Who wins Rivers’ guber diadem?

...Wike-backed Sim Fubara, Amaechi’s Tonye Cole, Magnus Abe in battle of wits

The hour is here and only one candidate will win the Rivers State governorship election, no matter the noise, thunder and thunderstorms.

Political pundits in the oil-rich state think the odds favour Opobo-born Sim Fubara, simply because those rooting to stop the sitting governor, Nyesom Wike, from planting a successor have failed to do what keen opposition groups do – form an alliance.

The next may be APC’s Tonye Cole who has the full backing of former governor, Chibuike Amaechi, and Magnus Abe of SDP, who was Amaechi’s strong ally when Wike fell off and fell in with Goodluck Jonathan. Thus, the experts say: Sim, Cole, Abe.

Those who think its Sim say much as the anger of the Wike haters is palpable, their strategy seems to fall flat. They are divided into very strong camps and parties that may never move mountain.

Basically, analysts think the election in Rivers State is still in the political kitchen of Peter Odili who produced Chibuike Amaechi that gave birth to Wike. Now, Wike is determined to install Fubara, and the rest of the former cabinet is saying a vehement no.

Instead, the opposition has broken into APC (Tonye Cole) and SDP (Magnus Abe). These are seen as different fingers of the APC, including Dawari George of Action Alliance (AD).

Counting from the Kalabari groups that are believed to be the next to occupy the Government House, many other candidates are slicing away the votes.

Others still of the former APC block that are making waves in the race include Dawari George who is loved by many especially genuine Christians. Dumo Lulu-Briggs of Accord is believed to have a large following but he may only succeed in helping Fubara to win by chopping off a huge chunk of the Kalabari votes.

A dark horse in the race is said to be Labour Party’s Beatrice Itubo who ought to ride on the massive votes of the Obedients. Just as the Kalabari and Wike-haters votes would be shared into pieces, so would the Obidient votes be shared in Rivers State, thus failing to garner the 175,000 votes that Peter Obi got.

Many voters have insisted on EluuP all the way, but the state does not seem ripe for a female governor. Besides, the Wike haters do not seem to be in the mood to replace him with a woman, despite her clear programmes and impeccable plans for the civil service.

If character, mien, and trust were to be the only credentials, the voters would not have problems choosing George.

His father alone touched many lives as a school principal when integrity had meaning. The man was also chairman of the scholarship board who served as a private counsellor to many young scholars who are all important men today. George the son was known to broker peace in the APC until he was urged to get into the ring so that any day consensus was needed, he would simply be picked. George is no one’s enemy.

It is clear that what is at war in the state on Saturday are the forces of Wike (Sim) and those of Amaechi (Cole). Much, too, is at stake.

War without end

Beyond voting, each camp represents political death to the other, and much more. Wike and Amaechi may be kinsmen but the hate between them and the bile they pour on each other would never allow for reconciliation, peace, or sharing of booty. One must ‘die’ for the other to stand. It is that bad, said an insider of both.

Wike’s single dream seems to be for Amaechi to be disgraced into silence, or worse. Amaechi can align with the devil if that is what would make him crush Wike.

Besides, there are goodies. Whoever wins decides over 1000 appointments of his supporters into positions. He will control almost N500Bn annual budget for eight years (N4 trillion), and would control 23 local councils in the state including the richest LGA in Nigeria, Obio/Akpor, where Wike was chairman for two terms.

The winner may also recommend appointment of federal officers including ministers, and would not be arrested and prosecuted for financial sleaze. Wike wants to jail Amaechi for $50m state funds from sale of assets, Amaechi wants the EFCC to clamp in Wike for withdrawal of N117Bn. These are just the tip of the iceberg for each kingpin.

Read also: Rivers: APC, PDP allege plot to unleash violence on Saturday

That could explain why none is ready to give up the fight. Defeat may be jail or worse. Amaechi may have tried to use federal might to deal with Wike when he was ‘Buhari Pikin’ but President Muhammadu is said not to play ball. Bola Ahmed Tinubu who is seen as Wike’s strong pillar may not be that kind of president like Buhari. With Wike, they may fling Amaechi to Siberia or to a far worse destination.

Some of Amaechi’s allies that fled to Wike side hint at such prospects as reason for moving over.

Many say Sim is likely to win because he is backed by a man who has hardly lost an election: Wike won twice as LGA boss, backed Amaechi twice to win as governor, won his own twice as governor, backed Tinubu to win, and only lost when he backed Jonathan’s second term. Many say he knows how to win elections.

Tony Okocha, who was chief of staff to Amaechi and now close to Wike, said the sitting governor had always defeated the Amaechi forces and that if they jam 20 more times, that Wike would crush Amaechi. Though he is in APC, he is rooting for Wike’s Sim.

Wike is showing the signs of someone that will not hear about defeat. He seems to have rolled out the entire armoury for election; 200,000 polling unit assistants, unlimited financial war chest, men ready for anything, order upon order, and many more. This is more so in a state where gun speaks louder than votes.

The others are playing neat and safe, but Wike seems to be consummate. He openly boasts of how he has driven others underground and that if it is paining them, it is sweet to him.

Many may dislike Wike but translating it to votes may be difficult. The votes of the Wike haters may go to many candidates and thus may not form a force to dethrone the governor’s choice and form a force under one Cole or Lulu-Briggs or Itubo or Dawari.

Abe is a consummate politician with deep knowledge of the system but he seems to have picked many bullets along the battle line. He carries the Ogoni dream for a governor, but that alone may not be enough. His votes may only help Sim to win by subtracting from Cole’s. All the camps seem to know this too well but the craftsmanship of alliance and strategic integration seems to a scarce community within them.

Each seems prepared to fight to the lost end and maybe sneak back to Sim to seek subordination than seek a unified ticket that can win the seat. That, in itself, seems to suit Sim perfectly well.

Yet, elections are very unpredictable: Anybody can win, and many last minute factors can crop up and create a new king.

Skip to toolbar