By Bright West
The political permutation in Rivers State has taken a new dimension as the man who was believed to be the sole candidate of the PDP in the state, Nyeso Wike, has been abandoned by the group of former militant leaders and freedom fighters, in spite of allegations that several millions of naira had exchanged hands.
The former leaders of the militant groups in the state and beyond have decided to throw their weight behind their sons and daughters from the riverine extraction of the state. These include the likes of Ateke Tom. Sobomabo Jackrich a.k.a. Egberi Papa, Farah and Solomon Ndigbara who is from Ogoni.
Though Wike was said to have made several visits to Ateke in his country home in Okrika as well as to Egberi Papa, but the ex-militant leaders are said to have consistently told him their position as regards the issue of who succeeds Amaechi in 2015.
The most defiant of them is Ateke who was said to have declared his interest to also contest for the position when it became clear to him and his men that the major reason why Wike had fought Amaechi, his former boss, was to become the candidate for the PDP in the state during the forthcoming elections. Not even Wike’s effort to urge Abiye Sekibo to convince Ateke would deter the Okrika strong man who happens to hail from the same town with First Lady Patience Jonathan and is said to be very close to the President. Ateke was said to have declared his interest in the race because of Wike’s planned emergence.
On the other hand, Egberi Papa who is the leader of the Kengema Unity Forum, an umbrella body of Ijaws who are supporting the re-election of Jonathan; has also withdrawn his initial support for Wike. According to sources, Egberi Papa was only in alliance with Wike during the face-off between Amaechi and the Presidency. His Kengema Unity Forum had mobilized its members to protest the hijack of the PDP structure in the state by Wike and his Grass root Development Initiative, GDI. In a bid to assuage the KUF, it was alleged that the sum of N25million was given to the group.
But the alliance was short-lived as the KUF began to drum support for a governor of Ijaw extraction. Other groups within the Ijaw enclave began to team up with KUF, thus frustrating Wike’s ambition to succeed Amaechi. The Ijaws say it is irrational for Wike who is an Ikwerre man to succeed his fellow Ikwerre brother after they must have ruled the state for eight years. They also argue that former governor, Peter Odili who is also Upland had ruled for eight years and under the guise of power rotation among the Senatorial zones, went ahead to hand over power to the Ikwerres who are also Upland thus denying the Riverine people access to power for sixteen years since the present democratic dispensation.
Others who are aganst Wike’s ambition include Mujahid Asari Dokubo who has thrown his weight behind the clamour for power shift. In his case, he believes the Ogonis should be given a chance, a position which is also toed by Solomon Ndigbara. Solomon was said to have assured Wike that he would ensure that he has a free ride in Ogoniland. But since the news of Senator Lee Maeba’s intention to contest the exalted seat, Solomon is said to have made a u-turn, pitching his tent with Lee.
Farah who hails from Degema was said to have gotten the nod by the PDP state exco to contest the bye-election to replace the late Rt.Hon. Tonye Harry who was in the State House of Assembly before his demise. But with the turn of things, the ex-militants who are largely riverine are set to ensure that one of their own is elected as governor. There is no ex-militant leader from Wike’s ethnic group, Ikwerre. These freedom fighters also support their position when they argued that Wike’s Local Government, Obio/ Akpor was not part of the struggle in the days of militancy as they have no oil wells to protect.
But it is said that out of the 2.2 million registered voters in the state, the Ikwerres have about 1.1 million votes. The leaders of KUF say the votes said to belong to the Ikwerres include the riverine people who live and do business there while majority of the registered voters are non- indigenes particularly Igbos, Hausas and those from Akwa Ibom who also live and do business there.
This may finally draw the curtain on Wike’s journey to the Brick House as he is alleged to be making a detour to contest for the Senate. That may also prove abortive, as his Local Government, out of the eight that make up the Senatorial zone has taken a short before for four years when his former mentor, Sam Mbata was elected into the Senate.