From the look of things, there is trouble, great trouble in the horizon in the South-South of the country and the government should rise up to nip, in the bud, the impending catastrophe that now stares the country in the face.
As the elections tribunals round off their activities across the country, many election results from the March 28, 2015 and April 11, 2015 elections have been thrown into the trash can. It is all over the country, but the unfolding scenario is more precarious in the South-South geo-political zone of the country, where, a fortnight ago, the tables turned against the governors of both Akwa Ibom and Rivers States.
In Akwa Ibom, the state’s election petition tribunal invalidated the election results in 18 out of the 31 Local Government Areas in the state. Four days later, it was the turn of Rivers State where the election petition tribunal sacked Nyesom Wike as the governor and called for fresh election within 90 days. A few days later, the Supreme Court dismissed the case filed by Wike against the sitting of the tribunal that had, four days earlier, issued him a red card. As if this was not enough, the Rivers Election Petition Tribunal also sent 19 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, who are mainly PDP members, packing.
In a month from now, precisely on December 5, 2015, election will take place in Bayelsa State where voters will elect a new governor. Seriake Dickson, the incumbent governor will slug it out with Timipre Sylva, a one-time governor of the state. While Dickson will be flying the PDP’s flag, Sylva will be flying the APC’s flag. It is not the first time both of them are going to the battlefield. Both are contesting for a second term as governor and they seem to have a balance of terror.
In all these elections, perhaps, it is the election that may come up in Rivers State that is most disturbing. First, Wike has gone to the Appeal Court to test the validity of the tribunal’s judgment. Assuming the Appeal Court upholds the judgment of the tribunal, the responsibility to decide who becomes governor between Nyesom Wike and Dakuku Peterside, will fall on the voters in the state. It will be the greatest fight ever between the PDP and the APC, the two political parties that are fiercely engaged in a supremacy war in the country.
For sixteen good years, 1999 to 2015, the PDP dominated the political scene, while the other parties miserably trailed behind. It took the amalgamation of at least four other political parties to dislodge the PDP from its stranglehold on the nation. As it is well known, Rivers State is one of the economic arteries of the country and so any party that controls the state automatically has access to its petro-dollars, notwithstanding the crumbling international oil prices.
At the moment, the killings and brigandage that attended the 2015 election in Rivers State is yet to abate. In most part of the state, people have been living in fear; the fear of the unknown. For instance, in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA) of Rivers State, widespread killing and destruction have become the order of the day since the beginning of the 2015 electioneering campaign.
The PDP’s loss of the presidency to the APC in the recent presidential election is one mystery that the party has found difficult to believe. And having lost the centre to the APC, the PDP would do anything to stave off a defeat by the APC in the coming election in Rivers. As a matter of fact, it is clear that neither the PDP nor the APC will let go, without giving a good fight. Already, the political scene in the state is very militarised and tense. And if the saying that when the going gets tough, only the toughest gets going is true, then Wike may as well have an edge over his opponent. Reason? Given the current political scenario in the state, only a politician that is rugged could withstand the prevailing political climate in the state. This is because it seems elections in Nigeria are only meant for those who can dare.
At the moment, the killings and brigandage that attended the 2015 election in Rivers State is yet to abate. In most part of the state, people have been living in fear; the fear of the unknown. For instance, in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA) of Rivers State, widespread killing and destruction have become the order of the day since the beginning of the 2015 electioneering campaign. It is believed that the killings are perpetrated by some misguided elements within the communities, but no one is bold enough to come up with any clue and the security agents in the state are carrying on as if nothing is happening at all. The same thing is happening in Ahoada East, Ahoada West and Abua/Odual Local Government Areas, the four Local Governments that made up the former Ahoada Local Government Area (ALGA).
It is obvious that what is happening in these local governments is worse than the Boko Haram episode in some parts of North-Eastern Nigeria. Just about a few weeks ago, the elders of Akabuka, one of the communities in Egi Clan of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area, met and a suggestion was made that they should go and talk to their children to stop the incessant killings, kidnappings and looting. That night the hoodlums broke into one of the old men’s house and killed him. They further demanded that the immediate younger brother of the deceased should pay them a ransom or face the same fate. It is estimated that no fewer than one hundred persons have been gruesomely dispatched to the great beyond in the area since the outbreak of the violence. The most astonishing thing is that the killers are faceless and nobody seems to care, not even the security agencies.
Worst affected by the ongoing silent killings and destruction is Omoku, the headquarters of the local government where all the houses are almost empty as most of the residents have voted with their feet to avoid impending gruesome deaths in the hands of these roving merchants of death. In Omoku today, or in any other part of that local government, it has become almost a taboo for anybody to operate an electricity generator as the sound of any generator at all is an indirect invitation to death. In the past, Omoku was a bubbling commercial and industrial town, next only to Port Harcourt in terms of business opportunities. This was where most of the oil workers working with Total and Agip Oil companies operating in the area resided.
From the prevailing scenario painted above, there is no doubt that people may have to vote with bullets rather than their thumbs if an election comes up in the state any time soon. That is the danger in having a rerun election in that state. I do not think the situation will be anything different in Bayelsa State in the election slated for December 5. The two states – Rivers and Bayelsa – have been known to be the hotbed of militancy and electoral violence for quite a long time.
As a result of the disturbances, all the workers have relocated to Port Harcourt, Owerri, Benin City and other places where their safety could be guaranteed. Even those who have no jobs have deserted the areas for fear of losing their lives. At a point, the authorities of the Federal College of Education, Omoku and the Community Secondary School, Erema, had to forcibly close down when some unknown people came to demand for some money for settlement with the threat that if their demand was not met, they wold resort to kidnapping the students and teachers. Since there was no money to pay to the faceless people, the schools promptly closed down to avert any ugly developments.
With a situation such as this, who can guarantee a free and fair election in Rivers State? From the prevailing scenario painted above, there is no doubt that people may have to vote with bullets rather than their thumbs if an election comes up in the state any time soon. That is the danger in having a rerun election in that state. I do not think the situation will be anything different in Bayelsa State in the election slated for December 5. The two states – Rivers and Bayelsa – have been known to be the hotbed of militancy and electoral violence for quite a long time. The same thing goes for Akwa Ibom State where the politicians may resort to violence to undo one another.
From the look of things, there is trouble, great trouble, in the horizon in the South-South of the country and the government should rise up to nip, in the bud, the impending catastrophe that now stares the country in the face. Concluded.
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