The Rivers State (s)election rerun for federal and state legislative seats on Saturday took a turn for the worse with Governor Nyesom Wike threatening to kill any All Progressives Congress (APC) member that tries to swap result sheets in order to rig the (s)election.
Watch the Wike threat here.
This is troubling and lawless gangsterism from a governor that is meant to maintain security in his state. But it is no surprise considering what happened in the state during the March last year (s)election as was described here.
Violence and Rivers State politics seem to go hand in hand, hardly surprising considering the history of the likes of Wike and former governor Rotimi Amaechi as alleged cultists. A 2008 Human Rights Watch report “Politics as War: The Human Rights Impact and Causes of Post-Election Violence in Rivers State, Nigeria”, stated: “Since the end of military rule in 1999, democracy in Nigeria has been illusory, with elections stolen openly and voters systematically intimidated into acquiescence. Hundreds of Nigerians died in the course of sham elections in 2003 and 2007. The governments that seized power through those fraudulent exercises have shown little sense of accountability to their constituents. The conduct of Rivers State’s politicians has sunk even lower than these dismal norms. The violence described in this report was the inevitable result of actions by Rivers’ public officials.
Rivers State’s government is the wealthiest state government in Nigeria. That position is derived from Rivers’ status as the heart of Nigeria’s booming oil industry. Rising world oil prices in recent years have flooded Rivers State’s treasury with a budget larger than those of many West African countries. In spite of this wealth, Rivers has some of the worst socioeconomic indicators in the world-its people lack access to employment, education, health care, and other basic needs. Instead of putting its massive oil revenues to work developing the state for the benefit of the entire population, Rivers’ politicians have largely squandered the money through mismanagement and corruption. Ironically, the young men attracted into well funded gang activity because of poverty and unemployment are helping to fuel the same problems responsible for their lack of opportunities in the first place.
But Rivers’ wealth has not just been squandered; it has also been put to work sponsoring violence and insecurity on behalf of ruling party politicians.”
Amaechi has been doing the rounds of TV and radio shows complaining about Wike-sponsored violence. But he is in no position to talk. In 2013, Amaechi’s ally Chidi Lloyd, the Majority Leader in the state House of Assembly nearly killed a fellow legislator with the assembly’s mace.
President Muhammadu Buhari has claimed he will deal with all sponsors of violence in the state. No one really believes this, considering the impunity of the likes of Wike and the fact that someone like Amaechi is in Buhari’s cabinet.