Editorial: The race for the governor of Rivers State has begun. Are you ready?

Nyesom Wike, the Rivers State Governor – his supporters and opponents – take special delights in hurling insults at one another. Politicians in the state regularly engage in verbal vitriolic exercise, including elaborate spending of public funds to inflict all manner of political injuries on opponents.

The latest on the list is Wike’s erstwhile commissioner for information. In his OP-ED, Austin Tam-George had referred to his former boss as a “knife-wielding alcoholic and hectoring despot”. In arguing a case on why the candidacy of Tonye Cole should be supported by all men of good conscience, the former commissioner painted his former boss and party in red. Four years ago, Mr. Tam-George was one of the persons who helped propel Wike to power.

But Wike takes no prisoners. It was at an honorarium by the Rivers State Professionals at the government house where the governor performed some of his recent and perhaps, worst verbal gymnastics. The group had come together to ask the governor to run for another term in office. The tiny hall on the west-wing of the government house was packed to the brim by expectant faces; some of which were members of the Rivers State Executive Council.

Enemi Alabo-George, suited in his best, had outlined the usefulness of the visit and why it is pertinent for the governor to run for another term in office. The governor, just minutes before, had walked into the hall to a thunderous cheer. He scanned the hall and declared to all that cared to listen that the All Progressive Congress has no platform in the state to dethrone him. The governor took several swipes at the Economic and Finacial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the security agencies. He seemed to be in tune with his problems, some of which have gifted the governor sleeplessness nights. Yet in the midst of all the politicking, governance suffers.

Many of the journalist and social media influencers that projected images of politicians in 2015 are again seen hunting for candidates through the front pages of national dailies and social media platforms. The stories are as vain as the pockets of the big men they serve. Some journalists are now working for the very people they sought to diminish the last time.

Their work is hard no matter who their sponsors are. Starting with Nyesom wike who faces a strong opposition to his re-election bid. His supporters are quick to dismiss the ruling APC as an easy nut to crack but the voters are sad and angry that there has been a rapid increase in criminality and unemployment in the state.

Governance in Rivers State is disorganized yet politics is thriving. Politicians are fond of diverting monies made for people-oriented projects into election funding. The outcome has been the heightening level of unemployment, youth restiveness, and general criminality. In an online survey conducted by @Sellitph, many of the respondents identified insecurity as a major issue in Rivers state.

But Wike’s chances are slim, not because he spent a better part of the year commissioning projects but for the fact that unemployment in the state is on the rooftop with the state ranking highest in the country. Businesses are closing and companies folding up, some due largely to the economic policies of the Buhari-led administration that has left the economy in tatters but many are leaving due to a general rise in insecurity in the state.

However, If Nyesom Wike’s chances are slim, his closest rivals are even harder to sell as their party has spent the better part of the year in shambles with several court cases to its name.

The anointment of Tonye Cole weeks ago by the leader of the party and current minister of transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, had left many of their chieftains and supporters grumbling. Amaechi is struggling to become the latest kingmaker and political godfather having failed to install his protege, Dakuku Peterside, in 2015. Cole, a billionaire oil mogul last week resigned his position in his company but Amaechi’s decision is being resisted within his party.

Those who have chosen to dethrone governor Wike have said among other things that the state is in need of a technocrat to rescue her from decades of none-performance that has made all sort of vices grow thick and flourishing. What is perhaps more intriguing is the fact that they have also pledged their loyalties to the re-election bid of President Mohammadu Buhari whom himself is not a technocrat and has left the country’s economy worse than he met it. There are accusations that Amaechi sold some of the state’s assets to Sahara Energy, Cole’s company, and used the proceeds to finance the election of President Buhari in 2015.

Cole’s selection comes with a huge task. He is almost like an alien in the politics of the state, not at least that his party, the APC, is without the quarrels that have bugged it down since its rancorous congresses in May but that the party has two state chairmen with Senator Magnus Abe leading the other faction.

Abe, a gubernatorial aspirant and current Senator repenting Rivers South-East in the National Assembly, on his part, has continued to present himself as an object of an organized bully and is being feted by the media. Last week, he was on a live program by African Independent Television where he said that the party in the state cannot adopt the indirect primary option due to the fact that the congresses came with flaws.

But the interests of the voters in the elections are diminishing. There is no excitement in the streets due to the general belief that the elections will be marred by violence. The Port Harcourt City Constituency bye-election violence was a litmus test and a sneak peek into what the 2019 general elections will look like.

The Independent National Electoral Commission says there is generally, a low turnout of electorates for the voters’ registration exercise. The people are more concerned with how best to survive the economic and political onslaughts from the politicians.