Attack on Rivers Assembly, mutiny against Fubara – N’Delta leader

National Coordinator of South-South Elders Forum and pioneer spokesman for the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, shares his thoughts with DENNIS NAKU on the political crisis in Rivers State

What is your view about the explosion that rocked the Rivers State House of Assembly?

Well, Rivers State leaders, including me, totally and vehemently condemn that explosion that destroyed the state House of Assembly, particularly the hallowed chambers where the legislators sit to make laws. So, it is quite unfortunate and not what we expected for that facility built with taxpayers’ money. This is not the time to waste money because we have a lot of things to do with money.

There have been arguments in support of and against the failed attempt to impeach Governor Siminalayi Fubara over some undisclosed issues. What can you say about this?

In every situation, you will get for and against, but the truth remains that whatever has happened is not in the interest of Rivers State. What happened is in the interest of a few people. Rivers State is a very big state with many people. If you look at the political gladiators too, they are many. So, when this kind of thing happens, those who feel they want to benefit from it will always support it. While those who are generally looking at Rivers State as their state will be opposed to it.

The attempt to impeach the governor has divided the state House of Assembly. You are an elder statesman, what would have caused the momentary breakdown of law and order in the state Assembly?

What happened was a mutiny. And since it was a mutiny, you will expect something like this. The former governor, Nyesom Wike, will say there is no coup in a democracy, no. It is not correct. Whether you carry a gun or not, if you don’t follow due process and you want to forcefully remove somebody, it is a coup. Unfortunately, the coup failed, and we are not happy with the way Wike orchestrated the whole of this coup and also to put Rivers State in a bad light. Today, we can see that everywhere in Rivers State has been disorganised, and the government has been disorganised. The governor wants peace, otherwise the government can move ahead but they have succeeded in disorganising this state.

Some have said that the former governor, now Minister of the FCT is behind the current political upheavals in the state. What is your take on this?

He has openly said he is part of it, he did not deny it. And he said it was not a coup; and that it was an impeachment process.

But Wike supported Governor Fubara to occupy the current position; therefore, some expected that the former governor should also have a say in the government. What is your take on this?

The former governor is the one ruling the state through Fubara as a third term and when he made the governor and made him unable to function, the governor resisted, why? That is where their trouble started. So, he said impeach him. He has a plan; he has a plan in the sense that he was thinking when they impeach him, the Deputy Governor, Dr Ngozi Odu will become governor and the current speaker will become the deputy governor. And in due course, they will also impeach Dr Odu and make the former speaker to be the governor of Rivers State.

There are reports that President Bola Tinubu intervened in the matter. How effective do you think this intervention in the state political crisis will be.

The governor is not talking much. But Wike has been talking, he will not accept Tinubu’s directives and they will go ahead. Whatever he started, he was going to end. So, he is very boastful. But the Bible says the proud, God will disgrace, and the humble, God will exalt.

Are you saying that the FCT Minister will not obey the words of the President?

That is what he (Wike) said. It is in the media; he has not denied it.

Some elders have also intervened in the matter, and there appears to be calm now. What do you think can be done to forestall a recurrence of the ugly incident that led to the burning of the House of Assembly?

The so-called elders are what we call Peoples Democratic Party elders who are loyal to Wike. I don’t see anything good coming from them because they don’t have the interest of the state at heart. All they need is to put the governor in a position where they can strangulate him and suck him dry. Suck the state through him as a conduit pipe so that every day, they are smiling home. They have no good intention for resolving the case otherwise, they cannot just see Wike and put all the blame on the governor, that the governor was wrong. How was he wrong? He is in the house, and they want to impeach him, and he went there to stop it. Is that why he is wrong? Or he cries out and asks why they are impeaching him because he (the governor) didn’t commit any crime. Is that why he is wrong?

So, why are they blaming him? Let them come up with the reason why they feel they should impeach him. There must be a cogent reason why they want to impeach him. Rivers people want to know what the reasons are. What are the things that they are querying him or blaming him for? They are saying he has gone to see the enemy. So, if today, they want to sack somebody and you all gang up against him, will he not ask for help from outside? So, that is what is going on. He has asked for help from outside and God has intervened. He is not the one fighting, up till now, he is not willing to fight, but God is fighting his course.

The FCT minister and the governor met in Abuja on Tuesday and exchanged pleasantries. Do you think the worst is over and everybody, including members of the Assembly, has gone back to the status quo?

I don’t think so. I don’t know. I have neither spoken to Wike nor have I spoken to Sim (Fubara). But the truth is that everything that glitters is not gold. If Wike is sincere, his utterances after the meeting are very clear facts that he is still interested in impeaching the governor. So, the governor should just not say anything so that he will be arm-twisting him and collect everything from him in the name of godfather. But he (Wike) did not accept any person as godfather.

