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Nigeria: Rivers State Governorship election in 2011

By Jimitota Onoyume

UNLIKE many other states in the country where build up to the 2011 election has started gathering momentum Rivers State is different. There is no poster on any street in the state capital at the moment announcing aspiration to run for the governorship race next year. It is still not clear what could be responsible for this.

When Vanguard contacted chieftains of some of the political parties, including their governorship candidates in the last governorship election in the state, they said nobody had showed interest at all for the governorship election. Some said they were still watching political developments before they would make any move. The situation is not unusual in the state because in the last election most of the governorship candidates were not visible; they were only governorship candidates on INEC forms. They never really embarked on rallies and serious campaigns.

They only had a handful of posters which they pasted on PHCN poles close to their houses and at INEC secretariat. Nothing was heard about them. A political pundit said some of them only came up for the election to see what they could grab from INEC to support political parties in the election.

After the election, this set of governorship candidates were the first to rush to Government House to pledge their support for the declared winner. There was a second group that became active governorship candidates only at the election petition tribunal and after some time they too withered away.

In the ruling People’s Democratic Party in the state, there are overwhelming signs that Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi would run on the party’s platform as its governorship candidate in the coming election. Already the state House of Assembly has passed a vote of confidence on him and has even called on him to contest the election. 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.

The Speaker of the House, Hon Tonye Harry, said such session was an honour reserved for special former members of the House. Amaechi was a two time Speaker of the House before he became governor of the state. 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 moment nothing is showing that the governor would meet stiff opposition in picking his party’s ticket for the race. Because at the Special session of the state Assembly for the governor, the state Chairman of the party, Chief G.U Ake in a veiled comment called on Amaechi to run in the coming governorship election.

There may be no visible opposition within the party for now but it is not enough for Amaechi to go to sleep if he intends to run on the platform of his Peoples Democratic Party. This is because developments at the top hierarchy of the party should be of concern to him and his political team at the state level

The Reform group in PDP at the national level that has been behind some agitations at the national level of the party parade some of its key characters from the state. They include the former governor of the state, Dr Peter Odili, former Minister of Transport, Dr Abiye Sekibo, former Deputy Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Chief Austin Opara etc.

They fall into the group styled Abuja politicians. The foregoing coinage over time has come to be used to identify politicians residing at the federal capital territory that are opposed to the political leadership in their states. Political observers said since Amaechi came on board as governor via a Supreme Court verdict you could count how many times former governor Peter Odili had been to the state on private matters. Soon after the court deposed Celestine Omehia, he and some other top notchers of the party reportedly relocated to Abuja with Dr Peter Odili.

The former governor has also never featured in any state function in the state since Amaechi came on board. As if to confirm speculations that all is not well between the former governor and Amaechi, Dr Odili refused to appear in Port Harciurt before the defunct Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up by the state government when he was summoned.

According to Mr Chibuzor he does not expect governor Amaechi to go to bed till Election Day because a little sleep could cause surprises. He said the coming election in the state would determine who truly owns papas land. According to him, before now the likes of the late Marshal Harry and a few others determined who governed the state. It would have been easy to point at who calls the shots now but matters he argued became complex when the political structure of Dr Peter Odili caved in, giving birth to two very visible contending factions.

Philip who also spoke to the Vanguard said he did not foresee any serious contest in the state come 2011 because it requires more than commentaries in newspapers and electronic stations to give a sitting governor who knows what it is to wield power in a federation like Nigeria any serious fight.

The governor has endeared himself to the people in the provision of basic infrastructural projects like roads, schools, health centres etc. Also he surprised most Nigerians when he continued with inherited projects.

Politicians in the country more often than not abandon projects started by their predecessors even if they would serve the common good. On his part, Amaechi ensured all projects started by deposed governor Celestine Omehia and former governor Peter Odili enjoyed funding. And at several for a he had said that the projects were started by his predecessors and he only came in to complete them.

His effort at restoring peace in the state is hailed by the people. Though deposed governor Celestine Omehia started the process with the invitation of soldiers to take charge of internal security in the state, Amaechi consolidated the process.