Suspense over Wike’s cabinet in Rivers
Rivers is among the states in the country with vibrant political activities. ONYEMA GODWIN writes on the lull in the state in recent times, which has been attributed to the continued delay by Governor Nyesom Wike to form his cabinet.
The emerging trends in the politics of Rivers State is quite intriguing. There is pervasive studied silence on what many regard as a new political culture. The governor of the state, Nyesom Wike, remains the cynosure of eyes. His leadership style since he secured a second term mandate has astounded not just his staunch and loyal supporters and admirers across party lines, but also pundits.
One of the major surprises about him is his decision to make almost everybody guessing or trying to read his lips since he took the oath of another four years in office. His capacity to sustain the suspense over his cabinet is eliciting a mixture of praises and cynism, especially among his traducers.
Six months after he settled down in the Government House to consolidate the gains of the last four years and move to take the state to the next ‘level,’ people are watching with baited breath the likely shape and form of his cabinet of Wike this time round. Rather, he prefers working with a handful of commissioners, permanent secretaries and ad hoc committees.
With the 2019 general election and associated legal fireworks finally resolved by the Supreme Court, in the case of the presidential election in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari and that of the governorship election in favour of Governor Wike, the political activities in the state have literally gone into limbo or, at best, can be described as been a case of arrested mode.
The present situation is against precedents and widely held expectations that the state, arguably the capital of the South-South geopolitical zone, would be vibrant with political activities either to consolidate on power or strategise against 2023.
As things are, the state is in a total political slumber, thus causing followers of political developments in the state to wonder what has come over politicians in the state. This is because, from the activities of the few who have chosen to be relevant at this sensitive period of the state’s political history, they all seem hell bent on pursuing purely personal aggrandisement at the detriment of the political growth of the state.
Apparently not to be caught napping, the nearest explanation the governor gave for the delay in the appointment of commissioners is that he has forwarded the names of nominees to the security agencies for profiling. But this has been done, according to him, more than a month ago. The situation has thereby setting tongues wagging among the people in the state.
Some individuals insinuated that the delay by the governor to constitute his cabinet was a clear demonstration of his desire to run a one-man show. Quite a number of observers were also curious about the sustained silence of Wike who, at some point, played a prominent role in the process that the led to the emergence of Prince Uche Secondus as the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The governor also played a key role in organising the party’s presidential primaries that produced former Vice President Atiku Abubukar as the standard-bearer of the party in the 2019 general election. Atiku’s emergence was, however, against Wike’s preferred choice namely, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State. It was said in some quarters that the governor viewed the opposition against his preferred choice as a betrayal by his party men and this, it was further said, was responsible for his recent seeming nonchalant attitude to the activities of the party.
Despite being the chief executive in Rivers, he was not seen to have visited Bayelsa State during the governorship campaigns or the recent election proper in the state as he did during the 2018 governorship election in Ekiti State where he was said to have not only committed huge sums of money in sponsorship, but was also in the state to show support for the PDP and its candidate. Beyond that, Wike was even alleged to have worked against the PDP in the Bayelsa election where the PDP lost its 20-year hold on power to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Besides, tongues are wagging about a frosty relationship between the governor and some few other major stakeholders in the PDP, both at the national and state level,s over what the governor was said to have considered as a betrayal during the PDP presidential primary, held in Port Harcourt.
The second culprit in the lull in political activities in Rivers is the embattled APC. This is a party with great potentials to give Governor Wike and the PDP a good run for their money in the 2019 elections, but it failed to put up any fight because leaders and members of the party were engrossed in a bitter battle and they cancelled out one another and made the elections a walkover for the PDP in Rivers State.
Throughout the period of the preparation for the elections, especially the governorship poll, as early as the ward, local government and state congresses, members of the APC fought one another through the various levels of the judiciary until they successfully denied themselves the opportunity of fielding candidates in the elections, a rare development in the nation’s chequered political history.
As the dust of the tortured 2019 general election began to gradually settle and political watchers were expecting the APC to rally its members and forge a united front to fight to recover some of their losses come 2023, the party leaders and their supporters are still busy bickering.
The leading dramatis personae, including the Minister of Transportation and leader of the party in Rivers State, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe, as well as their supporters have not shown any unwillingness to negotiate and make the needed sacrifices for the unity of the party. Rather both sides are busy accusing each other of one form of anti-party act or the other, even when it is apparent to them that they are still toeing the same destructive path that robbed them participation in the 2019 general election.
Their drumbeats of war, anytime they sound, formed the only similitude of political actions and noticeable activities in the state. The current vibes now is either the Amaechi camp is accusing the Abe camp of conniving with Governor Wike to continue to sabotage the APC or the Abe camp is accusing the Amaechi’s of plotting to expel it from the party.
But so far, the disagreement between the two leading individuals and their followers has continued to rob the Rivers APC of the chance to forge a united front. If they had been able to settle their differences, they would have succeeded in creating an environment conducive for the conduct of the recently proposed ward, local government and state congresses and thus enabling the party the opportunity to establish a new platform for rebuilding the party, following the nullification, by the courts, of the executives of both camps fighting for the control of the party’s machinery.
Addressing the aforementioned issues, the publicity secretary of Amaechi faction of the Rivers APC, Chris Finebone, in an interview with the Nigerian Tribune, acknowledged the fact that there was a political hiatus over the Rivers environment. He, however, pointed to the fact that there were efforts to resolve what he chose to call ‘internally-induced hiccups’ in the party, even as he disclosed that the move was intended to reposition the APC after the 2019 debacle.
“I do not know about the word, ‘arrested’, but if you mean that the political situation in Rivers State appears comatose, I will rather tell you that whereas the APC in Rivers State is trying to overcome some internally-induced hiccups in order to reposition after the 2019 debacle, the PDP government in the state appears to be down for the count just because the governor, Nyesom Wike wants it that way.”
On the divisive tendencies in the Rivers APC, he said; “For the APC in Rivers State, the judicial terrorism being undertaken by a misguided member of the APC in Rivers State will not hand him the structures of the APC. No amount of collusion with the sitting governor will hand him the structures of the APC. He seems or thinks he has successfully lifted from the template and political playbook of Nyesom Wike who used the judiciary to corner the structure of the PDP in Rivers State in 2013.
“You know who I am talking about. I believe that whatever the legal tangle delaying the conduct of ward, local and state congresses will eventually come to an end. The congresses will hold and brand new executives will emerge across the wards, local government areas and state to begin the process of rebuilding and repositioning the party for the onerous task ahead.”