Editor’s note: The emergence of Nyesom Wike as the next Rivers state governor was met with equal enthusiasm and contempt on the part of Nigerians. Writing from Port Harcourt, Legit.ng contributor Paul John says Wike deservedly won the governorship seat and has a lot to offer to the people of Rivers.
This article expresses the author’s opinion only. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Legit.ng or its editors.
— "The choice of Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike as the PDP governorship candidate sent chills down the spines of other political parties in Rivers state"
— "When Nyesom Wike’s opponents realised that he had won the hearts of many natives and residents of the state, they started a campaign of calumny against his candidacy"
— "The worst that can happen is nullifying the election and calling for a rerun, which Chief Nyesom Wike would still win”
Long before us, the wise had observed that it is better to have a lion as the head of an army of sheep, than a sheep as the head of an army of lions. The choice of Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike as the PDP governorship candidate sent chills down the spines of other political parties in Rivers state. Out of all the ministers that resigned their appointments in order to contest the 2015 gubernatorial elections in their respective states, only one was successful. Even the former Minister of Health, who was supported by the then-incumbent governor, could not win even the PDP primaries in Ebonyi state, let alone run on the platform of another party.
The paradox is that the ’surviving' Chief Nyesom Wike was the one who faced the most challenging battle before, during and after the elections. As a political juggernaut, he started building his political structure years before the campaign for the 2015 governorship election, even when his opponents were busy attacking the then-president while their proverbial houses were on fire. Nyesom Wike started his campaign in the form of a social organisation called the Grassroot Development Initiative (GDI). He started sensitizing people in the grassroots politics while his main opponents were busy playing to the gallery. When his opponents realised that this political guru had won the hearts of many natives and residents of the state, they started a campaign of calumny against his candidacy.
When they understood that he had permeated all the political fabrics in the state, they sponsored candidates to pick the PDP governorship nomination forms in order to create chaos after the PDP governorship primaries in the state so that, in the midst of the melee, the votes in the general elections could sway in favour of the opposition parties. In view of this, the PDP in Rivers state witnessed the highest number of governorship aspirants ever since the state was created in 1967. Many of the aspirants knew their roles: either to create chaos after the primaries, or to share the votes that ordinarily would have gone to Nyesom Wike, who, according to some mischievous politicians, came from the least-favoured zone in the state with respect to the 2015 governorship election.
At the primaries, Wike won with a very wide margin. The moles among the PDP governorship aspirants, having realised their mission, ganged up against Chief Wike, protesting here and there for the sole aim of frustrating his candidacy. The then-ruling political party in the state issued a statement that the choice of Wike was the PDP's faux pas. Everybody knew the statement was ironical because only Chief Wike had the political clouts to wrest political power from the then-ruling party. The moles, posing as the PDP aspirants, were busy protesting even at the national headquarters of the party, bringing up the issue of Riverine and Upland dichotomy in the state. It was then that it dawned on the people of the state that some of the PDP governorship aspirants were really sponsored, or that, at the end of the exercise, only one of them would win the primaries election if there was a rerun, so there was no rationale behind the gang-up.
Why did this issue of rotation of power between the Upland and Riverine parts not come up when Peter Odili handed over to Omehia, and Omehia to Rotimi Amaechi due to the supreme court judgement? All these three successive governors were all from the so-called Upland region. Why did they not raise the issue then, and why must it come out when Chief Wike declared his interest?
The next strategy was spreading a rumour that Nyesom Wike was a member of a secret cult and he had been initiating all his followers and supporters. At this point, it was clear that the then-ruling party in the state was afraid of the candidacy of Chief Wike. The originators and peddlers of that rumour were aware that our people are hyper-religious. Consider, for an instance, the case of a former Imo state governor who lost his reelection partly because there was a false rumour against him then that he slapped a Catholic priest. One popular priest in Enugu went to the extent of singing a song about the embattled governor slapping his fellow priest. Many people accepted the rumour without verifications. Many years after the governor’s loss, the same priest openly apologised and acknowledged that the former governor had never slapped anyone. But the deed was done. In developed climes, that would have been a subject of litigation, and the priest that produced such music album would have been made to foot the bills of the damages or face prosecution.
In order to score cheap political points, they brought up the issue of Chief Wike being a member of a secret cult. Wike had repeatedly denied the allegation and even went on to openly say prayers like: “God, let no member of a secret cult win any election in Rivers state". The peddlers of the rumour saw that it did not have the same effect as in Imo state 2011 governorship election.
Another strategy was when they started claiming that election did not hold in Rivers state, even when people were captured by cameras being accredited and voting in their respective polling units. What a self-deceit!
