Wednesday, December 17, 2014 12:41 pm
Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
Who will clinch the Rivers State governorship between the All Progressives Congress and Peoples Democratic Party candidates? Here are the factors
The emergence of Nyesom Wike, the former Minister of State for Education, as the flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Rivers State on Monday 8 December,at the governorship primaries of the party in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, did not come to many observers of Rivers politics as a surprise.
And while the favourable outcome for Wike is still being celebrated by many across the state, 16 other aspirants who are piqued for being disenfranchised in the exercise have not stopped lamenting their exclusion from participating in the selection of delegates for the already concluded exercise. They are also disgruntled about the refusal of the national leadership of the party to accede to their request to cancel all the processes that threw Wike up as the flag bearer.
Wike has been through a particularly controversial and rancorous political journey to actualise his lofty dreams of occupying the Brick House after Governor Chibuike Amaechi, an Ikwerre brother like him.
As Wike advanced towards clinching the PDP governorship ticket in the state, Amaechi battled with the extreme disregard for his person even as an incumbent by the PDP in the state, based on the budgeoning enmity between him and President Goodluck Jonathan. And while Wike is yet to achieve his ultimate goal of occupying the seat of government, he has been preoccupied with directing his political energy with all intensity towards removing any real or perceived threat that may stand in his way. It is an exposed fact that Wike enjoys the full support of the presidency towards occupying the government house in Rivers State.
Wike boasts a reputation of being a shrewd and calculative politician whose deft moves have hitherto left his opponents in a daze after the burly political pugilist has scored decisive points. He is also regarded by his admirers as a political long distance runner whose mantra is ‘win by all means first, apologise later’. To Wike, morality and the struggle for political power are two parallel paths that cannot meet. But Wike’s weakness is that he is quick to underrate his opponents. Wike is said to have toyed with the idea of contesting for the Governorship position after his boss, Amaechi.
He is said to have vaguely indicated his unwavering desire to become Governor during his tenure as the Chief of Staff to Governor Amaechi, when he was very influential and powerful. A source said Amaechi could not fathom why a fellow Ikwerre man would nurse an ambition to succeed him in a multi-ethnic state like Rivers where power, especially that of the governorship position, should be rotated either between candidates from the upland and riverine sections or among the three Senatorial districts.
But Wike has never subscribed to rotation. His argument has always been that as a citizen of Rivers State and Nigeria, he has the right to aspire to any political position as long as he meets the constitutional requirements. Zoning and rotation of public offices as enshrined in the PDP constitution does not sit well with the former minister.
For Wike, in terms of underrating opponents, Governor Amaechi was an exception. He never deluded himself that he could realise his governorship ambition with Amaechi still being the leader of the party. He knew that as long as Amaechi remained the state’s party leader, the party structure would still be under the governor and in his grips. Wike therefore decided to sponsor the re-emergence of the Godspower Ake-led executive of the party at an Abuja high court presided over by Justice Ishaq Bello on Monday April 15,2013. Bello heard their plea but sacked the Ake executive and directed that Felix Amechi Obuah and Walters be sworn in as Chairman and Secretary.The Plaintiffs were led by Obuah and Ibibia Walters.
A group led by one Obuah and Walter had dragged the PDP and four others to court asking it to stop the party from recognizing one Chief Godpower Umejuru Ake as chairman of Rivers State PDP. Other defendants in the suit were the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC Chairman and secretary of the electoral panel of the PDP in Rivers State, Chief Dan Orbih,the Edo state Chairman of PDP and Mr. Steve Emekieze respectively.
Consequently, Obuah and Walters were immediately sworn in by the national executive led by Bamanga Tukur the former PDP Chaiman. The judgment paved way for Wike to plot his path to achieving his burning desire to become Governor of the state. With the frosty relationship between Amaechi and President Goodluck Jonathan and wife, Patience, Wike dug and erected pillars of his own political structures in the state. All the Commissioners, and the 27 lawmakers in the Rivers House of Assembly loyal to Amaechi were suspended and later expelled from the party. And eventually, Amaechi was suspended from the party by the National Working Committee at its emergency meeting on 27 May, 2013 based on the petition submitted by the PDP Rivers Executive Committee led by Wike’s acolytes against Amaechi.
The Executive Governor of Rivers State was accused of allegedly violating some sections of the PDP Constitution following his refusal to obey the lawful directive of the Rivers State Executive Committee to rescind his decision dissolving the elected Executive Council of Obio-Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State.
After Amaechi was suspended on his 48th birthday, it became apparent that his presence in the PDP was no longer welcome. This was further underlined by the unsavoury development after Amaechi’s victory as the Chairman, Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, when Amaechi got 19 votes against Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State’s 16 votes. The 16 opposing votes were allegedly sponsored by President Jonathan to destabilize NGF.
After Amaechi dumped the PDP, the coast was clear for Wike to spread his political tentacles and snatch the PDP structure in the state.The deployment of the controversial Commissioner of Police, Mbu Joseph Mbu to the state gave Wike’s foot soldiers the opportunity and necessary backing to bestride the entire state like a colossus.
The former Junior Minister of State for Education built his political machine on a Socio-Political group called Grassroot Development Initiative, GDI, and there was massive membership drive across the state. As the national patron, Wike launched GDI at the Ward, Local Government and State levels. But unknown to other Governorship Aspirants who were following him, they never knew that GDI members would eventually transform into the only recognised PDP structure in the state.
