The political feud between Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike and Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, has exposed further division, occasioned by rivalry and a conflict of interests within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). While the disputed Soku oilfields saga has captured the country’s imagination as the primary cause of the bad blood between the governors, their jostling for influence within PDP, which has made their collision almost inevitable, is the reason for the currently acrimony.
Dickson and Wike (a former minister of education under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan) started off as close allies as they both sought election in 2015. As both craved to climb the political ladder together, they were regarded as Jonathan’s closest allies prior to the 2015 general election in which Jonathan lost to Buhari.
But as the country’s political landscape changed dramatically after the 2015 general elections, the relationship between these governors of two major oil producing states in the Niger Delta, gradually began to oscillate from cooperation to bitter political rivalry. The relationship between Wike and Dickson began to decline when Dickson’s second term ticket was threatened. Dickson, who was not sure of PDP giving him a second term ticket, had approached Wike, then a minister, in the company of PDP national chairman, Uche Secondus, King Amalateh Turner, to prevail on President Jonathan to allow him return to office.
gathered that for this gesture, Wike had solicited Dickson’s support to make one of his aides and close political associates, Bayelsa State’s attorney-general. Typical of a winner-take-all political tradition, Dickson reneged on this and offered Wike’s associate the position of a special adviser. However, it is said that Wike resented being hoodwinked by Dickson after he had helped him influence President Jonathan to secure a second term.
Also while Wike was running for the 2015 governorship election, it was gathered that Dickson had allegedly backed some aspirants of Ijaw extraction to jostle for PDP’s ticket. These two acts laid the foundation for the personal animosity between the two leaders.
While for years both governors publicly appeared to still be friends, there was nothing but mutual distrust between them. The Guardian learnt that both governors had closely tracked each other’s moves, and remained deeply suspicious of one another. At the heart of the distrust has been the quest for dominance of PDP’s affairs.
The party’s leadership tussle between Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee further spawned bitter rivalry between Wike and Dickson. While Dickson ardently supported Modu Sheriff, Wike, on the other, was on the side of Makarfi. While Sheriff’s and Makarfi factions were still engaged in fierce legal battle over the soul of PDP, Dickson, as Chairman of PDP Reconciliation Committee, had called on the Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee to step down in the interest of the party.
“The Makarfi–led Caretaker Committee should remember that it was a brainchild of the majority of party members, including me, at a convention in Port Harcourt. Up to 80 percent of the population of the PDP members and I were for Makarfi, but the unfolding events have compelled us to adopt a political resolution instead of embarking on further bickering,” he had said.
After the Supreme Court affirmed the Makarfi-led committee as the authentic leadership of the party, the rivalry between Wike and Dickson was exposed at PDP’s national convention. While Wike backed Secondus who later emerged as the national chairman of the party, Dickson’s preferred candidate was said to be Professor Tunde Adeniran, who was a former minister of education.
Then as the relationship between President Jonathan and Dickson began to deteriorate, worsened by alleged derogatory statement made by the governor during Isaac Boro’s Day Celebration in Kaiama on May, 2017 that the six years’ reign of Jonathan was a waste to Ijawland, the political tension between Wike and Dickson began to spiral out of control.
Wike, who alongside Dickson became governors under the auspices of President Jonathan, used the occasion of Rivers State’s fifty anniversary, to lampoon his Bayelsa State’s counterpart. Rivers States’ governor, Wike, had taken a swipe at political associates of former President Goodluck Jonathan, who had deserted him. President Jonathan has said he did not regret backing Governor Wike’s governorship ambition in 2015.
Wike made the damning remark at the commissioning of Nkpogu Bridge in Port Harcourt by President Jonathan as part of the events making his second year anniversary in office. While reacting to Dickson’s perceived uncomplimentary remarks about their benefactor, Wike had declared that the decision to invite the former president to commission some of the projects was to send a clear message to the nation that Jonathan would never be abandoned.
Wike assured Jonathan that politicians in Rivers State were of different breed, as they are not known to abandon or join others to persecute their own kinsmen. He cautioned those who had hurriedly deserted the former president to have a rethink.
“We are not politicians that when anything is wrong, they sing different songs,” he said. “Rivers State is a different place. When we believe in you, we believe in you. We are different from other Niger Delta states. We can say it with all authority.
“We cannot come out in the public and begin to castigate our own. Those of them who do that should have a rethink. For us, it doesn’t matter the blackmail against Jonathan; we will continue to back him. Those who think that they have promises from those who think that they own Nigeria should be careful. They will use you and dump you at the appropriate time.”
The two men were later to forge one of the outstanding rivalries of PDP politics during the last PDP presidential primaries, which held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.While the Bayelsa State governor fervently supported former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar’s aspiration to clinch PDP’s presidential ticket, Governor Wike supported his close political associate, Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal. Atiku defeated Tambuwal to clinch the ticket. The outcome of the presidential primaries was like a final straw in the bitter conflict between Wike and Dickson.
Wike had also alleged that during the 2019 governorship election, Dickson had secretly backed a governorship aspirant of Ijaw extraction against him. A source close to the Rivers State governor had claimed that Dickson’s visit to Amanyanabo of Kalabari, King Theophilus Princewill, in April was part of a ploy to mobilise Ijaw support to thwart the announcement of the 2019 general election result, which he was poised to win. This discovery by Wike was responsible for him hitting out at Amayanabo of Kalabari, whom he accused to breaching protocol by not informing the state government that he was going to play host to Governor Dickson, who did not also inform Wike of his visit.
Wike’s seeming outburst against the king had reignited the political war that originally started in 2016 over their opposing stances on the chairmanship tussle of PDP. Perhaps, in a bid to pay Dickson back in his own coin, Wike, alongside President Jonathan, had thrown their weight behind PDP’s governorship aspirant and former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe, who came close to winning PDP’s ticket in Bayelsa.
