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RIVERS: It Is Fight To Finish

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THOUGH, there have been four governorship elections in Rivers State since 1999, the stakes in this week’s polls are higher for the two main political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The governing APC had suffered catastrophic setback in penultimate Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections in the State, which the PDP won. However, having shattered the veneer of political invincibility of the PDP at the presidential polls, it appears poised to retain the governorship position.

When PDP was declared the winner of all the three Senatorial and 13 House of Representatives seats in the March 28 elections, which the APC has described sham and marred by irregularities, many had assumed that this week’s governorship election will be a mere walkover for the party.

The crushing defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan, who with his wife, is perceived to be the godfather of the PDP governorship candidate, Mr. Nyesom Wike, may reverse PDP’s momentum.

The contest is clearly between the APC candidate, Dakuku Peterside, and Wike. Both have traversed the state to campaign on the same issues – job creation, security, infrastructural development, road construction, energy, law and order – that dominated the elections in the state and other parts of the country.

Having lost the presidency, there is increase pressure on PDP to win the governorship polls and a sizeable number of seats in the 32-member assembly, to avoid a total political eclipse in the state. However, APC’s state chairman, Davis Ikanya, has said the party has cut short its jubilation to face the battle of retaining Rivers governorship.

“We have, therefore, decided to move full blast with our Rivers Rescue Mission campaign designed to ensure the election of APC governorship candidate, Peterside, and 31 APC candidates for the State House of Assembly. If this task is not accomplished, Rivers is doomed.”

The fear of political oblivion and thought of playing second fiddle in Rivers politics makes the winning of the poll crucial for Wike and the PDP, which considers Rivers as one its bastion states. The PDP, through its chairman of Media and Publicity Committee, Emma Okah, has downplayed significant defeat in penultimate Saturday national election and has urged its members to vote in Wike and all its House of Assembly candidates.

“Every election is a contest and somebody must win or lose. Whatever our expectations may be, the most important thing is that PDP has shown that the party is on ground in Rivers State and will continue to dominate political activities in the state. Last Saturday, we won in Rivers State and on April 11, we will prove our strength further,” he said.

The PDP is likely not to repeat the ‘political earthquake’ it caused when it won all the National Assembly seats. The defeat of President Jonathan, who has largely backed Wike’s ambition, by the APC, should be a wake-up call to the PDP that they cannot take things for granted.

The deep public dissatisfaction caused by the PDP jettisoning the riverine and upland power rotation formula, might have adverse effect on its chances at the polls if the election is transparent. The riverine Ijaws people, who because of President Jonathan; have backed Wike, might swing their allegiance to Peterside, or the Labour Party governorship candidate, Tonye Princewill, who are their kinsmen.

Princewill had, during a recent governorship debate, attempted to define and draw a contrast between them and Wike, who some believe wants to foist Ikwerre hegemony on Rivers politics.

However, factors that will determine the outcome of the election are basically the transparency and neutrality of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and state apparatus like the police and the military.


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