By Stephen Ubanna
Nyesom Wike, a former minister of state, Education, under for President Goodluck Jonathan Administration and now governor of Rivers state may have finally settled the his scores with Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of the state and now minister of Transport, over who is in control of the affairs of the state with the conduct of the last Saturday, June 16, 2018, local government election . The Magazine learnt that Amaechi never showed up in PortHarcourt throughout the election period for fear of his life.
The Amaechi led All Progressive Congress, APC, in the state was said to have dragged t the State Independent Electoral Commission,SIEC, to Court, to stop the local government election but got it wrong. The leading opposition party in the state may have got it wrong as it could not carry the other parties along in the state in the legal tussle.
The fall out was that the Accord party and Independent Democrat , distance itself from the legal battle and applied to be joined in the suit. The case was made worse with the application of the ruling People’s Democratic party, PDP, in the state to be joined in the case.
The parties justification to participate in the election was based on the fact that they have Candidates for the various elective offices in the election and as a party had spent money for their Campaigns and did other things that were expected to be done to participate in the local government election. The parties were said to have told the Court that they opted to join in the case because any decision taken by it will directly and indirectly affect them.
The SIEC, may have gone ahead to conduct the June 16, 2018, local government election in the state as fixed as there was no words from the Court stopping it. The SIEC, may have gone ahead to conduct the election as planned because of the State House of Assembly amended the Law which allows the Commission to conduct elections as planned even if there is a matter against it in Court. The APC leadership in the state may not have known about this amendment before dragging the Commission to Court.
Perhaps, without the amendment of the Law last year by the Assembly, the APC could have had their way in Court to stop the election as the party had based their case on the alleged Law made by the Assembly on the conduct of local government election in the state when a matter is in Court.
Given that the case was already in Court, the APC, had boycotted the state organised local government election at the instance of Amaechi, the party leader . The APC leader , according to a source believes that whether his party participates or not in the election the ruling PDP, will still win the Chairmanship position of the 23 local governments area s in the state and all the Councillorship slots. Amaechi may have considered it a waste of funds and giving legitimacy to an election that was unacceptable to his party . His fears was right.
On Sunday, June 17, 2018, Chukwunenye Uriri, the Electoral Umpire in the state , officially released the local government election results showing that the PDP won the 23 local government Chairmanship positions in the state that was sluggled out by the 66 parties that participated in the election. Uriri confirmed that the APC and the Independent Democrats were the only parties that could not present Candidates for trhe election , described as one of the ”freest and fairest”, local government elections in Rivers state in the recent time. According to the SIEC boss, there was no ”violence in any of the local governments or loss of life as had characterised previous elections in the state. Many Political observers disclosed that the parties conducted themselves decently because of the several meetings with Zaki Ahmed, the state Commissioner of Police to be law abiding and eschew violence. He was said to have made it clear to the party leaders that armed police men have been deployed the local governments to maintain law and order and therefore , the Candidates have no reason to fear of intimidation by party thugs.
Wike may have sent a signal to Amaechi with the june 16,2018, local government election victory of the PDP in the state that Rivers state is completely under the control of PDP and not the APC, described as a stranger party in the state .
The governor may have used his legal knowledge to prove to the Rivers state born, minister of Transport and leader of APC in the state that he is no longer on ground to understands Rivers politics and therefore should remain Abuja with his political cohorts and keep away from the state.
The alleged participation of 66 out of the 68 functional political parties in the state was a big blow to the APC, legal battle against the state Electoral umpire and an indication of an endorsement of the June 16, 2018, SIEC organised Local government election in the state.
An elated Wike said the non participation of the Amaechi led APC in the state in the election helped to forestall a total breakdown law and order in the state as the” process was very peaceful”, meaning that the party was carved out for trouble.
The governor reportedly said that if Amaechi had allowed the APC to participate in the election, there could have been bloodsheds as t cultists would be hired by the party to disrupt the election by hijacking ballot boxes and other election materials. ”There was no report of hijacking of ballot boxes in any of the local governments”, he had said.
On Sunday, June 18, 2018,Chukwunenye Uriri, the SIEC, Chairman, released the local government elections result which clearly showed that the ruling PDP in the state won the 23 Chairmanship positions that was slugged out by the 66 political parties in the Council elections. Uriri confirmed that APC and the Independent Democrats were the two parties that did not present Candidates for the election. He corroborated the governor’s claim that the election was free and fair and devoid of violence which had characterised past elections in the state.
With the successful conduct of the local government election in the state without crisis, Wike has urged Muhammed Yakubu, a Professor and Chairman, Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, and the resident Electoral Commissioner in the state to take a cue from the SIEC to conduct a peaceful election in the state withoutcrisis. The governor insists that INEC has all that it takes to conduct a credible elections in the state if they could resist pressures from higher quarters in Abuja.
He explained that all the troubles that had occurred in INEC organised elections in the state in the past and now recent time was as a result of people lost of confidence in the ”ability of the Commission to do the right thing”. the governor disclosed that if the electoral umpire at the national level would not allow Abuja based politicians to use the Federal might to influence them , elections in the state will move on smoothly.
Many believe that the landslide victory of the ruling PDP in the state in the June 16, 2018, local government election was not unexpected. It has been the trend in other state organised Local government elections in the coutry. This is the party in power in the state ensures that all the Chairmanship and Councilor ship slots were won by it without conceding a seat to the opposition parties in the state.
political analysts believe that what has happened in the just concluded local election in Rivers sate was not different from what happened during the time of Amaechi as a PDP governor in the state before decamping to the APC in 2014. The PDP , under the leadership of Amaechi in the state had won the 23local governments in the state organised local election without conceding a Chairmanship position or a Councilorship seat to the then leading opposition party, ACN, in the state.
Given what obtains in state organised local government elections where the ruling party wins all the Local government Chairman ship positions without conceding one slot to the opposition parties, there have been intense pressures on INEC to take over the conduct of local government elections in the states to create a level playing field for participating parties.
the argument of those canvassing for INEC take- over of the conduct of local government elections was because it has the structure and total support of the security agencies to contain the activities of party thugs at voting centers.
Although, the ruling PDP in the state have won the 23 local government Chairmanship positions in the state, Amaechi appears to have set his eyes on the 2019 general elections where he intends to swing a surprise in the state by ensuring that the APC gain the upperhand in the 2019 general election. He is also working hard to see that Dakuku Peterside, Director General, Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, emerge as the next governor of the state on the ticket of the APC. How that would remain to be seen.