9th April, 2016
By Abdul Suleiman
Nigerians are stunned to the bones about the near three-years of political genocide in River state. Port Harcourt, the once boisterous Garden City and commercial hub of the Niger Delta has been magically transformed into a nightmarish killing field overnight.
What has puzzled and continued to confound even the most critical analytical minds is failure of all stakeholders on the saddle to abate the state of anarchy in Rivers, now comically, but seriously, referred to as “Rivers of blood.” Security agencies, state and federal governments, INEC, politicians, academics, businessmen, traditional rulers, communities, NGOs and a lot more have been held spell bound by Rivers anarchic configuration currently.
What have replaced the solemnity of life and essence of existence in the once enviable state, reputed as the second wealthiest state in Nigeria after Lagos are killings, cultic gangsterism, arson, abductions and worse still, a devilry struggle for the control of the political soul of the oil-rich state.
Fear has replaced courage; courageousness leads to death; prayers in shrines have replaced the cherished prayers in churches on bended kneels, its like an enclave of Lucifer; brothers and sisters plot and mindlessly kill themselves in the most brazen manner. Nothing can be so debasing and awesome than the portrait of Rivers at the moment.
Much as a reasonable proportion of humanity knows what has besieged the fate of Rivers, a lot more Nigerians can only boast of scanty details of the scandalous fireworks in the state. But the truth remains that former President Goodluck Jonathan’s disapproval of the election of the immediate past governor of Rivers state, Rotimi Amaechi (then of the PDP) as chairman of the Nigeria’s Governors Forum (NGF) in preference for former Plateau state governor, Jonah Jang laid the template for this blossoming violence and massacre of fraternal brothers.
Amaechi’s insistence that he democratically won the election and would not opt for the “arrangee” posture of the Jonathan- led PDP pitted him against his party and former President Jonathan. The events that followed were not just scary, but worrisome.
But factually, the satanic desire of Jonathan to unseat Amaechi saw a willing ally in Barrister Nyesom Wike, then Minister of state for Education and now Rivers state governor. While it is not necessary to recount in full blast, events of that period, its important to emphasize that an ambitious Wike, eying the governorship seat of the state in 2015 perceived the presidential back-up a strong weapon to uproot Amaechi, his former boss. The stage for political violence was decorated and baptized under this atmosphere.
Not given to pretenses, Wike with presidential security backing launched his electoral onslaught on Rivers state, first as a PDP guber aspirant. He had 15 other rivals contending for the party’s governorship ticket. The first sign of Wike meanness was that he practically chased all other rival contestants for the party’s ticket at the venue of the party primary in Port Harcourt.
May be, he dreaded fair competition. So, he concretized his action by cornering and compelling officials drafted for the exercise to obey a drummed presidential order by declaring him winner of a party primary election that obviously never held. They obliged nervously. And when Wike’s opponent wailed too loud, a reconciliation meeting was convened in Abuja at Legacy House, President Jonathan’s campaign headquarters. Again, Wike invaded the venue and chased away his rivals who sought for amicable solution to the crisis and indeed, everybody at sight, who dared him. Yet, nothing happened. He flew the party’s governorship flag triumphantly.
Meanwhile, Amaechi, now Nigeria’s minister of Transport, who vowed that Wike cannot succeed him, floated a House of Reps member, Dr. Dakuku Peterside on the platform of the APC to face Wike. They understand his Gestapo style of politics.
All these events were heralded by scary acts of violence and killings sequel to the 2015 general elections, to the extent that voters were intimidated in their homes, offices, streets or roads and in public places. It laid a solid template for the face of the election. And Niger Delta famed for militancy and cultic gangs, youths found ready jobs to execute against enemies of the payer.
Consequently, governorship election in Rivers state was in every sense of the word, a theatre of war, to the extent the then out-going governor Amaechi could not even vote in his own polling unit. Election casualties evident in the number of persons killed, wounded or kidnapped alarmed every Nigerian and election observers of any hue.
Yet, Wike triumphed again. INEC declared him winner and when he finally secured his victory at the Supreme Court, which voided the decisions of the two lower court which nullified Wike’s election, the only language known to Wike and his cohorts was the Machiavellian, justice of the end justifying the means.
No doubt, hence bloodletting and barefaced intimidation of the electorate is another pattern of legalized democracy in Nigeria, exemplified in Rivers state, it railroaded itself into the March legislative elections in the state more noxiously. It recorded an unprecedented level of violence, with Wike as the Chief Security Officer of the state.
Days to the legislative re-run elections, Wike strongly admonished PDP supporters to resist any attempt by security agents to arrest them. As if this was not unlawful enough, governor Wike again shamelessly assailed Nigerians verbally that those drafted to perform the Rivers legislative re-run election should “ write their will,” a despicable statement he later recanted belatedly by explaining that he referred to those with the evil intention of manipulating the elections. No level of executive recklessness can be so provoking. He ironically got emboldened and furiously defended PDP supporters and the party, in a manner that never really exonerated them. But Nigerians watched and clapped.
But the question remains this: Wike is not just the Chief Security Officer of the state, but also a lawyer by training. It implies that he knows the letter of the law beyond the comprehension of a street urchin. Assuming APC supporters were presumed to be on the offensive in thwarting the electoral process, summary execution of them is lawful, as Wike seems to prescribe or canvass? The result of his pronouncement is the wantom killings and all manner of infamy the re-run election despoiled Nigeria’s democracy and Rivers serenity. No end in sight yet for the Rivers drama.
Now true to the Nigerian character, the brigands have taken over streets, roads, public places and even private homes of indigenes of the state, with withheld results of the re-run. The people are now so scared to the extent, to say normal business in all spheres of existence in that state is brazenly abused is grossly under expressing the Rivers narrative.
Those pulling the strings may not necessarily be just the two- the PDP and the APC, symbolized by the eggheads, Wike and Amaechi or even Dakuku. But Wike boasts with full breath that Rivers is PDP and nobody can wrestle Rivers away from PDP, but forgets easily that the onus lies on him to protect lives and property of inhabitants of the state regardless of party affiliations.
Today, Nigerians mourn the death of other Nigerians in Rivers state, the most pathetic being that of an NYSC member and INEC ad-hoc staff, Okonta Samuel, shot to death in cold blood because Wike has failed to protect him, based on his deadly conviction that Rivers is a PDP property.
Nigerians are asking this crucial question, where would Rivers be or what would be the face of Rivers after Governor Wike. No one should forget that there is a pending council elections in the same state some few months ahead and another governorship election in the next three years. So, would there be a soul to cast a vote anymore, with Wike on the saddle?
Suleiman, a public affairs commentator wrote in from Abuja.