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Rivers State and the Emerging Politics of 2019 – George Kerley

The politics of Rivers State has been uneasy one since Nyesom Wike, an Ikwerre from Rumuepirikom, took over as Governor from Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, an Ikwerre from Ubima, in a manner that confounded Rivers people. 

It was an unusual political transaction and transition as it stood to tamper with the balance of power in Rivers State for generations to come. 

Today, it is only the Wike’s faction of PDP that is dominant in the party as other leading members of the party have cross-carpeted to other parties especially the leading opposition party. 

As we look forward to the signs and times to understand what 2019 will bring, it is noteworthy to look at the leading contenders in the race to the Rivers State Government House in 2019.

Nyesom Ezenwo Wike 

Nyesom Wike hails from Rumuepirikom in Obio Akpor local government area. Like Amaechi, he is from the Ikwerre ethnic nationality and is from the same senatorial zone. 

He was Chief of Staff to Governor Amaechi until he was recommended for Ministerial position under former President Goodluck Jonathan.  

In 2007, he was Director General of the Rotimi Amaechi Governorship Campaign. 

He eventually fell out with Governor Amaechi when the Governor appointed another person, Tony Okocha as Chief of Staff instead of his (Wike) nominee for the position. 

Before his appointment of Chief of Staff, Nyesom Wike had previously been the Chairman of a local government in Rivers State, Obio Akpor local government area. 

In falling out with Amaechi, Nyesom Wike found kindred spirit in Patience Jonathan, first lady and wife of the former President of Nigeria, who had had a previous confrontation with Governor Rotimi Amaechi.  

It was this relationship and the various transactions that followed that promoted Nyesom Wike into the position of Governor of Rivers State. 

His time as Minister of State for Education was an uneventful one as many recount that he was crude and too unsuited and unprepared for the role.  

Too much of his time as minister was spent on unnecessary confrontations with his erstwhile boss and Governor of Rivers state, Rotimi Amaechi. 

In 2015, Nyesom Wike rode to power on strong anti-Amaechi and pro-Jonathan sentiments.  

It is to be seen how these sensitivities will work to his favor in 2019 as the times have changed. 

He narrowly survived the Amaechi political onslaught in 2016 thanks to a Supreme Court judgment, which ruled, in his favor.  

A number of PDP candidates were not so lucky and had to go through sessions of politicking and rerun elections. Not all of them came out successfully at the end. 

Under Nyesom Wike, the Rivers State Government has placed it’s entire focus on road construction much to the detriment of all other sectors of the economy such as waste management, sanitation, job creation, healthcare, education, agriculture, rural development and a lot many other areas. 

In spite of the fact that the state government claims to spend Five hundred million naira (N500m) monthly on sanitation and waste management in Port Harcourt, the city has suddenly earned for itself the tag, the dirtiest city in the South South, a very far cry from the Garden City that it used to be. 

Waste and refuse continue to be indiscriminately disposed across key areas of the city such as Rumuola, GRA junction, waterlines and even Mile One flyover area.  

While Wike’s supporters credit him for the construction and completion of key roads across Port Harcourt including those left uncompleted by his predecessor Amaechi, there are those however who believe that the strong emphasis on road projects and multi-billion naira land reclamation projects are a decoy to amass funds required to prosecute the 2019 electoral campaign. 

There is growing dissension amongst even members of his cabinet and political party and about the way and manner he runs his government as he is seen as running the government from his ‘breast’ pocket. 

The past few months have seen resignations from top members of the Wike cabinet and administration.  

Months ago, the resignation of Dr. Austin Tam George, Commissioner for Information triggered the sacking of the entire cabinet. They were almost all recalled about a month later with minor reshuffling.  

More recently, On October 16, 2017, the Chief Executive Officer of the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA), Larry Pepple, also resigned his appointment over what he called ‘No Vision’ and plan for the agency. 

Some months back, after the Governor declared that the Rivers State Government had spent about Two hundred billion Naira (N200bn) on infrastructural development, a Rivers Youth Group, the Unemployed Youth Forum challenged the Governor to explain how more than N200bn could have been spent when there has been no record of job creation within the time frame. 

For now, even as dissension continues to be in the rise, the incumbency factor still remains his strong point.

Dr. Dakuku Peterside

Dakuku Peterside is from Opobo Kingdom. He was born on December 31, 1970. 

He started his sojourn into politics as a student activist in the Rivers State University of Science and Technology where he fought for the rights of Rivers students in the areas of welfare, scholarship and opportunities. He eventually elected as National President of the umbrella organization of Rivers state students, the National Union of Rivers State Students (NURSS).  

It was at this time that he caught the eyes of a former NURSS president and Special Assistant to then Deputy Governor Peter Odili, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. 

