July 19, 2024

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Day I Rebuked Fubara Openly- Chidi Lloyd

15 min read

His name rings a bell for many reasons. He is the immediate past chairman of Emohua Local Government Chairman, though he insists that he remains the chairman. He it was, who hit his colleague with the mace of the Rivers State House of Assembly, when he was majority leader of the Assembly. Then, he was on the side of Rotimi Amaechi who was governor at the time. But today, he is on the side of Nyesom Wike, the immediate past governor of the state and FCT minister.

In this interview, he spoke on a range of issues, including what was called the attempted murder of his colleague, the tenure elongation saga in local governments in the state as well his disagreement with the state governor, Sim Fubara.

Excerpts: 

You are the immediate past chairman of Emohua Local Government….

I am not the immediate past chairman of Emohua Local Government. I am the chairman of Emohua Local Government until the issues in court are decided one way or the other.

I do know that your tenure expired on June 17

It is important that I underscore this, that to governor, Siminalayi Fubara I stopped being chairman in March 2024 because that was when he willfully, arbitrarily, unconstitutionally withheld revenues meant for my council.

Why?

There were issues. When I went into office in 2021, my local government area was a dump site, as it were. All kinds of persons found their way into the payroll, so I had a total of 1698 staff on the payroll of Emohua Local Government as at 2021 that I became chairman.

Now, curiously, when I was going through the payroll, I saw a man who had died in my community, very well known to me; he died five years ago but was very much alive on my payroll. So I suspected something was not adding up. I called external auditors to do an audit of the payroll. We discovered quite a lot of things on the payroll. We discovered that there were people who were no longer on the employ of the local government but were still earning salary, we discovered that certain persons who had retired long ago were still earning salary, we discovered a situation where, by the help of the BVN, we were able to find out people who had more than their name. For instance, you see James John-Ecobank, you see John James-UBA, John F. U. James-Polaris, but the BVN enabled us to trace all of that. So we said to them, which of the names are you adopting? So, we were able to remove all of that from the payroll.

Now, luckily for us, those who did the audit of the council were the same who did the audit of the state; so when they put in their software, all of those who are in the employ of the council and at the same time earning salary from the state were discovered. So we took that and we did the housekeeping. After the housekeeping, we were able to now arrive at what looked like a near clean nominal roll, which is one of the reasons I am being called all kinds of names. But I set out to make a difference. I have a lot at stake that it shouldn’t be, when my name is mentioned as a council chairman, let it not be that I didn’t achieve something. Of course, for people to be shouting it means there is something I did differently. So we were able to do all of that which enabled us to achieve most of the things we achieved.

Yeah, you were talking about how the governor withheld…

(Cuts in) Before March, the governor had tinkered with the idea of dissolving the council, and he was no longer dealing with us directly- the council chairmen- he preferred to deal with the heads of personnel management and so on; he will call them to a meeting, instruct them on what to do, they will in turn come to brief us, so communication between the governor and ourselves was from bottom to top.

Are you saying that the governor…

(Cuts in) From bottom to top, yeah, so what happened now, there is a man who has been operating illegally in the office of the chairman of the local government service commission. His occupation of the office was unknown to any extant law. The governor of Rivers State who now acts like a generalissimo, now appoints the man to that office in an acting capacity which is novel and unknown to law, so the man now directs the permanent secretary of the commission to write to me. And it will interest you to know that when we finished the housekeeping, some staff went to court, approached the industrial court and after the legal gymnastics, the council got judgment against them. They went to court but the court agreed with us that what we did was the right thing to do. So when they wrote to me to pay them, I was written a letter, ‘pay these persons you removed from payroll because you have no such power’ and I said no, if I had removed their names from the nominal roll unlawfully, then they should be paid all the past two years but because they agreed with me and the officials of the local government service commission were also a party in that suit and they sent lawyers to represent them in that suit, so what I now heard was that they said they are not aware of the house keeping that I did and this brings a whole lot of questions as to the independence of the local government. No local government in Nigeria is independent, first and foremost. We are in a sorry state, we do not know how much comes to us from the federal allocation, we are only called to a meeting and in the meeting all the documents that emanates from that meeting is not signed by anybody. So, you can’t quote that this was the person who said this, so they dish their handouts to us after all of the statutory deductions and whatever they give you is the allocation that come to you.

But how was the situation when the former governor, Nyesom Wike was in charge?

Governor Wike as he then was, had no business with our funds. We get our money as and when due. So I, being a first term local government chairman, can tell you that from the time I joined them, allocations to the council has always come as and when due and that is why I was able to, in three years, as it were, construct five roads in an unprecedented manner, five roads, three of which have been commissioned.

I still find difficult to understand why the governor withheld your allocation just because you were trying to purge the system?

