Volatile Rivers State on the march again! By Bola BOLAWOLE




turnpot@gmail.com 0807 552 5533

Two elephants are rumbling on the streets (not in the forests) of Rivers State and the people (not the grass), as they say, are suffering. The elephants are the governor, Siminalayi Fubara, and his immediate predecessor and now Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike. Wike is the godfather and Fubara is (was?) the godson. Wike installed Fubara but things appear to have fallen apart between the two. This unravelling of godfather-godson relationship has set the record of one of the fastest in Nigeria where godfather/godson love-hate relationship has become a given. Just five months before Armageddon! What went wrong?

Rivers State is not new to the oily business of godfather/godson battles. It appears the norm in the oil-rich state since the return to democracy in 1999 for a departing governor to impose a godson and for the godson to soon afterwards turn against his godfather. Forgetting that what goes around comes around, the rebel godson will also, on his own way out, install a godson who will, in no time, also turn against him!


It was so with Peter Odili/Rotimi Amaechi, Rotimi Amaechi/Nyesom Wike and now Wike/Fubara. Odili described what he suffered in Amaechi’s hands as a “classic case of misplaced aggression”. Amaechi in turn described an award he was to be given by Wike as “a poisoned chalice” How Wike will describe Fubara in the face of unfolding events remains to be seen!

The reasons why the Rivers State’s political forest is rumbling are still sketchy as at press time but, usually, the causes for frosty relations between godfathers/godsons are not far to fetch. First is money palaver. A lot of money is spent by godfathers to impose their favourite candidate and this money, usually State funds, are seen as investments the godson must refund to the godfather once he gets into office.

Many godfathers extravagantly inflate what is spent to the displeasure of the godson; even going to the extent of monetizing their political clout and leverage, which the godson has to pay for. And many godfathers are impatient to get paid. They are aware that as soon as the new governor settles in office and becomes more comfortable in the seat of power and grows in confidence, he may begin to have funny ideas. If he does not on his own, people around him will nudge him. His wife will, if nobody else does!

To ensure that he gets his returns on investment fast, the godfather still wants to control all the important levers of power. The important Ministries and money-spinning parastatals of government must continue to be under his control. He must also control the state House of Assembly to act as a check on the governor. The Sword of Damocles in the form of possible impeachment must dangle over the governor’s head to keep him in check.

When the godson tries to be his own man by uprooting the loyalists of the godfather and supplanting them with his own loyalists, alarm will blow! A godson will certainly incur the wrath of his godfather the moment he starts to create his own political structure independent of his godfather’s. This is like an apprentice celebrating his “freedom” from his Oga. Godfathers never want to allow their political structure to fall into another person’s hands. They will fight with the last drop of blood in their veins to protect their political structure because it is, to them, like the blood that flows in our veins.

Some godfathers are cantankerous and over-do things. They lack tact and diplomacy. They treat their godsons worse than their house boys. Even if a godson is as meek as biblical Moses, an overbearing godfather can push him to the point that he will have to cry “No mas! No mas!” like the boxer Roberto Duran. It has been said that there is a limit to human endurance.

Some godsons, too, lack the spirit of fidelity and are dubious. They want to have the best of two worlds. They chose to be godson with their eyes wide open. They chose to dine with the devil and knew the implications. But once the food is ready, they forget or neglect to come to table with long spoons. Instead, they come with long knives ready to stab their benefactor in the back. It is said that there is honour even among thieves but some godsons are just too eager to breach the “gentleman’s agreement” that brought them to power.

Now, why is Fubara parting ways with Wike so soon? Is it Wike that is overbearing? Has the FCT Minister forgotten his own antecedents? Social media has started reminding Wike of statements he made while he was governor condemning godfathers who breathe down the neck of their godsons, thus causing a rupture in their relationship, the kind of which we are witnessing now between him and Fubara? Has Wike forgotten that he made such statements? Politicians often speak to the moment. They seldom speak unto history.

