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SEE THE VOWS WIKE MADE ON RIVERS POLITICS AND HOW HE BROKE THEM ONE AFTER THE OTHER

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With the ongoing political tussle between the former governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, and his successor, Siminalayi Fubara, PREMIUM TIMES takes a look at the vows Mr Wike made publicly on the succession politics in the oil-rich state while he was still in power, and how he reneged on them.

Nigerian governors always want to handpick their successor after completing their tenure in office. They do this for many reasons such as maintaining control of the state’s resources and political structure, covering up for whatever atrocities they may have committed while in office and having some political relevance when they are out of office.

In September 2018, during an interview with the then Governor Wike in the Rivers State Government House, Port Harcourt, PREMIUM TIMES raised some issues around succession politics in the oil-rich state. The governor, seeking re-election then, said he would not put a successor in office.

Here is how the interview went.
PT: If you win re-election in 2019, after your tenure, will you support a riverine person to emerge as governor?
WIKE: Fine! When we get to the bridge, we will cross it. There’s nothing wrong with the riverine people becoming governor of the state. You see, I work as a team. I don’t want to deceive people, we must sit down to agree, and which is correct; not one person sitting down to dictate. They are really qualified. They have supported the PDP, and when the time comes I will do everything to support them. If you want it to go the riverine, allow the riverine people to bring anyone, and not you choosing someone for them.
PT: Does it work that way? Isn’t it the governor who determines who succeeds him?
WIKE: Let me tell you today, I will not put a successor in office.
PT: You are on record!
WIKE: Yes, I am on record! My friends and colleagues, they know me and I have told them I am a student of history. Mention who has survived it – that you put your life at stake and bring up somebody to become the governor, and therefore you’ll be in charge and he will protect you! It is not correct! As a student of history, I know it does not work that way. I’ll do what I have to do to serve my people and will retire when my time has come to an end, those who want it let them go and take it. Let the people of Rivers State decide. That’s the problem we are having in Nigeria, people want to continue as godfathers.”

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Mr Wike, in that interview, did not only vow to allow the people of Rivers to freely elect his successor, but he also said that former governors who try to exert political control over their successor do not “survive it”. He went further to say that governors who “want to continue as godfather” are the problem of Nigeria.

Mr Wike, in the heat of his power tussle with Governor Fubara, disclosed how he handpicked Mr Fubara as his successor, adding that he did not regret it. He said he had forced other PDP aspirants to drop their governorship ambition because of Mr Fubara, who was then the state’s accountant-general.

“He (former chairperson of PDP in Rivers, Felix Obuah) was one of the frontrunners in the 2023 governorship election. I told him in my house to step down so that he wouldn’t run. He looked at me but I said you won’t run. He said if that was what I am saying he won’t run. But I say you will be DG, go and campaign for that election,” Punch newspaper quoted

Mr Wike as saying, early this month.

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Mr Wike, who is now the minister of the Federal Capital Territory, even said that he bought the governorship election form for Mr Fubara and others.

“I was the one who paid for the forms for anybody who wanted to run for elections as governor, House of Assembly and National Assembly. Let one person raise his hand and say he bought forms,” the minister said.

The minister is treading a familiar path in Nigerian politics where politicians do not mean what they say and refuse to be bound by their words – he had clearly broken his vow to allow the Rivers people to freely elect their governor.

In March 2023, while Nigeria was preparing for the inauguration of the newly elected governors, Mr Wike told Nigerians, through a Channels TV interview, that he would not interfere in Mr Fubara’s administration.

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“We have seen successors turn against their predecessors in politics, will you be worried if that happens to you?” Chamberlain Usoh of Channels TV asked Mr Wike, who was still the governor then.

“Why? Is he serving me? Was he born to serve me?” Mr Wike responded.

“He is to serve the state. The problem leaders have is that you’ve succeeded in supporting the person to be in office, is it for him to fail or to succeed? You want him to be coming to your house to be taking orders. When once you have left office, you give yourself that respect. If he wants my advice, it’s okay. If he doesn’t want my advice, it’s okay. For me to tell him he must do this, he must do that – that is not acceptable,” Mr Wike added.

Mr Wike has not only been interfering in Mr Fubara’s administration since inception like handpicking many of the commissioners, but has succeeded in ridiculing Mr Fubara and putting a question mark on the governor’s legitimacy and the integrity of democracy in Rivers during the political crisis in the state.

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The nine former commissioners who resigned from Mr Fubara’s cabinet are on their way back

to the government and may make history in Nigeria as the first set of officials to voluntarily resign their appointment to spite a governor, and then force their way back into the same cabinet.

Sam Amadi, an analyst with Arise News, has this to say about

the controversial Rivers peace deal which appeared to have stripped Governor Fubara of his constitutional power.

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“The first casualty here is constitutional governance.

“The second casualty would be a sense in which the people of Rivers State will feel re-captive because essentially the unspoken aspect of this deal is that the state is given back to Nyesom Wike. Mr President in a very high political gamesmanship kind of said, ‘Give Rivers State back to Wike’. (This is) a form of state capture.”

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