May 29 Handover: Cold war still rages between S-South govs, godfathers


In Delta, Okowa, Ibori are yet to reconcile after Oborevwori’s victory
•Fubara caught in the web of Wike-triggered post-election tension in Rivers
•No truce between Ayade, power brokers in C-River

THE reported ill feeling between the outgoing governors in the South-South region, and their godfathers over their successors, last year, has not abated despite that the handover to governors-elect is less than a month away.

In 2015, the former governor of Rivers State and ex-Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon Rotimi Amaechi, now an All Progressives Congress, APC, leader, who conscripted the current governor, Nyesom Wike, into power did not see eye to eye with him later on, and never officially handed over to him.

By his actions and comments, Amaechi was visibly reluctant to hand over to Wike. His party was in the election petition tribunal, challenging the emergence of Wike as governor-elect. After failing in the courts to stop the inauguration of his successor, Amaechi stayed away from the eventual swearing of Wike. The governor revealed later that, “ I had no handover note.”

Okowa, Ibori are not yet back on talking terms

In Delta state, the ex-governor of the state, Chief James Ibori, has not candidly identified with the governor and his once-political trainee, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, since the victory of the governor-elect, Rt. Hon Sheriff Oborevwori.

Former governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, who is a leading player in the 2023 election in Delta state, has tried to reconcile most of the aggrieved PDP members in the state, but Saturday Vanguard could not find out the extent he has gone between Okowa and Ibori.

Uduaghan also had an issue with Okowa in 2015 because he did not initially support the emergence of the latter as governor, but they had since built bridges of understanding.

Neither Okowa nor the governor-elect, Oborevwori, have spoken on their present relationship with Ibori but from all indications, they still hold him in high regard.

A source hinted: “Ibori, who opposed the candidature of the governor-elect, Rt Hon Sheriff Oborevwori, has not spoken since he suffered a humiliating defeat in his home local government, Ethiope West on March 18.”

However, preparations for the handover to the incoming governor, on May 29, are on top gear in the state. The government has set up a 38-man inauguration committee with the responsibility to plan and execute the handover ceremony.

From the feelers, Oborevwori is not averse to those that decamped from the party during the elections returning to the fold, as he is open to working with all stakeholders in the Delta project, irrespective of party affiliation.
As expected, there are new political alignments as politicians try to assert themselves in the incoming administration.

Fubara caught in Rivers’ post-election tension

Eight years after the Amaechi/Wike handover brouhaha, Wike seems poised for a seamless handover to his most favored successor, Sir Siminialayi Fubara.

The political benefactor and protégé affair between Wike and Fubara is so strong that hardly any informed watcher of Rivers politics bothers that with May 29 so near, the government has not named a transition committee.

Wike, committed to a flawless handover was, however quick, just weeks ago, to order key officeholders of his administration to prepare their handover notes, stressing, “We will not engage in the ugly experience I had in 2015.”
By his actions and comments, Amaechi was visibly reluctant to hand over. His party was in the Election Petition Tribunal, challenging the emergence of Wike as governor-elect. After failing in the courts to stop the inauguration of his successor, Amaechi stayed away from the eventual swearing-in of Wike. At a time later, Wike disclosed: “I had no handover note.”

Though the governor-elect had made peace overtures, the post-election tension raging in the state attests to the reality that the perceived political enemies, mainly the estranged Rivers PDP faithful, who supported the presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in the party crisis, and Rivers main opposition, the APC, under the leadership of Amaechi, are not buying Fubara’s olive branch.

However, with the full backing of Wike, arguably Rivers’ most powerful political force at the moment, Fubara will take over on solid footing come May 29, the multiple elections petitions at the tribunal against his victory notwithstanding.

No truce between Ayade, power brokers

In Cross River state, there is no reconciliation between the governor, Senator Ben Ayade, and the godfathers except for those in tandem with him in the plan to install the governor-elect, Senator Bassey Otu to take over from him.
Former governors of the state, Mr. Donald Duke and Senator Liyel Imoke, who handed over to Ayade in 2015; Senator Victor Ndomaegba, Professor Eyo Etim Nyong, Chief Edem Duke, and Chief Higins Peters and other political bigwigs are still on their own fronts.

The only sign of preparation for a change in government is the appointment of a Commissioner to take an inventory of all government property following the illegal acquisition of vehicles and other government assets by top functionaries.

The ugly trend started during the end of the first tenure of the Ayade administration in 2019 when top government officials, fearful of failing reappointment, claimed ownership of government property in their possession.

Official vehicles simply grew wings. Many functionaries flouted a directive by the governor that they should return vehicles and other official property of government in their possession to the office of the Chief of Staff.

Some sold the vehicles in their possession; others cannibalized and extricated vital components, and replaced them with fake and bad ones, while some simply turned theirs into scraps.

During the COVID-19 era, the government bought 100 vehicles handed over to government officials to monitor and help mitigate the spread of the scourge, but right now, all those vehicles have disappeared.

Against the backdrop of this shameful development on Tuesday, the governor swore in a new commissioner, Mr. Udiba Udiba as Commissioner for Asset Management and handed him a mandate to recover all government property from functionaries who have illegally appropriated them.

Speaking at the event, a visibly angry Ayade scrapped the Scrap Metal Regulatory Agency for collaborating with officials to claim functional vehicles were scraps, just for them to appropriate the vehicles.

“Cross River has a very sad story regarding assets remittances. They have often taken our assets away because we do not have an inventory of them.

“In this time and age, people still see government assets as nobody’s assets. As the government is winding down, they convert official cars, change number plates, and hide the cars from the government.

“Some people move from one Ministry to the other taking government assets. They disappear with assets and take them away,” he rued.

“Government vehicles are disappearing, if a vehicle has a small dent and is sent to a mechanic workshop, they will disappear from there. The government will buy official vehicles that are functional and somebody will seize them and say it is scrap.

Barely a few weeks to the end of the administration, the same or worse scenario is playing out. Most government vehicles have had their inscriptions removed, identification plate numbers removed, and many are no more seen on the streets.

However, there is no palpable preparation for handover in Cross River state, as neither the governor nor the governor-elect has made up any transition committee or team for handover or takeover.

In the past three weeks, the governor–elect has been out of the state. Some said he travelled, following the deluge of visits, demands, calls, and messages by those seeking an appointment.

The governor is reportedly planning to inaugurate a Transition Committee one week before the handover date. None of his officials spoke on the transition arrangement.

Story different in Emmanuels’s A-Ibom

The situation is not the same in Akwa Ibom state where the governor, Udom Emmanuel, started preparing for his handover in January 2023 when he appointed a 12-member Transition Committee tasked with the responsibility of ensuring a seamless transition and verifying all projects executed under his administration.

The committee chaired by Mrs. Ekerebong Umoh, on Friday, April 21, submitted its report to the governor during an enlarged State Executive Council meeting held in Government House Uyo. Similarly, in the past few months, Udom appears to be preparing his successor for the task ahead by allowing him to attend more strategic events, a development that has forced some people to speculate that he was in a hurry to leave office. Findings showed that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)reconciled power brokers and stakeholders, who initially felt hurt over the processes that led to the emergence of Pastor Umo Eno as the governorship candidate of the party, ahead of the campaigns.

This contributed to the successful outing of the party and Eno’s win, as they (power brokers) delivered their units, wards, and local government areas at large.

However, some party stakeholders still kick against Eno succeeding Emmanuel. For instance, a governorship aspirant, Mr Akan Okon has headed back to court to challenge the election of Eno.