As race for Brick House begins
Rivers State governorship battle has begun as more candidates show readiness to contest in the race to the Brick House in 2019.
Though no candidate within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has indicated interest to contest for the party’s ticket against Governor Nyesom Wike, but there are at least four All Progressives Congress (APC) who are interested in Wike’s seat.
While it can be said with a degree of confidence that the political environment at the moment favors the ruling PDP, it’s hard to predict that the election, like the previous ones, will not be marred by irregularities and violence. Furthermore, if the rhetoric of the gladiators is anything to go by, then, the 2019 governorship election in Rivers will be the most fiercely contested since 1999.
The gubernatorial aspirants include: the representative of Rivers East senatorial district in the senate, Senator Magnus Abe; oil business mogul, Tonye Cole; the Director General of Nigerian Maritime administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Dakuku Peterside and son of the founder of an indigenous oil company Moni Pulo Limited, Dumo Lulu-Briggs.
Governor Wike has persistently alleged that the federal government intends to use security agencies, particularly, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Police and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to manipulate the 2019 polls. The governor and PDP strategists have vowed to resist this move. Also, the APC strategists said they are determined to completely annihilate and erase every vestige of the PDP in Rivers State come 2019.
Expectedly, since December 2017, various ethnic and socio-political groups have been clamouring for Governor Wike to seek re-election next year. But the governor has hinged his acceptance of the numerous endorsements on the resolve of the people to defend their votes in 2019 if the APC attempts to use the instrumentality of state apparatus like the police and INEC to rig the election.
Wike, who for certain, is bound to be PDP’s sole candidate, will be relying on his achievements in three years to retain his position.
Despite dwindling revenue, the Wike’s administration said it has completed over 380 kilometers of roads, while work on other 350 kilometers of roads are ongoing throughout the State.
The government has listed several roads for dualisation and they are expected to be completed before the year ends.
They include: Sapkenwa – Bori road; Slaughter – Trans Amadi – Garrison road; Elelenwo – Akpajo road; Oil mill – Woji – Elelenwo – Akpajo road; Professor Tam David West (Obiriikwerre – Airport) road; and Andoni – Opobo (Unity) road. in addition to internal road network in Abonnema, AmadiAma, Okochiri, Elele, and isiokpo among others.
In addition, Wike administration said it has rehabilitated about 180 primary schools as well as remodeling and furnishing several secondary schools across the state.
Also, the governor said he is about to establish the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps to further enhance the security in the State. When fully established and operational, he hopes the corps will have the responsibility to collaborate with the security agencies to combat crime and cultism in the state
Beside Wike’s achievements, a political commentator, Alabo Ross George reckons that the governor’s formidable political machinery across the 23 Local Government Areas of the State will be difficult to be overrun by the opposition which already is in disarray.
“Wike is on ground and he is a strategist. He understands strategy. In Nigerian elections, the power structure actually matters, but you cannot downplay the importance for incumbency. Incumbency is a strong factor for a governor. Remember that governors who were incumbent under President Goodluck Jonathan were hard to push aside. That factor will work for Wike. He has the political network that even his opponents acknowledges,” he said.
Senator Magnus Abe:
The entry of Senator Magnus Abe, in the race has already stirred a political storm within the APC. The senator hails from Ogoni which happens to be one of the most major voting bloc in the state.
At a time when the APC had steadily lost ground in both federal and state elections in the State, Abe was able to galvanise other Ogoni politicians to retake all the elective national and state legislative seats from the PDP in the December 2016 legislative rerun polls.
Abe was elected under the platform of All Peoples Party (APP) into the Rivers State House of Assembly in 1999 where he served as the Minority Leader till 2003. After defecting to the PDP in 2003, he was appointed the State Commissioner for Information by then Governor Peter Odili. When Chibuike Amaechi became governor in 2007, Abe became Secretary to State Government. He became a senator in 2011 and served as the chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) and member Senate Committee on National Security and Intelligence.
The senator is considered by political pundits in Rivers State as the only APC governorship aspirant that can give Governor Wike a good fight at the polls.
Since the creation of Rivers State in 1967, Ogoni which is Rivers South East senatorial district has never produced a Rivers governor, deputy governor, speaker and chief judge. This will be a major selling point for Abe.
Amaechi is overtly and vehemently opposed to Abe’s ambition for attempting to question his political hegemony. Abe will however be relying on external powerful forces within the party to clinch the APC ticket. Should the APC deny him ticket, there is bound to be a political backlash because out of the over 2,537,320 registered voters in the State, the Ogoni axis accounts for more than 400,000 voters.
The oil magnate has been tipped as one of the persons Amaechi is considering to endorse as the APC attempts to truncate Governor Wike’s second term bid.
Cole is the son of former Nigeria Ambassador to Brazil, Dr. Patrick Dele Cole and he is of the Kalabari ethnic extraction.
Cole, who has never held an elective position before, founded the Sahara Energy Resource Limited in 1996 with his friends and became its Group Executive Director and co-founder.
Cole is also an active member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Advisory Council for Energy. Furthermore, in recognition of the role his company has played in shaping indigenous involvement in the African energy sector, Cole was appointed to the UN’s Sustainable Development Fund’s (SDG-F) private sector advisory group. He was appointed by his friend, then governor Amaechi as the chairman of the Greater Port Harcourt City Development Agency.
He has been tipped as one of Amaechi’s favorite, but he is seen by many as an outsider with no political profile or voting record in a crowded APC packed with candidates with elective experience. But, he will be entering the race with the huge trove of cash needed to finance and prosecute the election. He will also profit immensely from the agitation for power shift to the riverine area of the State. In addition, he will depend mainly on Amaechi’s political structure to wrest power from Wike.
Dumo Lulu Briggs:
Briggs is a lawyer cum businessman and former governorship aspirant under the PDP. But he is seeking to replace Governor Wike if he gets the APC ticket to which he defected in April 2017.
Dumo is the son of oil tycoon and National Vice Chairman, South-South of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the Second Republic, Chief Benson Lulu-Briggs. During the Goodluck Jonathan administration, he was the chairman, governing council, Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, and Board of Management, Federal Medical Centre, Owerri respectively.
Dumo is one of the proponents of power rotation from the upland to the riverine area of the State. Though he could easily mobilise money for the 2019, he is not considered a threat to Wike who has a formidable PDP bloc in his home base, Abonnema.
“Our founding fathers had devised an ingenious method that has worked well for us; that ensures that we live together harmoniously and so it is therefore noble that a notable personality from a major ethnic nationality; the Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality is saying that the governorship has resided in the upland since 1999 and he believes, he thinks, he wants and he is going to fight to ensure that it goes to the Riverine,” he said.
Dakuku Adolphus Peterside:
Peterside who was the APC governorship candidate in the 2015 and political protégée of Amaechi is widely speculated to be on the verge of resignation as NIMASA director general to contest the Rivers state governorship election.
He forayed into Rivers State mucky politics in 2002 when he was appointed chairman of Opobo-Nkoro council and then later Senior Special Assistant to Governor Odili on Works. When Amaechi became governor, the State Commissioner of works. In 2011, he was elected to represent Andoni/Opobo-Nkoro Area in the House of Representatives.
The NIMASA boss who had promised a more efficient and effective state government during his campaign in 2015, hopes to fare better in the 2019. Many within APC in State who have now aligned with Senator Abe feel he lacks the doggedness required to combat Wike at the polls. His greatest chance of actualizing his dream is hinged on Amaechi.