On Sunday, November 18, 2018, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will lift its ban on political campaigns ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Ahead of the date of the lifting of the ban, INEC a few days ago published the list of candidates for the Presidential and Governorship as well as National and State Assembly elections.
For the governorship election, which will hold on March 2, 2019, the electoral umpire published the names of the incumbent Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike and Pastor Tonye Cole as candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Rivers State, respectively.
Other shortlisted governorship candidates are Sir Precious Elekima of the Social Democratic Party (SDP); Elem Chinweike of the Hope Democratic Party; (HDP) and Joseph Princewill for the Mega Party of Nigeria (MPN).
Also on the list are Tamunopriala Jumbo of the Peoples Democratic Congress (PDC), Ngoye Benebo of the United Party of Nigeria (UPN) and Kukang Barine for the All Peoples Movement (APM).
The two candidates to watch out for in the governorship election are Wike and Cole, considering the fact that PDP and APC are the only two political parties that are rooted in all the nooks and crannies of the state.
The emergence of Cole, who hails from Abonnema in Akuku-Toru local government area of Rivers State, as the standard bearer of the APC was not that smooth as concerns were raised over the recent ruling of the Supreme Court on the suit between the APC and 22 aggrieved members of the party.
A governorship aspirant on the APC platform and senator representing Rivers South-East District in the National Assembly, Senator Magnus Abe, had rejected the submission of Cole’s name to INEC by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.
Addressing newsmen at Freedom House, his campaign headquarters in Port Harcourt, Abe, believed to be the brain behind the Prince Peter Odike-led faction of APC in Rivers State, argued that the governorship candidate only joined the party as an aspirant.
He said: “I am sure you are all aware of the current situation in our party and decision of the National Working Committee to accept the report that nominated Architect Tonye Dele Cole as the candidate of party; arising from the indirect primaries that was conducted here in Port Harcourt.”
“As all of you are aware, this situation is what we have been warning the leadership about in the last two years now when the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, called a meeting of this party and started the pattern of threats and intimidation that has now snowballed into the current situation.
“We had warned, we had pleaded, we had talked for close to two years now to draw the attention of the party, to draw the attention of this country to the crisis that is being created and sustained in the party, for no other reason but to ensure that we do not have any opportunity to participate in the governorship primaries of our party.
“The truth of the matter is that I have nothing against Architect Tonye Dele Cole. He is a friend and he remains a friend. But as a politician, we are fighting the fight based on justice and based on our commitment to truth.
“There are certain things that cannot change except there is justice. The leadership of the party has set up an appeal committee to look into the complaints of some members who are aggrieved over the decision of the National Working Committee (NWC).
“We are preparing our petition, which we will send to the appeal committee. Although we were told that the petition to the appeal committee is a mere formality. But we will still present our position to them.”
However, to INEC, it collected the list of candidates of the APC in Rivers State because there was no court order or judgement barring it from doing so.
According to Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner in-charge of Voter Education and Publicity, at the time APC submitted the list, INEC has not been served any court order or any judgment barring the party from submitting the list.
Okoye said: “The APC conducted party primary in the state and the party primary election was monitored by INEC, and at the end of the day, the National Chairman of APC and the National Secretary forwarded the list of candidates that emerged from the primary election to INEC, and INEC collected the list as submitted by the national chairman and secretary of the APC.
“On the date of submission of the list, there was no order from any court of law served on INEC to the effect that the electoral body should not collect the list of candidates from Rivers State.”
He stated that what INEC has done is what the law says in terms of political party submitting the list of their candidates.
Ahead of the November 18, which all political parties across the country are looking up to, the governorship candidates in Rivers State and their various political parties have been making inroads into the rural communities and urban centres alike sensitizing the electorate preparation for the lifting of the ban on campaigns.
While Wike has endorsements for a second terms from far and wild while Cole, believed to be his closest rival has been visiting communities ravaged by violence as well as the recent flood preaching peace and seek for their support during the election.
Wike’s chances of securing a second term come 2019 got a boost last Saturday, November 10, 2018 when youths of Asari-Toru local government area of the state, converged in Buguma, the council headquarters and hometown of the APC Chairman in the state, Hon. Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, declared support for the governor.
