The All Progressives
Congress, APC, is in a profound crisis. The signals coming from the party are justifiably worrisome. It is uncertain whether the party can survive the four years mandate Nigerians have given it.
The APC recently defeated former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to produce President Muhammadu Buhari in a keenly contested election in March. It also produced majority of the state governors and lawmakers in both chambers of the National Assembly in the general election.
The vision of the party as articulated by the founding fathers is to provide Nigerians with a better alternative to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which ruled the country for an unbroken period of 16 years.
But the current palpable tension in the National Assembly which has degenerated to physical assault upon an alleged undue interference by the APC is an indication that the ruling party may not accomplish this dream after all. It may also be an attestation that their first rallying point was to capture power; and since that has been achieved, they find it hard to hold on.
Like the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, managed the Tambuwal saga in 2011, which is similar to the current situation in the Assembly, the APC in this case looks not ready to handle its own crisis thus, making it appear unprepared for leadership.
The bone of contention is the appointment of principal officers of both chambers of the National Assembly. Senate President Bukola Saraki on June 25 announced the names of principal officers in contradistinction to his party’s preference. He took this action despite peace moves to douse the tension that arose from his controversial election and Dogara’s as Senate President and Speaker of the House respectively.
In the House of Representatives, however, an attempt to toe a similar part as their Senate counterpart resulted in a free-for-all before Speaker Yakubu Dogara could begin the day’s business.
It is indeed sad that APC has become like a salad bowl with every group insisting on maintaining its color; this has been proved right by current developments in the party. At its formative stage several individuals moved in with different philosophies and interests other than those the founders of the party had. With such huge collection of diverse persons, it is practically impossible for them to co-exist without crisis.
Some analysts say the development in the National Assembly is in virtually all parliamentary democracies globally; others agree but think they exist in different degrees. However, what makes the difference is the subject of the brawl. Whereas in advanced democracies such crises are triggered by differences resulting from ideological issues, here it is more often than not based on political positions or greed.
But the crisis in the APC, happening barely a month after inauguration, makes it particularly unfortunate. Because of this some Nigerians think that the Assembly might have started on a wrong footing and blamed President Muhammadu Buhari and his party for declaring to the world that they would not interfere in all the operations of the Assembly.
But is it the pronouncement by Buhari, and the APC that has led to the current crisis or it is the attitude of some recalcitrant members of the party who have taken delight in submerging their party’s instructions on the platform of opportunism?
For the Senate to fail to heed the suggestion contained in the letter from the APC national chairman stipulating those to be selected for the principal offices in the Upper Chamber is an indication that tougher times await the APC government.
Contrary to what some persons think, the current crisis hasn’t so much to do with the election of both Saraki and Dogara as Senate President and Speaker respectively as the party has come to terms with the reality of their emergence. But having ‘defeated’ the party with their rascality and strong quest to take over leadership, both officers appear to be trying to maintain their blocks by spiting the APC.
However, some Nigerians have pointedly blamed the APC for being responsible for the crisis in the party. They buttress this position with the attitude of some key party leaders. For instance, they say, the President, soon after the election had been won and lost, detached himself from the party when he declared at his inauguration that he “belongs to everyone and belongs to no one”.
They understood Buhari’s statement to be a direct reference to members of his party. This is arguable and may be understood in sundry ways. They have also claimed that Buhari, in another statement, affirmed his readiness to work with anyone who emerged as leader/principal officer of the National Assembly and concluded that this might have emboldened the Saraki and Dogara groups to flout the party’s directives on the election of principal officers.
But how does Buhari’s stand to work with whoever emerged as principal officer in the National Assembly be an incentive to scoff party edict? One is yet to see the correlation. But it is correct that the APC might have indirectly encouraged both Saraki and Dogara to take their respective positions by failing to discuss with the duo on how it wanted the zoning to go.
Nevertheless, an area the party failed to look at is the contradiction that arose from the primaries. Those who lost at the party primaries were improperly managed and left to lick their wounds. This might have resulted in the bickering and re-alignments noticed in the party after all.
