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The battle for supremacy in Rivers

Voters in Rivers State will, tomorrow, cast their ballots in the National and State Assembly rerun polls for the three Senatorial seats, 12 House of Representatives seats and 22 seats in the State House of Assembly. The political temperature of the state has reached a boiling point that there is palpable fear that the poll may be marred by violence, rigging and killings that have characterized and defined the politics of the oil-bearing state in recent times.
If there is any state in Nigeria where the 2015 general election was highly polarized, that state is no other than Rivers. Former President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, is formerly from the state before his Bayelsa State was carved out of it. His wife and former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, is from Rivers State.
The ex-governor of the state and now the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi was the head of General Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organization. In the build-up to the 2015 poll, Rivers was highly divided between the supporters of the then ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) for obvious reasons and peculiarity of Nigerian prebendal politics.
Initially, Rivers was a PDP state until Amaechi decamped to APC with some of his supporters and threw his weight behind Buhari’s political ambition against Jonathan, his fellow South-South brother. Amaechi’s decision to dump the PDP did not resonate well with many stakeholders in the state. That was why they vowed to vote against the APC. In the highly violence-prone 2015 poll in the state, the PDP showed its supremacy and gave Jonathan almost all their votes. The APC lost almost all the elections including the gubernatorial seat where APC Dakuku Peterside slugged it out with ebullient Chief Nyesom Wike.
Despite the anticipated bandwagon effect of a Buhari’s victory, Wike still defeated his opponent by a wide margin. The PDP also carried the day in both National and State Assembly polls. In spite of boasts by APC chieftains that they would retrieve Rivers gubernatorial mandate from Wike through the courts, Wike triumphed. But his triumph was cut to size when the tribunal annulled the election of 22 House of Assembly seats and left about ten seats. These polarizing tendencies will come into play in tomorrow’s polls.
Therefore, tomorrow’s poll is going to be a fierce war between the PDP and its arch rival, the APC. It is a crucial and decisive war in which every arsenal will be deployed to good use to defeat the perceived political foe. For the PDP, it means consolidating its grip on Rivers politics and also proving to doubting Thomases that Rivers belongs to PDP. There is no better way to prove that other than clearing all the seats at stake. And for the APC, it means proving that it actually won the 2015 polls, which it had failed woefully to prove at the tribunal. With the stakes being so high for both parties, the fear of violence, rigging, kidnapping and killings may not be ruled out.
No doubt, Rivers State has witnessed more political violence more than any other state in the country. We pray that the state will be spared of further bloodshed in tomorrow’s elections. We strongly agree with former President Jonathan that the ambition of any Nigerian politician is not worth the blood of any Nigerian. Tomorrow’s poll is Amaechi’s last chance to prove that he is still relevant in Rivers politics. It is also Wike’s opportunity to ensure that the PDP gets majority seats in the State House of Assembly and prove that the PDP won the Senatorial and House of Representatives seats quashed by the courts.
That the poll is going to be keenly contested is to state the obvious. It is a supremacy battle between the PDP and the APC in the state. The verbal war between Wike and Amaechi is a poignant pointer that if nothing is done to ensure adequate security in the state the exercise may witness large scale violence and rigging. While Amaechi is relying on federal might, Wike banks much on the might of his supporters. Wike’s order to his supporters to beat up Amaechi if he goes from booth to booth during the polls and Amaechi’s insistence that he will dare Wike, are in bad taste. They are laced with hate and blood. Such inflammatory statements from major stakeholders in the polls portend great danger and may lead to anarchy.
It is because of the seeming charged political atmosphere that the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, has mobilized large contingent of police, 6,000, to ensure security of lives and property during the poll. The Police had ordered that no politician will go to the poll with police escorts. We hope they will listen and do the needful.
President Muhammadu Buhari has warned from Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, where he paid state visit that his administration will not condone killing and violence in the Rivers rerun polls. He has ordered security agents to deal decisively with sponsors and perpetrators of electoral violence. Nigerians also expect Buhari to give similar marching orders on security agents to deal with perpetrators of Agatu and other killings in Nigeria.
Why the special order on Rivers rerun? What of other reruns that were characterized by violence and rigging? The Federal Government should ensure that its security agents maintain absolute political neutrality in Rivers rerun and provide security for all in the state. Perhaps, it is the fear that federal might may be used against the PDP in the poll that made Rivers State government to petition 50 countries concerning the polls.
The Rivers government wants global surveillance of the poll to ensure that it is free, fair and credible. That is not asking for too much. This petition underscores how low our politics has dipped. Our politicians should desist from the “do or die” approach to politics. Our politics should be defined by issues and what service to render to people and not about self-enrichment and glory.
To ensure a violence-free poll, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should put its house in order and give Rivers people a free, fair and credible election. The electoral umpire must ensure that the votes of Rivers electorate count. Political leaders like Wike and Amaechi should be part of the solution to the problem. They should not add petrol and fire to it.
Amaechi has been a Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly and governor of the state for many years. Wike is now the governor. Both men and their supporters should give peace a chance in Rivers politics. The people of Rivers State should shun all political violence and turn out en masse and vote for candidates of their choice tomorrow. But they can only do so if there is adequate security. Let there be security and level playing ground for all political actors in the state. Above all, INEC should not fail to deliver a credible poll in Rivers State.

This post was syndicated from The Sun News. Click here to read the full text on the original website.

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