Rivers: The ‘Criers’ ‘Laughers’ of NASS Elections

The ‘losers’ and ‘winners’ of the April 9, 2011 National Assembly (NASS) elections in Rivers are crying and laughing respectively. The ‘losers’ hold the crying trophy, while the ‘winners’ hold the laughing trophy, with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) happy with the referee that said it won all.

Many of us had thought that the violent 2003 and 2007 elections would buildup to the 2011 elections, but the latter was rather peaceful, although not in the general sense of peace. We only enjoyed a peaceful atmosphere as was not experienced in the 2003 and 2007 elections as clashes of opposition parties didn’t make much news headlines.

During the elections in the state, many of us remembered that the amnesty programme, still holding, though not perfect, helped stemmed the then militants who would have made preys of people with their unwanted munitions. But instead of the militants this time, as was the case in 2003 and 2007 elections, what we have today are politicians that would rather die if they did not win the NASS elections, and they turned voting grounds to a party arena, as foods and drinks were served. And one wished that PDP was this benevolence in the area of governance in the country. Concerning this, it reveals that rehabilitation of Nigerian politicians in the psychiatric is begging.

The incumbent Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State was not running in the NASS elections, but he wanted his associates to succeed, and they succeeded. Therefore, this explicates the tussle even within the Rivers State chapter of the PDP primaries for the gubernatorial seat how really intense it was. Perhaps, it was so because candidate not elected at the primaries Amaechi won, may have wondered why he was substituted in the 2007 gubernatorial elections in Rivers State. Maybe, Amaechi now sees today as the pay back time, because the then president Olusegun Obasanjo didn’t want him. Eventually, the Supreme Court returned him, and the ‘criers’ in the NASS elections in the state might want Amaechi’s fate on Oct. 25 2007, played against the ‘laughers’, as many of them are threatening court action.

The NASS elections held in Rivers State context, where there was dissatisfaction within the Amaechi- led PDP? This has been raising tensions that led those whom the Party didn’t ‘want’ in the primaries to pitch their tents elsewhere. This was exactly how it happened in 2007, when Amaechi was substituted. Amaechi had his followers opposed to the choice of Celestine Omehia, the person who was used to substitute him.

When we thought that the tussles within the PDP in Rivers State would be reduced, it is skyrocketing with what played in the state’s PDP primaries. We saw Celestine Omehia joined, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), and Abiye Sekibo joined the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). The former governor, Peter Odili, whom anticipation was high would ‘disturb’ Amaechi, had steered clear of the Rivers State political scene.

But there was a belief that is hinged on the ‘Reform group in PDP’ at the national level as being behind some agitators at the national level of the party and parade some of its key characters from the state. Odili, Sekibo, Chief Austin Opara, former Deputy Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives etc. were included.

Many people hinged their views that these men can not cough, on the fact that Amaechi’s government has performed creditably well in the areas of education, infrastructure and health, without mentioning the fragile peace that had characterized the PDP in the state.

During the primaries of the state’s PDP, did we not hear allegations of imposition of candidates, and sometimes heard about attempted attacks on House of Representatives, Senatorial, and House of Assembly candidates then that were alleged were imposed? And one observer captured what played in the Amaechi-led PDP primaries thus: “You see, what raises the stakes in elections generally is when the incumbent is unpopular and wants to remain in power at all costs and you have a popular opposition that is coming out, that people want to rally around…”

Amaechi left the developments at the top hierarchy of the party as if they were not of concern to him and his political team at the state level. It was really skirmishes that led to one Roland Uwie, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Commissioner in Rivers State announced to the press at a briefing in the morning of Saturday, 21 April 2007 that Senatorial elections will not hold in Rivers State that day, and that there would not be elections in five Federal Constituencies.

The Senatorial districts then are: Rivers East, Rivers West and Rivers South-East. The Federal Constituencies are: Gokhana, Khana, Onelga, Asaritoru, and Phalga1. Roland Uwie, during his 10:00 AM briefing, told reporters that logos of some participating political parties did not appear on the ballot papers. The question today is, didn’t some logos of some participating political parties appear on the ballot papers?

However, we can remember that there was no poster on any street in the state capital at the early stage of the 2011 elections agitation by contenders, unlike in many other states in the country. This couldn’t have been done for the warning Amaechi strictly made at the early stage of his governance that those caught pasting posters and bills on the streets of Port Harcourt would be penalized.

But this took a swift turn the moment he announced his aspiration to run for the 2011 governorship race. It is still not clear what could be responsible for this madness in the rascal pasting of posters we saw in the streets of Port Harcourt, and the reason no one has been heard is begging for his or her release in the prison in respect to that.

Amaechi was a two time Speaker of the House before he became governor. He was also the founding Chairman of the Conference of Speakers, a position he held till he left as Speaker of the state House of Assembly. At the Special session of the state Assembly for the governor, we can remember the state Chairman of the party, Chief G.U Ake, in a veiled comment, called on Amaechi to run in the coming governorship election. The Speaker of the House, Hon. Tonye Harry, said such session was an honour reserved for special former members of the House. There was overwhelming vote of confidence on Amaechi passed by the House of Assembly, which even called on him to contest the election, when he was shrugging. This they did at a special session convened by the House to celebrate the governor on the occasion of his 45 birthday. The House hinged its action on the performance of the governor so far?

Notwithstanding, we are waiting for the weight of the styled Abuja politicians the remaining 2011 elections. ‘Abuja politicians’ is a coinage used to identify politicians residing at Abuja, the federal capital territory, that are opposed Amaechi: The state’s political leader. It is sad that since Amaechi mounted saddle, albeit, via a Supreme Court verdict, Odili’s visits to the state could counted. Odili has since then also never featured in any state function in the state.

At the bill up of the 2011 elections, many people had advised that Amaechi should not to go to bed till Election Day is over because, to them, a little sleep could cause surprises. But we can only determine who truly owns Rivers State, through free and fair elections, and not by rigging. Many of us were not in support of the likes of the late Marshal Harry and a few others who determined who governed the state, to the detriment of the people. Yours truly, however, will never put his head in these elections, because those called ‘criers’ in this article could be the first to rush to their ‘laughers’ to

pledge their support for being the declared winners. And we have seen people that became active governorship and NASS candidates only at the election petition tribunal, and after sometime, they too withered away.

Written by
Odimegwu Onwumere
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