As the feud between Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and his Bayelsa State counterpart, Seriake Dickson, continues unresolved, stakeholders are of the view that the Soku Oil Wells issue is only being used as a platform to vent their anger based on irreconcilable political differences,

CHUKWUDI AKASIKE writes

Before now, many in the South-South geopolitical zone were aware of the unity among the governors of the zone. At a point, during the Rotimi Amaechi administration in Rivers State, the BRACED Commission was formed to foster unity among the six states that make up the South-South zone. BRACED then stood for Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta states.

They did a lot together and later met to review their states’ performances concerning political and economic development.

Today, the unity among the South-South states appears to be eroding as a result of hidden and obvious political considerations, which some believe are influenced by external forces.

A significant but small version of the disunity that has played out among the region’s governors in recent times is the raging feud between the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and his Bayelsa State counterpart, Seriake Dickson.

Again, not a few are of the view that the cause of the scathing and almost irreconcilable differences between Wike and Dickson goes beyond the recent court ruling on Soku Oil Wells.

Some analysts have linked this feud to the political gambit that culminated in the emergence of the All Progressives Congress as the winner of the November 16, 2019, governorship election in Bayelsa State.

It is also held in some quarters that while the Peoples Democratic Party faced some crisis before the election over who should be the representative of the party in the state, Dickson had inadvertently or consciously stepped on many toes.

It is believed that the Bayelsa governor’s action turned out to hunt the once indomitable party in the state.

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Obviously, Dickson is believed to have been wounded by the defeat of his choice candidate, Douye Diri, who he felt did not get the support of the entire PDP.

Again, some PDP members within and outside Bayelsa, who never wanted Diri as the party’s candidate, felt they could work against Diri’s aspiration. In all, there was battle anger among the major drivers of the party in Bayelsa and even beyond.

However, the latest court ruling on the Soku Oil Wells dispute which went in favour of Rivers State might have presented itself as an opportunity for Wike and Dickson to clash.

The Bayelsa governor had visited the Amanyanabo of Kalabari Kingdom, King Theophilus J.T. Princewill, an action that did not go down well with Wike, who insisted that his counterpart should have followed protocol during the visit to the monarch. Wike warned that the monarch, who received Dickson, could also face stiff sanctions for an act he deemed disrespectful.

Wike said, “He (Dickson) said he was coming to see Ijaw people in Rivers State and he would be hosted by the Amanyanabo of Kalabari and Amanyanabo of Abonnema. The Amanyanabo of Abonnema called me and said how could that be? The Rivers State governor did not call me. The Amanyanabo of Kalabari did not call me. What he did was to roll out the drums to receive the Bayelsa State governor.

“You can see how people are trying to divide a state. A fellow governor would come from somewhere to create division. Already, we have gone back to court regarding the Soku Oil Wells. This is the man who is claiming Kula oil wells and Soku. I have gone back to court and we will reclaim the Soku Oil Wells for Rivers State. This is the same man you claim loves you and you roll out the drums against protocol.”

It was not long after the Kalabari incident and Wike’s reaction that Dickson organised a live-streamed media briefing, where he said that his Rivers State counterpart was deliberately under-developing Ijaw areas in Rivers.

On this, a counterattack was launched almost immediately by the Rivers State governor, who lampooned his counterpart from Bayelsa, accusing him (Dickson) of working against the PDP.

In all these, the issue of Soku Oil Wells was only mentioned by the two governors, while most of their allegation was based on performance, winning and losing the election.

Speaking on the feud between the two PDP members and Niger Delta sons, a foremost environmental rights activist and Ijaw indigene, Annkio Briggs, explained that the issue was about the Soku Oil Wells and politics, maintaining that the disagreement between the two governors was an indication that there was no unity among the governors.

She pointed out that Dickson should have embraced protocol during his visit to Kalabari.

According to her, the entire South-South region would have a sense of unity if Bayelsa State governor had decided that he and Wike should visit the Amanyanabo.

Briggs said, “The issue between Wike and Dickson are both on the Soku Oil Wells and politics if you listen to both of them. If Dickson had decided to go to the Kalabari Kingdom with Governor Wike, it would have shown unity among the South-South governors and their people. But because the Niger Delta governors are not working together and without a joint focus, external forces come in to flex muscles with the military during the election period.

