2023 Rivers Guber: The Aspirants, Their Chances

2023 election fever is in the air, and just like in the previous elections, politicians have started jostling for political offices to occupy.

Among the political positions, the Presidency and the Governorship hold more promises as the winners decide the fate of Nigeria and the various states that make up the entity.

While the winner of the Presidency would control the vast political estate called Nigeria, winners of the Governorship would control the various states in the federation.

In Rivers State the jostle for governorship, the most lucrative office has begun, and a number of aspirants are being mentioned in the rumour mill as gearing up to occupy the Brick House, the seat of power.

Among them which are in no particular order are: Bro. Felix Obuah, immediate past chairman of the PDP, Lee Maeba – former Senator, Magnus Abe – former Senator, Austin Opara – former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Tonye Princewill – Kalabari Prince, Tammy Danagogo – former Sports Minister and current Secretary to Rivers State Government, George Sekibo – current lawmaker representing Rivers East, Farah Dagogo, Gabriel Pidomson, Dumnamene Dekor – Lawmaker representing Khana/Gokana Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, David Briggs, former Commissioner for Works, Olaka Nwogu – former Senator, Kingsley Chinda – member representing Obio/Akpor Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, Ehie Edison, Marcus Nle Ejii, Dumo Lulu-Briggs – Son of a Kalabari Billionaire, Late Chief Lulu-Briggs, Dakuku Peterside – former NIMASA boss, Ojukaye Flag- Amachree – former APC chairman amongst others.

Dr. Sekibo

While Abe, Princewill, Peterside and Flag Amachree are members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), other touted aspirants are of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

It should be noted that these aspirants have not come out openly to declare their ambition, except Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs; but through their speeches, body languages and surreptitious moves by their supporters to draft them into the race, the cat has been let out of the bag.

Magnus Abe, a foundation member of the APC in Rivers, represented Rivers South East Senatorial District at the senate between 2011 and 2016. Of Ogoni extraction, Senator Abe in the course of time became disenchanted with the alleged maneuvering by the leader of APC in the state, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi current – Transportation Minister, leading to his forming his own factional APC and securing a secretariat for it at Waterlines along Aba Road, Port Harcourt then.

Now, the leader of the APC faction headed by Golden Chioma, Abe has managed through intelligent political maneuvering warmed his way into the hearts and souls of APC political bigwigs in the state, including Chidi Wihioka and Tony Okocha, former Chief of staff to Amaechi. Regarded as a hot contender to the office of governor, Senator Abe has been transversing the nooks and crannies of Rivers State making speeches which portray him as having guber ambition. Highly intelligent and articulate what may affect his chances is the factionalization of APC in the state. Unless he moves quickly and reconcile with Emeka Beke’s led faction which Amaechi’s supporters believe is the authentic APC in Rivers State, his plan may be truncated. These Amaechi supporters had already charged that the distinguished senator is not a member of the APC and so has no platform to contest.  In the event that he manages to pick the APC ticket which is doubtful, he will still face an uphill task in the candidate the PDP would present: Rivers State is regarded as a PDP state which will be difficult for any other party to win, and PDP leaders in the state would make sure that a PDP candidate is elected to continue with what they described as governor Wike’s superlative performance in the state. However, Abe’s associates and supporters are not relenting, as they have argued that if Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the APC National leader who Abe is working for wins the presidency, he will use his enormous presidential power to impose Abe on the state in the usual Nigerian political abracadabra manner. But Tinubu’s moves to contest have been greeted with controversy, as many Nigerians have charged that he is too old to manage the country.

Dr Danagogo

Tonye Princewill, the Kalabari Prince has come a long way in his ambition to govern Rivers State.

In 2015, he featured as nominee of the Labour Party for the governor of Rivers State. He was also a nominee of the Action Congress in 2007. His ambition to rule was boosted by the support of Atiku Abubakar AC Presidential candidate in 2007 as well as the leader of the ACN, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, but he lost the election to Celestine Omehia. His legal battle to displace Omehia was thwarted by the Supreme Court’s decision which replaced Omehia with Rotimi Amaechi, leading to his withdrawal of the case.

