By Charles Kumolu
THOUGH Nigeria’s electoral umpire, the Independent Electoral Commission of Nigeria, INEC, is yet to blow the whistle signaling the commencement of the 2015 governorship election in Rivers State, the political weight of the various gubernatorial aspirants in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has indicated that the race would not be bereft of damning surprises.
With the post-electioneering mood in the party, on its way to becoming tensed following the actions and inactions of some aspirants, many are not in doubt that the eventual outcome of the governorship primaries might make or mar the party in the state.
Those who have indicated interest to partake in the race on the PDP platform include Minister of State for Education Nyesom Nwike, Senator Lee Maeba, former Commissioner on the Board of the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission, RSIEC, Mr.Nimi Walson Jack and Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs.
Other names that have also emerged are the Deputy Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Mr. Leyii Kwanee, Mr. Bekinbo Dagogo-Jack, Prince Tonye Princewill and Mr. Emmanuel Georgewill.
Notable among the aspirants is Nwike whose rise to political stardom has been described as geometric.
While others interested in the position have not been too visible in their strides towards occupying the plum seat, Nwike’s ambition is an open secret.
Already, the Chairmen of the PDP in the 23 local government areas in the state have endorsed Nwike.
In a resolution signed by the 23 Chairmen, under the platform of the Forum of PDP Local Government Chairmen, Rivers State, the group, however, said it recognized the constitutional right of every qualified PDP member to contest the governorship and other primary elections in Rivers State.
They noted that special circumstances exists in Rivers caused by the fact that the PDP is not in power and if the party is to win the 2015 elections and take over the Government House, Port Harcourt, then the party must field the best and most competent governorship candidate, irrespective of where he hails from.
This move, which does not seem to have the approval of most party chieftains, who worked for the election of President Goodluck Jonathan, has corroborated the perception that he has hijacked the Chief Felix Obuah-led executive.
Also, the minister’s utterances lately, have not helped him either, as analysts find some of the statements in conflict with the collective goal of the national leadership of the party towards winning the election.
Wike had, while addressing newsmen recently at his Port-Harcourt residence, said that all the party’s governorship aspirants in the state put together cannot defeat him in their various wards.
He said: “I read a lot of things where people say it is our turn to produce a governor. Assuming what they are saying is correct, does is stop another person from running? What it means is that you should face the person in an election. That is the important thing. Most of them who say it is zoned to them, can they win in their local government areas?
”I can tell you that if I declare to run today, nobody, of all those that are clamouring that it is their turn, will win me in their wards. So, if you can’t win me in your ward, which person’s zone do you want to use to win the election? For example, in Ogoni where we have Tai, Khana, Gokana and Eleme, those who want to run under PDP, which of them can win me?
“Come to the riverine area, those who want to run there, I hear one Rtd Major Anyanya, which one? He won’t win me in his ward, if I want to run. Come to Opobo, who wants to run? Come to Bonny, who wants to run? Come to Akuku-Toru; I read yesterday Bekinbo Dagogo-Jack says he wants to run; Walson-Jack, Dumo Lulu-Briggs, Tonye Princewill, one Emmanuel Georgewill; which of them will beat me in their various wards if I want to run?”
He further said: ‘’This is my game; I have been chairman since 1999. There is nobody that I don’t know in the various wards. You know that I headed the campaign of Amaechi in 2011. Is there any ward, any local government that I cannot call the politicians in each of the wards? I am not talking about the local governments, in each of the wards”.
While the minister’s ambition is in line with his constitutional rights, it is the opinion of observers that being of the same Ikwere extraction with the incumbent Governor Rotimi Amaechi might affect the fortunes of the party ahead of the polls if he gets the PDP ticket.
Those who hold this view are not ignorant of the party’s statement that it had not zoned the governorship to any senatorial district, but the general clamour for power to shift to Ogoni land has put question mark on his aspiration.
A party member who spoke on the condition of anonymity said, “Wike’s desperate aspiration to succeed Amaechi in 2015 has divided the PDP in the state, forcing most chieftains and leading lights of the party in the state, including Senator Lee Maeba, Dr. former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo; former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Prince Chibudom Nwuche, and others to shun the activities of the party.”