THE recently concluded Easter season witnessed unusual developments in the highly charged political atmosphere of Rivers State when the two main political “warlords” lifted what appeared as olive branches for the peaceful coexistence and development of the state.
On Wednesday, April 12, 2019, Governor Nyesom Wike and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2019 governorship election, made a public broadcast calling on the Minister of Transportation and leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, to join hands with him in developing the state. He made the call shortly after the Supreme Court struck out all three appeals pursuant to the 2019 electioneering process in the state.
To the pleasant surprise of observers of Rivers State politics, Amaechi also issued a similar message calling on all who lost elections in the state to be patient and prepare to try again in the future while urging them to “join hands in building the state, irrespective of their party affiliations”.
Already, there are encouraging signs that Amaechi’s supporters are warming to the positive development, with one of them, Senator Andrew Uchendu, suggesting that some programmes of the Amaechi regime which were abandoned, if restarted, would help accelerate the development of the state.
Since 1999, Rivers State politics has set an ugly track record of extreme violence, destruction and killings with even personnel of the Nigerian armed forces, the Police, armed hoodlums and militants featuring prominently. Rivers was specially marked as the foremost flashpoint state and it more than lived up to this unenviable billing during the just-concluded general elections.
The violence still went ahead in spite of a peace accord signed by the candidates of the governorship election. Rivers State recorded the most violent incidents during the general elections, with many people killed and armed personnel and hoodlums running riot in many parts of the state.
Although we are happy that this apparent thaw is beginning to develop between the warring camps, we wish this was the atmosphere during the campaigns and the election processes. If the political leaders had followed through the electioneering with the same pacifist attitude, so many lives needlessly lost could have been saved.
We hope the new atmosphere continues to prevail as in other states of the federation where election is not seen as war.
Elections are just the necessary bridges to cross to good governance. It is neither war nor a zero-sum, winner-takes-all game. Whoever wins, the state and its resources still belong to all its residents.
It is the patriotic burden of good leadership to carry everyone along, political affiliations notwithstanding.
We wish Rivers State lasting peace.