Wike’s decision to wrestle power from Amaechi came with a price; a price he (Wike) was ready to pay. For the new governor of Rivers state, it has been a long and tortuous journey to victory; victory he snatched from the jaws of the ‘Lion of the Niger Delta’ writes EMMA ALOZIE
For Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state, it has been a long and tortuous walk to Rivers Government House. He weathered many odds to win an election that his opponents are still kicking.
He could be described and rightly so as the governor with probably the most tortuous road to victory especially with a predecessor in office who wished him anything but success.
Wike’s battle for what has become a disputed electoral triumph started when he fell out with former Governor Chibuike Amaechi. A former chief of staff to Amaechi and a very close ally, the ensuing political war of attrition was expected to be bloody and bloody it was.
While Amaechi spared nothing to discredit Wike’s ambition, Wike left no weapon used in his arsenal to defend his ambition. Amaechi was once quoted to have said that he would never hand over to Wike and Wike on his own vowed to fight till victory was assured.
This perhaps heralded one of the most debilitating political struggles in the history of Rivers state that accounted for the death of at least 74 people, pre and post 2015 elections.
The All Progressives Congress, APC led by Amaechi has put the blames of the violence on the doorsteps of Wike’s Peoples Democratic Party, but Wike has vehemently refuted this calling on Amaechi as the chief security officer in the state when violence took place to account for the cause of the violence.
Wike’s struggles to succeed Amaechi as Rivers state governor has been described as fortuitous by close Wike’s aides who said that Wike initially did not set out to become the governor of Rivers state.
According to one of the governor’s aides, it was when Wike battled Amaechi to standstill and rescued the PDP that the elders of the party in the state prevailed on him to give it a shot. In the wisdom of Rivers PDP elders, if Wike could work so hard to keep the soul of the party alive in the state, then there should be a reward for him; and that should be the governorship ticket of the party.
It was at this point that the party threatened to disintegrate with permutations not favouring Wike’s emergence as the holder of PDP’s ticket. Followers of Rivers politics describe it as peculiar and perhaps unique. Whereas politics in many other states is played on the basis of three senatorial districts, in Rivers, it is played differently; on the basis of Riverrine and Upland.
There was a near unanimity of opinion that it was the turn of the riverrine people in Rivers to produce Amaechi’s successor as the both Dr Peter Odili and Amaechi are said to be from Upland. Many political heavyweights from the Riverine kicked, but many more elders of the PDP stuck to their guns; either Wike or nothing.
This no doubt heightened the tension in the state pre-election and the frosty relationship between the immediate past governor and the central government under former President Jonathan did not help the situation. Security agents became ignoble pawns in Rivers local politics and this accounted for high turnover of police commissioners in the state.
But for Wike, what mattered most in the midst of the turbulence was to wrestle power from Amaechi whose admirers call ‘the lion of Niger Delta politics.’ The more Wike fought to wrench power from the vice grip of Amaechi the more it became tougher and even bloodier.
Expectedly, with the conclusion of election brought more acrimony between Wike and former Governor Amaechi. Even while the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC had declared the PDP and Wike winners in the elections conducted in Rivers state, Amaechi vowed to fight on and Wike vowed o meet him at whatever point Amaechi desires.
Recently, in a church service to mark his 50th birthday, former Governor Amaechi told the Catholic Bishop of Port Harcourt Diocese, Most Rev. Camillus Etokudoh that there would be no forgiving Wike and stopped short of berating the Bishop for congratulating Governor Wike. “My Lordship talked about forgiveness. In the Catholic Church, you don’t oppose the views of your bishop. His words represents an order. If you oppose him, you may be barred from taking the Holy Communion. You are not a true Catholic if you don’t receive the Holy Communion. But Your Lordship, the same Catholic doctrine also states that justice comes before forgiveness. All those that were killed during the last general elections must get justice. Their families must get justice. Our party, the All Progressives Congress, must get justice first at the election petitions tribunal. Our mandate must be retrieved at the tribunal. I am surprised that My Lordship congratulated Nyesom Wike here today. I am using this opportunity to call on the Church to join the APC in praying to God so that we can reclaim our mandate. Reclaiming our mandate at the election petitions tribunal will represent a measure of justice. We must seek justice before reconciliation,” Amaechi said.
Since Wike was declared the winner of the April 11 governorship election, former Governor Amaechi had sought relentlessly to scuttle the swearing in. As at the last count, the former governor had approached at least three courts to stop Wike’s inauguration. The last was at a Federal High Court in Lagos. Justice Ibrahim Buba, while turning down the application, said granting such would amount to “adding insult upon the injury” of the people of Rivers State, who currently “have no judiciary.”
However, with all these distractions, Wike arrived at his destination; Rivers Government House and has hit the ground running, initiating the first populist programmes. He has since assuming office, unshackled the judiciary, which has been locked in the last one year. He has sworn in an acting chief judge and acting president of the customary court of appeal. He flagged off operation zero potholes in Port Harcourt city. He has recalled the sacked Rivers State University, who were sacked by Amaechi for embarking on strike and he has vowed not to let Rivers people down.
No doubt, since Governor Wike decided to contest for the governorship of Rivers state, he has never rested and from the look of things and the rot in the state, which the new governor keeps harping on, it seems rest will still be far from him.