Governor Wike’s victory at the Supreme Court will ultimately lead to a realignment of forces in both the Rivers and Niger Delta politics. Anything short of victory for the governor would have given his bitter political rival, Rotimi Amaechi an upper hand. EMMA ALOZIE takes a look at what the Supreme Court ruling means to the political future of both Amaechi and Governor Wike
Even the most optimistic of Governor Nyesom Wike’s followers did not place a bet that last Wednesday’s Supreme Court’s ruling would go the way of the governor. Also, the most pessimistic of Rotimi Amaechi’s loyalists never had a second thought that the apex court would not uphold the verdict of the two lower courts that nullified Governor Wike’s election.
So when the ruling finally came, it took both camps by surprise. For the governor’s camp, it was the greatest political victory of all times. For the Amaechi’s camp, no political blow could be more devastating.
Beyond the euphoria and pain of victory and loss, the Supreme Court verdict upholding Wike’s election has a far greater implication in the politics of the state, nay that of the region. The brand of politics played in Rivers is rather unique. While other states rotate power on the basis of the three senatorial zones that make up the state, Rivers State rotates power on the basis of Upland and Riverrine. And since 1999, when democracy returned, the Upland has been holding on to power.
The argument of Rotimi Amaechi was that the Upland having held power for 16 straight years, it was time to return power to the Riverrine. This perhaps explained why he handpicked Dakuku Peterside, from Opobo and a former federal lawmaker to succeed him. But this did not fly as even many of the Riverrine people saw this move by Amaechi as a way of remaining in power through the back door.
Former Governor Amaechi is no doubt a fighter. But unknown to many of his followers, his dogged fight to snatch victory from Wike is principally informed by his desire to remain relevant at the federal level. He has never hidden his desire to further his political career at the federal level. Young and vibrant, it is widely believed that he has cut a deal to reassess his truncated vice presidential ambition in 2019 and before he could do this, there must be a solid political base at home.
Having helped President Muhammadu Buhari come to power, he understandably sees himself as the de facto political leader of the South South region. This is why he was bent on planting his crony and loyalist as the governor of his home state, a state reputed to be the economic treasure base of not only the region but the entire nation. The calculation is simple, having a very juicy federal ministerial portfolio, it would have been a huge added advantage to have River state on his palm. This would have enabled him to lunch out and ‘annex’ neighbouring states for the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. He would have been able to wield such influence only attributable to Tinubu and this would have stood him in a better stead to bargain for something higher than a minister in 2019.
But with the nasty turn of events, the worst victim according to analysts is Amaechi. His inability to oust Wike through the courts means that the political structure he put on ground for eight years has come to naught. Amaechi’s political base has been obliterated and he has been incapacitated on many fronts. For instance, without extra money to maintain coterie of political hangers on, it would be difficult to retain their loyalty. Also, with probably no elected public office holder from Rivers State that owes allegiance to him, it would be very difficult to wield any political influence because politics is local.
And with no solid base at home, his hold at national politics will naturally wither just with passage of time. Ahead of 2019, he would not possess the clout he wielded in the last general election and therefore he is most likely to hold the shortest end of the political stick when it comes to 2019 calculation in the ruling APC.
Analysts believe that this latest development has somewhat finished Amaechi politically. Amaechi’s rise to political stardom has always been enhanced by the same powers that have now conspired to strip him of power. In 1999, the story had it that he could not on his own win a seat in the state house of assembly, until his political godfather, Dr Peter Odili gave him a push. He was also aided to become the speaker of the House for eight straight years, making him the longest serving speaker in Nigeria’s democratic history.
In 2007, same forces that consolidated his hold on the House of Assembly, made sure he had the governorship ticket of the PDP, which then was a sure way to victory. But there was a snag. The then President Olusegun Obasanjo intervened and snatched the ticked from Amaechi citing the K-Leg saga.
Fearing that the powers that be then would use the then Nuhu Ribadu led Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to hound him into detention, Amaechi was advised by the owners of power in the state to proceed on exile. He was on exile when six months after, the same forces that propped him up, used the courts to give him an unusual victory.
However, things started falling apart when he refused to heed Chinua Achebe’s advice that ‘those whose palm kernels are being cracked by benevolent spirits should not forget to be humble’. The realignment of forces against Amaechi is not very unusual to those who have followed Rivers politics. In essence, he was a stranger to the power base in the state and he has been effectively ousted despite his claims to a federal backing.
On the other hand, Wike and his group are the traditional holders of power in the state. The Supreme Court verdict has consolidated his hold on power. Governor Wike started out as a local government chairman of Obia Akpor local government, the largest local government in the state. In the turbulent years of Amaechi’s K-Leg saga, he stood firmly behind the former governor while in exile.
When Amaechi got his victory from the Supreme Court, Wike became his Chief of Staff. During the 2011 reelection campaign, Wike was the director general of Amaechi’s campaign organization. This got him a ministerial nomination from Amaechi. That was as far as the relationship got. The story of the cause of their bitter political rivalry has been told many times. But what you believe depends on who you are listening to.
Some Amaechi’s loyalists strongly believe that Wike turned back to bite the fingers that fed him, while some ardent Wike followers equally believe that Amaechi should be grateful to Wike for running around for him when he was in exile.
In all these, one thing is certain; Governor Wike seems to be having the upper hand as far as the Rivers State politics is concerned, at least at this moment. And this is good for him. With a huge financial war chest, the loyalty of all elected political office holders and the ears of influential elders in the state, Wike can wield enormous influence and determine who gets what in the state.
Also, he is to be looked up to for the revival of the fledgling PDP. The truth of the matter is that if the PDP is to be kept alive, such strong forces and voices like Wike cannot be discountenanced. He can be a rallying point to many other dispirited PDP members in the region, from where they could lunch out for better bargaining in 2019.
So far, he has shown magnanimity in victory by extending the olive branch to the APC gubernatorial candidate, Dr Peterside. In a statewide victory broadcast, the Rivers governor saluted the courage and doggedness of APC candidate and told him to come on board, for the overall development of the state.
“We salute Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside, my friend and APC governorship candidate, for his courage in fighting his cause to the end. Now that the battle is over, the interest of Rivers State should be primary in all our considerations and actions.
“The development of Rivers State is our primary responsibility as leaders. Accordingly, it is our pleasure to invite Dr. Dakuku Peterside and the entire APC followership to join us in the work of actualizing the aspirations of our people.
“The New Rivers Vision seeks a balanced development and enhanced quality of life for the present and future generations through responsive governance guided by the fear of God. I assure them that no one will be excluded from the governance process because, working together, we will certainly achieve more,” Wike said.
On his part, Peterside said he and his party have accepted the verdict of the Supreme Court and would now concentrate in being a very viable opposition.
“We shall do our best to work for the peace and development of Rivers State and all who reside in it. We shall creatively offer our help to Governor Nyesom Wike. We will provide a virile opposition, serving as a mirror for the conscience of government, in the interest of Rivers people. When encouragement is needed towards a just and proper course of dealings, we will offer our commendation to the government.
“Conversely, we will constructively express objection to policies and actions we consider inimical to the overall interest of Rivers people. It is our hope that Governor Wike and his team will appreciate the suggestions and proposals that would be made in the interest of Rivers people. If we sometimes sound strident, he should pay heed to the message of passionate and zealous Rivers people rather than dismiss the messenger.
“Although we have accepted the Supreme Court verdict, it would be remiss of me not to point out that this is also an opportunity for our people to engage in deep introspection on the electoral process.
“Beyond party affiliation, must we continue to allow the electoral process to be subject to the whims and caprices of anti-democratic elements, especially those who deploy personal militia to molest and even kill voters; those who hold the electoral umpire captive or compromised; and thus generally prevent electoral outcomes reflective of the will of the voters, as envisaged by law? It is understandable that an attitude of cynical expediency in some politicians may inevitably conclude that “the end justifies the means,” Peterside said.

READ ALSO  Reinstate deposed Uromi monarch, PDP urges Gov. Obaseki