Now, a member of the APC, Princewill will have to work his way into the heart of Amaechi the leader of the APC in the state who is believed to have the magic wand to install leaders and even after ingratiating him with Amaechi the godfather, he will still have to slug it out with other APC aspirants who are mainly of Riverine extraction.

Dakuku Peterside – former Commissioner for works in Rivers State and immediate past Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is an indigene of Opobo. He is a close associate of Amaechi which ordinarily would have made his ambition to occupy Rivers Brick House very easy but information gathered indicated that the Transportation Minister has fallen apart with him because he allegedly went behind his back to lobby for re-appointment as NIMASA boss after the expiration of his tenure, something which allegedly scandalized Amaechi. Peterside’s behind the back lobbying for re-appointment was said to have portrayed Amaechi as not being in support of his continuing as NIMASA Director-General, while it was actually Amaechi who made his first appointment possible. Dakuku must have to contend with this, even as he will contend with other Riverine aspirants who have thrown their hat in the ring.

Of late he has been writing critical articles against the Rivers State Government which some analysts believed, condemned.

Sen. Maeba

Ojukaye Flag Amachree held sway as chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers during Amaechi’s tenure as governor. It was during his chairmanship that APC broke into two factions with Senator Abe’s group in charge of one faction. While Ojukaye operated from the APC Secretariat at Garrison, Abe’s group operated from their own Secretariat at Waterlines on Aba Road Port Harcourt. His inability to bring the two factions together could act as a minus to his political and administrative ability. As an Ijaw man he will be riding out the crest of the demand of the Riverine people that power should shift to their area, which means he will slug it out with Dakuku Peterside fellow APC contestants and Tonye Princewill, Dumo Lulu-Briggs and George Sekibo of the PDP who are from Riverine Community.

Now, a look at PDP aspirants believed to have what it takes to govern Rivers State, even though all of them listed are qualified to be governor.

Austin Opara of Ikwerre extraction from Port Harcourt City was the former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives between 2003 and 2007. Very boisterous and amiable, Opara allegedly has powerful political friends all over the country. He is credited as having made big impact at House of Representatives by his moderating voice of wisdom. He is regarded as a political heavy weight who has what it takes to govern oil rich Rivers State and build on Governor Wike’s legacies. In the past political dispensations, his name had featured prominently among politicians who should occupy Government House, but presently not much has been heard from his political camp, which could be because they are waiting for the governor to give the green light. Of late Amaechi’s camp has been insisting that Ikwerre/upland have had a fair share of governorship position, insisting that power should shift to the Riverine area. This appears to be a minus to Hon. Opara’s ambition, but Governor Wike, leader of the PDP in Rivers State has said that he prefers that the contest be thrown open to all the ethnic nationalities in the state inorder for a qualified candidate to emerge and continue with the developments he had set in motion. This statement may have deflated the arguments about power shift to the Riverine.

Sen. Abe

George Sekibo, Lawmaker representing Rivers East Senatorial District in the Senate is a very powerful politician who has been contributing maximally to debates on bills and other issues at the National Assembly. Of Riverine extraction of Ogu Bolo, Sekibo’s vocal voice at the senate has endeared him to the people of Rivers State who believe he can do well if elected as governor. He also has the advantage of coming from the Riverine area whose people have been agitating that the governorship slot should be zoned to their side. If Riverine people’s demand becomes a reality, Sekibo would pull surprises.

Tammy Danagogo, former Minister of Sports and current Secretary to the Rivers State Government is a politician to watch as he could spring surprises. His metoric rise to power has continued to baffle his co-politicians as well as ordinary people. Not quite long after he completed his tenure as minister of sports, he was again appointed into the powerful office of the Secretary to the Rivers State Government by Governor Wike. He seems to have good leadership qualities that are attractive to kingmakers. He could be a big competitor to George Sekibo if the governorship is zoned to the Riverine Communities. He is certainly a politician to watch because of his uncanny abilities to spring surprises.

