OPINION] Rivers: Another political situation ‘resolved’ – Abimbola Adelakun

  • font size  
[OPINION] Rivers: Another political situation ‘resolved’ - Abimbola Adelakun

Stories of godfathers and godsons falling out in Nigerian politics are tales as old as Nigeria’s democratic time; there is no new angle to them. They all follow the same plot: a monied godfather sponsors a godson to political power; godson gets into power and resents being kept on a puppet string; godson triggers a showdown; both godfather and godson disgrace themselves in public until someone either gives or both exhaust themselves. The latest of such public dramas, between the immediate former governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, and the stooge he thought he appointed to office, Siminalayi Fubara, has not quite departed from the standard fare. Wike, presumably old enough to know how arrangement between godfather and godson typically ends within the Nigerian democratic history, thought he could succeed where others have stumbled.

After being treated to what seemed like a battle of attrition between Wike and Fubara, the situation reached its climax when the presidency summoned the parties to the Presidential Villa to settle their matters. Like how the presidency supposedly resolved the Ondo situation by placing one of the key actors on a leash, beleaguered Fubara too had to sign an eight-point agreement to guarantee his survival. Some of the points the warring parties had to agree on to move forward are issues that should have been worked out through democratic processes, but those means were—once again—usurped by a president that seems to fancy itself as deus ex machina.

Going by the comments of presidential aide Ajuri Ngelale, Bola Tinubu will, from now on, be making a habit of resolving tense political situations in every part of the country. Ngelale said, “If he (Tinubu, that is) sees that peace is breaking down in any part of the country…(the) president…will take action…Nigerians are going to see that the difference between what we have seen from this president as against previous presidents of the past 24 years is that when something is wrong—whether it involves a political party or not in any part of the country—as the father of the nation, he is going to call everybody to the table and he is going to get everybody to a common resolution in the interest of the Nigerian people.” There you have it.

If you thought you voted for a president who would be devoting his energies to weighty national matters that should set the nation on the path of stability, development, and prosperity, you thought wrong. His priority now is micromanaging disputes, even if his mediation merely imposes solutions that contradict existing legal provisions and good judgment. For instance, why should the lawmakers who defected to the All Progressives Congress continue in office? They should have known better than to play a self-own card. Also, why should the commissioners in Rivers State who—of their own volition—resigned from their duty be reinstated? There is no possibility of them returning to work with the governor in good faith. Everything that has gone down in the past months will not only stand between them, but also impede their ability to work together for the good of the state. Rivers State deserves far better than being served by bile-filled politicians.

That brings me to another point: what are the uncounted material and moral costs of these political crises to the people? When crises like the one that unfolded in Rivers erupt, most of the attention is—understandably—focused on the main actors engaging in a contest of political wills. But what about the people? For the case of Rivers, the grass that suffers from two elephants fighting extends beyond the state precincts all the way to the Federal Capital Territory. Both sites have their respective administrators distracted from their official duties, which is unfair to those whose lives will need to be on hold while these men engage in a rope-measuring contest.

It is unfortunate that the people of the FCT were saddled with the proverbial dog that presumes that having enough ferocity qualifies it to guard two houses simultaneously. Wike is a politician whose two legs stand in two different political parties. He is presently in the FCT, working as a minister for one political party while maintaining a hold on another in his home state. Even by the incredibly shallow standards of our “home-grown” Nigerian democracy, his ideological cross-dressing is ridiculous. This is no longer the case of someone who wants to have his cake and eat it, but one who wants to hold the bakery hostage!

While Wike is busy running up and down scheming how to assert himself in Rivers State against the governor, we can safely conclude that the job he was given in the FCT is the last thing on his mind. Ask him what his vision for the FCT looks like and await an answer. You should not be surprised that he has not thought about it. Earlier in the year, when he was first appointed as the FCT minister, he—in his characteristic loud and extravagant manner—declared he was going on a demolition spree. A man of vision would not have stopped there but would have also gone further to highlight what he would build. Not Wike. The height of his imagination is the sadism of watching people’s sweat go down into rubble. Any fool can bring down buildings for any reason, justifiable or otherwise, but it takes a thinker to build, improve, and create. Wike has not given himself away as that man. He is where he is today, not because he articulated any significant idea that qualified him for FCT stewardship, but because he needed to be paid for his services.

For him to remain an APC darling and maybe even move higher in rank by 2026 when his services will be needed for the next general election, he must first survive. Once his paymasters find out that he no longer has the political network through which he came through for them in February, he will devalue faster than the Naira. In the Nigerian political economy, not having the political “structure” to deliver winning votes for your principal is the equivalent of a social death. His entire instincts are geared towards survival. While I almost understand his anxiety, I do not care if he survives. My sympathy rests with the residents of the FCT who bear the brunt of a distracted administrator.

The people of Rivers State do not have it better either. The affairs of their state must now be on hold while their governor slugs it out with a man of unmatchable buffoonery. Even if Fubara survives the contest, the trauma of fighting for survival will affect his administration of the state. Resolution or not, all his energies will remain fully channelled towards preempting another crisis by strategising, attacking, defending, and just surviving every successive day. There will be no mischief devious enough that will be posed to him now that he will not accommodate if it helps him defeat his archenemy. A government that can demolish the House of Assembly building will stop at nothing. Yes, I am aware they tried to justify their action as necessary because the structure had been compromised in the wake of an earlier fire incident, but the timing is too convenient. Unfortunately, it is the people of the state whose sweat and blood will be drawn to rebuild that structure.

Imagine going to the person who could do that to discuss issues of security in the state or asking him what his plans are regarding the rising cost of living. He will—at best—hear only with half an ear. He wants to survive, and he will, even if it comes at the expense of everything under his watch that also needs to live 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *