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Rivers 2019: Wike’s doubts, fears and hopes

My projects will count for me —Wike
Why he’s crying foul —Rivers APC

By Egufe Yafugborhi

By current permutations, intrigues and realities heralding the race for the 2019 governorship in Rivers state, incumbent Governor Nyesom Wike, should be under little or no pressure in his aspiration to notch a second term in office. This notion, by many watchers of the volatile politics of the state, was premised on the widening cracks created by the conflict of interest between Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe, in Rivers’ All Progressives Congress (APC), the only opposition against ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Paradoxically, Wike, in several fora, continued to express doubts and fears, not on perceived strength of the opposition, but rather on morbid distrust of critical stakeholders whose conduct and roles could make or mar the coming elections and impact on its results.

No confidence vote on INEC

In one expression of this apprehension, Governor Wike on February 21 passed a vote of no confidence on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, declaring that the body lacked the capacity to conduct credible elections. Wike, while hosting visiting German Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr Bernhard Shlagheck, at the Government House Port Harcourt, called on the International Community to closely monitor INEC during the 2019 elections.

The Governor of Rivers state, Wike

According to him, “INEC does not have the capacity to hold free and fair elections. Look at what happened in Kano State. INEC said it wanted to investigate the under-age voting that took place in Kano. Who gave the children the voters cards? We will not allow anyone to manipulate the electoral system of the country “. The governor equally alleged that the standoff in the National Assembly over the order of elections by the ruling All Progressives Congress, has revealed that the ruling party’s intention to manipulate the electoral process.

Reliance on wave of development projects

Before questioning credibility of INEC before the international community, Wike had satirically challenged the police not to rig the coming elections for him.

Speaking at a night of thanksgiving by the Rivers State Police Command, Wike warned security agencies against offering themselves as tools for election manipulation.

“I won’t tell you to rig elections for me. The projects I am doing across the state will count for me. I know people are waiting for you. When you want to rig, the only security I have are the people.

“I have projects spread everywhere. That is the sacrifice we have made. I am monitoring and inspecting projects everyday, because I will continue to build my friendship with the people”, he told the police and other security operatives on the occasion. The massive execution of projects across the state, he stressed, was intended to raise a generation of Rivers people who will defend their electoral mandate in 2019. “Whether you are wearing black or t-shirt, Rivers people will be there. Whether you come with armoured vehicles, Rivers people will be there. This time, you will see women. Let me see how you will kill them that day. I am recruiting Rivers people to protect democracy “, he further cautioned the police. He however pledged continued support for the Police and insisted that its officers and men must abide by the ethics of professional policing.

Condition for accepting wave of 2nd term endorsements

There have been assurances from the Rivers electorates who have endorsed his second term but Wike has also been cautious. From leading Rivers political leaders, outstanding professionals and business icons, monarchs and the masses as well as the non indigene community, endorsement and encomiums have not ceased but a cautious Wike said he would only be moved by their gesture when there was an assurance that those who were endorsing him would defend their votes in 2019.

At a Civic Reception in his honour by the Apara Kingdom in Port Harcourt, he told the Rivers people, “I will declare when you assure me you are ready to protect our votes. The way Nigeria is going today, the APC Federal Government is only prepared to write results, but this time, the results will write them.

“Even if there is fuel, there is no money to buy fuel. Dollar exchange to the naira has degenerated and prices of foodstuffs have gone beyond the reach of Nigerians. They deceived Nigerians with all kinds of lies, but today they are compounding the problems of the people.” Governor Wike said that he was developing Rivers State because he wanted to walk the streets after leaving office without being guarded by soldiers like those who failed the people.

Added motivation

If Wike has no faith in INEC, distrusts the police and is even mindful of the Rivers electorates towards 2019, he certainly is motivated and fired up to go into the race for a second term on the strength of the streaks of awards in this first tenure, the latest of honours being recognition as Silverbird’s Man of the Year 2017 and winning Sun Governor of the Year back to back. He is equally strengthened by perceived dismal performance of the ruling APC federal government.

At the Silverbird’s awards in Lagos penultimate weekend, Wike noted that, “As officeholders, we cannot credibly be our own judges. This role belongs to the people and the institutionalised mediums of accountability, to which the critical media is one. And so, I am incredibly honoured to receive this award, not just because of its reputation, but also because it represents the very ideals that motivate and sustain my interest in public service.

“We came into office at the most difficult period of our economic history. We could as well advance all sorts of excuses for non-performance as the current Federal Government is doing in justification of its colossal failure to deliver on its promises. But, we decided to be different and we’ve been quite different in our approach to governance. While we refused to be daunted by the level of rot we met, we also believed that promises are sacred and that with prudent and targeted management of available resources, we can deliver much more for our people.

“Today, the testimony is everywhere that in Rivers State where we govern, things are working and working very well for our people, especially in the area of road, education and healthcare infrastructures.

“And so, nothing can be as valuable and satisfying as a government when our modest efforts and achievements are objectively evaluated, benchmarked and publicly appreciated by the watchdogs of this nation.

“I thank every one, including the disorganized opposition in Rivers, for keeping us focused on our development agenda. But for your prayers, support and encouragement, we would not have come this far in addressing the challenges of our state in so short a period of time”

Why he’s crying foul—–Rivers APC

For Rivers APC however, Wike’s apprehension was borne out of fear that he doesn’t stand a chance under a level playing field. Chris Finebone, Publicity Secretary, Rivers APC said, “His (Wike’s) is a case of the guilty running when no one is pursuing. Wike as governor is a product of impunity of federal power. Wike took full advantage of the federal might of the Jonathan government in 2015. Security agencies solely worked for him and the PDP. Despite the outcome of the matter at the Supreme Court, we of the APC still believe that federal agencies, including INEC, aided the emergence of Wike as governor before, during and after the 2015 elections.

“Having enjoyed such impunity, Wike has developed this morbid fear that his past will replay and catch up with him. Unfortunately, no one can save him from such internalised fears because they come naturally. Come 2019, APC will take over Rivers Government House.”


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