Rt. Hon. Opara

Kingley Chinda representing Obio/Akpor Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives is a vocal voice who is always taken seriously by the lawmakers. His name has also cropped up as having gubernatorial ambition, but nobody had seen him make any noises about it. If luck favours Ikwerre again, he could be one of the politicians that would become governor in 2023.

Dumo Lulu-Briggs the son of late Kalabari Billionaire, Chief Lulu-Briggs had in the past come out for governorship contests but he hardly pursued his ambition vigorously which had culminated in the position eluding him.

This time around, being the first aspirant to declare his intention to run publically, though the political party he intends to actualize his governorship ambition has not been made known, Tammy Danagogo and Sim Fubara who is rumoured to have joined the race as one of those that would fill the slot of Riverine people if zoning the position to the Riverine sees the light of day. Political analysts have asked that he should make his campaigns vigorous this time around inorder to avoid fizzling out again in 2023.

Tonye Cole

A group which goes by the name Project Rivers and another group Arise Rivers are also calling on the Commissioner for Finance, Barr Isaac Kamalu, and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Special Projects, Dr. Dax George-Kelly respectively to declare for governorship of Rivers State.

Dum Dekor, member, House of Representatives, representing Khana/Gokana and Chairman, House Committee on Host Communities is loved by all.

He has touched some lives and provided employment, empowerment and support to many.

Ogoni youths and a cross-section of Rivers people want him to declare for governor.

He is a good man, and loved by all, they said.

Felix Obuah, one time chairman of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA) and immediate past chairman, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He is a topmost party chairman who used his political wizardry to return PDP to power for two consecutive times in Rivers State between 2015 and 2019, the period of his chairmanship. It was under his chairmanship that His Excellency, Governor Wike was elected twice as governor of Rivers State, a prodigious political achievement.

Chief Lulu-Briggs

Obuah whose preoccupation at the moment is how to keep Rivers State moving and ensuring PDP remains in power is being pressured to join the governorship race.

Many groups have risen up, calling on the amiable renowned philanthropist to contest in 2023. One women group, known as Olu Ozimini, promised to pay for his nomination form if he agrees to run.

Another group, Youths Earnestly Seek Obuah (YES-O) has been transversing the nooks and crannies of Rivers State drumming support for him and urging him to contest.

Market women, in Omoku it was gathered, recently came together and prayed for his success in the governorship race, hinging their support for him on the financial help he had given to them to support their business. It was also gathered that the former Rivers PDP boss has support of many local government chairmen, party leaders and members across the state, including Rivers people across party lines.

However, despite these huge pressures to draft him, the former PDP chairman has not come to say he is contesting. Mum has been his answer.

However, his numerous supporters are not relenting as they have continued to mount pressures on him to throw his hat in the ring.

One of the groups rooting for him to join the race, the Enyike Vanguard recently said they were determined to drag him out to contest whether he likes it or not.

May be, as the countdown to 2023 continues to draw nearer. Go Round, may succumb to their pressures and join the race, and if he joins, he may have few aspirants to contend with and may likely clinch the PDP governorship ticket and go ahead to win the election, one of the groups posited.

As I was trying to put this story to rest, information filtered that Dawari George and Tonye Cole of the APC have joined the race.

While Dawari George’s intention to contest may not raise any eyebrows, Tonye Cole’s ambition is bound to elicit controversy on account of his alleged connivance with Amaechi in buying key Rivers assets.

Dr Peterside

When Amaechi was governor, he allegedly sold Omoku and Trans Amadi Gas turbines, Olympian Hotel and other Rivers State assets to Cole at an alleged ridiculous price.

Rivers people and his political opponents are bound to resurrect the issue in 2023 and use it against him. The scandal the issue would throw up may affect his chances, but he would likely survive it if Amaechi becomes president as being speculated as he will use his presidential powers to install him if he emerges the APC candidate over and above other APC aspirants in the primaries. Even so, he will still face the candidate of the PDP in the main election. Political watchers believe that the PDP will fight tooth and nail to see that they retain Rivers State.   

However, the political environment is still hazy as the coast will become clearer as 2023 approaches by which time more aspirants may indicate interests in the race.

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