The APC’s inability to look at the permutations that brought up Sakari and co by the PDP was another factor that got it into trouble. In the permutations, the nPDP insists on having equal share of the spoils of their electoral battle since they also contributed five governors as the defunct ACN group which Tinubu leads. By this assertion then PDP group claims a superlative role in the electoral victory of the APC and insists on having a large chunk of the spoils of the political war.
This argument bandied by the nPDP is divisive and untenable. What happened to Niger, Jigawa, Katsina, Bauchi and Kaduna etc. that were captured by the APC? Were those states part of the nPDP or do they constitute any of the blocks that make up the APC? It is incorrect if the PDP claims that it brought about the success of the APC in the last general election. The truth is that the political calculation favored the north and the voting went accordingly.
The present development is a good omen for the APC because they took the characters that joined them from the PDP and other parties for granted; now it is playing out and they have to look inwards. This is a party that is made up of so many strange bedfellows so much so that even the national working committee is not in charge of the party any more than the powerful interest groups that operate outside it.
As Nigerians await Buhari to commence real leadership of the country, political analysts have said the prolonged APC crisis in the National Assembly may be the clog in the wheel of the new administration if not properly handled, as the situation is likely to become messier in the nearest future.
Already, the PDP has benefitted from the crisis in the APC with its member, Ike Ekweremadu, emerging as Deputy Senate President, the number two position in an APC-dominated Senate. And the PDP is set to draw more blood from the APC if the latter fails to put its house in order.
The Wike That I Know
Several comments, interpretations, narratives and theories have greeted the recent letter written by Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike of Rivers State to President Muhammadu Buhari, expressing the sincere appreciation of the Rivers State Government and people to Mr. President, for approving the sum of N78.9 billion to the state, as refund of monies expended by the State on federal projects in the state.
Most of these responses have either been mischievous, absurd, totally misleading and some even trying to conjure and configure fabulist narratives, celebrating the mystique and magical influence of the power of money on the human psyche.
But the most remarkable of these is the one written by Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, titled: WIKE VINDICATES BUHARISTS.
To be sure, Femi Adesina’s opinion on any topic immediately attracts considerable attention and commands tremendous weight, not just for the fact that he has been a seasoned journalist over the years, but indeed in recognition of his status as the Special Adviser to Mr. President Buhari on Media and Publicity; which makes him one of the recognized spokespersons of our President, whose views unequivocally represents the opinion of the Presidency in all matters.
It is therefore, in due cognizance of this latter responsibility and authority of his portfolio, that one must appreciate and commend Femi Adesina for his endorsement of Governor Nyesom Wike’s decision to thank President Buhari for approving the refund of N78.9 billion to Rivers State, and also the quite remarkable request for the President to oblige Rivers State with a State visit.
Of course, Femi Adesina’s admiration of Governor Nyesom Wike and his bold Thank You letter are embedded copiously in his article, though couched in the unerring profiling of the Rivers Governor in some lyrical passages and in some truculent, pro-Buhari obsessiveness in others.
The point needs to be made unambiguously, that the Rivers State Government, by way of emphasizing what Governor Wike rightly stated in the letter, appreciates the magnanimity of President Buhari,with profound gratitude and deep sincerity.
It was Aesop, the legendary Greek fabulist and writer of fables, who said that “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” There is certainly no doubt that one man who stands tall and proud, courageous and fearless with great nobility in today’s political space, is definitely Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.
For instance, what Femi Adesina describes as “crying wolf” and “pontificating” is nothing more than the ability to say and do things which other people are too frightened or lily livered to say or do; what we refer to in Nigeria as “dying in silence. ”
What Mr. Adesina surely knows is that one virtue that Governor Wike possesses is courage. He has never hesitated to call anybody out including the President, his own party members and even multi-nationals operating in Rivers State, whenever the need arises and Adesina himself, has already agreed, by confessing to responding to some of these wolf cries in his write up, that these calls were necessary at the time they were made.
If Governor Wike’s courage to speak up when others are silent and cowering in fear, leads to the approval of the refund of the N78.9 billion which the Federal Government owes Rivers State, then the expression of gratitude that recognizes and appreciates such appropriate magnanimity is the highest form of nobility.
