By Gbenga Oke
Pre-May 29, 2007, former governor of Rivers State, Dr Peter Odili was unarguably the godfather of Rivers politics. His political wishes were political commands in the oil city.

Now things appear to have changed. That he is losing in grip of politics in Rivers is apparent.

He appears to have been caught by the norm in Nigerian politics where once a governor leaves office, all the advantages that come with that office begin to diminish.

Odili is said to have trained and groomed many loyalists including the incumbent Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, but for some time now he has decided to play his politics underground.

Known to be one of the foremost leaders of the Rivers Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and a force to be reckoned with in the build up to the 2007 presidential elections as he was widely seen as one of the influential presidential aspirants before he was allegedly asked to step down by the powers that be in Aso Rock.

After the 2007 presidential election which produced late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, he chose to play his politics underground. His efforts to remain relevant in the politics of Rivers state were stalled immediately the Supreme Court reinstated Governor Amaechi, in place of his favoured Celestine Omehia, as the authentic governorship candidate of the PDP in Rivers State.

Before Amaechi was denied the PDP ticket, he had been in the good books of Odili. He was a personal assistant to Odili when Odili served as deputy governor. They both served in government together between 1999 and 2007.

While Amaechi was the speaker of the House of Assembly, Odili was the governor and they worked closely till 2007 when Odili left the governorship seat and aspired for the presidency.

The first baptism of fire  received by Dr Odili after office was the division between him and Amaechi which polarised their camps. Some Odili loyalists were tagged ‘Abuja politicians’ and they alleged that Governor Amaechi was using the instrument of government against them.

On his part, Amaechi said the ‘Abuja politicians’ were making him enemy because he refused to share resources meant for the state with them.

The crises in the state further deepened when the Odili faction of the PDP decided to create a parallel PDP secretariat in the state, a situation which the state government vehemently opposed.

Members of the party involved in the act were charged to court by the state government, which claimed they were cultists and planning to destroy the state. The event that led to allegations and counter allegations between the two camps. Although, the case is still pending in court the crises still linger in both camps.

As if that was not enough, as the build up to the 2011 elections gather momentum, some Odili’s loyalists felt their leader took a wrong decision by openly supporting Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, who many of them felt is not an option for them.

Although it was speculated that Odili’s loyalists like former Minister of Transport, Dr Abiye Sekibo, Omehia and former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Austin Opara will eventually follow their leader, Odili, to his new camp, the reverse was the case.

Opara and Omehia have decided to pitch their tent with the campaign team of President Goodluck Jonathan, a situation which left other stakeholders in the Odili camp wondering the reason behind the division within their camp. At the rally put together by the South-South caucus of the PDP in Rivers State, Omehia and Opara openly endorsed President Jonathan for president.

And Omehia indirectly criticised his former boss for allowing Jonathan emerge as a Niger Delta leader. At the time Opara and Omehia were openly supporting Jonathan for president, it was widely believed that Odili’s strongest supporter and loyalist, Dr Abiye Sekibo would be with him in the Babangida organization.

However,  to the surprise of many, Sekibo neither joined the Jonathan camp nor the Babangida camp. Instead, he opted for the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in pursuit of his own political goal, a situation which some claimed has reduced the Odili camp to nothing.

In a recent interview, Sekibo denied ever leaving his long time friend and boss, Dr Odili. Instead he stated that he wished Odili would leave the PDP and join him in ACN claiming that the PDP had not treated Dr Odili fairly in the past years being a force behind the party since inception.

For both Opara and Omehia, they both believe it is the right time for them to individually take their destiny into their hands by forging ahead to support Jonathan for the presidency, although there are still issues to grind with Governor Amaechi back home.

As it is, Odili’s next political move is still uncertain but his supporters still believe that either way things turn out at the end of the day, Odili still remains a political force to reckon with both in Rivers State and Nigeria as a whole.

Observers felt his dwindling fortunes politically might crumble if at the end of the day Babangida loses out in the race for the 2011 presidential elections while some are of the opinion that he might eventually pitch his tent with Dr Sekibo if he eventually decides to run for the governorship race in Rivers State in 2011. How things will turn out for Odili still remains a mystery that will be unraveled with time.

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