How Rivers PDP’s internal wrangling delays Wike’s cabinet
Despite contrary posturing, there are indicators that smothering divisions within the Rivers State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have continued to hinder the constitution of a full-fledged State executive council by Governor Nyesom Wike.
Although some opposition political parties in the state went into temporary hibernation shortly after the recent general elections, they have once again began to voice their concerns about the socio-economic situation in the state. One of the issues that opposition parties are worried about is their belief that precious time that should have been spent to proffer solutions to the myriad of socio-economic challenges facing residents of the state, such as diminishing social services, insecurity, lack of direct foreign investment and high underemployment rate, have been eclipsed by internal intrigues within the ruling party.
It should be noted that right from 2015, Governor Wike seems to be dictating the tempo of politics in Rivers State. However, within his party, the PDP there have been multiple power bases that have at different times attempted to assert their authority and influence, especially in the formation of the state executive council.
The reality on the ground currently is that some of the leaders of these power blocs are at odds with the governor. And this is what is holding back the governor from constituting his second term cabinet. One high ranking PDP source told The Guardian that though Governor Wike is not openly at war with some of his erstwhile allies, the issues driving the suffocating conflict in the state chapter of the party, stems from the 2018 presidential primary.
He disclosed that during the exercise, some cardinal leaders in the state worked assiduously to ensure the emergence of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar at the expense of Governor Wike’s preferred candidate, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State.His words: “You know that a whole lot took place during the presidential primaries. Some notable PDP leaders, who are well connected to Atiku ran his campaign.
“Among them is one of the top leaders of the party in Rivers State. In fact, he is one of the cardinals. He coordinated everything and as governor, Wike was getting the information, which he was not very happy about. He felt humiliated, because Tambuwal failed.”While remarking that the governor has lost confidence in quite a number of the cardinals, the PDP chieftain disclosed that those cardinals were the ones that recommended the commissioners in his first term.
“Now, the governor has resolved not to receive nominations or recommendations from those former allies. He must be battling within himself, yes I need to constitute a cabinet, I need to have commissioners, but I must look beyond these people. So he is embattled, it is also not easy to overlook everybody to go and pick aides. Yet, he believes that the longer he allows this drag without anybody, the better for him,” he said.
One other instance why the governor has been unable to name his commissioners was that the governor was said to have discovered the name of a very top PDP chieftain from the state on the board of a firm linked to Atiku. The Guardian gathered that Wike felt the chieftain involved betrayed him and so couldn’t trust anyone remotely connected to the party chieftain.
Second guessing allies, 2023 considerations
Meanwhile, after the intrigues that characterised the PDP presidential primary, the governor’s re-election also afforded him the much needed breathing space to pay back the perceived fifth columnist within the party in the state by ensuring that none of their preferred candidates are appointed into his cabinet.
Also, based the alleged betrayal of trust, the governor is said to be cautious not to allow these political forces coalesce around a different individual other than the candidate he would prefer to succeed him, come 2023. There are indications that remote political disagreements and 2023 political considerations have now culminated in the delayed reconstitution of the Rivers State executive council six months after the governor was sworn into office for a second term.
It was also gathered that Wike’s reluctance to constitute his cabinet, is already stirring apprehensions among his former commissioners, Just as some that were appointed by his estranged allies, are already competing for Wike’s benevolence and share of power.
Meanwhile, the governor has said he would not be moved by criticisms for not forming his cabinet, stressing that he was shopping for competent persons that would serve the state with dedication and passion.His words: “I have not formed my cabinet, because I am taking my time to monitor and look at people, who would work with passion for Rivers State. Politics is involved, but you must be ready to work for the state. That is why you see there is delay in the formation of the cabinet. No matter the criticism, I will do what is right.”
Counting the costs
But, dismissing the governor’s reasons, the 2019 gubernatorial candidate of African Democratic Party (ADP), Victor Fingesi, argued that capable Rivers indigenes abound, beside those who are helping Lagos state and Abuja grow. Fingesi contended that by his action over the formation of the state executive council, Wike was already sending a wrong signal of political uncertainty to potential investors.
The ADP chieftain, who is also a businessman, explained that by subjecting the formation of his cabinet to some form of machinations, the governor was inadvertently wasting the state’s opportunity of initiating and implementing micro- and macroeconomic policies required to enhance the socioeconomic wellbeing the masses.
“You must understand that investors look at what is going on with government to make up their minds, especially the environment. Now, the business environment can never be the same without members of the executive council in office. “People will think there is something wrong. You cannot want to do sport business in Rivers state then you go see the governor. You won’t want to bring an industry here and you go to see the governor. There are ministries responsible for different things and those are where the people go. But when the ministries don’t have heads, then you are out there waiting and waiting and waiting forever.”Fingesi noted that it has been a while since May 29, wondering why in November the state was still waiting for government to sort itself out, settle down and operate.
“In my opinion, as long as the governor has not settled down, quite a lot of activities in Rivers State will be very slow. I think the governor has to do something as quickly as possible, so that the state would have a reversed fortune.
“Currently, what is happening in Rivers State is not the best and the governor must wake up and do something to make sure that investors return, which will in turn help us to employ our teeming unemployed people,” he said. Fingesi regretted that 2023 politics, which he said started the day the last election ended, was behind delay in constitution Wike’s second term cabinet. He noted that that was already having deleterious impact on good governance in the state, as well as slowing down development.
Speaking in similar vein, the Labour Party governorship candidate, Issac Wonwu, said the absence of a functional executive council was shortchanging the people of Rivers State, particularly the electorate that voted in the election. Wonwu added: “Over five months down the line, there are likely to have been decisions, policies, budget planning and development of the state. In Rivers state we are shortchanged, we are backward in several areas and I think we should be able to hold the executive responsible and not the governor alone. The government of Rivers State cannot be seen as one-man-show. We are lacking focus in driving the state.”
He maintained that the expectations of the electorate was that after the elections they would begin to get the dividends of democracy, stressing that until an executive council was properly constituted, it might be difficult to deliver the dividends of democracy. “He had actually ran the first tenure, he should be able to identify those who are competent, resourceful to be able to run Rivers State. This second term should not be time for political patronage.”
It should be for those with capacity to deliver on the infrastructural, agricultural and economic growth of the state, Wonwu added.Former Publicity Secretary of All Progressives Congress, Chris Finebone, said the essence of a cabinet was to ensure that government runs effectively and efficiently. He said a full-fledged cabinet affords the governor and his commissioners opportunity to think through issues before policy decisions are taken, adding: “As cabinet is as important at the federal level, so it is at the state level, because that is where important decisions concerning the people and the state are taken.
“We are losing everyday we do not have a cabinet. We might say, we have permanent secretaries, but it is not quite enough. There are matters that must be midwifed, superintended and carried out by the political heads and not the civil servants. Finebone reckoned that for Wike to feel that he has decimated his opponents in the last election, amounts to hubris and manifestly showing contempt for the people, who expect government to address some of their pressing needs.
“It is a very dangerous precedent he is setting and he doesn’t care about how we feel. He believes he has the state wrapped around his fingers and he is doing it with so much impunity,” he added. As the waiting for Wike’s cabinet continues, one thing is certain, when the next Rivers State executive council is recalibrated, it would comprise the governor’s core loyalists. And that would most likely signal the beginning of a new wave of political upheavals, similar to the one that engulfed the state in 2013.
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