Like Mr. Femi Adesina rightly pointed out in his essay, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), chaired by President Buhari, approved the REFUND of N148 billion to five states in the country for repair of Federal roads, for which Rivers State got N78.9 billion. But that is not even half the story.
For the avoidance of doubt and to set the records straight, it will be germane at this juncture to tell the true story of the refund and set the records straight, as presented by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, once and for all.
Giving a background to the reimbursement, Lai Mohammed had explained that the decision was sequel to a huge bill sent to the federal government by the entire 36 states of the federation in 2016, seeking a refund of funds they expended on the repair of some federal roads in their respective states.
He said: “You will recall that in 2016, 36 states of the federation sent a very huge bill to the federal government, asking for compensation for money that they have expended on federal roads. This prompted Mr. President to set up a committee to go and verify the claims of these 36 states, whether indeed, these projects were actually constructed. Were they completed in line with the federal government standards?
“At the end of that exercise by an inter-ministerial committee, chaired by the Minister of Works and Housing which also had ministers of education, transportation (and immediate past Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi), minister of finance, minister of state for works, Director-General of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and permanent secretary, cabinet office as members, the committee recommended that the federal government should refund N550,364,297.31 billion to 31 of the 36 states, after they were convinced that, yes, indeed, the projects were completed and they were federal government roads.
“But the claims of five other states – Cross River, Rivers, Ondo, Bayelsa and Osun – failed on the grounds that they did not do proper documentation and the committee felt they needed proper documentation. So, the committee went back with new terms of reference to ensure that the claims of the five states were in order. That is why the BPP is on the committee.
“So, at the end of the exercise, the committee now reported that the five states – Cross River with 20 roads and one bridge will get a refund of N18,394,737,608.85; Ondo with six roads to get a refund of N7,822,147,577.08, and Osun with two roads and one bridge to get a refund of N2,468,938,876.78.
“Others are Bayelsa with five roads and one bridge to get a refund of N38,040,564,783.40 and Rivers with three roads and three flyover bridges is to get a refund of N78,953,067,518.29.”
From the above therefore, three important points stand out for particular interest and reference, viz:
1. The money is neither a generous loan gift or a desperate bailout package as people like Femi Adesina are shaping the narrative to sound, but a REFUND of monies already spent by Rivers State on Federal projects.
2. Rivers State was initially denied the refund until proper documentation was provided; a situation which many Rivers watchers will recall, prompted the Minister of Works, Babatunde Raji Fashola, to visit Rivers State in March this year.
3. Rivers State got the approval for the amount of refund simply because Rivers State did the most comprehensive, qualitative and enduring projects.
For record purposes, let us state clearly that President Buhari has the authority to visit any state he wants to in Nigeria, whether he is Invited or not. He is the father of the nation and Rivers State enjoys a candid, honest and robust relationship with the present Federal Government, especially the presidency.
On August 19, 2017, Governor Wike was among the dignitaries that welcomed President Buhari after 103 days in London where he received medical treatment for an undisclosed illness.
While naysayers were busy misinterpreting the gesture, Governor Wike explained that no sane person would not be happy that his sick President was back home.
Recall alsonthat Governor Wike was the first PDP Governor to congratulate President Buhari after his second term election victory was upheld by the Supreme Court in September last year. Indeed, the warm, cordial, respectful relationship between President Buhari and Governor Wike, captured in several widely circulated photographs, of the President’s visit to Rivers State to commission the international wing of the Port Harcourt international airport speaks volumes.
We need not also remind Mr. Adesina that as far back as February 2017, when Governor Wike was not even up to two years in Office, he had already been christened “Mr. Projects” by none other than the Vice President himself, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who not only affirmed that Rivers State was an important state to Nigeria and the Federal Government, but has since endeared himself to Rivers State and Governor Wike.
This brings us nicely to the part of the letter where Governor Wike unequivocally appeals to President Buhari to honour Rivers State with a Presidential state visit and we ask Mr. Femi Adesina: ‘what is wrong with the Rivers State Governor inviting the President for a state visit. Is he not the Father of the nation again. Is Governor Wike not one of his children?
