*Theatre of war, deaths and terrible things
On Saturday, 10th December, 2016 Rivers state citizens went out to vote those who will occupy the State and National Assembly seats that were declared vacant by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The election is not really a contest between candidates nor a contest of ideas, but a contest between two power centres with well-defined spheres of influence battling for the soul of the state. One force is seeking to return itself to the old order, the other is simply trying to re-assert and perpetuate itself hence leading to an equilibrium.
Simply put, we have or are seeing a contest between two familiar foes in Rivers politics- Rt. Hon Rotimi Amaechi, the state’s immediate past Governor and Chief Nyelsom Wike, the present Governor of the state.
For those who know the exploits of these men, one thing is sure about both of them- they are accomplished politicians in their own rights. While Amaechi’s All Progressives Congress (APC) can boast of control of power from the centre in Abuja, Wike’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) enjoys the comfort of the oil-rich state of Rivers. While Amaechi is Minister of Transport, Wike is the Governor of the state.
Those who have been following Amaechi’s exploits recalls the many political battles he has won both within and without the state, including the 2014 House of Assembly drama in Port Harcourt. His admirers see him as a warrior, a survivor and “the Lion of Niger-Delta politics”.
On the other hand, Wike’s supporters see him as a winner having won all major election in the state since 2015. His supporters think, a contest between Wike and Amaechi on any given day, the former will come out tops in the state.
With this background, we can see that even though both warlords have their areas of strengths, there appear to be some obvious asymmetric electoral advantage to one side. In a South-South geo-political zone that is overwhelmingly pro-PDP, it is difficult to see how APC can make an inroad into its opposition’s stronghold.
There are those who will argue that recent gubernatorial elections in Ondo and Edo won by the APC could spill over into Rivers. There are some faults with this line of reasoning. First, even if Edo is geographically classified as South-South, it has historical affinity with the South West (the state was carved of the old Western Region). Second, Ondo cannot be politically classified as a PDP state under any metric given the fact that APC won several elections, including the 2015 presidential election in the state, even though a PDP administration was in Akure. Third, while this looks good for the APC, we need to state it clear that even in advanced democracies like the United States (US), political parties have their own “strongholds”. This is why the “Red states” and “Blue states” in the US used electorally to refer to Republican and Democratic Parties strongholds!
While, for the purpose of analysis, one may say the election will be tight because of the personalities involved, we think the PDP will carry the day on Saturday. The APC will have a herculean task of winning the Senatorial and House of Representatives by-elections, thought it may win some House of Assembly seats as compensation.
Olalekan Waheed ADIGUN is a political analyst and independent political strategist for wide range of individuals, organisations and campaigns. He is based in Lagos, Nigeria.