Rivers of Crisis By Tony Okoroji

imageWhy do I keep feeling that the final results have not been declared in the Governorship and State Assembly elections in Rivers State? I am fully aware that former Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, has been officially announced the winner of the April 11 governorship elections in the state. Everything being equal, that should be the end of the story. Abi?
Sorry, everything is not equal.
If you know Rivers well and what the players believe is at stake, then you know that this crazy football match is far from being over. At best, it is half time. The players have simply retired to the dressing room and the coaches are plotting strategies and tactics for the second half. There might even be extra time and the possibility of the match ending in a dramatic golden goal. If you think I am talking bull, ask Celestine Omehia.
Omehia who was once Commissioner for Education in Rivers State contested the Governorship election held on April 14, 2007 on the platform of the PDP. He was declared winner and on May 29, 2007 was sworn in as Governor of Rivers State. There was a lot of merry making in Port Harcourt, the state capital. The often smiling Celestine Omehia had looked forward to serving two terms of four years like his predecessor, Peter Odili. That should have been the end of the match. Right?
Wrong. Omehia did not even serve one term of four years. At the end, he was governor for only four months and three weeks.
In a very intriguing judgment, the Supreme Court of Nigeria on October 25, 2007 wiped the smile off Omehia’s face. In a case brought by former Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Nigeria’s apex court annulled Omehia’s election, ruling that it was Amaechi and not Omehia that was the PDP candidate in the April 14 elections. Amaechi had scored a golden goal! As is dramatic with golden goals, that same October 25, Amaechi assumed office as Governor of Rivers State.
The reality is that Rotimi Amaechi had won the PDP primaries but in one of the many backroom political operations that Nigerian political parties are notorious for, the PDP substituted Rotimi Amaechi’s name for Celestine Omehia. Even after the elections in which his name was not even on the ballot, even to the point when most men would have given up, Amaechi fought the battle all the way to the Supreme Court and won.
Amaechi’s Supreme Court victory redefined the relationship between political parties and candidates in Nigeria. I believe it is the reason why the photographs of candidates did not appear in the ballot papers at the last elections. In summary, in Nigeria we vote for political parties and not candidates. That to me is a key reason why men of conscience who want to serve, while remaining non-aligned to any of the political parties, must come together and create a movement to bring about a new era of independent candidacy in Nigeria.
Is Nyesom Wike celebrating? Some of his friends should advise him to return the champagne to the fridge. Not yet. This last battle in which the combatants have deployed guns, cudgels and in which so much blood has been shed, is not yet won.
I know that there are persons who express the view that the war is over and Wike has won and Amaechi has lost. I say that Chibuike Amaechi has served as Rivers State Governor for nearly eight years, the full term of a governor despite all the impediments placed on his way. No one knows for how long Wike will be governor if he gets sworn in. Amaechi was the Director-General of the Buhari campaign that cruised to victory across the country and swept away an incumbent administration for the first time in Nigerian history.
It was the defection of Rotimi Amaechi and his friends from the PDP to the APC that gave an insurgent party the muscle to so firmly paint much of Nigeria in its colours. Not long ago, the PDP used to flex its muscles as the biggest political party in Africa. PDP is on its way to being a very weak opposition party in Nigeria.
Let us call a spade a spade. The real war has not been between Nyesom Wike and Rotimi Amaechi. It has been a fight to finish between Patience Jonathan and Rotimi Amaechi. Wike who used to be Amaechi’s Chief of Staff is to me just a pawn in the game. What is the result of the war? The result was announced that early April-Fool morning by Attahiru Jega when he declared Muhammadu Buhari winner of the 2015 Presidential elections. The consequence is that Patience Jonathan is on her way to Otuoke and Rotimi Amaechi is on his way to Abuja.
The control of Government House Port Harcourt was a battle in the war and not the war itself. That battle has become a side show and it will also be over.
I however feel sorry for Chief Wike. When he started this journey, I am sure he did not bargain that he would be in Government House Port Harcourt without an ally and serious protection from the Aso Rock Villa. Aso Rock Villa is gone! The Lagos gambit did not work. Suddenly all eyes are on Wike. He would have the task of feeding the voracious appetite of the many PDP journey men whose pipe to endless easy money from Abuja has been cut off. I don’t envy Nyesom Wike. From where will he get the money? Chai! Sure, there is God o!

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