At last, the 2019 governorship election in Rivers State has come to a close. Governor Nyesom Wike of the People’s Democratic Party has won with 886,264 of the votes cast, thereby giving him another four years at the helm of affairs there.
It would be an understatement to say that the successful closure has brought relief not only to the residents of Rivers State but also watchers and stakeholders around the world. Some would say, let “bygone be bygone.” Well, as nice as that sounds, failure to look at the salient lessons presented by the very tumult that characterised the entire election period could inadvertently lead to similar or worse situations in future.
It may not be necessary to give a chronicle of the ugly drama that surrounded the March 9 governorship poll here but suffice it to say that the state whose capital – Port Harcourt – is fondly called Garden City became everything antithetical to its appellation. Instead of roses, blood flowed. The state that hosts a chunk of Nigeria’s oil resources found itself in a bleeding mode, courtesy militants, kidnappers, thugs, cultists and other merchants of doom who were employed by selfish and power-hungry politicians.
The activities of some security agencies were also reported to have aggravated an already despondent picture, a feature some commentators argue was not present even during the 2015 election in the state when over 60 deaths were recorded.
The suggestion the other day by the Coordinator of Initiative for Credible Elections (ICE) and former President of Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Mr. LedumMitee, that INEC be made to publish names of the security personnel safeguarding the collation process represented the suspicion and apprehension of the people.
Before the collation of results that was suspended on March 10 resumed on April 2, pronouncements from some leading politicians did not help matters. Governor Wike did not hide his disdain for soldiers. He once said, “The only way we can have peaceful election is when the security agencies are neutral. The army snatched results and when the people resisted them, the army killed them. The violence was at the point of collation.”
On its part, the African Action Congress (AAC), the top contender for the Government House in Port Harcourt, announced its lack of confidence in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) thus: “We suspect that INEC might be working to surreptitiously bring in cooked up results to skew the balance of reality of things in favour of Nyesom Wike. We vehemently reject this and will resist it…”
What a way by a party seeking the control of a state to express its discontentment!
True, the atmosphere in Rivers was not completely hopeless. The results in 17 local governments, namely Ahoada East, Bonny, Akuku-Toru, Obio-Akpor, Ogba-Egbema-Ndoni, Omuma, Port Harcourt, Ikwerre, Emohua, Tai, Opobo-Nkoro, Andoni,Eleme, Etche, Ogu–Bolo, Oyigbo andOkrika were ready prior April 2.Only the ones from Ahoada West, Asari Toru, Degema, AbuaOdual, Khana and Gokana were being awaited.
Luckily, when the curtains were finally drawn, there were no more earthquakes as was anticipated and even prophesied in some quarters. This should be a good point of departure for all true lovers of peace. The sad cocktail of killings, abductions, shootings, bombings, injuries and destruction of property ought to be confined to history.
The battle-line drawn ostensibly between Wike and the Minister of Transportation and former Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, must not be allowed to persist. These two proverbial elephants should reach down into their souls and act as persons who know that its pull and objects notwithstanding, power is transient. Truth is, only a fraction of Nigerians can ever hope to become governors and ministers in their own lifetime.
Both men possess the capacity to lead their followers on the right path. And they must do just that if they have any regard for posterity. Somehow they will at some point down the line be forced to live with the consequences of their actions or inactions today. Having had a fair share of exalted positions both in Abuja and their home state, tomorrow will not spare them if they fail to sacrifice their selfish, narrow interests for the common good.
While there are several other opinion and political leaders in Rivers, these two clearly occupy prime positions in the estimation of the traumatised generality of the people of Rivers State. In the end, the true legacy of Amaechi and Wike, beyond infrastructural development, might just be the restoration of tranquility to a place once regarded as one of Nigeria’s most peaceful states.
Last week’s resolution of the logjam that had looked insurmountable should also calm the nerve of pessimists, skeptics and cynics. Those who believed that there was an all-knowing, all-conquering force in the Presidential Villa who pulled every string to decree victory to his puppets across the country must be having a rethink by now. Such persons were determined not to work with the president’s various assurances of non-interference.
Now that Wike, a well-known critic of the president and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), has clinched his victory against the odds, they should all work towards promoting intangible yet indispensible elements like peace, understanding and unity. Nobody truly gains from chaos, fear and avoidable deaths.
John Lennon, co-founder of the legendary Beatles, once declared: “When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you – pull your beard, flick your face – to make you fight.
“Because, once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humour.”
Political office holders, aspirants and other power players in Rivers and elsewhere need to imbibe this thought line fast. After all, nothing really lasts forever.
By Stanley Chidi Ebube
Ebube, a Public Affairs Analyst, writes from Abuja