By Annie Alatoru
The clamor for ethno-religious equation remains a critical issue in our national and local politics. And I believe that any attempt to sweep itunder the rug would amount to an exercise in futility.
Hearts are racing as the clock ticks towards the February 25 Presidential and March 11 Governorship Elections respectively, and no one is crystal certain where the pendulum
would tilt to.
While the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC is still getting the knocks from a section of Nigerians, ijaws and other people of good conscience in Rivers State are saying it’s their turn to occupy the Brick House in the interest of equity, justice and for political correctness.
The fulcrum of this write-up is an x-raying of the scenario in
Rivers State where many ethnic nationalities, including Ijaw of the eastern bloc, are yet to occupy the exalted seat of power since the inception of the fourth republic in 1999.
In the wisdom of its founding fathers, true peace and unity can only be achieved if power is rotated among the diverse ethnic groups. Hence, first civilian governor of the old Rivers State, Chief Melford Obiene Okilo, a RIVERINER from Emakalakala, Ogbia Local Government Area of now Bayelsa State, had Chief Dominic Anucha, an UPLANDER from Etche Local Government Area.
When third republic politician, Chief Rufus Ada-George, a RIVERINER from Okrika, was elected Governor in 1992, Sir (Dr) Peter Atunaya Odili, an UPLANDER from Ndoni, in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area served as Deputy Governor. This government was short-lived, lasting from January, 1992 to November,1993.
At the onset of the fourth republic in 1999, Sir (Dr) Peter Odili, ran under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with Sir (Dr) Gabriel Toby, a RIVERINEER from Opobo Town in Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area as his Deputy.
Odili and Toby superintended the affairs at the Rivers Brick House for eight years (1999-2007).
Despite the legal wahala that characterized the administration of Sir (Barr) Celestine Omehia, another UPLANDER from Ubima in Ikwerre Local Government Area, he still had a brief stint as Governor with his Deputy, Sir Tele Ikuru, a RIVERINER from Ikuru Town of Andoni Local Government Area.
Then came Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, an UPLANDER from Ubima in Ikwerre Local Government Area, who, following this Upland/Riverine balance, retained Tele Ikuru as his Deputy.
The same order followed the choice of Dr. (Mrs) Ipalibo Harry Banigo who is currently deputizing Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike. Wike is Ikwerre, an UPLANDER while Banigo is a RIVERINER from Bonny.
It is instructive to note that this order has long existed before the categorisation of states into Senatorial Districts. Critics of governorship rotation along senatorial districts accuse its proponents of insulting the sensibilities of ethnic nationalities.
Is it not a sheer act of wickedness, they ask, that in a multiethnic state like Rivers, three persons from same ethnic nationality have occupied the Brick House, still with other kinsmen in the ballot in the March 11 Guber Election.
This therefore serves as a wakeup call on the Ijaw Nation which constitutes a sizable proportion of Rivers population, to take a deep breath and get it right if the Brick House jinx must be broken this time around.
Has any prospective voter in Rivers State, especially those of the Ijaw stock, pondered to look at all the parties in the coming governorship election and the pairing of candidates and deputies? Have they kept faith with the Upland/Riverine pairing?
Governor Nyesom Wike may not be the best of a musician but he has ‘released’ a hit that is making wave in the entertainment industry. The song is called “Inye ndieba nyendieba”, translates in Igbo as “while you give to them also give to others”, because what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
Notable Ijaw leaders and civil society groups have voiced concern that if Ijaw misses the chance to elect one of it’s own in the March 11 election, it would take them 40 years of waiting!.
Hear the President-General of Ijaw Wari Worldwide, Somina Wokoma at a recent press conference in Port Harcourt where he urged all Ijaw Governorship candidates to have sense of purpose and queue behind one of them.
“Today by the special grace of God, the consistent and timely campaigns of the Ijaw Wari Worldwide has given birth to the emergence of 10 gubernatorial candidates from the Rivers Ijaw extraction, with five from Kalabari ethnic nationality; two from the Ibani block; one from Obolo; one from Bille Kingdom; one from Wakrike, Be-Se, and one from Abua Odual.
“We make bold to say that the governorship candidates from the Rivers Ijaw extraction are all well qualified and are able to lead Rivers State but sadly, it is only one person that will occupy the Rivers Brick House, come May, 2023”, he said.
Now take a look at how some of the prominent parties paired their candidates. Ijaws in particular should note the party that uphold the Upland/Riverine principle and choose the party to avoid and the ones to give their votes.
SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY (SDP)
Senator Magnus Abe, Ogoni (Upland).
Deputy is Upland.
BOOT PARTY (BP)
Tekena Iyagba, Okrika (Riverine). Deputy is Upland.
ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS (APC)
Arc Tonye Cole, Kalabari (Riverine). Deputy is Upland.
PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY (PDP)
Amaopusenibo Siminalayi Fubara, Opobo (Riverine). Deputy is Upland.
Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, Abonnema (Riverine). Deputy is Upland.
NATIONAL RESCUE MOVEMENT (NRM)
Soboma JACKRICH, Kalabari (Riverine). Deputy is Upland.
LABOUR PARTY (LP)
Mrs. Beatrice Itubo, Abua Odual, (Riverine). Deputy is Upland.
ACTION DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS (ADC)
Tonte Ibraye, Kalabari (Riverine). Deputy is Upland.
YOUNG PROGRESSIVES PARTY (YPP)
Danagogo Wenike-Briggs, Kalabari (Riverine). Deputy is Upland.
Dawari George, Kalabari (Riverine) Deputy is Upland.
ACTION DEMOCRATIC PARTY (ADP)
Victor Tamie Fingesi, Okrika, (Riverine). Deputy is Upland.
ACTION PEOPLES PARTY (APP)
Leesi Gabriel Gborogbosi, Ogoni (Upland). Deputy is Riverine.
AFRICAN ACTION CONGRESS (AAC)
Dada Joseph Ngechu Obele, Eleme (Upland). Deputy is Riverine.
ALL PROGRESSIVES GRAND ALLIANCE (APGA)
Prince Ugochukwu Beke, Ikwerre (Upland). Deputy is Riverine.
Now, I ask: Would you say that all of the pairings conformed with the Upland/Riverine balance?
The Ijaw man reading this piece should gloss over this list and choose who gets his vote. He should avoid any party with “UPLAND- UPLAND ticket” like a plague. because that in all shades wrong and I will add that if the Ijaw elders council should cue behind a Candidate who has what it take to make Rivers State great and unite Rivers State . This is “my two cents “.