Rivers State’s Governor Nyesom Wike and his predecessor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is still flexing political muscles for the soul of the state. Wike, however, is considered the current grandmaster in the ongoing political chess game for the control of Rivers.
Since he took over from Amaechi in 2015 in controversial circumstances, Wike has neither blinked nor slumbered in his orchestrated moves to keep his number one political foe in abeyance. He has adopted strategies to deflate the relevance of Amaechi and weaken his political structure in Rivers. He knows the weaknesses of his opponent and deliberately capitalises on them to keep him far away from the Rivers corridors of power.
For instance, Wike is believed to be the unseen hand behind the crisis that crashed the fortunes of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and humiliated Amaechi during the last general elections. The governor enjoyed every bit of the crisis as an internal crisis denied the party participation in that crucial poll.
Wike was said to have infiltrated the camp of his enemy by deploying various strategies to sustain the in-house fracas until the courts in series of judgments delisted the APC from the ballot. Therefore, Wike’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won all elective positions in the state with the governor retaining his seat for a second term.
Immediately he assumed office for a second term, the duo resumed their political rivalry. Since then, Wike and Amaechi have been attacking each other and fishing in each other’s ponds. As part of efforts to firm up their structures ahead of the next general elections in 2023, the two heavyweights of Rivers State politics have been receiving defectors.
In most cases, Amaechi is always the one to fire the first salvo. But Wike has a deliberate style to undo whatever his detractor does against his political empire and in most instances add something extra. Therefore, Amaechi, who is the Transport Minister, does not get away with any criticism against Wike. The governor must reply him and strive to have the last word on any matter of interest between them.
Recently, there were defections and counter defections in the state, as Wike and Amaechi tested their popularity. High profile politicians switched their camps from the PDP to the APC and vice versa. Amaechi first breezed in to receive some disgruntled members of the PDP, including former cabinet members of Wike.
Politicians who dumped Wike’s party for Amaechi’s APC were the immediate past Commissioner for Urban and Rural Planning, Reason Onya; former PDP Auditor and immediate past Commissioner for Agriculture, Charles Nwaorgu; former PDP stakeholder in Akulga, Austin Bob-Manuel and former Rivers State Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Joshua Worlu.
Others are Miebaka Nabiebu, Alaye Eremie, Asitoa Charles Horsfall, Emma Ajikeru, who was a former PDP state auditor; Ebelogu Chinasa-Sampson, Newton Gordon-Kpasa and the Head of Skill Development of the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency, Tamunotoye Luke.
Amaechi used the opportunity to throw some jibes at his successor. He attributed the rise in crimes in parts of the state to a high level of unemployment. The minister said as a governor, his administration established many agricultural programmes that created job opportunities for youths. But, he regretted that the current administration has destroyed the programmes.
He said: “Rivers State is in danger, completely. A state where properties are collected and somebody is busy building everywhere and nobody is talking. When I was governor, God knows, I did my best. I did not build only roads, I built schools; I built electricity and I built farms. I created employment. Rivers State was not among the highest unemployed community in Nigeria.
“Because I felt that you employed me. I was not your master; I was your servant. I was not a contractor. I paid contractors so that they can pay their workers and the money will circulate. The reason why crime is high in Rivers State is because of unemployment. That is the reason why we had the Songhai Farm. Today, the Songhai Farm is gone. That is why we had the Banana Farm that they stopped in Khana.
“That is why we had fish farms and that is why we were building a farm in Etche. We were doing all those things to create employment for the youths. That is why we hired 13,200 teachers and that is why we sent our children overseas to study.”
He alleged that the governor was acquiring the whole properties without considering the safety and welfare of the people. Amaechi, who is the APC leader in Rivers State encouraged members to mobilise people into the party, revalidate their membership to avoid infighting.
But, Wike immediately countered Amaechi’s criticisms, saying it was disingenuous for the minister to attribute insecurity in the state to unemployment. He asked: “Is unemployment fuelling insecurity in Kaduna, Plateau, Borno, Yobe, Ondo, Ebonyi, Imo, Niger states governed by the All Progressives Congress (APC)?”
