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Rivers state endless bloody polls Featured

Saturday, 31 December 2016 00:00 Written by  Published in Politics Read 416 times
Rivers state election violence Rivers state election violence

The legendary Chinese leader and founder of modern China, Mao Tse-tung in a moment of political illumination postulated that war is politics with blood while politics is war without blood. But the people of Rivers state or better put, the political gladiators have proved the lie of that assertion.


In Rivers State, politics especially election is war with blood. And at the end of every poll, many families are bereaved, including the police and other security forces and with thousands in the hospital. It is the tragedy of the state that the political gladiators have descended to the bestial level of merchants of death all in the bid to get the mandate of the people.

The governorship election that threw up Nyesom Wike was so crisis prone that many people had to flee the state. At the end of that election, Wike was declared the winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The atmosphere was so tension soaked that the governorship election petition tribunal could not sit in Port Harcourt and had to be relocated to Abuja. At the end of the day, when the case reached the Supreme Court, the very apex court that gave nod for the relocation of the election petition tribunal ruled that Wike was validly elected by the people. However, the National Assembly elections were nullified at the Court of Appeal and so entered the era of re-run polls.


The December 2016 re-run polls saw the PDP getting two senatorial districts with the APC getting one. That did happen but the ugly specter of violence reared its head with the PDP and APC trading blames for that. And that is the result of the police probe into that polls and INEC’s nod to get to the root of the electoral violence. Speaking on the re-run polls, the INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu said that the body has two major clues about the electoral violence to aid the police probe and any INEC official found culpable shall face the wrath of the law.


This is how the INEC boss put the matter: “Somebody talked about a tape. I granted interview last week, that our investigation will reveal whatever transpired especially about what happened in the tape. It is curious that Etche was mentioned in the tape and that was the place where we couldn`t conclude and declare winners on December 10. So that is a very vital clue. We will leave no stone unturned in getting to the bottom of what happened in Rivers State and Etche in particular”. It is hoped that at the end of the probe, the culprits shall face the music so as to send a powerful message to merchants of death that elections should not be a do or die affair.


However, the Rivers State government is picking holes in the police probe, contending that Governor Wike never made any contact with INEC officials in person or by telephone. Speaking on the issue, the State Commissioner of Information, Dr Austin Tam George said the so-called audio recording was a fabrication of the APC. Said George: “We categorically deny these latest allegations as a sick fabrication, an outright lie. Governor Wike never made any contact with INEC officials in person or by telephone. It is the online propaganda bullhorn of the All Progressives Congress, APC. Their publications are typically false and the writers are professional hawkers of fiction. No one would have thought that the APC and its cowardly media allies would resort to an audio impersonation of Governor Nyesom Wike, using a voice changer technology”.


APC, on its part, said the defense of Wike was like blowing the wind and that the governor has been caught pants down. The Publicity Secretary of the Rivers APC, Mr Chris Finebone argued this line: “Having been caught in the web of their own machinations, what do you expect Governor Nyesom Wike and his commissioner to say? Often when anyone is caught pants down, the most convenient and ready response is to blame and blackmails others. The truth remains that Governor Wike in that Sahara Reporters audio tape was caught pants down and he simply cannot find where to hide... Governor Wike should think of a better response which we doubt he has because the audio recording is clear to everyone that it is the voice of the governor threatening to kill people. A threat that doesn`t come to us a surprise. Our only surprise is that after nearly two years in office, Governor Wike is still struggling with the indecorum of a street hustler”.


The truth of the matter is that both the PDP and APC cannot be speaking the truth as regards the Rivers State re-run polls and whether some INEC and security officials were compromised. One thing that stands clear is that the two parties cannot claim to be fighting for the interest of the electorate. Rather they are more enamoured with the control of political power and the economic windfall that comes with it. Despite the level of violence, Governor Wike is still beating the drums of war, boasting that that what happened in the re-run polls will not happen in 2019.


Listen to the threat of the governor about future polls: “What has happened today will not happen in 2019. Now they have told us, they will see that we will also be prepared. This will not happen again. I have told the security agencies you come and collect security money from me and use it against Rivers people. Enough is enough. We have no confidence in the army, we have no confidence in the police, and we have no confidence in the SSS. They have shown that there is no democracy in Nigeria.....Rivers people must work as brothers and sisters and defend our interests. We don`t have police, we don`t have army, but we have God. And so, we must put our house in order and be our own police, be our own army”. It is this kind of statement that gives the APC salvoes to accuse PDP and Wike of being behind the violence and death during the elections in the state.


And the APC chairman in Rivers State did not waste time to accuse the governor of turning the state into rivers of blood. Speaking on the endless violence in Rivers State, Chief Davies Ibiyamu Ikanya placed the blame on the doorstep of the governor. Listen to his sentiments: “You are also not ignorant of the inciting comments made by the governor, his charge to members of his party to resist arrest by security operatives, the threat to officials of INEC and security agents who fail to do the bidding of the PDP or even the threat to teeming supporters of APC who decide to come out and vote on election day. The governor did not stop there. On the eve of the last Saturday election, Governor Wike continued his ranting like a mad dog let loose with droplets of venom from his wagging tongue, threatened leaders of our party who came from far and wide to show solidarity with us. He threatened them to leave Rivers State hence they risk losing their lives....Rivers State which used to be the pride of the nation has now turned to a theatre of violence, filth and ridicule. Now, the state is referred to as Rivers of blood”.


The struggle for political supremacy between Chief Rotimi Amaechi and Governor Nyesom Wike has a long and interesting background. Wike used to be an aide to Amaechi as governor and decided to stab his master using the influence of the former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan. Maybe it is a law of retribution because Amaechi also stabbed his former master, Dr Peter Odili who as a governor brought Amaechi into political limelight by first making him an aide and later speaker of the state House of Assembly. It is yet another affirmation that politicians are not to be trusted as betrayal streak is embedded in their DNA. Beside these intrigues, the political reality is that the security forces should rein in the excesses of these two political gladiators and their foot soldiers so that instead of Rivers State to flow with blood, it should flow with milk of human kindness and those holding the electoral mandate of the people either at the state or federal level should dispense the dividends of democracy to the people. Any other route is one that leads to anarchy and bloodshed, a painful reminder of the immortal lines of Mao.



Ajalakpo Oweh

Ajalakpo Oweh, is a seasoned journalist who writes in from Delta state. He covers the southern sub-region of Nigeria for the magazine.

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