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Rivers: Unceasing rivalry

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Just hours after he stepped into office, Governor Nyesom Wike has been fanning allegations against his predecessor, Rotimi Amaechi. For many it is no surprise, as it is a continuation of their old rivalry.

THE stage appears set for the mother of all political battles between the All Progressives Congress, APC and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Rivers State.

Wike and Amaechi

There are fears that the state which saw several acts of electoral violence prior to the 2015 general election may boil this time as a result of political differences between its leading political actors.

Even though both parties led by their governorship candidates signed a peace deal before the elections, the peace deal did not hold as many were killed or injured with houses burnt during the presidential and governorship elections with APC mostly affected.

Indeed, the victory of the PDP left the APC with no other option than to head to the tribunal to retrieve what the party termed “stolen mandate”.

With Governor Nyesom Wike piloting the affairs of the state and former Governor, Rotimi Amaechi most likely to play a vital role in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, an old rivalry will just be reignited.

Before Amaechi’s exit from office, several situations led the duo into pointing accusing fingers at one another. A situation many consider might further deepen the crises in the state.

Part of the crises includes arguments between Wike and Amaechi over the probe of Amaechi’s transactions in office, the setting up of a panel of inquiry into the election violence.

The PDP is also likely to approach the court in its effort to nullify the local government elections which were conducted towards the tail end of Amaechi’s administration.

These and many are likely to trigger another round of crises in Rivers State.

Panel of inquiry as a political tool

After the governorship elections in Rivers State, the former Governor, Rotimi Amaechi set up a panel of inquiry to look into the killings and destructions that took place during and after the elections.

The setting up of the panel was met with mixed feelings from indigenes of the state. For some, it was a welcome idea while some felt it was a political tool to fight Amaechi’s perceived enemies.

As this argument went on, PDP in Rivers State instituted a suit at the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt challenging the setting up of the panel.

The PDP claimed Governor Amaechi was not qualified to set up a commission of inquiry having been partisan and personally involved in the subject matter of the proposed inquiry of which he accused the PDP of masterminding.

However, Amaechi pointed out that the reason for setting up of the commission was to investigate why the victims were killed, who killed them, under what circumstances and that the commission was expected to make recommendations that would help government forestall future occurrences.

He said, “When I visited Obirikom in the Ogba/Egbeme/Ndoni Local Government Area, in the household of one late Chief Christopher Adube, nine persons were killed by assassins. Those killed were his three children, his younger brother, two gatemen and two other persons while two of the late Chief Adube’s children are still receiving treatment in an undisclosed hospital”.

Rivers’ election extensively disrupted

Elections might have come and gone, but the scars it left in the mind of many in Rivers State might not go away in a hurry. In several parts of the state, several people were hacked to death, some houses burnt while many perceived to be political opponents were either beaten up or kidnaped.

The outcome of the election has turned out to be a major argument between the supporters of both parties in the state. While the APC and election observers maintained that the elections were massively rigged, the PDP had maintained that the elections were free and fair.

According to a report by Stakeholder Democracy Network on Rivers governorship polls, the organisation described the Rivers election as the most extensively disrupted in the country.

According to the group, “Polls were canceled in local governments that totalled a population of at least 458,089 voters just under 20% of the voting population in the state. Violent incidents were reported throughout the day, the worst of which occurred in the morning of Saturday 11th, including several reported deaths and attacks on party representatives, journalists, and election officials.”:

APC clears 22 councils in Rivers polls

Another subject which is likely to become a subject of litigation is the just concluded local government elections.

The APC won in the 22 local government areas that were contested for in the local government elections held forcing the PDP to kick and reject the outcome.

The PDP, which had gone to court to challenge the council polls, had boycotted the elections claiming the timing was wrong and the process not transparent.

The PDP had approached a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt for an order to stop the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC) from releasing updated voters’ register to RSIEC for the conduct of the May 23 local government council elections in Rivers State.

However, Justice Lambo Akanbi adjourned the matter after hearing from counsel to Rivers State government and RSIEC, Beluolisa Nwofor, who informed the court that he had entered an appeal at the Court of Appeal challenging the jurisdiction of the court to handle the matter and the motion on notice to restrain further injunctions and/or proceedings on the matter.

While the arguments was still going on, Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC) issued Certificates of Return to the 22 local council chairmen elected on the platform of the APC during the last elections.

In reacting to the development, the State PDP chairman, Felix Obuah, has urged citizens to disregard the result of the polls which he likened to a charade and futile exercise. According to him, the action of RSIEC was “fraudulent, illegal and in flagrant disobedience of an order by a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt that status quo be maintained.

Probing Amaechi’s govt

Just few days to the end of Amaechi’s tenure as Governor the state, Nyesom Wike, who was still governor-elect then stated his government will probe Amaechi’s administration.

According to him, his administration will carry out a forensic audit of all government accounts.

Wike’s statement, however, did not go down well from Amaechi, who responded by saying that a thief could not say he was corrupt.

Amaechi during his birthday lecture in Port- Harcourt said, “I have been listening to Mr. Nyesom Wike and I have been trying not to reply him. He has been accusing me of corruption, and I have been trying to keep quiet over the issue of corruption. A thief cannot call me corrupt. The first lesson he needs to learn is that he was Chief of Staff to my government. If I have no records, I have records on him.”

Amaechi went further, “One way we succeeded in moving this state forward was that we refused to probe Dr. Peter Odili’s government, despite the pressure on me to probe Dr. Odili’s government, because at the end of the day, they will not ask me the number of persons I probed, but what I did while in government.”

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