It will be a day of reckoning for Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers State. On Saturday, February 25, 2023, it will be clear to everyone, if he is as powerful and influential as he has been professing. It will equally be clear if he has succeeded in confusing the electorate, especially those in the rural areas, who are not as literate as those in the township.
Wike has been in the eye of the storm of late. Yes, he is not contesting any election, but he has become a major issue, since after the PDP presidential primaries. He wants his way in the PDP, but the party has called his bluff.
He had boasted since last year, that he would announce to the country, who he would support and work for, in January this year. This is February and Wike has not got the courage to so do.
He is rather speaking through a very confusing body language. Right now, we do not know if he is supporting Bola Ahmed Tinubu or Peter Obi, for the presidential race.
He has received Obi a number of times in his palatial home and had promised him logistics support for the election. it is not clear how far he has gone with him on that.
Penultimate week, he hosted Tinubu, where he said he would neither work for or against him. So, it is difficult to know where he stands.
But what has become common knowledge is that he is not working for his party’s candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
But whether he is supporting Tinubu or Obi, it remains to be seen how he plans to garner votes for his choice candidate, especially with the signals that are already emerging.
The other day, market women spoke clearly to him, that they would support Obi and were not ready to be teleguided by anyone on who they would support.
Second, the National Assembly and presidential elections will hold same day. Wike has gone round the state canvassing votes for his choice NASS candidates in the PDP. Before now, his mantra was that the people should vote for all the PDP candidates who are contesting the February 25 election, that is, the senate and House of Reps elections. Then he would add that he would tell them later, which presidential candidate they should vote for. Till now, he has not told them who they should vote for. Which means even his core supporters, who cannot breathe without getting permission from him, will have the liberty to cast their vote for either Atiku or Tinubu or Obi.
But this is not even the major problem. The issue is what will happen in the villages, or how Wike plans to remote control all the voters in the state, to ensure that they do not vote for the PDP candidate, especially when the three elections are holding same day.
Or has Wike not given it a thought, that when voters collect the three ballot papers, there is a very high tendency that they may vote for the same party throughout? So, if an uninformed voter in the remote village of Ogoni, or Etche, or in the riverine communities of Bonny or Ngo who has become very used to the logo of the PDP decides to vote for the same logo all through, what will Wike do?
This is the dilemma and Wike may have shot himself in the foot by his braggadocios fight against his party. This is very likely to boost the chances of Atiku on that day. This aside, some voters may just cast sympathy votes for Atiku and his PDP, because of how the governor has handled the PDP fight, which many now see as a personal fight taken too far.
But Obi is equally doing well in his own right. The youths and women have shown the readiness to support Obi. Igbos at Ikoku, the spare parts market that Wike shut down for a yet-to be-identified buyer, may find it very comfortable to revenge and in turn consider Obi as their preferred choice.
So, Obi stands a better chance to win here, even though Tinubu will not go home empty handed. But what may work against him is the glaring lack of support from Chibuike Amaechi, a former governor and former governor, considered to be the leader of the APC in the state.
When Tinubu visited the state for his campaign last week, Amaechi was visibly absent. Apart from one state, Amaechi has not followed Tinubu to any of the campaign grounds. It does appear that he is still having bad belle for Tinubu, after he was defeated at the presidential primaries of the APC. So, can Tinubu really go very far in Rivers? It is doubtful.
Again, if it is true that Tinubu and Wike had got some secret pact, and if the prophecy of the renowned prophet, Primate Elijah Ayodele, spiritual head of INIR Evangelical Spiritual Church is anything to rely on, then it means that Tinubu would fail with distinction in Rivers State. Ayodele had predicted that any presidential candidate that Wike supports would fail.
Rivers South East Senatorial District
For the Rivers South East Senatorial District which covers Andoni, Eleme, Gokana, Khana, Opobo-Nkoro and Tai local government areas of the state, the incumbent, Barry Mpigi of the PDP will have to battle his re-election bid with candidates like Badey Suage Alex of Accord Party, Ngofa Oji Nyimenuate, APC, Fabreke Douglas Deeka, Labour Party, Nkekpo Leyira of National Rescue Movement, Gokana Geoffrey of Social Democratic Party, among others.
Being a candidate of the ruling party in the state, Mpigi appears very confident, coupled with his empowerment programmes such as capacity building for Rivers South-East youths in metal/wood work, 25 youths selected across the senatorial district, trained, certified and kitted, carried out in his constituency.
Mpigi appears to be close to the finishing line, following the accolades rained on him, but there are those who have faulted his representation and are of the view that he needs to give way for someone else.
In their opinion, Mpigi has done absolutely nothing in the areas of development, human capacity building. They claim that the senator is completely inaccessible and also has never lent his voice to support matters pertaining to the Ogoni clean-up.
For them, the only track record the senator has is that he is feared by many, which they claimed earned him the nickname ‘Don Jazzy.’
President of South South Youth Initiative, SSYI, Saviour Oscar Imeabe, an Ogoni son, is of the view that “Mpigi is not accessible and not also helping anybody in the Rivers South East Senatorial District. Developmentally, he has failed, human capacity building he has failed, legislature wise he has failed, in all ramifications, you cannot give him a pass mark in any way. Is such person(sic) supposed to return?
“You said 25 youths were selected across the senatorial district, trained, certified and kitted, as well as empowered. Let’s look at it from this perspective, 25 persons which I am saying there is nothing like 25 persons, but let’s just accept there is 25 persons, does it guarantee him to return back as a senator? No, he is a total failure.”
Apart from Saviour, an APC chieftain and ally of Amaechi, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze has equally advised Mpigi to stand down his ambition and give support to Ngofa to replace him, since he did not do well wjile on the seat.