The youths march through the streets of Buguma, under the auspices of One Million Youths for New Rivers State, displaying banners on the achievements of Wike as governor.
Speaking during the march at Buguma, National Coordinator of One Million Youths for New Rivers State, Hon. Ehie Edison declared that the governor is a promise keeper, hence the decision to re-elect him.
Edie stated that Wike has demonstrated his love for youths by supporting the emergence of youths as state legislators, council administrators and councillors.
He said: “He has shown a high love of youths and therefore majority of our lawmakers, council chairmen and councillors are youths. We have decided that in 2019, Governor Wike will be re-elected.”
In his remarks, Secretary General of One Million Youths for New Rivers State, Hon. Major Jack urged youths of the state to sustain their support for Wike, noting that the re-election of the governor will be actualized in 2019.
On his part, the APC governorship candidate, Cole, has not failed in using the opportunity created by Wike’s alleged ‘unconcerned’ attitude towards flood victims in the Orashi Region of the state, to launch himself into the heart of the people of the state.
Just last Friday, the APC standard bearer donated relief materials worth millions of naira and cash to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Obedum community, Odual Kingdom in Abua/Odual local government area of the state.
Cole has visited all the IDP camps set up to provide shelter for people who were rendered homeless by the ravaging flood in communities in Abua/Odual, Ahoada-East, Ahoada-West and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government area of Rivers State.
The Tonye Cole Campaign Organisation (TCCO) has also not spared Wike over his alleged directive for the closure of the IDP camps, saying that instead of visiting the people displaced by flood and providing them much needed succour, the governor was compounding the challenges facing them by ordering the immediate closure of the IDP camps.
Addressing newsmen in Port Harcourt yesterday, Director-General of TCCO, Dr. Chidi Lloyd said: “It is condemnable for Governor Wike to ignore calls by well-meaning people to visit suffering flood victims in the Orashi and other areas in Rivers State.
“Instead the governor has ordered that the IDP camps be closed down even when communities like Odiereke, Akinima and others are still submerged in water with reptiles roaming freely and occupying homes.
“We expect a responsible government to cater for the needs of the flood victims and when the water has completely receded, carry out a comprehensive health audit and possible fumigation before the victims move back to their homes.
“These our brothers and sisters are likely to face several challenges such as waterborne diseases, rodents and possible snake bites. Even some of their homes may have weakened to the point of collapsing with all the attendant dangers to life.
“What offence did the poor victims of the floods commit against the governor that he should insist on not visiting and providing assistance to the people he governs but instead has chosen to compound their travails by suddenly ordering them out of the IDP camps where they are taking refuge?”
Lloyd, who is former leader of the Rivers State House of Assembly, appealed to the flood victims about to vacate the IDP camps not to allow their spirit to be broken by the action of the governor because when the unrighteous rules, the people are subjected to all manner of sufferings.
The TCCO boss said: “You can see that whatever is said in the Holy Bible is true. For example, the Bible says in Proverbs 29:2 that only when the righteous are in authority or rule that the people rejoice. Today it is the turn of the flood victims to taste the bad governance of Wike. This is what most of us have tasted and are still tasting.
“But behind every bleak moments in our lives is usually a bright silver lining beckoning. That silver lining is Pastor Tonye Patrick Cole, the governorship candidate of the APC who, by the grace of God, shall become the governor of Rivers State come May 29, 2019.
“As a disciplined and devout Christian, Cole will heal our broken State and provide the much needed reconciliation for all strata of our society. As an astute business achiever, Pastor Tonye Cole will painstakingly rework and realign the economy of Rivers State for the good of present and future generations of the people and residents of Rivers State.”
Cole has also restates his intention to restore genuine people to communities in Ogba/Egbema/ Ndoni local government area of the state, that been visited with violence and cult-related killings in the recent past.
Addressing party supporters at Omoku, headquarters of Ogba/Egbema/ Ndoni local government area, the APC governorship candidate, said from all indications, the people of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government area were in dire need of peace.