Rivers crisis and Gov. Fubara’s counter-offensive

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By Chris Eze, Port Harcourt

Could it be said that Rivers Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara is now fully dressed in his armor and ready for a fight amidst the many punches being thrown at him from different quarters in the political crisis in the state?

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The Governor has been playing it ‘cool’ since his benefactor and immediate past Governor and minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Chief Nyesom Wike declared war against him for daring to assert himself in office as governor.

Governor Fubara even went as far as accepting hook, line and sinker all the contents of the Peace Accord brokered by President Bola Tinubu between him and Wike which all tilted in favour of the FCT minister and his allies all in a bid to ensure a peaceful socio-political environment in the state.

But receiving some elders and political leaders from Bayelsa State who paid him a solidarity visit in Government House, Port Harcourt recently, Governor Fubara disclosed that all efforts he has made to propitiate Wike and his allies have been rebuffed.

It was in the same occasion that the Opobo born governor for the first time since the political crisis started bared his fangs and said that the 26 pro Wike House of Assembly members who have been threatening fire and brimstone against him in the heat of the political crisis are merely blowing hot air since according to him, they do not have the locus standi to upset the apple cart and hurt his administration.

Hear Gov Fubara: “Let me say it here, those group of men who claim that they are assembly members, they do not exist. I want it to be on record. 

 “I accepted that peace accord to give them a floating (soft-landing). That’s the truth. There is nothing in that peace accord that is a constitutional issue. It is a political solution to a problem. I accepted it because these are people that were visiting me and we were together in my house. 

“These are people that I have helped… in many ways when I wasn’t even a Governor. Yes, we might have our disagreements, but I believe that one day, we could also come together. That was the reason I did it.

 “But I think it has gotten to a time when I need to make a statement on this thing, so that they understand that they are not existing. Their existence and whatever they have been doing is because I allowed them to do so. If I don’t recognize them, they are nowhere that is the truth”.

Interestingly, shortly after the governor made this pronouncement, a change in the leadership of the State House of Assembly was effected with Rt. Hon. Victor Oko-Jumbo representing Bonny State Constituency emerging as the new Speaker, while Hon. Sokari Goodboy Sokari became the new House Leader.

Expectedly, the new Speaker while addressing the House, announced the nullification of all laws and legislative actions made and taken by the Martins Amaewhule led Assembly.

He said, “You will agree with me that after the House last sat on the 13th of December, 2023, and adjourned sine die, there has been an avalanche of legislative rascality perpetrated by the 25 former members of the 10th Rivers State House of Assembly, led by the former Speaker, Rt. Hon. Martin Chike Amaewhule.

 “These former members, being fully aware of the provisions of Section 109(1)(g) of the CFRN 1999, defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Party (APC) on the 11th of December, 2023.

 “Consequently, the Rt. Hon. Edison Ogerenye Ehie-led Assembly, on the 13th of December, 2023, wrote to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), declaring the seats of the 25 lawmakers vacant in line with Section 109(1)(g) and (2) of the CFRN 1999.

 “My distinguished colleagues, there are a plethora of cases pending in our courts further to the defection of the former lawmakers.”

 The new Speaker  further emphasized that all laws, plenary sessions and actions taken by the illegal House members are declared void and a nullity in the eyes of the law by virtue of the judgment of Lord Denning in the celebrated case of MacFoy v UAC (1961) 3 All ER 1169.

“Lord Denning held in that case that you cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand. Particularly, Lord Denning stated: ‘If an act is void, then it is in law a nullity. It is not only bad, but incurably bad. There is no need for an order of court to set it aside.

“‘It is automatically null and void without more ado, though it is sometimes more convenient to have the court declare it to be so”, he added.

 Rt. Hon. Oko-Jumbo stated further, that every proceeding which was founded on the activities of the former lawmakers had become ‘bad and incurably bad’.

 “You cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stay there. It will collapse”, he insisted.

 The new speaker called on the Executive arm, the Judiciary and the general public to disregard every law purportedly enacted by the illegal Assembly members because they all amount to nothing but an exercise in futility.

He said, “Furthermore, this House would want to most respectfully urge and call on His Excellency, the Governor of Rivers State, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, DSSRS, to desist forthwith from further dealings with the 25 former lawmakers, in whatever guise.

 “Those members are merely floating and do not have any landing ground or anywhere to berth their ship since their defection to the All Progressives Congress on the 11th of December, 2023.

“This House is the legally and constitutionally recognized House of Assembly by virtue of the defection of the other members, and is ready to receive correspondences from and work with His Excellency, the Governor of Rivers State, Sir Siminalayi Fubara”.

 Few days after this development, a State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt gave an order barring the Speaker of the State Assembly loyal to the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Chief Nyesom Wike, and the other 24 lawmakers from parading as members of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

The court directive also prohibited them from convening or participating in any official meetings at the Assembly premises.

 The court’s decision stemmed from an Exparte order filed against the Pro-Wike lawmakers by Pro-Siminialayi Fubara Speaker Victor Oko Jumbo and three others.

 The interim injunction declared the seats of the 1st to 25th defendant’s vacant pending further legal proceedings.

Additionally, the court issued a restraining order, prohibiting Governor Siminialayi Fubara and the Chief Judge, who are 26th and 28th defendants in the suit, from engaging with Amaewhule and his 25 loyalists.

The court’s action is due to the defendants’ defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progress Congress (APC) on December 13, 2023.

The court also directed Amaewhule and the others to hand over all official documents within seven days and adjourned the case until May 29 for a motion on notice.

Another deft move by Governor Fubara which would send jitters into the spine of Wike and his allies is the anticipated Judicial Panel of Inquiry into the governance of the state which the governor said would be set up soon. The panel according to Fubara would look into what transpired in governance of the state in the immediate past administration.

Watchers of political developments in the state say the twin action of installing a new Speaker and the court order barring Amaewhule and his faction from parading as members of the state assembly were instigated by Gov. Fubara as a counter-offensive gambit in the raging battle for the soul of the state. In other words, Fubara has finally jettisoned his much touted peaceful approach and entered the trenches to take on Wike and his ‘allied forces’.

However, the clincher in Governor Fubara’s counter-offensive according to observers is the expected judicial commission of inquiry which would probe governance under Wike.

Nevertheless, political pundits say Fubara must gird his loins and prepare for the battle of his life because the FCT minister is an uncommon politician who throws in everything in a political battle to get what he wants.

A case in point according to observers is Fubara’s failed spirited efforts to reverse the list of caretaker committee members for the State Executive Committee of the PDP as Wike still got upper hand with the list dominated by his loyalists.

Insiders say Wike’s plan B if impeachment fails is to ensure that Fubara does not get PDP ticket to do a second term in 2027. Even so some observers are quick to posit that PDP might just be a political carcass by 2027 going by unfolding developments and the stranglehold of Wike on the party through proxies.

Sources also say that Wike’s fight against Fubara came too early and would afford the governor time to re-strategize and raise structure for himself even in other parties while watching how things would pan out in PDP.

Some observers pointed to the case of Adams Oshiomhole and Governor Godwin Obaseki in Edo State when Obaseki left the APC for Oshiomhole, went to PDP and won his second term.

For now, Gov. Fubara has through people centered policies rallied Rivers people round himself; he is loved by the people and the governor knowing this, is unlikely to fritter that good will away even as they (Wike and Fubara) trudge on the bumpy road to 2027.

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