How Rivers residents get hurt in political fire between Fubara, Wike

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FUBARA

The enduring political conflict between Governor Siminalayi Fubara and his predecessor, Nyesom Wike who is now the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory has become a source of pity for residents of the state.

It is an African proverb that says where two elephants fight, the grass suffers. Sadly, the people of Rivers State have become the weak who become hurt when the powerful fight. The residents have been suffering governance backlash, economic sabotage and political retrogression.

Recurring infighting between governors and their godfathers has led to discontinuity of economic activities in Rivers State and residents are not happy with the sad development.

The power tussle between godfather (Wike), who felt he singlehandedly installed the godson (Fubara), due to many alleged disagreements in their deal is not the first the oil-rich state would experience.

Political crisis in Rivers State has never ended. They grow into other things till everything is lost, and nobody is the winner. It shows an absence of any moderating influence or institution that everybody defers to. It also shows an absence of public interest in the quarrels but self, analysts have said. The presidency and the centre would rather watch carefully to pick sides that would favour them, not what favours the people of Rivers State.

So, it has been a fight to the finish from the late Alabo Graham-Douglas versus Peter Odili; Marshall Harry versus Odili; Odili against Rotimi Amaechi; Amaechi versus Nyesom Wike; and currently, Wike versus Sim Fubara.

Whenever this war starts, inherited projects that would serve the yearnings of the people and lessen their hardship are abandoned. Everything is sacrificed on the altar of politics and selfish interests. No one cares about the people and how they feel with the brickbats.

Often, families lose loved ones to deadly clashes between political gladiators while others who serve as tools in the hands of politicians are butchered and stabbed. The tension starts with the people, enveloping them and putting them in fear.

For instance, Amaechi started fish farms in Andoni, Degema, Buguma, among other towns. He also started the banana farm, Songhai farm, syringe factory, and re-started the Risonpalm. When Wike came in, due to their disagreements, Wike “destroyed” all these ventures due to the differences between them.

The economic casualty has been enormous. Wike did not continue the monorail project and the pillars stand today like a monument in the city. Several economic foundations or ventures built by Amaechi died because of the political crisis.

In December last year, when the political battle appeared to have reached its peak, bulldozers moved into the Rivers State House of Assembly Complex and demolished the legislative facility situated along Moscow Road, Port Harcourt. The gigantic structure which was built with taxes paid by the Rivers people was pulled down just to score a cheap political point.

Although, the state government later came out to explain the reason for the demolition of the State House of Assembly complex, the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Joseph Johnson said it was due to the fire that gutted the complex and destroyed property worth millions of naira, which he said rendered the facility unfit for legislation.

Reports reveal that Rivers State has lost over N2 trillion public sector investments as a result of endless political turmoil in the state in the last 12 years.

Study reveals that the oil-rich state may have on the first charge lost public sector investments worth over N2 trillion. This is different from the cumulative effect of the raw figures that have been denied Rivers State, and the impact on GDP the projects would have made.

When Amaechi was battling Wike, the crisis reportedly destroyed human lives. The All Progressives Congress in the state claimed 100 of their members were killed in 2015. Aside from this, property, opportunities, and growth opportunities, the worst being investment opportunities were lost.

A glance at projects that were abandoned that would have boosted the economy and GDP of the state amounted to N1.911 trillion plus some without ready amounts attached to them.

These projects that have stalled include a N250bn bond approved by the Rivers State House of Assembly in July 2010 to build some listed projects but before drawdown could take place, the crisis erupted in 2012. Whereas Lagos State took bond after bond, Rivers State had to resort to bridging loans from commercial banks which it must retire within the same budget year.

Whereas bonds offer cheap interest rates and long gestation periods to repay, commercial loans run at market interest rates of the time, and it is very difficult to develop long-term or turnkey projects.

The other is the N375bn (or $250m) World Bank water project that was to transform Port Harcourt into a modern city. Everything was said to be done but the office of the Minister of Finance that was to sign off for its drawdown was allegedly prevented from signing it under Goodluck Jonathan when Wike was very powerful.

When Wike became governor, it was learnt that all efforts to revive the loan proved abortive. The people are suffering the consequences because Port Harcourt has remained a borehole city.

“Reports reveal that Rivers State has lost over N2 trillion public sector investments as a result of endless political turmoil in the state in the last 12 years”

Another project was the plan to develop the state capital into a fast-moving transport system known as Monorail with about N250bn with over N20bn already spent by the state government and with most trunks of coaches said to already be at the Onne Port. The project was abandoned when Wike came to power.

Port Harcourt was approved to be a modern city by creating the Greater Port Harcourt City by expanding to eight local councils with massive facilities. The project was to consume N100bn per year for 10 years (N1 trillion) but in total, not up to N100bn was allotted to it and it suffered what looks like half-hearted status or what many call drain pipes to settle political backers.

There was a dream to create an agro-village in Etche LGA in partnership with LR of Israel, but the moment Amaechi left office, the project died a sudden death. It was to create a model where farmers were to be partners with lands as equity but get to global standards with the Israelis creating an integrated agric system.