What is going on is no longer governance but politics. When I received the letter from the commission, I wrote to the governor and attached in three volumes, reports of the audit which I did, which was carried out in the presence of the local government, They sent representatives, the local government service commission and so on and you will find people who finished primary six before they were born. And what we discovered were mind boggling. So I set out to do good and I have no regret of what I did. I didn’t go there to stop people from earning salary because I enjoy it, but why will two people be employed on same day, one is on level 12, the other is on level seven, same qualification. 

But in all of this, how did it concern the governor?

Well, because like I said, he is a generalissimo, he has powers, rather than call me for a discussion or call myself and the commission to go and resolve, they withheld the allocation to my council, except I pay those people and of course I stood my ground.

And they were paid eventually.

Yes, he now unilaterally, like I said, called for the nominal roll of the council and together with the HLGAs, in fact my own, the HLGA, the treasurer and the HPM, I have not seen them since March till date and luckily for me and to the glory of God, I hear they were all dropped, because new HLGAs has been brought because you can’t cut your nose to spit your face.

So between that March and June 17th when you left office.

Yes.

Were you paid your salaries?

I wasn’t. How could I have been paid? The governor unilaterally asked that civil servants be paid, politicians and political office holders shouldn’t be paid, same people that kept vigil for you to become governor.

Could this be the reason why you hate the governor with a passion?

No, no, no, no, please, I take exception to that, I am a Catholic, the word hate is not something you joke with.

Do I use the word dislike?

No, no, no, please, I need you to withdraw that.

That’s why I am saying, do I use the word dislike?

It’s governance, it’s not a personal issue. I am a Catholic and a Knight for that matter, I can’t hate, but that doesn’t stop me from raising an alarm when things are not done in accordance with the law.

It’s not a personal matter. I was the campaign coordinator of the governor in my local government and the local government came third among 23 local government areas we came third in terms of vote that we gave to him, apart from Obio/Akpor, PHALGA, we were the next local government; we gave him 26,000 votes.

When last did you have a one-on-one talk with him?

That was when he summoned all of the local government chairmen and started what I will call admonition, he started by telling us how powerful he is as governor and what he will do to us; he has the capacity to seize our money and nothing will happen and a year after we will all be smelling. He said that to us- men- that a year after, he promises us that we will be smelling and I couldn’t have sat in that kind of meeting without talking and I raised my hand and told him that I will not smell, with due respect to the office of the governor.

You challenged him.

I didn’t challenge him, I only stated the obvious because as at the last time I checked governor Fubara is not anywhere near God, it was not a challenge, I said it with due respect, I wouldn’t smell, as a lawyer that I am, I only became chairman in 2021, I didn’t come to become chairman smelling and I was a law teacher in the Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Enugu campus and it is not even something you should say to your fellow man, it’s not. So that was the last time we met, it has been like that.

From when he was elected, we in ALGON sought to meet with him to congratulate him, but he didn’t give us any opportunity.

What happened?

We didn’t know. It’s now we are beginning to know that he had his own programme ab initio. We became his enemies and all of those who fought with us in our various local government are today his friends but we give God all the glory.

Did ALGON write to him and he refused to respond?

Yes. We did all of that, our leader, the Mayor of Port Harcourt sought audience.

And you are sure he got the letter?

At this age will I be telling you lies?

Just to be sure.

That’s what I am telling you. In fact, in some of those instances where he called us for meeting, we had also raised the issue of meeting with him but what was important to him was to admonish us to stop beating his people.

Who were his people?

Exactly. I asked that, I said who are your people, sir? We are a state, if there are issues, I remember the word that I used, I said the buck stops on his table and at the end of the day it will be the Fubara led administration not Fubara and whoever is advising him. So as leaders, we need to apply caution and restrain and be prayerful and that’s why the Bible says to pray for those in authority because once you sit in a position of authority, you must be careful so that you do not kill an innocent man, you don’t take decisions that you will later regret. So there are decisions we take as people who hold power that hunts us till date, so we must be careful to apply wisdom.

I know you are very close to the former governor, the FCT Minister. Let me take it from what you just said. Is it possible that there is any decision that he must have taken while as governor or even after being governor of the state, that you were not comfortable with or you are still not comfortable with or you think he did not act based on the application of proper wisdom?

Yes, the choice of the incumbent governor is one decisions that we all regret today because we thought that he didn’t do due diligence. On the other hand he is human afterall and the good thing I like about what is going on is that the narrative of him belonging to all kinds of secret societies is no longer there.

So as an associate of Wike do you regret that power was given to an Andoni/Opobo man coming from that small community?

God knows why he put all of us where we are and just as the fingers are not equal, that’s how ethnic nationalities are not equal. So, we wouldn’t have regretted, save for the things that are going on now, why a human being was supported to become governor, why, why would we have regretted? But just like Williams Shakespeare said in Macbeth, that of course, still no act to read the mind construction on the face, I say there is still no act to read the mind construction on the face. As at the time Williams Shakespeare wrote Macbeth up until now, there is still no act to read the minds construction on the face. Because if anybody had told any of us that this will be Fubara, governor of Rivers State, I am sure people like me would have given our right arm.

For?