He added: “Is he (Amaechi) trying to indict his boss, President Muhammad Buhari, who is the Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and who is constitutionally saddled with the responsibility to provide security for Nigerians. It is a well-known fact that Amaechi is the one who appoints every Commissioner of Police that has been posted to Rivers State since 2015. So, if there is any security failure, he is to blame.”
Wike said the minister was wrong to have criticised the curfew he imposed on the state to check the nefarious activities of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB). He said: “Perhaps, the minister is happy that members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) are killing innocent policemen, who were protecting lives and property. Is Amaechi happy that the weapons of the slain security personnel were carted away by the hoodlums? Amaechi, from all indication, has lost focus and is now frustrated.”
Reacting to an allegation by the minister that he was acquiring property in the state, the governor said it was better to acquire property in Nigeria than to do so in Ghana. Wike said Amaechi jubilation over the defection of his former Commissioner of Urban and Rural Planning, Reason Onya, who was indicted by a judicial commission of inquiry, was a pointer that he was politically irrelevant in Rivers.
A few weeks later, Wike took his dragnet to Amaechi’s pond and harvested disgruntled chieftains of the APC. He drew 11 notable politicians to the PDP. Those, who burnt their brooms and took shelter under the umbrella were the pioneer APC Chairman in Rivers State, Ikanya Davies; former National Assembly member and former acting chairman of APC, Igo Aguma; former APC local government leader Chief Ogbogbo Nnamdi; former Caretaker Chairman, APC, Isobo Jack and Chief Wisdom Wakama, popularly called Wizzy Waks.
Others were Alpine Whyte, Alamese Martins-Yellow, Ilamabo Mirilla, Faaye Franklin and Paul Nwankwoala, a former APC Legal Adviser.
Wike used the opportunity to attack Amaechi. He threatened to relinquish his position if the minister would name a federal project he attracted to the state since 2015. The governor also accused Amaechi of embezzling proceeds from the sales of the state aircraft and power stations when he was a governor.
The governor said Amaechi claimed he sold a Dash 8 aircraft purchased by former Governor Peter Odili administration to the Government of Cross River at the cost of $6million, but failed to account for the proceeds of the transaction.
The governor said the state government was able to trace the Dash 8 aircraft belonging to the state government to where Amaechi allegedly diverted it in 2012. Wike alleged that Amaechi’s reign in office as governor was characterised by financial malfeasance.
He further alleged that the $308million paid by Sahara Energy to acquire the state independent power projects was diverted by the minister. He said Amaechi spent $39.9million of state funds on non-existing Justice Karibi Whyte hospital in Port Harcourt.
The governor, who cited many projects he attracted to Rivers State while he was Minister of State for Education under former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. He challenged Amaechi to emulate him by reviving the moribund Port Harcourt seaports to create employment opportunities for Rivers’ youths.
Wike said that but for his intervention Onya, who recently defected to the APC would have been charged for murder following his indictment by a judicial panel of inquiry that investigated a multi-story building that collapsed in Port Harcourt and claimed many lives in 2018.
In his remarks, the State PDP chairman, Amb. Desmond Akawor said the defection of Dr. Ikanya, Aguma and others marked the formal interment of the opposition party in Rivers. Narrating his reason for leaving the APC, Ikanya explained that he could not with good conscience remain in a political party that was built on deception.
He said all the expectation that the APC will provide security, create employment opportunities and better lives of Nigerians had turned out to be a mirage. Ikanya said it was regrettable that the party had been hijacked by persons, who placed their personal interest far above the party.
He used the occasion to apologise to the governor and people of Rivers for introducing the APC to the state. On his part Aguma accused Amaechi of brainwashing him and others to join the APC. He called on the Attorney-General of the Federation to immediately investigate finance of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) between 2016 and 2019. Aguma also called for the prosecution of the minister for allegedly mismanaging over $317million spent on the 1.5km abandoned monorail project.
Obviously, the power and popularity contest between Wike and Amaechi will assume high intensity ahead of the 2023 general elections. The two are undoubtedly thinking of new strategies and tricks to deploy to win the contest. Indeed, anyone who blinks will be at the receiving end in 2023.