Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State was a guest on Channels TV’s Hard Copy yesterday and was quick to deny allegations that he belonged to one of the vicious gangs known as “cults” while he was a student at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology. Those allegations have hung around him for a while and wouldn’t have gone away even after this interview.
He stressed that he has “never been a cultist”, even though one of his first acts as a governor was to give an amnesty to cultists in his state.
Watch the interview:
Gangsterism goes with the territory in the state referred to as “Rivers of Blood”. Human Rights Watch in a 2008 report on Rivers State called “Politics as war” stated: “There is a direct link between gang violence and the corruption and criminality of many Rivers politicians. Many of the state’s disastrously ineffective political leaders have kept themselves in place by violently rigging their own elections, something they have in large part relied on gangs of armed thugs to achieve. The money they use to fund, arm, and support these gangs is generated by the corrupt practices in which these politicians engage. Once in office they either abandon the well-armed gangs to their own devices or continue using them to intimidate their opponents and carry out lucrative criminal activity such as oil ‘bunkering’.”
Wike denied that cultists were being used by politicians and dismissed them as “criminals”. He clearly forgot that in May this year he accused his predecessor and current transport minister Rotimi Amaechi of creating a new cult group to foment crisis in the state. Amaechi accused Wike last year of appointing cultists as council chairmen and “empowering” them. Several sources have told Naijiant.com that both men were cultists at university. Both men used to be close when Wike was chief of staff during Amaechi’s tenure as governor.
Now, the bitterness between them seems to be eternal. Wike attributed his problems with Amaechi to the minister interfering in the affairs of the state. He claimed that Amaechi won’t “let peace reign” and that if he (Wike) finishes his term as governor, he would allow whoever takes over from him “to do their work”.
Wike seemed to think his “work” revolves around fighting several political battles. He was questioned about sacking his entire cabinet, threatening to revoke the certificate of occupancy of Novotel Hotel in Port Harcourt because opposition politicians were using the place and so on. His incoherence was staggering and couldn’t be masked by the aggressive bluster.
Human Rights Watch on cults
The term “cults” in Nigerian parlance refers to a kind of criminal gang with roots in the student populations of university campuses. Since the first cult was established in 1952 at the University of Ibadan the groups have evolved from benign campus confraternities into violent criminal organizations. These cults sow terror among the student populations of many universities and have emerged as the dominant criminal gangs in much of Nigeria, especially in the south of the country. Some cult groups have sponsored street-based offshoots without any connection to university campuses to bolster the muscle at their disposal. In many parts of Nigeria, including Rivers State, some leading politicians belong to cult groups themselves.