The All progressives’ Congress (APC) may be the opposition party at the central government of Nigeria, but in Rivers State, one of the states where the presidency seems to have laid siege, it is certainly in charge and growing stronger. In a recent speech, the President declared that the APC which is in full control of all the 23 Local Government Areas of the state exists only on billboards as his party the PDP will recover the state in 2015. In making the statement, the President surely relies on the assurances of persons who have been in Rivers state all these while, but whom with exception to the Minister of state for Education who was part of the status quo, could neither win election as candidates nor as sponsors of candidates in the past two elections in the state.
While the statement of the President may not represent the reality on ground, it nevertheless underscores the importance attached to the strategic state by the PDP led Federal Government and the desperation with which the Presidency aspires to covet the over two million votes that Rivers state possesses, at the coming elections.
Needless to say that they will deploy everything they control, towards the goal and that the party on ground will need to make just and credible choices in the picking of candidates, to ensure that it has the people and their votes on its side.
Both the body language and popular information within the public domain indicate that the APC has resolved to zone its Governorship candidacy to the Rivers South East senatorial district. If this is so, then it has started well and acted wisely as that is the only one of Rivers states three senatorial districts yet to produce the Governor of Rivers state.
While Rivers West Senatorial District has governed the state from 1999 to 2007 through the flamboyant and colourful Dr. Peter Odili’s administration and the Rivers East Senatorial District has governed the State through the incumbent progressive Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi administration since 2007 to date, the Rivers South East has hopefully and patiently waited through the sixteen (16) years with the Deputy Governor position, for their turn which has now come.
While the APC has gotten the first step right, the issue of which group to give the ticket within the Rivers South East Senatorial District becomes the next major issue that is capable of having a critical effect on the outcome of the coming polls.
An examination of the APC in the Rivers State Senatorial District will immediately rest the contest between the Ogoni group and their Ijaw brothers of Opobo in the district. The reason for this assumption is that the party’s strongest chieftains from the district hail from these two ethnic groups. The APC must therefore examine carefully, what measure of success it stands to achieve among the people of the state in the event that it fields any candidate from these two groups at the election.
AN OGONI CANDIDATE?
An Ogoni flag bearer at the 2015 election appears to be a good option for the APC. The major advantages such candidature will have on the party are that it will guarantee a sense of justice among the peoples of Rivers state.
First it will do equity to the people of the Rivers South East Senatorial District and
Secondly, it will give the Ogoni people of Rivers State a sense of belonging consistent with the spirit and letters of section 14 (4) of the Nigeria constitution as it is their turn to occupy the zoned political position to their district after Opobo and Andoni which Have respectively filled the last two Deputy Governor slots so zoned.
Thirdly, it will guarantee greater votes for the party as it will give it over 95 per cent of the votes of four whole Ogoni Local Government Areas. It will also guarantee to it, over 80 per cent of the votes of the three local government area of kalabari land, as the party’s commitment to equitable rotation will assure them that the next governor will come from their own block as it will be the turn of their own half of the Rivers West senatorial district then. When this is added to the party’s hold of the other local government areas, it will, one dares say, surely guarantee the APC of victory in the coming polls.
AN OPOBO CANDIDATE?
An Opobo candidate will on the other hand primarily be good for the APC, considering that it is coming from the right senatorial district of the state. Beyond that, such candidature will however be fraught with quite some issues.
In the first place, it will be rubbishing the zoning principle in the senatorial district by giving Opobo a second shot at the district’s zoned political position after it just handed same over to its Andoni brother, to the detriment of the other two groups in the zone, which are the Ogonis and the Oyibos.
This will promote a sense of injustice and possibly lead to protest votes against the party.
Secondly, such candidature will threaten the stability of the party’s fair zoning practice and unsettle the Kalabari local government areas of Akuku-toru, Asari-toru and Degema, thus not guaranteeing their commitment to the party. Since it will be most likely that they cannot with all the equity on their side, take up the position in the next dispensation from their Ijaw (Opobo) kens.
Simple as these two adverse factors may look, they will spell doom for the party in the presence of a federal backed opposition with all the apparatus of the Federal Government working in their favour. As the Osun election has shown, only a strongly committed people’s power can defeat the illegal machinations of such opposition and prevent the possibility of a repeat of the Ekiti experience in mockery of democratic elections.
Very often, the best time to win election is in the stage of candidate selection, as putting forward a faulty candidate no-matter how attractive could cost a party dearly on Election Day. The APC in Rivers State will need to put forward its best foot, backed with the strength of fairness, to defeat its formidable-looking but hollow opposition which is waiting to rely on technicalities and illegality. An Ogoni candidate will surely be the best option.
As the sages say, may the party’s way be rough if need be, but may it arrive safely and well at its destination, for Rivers State cannot afford a ‘return to Egypt’ after God has delivered her from the cycle of “share the money” politicians since 2007.