There is no doubt that the crisis rocking the Rivers State over the last few months have everything to do with the guber race in 2015. The displacement of the State Executive of the Peoples Democratic Party under the chairmanship of Chief G. U. Ake in April 2013 remains the most audacious statement of intent yet on who steps into Governor Chibuike Amaechi's shoes when the term of the incumbent ends. There have also been other engagements of the polity to register serious interest in the same Rivers governorship, but none has been reduced to clear ethnic interest as the declaration by the Ogoni political apparatchiks. Here is the point where the interest of other stakeholders in the Rivers project became aroused, raising questions on the supreme qualification of the Ogoni for the office in 2015. Worse still the Ogonis have adopted the language of threat to pursue their dysfunctional agenda.
Drawing from the very sellable position that it is only equitable that the next governor should become an exclusive Rivers South-East senatorial district affair the other two senatorial districts having had the Governorship in the past 16 years, some smart politicians within the Ogoni strata have pounced on the strategy of sentimentality to drive their quest for power. A tiny clique among the Ogonis pursuing their own selfish agenda have tried to use Ogoni platform to pursue their Governorship Programme. The truth is that this is an approach that cannot be sustained as it is insensitive to factors that drive political calculations in every plural society.
We make bold to state that the crisis enveloping Rivers State at the moment could worsen with making wrong choices, and this does not preclude jettisoning the age-long issue of maintenance of the balance of power between the Upland and Riverine in the leadership of the state in 2015. The reactions that trailed the declaration in Ahoada by Felix Obuah of intention to have Nyesom Wike, Minister of State for Education and an ethnic Ikwerre succeed Gov. Amaechi evidences the overwhelming aversion to stalling the process of ceding the governorship to the Riverine after sixteen years of exclusive Upland dominance.
Generally speaking, the Ogoni do have a stake in the argument that power should shift this time to the Rivers South-East senatorial zone even though historical political indices do not support their cause. We have a precedent to buttress this point when the political parties of the time ceded the governorship to the Rivers West senatorial district in 1999. The race having been limited in the long run to Dr. Peter Odili of the PDP and Chief Ebenezer Isokariari of the defunct All Peoples Party (APP), the odds naturally favoured Dr. Odili not only because he was articulate. Not because he had a deep purse at the time. It certainly was not also the case then that the minority Ndoni-born politician brought any ethnic number edge over his challenger neither had the PDP acquired its present advantage of being the ruling party. Objective points devolving around maintaining the power balance between Upland/Riverine Rivers State gave the minority PDP ticket of Dr. Odili and Sir G. T. G. Toby (Ibani Ijaw) the day over the majority dominated APP ticket of Chief Isokariari (Kalabari Ijaw) and Sir Clement Menegbo (Ogoni). And the permutations were too clear: the political leadership of the state could not support the injustice of having another Riverine governor succeed Gov. Rufus Ada George even though he did only a little below two years of his constitutional four-year term due to the perenial military interventions of the time. This sensitivity to our own multiethnic and peculiar geographical location helped in no small way to advance stability and unity in Rivers State then and is still relevant till today.
Since our Chinese friends say you ask questions from those returning when embarking on a journey, we respectfully submit that the same principles of guaranteeing justice and equity to all Rivers people applies, without fear of any contradiction, to the governorship race in 2015.
We had stated therefore that we agree that the Ogoni deserve our sympathy and identify particularly with the argument which tends to take stock of the general circumstance we find ourselves of environmental injustice and despoiliation of the Niger Delta region in which all parts of Rivers State are affected. But that is not the Alpha and Omega of inequities and the urgency to address same in the region. More so, considered against the background of political dominance by the Ogoni of non-Ogoni groups in the South-East senatorial zone with regard to shared interests. The fact is sacrosant that across past governments, the Ogoni have maintained an unasailable grip on the seat of Senator with the lone exception being Senator Adawari Pepple from Dr. Cyrus Nunieh, Dr. Bennett Birabi, Senator Lee Maeba through the incumbent, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe and it is incumbent on Rivers people that we exercise our minds on the justice and equity of that predominance as the market of issues and ideas central to the considerations for the governorship in 2015 take root.
Beyond the fact that Ogonis have dominated the commonwealth of Rivers South East Senatorial district to the exclusion of their brothers, the attempt to create a nexus between environmental degradation of Ogoni Land and entitlement to Governorship of Rivers State is immoral, untenable and deceitful.
All parts of Rivers State are affected by the environmental pollution occasioned by oil and gas industry activity, Ogonis may have been the most vocal. What Ogoni should ask for now like other Rivers people is good governance that will help them achieve their development objectives.
There is no shred of doubt that the root cause of crisis and conflict in any society is injustice. No part of Rivers State can afford the social problem another injustice to our Ijaw Riverine brothers will inflict on Rivers State. The path to go is the path of justice, fairness and equity. Rivers State is too strategic to the economy of Nigeria to be used for unnecessary political experiments.
Arc. Henry Opuiyo is facilitator of Rivers Equity Movement.