On Saturday, April 11, 2015, the people of Rivers State will march to the polls to elect a successor to Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who will be completing his eight years in office on May 29, 2015.
The battle now seems to be between Dr Dakuku Adol Peterside, a member of the House of Representatives and governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the ruling party in the state, and Chief Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike, a former minister of state for education and governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
However, Prince Tonye Princewill, the scion of the Kalabari monarch, King Theophilus Princewill, and governorship candidate of the Labour Party (LP), remains a strong contender in the race for the Brick House, the Rivers State Government’s seat of power.
It is no longer a secret that the outcome of the just-concluded Presidential elections, which saw President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the presidential candidate of the PDP, conceding defeat to his APC counterpart, General Muhammadu Buhari, may determine the outcome of the governorship election in the state.
Already, the two leading political parties in the state, the APC and the PDP, have changed their campaign slogans overnight in order to win the support of the people of the state ahead of the governorship elections.
While the leadership of the APC is insisting that the state cannot afford to be in the opposition, hence the need to vote the governorship candidate of the party, Peterside, who would have an unhindered access to the APC-led Presidency so as to attract development to the state, the leadership of the PDP believes that members of the APC worked against the interest of the Ijaw nation, leading to the defeat of Jonathan at the polls, hence the need to pay them back by voting against the APC.
Barely one week to the April 11 governorship elections in the state, the Ohaneze-Ndigbo, the apex-socio-cultural organisation of the Igbo people, said it has endorsed the APC governorship candidate and called on all Igbos resident in the state to vote for him.
The organisation, in a statement signed by its president in the state, Prince Igo Okparamma, said it strongly believes that it is only a Peterside-led administration that will protect the commercial and economic interests of Igbos residing in the state.
The statement reads, “The leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo and its affiliate bodies have decided to endorse Dr Dakuku Peterside, the governorship candidate of the APC. This decision is not based on personal consideration or gratifications, but rather, it is a fallout of a deep-rooted evaluation of the characters involved vis-a-vis the collection of Ndigbo’s commercial and economic aspirations in Rivers State.
“Ndigbo cannot sit on the fence while political issues that affect their livelihood is going on, hence the need to take a practical step.
“Based on the aforesaid, Ohaneze Ndigbo and its affiliate bodies hereby advise Ndigbo in Rivers State to vote for the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in this forthcoming 2015 governorship elections, as our in-depth investigation on his pedigree has proved that the candidate can be trusted to protect the economic and social welfare of Ndigbo.
“The leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo and its affiliate bodies equally use this opportunity to thank Ndigbo for their lawful conduct during this electioneering period and advise them to remain peaceful during and after the elections as politics and democracy are all about civilised interests.”
Less than 48 hours after Ohaneze Ndigbo announced its endorsement of Peterside, the Rivers Ijaw Peoples Forum (RIPF), one of the groups that championed the re-election bid of Jonathan in the state, urged the people of the state to vote for the governorship candidate of the PDP, Wike and his running mate, Dr (Mrs) Ipalibo Harry Banigo.
RIPF chairman, Chief Ferdinand Alabrabah, who made the call while speaking to newsmen in Port Harcourt, said the forum took the decision after observing the support and noble role played by Wike in ensuring that Jonathan was re-elected.
Alabrabah said, “Succeeding generations will judge kindly the noble role played by Chief Nyesom Wike, the leader of PDP in Rivers State, who when it became necessary to be our brother’s keeper, rose to the occasion, stood for our brother.”
While urging Rivers Ijaws to be vigilant and not be deceived by those whose actions were detrimental to the Ijaw interest, he said RIPF decided to support Wike in the governorship election because he had demonstrated the capacity to protect and promote the Ijaw interest.
To Chief Felix Obuah, the chairman of PDP in the state, Rivers people are one and must see themselves as such, if the full potential of the state must be realised for the benefit of the people.
Obuah, in an Easter message to the people of the state, urged them not to give in to deceit by those whom he described as “self-serving, betrayers of the Ijaws and Rivers people, and messengers of our oppressors who have disguised themselves in different attires to lead them astray.”
He called on the people of the state to come out en masse on April 11, to vote for the governorship candidate of the PDP, Wike, and all the PDP State House of Assembly candidates.
For Amaechi, who is also the director-general of the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation (APCPCO), what seems paramount to him is a peaceful atmosphere and conduct during the forthcoming elections in the state.
The governor, in a state-wide broadcast to the people of the state on Good Friday, urged the electorate in the state to vote candidates of the APC, pointing out that with the outcome of the presidential elections, the state cannot afford to be in opposition.
He said, “As a government, we have worked with you to make history in our state. We believe firmly in the resilient power of the people to determine what is best for them. Over the past eight years, we have worked hard to make this possible. On April 11, we have a choice to continue this progress or endanger it. We call on everyone to turn out on Saturday, April 11 to be counted as history makers.
“The Presidential election has come and gone and we are still united as a nation. Regrettably, we lost a number of our citizens to death as a result of unprovoked attacks. Some of our citizens have also been harassed, kidnapped, and thrown into detention on trumped up charges. My sympathy goes out to the families of all those who have lost their lives. I also want to reassure all those who are still in detention that the night may be long but dawn must come. Indeed, dawn is here.
“As we prepare for that election, we have a little time to reflect on the issues at stake. It must be about Rivers State. It must be about its progress and the prosperity of all who live here and are from here. It must be about development, good governance, peace and security. We need to stand firm as a people for what we believe in.
“Again, I call on the youths to resolve not to be instruments in the hands of politicians who don’t wish our people well. Those who divide and pitch us against ourselves are not of us; they are not our friends, they are our enemies and we must avoid them.
“We also sound a note of warning to those who have made the importation of violence with small arms and light weapons into Rivers State a trade to stand down on the weapons and on violence. Government owes its people a responsibility to protect their lives and property. We will not relinquish this right.
“We assure our people that their protection is paramount not just today but also during the elections of April 11. After you have cast your vote, you must remain at the polling station at a reasonable distance where you can see what is going on.”