The Rivers Songhai Farm Initiative which was 20 times the size of the original copy in Benin Republic had gulped over N3.6bn and was put for acquisition because it was becoming very viable. John Deer of California was said to have emerged as the preferred bidder. They were said to have planned to use Rivers as a centre for their tractor manufacturing business to target West Africa, but they delayed sealing the deal, waiting for the 2015 succession period to see how Rivers State would play. Songhai would have been a Songhai integrated farm centre for Africa as well as tractor and farm implementation automation centre, something Bobtrack is trying to do now.

Their caution seemed to prove wise when Rivers crashed into violent and polarity crises.

The same fear was said to have driven away the German Government that had concluded technical partnership with the Rivers State government but delayed in signing to see how politics would pan out. They were to develop a technical base for Rivers State that would in about 10 years turn the state into a tech centre in Nigeria that would form the plank for industries and technological revolution. The dream, too, died.

There is an N45bn auto-destruct syringe project in Port Harcourt that was to service the West Africa market. Few years ago, vandals were freely removing the steel or long-span roofs without any fear.

The one that seems to cause grief most is the fate of the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA) which was created with inspiration of the international oil corporations (IOCs) that wanted a sustainable way to help the state with investments instead of cash. The plan was to create an agro-based agency that would operate with global standards and manage agro centres such as Songhai, cassava centre.

Innocent citizens in Rivers State are also lacking quality representation in governance due to political squabbles between godfathers and godsons. The allegiance of these political appointees and elected representatives is to their stomachs, rather than the people that elected them.

Recently, Governor Fubara redeployed two commissioners who are loyalists of Wike.

The former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor SAN, was deployed to the Ministry of Special Duties (Governor’s Office). The other is the former Commissioner for Finance, Isaac Kamalu, who has been deployed to the Ministry of Employment Generation and Economic Empowerment.

A statement by the Secretary to the State Government, Tammy Danagogo directed the duo to hand over to their respective permanent secretaries, saying their redeployments take immediate effect.

Both Adangor and Kamalu were among nine commissioners who resigned their positions from Fubara’s cabinet in the heat of the political crisis that rocked the state.

Following the intervention of President Bola Tinubu, an eight-point truce was reached which mandated Fubara to reappoint the resigned commissioners.

The statement did not indicate if one of Wike’s loyalists, Emeka Woke, who held the office of the Commissioner for Special Duties before now has been sacked. Woke, even as a serving commissioner in Fubara’s cabinet, has openly been speaking against the current administration at events. He was the Chief of Staff to Wike, while the latter was governor.

But, the duo rejected the redeployment and exited Fubara’s cabinet.

Kamalu cited the absence of peace in Rivers State despite the peace pact by President Bola Tinubu last December. He said it was impossible for him to give his best in an atmosphere of rancour.

On Saturday, Governor Fubara called for joint efforts to save the soul of the state from those he described as “detractors” who are bent on destroying its stability, stressing that he won’t govern the state on his knees but will remain standing.

Fubara, who said there is a fierce fight to destroy the soul of the state, noted that only the well-meaning persons who are standing firmly with him can wield the force of unity to save it.

The governor made the call at the hometown of Celestine Omehia in Ubima community, Ikwerre Local Government Area, during the burial of his 95-year-old mother, the late Mrs. Cecilia Omehia.

Fubara who attended the event alongside some prominent traditional leaders in the state, said the visit was to demonstrate love and show support to Omehia who, as a son, had satisfactorily performed the duty of giving his mother a befitting burial.

He said, “I have come here with a few of us; very respected elders of the state, to come and support you and say to you that ‘we sorrow with you.’ The most important thing is to show our concern and love. Any human being that shows enmity to death, that person is not even normal.

“We also rejoice with you for a life lived well to fulfillment by Mama. We wish Mama a safe journey. Let her stay well where she has gone,” the governor said.

The governor reminded the elders of the need for every true lover of the state to synergize and be resolute in the fight to safeguard the soul of Rivers State.

He decried the evil politics of bitterness and the danger it has on the progress of the state, which according to him, should be discouraged as a bad political culture in contemporary times.

He said, “Anybody who claims to love this state should not be party to anything, directly or indirectly, that will bring us backwards. We will continue to support every course that will advance the interest of our dear Rivers State.

“And I am happy to say, and I’ve said it over and again, it doesn’t matter the number of people that are standing with me, I will stand on that side of truth.

“I will not; I repeat, I will not govern our dear state on my knees (bending). If that was the purpose; I would not do that. I will stand to govern our dear state and stand continually on the side of right.

“But politics of bitterness will not take us anywhere. So, I want to thank you that, at this stage, we have a few of you who understand that Rivers State belongs to every one of us. We must, therefore, fight together to sustain the soul of this state,” he added.

Analysts have said that it may be impossible for Rivers people to enjoy good governance if governors and their godfathers continue to brawl.