“Everything is politics; even the Soku Oil Wells issue is political. You have to ask yourself that how did the National Boundary Commission wake up one morning to decide that the map that separates Bayelsa and Rivers states is no longer the map used when they created Bayelsa State?

“In the area of politics, why did some PDP members boycott the rally in Bayelsa; you could see that there was a serious boycott. Even before the election was held, the PDP had given the go-ahead to Bayelsa people not to vote the PDP. How then can that be Wike’s fault? But what happened in Bayelsa cannot happen in Rivers State; the majority of Ogoni people cannot vote for the APC; it is the same in Ikwerre and Ijaw.”

She, however, called on the governors in the South-South zone not to shy away from the truth, adding that there was nothing wrong for Wike to say what he observed politically and otherwise.

She said, “Our people shy away from the truth. For instance, why would the governors in Niger Delta be silent when the 13 per cent oil derivation they are supposed to pay them is not complete? They are silent because of political consideration and not the interest of the people.”

Lending his voice to the feud between the two governors, the President, Ijaw Youth Council, Eric Omare, stated that the episode was political and had nothing much to do with the Soku Oil Wells, which the court had already taken a decision.

Omare added Wike’s position could be out of worry that his Bayelsa counterpart did not manage the governorship primary well.

He said, “Obviously, from what Wike said, it is obvious that the disagreement is beyond Soku Oil Wells because Wike asked if people knew what it meant for the APC to win in Bayelsa State. The APC winning in Bayelsa has a wider implication on the dominance of the PDP in the South-South. Again, the APC has also said it will use Bayelsa as a launchpad onto other states of the South-South. To that extent, I think that the issue is beyond the Soku Oil Wells, but more politically based on the threat posed by the APC through its victory in Bayelsa State.

“Beyond that, I think it is not a good thing for political leaders to always have public altercations. Sometimes, it is important for political leaders to tell one another the truth. On the political angle, I am in agreement with the comments that Wike made. People in authority need to be told when they have erred and that is what Governor Wike has done to Governor Dickson.

“Dickson mismanaged the governorship primary in Bayelsa State and that led to the defeat of the PDP. I am happy that Governor Wike did not join the bandwagon to blame the PDP’s defeat in Bayelsa on federal might. It was not federal might; it was the might of the people. Wike believed that Dickson played God and people left him (Dickson) and God also left him.”

Similarly, a Port Harcourt-based lawyer, Chime Chime, told our correspondent that the loss of the PDP to the APC remained the bone of contention between the two governors, adding that Wike was not alone, but was the one that decided to speak out.

Chime said, “The issue of the Soku Oil Wells did not start during Wike’s administration. I attribute the quarrel between Dickson and Wike to the outcome of the Bayelsa governorship election, where the PDP made a choice in the person of Timi Alaibe, But Dickson, did not only refuse the person of Timi Alaibe, he also brought another person from the same senatorial district with him. So, everybody that matters in the PDP left him. In fact, former President Goodluck Jonathan also left him.

“But the loss of the PDP to the APC in Bayelsa does not mean that there is disunity among the governors in the South-South. This disagreement is only between Dickson and Wike. Remember that Wike said the best thing for Dickson to do was to leave the party. The general belief is that the PDP will take over Bayelsa if the right steps are taken.”

The National Chairman of Pan Niger Delta Forum, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (retd.), said the forum was planning to intervene in the feud and ensure that Wike and Dickson were friends again.

Nkanga disclosed that the aim was to find out if there was an issue of personal interest that was influencing the enmity between the duo and find a lasting solution to it in the interest of Bayelsa, Rivers and the entire Niger Delta region.

The PANDEF national chairman said, “We are already talking about intervening in the feud between the two governors, but it is not something for the media. Before now, we have met with them separately. So, something is being done. Chief E.K. Clark has also worked very hard on that matter.

“I wouldn’t know if the matter is beyond the Soku Oil Wells, but what is most important is the good of Bayelsa, Rivers and the Niger Delta region. If there is any personal thing that is influencing their disagreement, we will talk to them so that they will play down on their personal interest and look at the interest of the region. That is what is uppermost on my mind.”

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