Children are in the house hungry; you are throwing a party outside. Are you a good father? Now, somebody has come, and you don’t want him to work. The man (governor) wanted to go and work on Songhai (Farm). The next thing is, ‘Oh, he did not take instructions for you’. Why would he do that? Governance is a continuum, and you cannot waste government assets. The people want employment, people want business, and so, what is your problem with the man trying to generate things for the state? So, what the so-called elders of the PDP and the minister want is to strangulate him.

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What will be your advice to Governor Fubara knowing that the attempt to impeach him seems to have failed?

My advice to Governor Fubara is for him to take charge of his government and purge the system because you cannot bring your enemies to guide you because one day, you will get up and your head will be off. You cannot allow somebody to be your CSO; you cannot allow somebody to be your Chief of Staff. You cannot allow somebody to appoint your Chief (Security) Detail, your security aides, or the command of your Government House Police patrol. So, a lot of things need to be changed. Even from the local government, he must change the system and get hold of the local government; he must be in charge of the local government, and he must be in charge of the state.

Even the state exco should be dissolved. He (Fubara) must be able to get people who are loyal within your party to become what they want to be, but not this set of people who are already there and taking instructions somewhere. It is more dangerous. They can take instructions somewhere and carry out a mutiny against you and anything can happen.

What message will you send to the FCT Minister on the momentary crisis that engulfed the state?

My advice to former governor Wike is to allow the boy to rule. Let the boy do his work. They should not strangulate him. They should not arm-twist him. Nobody is interfering with his job in Abuja. So, let them not interfere in the governance of the state. Rivers State will hold the boy accountable for what he has done, not what they want to do. They should please allow him. Let him face Abuja. He cannot talk of Abuja and here (Rivers). One thing is that he should be very careful because even father and son. Saraki and his father, we all saw what happened. So, he (Wike) is not the first. See what happened to Adams Oshiomhole and the Edo State Governor, Obaseki. We saw what happened.

He should learn from the past. Don’t make this boy hate you because if the boy now begins to fight you, he will destroy you. This was the State Accountant General who knows how you spent the whole Rivers State Government money. Don’t take for granted that there is a court judgment that nobody should probe Rivers State Government. Somebody will come one day to probe Rivers State. And he (Fubara) can set up a commission of inquiry against you as you did to (Rotimi) Amaechi, and you can be indicted.

The governor has so much power. So, don’t push him to the point where he will work against you and take steps that will destroy you because it is easier to destroy but very hard to build. And don’t think you are Superman.

Rivers State has been known to be in political turmoil. Do you think that there will be an end to the political crisis in Rivers State?

Well, it depends on the governor. If the governor wants to fight this people to a standstill, they will all run away. Some of them will come and beg because he will use a lot of systems, and when they don’t see where to hide, they will come back. But if he wants to join them and get himself destroyed, Rivers State people will no longer come to his rescue if he goes ahead to join them and allow himself to be destroyed. So, he should be very careful and know that the people of Rivers State love him and that is why they came out en masse. Let him encourage the people of Rivers State; he should know that he is the governor that they voted for.

Look at the way they poured the governor water, teargas, and then gunshots. What if he had died? So, he should keep an arm’s length and get new friends within your party or the state because the law is very clear. You are the governor; you have the executive powers and whatever you decide is final. You have immunity. So, you should exercise your constitutional powers to rescue yourself and also redeem the state.

The members of the Rivers State House of Assembly seem to be pandering to the whims of Wike than his successor, Fubara. Why do you think the lawmakers put themselves in a situation where they hardly enjoy independence?

The fact remains that the power was not with Fubara. The power was with Nyesom Wike. So, everybody must go towards the power, where the power is. He appoints, he allocates, he distributes, he decides. So, they didn’t see Fubara as a governor until now he is asserting himself. I am happy that his team has been able to elect another speaker and other house officers and he can go ahead to work with them. That is the way I look at it. He should not waste time. He should ignore all these things they are talking about and move on. He should forget about this so-called quarrel and let them see him moving; let him see himself working, let him see himself doing certain things that will make government exciting to the people. Rivers people want to see his action so that he can start to take action and move on.

What advice will you give to the lawmakers in the state House of Assembly over the commotion that happened?

My advice to them is that they were elected to work with this present governor. They were not elected to work with Nyesom Wike. Therefore, they should be able to know themselves and be loyal to Fubara who is the governor because there is nothing they can do. The only section he recognises is the House of Assembly because he assents to whatever law they make. If he refuses to assent to whatever law they make; if he refuses to accent to the law they make and they cannot veto it, it is over. And if he refused to fund them, they will also stay there. So, they should know that the power has shifted to Fubara.

Apart from the State House of Assembly, the judiciary also appears not to have shown some level of independence. What is the disadvantage of this situation and what can be done to tackle this challenge?

