The bid to win re-election as governor of Rivers State in the 2019 General Elections was a hard and long struggle for Governor Nyesom Wike who ran for re-election on platform of the Peoples Democratic Party. Not only did the election held in a tense atmosphere in the state, there were also alleged moves to use federal might to hijack the electoral process and see that Wike would not win the election but in the end, though, Wike won and was sworn in by the Chief Judge of the State, Justice Iyayi-Lamikanra on May 29, 2019, to start another term in office.
The event which took place at the General Yakubu Gowon Stadium drew an unprecedented crowd from all parts of the state.
Seated inside the stadium on the VIP Stand were chieftains of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers State, elder statesmen, National Assembly members, serving and former members of the State House of Assembly and invited guests who all came to witness the inauguration of Governor Nyesom Wike for his second term and after he was sworn in, Governor Wike had addressed the mammoth crowd of people and expressed his gratitude for the support he received from the people of the state in the last four years and also thanked members of the State House of Assembly and the Judiciary for working closely with him in his first term.
“When I reflect on the last four years, I can visibly see the hands of both arms of government in the successes our administration recorded and I feel proud that we did it together because ours was an era of co-operation, mutual dependence and progress,” he said and specifically thanked the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly and other members for the roles they played as he also specifically thanked the Chief Judge of Rivers State and other distinguished judges and magistrates and members of the state judicial arm as he said he looked forward to working with them in the next four years.
Wike said he was “humbled” by the opportunity given him to preside over affairs of the state and said he would “remain very grateful for every single day of the last four years” and made key promises to build three flyovers in the state, improve on economy and deal with sanitation and insecurity and provide opportunities for youths.
Looking at his task, Wike said he was going to take “tough decisions” and give his all to administering Rivers State. He had said that the “next four years are therefore pivotal as we consolidate on the progressive foundations of the last four years to take Rivers State through a greater era of achievements and progress because making Rivers State the greatest state in Nigeria is a task that must be accomplished.”
Wike began to nurse his ambition to become governor of Rivers State when he was Minister of State for Education under the Jonathan administration and at the time, the Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers State was very shaky because of the defection of Chibuikle Rotimi Amaechi to the All Progressives Congress.
Amaechi who was the governor of Rivers State at the time and leader of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state had defected with his followers to the APC which most likely caused a crack in the party. So when Nyesom Wike took over the leadership of the party from Chibuike Amaechi, he was able to resuscitate the Peoples Democratic Party and get it back on its feet and when the 2015 governorship election approached, Wike indicated that he was going to run for governor of Rivers State and won the primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party and later went on to win the governorship election in the state as he defeated APC's governorship candidate in the 2015 general elections, Dr. Dakuku Peterside.
The atmosphere at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium was very lively as Wike was being sworn in and the huge number of people who were at the stadium were seated according to local government areas and were dressed in beautiful colours which caught the eye's attention.
Most persons in Rivers State believe Wike did well in his first term and they point to the roads he reconstructed, the schools and hospitals he renovated, the law faculty he refurbished for Rivers State University, the interest-free loans his government provided and the scholarship programmes for students of the state among other achievements. Although this is so, the people of the state still want him to make more impact in his second term as some women who spoke on their expectations from the governor in his second term said that Wike should give more attention to women in the state and provide job opportunities for unemployed youths so that it could reduce crime in the state as others who spoke said that Wike should tackle insecurity in the state as the state recently witnessed frequent cases of murder, street gangsterism, kidnapping and other criminal behaviours and said he should do more to consolidate on his achievements in his first term.
But Wike's victory in the 2019 governorship election in Rivers State did not come easy. Not only was the election held under very heavy security presence but a faction of the All Progressives Congress in the state was said to have allegedly schemed to use federal might to secure victory for the governorship candidate of the African Action Congress in the election, Biokpomabo Awara.
The All Progressives Congress in Rivers State which had no governorship or National Assembly or State House of Assembly candidates in the 2019 general elections in Rivers State because of a court judgement allegedly instructed supporters and members of the party to vote for the governorship candidate of African Action Congress in the governorship election in the state.
We will recall that the Independent National Electoral Commission in Rivers State was in the process of collating results of the governorship election when it suspended all electoral processes in the state citing violence and insecurity as reason for the action.
The Peoples Democratic Party had reacted to the suspension of the electoral processes and militarization of the state and said that the APC was trying to get the election in Rivers State into crisis because it was not part of the election.
The national leadership of the party had said that “Nigerians watched in bewilderment as soldiers in the company of APC thugs invaded polling units in Rivers State, unleashed violence on voters, disrupted polling processes and hauled away electoral materials just because the APC is not in the ballot following its self-inflicted exclusion from the election” and further said that the “use of soldiers to ambush the electoral process and confiscate results is an extreme scheme by the APC and the Buhari presidency to enmesh the Rivers State governorship election in controversy seeing that there is no way they can take victory away from the PDP.”
As the electoral processes were suspended, the governorship candidate of African Action Congress, Biokpomabo Awara, asked the INEC to declare him as winner of the governorship election in Rivers State as he said he was leading in the collation of the results of the governorship election when the INEC suspended the electoral processes and also asked that the State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) should be redeployed for incompetence.
He had said that the electoral body should accept the results as already declared at the local government collation centres and had accused the State Resident Electoral Commissioner of being involved in electoral malpractice.
By this time there was great apprehension that Wike might not win the election as a powerful APC leader in Rivers State could use federal might to get the victory for the governorship candidate of the African Action Congress.
Some leaders of thought in the state namely Chief OCJ Okocha, Senator Benneth Birabi and Ann-Kio Briggs among others condemned a “reported plan by the leadership of the APC to destabilize the state” and said they considered it an “obligation to draw the attention of the entire nation and the international community to this dubious plot designed to cause conflicts and possibly lead to a full military invasion of the state”.
As these criticisms were on, supporters of the governorship candidate of the African Action Congress praised the INEC for suspending the electoral processes in the state and even said that the governorship candidate of the party would win in the governorship election.
The INEC had set up a panel to look into the alleged violence and insecurity in Rivers State at the election and as it received a report by the panel, it announced that it would continue with the collation of the results of the governorship election in the state.
But there were some protests by supporters of the governorship candidate of the African Action Congress who faulted the way the election was conducted and as the INEC resumed collation of the results of the governorship election in the state, there were again some protests by supporters of the governorship candidate of the African Action Congress.
A group of civil society organizations and youths took their protest march to the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army in Port-Harcourt and had apologized to the soldiers of the Division for unguarded comments they claimed some politicians in the state made against them and commended the soldiers for their role in the elections saying that there would have been more bloodshed in Rivers State if they had not been involved in the election.
Some eminent persons in Rivers State also wrote an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari and asked that he intervene in the election situation in Rivers State and said that there was “no moral justification” to continue with the collation of the results saying that the outcome would be “prejudiced and contentious” and said there was an abundance of evidence to suggest that the INEC “did not handle the governorship election diligently and (that) any further action by the Rivers State INEC ….would overheat the polity and aggravate the security challenges in the state”.
But in the end, Wike was announced as the winner of the governorship election in Rivers State as INEC said that he polled a total of 888,264 votes to defeat the governorship candidate of African Action Congress, Biokpomabo Awara, who polled 137,859 votes.
But all that was yesterday as Wike has been sworn in to govern the people of Rivers State for his second term.
What Wike needs to do though is to improve on his performance in his first term and strive to meet the needs of the people of Rivers State who have expectations from him and as he does that he will have disproved those who think that those in second term in office don't perform.