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Can Nyesom Wike Survive a Re-run in Rivers State?


By Uche Igwe

BALTIMORE, MD (AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The judgement of the Rivers State Governorship Elections Petitions tribunal that ordered a re-run did not come a surprise to many people. Although the second respondent in the matter incumbent Nyesom Wike will likely be heading to an upper court, there are strong indications that superior courts may not see sufficient reasons to overturn the judgement. I have perused through the judgement myself and must comment the thorough and exhaustive job done by the tribunal. But we must leave the rest to the learned Judges of the Appeal and Supreme courts before someone hurries to hold us subjudice.

The election in that state was one that was widely condemned by both domestic and international observers including statutory monitoring officers from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as being shambolic. The candidate of the Labour Party in the election, Prince Tonye Princewill hailed the annulment of the election and advised the respondents not to appeal against the judgement. The level of violence reported and the alterations on some of the electoral materials available in the public domain makes a mockery of every standard known about transparency and free choice. As if to concur with the judgement of the gubernatorial tribunal, the House of Assembly tribunals also nullified elections which held the same day in 19 out of the 31 state constituencies so far.

Even after the elections, Rivers state has continued to be in the spotlight often for the wrong reasons. The exchanges between the politicians in that state have been predictably caustic. A report of the Commission of Inquiry set up by the state government revealed that an average of 19 persons were murdered monthly between the months of November 2014 and April 2015. Most of the killings that took place in 11 out of the 23 local government areas were said to be politically motivated. Recently the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission Professor Chidi Odinkalu who served as a member of that Commission recommended that the 117 persons who were said to be involved in violence and electoral malpractice should be held responsible and prosecuted.

In the likely even on a re-run in the coming months, it is important to have a cursory look at how things stand in that state. Many observers have begun to review and expose the undercurrents surrounding the emergence of the incumbent governor Nyesom Ezebunwo Wike. The reality starring him in the face that his chances of survival in a re-run remain very slim because of several reasons. The first reason is that the candidature of Mr. Wike was an imposition from former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan. The upland-riverine dichotomy is an unwritten law in rivers politics since the creation of Rivers State in 1967. Positions rotate naturally between the two areas. It was Mrs Jonathan who foisted another upland person on the People’s Democratic Party in the state. About 18 candidates from the riverine Kalabari area vehemently opposed her action but were later forced to abandon their aspirations where it became clear that the former First Lady was bent on a pre-determined candidate. Many politicians in Rivers state insisted and still insist on power returning to the riverine or Ogoni areas of the state for the sake of equity.

With Wike’s emergence it meant that equity was flaunted and power will remain in the upland area for 24 years and in Ikwere area for 16 years. Kalabari and indeed many riverine people including Ogoni people are still very bitter with the meddlesome act of the Former First Lady. One of the leading candidates at that time was former foreign affairs Minister Mr. Odein Ajumogobia(SAN) who had to go to court but later withdrew the suit. A re-run will now provide an opportunity for both riverine and Ogoni people to show their anger and disproval of the inequity symbolised by the imposition of Nyesom Wike on the state.

Mr. Wike’s politics that positioned himself to become a beneficiary of Mrs Jonathan’s political benevolence is a simple one. As soon as he was appointed as a Minister, he made sure he offered himself as a tool to widen the gulf of the political conflict between the former President Goodluck Jonathan and Wike’s former boss and former Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi. With the escalation of the political conflict between the duo, the former Minister became the battle axe and in return the biggest beneficiary. He was quick to throw verbal missiles openly at Amaechi and branded him a betrayer to the delight of the former President, his wife and supporters in the Niger Delta region. However beneath his apparent vocal support for the President was his ambition to become the governor of the state against the popular will of the people. Many of the people who supported Wike’s ambition from within and outside the state did so in reciprocation of his vocal support for Jonathan. He boasted about it and was considered an untouchable of some sorts. Now with the defeat of former President that political calculation has turned out to be a bad experiment. The Presidency is now in the hands of a new person. The former first lady, Mrs Jonathan is now a private citizen whose influence has diminished considerably. The direction of her support may even become a burden and a political liability. When the re-run comes as it will, Mr. Wike will face it no longer as someone who has a Presidential backing and regional sympathy.

 During the elections itself, both the electoral and law enforcement machineries were firmly in the control of the federal government and was at the disposal of the former Minister. He reportedly visited the INEC headquarters in Port Harcourt at will and had a robust relationship with the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner and former President Jonathan’s friend, Mrs. Ghesila Khan. Mr. Wike. A majority of the security agencies were under the firm control of Mrs Jonathan. She held regular meetings with them and even the Brigade Commander of the Army reported to her directly. Many Nigerians can remember the case of the former Commissioner now Assistant Inspector General (AIG) Joseph Mbu who was taking instructions from the former Minister and the First Lady. Such policemen and their collaborators in sister agencies worked relentlessly to ensure that President Jonathan scored maximum number of votes possible although he could not win the elections. After the loss of the Presidential elections, the next priority was to win Rivers State. Snatching state from Mr. Amaechi’s All Progressives Congress (APC) was seen as an adequate punishment for support his rival now President Buhari and eventually dethroning his brother. It was therefore easily to utilize the same network to support for the gubernatorial elections. Mr. Wike cashed in on it. With the turn of things at the federal level, it means that the security agencies will no longer (at least in principle) be available for governor Wike and his opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party to freely deploy to do their bidding. This will inevitably affect the level of influence the governor will be able to exert in the forthcoming rerun which may likely dwindle his electoral chances. Whether that will translate to his eventual defeat remains a matter of conjecture.

To be continued…



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