By Emeka Ejere
If the recent alarm by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State that the Federal Government planned to assassinate him and blame it on mob action is anything to go by, then the ploy to take away his job is taking a frightening dimension.
With due respect to other political parties, it is obvious that the battle for the soul of the oil-rich state come 2019 will be between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). While it is almost certain that Governor Wike will have the ticket of his party (PDP) to run for a second term as nothing suggests a likelihood of any stiff internal opposition, recent events indicate that the opposition APC will have to resolve several issues to produce a standard-bearer.
The heavily charged political atmosphere of the state at the moment is dominated by the clashes of interests of three gladiators namely Governor Wike, Minister for Transportation and Leader of the state’s APC, Rotimi Amaechi and the senator representing Rivers South East Magnus Abe, the only APC senator in the state.
For Governor Wike, going for a second term is a dream that must come true. For Amaechi, stopping Wike as governor and Abe as APC standard-bearer is a task that must be done. Yet for Abe, taking a shot at the governorship of his state is a right that must be exercised.
While Wike has revitalised his Grassroots Development Initiative (GDI), Amaechi has organized his Free Rivers Initiative, Abe is relying heavily on a team branded as M30.
The three men were best of allies until conflicting political interests began to tear them apart. Wike and Abe served under the Amaechi administration as chief of staff and secretary to the state government respectively.
Rivers is a state of three senatorial districts – Rivers South East, Rivers West, Rivers East – 23 local government areas and over six million people, with a voting population put at 2.5 million. Amaechi like Wike is from upland Ikwere, a side that makes up about 1.1 million of the state’s voting population, and so has an edge over other sides during elections.
In 2015, an out-going Governor Amaechi, under the guise of a spirit of equity and fairness, made fruitless efforts to dash Wike’s governorship hope in favour of Dagogo Peterside, his political son from the riverine part of the state, to the chagrin of Abe, who was believed to be more suitable.
The former governor is coming with a renewed onslaught ahead of 2019. His demand has not changed. “Ikwere should allow the riverine side to take their turn of governorship. It is not fair for Ikwere to rule for 16 years at a go,” he insists.
But WIke appears to be confident that his performance will speak for him. He believes he has not done badly at least in relative terms. The governor has however expressed misgivings in the ability of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a credible election, citing bias.
He has also alleged that the Federal Government of APC is plotting to rig the state’s governorship election with the police, urging the people to defend their votes.
In the case of Abe, Amaechi, who is yet to anoint a candidate, has vowed never to support the governorship ambition of the Ogoni-born senator, claiming that the latter is abusing him everywhere. But pundits say beyond abuse, Abe’s crime is that he is too independent minded to be the former governor’s puppet.
Amaechi is not leaving any stone unturned in his bid to weaken Abe. Under the guise of restructuring the party ahead of the general elections, Amaechi had last year dislodged some chieftains of the party perceived to be working contrary to his political calculation.
However, it was learnt that the victimized party chieftains were those found to be sympathetic to Abe’s governorship ambition. The crisis that marred the party’s local government and ward congress which was later suspended was expected by those following the intrigues.
It is obvious that Amaechi is the chief warrior in the episode. He is pursuing two big goals that conflict with two big interests at a time. But how far can he go? Coming down from Abuja to unseat an incumbent governor has never been a tea party. It is even more difficult when the governor in question is enjoying some goodwill on account of performance.
Also, Wike will still benefit from the voting strength of his people who are more likely to support their son to continue as governor than subscribe to a questionable proposal of another son of theirs who is preaching ‘equity and fairness’.
Again for not putting his house in order, Amaechi is inadvertently making it a smooth ride to a second term for Wike. The crisis rocking the state’s APC if not well managed can only weaken the party to the advantage of Wike and his party. Already Rivers APC is divided, with one faction loyal to Amaechi and the other loyal to Abe.
Analysts say if Amaechi succeeds in undemocratically dislodging Abe, the cost will far outweigh the benefit as Abe’s supporters may begin to work against the party as a way of getting back at the minister.
Dr Ibiba Tonye, a political analyst said, “With Amaechi’s hostility towards Abe who is the only APC Senator from Rivers State, PDP might still retain the lion’s share of seats in the 2019 National and State Assembly elections, including even the much coveted office of the Governor of Rivers State.”
Therefore, Amaechi is left with two options. He can choose to concentrate on ousting Wike by allowing internal democracy in his own party, with a view to putting up in unison a good fight against the PDP. He can as well prefer to remain persistent in his ‘Abe must not run’ project and risks suffering a worse defeat than he did in 2015. The ground is getting set for the duel.