Considering the fact that the approval for the refund was also made for monies expended by Rivers State for Federal Projects, isn’t it equally apt that Governor Nyesom Wike should invite Mr. President to come and at least see the work for which the refund was made? Indeed, it will also provide Mr. President the grand opportunity to see first hand, the amazing and fantastic infrastructural wonders which Governor Wike is delivering in Rivers State. This is absolutely the right thing to do by a grateful recepient.
Governor Wike has aptly pointed out that the decision to thank Mr. President and the appeal to invite him for a state visit was not a personal one, but a collective decision taken by the State Executive Council, to assure Mr. President that all is well with Rivers State and Rivers people are quite happy with him for approving the refund.
Like Femi Adesina correctly noted in his article, the N78.9 billion cannot be the reason for Governor Wike’s thank you letter and invitation to Mr. President. According to him: “I don’t think so. Rivers is by no means a poor state. The amount is handsome, no doubt, but the state is oil rich, and can hold her own when it comes to finances. I don’t agree less with Adesina because Governor Wike does not speak from both sides of his mouth and does not play to the gallery. His moral upbringing makes him to speak the truth at all times not minding whose ox is gored.
Finally, it is important to commend Mr. Adesina for articulating and justifying the decision of Governor
Wike to thank Mr. President and invite him to Rivers State. There is absolutely no doubt, as he so succinctly pointed out, that millions of Buharists would have actually advised the President not to approve the refund to Rivers State, and while many of them are still wailing and bellyaching at the President’s magnanimity, the icing on the refund cake is the chagrin and consternation, which even Adesina admits, has greeted Governor Nyesom Wike’s letter in their camp.
While Rivers people will not complain that the money was actually reduced from the original amount and that it even took so long for President Buhari’s fairness and justice to touch Rivers State, while he has been fair and just to other states, we are all still very happy and grateful that this approval for refund has been made, finally.
Attempts by people like Adesina to make political capital out of the genuine stance of a statesman will not be bought by well-meaning Nigerians.
What makes Adesina’s grandstanding more worrisome is that he will never comment or let the world know how much the South-West States received as refund for federal projects executed in that part of the country.
Governor Wike’s letter of appreciation and appeal for a presidential state visit is thus a clear indication that what the people thought was lost has now been recovered. All is well that ends well and Rivers people are happy.
For the avoidance of doubt, the letter to Mr. President was delivered to Aso Rock, three weeks before it was published.
Governor Wike is not like Adesina who knows how to speak from both sides of his mouth. In 2008, he said this about the Chief of Staff to the President: “Gambari enslaved himself to please his paymasters. Now 13 years after, the shackles are still tied around his neck, threatening to asphyxiate him. What an eternal lesson for fawning bootlicking grovellers to learn. Old sins indeed have long shadows.”
Now that Gambari is Chief of Staff to the President, people have been asking if Adesina still sees Gambari’s sins’ shadows or he(Adesina) has turned to a bootlicking groveller?
There is no doubt that he is currently savouring the office of Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity as a compensation, having used his positions as former Editor-In-Chief of The Sun Newspapers and President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors to feather his own nest.
Adesina should be told that no amount of political mischief will turn Governor Wike from a hero to a villain in this matter.
The Wike that I know cannot be swayed by pecuniary interests. He will always stand for the truth and defend the interests of Rivers people.
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.
By Paulinus Nsirim
WIKE: Striving To Make Rivers State Safe
“Fundamentally, during the campaigns, we also promised to secure our State. No government is worth any value if it cannot guarantee the security of lives and property. I assure you that never for a moment will our administration be a captive of politics, when it comes to public security. We have the political will to fight, defeat crimes and criminality in Rivers State. There will be effective coordination, collaboration and synergy with the Federal Government, the law enforcement agencies and our community leaders in the prosecution of the war against cultism, kidnapping and armed robbery. We urge our people to fully co-operate with us in this direction.” – Nyesom Ezenwo Wike These were the words of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike in his inaugural address to Rivers people on Friday, May 29, 2015, at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium ,Port Harcourt. Dispassionate analysts and Rivers watchers will agree that the Governor.
By Paulinus Nsirim
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