The judiciary; all of them are a bit loyal to the source. The source as of yesterday was Wike. So, let him take charge. I will also advise him (Fubara) to call a Security Council meeting; let him call a Security Council meeting as well as set up his system whereby he will monitor whatever they are doing. That is my advice. Let him take good care of himself; let him secure himself, let him remove all those that he perceives to be enemies or who are not loyal to him and get a structure, a people that will be loyal to him and do his work.

A retiring justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Mohamed Dattijo, said most Nigerians have lost confidence in the judiciary. Do you share a similar view with him?

Well, the judiciary has disappointed a lot of people, particularly in Rivers State. During the elections, you saw what the judiciary did. Some of them were giving contradictory judgments on one issue. So, the judiciary needs a reform whereby we get people who are not interested in material things. Rather they should be interested in honour. We need a judiciary that will take care of the security, and the entire welfare of Nigeria through their judgments. That’s what we need. So, if they work that way, Nigeria will be a better place.

Three off-season elections will be held on November 11 in Kogi, Bayelsa, and Imo states. What can the Independent National Electoral Commission do to boost the eroding confidence of the citizens in the electoral system?

INEC has destroyed itself because it cannot keep its law, and so, people have lost faith in it. It is left for the commission to reinvent itself and do what is right because Nigerians have lost faith in INEC.

There are reports that the Imo State Government has booked all the hotels in every nook and cranny of Owerri, the state capital, ahead of the November 11 governorship election. How will you react to this?

I am not in Imo State; I don’t know what is going on there. But all the same, it is part of the game. If there is a primary election and people will come, all the aspirants should be able to secure a place for themselves. You can’t wait till the last minute when the governor is trying to outsmart you, because it is a game of outsmarting each other; that’s politics.

How then will those coming from outside the state get accommodation for the coverage of the election when the entire hotels in the state capital, have reportedly been booked by the state government?

Well, they should know that Owerri is a small city, but an old city. They should be able to prepare for themselves if they are coming for election. They cannot wait till the last minute. So, they must prepare for themselves and be guided. And if you are coming to your village, why don’t you have something in your village? After all, Owerri is a central place for almost all the communities. If you don’t have any place to stay, you go to your community and come for the election the same day. In less than 30 minutes, you are already in the centre. That is the way I look at it.

What is your view about the Supreme Court verdict that affirmed the victory of President Bola Tinubu at the general election?

The Supreme Court has spoken; my view will not have anything to do with Supreme Court judgment. Whether we like it or not, we accept it because there is nowhere else to appeal to. The Supreme Court is the highest in the land and they have spoken. So, whether it is proper or not, they have spoken.

Why is it that former Rivers State governors always disagree with their successors? You can recall this claim in the relationship between Peter Odili and Rotimi Amaechi, Ameachi and Wike, and now, Wike and Fubara.

I have consistently said there is karma. This karma started with Odili. When Odili became governor, he was not on good terms with Ada George. At a point, he was fighting those who brought him; Alabo Graham Douglas and Marshal Harry. And I told him this thing would boomerang. Years after, his closest person, Rotimi Amaechi; his former aide, the man he made Speaker, the man he made everything became his albatross, and nature did it in such a manner that you cannot think of it.

Then Amaechi came and said he wanted to probe Odili, and he set up a judicial commission of inquiry against Odili. I told him, ‘Don’t do it’. It’s karma. He did not listen, and he did that. Now, after Amaechi’s tenure, Wike came and did the same thing to him. Now, see the case of Fubara and Wike. So, karma is there, Wike is now inviting the karma upon himself. He is a superman, and he feels nothing can happen unless he is there. It is he that must be obeyed. So, he has done so; let’s see how it ends. But his karma is upon his head.

With the scenarios that have played out in Nigeria. Do you think godfatherism should be stamped out in Nigeria’s politics?

Well, how can you stamp out godfatherism? You will try to stamp it out, but it is not possible because somebody must help you somewhere. I am just laughing because Wike was helped by former President Goodluck Jonathan with his wife and others. Today, he is behaving as if nobody helped him. So, it (godfatherism) must be continued. Wike was against godfatherism, abusing Oshiomhole, and today, he wants to be a godfather. How can it be possible? He (Wike) said the APC was having cancer while the PDP had malaria. Now, he has left malaria to cancer

But he has not joined the APC yet?

But he’s working in the APC government. What is he? Is he just there as a justifier?

You are an elder statesman. What role do you think traditional rulers can play in tackling insecurity from the grassroots?

The constitution should be amended to give functions to the traditional rulers. If traditional rulers are empowered in the area of security, then they can be able to stamp out insecurity in their state/country. But where they don’t have powers, you just make them fight without security, without guns to go and fight criminals, illegal oil bunkering people. If that is the case, they (traditional rulers) will be killed.

It has happened in several communities. So, I believe that constitutional provision should be given to traditional rulers in their various communities so that they can be useful to society. The traditional rulers can be useful to society, the local government, and their community because there is a law. The law says these are their roles and the roles must be specifically spelt out so that some of them will not also use the position to victimise others.

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