After turbulent elections, Wike promises breath of fresh air
• Main Opposition Not Moved
After the turbulent 2019 general elections, which put a spotlight on the volatile nature of Rivers State politics, Governor Nyesom Wike, has pledged to constitute an inclusive government in his second term to douse political tension.
Wike, who was declared the winner of the governorship election 25 days ago by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), having polled a total 886, 264 out of the 1,123,840 valid vote cast, is yet to be congratulated by some notable contenders, including the runner up, African Action Congress candidate, Biokpomabo Awara, who scored 17, 3859.
It is expected that Wike’s extension of an olive branch to the opposition through the offer of an inclusive government will foster dialogue among the state’s hostile political elites and pave way for an end to the prevailing hostilities.
Rivers State has been grappling with political conflict since 2013, due to power tussle between Wike and his predecessor, Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, who is the leader of the main opposition, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state. Nothing depicts the volatility of their faceoff more than the 2019 elections, the sixth since 1999 that claimed over 40 lives and recorded the lowest turnout in 20 years.
The governor himself acknowledged in his broadcast after the elections that the current politics of acrimony have strayed from the noble path of the past. Consequently, he had appealed to APC and his former ally turned adversary, Amaechi, to join hands with his administration to move the state forward. He said leaders of the state couldn’t continue to remain divided and expect government to deliver on its responsibilities to the people.He promised that in his administration’s next dispensation, he would run an inclusive government, aimed at promoting the state’s development. Additionally, the governor said he would continue to do all humanly possible to ensure the unity and peaceful co-existence of all in the state, irrespective of political affiliation.
And to demonstrate this, the governor recently constituted multi-party committee to commence the transition into his second term. Some notable members of the opposition include Samuel Ihunwo, Suage Badey, former AAC Deputy governorship candidate, Akpo Bombar Yeeh, Marcus Nle Eji and Ayi Pepple, among others.
Gladded by his inclusion in the inauguration committee, Yeeh said he would bring his expertise as a former security officer to bear on collaboration with government and relevant stakeholders to ensure peace reigns supreme in the state.
A member of Senator Magnus Abe’s faction, Aye Pepple, who is a former state lawmaker for Bonny Constituency, said: “I want to thank God for the politics of inclusion spearheaded by His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike. We are critical stakeholders in the state, and it is time for us to join hands with the Governor to contribute our quota to the state’s development. Rivers State is a very peaceful state. The people must continue to ensure that there is peace by supporting the government of the day.”
Similarly, the Independent Democratic Party (IDP) governorship candidate, Samuel Ihunwo said Wike’s gesture to include over 20 members of opposition political parties in his second term inauguration demonstrated his willingness to work and serve the interest of Rivers people.
The governorship candidate of the Democratic People’s Party (DPP), Emmanuel Nwabriji, also promised to bring to bear his expertise to ensure that the state becomes a rallying point among comity of states.Judging by the reaction of some of these opposition members, it is understandable that Rivers people want calm and orderly governance after the turmoil that has characterised the past six years.
It is believed that an inclusive government featuring representatives of all of the main political parties might usher in a new era of peace in the polity.However, it is not clear if Amaechi’s faction will grab the bone being dangled by the Governor. Indeed, some even consider Wike’s gesture a bitter pill to swallow.Being a quintessential politician, Wike may have begun poaching the already disoriented opposition by what some perceive as mere cosmetic appointments.
A political observer, Julian Okara, told The Guardian that any smart governor could deploy the tactic of inclusive government as opium to indulge his opponents and render them docile.She said: “This is not the first time there has been talk about inclusive government in this state. Former Governors Peter Odili and Chibuike Amaechi included opposition members in their cabinets. But don’t be deceived, any incumbent will always secure key positions in government for his cronies, who will control relevant ministries. In this state, Odili’s opponents, who were vociferous against his government were brought in and they kept quiet, they are still around today.”
Another analyst, Barnabas Ibem, pointed out that it is becoming a norm globally for governments that want to avert distraction from the opposition to bring them on board under the guise of wanting to ensure diverse political views are reflected in the decision-making. Ibem said it was quite intriguing that Wike should single out Amaechi and APC to join hands with him to drive the state forward.He noted that while political gladiators may not be unopposed to exploring constructive ways to enhance political participation, any perceived ulterior motives could undermine whatever good was intended.
“I know an inclusive government usually becomes the norm in order to resolve political conflicts. I have no doubt in my mind that inclusivity will foist a new era of peace in the state and promote stability, better governance and economic advancement, which have since eluded Rivers State. We pray for sincerity on the governor’s part,” he said.
APC spokesperson, Chris Finebone, however said: “Our number one suspicion is that the motive is to pave way for those of them you saw as APC members who are in his committee. These are people who were already in PDP, but many of them were managing the process of moving over. So, I think what the governor did was in clear response to their dilemma to move to PDP, by creating a window that will enable that happen. You already have APC members whose names are on that list, which means they have already moved. So, the party regards them as PDP members.”
Finebone explained that APC would like to see a government that prioritises economic and social programmes, which will lead to job creation and good governance, and that the party does not intend to partake in the administration.
“Like our leader (Amaechi) said, we are given to good governance. We are for anything that will encourage and entrench good governance. It is beyond serving in any government. We need not serve in any government to help build democracy and entrench good governance. We don’t need to play politics of it to be able to contribute,” he said.
On the issue of reconciliation canvassed by the governor, the APC mouthpiece said there was need to first define areas of differences before anyone can work towards reconciliation.“Just like when discussing forgiveness; you have to also take into account the element of justice. It is not enough to say let us reconcile. What are we reconciling over? We need to know where everyone has gone wrong and how we intend to amend these areas. It is only after this you can talk of forgiveness. All these things are a process. Forgiveness is not an event, it is a process,” he said.
In cognisance that Wike is good steward of political power and might just disarm people with strategic generosity, while masking his real intentions, Finebone said APC was still skeptical about the governor’s sincerity. He was, however, emphatically that the party would not nominate persons for any political appointment in Wike’s government.
A social commentator, Mrs. Maureen Obulor, said while Wike, who undoubtedly benefitted from the crisis plaguing APC, might be willing to accommodate APC and other political parties, it was unclear to what extent the ruling clique in PDP will align with him.She advised opposition members already incorporated into some committees not to be too ecstatic. Rather, they should bring a breath of fresh air in the form of good governance to bear on the administration.
Obulor observed that most Rivers rural communities are being decimated by such social vices as cultism. She insisted that the opposition must exert pressure on government to focus on job creation; tackle criminal gangs unleashing a reign of terror from Ogba/ Egbema/ Ndoni to Andoni; from Abual-Odual to Ogoni; Emohua through Ikwerre and Degema.
She noted that though Wike may have enhanced infrastructure, but there still remained a lot to be done in the area of creating conducive environment for investments that will boost economic development.
She said: “2023 is around the corner. The political parties, especially APC, must put their houses in order, to prepare themselves as alternative government. Those that will benefit from the inclusive government must not see themselves as proxies.”
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