By Davies Iheamnachor
WITH 12 months to the 2019 general elections, gladiators have electrified the political atmosphere in Rivers State, alerting residents that the polls would not be nothing less than ‘battle royal.’
The deep and unceasing rivalry between the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP and the main opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, has only helped to raise the ante.
Although, the gimmicks of the ‘political godfathers’ in the state are yet to be properly harnessed, their utterances and body language raise anxiety that the election, which may determine the political future of the main actors might turn body as they actors fight for political survival and relevance.
An indication of this is the recent organization of rallies and inauguration of support groups that would serve as foot soldiers in the election by the APC and PDP across the state.
Currently, three personalities who have emerged as the major masquerades that will shape the elections are Governor Nyesom Wike; Transportation Minister, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi; Senator Magnus Abe, APC Rivers South-East.
In readiness for the election, Amaechi has organized Free Rivers Initiative, Wike has revitalised his Grassroots Development Initiative, GDI, while Abe anchors his hope on a team branded as M30.
Though Wike has not officially declared his interest to re-contest, individuals, communities and groups have urged him to run for second tenure, even as his kinsman, Amaechi, who was his boss and now political rival has vowed that his ethnic group, Ikwerre, would not rule the state for 16 years at a go.
Amaechi had at a meeting in Port Harcourt with Ikwerre APC Chiefs and Elders’ Forum, IACEF, stated that it was wrong for Ikwerre to rule the state for the 16 years without allowing others to have a shot at the post. This was the same ideology that destroyed his relationship with Wike before the 2015 election.
Amaechi, at the meeting, noted that his ethnic nationality has the highest number of votes, stating that out of 2.5 million voting population in the state Ikwerre has 1.1 million voters.
He said he would rather use the advantage to install a governor preferably from the riverine areas of the state for the sake of equity and justice. He stated that he would not support Abe or any other candidate from the Ogoni nation, and he would not back anybody from his Ikwere clan.
Amaechi, spits fire, vow not to back Abe
In the 2015 general elections, Amaechi and his now supposed political rival, Abe, were in the same camp in the APC and it would be believed that Abe rode on the back of the Transportation minister to the National Assembly.
But two years later, both appear to be speaking from different camps in the same APC with Abe insisting that he must fly the party’s governorship flag in the 2019 election and Amaechi rebuffing such stand saying that he would never support Abe.
Amaechi, the leader of the APC in the South-South geopolitical zone, had at the meeting with party chiefs and elders vowed that he would not support Abe’s governorship ambition.
Denying the existence of two factions in Rivers APC, he added that the party has remained a united and viable opposition to the PDP in the state.
Noting that Abe has every right as a member of his party to contest in the election, he however stressed he would only back a riverine candidate.
His words: “There is no fight in the APC. I am not in any way stopping Abe from running for the governorship, but what I know is that I will not support him. Abe is daring me, an Ikwerre son. He is abusing me every day. I will ensure I use Ikwerre votes against him.
“When we finish with riverine areas, if Ogoni showed interest we will support them. I am not saying that Ogoni people do not have qualified persons. Before and even till date, in every field of study you must see a graduate from Ogoni even to the point of Ph.D. At the moment, we have not chosen a candidate only God will decide who will become the next governor.”
All Riverians must be given equal opportunity to contest — Abe
However, Abe has maintained that he will contest the election against Amaechi’s advice, noting that he has the right as a party member to run.
Abe noted that the people of state have a common destiny and heritage and should be given equal opportunity to rule the state.
Abe, who spoke during a victory thanksgiving/reception by federal and state lawmakers elected on the platform of the APC in the state, said only the people of the state have the right to determine who their leaders should be, stressing that the state must come first.
In the bid to achieve his ambition, Abe has aligned with key APC stalwarts in the state such as the members representing Eleme/Tai/Oyigbo, Khana/Gokana and Emohua/Ikwerre Federal Constituencies in the House of Representatives, Hon. Barry Mpigi, Hon. Maurice Pronen and Hon. Chidi Wihioka, and Tony Okocha among others.
Don’t jump the gun, Wike tells APC
Meanwhile, the Governor Wike has described the politics of the state as wrestling competition, charging the APC and other candidates to hold on for the challenge to start proper.
Wike, who spoke at the APC lawmakers’ thanksgiving said there was no need for people to start wrestling when the time has not come, stressing that anybody who starts now may lose the strength to sustain the fight.
He called on Rivers politicians and political office holders to always place the state first in all their dealings and ensure the rapid development of the state.
“The State should be the first to be considered at all times. The interest of the state is paramount. When we come together, all we should preach is how Rivers State should be the number one state in the country. When the time for wrestling comes we will wrestle. I am urging you to hold on, when it is set we will come out.
Saraki sue for peace in APC
Speaking on the issue, Senate President Bukola Saraki urged all the aggrieved members of the APC in Rivers State to reconcile with one another and embrace peace.
The Senate President stated that time has come for all APC members in Rivers State to forgive one another and work towards total reconciliation a.
He charged the Rivers APC Chairman, Dr. Davies Ibiamu Ikanya, to set the ball rolling by initiating a peace process to reconcile all the aggrieved members.
Saraki said: “We want all the APC members in Rivers State to call for peace and reconciliation. What is wrong is wrong. We want peace in Rivers State and we want peace to reign in the State chapter of the party.”
The Senate President commended Senator Abe for his humility and peaceful disposition, saying that the presence of senators and other personalities at the event is a clear testimony to Abe’s humility.
“The presence of senators from across the country as well as other dignitaries at the reception shows that Abe is a very humble person. Abe worked very hard for the party. If not for Magnus Abe somebody will not be in the cabinet today. You are a very loyal and courageous person,” he stressed.
APC’ll win Rivers in 2019 — Ikanya
On his part, Chief Davies Ikanya envisaged that the APC would attain success in the 2019 elections.
Ikanya noted that the APC remained one family, assuring that everybody would be given equal opportunity to contest in the election.
He urged party members not to quarrel, adding that when the process starts everybody would be allowed to get the form and contest under a free and fair atmosphere.