July 15, 2024

Rivers’ crisis: Tinubu’s intervention one-sided, should be put aside

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Rivers' crisis: Tinubu's intervention one-sided, should be put aside

By Franklyn Isong

The crisis rocking Rivers State has lingered for over a month. Stakeholders made unsuccessful interventions to end the crisis.

At inception, the House of Assembly was set ablaze by unknown political thugs. Impeachment notice was thereafter served on Governor Siminalayi Fubara by 27 lawmakers led by the Speaker, Martins Amaewhule, loyal to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Nyesom Wike. They also claimed to have suspended the majority leader of the Assembly, Edison Ehie, and four others.

But, in a twist, the 5 lawmakers led by Edison Ehie emerged from a plenary moment later to address the Press that the Speaker, Amaewhule, and 26 others had been suspended. They claimed to have elected Edison Ehie as the new speaker. They declared their loyalty to Governor Fubara.

This crisis lingered. President Bola Tinubu was to later intervened. Fubara was made to rescind all the decisions taken in the heat of the crisis, including to reinstate all the sacked commissioners and others. Fubara also apologised to the FCT Minister and the people of the State over the crisis, as he was said to have been directed.

However, the tussle over the control of the soul of the Assembly was yet over. On December 11, 2023, the 27 lawmakers held a plenary session at the Assembly complex and defected from the PDP to the APC.

Sim Fubara later ordered the demolition of the Assembly, saying the complex was unsafe for legislative business after the fire incident as the government intends to build a new complex for the state lawmakers.

As a pro-democracy advocate, I must commend Mr. President for his intervention in the crisis to bring peace in Rivers State. But I was taken aback at the outcome of the presidential intervention, held yesterday, Monday, December 18, 2023, at the Aso Rock Villa.

The outcome seems to me one-sided in favour of Wike against Fubara. Of all the 8 points arrived at, none favours Fubara. Even when it was clear that constitutional infractions had been committed when the 27 lawmakers defected to Mr. President’s political party – the APC.

Their seats were said to have been declared vacant by Edison Ehie faction in line with Section 109(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution, Mr. President looked the other way and directed Governor Fubara to recognise them with Amaehwule as the Speaker. He directed the governor to withdraw all court cases in the dispute, including the matter seeking judicial interpretation of Section 109(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution. The defectors were not directed to return to their political party – the PDP. What an unfair mediation by Mr. President?

In my opinion, Fubara should treat the Abuja resolution with contempt. It should be taken for what it is, null and void, and of no effect. The matter had gone beyond “Presidential Directives,” as it were.

Wike is indirectly seeking presidential protection for the 25 lawmakers whose seats were declared vacant. As it stands, it is ONLY the court of law that can resolve the issues and NOT any “Presidential fiat.”

I suspect that President Tinubu is gradually becoming a dictator, like his predecessor, General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who overruled our constitution and the Supreme Court of Nigeria on the New Naira Notes policy.

On the commissioners that resigned, they did that voluntarily. It is the responsibility of the governor to appoint people he can work with to actualize his vision for the state.

The President lacked the constitutional powers to issue out directives to any governor in the sub-national government, contrary to what he was meant to believe. I think Wike and Co, had misled Mr. President into thinking that he has the powers to force people on governor Fubara. If the governor falls for this and reappoints them, then he should be ready for more surprises and embarrassments in days to come.

Surface it to say that the much-media-hyped presidential intervention was apparently orchestrated to further intimidate the governor and government of Rivers State by attempting to undermine our constitutional democracy in the State.

All I see in this one-sided “Presidential Directives” is the attempt to enslave the people of Rivers State. This “Abuja Peace Agreement” puts the control of the state in the whims and caprices of the FCT Minister, to say the least.

This has revealed the real masquerades behind the crisis in Rivers State. I was just wondering how the FCT Minister could have gotten the guts and even the Police, according to the Governor, shot at him when he went to the Assembly on the heels of the fire incident.

What an attempt to further humiliate a state governor? The state Budget for 2024 had been presented by the Governor to the Assembly and assented to after its passage, but Mr. President ordered the Governor to withdraw the Budget which is now a law and to re-present same to the Assembly to be presided over by Amaewhule as the Speaker. This is another low point of the Presidential intervention.

Methinks that the President erred. The court cases should run through. The outcome of these court cases will further deepen our constitutional democracy both in Rivers State and Nigeria at large.

Again, I commend Mr. President and all those involved in yesterday’s intervention but, I advise that the governor be allowed to govern the state and provide good governance, while the FCT Minister should focus on the responsibilities of the FCT, if Rivers State is not one of the Area Councils in the FCT.

For now, the Presidential Order comes late, it should be put aside. All eyes had long shifted to the judiciary for interpretation and judicial pronouncements on this Assembly leadership impasse.

~Otuekong Franklyn Isong is a journalist, rights activist, and messenger of the people.

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