Chairmen   from three to the statutory four years currently being enjoyed by the President, governors and National Assembly Legislators, the Rivers state House of Assembly had passed  a bill  during its 20th  Legislative sitting in 2024, to extend  the tenure  of the Chairmen  which political analysts had said ‘’ negates  the 1999 Constitution as amended’’.  

Amaewhule, the House Speaker, had said   that the intention to amend sections 2, 3 and 4, of the principal Law  was to empower the House of Assembly , through the resolutions of the Lawmakers ,’’ to extend  the tenure  of the elected Chairmen  and Councilors   where it  is considered practicable  to hold  Local Council elections  before  the expiration  of the Council Chairmen three –year tenure in office’’.

Darlintong Orji, Special Adviser to the Rivers state governor on Politics and Strategy had described the amended Law of Local government Administration   by the state House of Assembly  ‘’to unilaterally extend  the tenures  of Local government Chairmen and Councilors   as unconstitutional’’.  The Special Adviser to the Gov. Siminalayi, was said to have made it clear to Amaewhule, the House Speaker, that  the1999, Constitution, as amended does not give ‘’right for tenure elongation to Local government Chairmen and Councilors’’.

Amaewhule: Embatled Speaker of Rivers state House of Assembly

The Rivers state House of Assembly Law, extending Local government Chairmen and Councilors’ tenure by an additional six months tenure may have suffered a major set-back as the Court has quashed the Local government Law of 2024, Law, describing it as’’ invalid’’. The Court had ruled that the House of Assembly Law is inconsistent with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and section 9(I) of the Rivers state Law No5 of 2018.

With the expiration of the tenure of the Local government Chairmen and Councilors as stipulated by the 1999 Constitution as amended, may have encouraged the state governor to give a matching order to the Chairmen to hand over to the Administrative heads of their respective Local government Areas .The governor who had congratulated the outgoing Chairpersons on completing their tenure was said ‘’to have wished them well in their future endeavors’’.

 Meanwhile, tension has continued to build up in some of the local government Areas in the oil -rich Rivers state, like Degema,  andAsari-Toru , Oyingbo,and Obo/ Akpor, particular,   since the governor  directed the Administrative Heads to take charge.

Audu Ogbe, a former minister of Agriculture and Rural Development , during former Muhammadu Buhari’s Administration , may have added a new dimension to Local government Administration  when he urged  the Federal Government ‘’to stop  payment  of monthly allocations  to states   whose governors  has  set  up  Caretaker Committees to replace  elected Chairmen and Councilors whose tenure had expired like Rivers state and eighteen other states of the Federation .

In spite of the fact that there is serious tension in some of the Local government Areas in Rivers state, Siminalayi, the state governor who may have damn the consequences, on Wednesday, June 26, 2024,  had sworn  in  the new Caretaker  Committee  Chairmen in the 23, Local government Areas of the state.

The former minister, was said to have advised the Nigerian President that ‘’any governor who sets up a caretaker Committee should not receive any funds because the caretaker Committee is illegal’’, as ruled by the Supreme Court.

His advice to the Federal government was very clear: ‘’Don’t send the Local government Areas under the Leadership of a Caretaker Committee Chairman, cash, deduct their own and keep it ‘’.  Whether the Nigerian President  will  cue to the advice  to  keep such funds belonging to the states that had set up Local government Caretaker Committees remain to be seen.    



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