The echoes of the 2023 general elections are up in the air. It is a political trend expected to spread to all the States, regions and geo-political zones of the federation.
This time, it is not just about the usual electioneering campaigns, propaganda, voting and controversial election results. The need for equity and fairness to all the micro-zones of the country appears to be at the centre stage.
It is exactly the scenario in River State where the people are demanding equity from the upland ruling political bloc.
In the State, the two major political parties spoiling for the 2023 gubernatorial race are the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, besides other fringe parties.
APC guber aspirants from the riverine Rivers are Senator Magnus Abe and his main challenger, Tony Cole.
Cole is said to be the consensus aspirant in the APC camp controlled by Chibuike Amaechi, former Transport Minister and APC presidential hopeful. Though Abe and Amaechi are in the same party, they are individually maintaining APC parallel structures.
Lately, Abe at a function in Okrika town, had accused Amaechi of trying to “sell the soul of the State”.
In his words, “We are here to inform you that the soul of our dear State is at stake. The red flag is up, hence danger is looming. We can’t sell the soul of Rivers State.
“Tony Cole bought our transformers, the Olympia hotel. If he comes back, they will sell the entire State. The Minister started the process of his imposition for the second time, by scheming out those who worked with him, only to go and bring for the second time a person from Lagos to come and govern us.
“I urge you to stand with me against the conspiracy against our State. Tonye Cole does not know Rivers State, and Rivers State does not know him. We don’t want a distant governor. If Amaechi wants him to be our governor, he should first of all return all our property Amaechi sold to him, while in government”
Prominent PDP contenders from the upland Rivers are Felix Obuah, former PDP State chairman, Padonson Gabriel, Senator Lee Ledogo Maeba and Hon. Isaac Kamalu, among others.
While Maeba had served as PDP Senator representing Rivers South-East in 2003 and 2007, Kamalu was finance commissioner and immediate past commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, and former Chief Whip of the State legislature.
Also, Gabriel was former chairman of the Gokhana Local Council Area and later represented Gokhana State constituency in the legislature from 2003 – 2007. He also had a brief stint as Chief of Staff to the Omehia stillborn governorship.
But Wike has his own secret plan. Sources said the fiery Governor is already exhibiting false bravado while weighing the option to anoint a key and trusted member of his cabinet as successor in 2023.
Further investigation uncovered that part of Wike’s plans was to use Fubara Siminayi, the State’s Accountant-General as successor. Siminaye, who was former Director of Finance, DF, of the Government House is from the riverine Opobo-Nkoro political bloc.
Currently, the Governor is said to be looking in the direction of Tammy Danagogo, the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, as his possible successor. Danagogo is also from the riverine Akuko-Toru Council Area of the State.
Besides, Danagogo had served the State and federal government in various capacities. He was chairman of the Akuko-Turo Local Government Council, former Commissioner for Urban Development under Amaechi’s governorship and former Sports Minister under the presidency of former President GoodLuck Ebele Jonathan.
Rivers State has three Senatorial districts. They are Rivers East, Rivers West and Rivers South East senatorial districts.
Ikwerre is under the Rivers East senatorial district. It has four large local government areas and the most populated. Next in population is the Ogonis. And Ogoni consists of Kana, Gohkana, Taia and Eleme local council areas.
Presently, the riverine people that consists of the ijaw and Ogoni groups are saying it is their time to produce the next governor of the State. The Ogoni even said they have never occupied the positions of Governor, deputy Governor and Speaker of the State legislature.
Only the upland people of Rivers East Senatorial district have alternately been elected governors of the State to the exclusion of the people of the South East and Rivers West senatorial districts.
Specifically, right from the fourth Republic of May 29, 1999 to date, people of the Rivers upland have been occupying the BrickHouse, the administration complex of the State, turn by turn.
It started with former Governor Peter Odili. His governorship spanned from 1999 to 2007. Then came the Celestine Omehia short-lived governorship. It was truncated by a court verdict but he was swiftly succeeded by Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi whose eight-year governorship lasted from 2007 to 2015. Omehia and Amaechi are even first cousins.
Ahead of the 2015 general elections, Amaechi defected from the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the platform through which he rose to power to the then newly formed All Progressives Congress, APC.
He wanted to use his power of incumbency to pass the gubernatorial baton to another zone, but the long awaited aim was dashed.
This is because Hon. Dakuku Peterside, the 2015 APC governorship hopeful and former Director-general of the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Administration, NIMASA, who hails from the Riverine Opobo-Nkoro council area lost to the then PDP flagbearer, Governor Nyesom Ezenwa Wike and 2023 PDP presidential aspirant. Wike hails from the Obiakpor Council Area of the upland Ikwerre hegemony. He is a two-term governor whose constitutional mandate will end by May 29, 2023.
It is, however, a claim of fact that the people of the Rivers upland are politically and economically in control of the State. With an intimidating election war chest at their disposal, it will only take a stubborn political will to reorder the glaring imbalances in the State power structure.
Cumulatively, by May 29, 2023, the Rivers upland shall have an uninterrupted government reign for 24 years.
It is on these premises that the littoral people of the State have raised the bars of their agitation for power rotation come 2023.
This singular demand for a governorship rotation in the State, however, is overdue for consideration by the upland political establishment.