In a statement made available to the media in Port Harcourt, Eze said Mpigi was hardly noticed in the senate and was too docile to represent a people as informed, enlightened and sophisticated as the Ogonis.
He said that the National Assembly election should be an opportunity for the people to deploy their ballots to correct the mistakes of the past by sending a man who is eminently qualified and adequately prepared for the legislative business in the collective interest of the people of Rivers Southeast.
“The Ogonis have suffered underrepresentation at the National Assembly in the hands of the PDP and it is good the people have come to terms with this reality. And with their solemn resolve, Ngofa will offer proper representation, such that will impact the people, particularly in areas where the attention of government is required to address their pressing needs.
“There could be no better option for Ogonis than sending this great son of ours on this serious mission of representation. Ngofa is an experienced global figure and Rivers South-East needs a vocal person who could deploy the wealth of intellect, administrative, political and global exposures to the work of a Senator and thus serve as a bridge between the highest government of the land and the people he represents”.
Despite these pockets of opposition, Mpigi is likely to win because of the PDP factor. It will be difficult for the PDP to lose this election. However, candidate for Accord, Badey Suage Alex is another strong contender. Suage is the son of late Chief Albert Badey, a former secretary to Rivers State Government, who was alongside, three prominent chiefs in Ogoni. The name is known to many Nigerians.
Aside his late father’s popularity, Suage was appointed a member of the governing board of Rivers State University of Science and Technology by the former governor, RT. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, also, the chairman, Rivers State chapter of the Action Congress. He is sometimes described as a crab that no one eats in the hideout.
Ngofa Oji Nyimenuate is another serious contender to look out for. He is Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Netherlands and an All Progressives Congress APC Senatorial candidate for Rivers South-East. A grassroots politician, a two-time local council chairman in the state and immediate past Deputy National Secretary of the APC, Ngofa is a close associate of both Magnus Abe of the SDP and former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. He is very likely to do well in the election.
Fabreke Douglas Deeka of the Labour Party, Nkekpo Leyira of National Rescue Movement and Gokana Geoffrey of Social Democratic Party are the other candidates to look out for. They have a section of the masses and the means to actualize their dream in this senatorial district, but it is doubtful if they can go very far.
Rivers East Senatorial District
George Thompson Sekibo of the PDP is the incumbent senator here, but he is not going for a re-election. With a projected population of over two million, the Rivers East Senatorial District covers Emohua, Etche, Ikwerre, Obio/Akpor, Ogu-Bolo, Okrika, Omuma and Port Harcourt Local Government Areas.
The battle, interestingly, will not be an easy one. The PDP candidate Allwell Onyesoh will have to prove his popularity against Ndubuisi Nwankwo Uzorje of the APC, Ikegwuru Solomon of Accord, Okwuwolu Wolu Benjamin of Labour Party, George Uloma of NRM, Nwankwo Sunday of SDP and the others. But the PDP is tipped to win here as well.
Some of the candidates for the Rivers West Senatorial District, in no particular order are, Obi Dennis Akukali of Accord, Asita Honourable O. of APC, Dikio Ezekiel Dixon of LP, Braide Ellis Oyiboya of NRM, Green Dagogo Ada and ofcourse, the current deputy governor of the state, Banigo Ipalibo Harry of the PDP among others.
Rivers West which covers Abua/Odual, Ahoada East, Ahoada West, Akuku Toru, Asari-Toru, Bonny, Degema, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government areas, has Betty Okagua Apiafi as the senator representing the district. But Apiafi is not in the race.
It is believed that the election will be between the deputy governor, Ipalibo and the immediate past chairman of the governing board at Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Osita, who resigned from the board to join the race. The duo will have to show their strength. Ordinarily, Asita is a stronger and more experienced politician than Ipalibo.
As deputy governor, she has always been in the background. Hardly has her voice been heard, except when she needs to do some eye service, complimentary media comments in favour of the governor. She does not have her own political face, but relies more on the influence of Wike. Two things may work for her-the PDP factor and the solidarity votes of women. Afterall women form the bulk of the voting population in any election and will want to support their own. Ipalibo of the PDP is tipped to win here.
Obio/Akpor Federal Constituency
The race is going to be largely between the PDP and APC, and in some places PDP and SDP.
Here, Kingsley Ogundu Chinda, is in the race for a re-election. It is the third time he is presenting himself for this election. He won twice and is likely to win this one again.
For those in the opposition, all the incumbent has to his credit is seasonal distribution of JAMB forms to some selected “praise singers” residing in areas under his jurisdiction. For them, he has benefitted enough for himself without making any impact.
These claims are contrary to the empowerment programmes reportedly carried out by Chinda, rehabilitation of All Saints Primary School, Rumuokwurusi, Obio/Akpor Shuttle Scheme, Training Empowerment scheme, Twin sex classroom block at Community primary school Rumuodamaya, among others.
Mr. Duru Ebube, a stakeholder, believes that the opposition parties in the state will put up a good fight to wrestle power from him, even though there are no clear indications that any of the candidates can match Chinda’s PDP.
Of all those in the opposition, only the candidates of the APC, Dike Chikordi David Ogwurie and that of the SDP, Boms King Tony appear ready for a bit of a contest. Ogwurie is likely to scratch Chinda but may not really do much because this is actually Wike’s enclave; Chinda is Wike’s representative in the lower chamber of the National Assembly and the governor will fight with his last blood, to secure victory for Chinda. And Amaechi, the APC leader in the state, is nowhere to be seen around as the election date inches closer.
Tony of the SDP may make a little impact, making some gains from Magnus Abe’s influence as gubernatorial candidate of the party. But he will not go far at all.
For Port Harcourt, Etche/Omuma, Khana/Gokana federal constituencies, PDP, APC and SDP candidates will have to put up a good fight for the seat but the PDP is tipped to win everywhere.