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Will Rivers Participate In 2019 General Elections?

Ifeanyi Maduako 

Rivers State, today, has the unenviable record of being the only state in Nigeria without full representation in the National Assembly. Of all the 36 states of the Federation and Abuja (the capital territory), Rivers State is the only state without senators and members of the House of Representatives in the National Assembly as required by the extant provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and the 2010 Electoral Act (as amended). That the state does not have three (3) senators in the Senate unlike other states and members of the House of Representatives is not its making or wish. That the state is denied adequate representation is the machinations of those who want to control the state and its resources at all cost. When Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike emerged as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for the 2015 governorship election, I had my reservations for his candidacy for the simple reason of his ethnic background. I was not really comfortable that another Ikwerre man was aspiring to take over from Chief Rotimi Amaechi, who is from the same Ikwerre, having governed Rivers State for eight years. For the sake of equity and justice, I had argued that the governorship post should have come from another ethnic group from Rivers State. But with the benefit of hindsight and unfolding drama since 2015 general elections ended which former President Goodluck Jonathan ceded power to the North, I am grateful to God that Governor Wike is piloting the affairs of Rivers State as governor now. Governor Wike possesses the capacity and capability of a strong politician to withstand the rampaging and invading opposition which is hell bent on making governance unpleasant and ungovernable for him. If another candidate had emerged as governor from PDP, by now, he would have been overpowered by the powers that be from the Federal Government and opposition elements in the state. Governor Wike having been a former chairman of a cosmopolitan Local Government Area like Obio/Akpor, former Chief of Staff to the state government and a federal minister, he has the acumen and gravitas to withstand the political heat the enemies of democracy are giving him now. The Minister of Transportation, Chief Amaechi and Governor Wike have come a long way, but it is ironic how politics with bitterness has been hampering democracy and development in Rivers State. In 2007, former Governor Peter Odili was willing to hand over power to Amaechi who was then Speaker of the State House of Assembly. But when former President Olusegun Obasanjo described Amaechi’s candidacy as K-legged and therefore not acceptable to the ruling party after the latter had won the gubernatorial primaries of PDP, Dr. Odili had no choice but to search for another candidate which mantle fell on Sir Celestine Omehia. Sir Omehia, a cousin of Amaechi, was hurriedly substituted in Amaechi’s stead to beat Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC’s) deadline. Amaechi, in spite of his touted bravado, ran away on exile. It was his then bosom friend now opponent, Governor Wike who stayed back in Nigeria to fight for his legal battle up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria, which on October 20, 2007, declared Amaechi as the right candidate of the party and as such validly elected as governor setting a precedent in Nigeria’s democracy where a candidate who did not campaign for one day was declared as the governor of the state. The recent judgment of the Supreme Court between Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and Hon. James Faleke derived impetus from Amaechi versus Omehia case. One had thought that Amaechi having literally passed through hell to become governor would be sobered by such experience, but his character and mannerism while as governor of Rivers State defied this assumption. Amaechi became too pompous, arrogant, impudent and overbearing to the people that he governed and even to Dr. Jonathan’s presidency which was the first time such position would come to the South-South region. His quarrel and disagreement with Governor Wike began when Amaechi’s uncouth language and impudence to the presidency became unbearable to Chief Wike who was a minister in Jonathan’s cabinet and as such was duty bound to defend his boss. That was when their cordial relationship became frosty. Governor Wike, as then minister, did not commit any crime defending the Presidency and Federal Government which he was a part of because as Wike and Amaechi have swapped positions now, if Wike attacks the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, Amaechi is duty bound to defend the Federal Government. So, there was no personal hatred from Wike to Amaechi as it concerned defending Jonathan’s presidency which Amaechi was/is in the habit of insulting on a daily basis. If Amaechi truly loves Rivers State, he would be uncomfortable that his state is the only state in Nigeria without Senators and House of Representatives members. The lame excuse of insecurity which INEC has been giving for not concluding elections in Rivers State is not tenable. If elections could hold in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (the epicenter of Boko Haram terrorism) in 2015 general elections when all the security agencies and personnel were shared among all the states of the federation, it is baffling that isolated election in Rivers State cannot be concluded for reason of insecurity. Are INEC and security agencies implying that in 2019 general elections when all the security personnel should be shared among the states, Rivers State will not participate? Are the INEC and the security agencies saying that in 2019 when Governor Wike’s tenure should have elapsed by constitutional provisions, they will allow his tenure to run out without conducting election for his replacement or re-election? INEC and security agencies must never dance to the whims and caprices of a man to massage his ego against the collective interest of Rivers State electorate.

Maduako writes from Abuja via maduako_matthew@yahoo.com

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