On graduation, he was appointed Special Assistant, Student & Youth Affairs to then Governor Peter Otunaya Odili. 

In 2002/2003, he served as Chairman, Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area, a role he was said to have diligently carried out without rancor.  

In 2003 up until 2005, he served as Senior Special Assistant on Works to the Governor of Rivers State. 

In 2007, Governor Rotimi Amaechi appointed him Commissioner for Works, a position he held until 2011 when he was elected to the House of Representatives where he was appointed as House Committee Chairman of Petroleum (Downstream). 

In 2015, he stepped down from this position to be the flag-bearer of the All Progressive Congress (APC) party for the 2015 Gubernatorial elections.  

It was an unsuccessful run. It was also a difficult time as his mentor Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, was then at loggerheads with the then serving President of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR. 

In 2015, he was seen as being inexperienced for the race and there were many who saw his candidacy as an attempted extension of the Amaechi tenure. 

In 2016, he was appointed by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to be Director General of NIMASA. 

It is believed that he is being considered to run as APC flag-bearer in the 2019 elections. 

One of Dakuku’s weakest points is that he is an Amaechi protégé who may not have a mind of his own. 

There is however an agreement that he is intelligent and hugely cerebral, suave, well spoken and exposed. He also holds PhD in management from the University of Port Harcourt. 

Senator Magnus Abe 

Magnus Ngei Abei is an Ogoni. He was born on May 24, 1965.  

A lawyer by profession, he was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1987. He started out as a Pupil Counsel with the Federal Ministry of Justice in Lagos. 

In 1999, he was elected into the Rivers State House of Assembly representing where he was elected Minority Leader. At that time, Rt. Honorable Rotimi Amaechi was Speaker of the House.

In 2003, Governor Peter Odili appointed Magnus Abe Commissioner for Information. He served in that position until May 2007. 

In 2007, Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi appointed him Secretary to the Rivers State Government. 

In 2011, he was elected into the Senate at the National Assembly to represent Rivers South East.  

In 2016, he was re-elected into the Senate after an initial election was invalidated and a rerun poll necessitated.  

Magnus Abe was passed over as flag-bearer for the APC in the 2015 Gubernatorial elections. 

He has been very active in APC circles and continues to express his interest to run for the office of Governor of Rivers State.  

He enjoys tremendous followership across his party and across Rivers state. A great orator and a proven administrator, his time at the Nigerian senate has been an eventful one. 

He has recently been on a political warpath with his political ‘benefactor’ and ranking APC leader in Rivers State, Amaechi.  

While that may have frayed some nerves within the party especially those loyal to Amaechi, it has also shown that he has a mind of his own and won a few more followers for him both within and outside his party APC. 

He is said to have remarkably improved his people and politicking skills 

It is yet to be seen how he intends to build all these together to emerge as his party’s flag bearer and gubernatorial candidate. 

Dumo Lulu-Briggs 

Dumo Lulu-Briggs (DLB) is of the Kalabari ethnic nationality. He was born in 1964. 

Dumo holds an LLB from Ahmadu Bello University where he graduated in 1985. He was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1986. He also holds an LLM from the prestigious London School of Economics (LSE). 

From 1995 to 2004, Dumo Lulu Briggs was Pioneer Managing Managing Director, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of Moni Pulo, indigenous Petroleum Development Company. 

He is currently the Chairman of Platform Petroleum, operators of OML 38 (Egbaoma field). 

In 2007, He served as Chairman of the Governing Council of the Maritime Academy, Oron on appointment by President Umar Musa Yar’Adua. 

In 2011, he served as Chairman, of the Board of the Federal Medical Center, Owerri, on appointment by President Goodluck Jonathan. 

From 2003, Dumo Lulu Briggs has continued to express his intention to be Governor of Rivers State.  

In that year, as candidate of the National Democratic Party (NDP), he ran a formidable race against the incumbent Dr. Peter Odili, at at time when some of the current contenders for that office were considered too politically ‘weak’ to stand on their own. 

In 2015, Dumo Lulu-Briggs was a candidate of the Governorship candidate for the PDP at the party’s primaries. 

Suave, debonair, well educated and exposed, Dumo Lulu-Briggs controls an exceptional youth following across Rivers State. 

His foundation, the Dumo Lulu-Briggs Youth Foundation (DYF23) has strong presence across all the local governments in Rivers State catering to the needs of both the young and old in the areas of philanthropy, education and healthcare. 

Recently, his foundation DYF23 partnered with Google to train a number of Rivers youths on Digital Marketing Skills as part of a series of processes to engage the growing mass of social media savvy youths across the state.

Since his decamp to the All Progressive Congress (APC), he has been enjoying a rising political profile.  

It is to be seen how he intends to put his game together to win the candidature of his party in his quest to lead Rivers state.

George Kerley writes from Port Harcourt

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