That he can’t do a thing like that, if we are to bet, you give your right arm for it to be cut off.

During that election period when you were campaigning for Fubara, what was the Fubara you saw and what’s the difference between then and now?

(laughs) I am sure you who is asking me know.

I wasn’t there with you.

Okay, the Fubara then and the Fubara now are opposite.

In terms of?

Opposite of Fubara at the level of campaign and what he is now.

Give an instance.

The instance now is that we saw a hitherto taciturn gubernatorial candidate and now to a very loquacious gubernatorial candidate who has declared, this is the first time in the history of politics that I hear that a governor has enemies instead of opponents. So the governor of Rivers State has introduced new diction into the political lexicon of Rivers State.

There was this video that made a round initially where he was dancing to a musical tone; dey your dey, dey your dey oo, so we dey our dey.

So you are one of the enemies?

Absolutely. That is the way he described us.

What do you think went wrong?

I don’t know, I can tell you in all honesty I don’t know.

You saw Fubara yesterday, you are seeing Fubara today, is it possible something must have gone wrong between him and the man he calls his Oga?

Well, like I told you, I will only comment on things I know, but as a Christian, I have come across a part in the bible that say the hearth of man is desperately wicked that even God regretted after creating man. So we take solace in all of that and of course before you know it, one year is gone, before you know it we will talking about…

Before you know it it’s 2027.

Yes.

And before you know it he is back till 3031.

No, no I wouldn’t comment on that because I am not God but by that time I will have a choice on who to cast my vote for.

You are very close to the FCT Minister and you talk about him with so much passion. I watched one video the other day and I actually felt touched. I don’t know what was going through your mind on the day he was commissioning a project in your community; that was shortly after you moved into the PDP.

Yes.

And then you cried in the open.

Yes.

What happened, what made you cry, why for Wike and then you said you did not deserve him.

Absolutely.

And you kept crying.

First and foremost, I am human, and even in the Bible it is recorded that Jesus wept. That was a very emotional moment for me, the reason is that, sometime we were all members of the same political family under the leadership of Rt Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. Then I was a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly up until 2013 when we had issues on the floor of the Rivers State House of Assembly, for which you know that I was a major protagonist, I am sure you have seen the video as at then; a man who was running amok with a mace on the floor of the house. Some of us went with the former governor and some went with Governor Wike, so on the side of Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, I don’t know if anybody will agree I was very vociferous against the current Minister of the FCT, I did not hide my support.

Now after all that, we campaigned vigorously for Dakuku Peterside who the All Progressives Congress put up for the 2015 general election and of course Governor Wike defeated us roundly. Then, there were maneuvers on why he shouldn’t be sworn in. Recall that at this time, we had no known Chief Judge of the state, there were issues surrounding who will swear him in then.

And I made a statement on that day of the commissioning, I recalled vividly how I was moving round federal high courts in other divisions, shopping for court order to stop the swearing in because he couldn’t have been sworn in by a chief judge from another state. Then lo and behold, in 2020, upon my return from the University of Dundee where I had gone to pursue another Masters Degree in Law, in International Law and Security, I got a call on my phone, a strange number and I took the call, and he said to me, he said Chidi, I said ‘who is this’, he said ‘my friend, don’t you know the voice of your governor?’ I said governor? I put off the phone. Then he called back, and said ah ah! Are you still like this, would we quarrel to the grave? And instantly I died. Here was my ‘enemy’ who had been dragging me in all of the courts. I was being hounded for the events of June 9, 2013, you recall that I was declared wanted, I was guest of all kinds of police detentions, I ultimately ended up in Port Harcourt prison in defence of what I believed in.

We got talking, later on when I became emotional he said okay I will call you at 10pm and 10pm on the dot, Governor Wike called me, and we were on phone till a few minutes passed 11pm.

Before the crisis. I could go to his wardrobe and wear any shoe, so I could pride myself as his friend and I can’t remember any instance where Governor Wike had said no to me. I burnt all of those goodwill because I felt that what he was doing as at that time, I felt that it wasn’t right.

Did your heart also bleed when you heard from Fubara that he was going to audit, that he was going to probe your tenure?

Yes, I welcome him. We welcome the probe. You recall that the ALGON issued a press conference and we said we welcome the probe because he Fubara will be one of our witnesses, if I am making my case, I will list him as one of our lead witnesses.

Was he a chairman?

He was the accountant general, you know people just talk probably because you want to impress people you don’t know the enormity of what you are saying. He was the accountant general, so for me, I will list him as one of my witnesses so we welcome the probe.

Right, now you are not in agreement with Fubara politically. Is there any chance that possibly tomorrow, you can reconcile with Fubara and work together again just like you did, just like you shed tears in front of Wike in your community. Is it possible that in front of Fubara in your community or elsewhere again, you may also shed tears? 

No, no, I like to say this to you, I don’t have any tears left. 

Oh really? 

Yes, I poured all out on the day Wike came to commission that road so I have no tears left. You saw how profusely I cried, it has finished.

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