Or are we to blame Fubara for being hasty and impatient to declare his “freedom”? If a man picked you up from a crowd of other contestants and worked to make you governor, is it too much for you to allow him some time to enjoy himself before you start to raise your heels against him? Nigeria’s godsons have a lesson to learn from biblical Elisha, Elijah’s godson, on godfather/godson relations.

Elisha served Elijah meritoriously for six years. The Bible records that Elisha, the son of Shaphat, poured water over Elijah’s hands although he was from a more prosperous and honourable family than Elijah (whom the bible simply described as “the Tishbite”). Humility is the word; evidence all over the place (Lagos, Oyo, Ondo, Edo, Kano, Benue, Abia, Enugu, name it!) is that this is lacking in the godfather/godson relationship in today’s Nigeria. Temperance, too, is often lacking on both sides.

Someone said Wike is operating like someone who carries an elephant on his head (FCT ministerial appointment) but who is still using his toes to dig holes hunting for crickets; that person forgets that politics is local. No politician wants to lose his home base. As Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is president and commander-in-chief today, you will see his red eyes if you try and toy with his home base of Lagos! Was that not the crux of the matter between Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his deputy, Chief SL Akintola, when Awo vacated the seat of premier of Western Region for Akintola and took up the position of Leader of Opposition in the then Federal parliament in Lagos? So, when you are leaving your home base for a Federal appointment, watch it!

Now, can it be that Wike has already made up his mind to officially dump PDP for APC and is preparing to clean up his backyard and Fubara is not playing ball? Or has Atiku Abubakar and the PDP found a way to pay Wike back in his own coin? Time, as they say, will tell!

Mr. President’s four-month ‘mercy salary’ to ASUU:
After being subjected to untold hardship and forced to complete the eight-month backlog of work, the President has magnanimously approved a dehumanizing four-month ‘mercy-salary’! As if that was not enough, it is being served with a caveat of ASUU never again protesting any ill-treatment meted out to the university community as a pre-condition to being paid! Really? The FGN currently owes members of the academia a backlog of over nine years of EARNED ACADEMIC ALLOWANCE. There is no mention of that anywhere. So, any attempt to request or protest non-payment of that is to be quenched by ‘mercy-payment’ of four out of eight months duly-earned salary? The academics are the only set of FG workers that do not access annual leave, which is enjoyed by or monetized for workers in Nigeria. They work for 12 months a year. Furthermore, massive cases of un-remitted pension and NHS deductions are still ongoing as of today. So, by agreeing to the President’s mercy payment, will ASUU lose the right to protest these broad-day violations? Between 2009 and 2023, the salaries of nearly all FG employees have been reviewed upwards by 70% to 260%, except for the academics in the Federal universities. Even the most recent 40% pay rise that was implemented within the last days of Buhari’s administration did not include the university community. After the failed negotiations with the Buhari-led FG, 25% and 35% salary award (for junior academics and professors respectively) was included in the 2023 budget. Two months to the end of 2023, the present FG has re-introduced and presented the same Buhari’s salary award as a favor to lecturers. Even at that, they have not paid. That doesn’t seem like enough provocation, then, they are presenting ASUU with a slave option of WE PAY YOU 50% OF THE SALARY YOU HAVE WORKED FOR, AND THEN YOU DON’T EVER GET TO PROTEST WHATEVER WE DO TO YOU! What an offer! In his magnanimity, the same President has approved 100% payment of salaries to doctors for the period that they, too, were on strike! Mr. President, thank you, but, please, keep your four-month ‘mercy payment’. If you can’t afford the eight-month salaries we worked for, then, keep all of it. Pay us our Earned Academic Allowance (EAA). On all grounds, we at least earned that pay! – Samuel Atabo, Joseph Tarka University, Makurdi, Benue State.

* Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.

Share your story or advertise with us: Whatsapp: +2347068606071 Email: info@newspotng.com


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here