Riled by what they consider a political swindle of sorts, the 16 Rivers State PDP governorship aspirants who boycotted the party primary that produced Wike as flag bearer, who now believe they have been sidelined, have vowed to cast a protest vote against the the PDP in the 2015 general elections. Worse still for the aspirants, their agitations to get the attention of the National leadership of the PDP to wade into the “perceived injustice” in the state fell on deaf ears.
At a media briefing held in Port Harcourt, one of the aspirants, Gabriel Pidomson said “since they refused to listen to us, we will show them with our votes, our oil and gas.”
Another aspirant who is the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Don Baridam berates the type of politics played in Nigeria. “There is no democracy in Nigeria. There is nothing like democracy. A situation where one man drafts a list in his house and it is used to win election for him is unfortunate,” says Baridam.
Dumo Lulu-Briggs, another politician said it is unfortunate for anyone to think that a primary election held in Rivers state.
However, despite the protests, an unperturbed Wike has extended a hand of fellowship to the other aspirants, and has also declared his readiness to embrace those willing to work with him.“We need to work together to retake Rivers state. I have forgiven them all. I apologise to all those that I may have offended. I beg them in the name of God, let’s come together and build Rivers state,” Wike
While Wike and his suporters are jubilant, The APC in Rivers state is also upbeat concerning the emergence of the former minister as PDP’s chosen candidate. Chris Finebone, Publicity Secretary of APC says with Wike as the PDP flagbearer APC’s job is half done. ‘We will trounce Nyesom Wike at the poll,’ Finebone boasts.
Finebone’s optimism notwithstanding, Wike’s permutation is that the areas referred to as the opposition will not affect his chances of winning in next year’s election. The Ogonis boast four Local Government Areas including Khana, Gokana, Tai and Eleme. The Ikwerre people also have four local government Areas while the Kalabari have three. And for Opobo, there is only one local government. Wike is convinced that even if ethnic sentiments becomes a factor that would sway votes during the coming elections, all votes from the riverine areas of the state would never amount to the number of votes expected to come from Obio Akpor Local Government Area alone.
The PDP flag bearer’s confidence is also based on his belief that some local government areas, from the Kalabari part, Ogu/Bolo and Okirika are actually populated by PDP supporters and that Andoni is the local government area where the Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus comes from. From Obio-akpor alone, which Wike refers to as a PDP zone, 400,000 votes, most of which should favour the PDP, is expected.
In Wike’s calculation, an Opobo man would never be keen to allow a Kalabari or Ogoni man become the Deputy Governor. He said the APC has excluded Ogoni and Kalabari in their selection process and that in PDP, there is a chance that a Kalabari man may become Deputy Governor. ‘It is the best opportunity the PDP has,’Wike said.
The PDP flagbearer is equally happy that it was Dakuku Peterside that clinched APC’s ticket, claiming that ‘it makes the coast clearer’ for a PDP victory.
Wike also sees Dakuku Perterside as Governor Amaechi’s choice to be foisted on the people. H e said Peterside’s main duty, if he becomes the next governor would be to protect Amaechi from being brought to book for all the looting that took place during his tenure.
Dakuku Peterside the All Progressives Congress, APC consensus Governorship Candidate for the 2015 election in Rivers State, was the Commissioner for Works during the first tenure of Governor Amaechi.His emergence as the consensus candidate for the party was devoid of rancour but for the agitation of Ogoni people who felt the ticket would be handed over to senator Magnus Ngei Abe,the Senator representing Rivers South East.
Abe’s supporters were disappointed because they felt that since the creation of the state in 1967, the Ogonis have not produced a governor, deputy governor, Speaker of the House, or Chief Judge of the state. And having an Ogoni as a Senator, a former Commissioner and Secretary to the State Government, SSG, they felt securing the ticket is already within reach.Their expectation was high when APC zoned the Governorship seat to South East Senatorial district that also includes Opobo, Nkoro, Andoni, which are the Ogoni council areas. Dakuku Peterside was born in Bane in Ogoniland and was a frontline activist under the aegis of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoniland,MOSOP during the heydays of the late Ken Saro-Wiwa.
While reacting to the protest against his nomination in some quarters, Peterside, who represents Andoni, Opobo Nkoro federal constituency in the House of Representatives said he grew up in Ogoni, where he spent over 10 years and still has many childhood friends from there. He claims to have been at the forefront of the Ogoni struggle in 1990, when the Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR) was put in place.
On the claim that Ogoni people protested all the way to the Government House over his emergence, he absolved the Ogonis based on their reputatin of being peace-loving people who abhor violence. He recalled that it was when he was Rivers Commissioner for Works that most of the roads in Bori (traditional headquarters of Ogoniland) were tarred and assured that he would continue to protect the interest of the Ogoni. In the wisdom of the party leadership power was conceded to the South-East Senatorial Zone in line with a joint resolve to shift power from the upland to the riverine area of the state. This zone presented four leaders including Senator Magnus Abe, who represents the zone in the upper chambers of the National Assembly, Engr Tele Ikuru, the Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Hon. Dr. Dakuku Peterside and George Feyi, Secretary to the Rivers State Government,SSG, among other leaders.
Peterside admits that they all have what it takes to win the election in 2015, but in a every given contest, one person must emerge as winner.