The decision of Alaibe to challenge the outcome in court and his supporters’ defection to All Progressives Congress, which eventually won the Bayelsa State governorship election, had informed Dickson’s allegation that Wike was meddling in the internal affairs of his state. Last weekend, Dickson openly accused his Rivers State’s counterpart, Wike, of collusion with the Federal Government in the November governorship election which the APC.
“Wike should stop interfering with the politics of Bayelsa State,” he had said. “You all know what he did in the PDP primaries and the roles he played supporting APC in their federal takeover of our state. There are so many things he has been doing that I keep quiet about. Wike should learn to respect his colleagues for whom he has shown scant regard, not just me and Bayelsa.”
Dickson had also accused Wike of wagging oil wars with every state around him – Imo and Akwa Ibom States. Speaking on the disputed Soku oilfields, which a Federal High Court, Abuja, declared belong to Rivers State, Dickson accused Wike of merely using the disputed oil wells between the two sister states as subterfuge to create disunity and ethnic disharmony in Ijawland in pursuit a wicked ethnic supremacist agenda in the politics of Rivers State.
He acknowledged that while Soku is a Kalabari community in Rivers State, the disputed oil wells are located in Oluasiri in Nembe Local Aovernment Area of Bayelsa. He noted that the Supreme Court had directed the National Boundary Commission to carry out a fresh delineation and demarcation exercise in the affected area. According to him, Rivers delegation, led by its then deputy governor, Tele Ikuru, had unceremoniously pulled out of the exercise in 2013.
He urged the Ijaw in Rivers State not to fall for the antics of Governor Wike to destroy the long standing relationship between them and their kith and kin in Bayelsa, adding that there was no intent to annex any part of Kalabariland and any other place.
“The good people of Rivers State should not be preys in the hands of Wike, who wants promote disunity and hatred in ijawland because he is promoting an ethnic supremacist political agenda in the state. And I want that recorded, that Governor Wike is deliberately inciting disunity in ijawland, which he knows that Bayelsa, particularly Governor Dickson and my agenda, will not support. That’s what he’s doing.”
Dickson has also hinted that he would by January revisit the Amanyanabo of Kalabari, Princewill, whom Wike had threatened to dethrone for hosting him in April. He said Wike’s allegation and scathing remarks that he visited Amanyanabo of Kalabari without following protocol was baseless.
In his reaction, Wike, who admitted supporting Alaibe’s aspiration, said Dickson had concluded plans to defect to APC, which he had accused him of working with in the last governorship election, to avoid arrest and prosecution when he leaves office in February 2020.
Wike said contrary to the claims by Dickson that he conspired with the Federal government for APC to win in Bayelsa, that the later had been negotiating with the presidency to allow him soft-landing, when he leaves office in February. According to him, the only person delaying Dickson’s defection was the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylvia. He also alleged that one of the reasons why Dickson wants to join APC was because he could not account for the N70 billion expended on a non-functional Bayelsa international airport built by his administration.
To further buttress his allegation, Wike further claimed that PDP Governors’ Forum and South-South PDP Forum had become inactive under the watch of his Bayelsa State’s counterpart as chairman. Wike said Dickson’s inordinate ambition and disrespect for former President Goodluck Jonathan and elders of the party were responsible for the defeat of the Peoples Democratic Party in the November governorship election.
Further, Wike declared that if he had supported the Federal Government against his party in Bayelsa State, how come President Muhammadu Buhari could not garner 25 percent vote in Rivers State during the 2019 president election, whereas he was able to secure 45 percent vote in Bayelsa in addition to one senatorial and two House of Representatives seats.
The Rivers State governor said he provided financial support for Bayelsa State’s PDP governorship candidate, Senator Douye Diri, and was solely responsible for the logistics of the PDP governors and senior party leaders that graced PDP’s mega rally. Wike described as untrue the allegation by Dickson that Rivers State under his administration had been engaged in oil war with Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, and Imo States.
He insisted that Soku oilfields belong to Rivers State as declared by a Federal High Court which had already ruled that the administrative boundary between Rivers State and Bayelsa State is River Santa Barbara, in accordance with the admission of the National Boundary Commission in a letter dated 3/7/2002 and the definitive order of the Supreme Court made on 10/7/2012. He stated that if Dickson was disenchanted with the verdict, he should proceed on appeal instead of fanning the embers of discontent in Rivers State.
But as political observers continue to express concerns over the prolonged political turmoil between Rivers and Bayelsa, which could have profound consequences for the South-South geopolitical zone, Wike has ruled out any reconciliation with Dickson. The Rivers State Governor recently rejected the offer of PDP’s leadership to intervene in the conflict between him and Dickson over the Soku Oil Wells/fields returned to Rivers State by the Federal High Court.
Wike said there was no premise for the intervention by the PDP leadership since a Federal High Court has already determined the issue in question. “I don’t know why they are interceding,” he said. “They have no power to resolve the issue of oil wells. Secondly, the matter has been determined by a court of competent jurisdiction. Anybody who is not satisfied should go on appeal. Are they interceding on behalf of someone who betrayed the party?
“They know that Governor Dickson betrayed and sold out the party. They know what happened during the 2019 election in Rivers State. That Dickson worked with my opponent. Throughout that period, the National Chairman himself knew that people were calling from all over the country to know the situation. Dickson never called one day. This was because of his alignment with the opposition. I can show proof that Dickson had already made up his mind to go over to APC. I am not going to sit down with anybody to discuss anything as it relates to Governor Dickson. I have no business with Governor Dickson.”