The problem is that talking about the differences between the governors that ruled Rivers State since 1999 has been the frenzy but nobody ever bothers talking about their similarities. And that matters. For the similarities tell a flattering story of a sea of sameness in all of them.
Close watchers of governance and politics in the state and all the activities of the Brick House and the new Government House since the advent of the current democratic dispensation in 1999, would obviously affirm that a “familiar spirit” rules the minds and hearts of all those that governed the state from 1999 to date without exception. Why is this disclosure necessary now? It is simply because the ordinary Rivers people have remained losers due to their manipulation by state governors, who typically abandon governance in pursuit of political enemies and inordinate Abuja ambitions.
As already established, all the governors that ruled Rivers State from 1999 to date usually start the same way and end in the same manner only to turn back and blame almost everybody but themselves for misapplying the state resources and ending up political pariahs both at home and the national stage.
Is it not curious that no incumbent governor of Rivers State since 1999 has ever tolerated, accommodated, or cooperated with their immediate predecessor? Do they quarrel because of the interest of the state and its people? No! Rather it is for the narrow selfish and inordinate ambitions of these men who normally reign like mafia bosses.
Peter Odili planted the seed of the romance with this “familiar spirit” that has continued to short-change the people when he, directly or by proxy, chased away Rufus Ada George from the state and made him a persona non grata. Every politician closely linked to Ada George was literally chased out of Port Harcourt.
Also, when Chibuike Amaechi came, after his days or rather months of “Jacob’s trouble,” he was all out to pay back his enemies and the topmost on his list were Odili, his former Oga, and of course, Celestine Omehia, who was used to replace him.
And in an attempt to make his vendetta mission look legal and patriotic, he recruited the late Justice Kayode Eso to execute the "Rivers Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” an idea that was supposed to heal all wounds and bitter hearts across the state but ended up deepening existing wounds.
And as stated by Odili in his submission on the Kayode Eso Commission, “the setting up of the so-called Kayode Eso ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ was clearly conceived, designed and programmed to permanently indict and incarcerate Odili.
"Clearly, no truth or reconciliation was intended by those who conceived the idea of this Commission, and given the trend so far, I dare say that no reconciliation can be achieved.”
Odili’s belief on the matter turned out to be the truth.
The panel came out with a recommendation that would have contrived Odili into political oblivion and infamy if not for the intervention of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua who ensured that the panel’s recommendations were not implemented.
Barely one month after he was sworn-in, Wike inaugurated a six-man panel of inquiry, headed by Justice Godwin Omereji, to investigate the financial transactions of the former government headed by Amaechi. The panel was charged with the responsibility of scrutinising contracts awarded by Amaechi and issue of assets of the state allegedly sold by his predecessor. With the speed of light, the panel nailed Amaechi on sales of state assets to his cronies and diversion of the proceeds to unknown accounts.
In response to the development, Amaechi’s group claimed that Wike’s panel was aimed at blackmailing and rubbishing the former governor as part of alleged desperate efforts to scuttle his chances of getting appointment in the Buhari-led federal government.
When Odili came in 1999 he had only one mission in mind: to frugally apply the state resources in infrastructure and human capital development. And no matter what anybody says, he did well in achieving fleets of milestones in initiating and executing outstanding people-oriented projects across the state, including the health sector and its free medical treatment for pregnant women, children and the senior citizens, the nationwide pioneer in independent power generation, housing scheme, road and transportation projects, etc. Pathetically, he lost every sense of service to Rivers State when he got carried away by the lure of becoming Obasanjo’s successor.
Amaechi also did very well in his first tenure in initiating and implementing relevant people-oriented development projects. He stood out nationwide in his turnaround initiatives in the school systems where he remodeled and fully equipped primary and secondary schools across the state and even tertiary institutions. Amaechi took empowerment of Rivers people to heights not recorded by anybody before him in awarding big project contracts to indigenes of the state. However, this turned out to be one of his biggest undoings, as almost all of these indigenous contractors either did shoddy jobs or outrightly collected full payments for project contracts without lifting a pin on site.
The incumbent, Governor Wike, no doubt, is currently doing well in his peculiar gra-gra way of addressing the development challenges that confront the state and its people. Most of the degraded or abandoned infrastructure development projects: roads, drainages, housing schemes etc across the state are being worked on. Also there are scores of innovative projects being initiated and executed with the zeal of a yewali.
But like his predecessor who literally became airborne in his second tenure, the lure of Abuja politics and power play is already distracting Wike from the pressing needs at home. Like Amaechi who abandoned Rivers State in his pursuit of the Governors’ Forum politics and his alleged vice presidential ambition, the incumbent governor is also losing sight of the state to his commanding role in the PDP crisis and the proposed new mega party project. Odili did the same in his second tenure when Obasanjo and his wife literally relocated to Port Harcourt promising him of handing over power to him in 2007 presidential election.
After all he did in Abuja and across the country with Rivers State money toward realizing his dream of becoming the president of Nigeria, Odili was abandoned by Obasanjo. And whether anybody wants to hear this or not, after all Amaechi also did with Rivers State money to support and actualize the Buhari presidency, he was almost dropped and currently he is almost being abandoned.
Now will Wike learn from the mistakes of his predecessors? Not sure! His dance steps are not in any way suggesting he has learnt a single lesson from the way his ogas were treated at the centre. So he is possibly going to end up like them and that obviously is going to be also after draining the highly needed and now scarce resources of Rivers state to chase familiar spirits in Abuja.
Has anybody ever wondered what could have been the cause of the ongoing “irreconcilable bitterness” between Amaechi and Wike? All the adduced reasons - the senate and governorship ambitions, diversion of contract monies, etc. - are at best mere hoaxes.
Truth be told, none of the two Ikwerre brothers can explain in real terms the root cause and sustenance of the bitterness between them. Amaechi would not hide anything to prove he is a good Christian. As governor, he literally lived in the Church. Wike also has been dangling his new born again identity and currently lives in the Church though the man has no denomination. He worships in white, red, blue and black garment churches and also the Pentecostal brands. The question is: why has it become so difficult or rather impossibility for these two men to forgive each other of whatever the offense in the interest of the state also so that their prayers would not be hindered? Is it not the working of the “familiar spirit”?
Who is the ultimate loser in all these executive quarrels and misbehaviors? Is it not the ordinary Rivers people who have continued to live in abject poverty while their monies are being plundered to fund illicit activities both at home and in Abuja? With the kind of money the state received from 1999 to date, there are infrastructural and developmental programs that are not supposed to still be luxuries in the state. If states like Anambra, which receives little or nothing from the federation account, can proudly parade outstanding infrastructural development projects and life-transforming programs and initiatives, how can Rivers explain its continued backwardness? God will judge our leaders, not in heaven or hell but here on earth. God bless my Rivers State!
Ifeanyi writes from Abuja. He can be reached at [email protected].