By Gbenga Oke
The race to succeed Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State would be defined by many factors. One notable factor would be zoning
AS preparations for the 2015 elections gather momentum, all eyes in Rivers State will be on the race to the Brick House, the Rivers State Government House. The political game-plan in the state seems to have taken a new dimension with the defection of Governor Rotimi Amaechi from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) coupled with the strong agitation by various ethnic diversities in the state to occupy the number one seat.
Rivers is seen by many political analysts as a state where no particular ethnic bloc has an overwhelming dominance and the zoning culture cannot be left out in order to accommodate the various ethnic groups.
However, the question on the lips of many today is which of the blocs should produce the next Governor of Rivers State come 2015 after Governor Amaechi must have completed his second term in office.
The state is geographically divided into two: Upland and Riverine. The upland consists of the Ikwerres, Ogonis, Ekpeyes, Ogbas, Ndonis and others, while the riverine people are the Kalabaris, Andonis, Opobos, Ibanis, Abuans, Oduals, Nkoros and several others.
Governor Amaechi, who is Ikwerre has openly come out to associate with the agitation for the governorship to go to the Riverirne divide after 16 straight years in the upland.
The Riverine people believe strongly that in the spirit of sportsmanship and fairness, they should be allowed to produce the governor in 2015.
Upland/Riverine power sharing
Since the creation of old Rivers state in 1967 and the new Rivers in 1996, the Upland seems to have had upper hand in running the affairs of the state and this seems not to augur well with the Riverine who are now determined to do everything humanly possible to ensure the pendulum swings their way in 2015. The Riverine argue that after Upland produced Dr Peter Odili and incumbent, Rotimi Amaechi, it will only be fair for the Riverine area to have a shot.
The Ijaws seem to be having a strong voice in their quest to occupy the Brick House come 2015. Their agitation is built on the fact that their Upland brothers have ruled the state for16 years and they should also be given the opportunity to govern the state.
According to Opunabo Inko Tariah, a journalist-turned politician and Charles Harry, an Ijaw activist, the politics of Rivers has been largely between the Upland and Riverine areas.
According to them, “The Upland, as presently constituted can be found in 14 or 15 Local Government Areas while the Ijaws/Riverine are in 10 LGAs including Port Harcourt, Abua-Odual, Akukutoru, Asaritoru, Degema, Bonny, Andoni, Okrika, Ogu-Bolo and Opobo-Nkoro, which have strong history of voting in one direction.
They further maintained that various Ijaw leaders from five other Niger/Delta states including Chief Edwin Clark, who has positioned himself as the conscience of Ijaw struggle have thrown their weight behind the move by Ijaws in Rivers State.
The belief that it is the turn of the Riverine people, and by extension, the Ijaws in Rivers State to produce the next governor has led to the emergence of several governorship aspirants from the area . Though some of the aspirants are considered serious and others pretenders, it is a matter of time before the real candidates will emerge.
Among the front-line Ijaw candidates in PDP are Chief Dumo Lulu Briggs; former Minister of Transport, Dr Abiye Sekibo; Prince Tonye Princewill; Senator George Sekibo; Engineer Emma Tubotamuno Georgewill; Faafaa Dan Princewill; Hon. Ibinabo Michael West; Nimi Walson-Jack; Lancelot Anyanya; Paworiso Samuel-Horsfall; and Prince Uche Secondus among many others.
APC presently has Rep. Dakuku Peterside of the House of Representatives.
The Ijaw for Governor crusade in Rivers State appears to be enjoying support among the people in the state and members of the political class think it will be politically suicidal for any party to field a candidate from the Upland axis.
Like the other Riverine areas, the Ogoni people are also leaving no stone unturned to ensure that they produce the next governor. The Ogonis are found in Khana, Gokana and Tai among other areas and they parade various aspirants like Senator Magnus Abe of APC, Senator Lee Maeba of the PDP and Prof Don Baridam.
The Ogoni, in recent times, have launched a serious campaign for the governorship slot and they have various groups like Ogoni Democratic Movement that are championing the cause to convince Rivers people and stakeholders that it is morally right to allow them produce the next governor in view of the marginalisation suffered by the area over the years and which also led to the death of Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa.
The argument by Ogoni is based on the fact that Ijaws in Rivers state have at least produced a governor in old Rivers state in the person of Chief Rufus Ada George while they have not produced any.
However, the Ijaws argued that Ogoni is one of the many ethnic groups that make up the geo-political mainland or Upland Rivers and so cannot of good conscience be asking for the governorship slot in 2015.
Speaking with Vanguard, an Ijaw activist, Alatuwo Charles Harry, described the Ogoni agitation as a one man dance with no support even in Ogoni land.
His words: “The Ogoni’s cannot be laying claim to the governorship slot because they are part of the Upland Rivers and so they have to wait till the slot returns to Upland”.
Ijaw activist, Asari Dokubo, has thrown his weight behind the Ogoni quest with the three aspirants of Ogoni extraction said to be positioning themselves to benefit from the Ogoni agitation.
Although many have argued that the current political tide in Rivers State does not favour the Ogoni nothing can however be taken for granted.
The Ikwerre factor
Despite Amaechi’s declaration that it will be unfair for another Ikwerre man to succeed him, some politicians of Ikwerre extraction are still championing the cause for an Ikwerre man to succeed Amaechi in 2015.
It is being said that those clamouring for another Ikwerre governor after Amaechi are those sympathetic to the aspiration of Minister of State for Education, Barr Nyesom Wike.
Spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers state, Mr Jerry Needam has always maintained that the party has not zoned any political office and zoning will limit options before Rivers people.
However, political analysts in the state have averred that the voters may not be favourably disposed to another Ikwere man as governor in 2015.
An activist, Mr Tanem Kiobel, described moves to by any other Ikwerre to occupy the governorship after eight years of Amaechi as a product of warped conscience which Rivers people will never accept.
Recently, Dumo Lulu-Briggs and Nimi Walson Jack at different fora maintained that nobody would take Rivers people for granted in a disgusting manner, adding that they had absolute faith that the PDP in the state would do the right thing at the right time.