- RIVERS 2023: BEYOND THE GAME OF THRONES
Wednesday and Thursday being May 25th – 26th 2022, finally defined the spectacle that the forthcoming gubernatorial polls in 2023 shall be little else beyond a game of thrones and consolidation of political dynasties, by acolytes of the incumbent Governor Nyesom Wike, and his predecessor as well as immediate past Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi. This will be except for the now confirmed intervention by Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs who is vying for the office of governor of the state on the platform of Accord Party (AP). Lulu-Briggs has so far not been associated with any political godfather. Those earlier mentioned days marked the emergence of the flag bearers of the two leading political parties in the state being the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which held its primaries on Wednesday and the All Progressives Congress (APC) that delivered on Thursday; even as their enterprise had been associated with pandering to the dictates of political godfathers, and has therefore spawned the gnawing feeling that the state under any of these parties for the next dispensation, may remain a battle ground for supremacy of parochial interests.
For instance the PDP which held its governorship primaries on Wednesday produced Siminialaye Fubara as its flag-bearer, through a process whose outcome was long predicted, courtesy of his tacit endorsement by the state governor Nyesom Wike, through unmistakable body language. Until just before the primaries, Fubara had been the Accountant General of the Rivers State and hence a civil servant, and only resigned ostensibly to contest the primaries. Meanwhile, the emergence of the governorship candidate of the APC has been sailing through troubled waters with the party structure split between the two factional leaders – Amaechi and Abe. That was until yesterday Thursday, when a proper primaries exercise was conducted and Tonye Cole emerged as the authentic governorship candidate of the Rivers APC. Incidentally one of the prominent figures in the APC and a governorship aspirant Magnus Abe, withdrew from the primaries contest, citing personal reservations. However, with this development, the APC in the state has now progressed into a terrain of having its candidates for respective electoral offices on the ballot box, a liberty which had been denied it during the 2015 and 2019 polls, when due to its internal crises, it lost.
In the present circumstances, the three leading political parties in the state have their governorship candidates as Dumo Lulu-Briggs for Accord Party (AP), Tonye Cole for the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Siminialaye Fubara for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The question now is to which extent will the fortunes of the state fare under any of these candidates that wins the election to the office of governor of the state from May 29TH 2023.
While not delving into their antecedents a peep into the frontal challenges of the state, provides some modicum of guidance for the way forward. And such a perspective cannot but derive from juxtaposing the present state of affairs, with what each of them will hopefully bring to the table as governor. For instance, among the challenges bedeviling the state today are unemployment, insecurity, massive rural urban drift, one-city status as well as political and economic exclusion of a wider section of the society, as well as weak governance expedients, which manifest as clueless statutory responses, by the state and local government tiers, to certain challenges.
The acuity of this situation for the Rivers State cannot be over emphasized. As the hub of the country’s hydrocarbon industry, the state is a receptacle of sorts for the nation, as on a daily basis thousands of Nigerians from other economically depressed parts of the country and foreigners alike, flood into it to settle. This factor alone makes the state a mini Nigeria, and has escalated the unemployment as well as congestion crises to an extent that will challenge any governor, to his wits. Therefore, along with other challenges of governance, what should bother the political class and the generality of the citizenry is how the state can escape from the shackles of retardation imposed on it by the aforementioned challenges and others. For against the backdrop of its humongous endowments, life for the typical resident is like a man that is thirsty in the abundance of water. What shall therefore be sweet music to the people of Rivers State is a fore taste of the specific responses which each of the candidates shall launch at the sectoral challenges that bedevil it.
For instance, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), unemployment which is one of the most aggravating factors of the pains of the state, currently stands at 43% – next only to Imo State (48.7%) and Akwa Ibom (45.2%). This figure for the state compares unfavourably with the national figure of 33%, given that it is expected to serve as one of the locomotive economies that should drive the Nigerian economy forward. Hence, when it also manifests depressing characteristics, the question now becomes which is to drive which between the national economy and Rivers State? Not a few observers have lamented over the state’s economy of the state, as it had consistently failed to meet policy targets in many areas; a matter that forms the substance of subsequent articles.