Shall Wike Be Sworn-in on May 29?

Shall Nyesom Wike be sworn-in as Governor of Rivers State on May 29? This seems to be the most important question in the Rivers political discourse right now. After what many have described as a violent gubernatorial election, the governor-elect’s celebration has been cut short by the sudden appearance of a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. There is no chief judge to swear him in, an unexpected deal-breaker from the battle which his camp including the legal luminary OCJ Okocha SAN waged against Amaechi’s appointment of Justice Agumagu the former president of the Rivers State Customary Court of Appeal as the chief judge. The Wike group had been rooting for Justice Daisy Okocha, OCJ’s sibling. It is a well known story. Allegedly to stop Agumagu from operating as the chief judge, he was eventually handed a suspension order by the allegedly pro Wike National Judicial Council NJC and Daisy Okocha got a letter authorizing her to take up the responsibility of the chief judge in the interim. Apparently to neutralize the pro PDP or pro Wike measure of the NJC, pro Amaechi or pro APC forces engineered a shut down of the judiciary. These are all allegations bandied about on the streets but the fact remains that there was a fight between the governor of Rivers State and the NJC over who has the right to appoint the Chief judge. It is now a matter for those who interpret the law. It is only relevant to May 29 because Wike must be sworn in, according to the constitution by either the chief judge of the state or the president of the Rivers Customary Court of Appeal or the Grand Khadi. Since Rivers State has no provision for Sharia and currently has neither a chief judge nor a customary court of appeal president, the looming possibility of not having a governor’s inauguration on May 29 has become quite real. Even OCJ Okocha, the legal luminary who had led the battle to make his sister the chief judge has since raised the alarm that the state was headed for a constitutional crises and has even appealed to the president-elect to prevail on his campaign chief Governor Amaechi to appoint a chief judge.

It would seem that confronted with the prospect of not having Wike sworn in on May 29, OCJ Okocha is now ready to abandon his sister’s cause. It would of course be a tactical withdrawal because Wike would proceed to entrench Daisy Okocha as the chief judge, once he gets his way. The truth, however, is that this current headache was self inflicted. Wike would not be looking for a judge to swear him in, if he had allowed Amaechi to get on with his job and allowed Agumagu to do his chief judge’s work. It is amazing to have Wike falling into a hole he dug, after his thunderous gubernatorial swindle.

It is alleged that Wike has even sent emissaries to Tinubu to get the President-elect to intervene. It is alleged that Tinubu advised him to go talk to the APC leader in Rivers State. There are also those hoping that Wike will succeed in cajoling the NJC to reverse its suspension of Agumagu who had already been sworn-in as chief judge before the NJC suspended him. If the NJC does that, it would be an admission that it has sold its conscience to Wike or his masters, and the NJC is filled with honorable men and women whose distinguished careers will be besmirched by such a stand down, abandoning nobility for convenience. It would make a true ass of the law and the mood of a nation in a mood to fight corruption will grate against it.

There are Wikeists who boast that a doctrine of necessity would be conjured to settle the matter. Time will tell. A month is a long time in politics. It is clear however that the Wike-Daisy Okocha group and the NJC are responsible for the looming crisis in Rivers and not Governor Amaechi. Why would OCJ Okocha SAN be calling on Amaechi to appoint a chief judge when Amaechi had appointed one in the eminent person of Justice Agumagu?

According to the constitution, if a new governor is not sworn-in on May 29, the speaker of the Rivers House of Assembly becomes the acting governor. When the tenure of the assembly runs out a few days later, the president of the federal republic will take the rule in Rivers and probably appoint an administrator. Which way is it gonna be?