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Kaduna and Rivers: A tale of two states

Dr Ugoji Egbujo

They are home to the two most important towns in Nigeria outside of Lagos: the headquarters of the Northern and Eastern regions.  They are a story of  a broken promise. Port Harcourt could have been a dazzling garden and port city. It was the place where tourism planned to meet business.  Kaduna represented power and hope. Now, it represents the North and its  baffling  retardation, retrogression. It hosts a multitude of educational institutions yet owns  a teeming population of  idle illiterate youths.

The two states  have never really lived unaccompanied by  upheavals. Kaduna convulsed before the war. Nzeogwu lived there.  Zango Kataf came to reveal Kaduna as the bed of an active  ethno-religious volcano. Sharia crisis  came with  seismic waves and reawakened anxieties. The herdsmen crises have left Kaduna moaning,  inflamed at its vulnerable joints. Port Harcourt saw the civil  war, first hand. And became the home of its eternal painful memory—‘abandoned properties.’ Later, Saro Wiwa came  with his MOSOP and sought redress for chronic injustice, and birthed a new consciousness. A new breed of ‘righteous’ violence.  Militancy later  took amnesty and cash, and  gave way to kidnapping and banditry. Rivers State was  once brought  down to its knees  by kidnapping. Port Harcourt  was made desolate. Militancy has subsided but its  depraved  grand children litter the state in cults and profuse  gangsterism.

Kaduna and Rivers switched  political parties and circumstances in 2015. They were however united in recruiting two temperamental governors. The politics in both states have been infected with bitterness, vitriol and sensationalism.  The governor in Rivers is the defacto head of the opposition. He dismantles and reconstitutes the leadership of the PDP in his bedroom.  The  fierce contest for the control of the state has not lost any inflammability. Between the governor and his former boss, the former governor, there are no rules of engagement.  The governor of Rivers rehabilitated  ex militants,  perhaps,  his bulwark against federal forces whose utility he is quite conversant with. Naked violence mediates elections in Rivers. Cults once got involved and heads of opposition  party officials were taken as trophies.

In Kaduna, the political  battle is more internecine but no less vicious. The governor has a small stature but the heart of a lion. The  senators representing the state want the governor out. The senators,  feeling alienated, tried to factionalize the ruling party in the state. The governor responded by bulldozing the putative secretariat of the breakaway group. The senators then sliced their nose to spite their face. They rejected an approved world bank loan for the state. An enraged governor questioned their ‘indigeneship’ and declared them  enemies of the people. Such incitement of the public against political  opponents is a trait he shares with the current governor of Rivers. The Rivers governor once brandished a machete gift. He said it would serve to contain his opponents.

The Kaduna senators must have learnt  self destructive vendetta from the current governor of Rivers. The current Rivers governor  who in concert with  a former President  stopped the rehabilitation works at the Port Harcourt airport. Port Harcourt Airport is the most important airport in the Niger Delta. The domestic wing of that airport came to be ranked as one of the worst airports in the world. The current Governor of Rivers and the then President stopped the work at the airport to politically  hurt the then Rivers Governor. But the blow landed on the economy of the state and the people.

The fortunes of both states, since 2015, however, have taken divergent trajectories. The governor of Kaduna is gifted with a reckless tongue and an abundance of indiscretions.  He is arrogant.  But he is industrious and innovative. He compensates what he lacks in political sensitivity with a penchant for bold  new  ideas. He knew lack of education would keep his state and the North backward. He did something new and radical. He sacked the bulk of the  indolent teachers. He didn’t mind the immediate personal  political costs.  He confronted the powerful teachers union and waged a battle against  uninformed public opinion. The governor of kaduna  has his weakness. And they showed in the handling of the shiites crisis and the herdsmen violence. But he championed the articulation of demands and  made recommendations for  devolution of power  for the ruling party.

The Rivers governor has been  active. But his politics is all brawn.  And bits of  ‘Father Christmas’ philanthropy. He  has not shown himself to be a man of new bold developmental initiatives. He has barked at the Federal Government at every opportunity but his state capital has been  covered in soot for over two years. He has an Environmental Protection Agency.  But that Agency stares at the Tsunami of soot blanketing Port Harcourt. He earns more money from the federation account than most states. The boys in the creeks who run the illegal refineries know him. But he wouldn’t take some initiatives to checkmate the scourge of kidnapping that once crippled  Rivers. The former governor of Rivers  had inherited a state enveloped by a dark cloud of  rampant kidnapping and  street violence. He secured a detachment of the federal police. He trained the policemen in foreign lands and equipped them beyond our standards. That police squad  came in with  modern methods and tactics and the criminals succumbed and surrendered the state back to the people.  Life was restored to Port Harcourt.

Education in Kaduna state is receiving  commendable  innovative attention. Education in Rivers is in a reverse gear.  The governor of Rivers has literally abandoned the  modern schools built by his predecessor to rot. The schools were  once the envy of the whole country.  But the state now has other priorities. These schools that bridged the gap between the poor and the rich have now been deemed too expensive to be maintained while the state governor services his ego. National politics is good.  But it can’t be played by governors at the expense of scholarship grants and maintenance of public  primary and secondary schools.

The political temperature of both states is feverish. But the governor of Kaduna had the foresight to champion the introduction of  electronic voting  in the country.  The state has conducted local government elections with significant transparency. The opposition won more seats than it could  have reasonably  hoped for. Rivers state earns much more than Kaduna. But since the current governor resumed, Rivers has not come up with any new ideas. The Rivers governor has no developmental ideas.

It’s exciting to have  a strong man governor. But it pays the people to be governed by a visionary, even a temperamental one.

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