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2023: Ethnic Groups And The Clamour For Wike’s Successor



ANAYO ONUKWUGHA writes on efforts by Rivers State governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, to contain the increased clamour by ethnic nationalities in the state to produce his successor

Although Rivers State governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, is yet to conclude the first year in his second tenure, there has been heated debate by ethnic nationalities in the state on whose turn it is to produce the next governor of the state, come 2023.

Before the debate started, there were unconfirmed reports of alleged moves by people of Ikwerre ethnic nationality in Port Harcourt City and Emohua local government areas, to produce Wike’s successor.

The unconfirmed reports allegedly gave former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Austin Opara and current chief of staff in the Government House, Port Harcourt, Chief Chukwuemeka Woke, as the preferred choices of those leading the campaign for another governor from Ikwerre ethnic nationality.

They allegedly hinged their campaign on the fact that the incumbent, Wike hails from Ohio/Akpor local government area while his predecessor and current minister of transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi hails from Ikwerre local government area.

The Ogoni ethnic nationality and the Kalabari Kingdom are two distinct groups that have been clamouring to produce governor of Rivers State since 2015.

The Ogoni ethnic nationality, which is in Rivers South-East senatorial district is made up of four local government areas, including Eleme, Khana, Gokana and Tai.

However, the highest elective position that had gone to the area is the deputy speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly.

On its part, Kalabari Kingdom is one of the clans that make up the Ijaw ethnic nationality in the Niger Delta region. Kalabari comprises of Akuku-Toru, Asari-Toru and Degema local government areas of Rivers State and part of the Rivers West senatorial district.

Although the Ijaw nation produced three governors in the old Rivers State, now Rivers and Bayelsa States, the Kalabari kingdom has not produced any governor since the creation of Rivers State in 1967.

From 1999 when civilians took over the reins of government in Nigeria, several prominent indigenes of Kalabari Kingdom have made efforts to achieve this feat without success.

The fear by other ethnic nationalities in Rivers State, outside Ikwerre ethnic nationality, that they may not be allowed to produce the next governor of the state in 2023 was heightened on December 7, 2019, when the Ogbakor Ikwerre Socio-Cultural Organization, the umbrella body of Ikwerre people worldwide, organised a reception in honour of Wike.

While speaking at the event, which was held at Captain Elechi Amadi Polytechnic, Rumuola, Port Harcourt, the governor declared that all ethnic nationalities must work together to ensure the emergence of a governor that will carry the entire state along.

“We will continue the legacy of Odili. Anyone with the interest of Rivers State will be supported. Wherever you are from, you must show that you are a Rivers man. We must work with all ethnic nationalities to move Rivers State forward,” he said.

Wike, however urged Ikwerre people not to be intimidated, saying that there can be no political position without the Ikwerre people playing prominent roles. He  noted that Rivers State remains one united state, where all ethnic groups are important.

The governor said: “Rivers State is one. Nobody can divide Rivers State. No outsider can be Governor of Rivers State. Let us not allow anyone to divide us.

“If you must be a Governor of Rivers State, you must carry Everyone along. No ethnic Group can do it alone. Once you say it is your turn, it will not work. When you say it is your turn, you have started failing.”

But, addressing the Ogoni ethnic nationality during a solidarity visit to Government House, Port Harcourt, few days later, Wike declared that he has not promised any ethnic nationality, the position of governor.

The governor insisted that only God has the capacity to make any ethnic nationality governor of Rivers State.

He said: “Let nobody say that I have met with Ogoni ethnic nationality and I promised them governor. I didn’t promise because I cannot give.

“It is only God that will give the position of governor. With proper arrangement,  things can be done. Don’t say I made a promise, don’t rely on anyone, just work hard. As Nyesom Wike, I can only support, but cannot make anyone governor.”

Wike thereby urged Rivers people to take him as an example where a leader declared that over his dead body would he emerge Rivers State governor.

The governor said: “Take me as an example. Someone sat here and said over his  dead body would I be Governor.  Am I not Governor today? I am heading towards eight years.

“Nobody should threaten you that you cannot be Governor.  Don’t take the position of God. Don’t allow anyone to take the glory of God.”

He urged the people of Ogoni ethnic nationality to be united and work together in order to achieve set goals, as well as build bridges across various ethnic nationalities to succeed politically

Wike advised Ogoni people with the intention to run for governorship election in the state to be fully prepared to struggle for the position.

Also, addressing the people of Kalabari Kingdom during a solidarity visit to Government House, Port Harcourt, the governor called on ethnic nationalities seeking for the governorship position to liaise with others, rather than take actions that will engender disunity in the state.

He urged the Kalabari ethnic nationality and their leaders to be strategic in their quest for governorship, saying that the resort to needless propaganda will not work in their favour.

Wike said: “You must have a strategy to get the governorship position.  Quietly sit down with other ethnic nationalities and work towards the seat.

“The governorship seat cannot be gotten through the radio. It cannot be gotten through falsehood. There must be a strategy in place. Nobody gives you the governorship seat as a gift.”

The governor stated that if the governorship seat is gotten as a gift, the people will not appreciate it.

He said the governorship position in Rivers State is difficult to access because Abuja and other key leaders are interested in planting people.

Wike said: “Abuja is interested, other states are also interested in who becomes the Rivers State governor.  They want to plant a governor of Rivers State. God will not allow it.”

The governor reiterated that no single ethnic nationality in Rivers State can make a governor, adding that it takes the cooperation of all ethnic nationalities for a governor to emerge.

To ensure that his administration is not distracted by the increased clamours by ethnic nationalities for the governorship position in 2023, Wike, while swearing in his Commissioners and Special Advisers against working with different political interest groups to seek for his successor

The governor said: “If you know you are looking for money for 2023, resign now. I will not hesitate to remove you. If I catch any Commissioner or Special Adviser holding meetings on who will be governor in 2023, there will be sanctions.”