After the elections, the same group of politicians, through their proxies, went on to sponsor series of injunctions in different states, seeking to stop the inauguration of Rivers state democratically-elected governor. Some of these politicians once benefitted from the judiciary, but later paid back by destroying it. They contributed immensely to the closure of Rivers state-owned courts, but, after the 2015 governorship election, they urgently needed the help of the same judiciary to stop a democratically-elected governor. I want to thank the members of our judiciary for not allowing those destroyers to use the same judiciary in other states to truncate democracy in Rivers.
Why would Nyesom Wike not win by a very wide margin in Rivers state? The closure of the state owned courts for almost a year, the deplorable states of many state government-owned roads, non-issuance of certificates of occupancy to landowners (especially the non-natives of the state), and other failures of the past government were enough reasons to sway the votes in favour of Chief Wike. The way Jonathan was misled by his advisers was exactly the same way the past governor of the state was misled by his own advisers. The immediate past governor erroneously believed that the APC was going to win the governorship election in Rivers state. The truth is, people of Rivers state equally voted for change the same way Nigerians voted for change in the presidency. People of the state have spoken through their respective votes, and to those opposing the Chief Wike-led administration we say Vox populum vox dei: The voice of the people is the voice of God.
We have heard reports where these disgruntled politicians boasted they were going to reclaim the mandate at the tribunal at all costs, and we are also aware that these politicians are now closer to the corridors of power at the federal level. However, many of us still believe in the incorruptibility of the current president. All we are saying is, let the independence and impartiality of the judiciary not be compromised by these ambitious politicians. This is because, with what is on ground in the state, Chief Nyesom Wike would win the election again even if God and his angels came down to conduct the procedure.
Rumuigbo community is always over-flooded whenever it rains due to poor drainage system; a problem ignored by the past administration. Civil servants protested severally, and only after a series of protests had the former adminstration started paying them by instalments. The mind-boggling amount of money that was sunk into that 'white elephant' monorail project in Port Harcourt was enough to fix many roads in Rivers state, or, better still, revamp the intrastate railway system, decongesting the ever-busy Aba and Ikwerre roads in Port Harcourt. Rumuagholu and Rumudara-Eneka roads, among others, are deathtraps to all road users.
Chief Nyesom Wike, as the man of the people, launched the much-awaited Operation Zero Potholes In Port Harcourt during his inaugural speech at the liberation stadium, shortly after being sworn-in. As if that was not enough, on the same day, he moved down to Iloabuchi-Diobu area of Port Harcourt to commission the renovation of some dilapidated roads that had cut off the traders and residents of that part of Port Harcourt city. The new governor went on to appoint an acting chief judge of the state, so that our judiciary could start functioning. That is one of the qualities of a lion because a good leader should know the needs of his subjects at each point in time. Many suspects awaiting trial have been in different prison for more than a year doing nothing, and was the immediate past government expecting the sane people to vote for continuity during the state election?
What are residents of Rivers state doing with a monorail when many of state- and local governments-owned roads are in deplorable condition? Why did the former governor defy the impending court injunction and conducted local government elections just less than a week to the end of his administration? We are mindful of their boasts with respect to the case pending at the governorship tribunal, but we still believe in the impartiality of the judiciary. This is also a reminder to President Muhammadu Buhari. All Nigerian presidents had good plans for this country, but those in the corridors of power still remain a problem. They ill-advise a president, and when the heat becomes unbearable, the president (or head of state) would bear the brunt of it. General Ibrahim B. Babangida once lamented that the politicians whocaused and sponsored the annulment of June 23, 1993, presidential election are still in the government of the day. Our current president should not allow his much-revered personality to be dragged to the mud by the ambitious politicians around him. A line in his inaugural speech where he said "I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody" should not just be swept under the carpet like the words of a devious politician.
Since Lagos state was in opposition to the 16 years of PDP rule at the federal level, will it now be a taboo for Rivers state to be in opposition to the APC-led federal government? If yes, then where lies our democracy?
The worst that can happen is nullifying the election (to many, there is definitely no need for thats, as the outcome reflected the choice of the majority) and calling for a rerun. Which Chief Nyesom Wike would still win, but now with a wider margin. And if the politicians, having seen the acceptability and popularity of Chief Wike among the people of Rivers state, decide to influence the judgement so that the governorship position would be given to the opposition party without a rerun (over an election they claimed did not hold in the state), that means many people would lose confidence in our judiciary which is the hope of the common man. Good citizens of this country still believe in the sanctity and incorruptibility of the judiciary, after all, the PDP lost many states and cases to opposition parties while being the ruling party at the federal level. Will such democracy be replicated with the APC as the ruling party? We all believe in the impartiality of our judiciary because the only difference between men and other animals is justice.
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