Special Report: RIVERS GOVERNORSHIP 2023; 18 MEN TO WATCH

The race to occupy the seat of power in Port Harcourt, the Brick House like that for thirty-one other states will climax in eighteen months from now. It is clear that the electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC will not release the timetable anytime soon.

Yet, in political circles it is understood, that the next election starts immediately after the last. And so, only a fool would think that nothing is happening.

For a clearer understanding of the survey, we should review the political environment in the state. The state government is 100% PDP. And the main opposition party in the state, the APC didn’t even participate in the 2019 general elections.

So, all the over three hundred councilors, twenty-three council chairmen, thirty-two state legislators as well as the state executive council are all members of the PDP. That means, that all the resources of the state are under the control of the PDP.

Yet, no one can write-off the APC.
The lead opposition party at the state is the ruling party at the federal level. And that comes with enormous advantages for the party in the state.

The APC is also led by Governor Wike’s predecessor, Rt. Hon Amaechi, the Minister for Transportation. At the federal level, Minister Amaechi is regarded as an influential stakeholder. Besides serving as Director General of the Mohammadu Buhari Presidential Campaign twice, he is rumored to be the brain behind the adoption of Buhari as candidate of the then newly formed APC and was a major financier of that project.

Some, consider him the most favored politician in the government from southern Nigeria. Many believe that the status of Amaechi in the federal government is enough to cancel out the enormous influence of an incumbent governor, especially at elections.

Added to the ministerial position are other high influence federal appoints controlled by Hon. Amaechi, such as Ambassadorial nominations, top NDDC appointments, the leadership of the Niger Delta Amnesty office and others. We also know that the security forces play both official and unofficial roles in our elections. And they are federally controlled.

However, the APC and its leader haven’t been able to stop the PDP and its candidates both in 2015 and 2019.
Members of the APC would quickly refer to their internal crisis as the reason for their defeats, yet, others would argue that, poor strategies or inadequate political intelligence gave rise to the crisis which analysts describe as self-inflicted.

The root of the APC crisis which has greatly served the interest of the PDP in Rivers State, is a political disagreement between the leader of the party in the State, Rotimi Amaechi and his friend and former Secretary to the State Government, Senator Magnus Abe.

Amaechi as outgoing Governor and leader of the then newly formed APC had indicated that he would support the emergence of his successor from the Rivers South-West senatorial district, being the only amongst the three in the State that has never produced a governor. And the district is made up of the Ogonis, the Andonis and the Opobo/Nkoro people.

However, the basis of power sharing in the multi-ethnic state since creation in 1967 had been riverine and upland sections. Interestingly, the three senatorial districts have both upland and riverine populations.

So, it made sense for the APC caucus to adequately address both the riverine/upland question and the senatorial cover by electing a governorship candidate from the riverine section of the preferred senatorial district.
And so, Opobo-born Dakuku Peterside, a long time Amaechi loyalist was picked over Magnus Abe from Ogoni for the 2015 elections.

The APC lost the elections and after a series of court ordered reruns, the APC got a number of legislators at the state and federal levels. Magnus Abe therefore went to the senate. After losing the governorship in 2015, Dakuku Peterside was appointed Director General of NIMASA.

Months later, rumors of a restrained relationship filtered into the state. Abe was accused of trying to upstage his political benefactor after his nominee had been appointed a Director at the NDDC. Abe’s men, were quick to explain the reason for the bad blood between both men.

As days, turned to weeks and weeks months, the relationship depreciated. Before long it was clear to all that the APC had been divided. And the PDP took full advantage of that divide.

That feud which cost the APC her participatory rights at the 2019 elections have remained unresolved. Now, all eyes are on the 2023 elections, yet, the political warlords in the APC are not shifting grounds.

The PDP on its part has a major crisis in her hands too. There is an unholy war between the leader of the party in the state, Governor Wike and the national Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, also an indigene of the state. It is rumored that Governor Nyesom Wike, who sponsored Uche Secondus’ election as national chairman wants him to leave the position to pave way for a possible southern presidential candidate in 2023.

But Prince Secondus is insisting on continuing, which would reduce if not eliminate the chances of producing a southern presidential candidate. And it is certain that whatever happens, that national fight by two Rivers sons in the PDP would affect the chances and choices of the party in the state.

However, politicians cannot and would not wait for all the confusions to clear. Indeed, a lot is happening behind the scene in Rivers State. In fact, immediately, after Wike’s re-election, there was a disturbing move by another Ikwerre born politician, Hon. Austin Opara. Even when he is from Ikwerre, the same as the last two governors, his purported governorship ambition caused ripples, especially in his party the PDP.

The body language of the Governor may have fueled that impact. As even state legislators scrabbled to coordinate his campaigns more than three years before time.

However, after the last PDP convention, Austin Opara gradually withdrew. Many say, his friend, Governor Wike had to discourage him by awarding him a major contract.

And as at today almost forty names have been speculated. However, our team of researchers have gathered information on the possible forerunners. By the criteria used, it would be a miracle for anyone not on this list to be elected as the next governor of the state.

For now, the would-be aspirants are in the cooler. Some for economic reasons, others still studying the atmosphere and those who have godfathers, waiting for endorsements. Yet, there are still ongoing agitations that seek to influence the election of the next Governor.

The APC leader, Hon. Amaechi immediately after his faction of the party in the state got a respite from the courts, announced that he would support a governorship candidate from the riverine section. A statement welcomed by a cross section of Rivers people but drew the irk of the Senator Abe faction. That thought-line of the Minister of Transportation is the basis of the crusade by the United Rivers Alliance, a pressure group chaired by Hon. Dason Nemieboka.

URA is clamoring for the selection of riverine candidates by both the PDP and APC, in the spirit of mutual coexistence. To sustain the balancing formula used by the founding fathers of the state. The calls for Governor Wike’s successor to come from the riverine section is getting louder by the day.

And so, the peddled names of possible aspirants reflect the shift philosophy. Of the names that are speculated, there are more riverine.

Dr. Tammy W. Danagogo: A lawyer with a PhD, he is a PDP stalwart from Abonnema (riverine) he is the current Secretary to the State Government. He is the highest ranking appointee of Governor Wike. Tammy Danagogo is regarded as a close and dependable ally of the incumbent. A former council chairman, former commissioner and Minister.

Dr. Danagogo is an unassuming politician, considered as level headed and focused. He cuts the picture of a technocrat, with a deep insight into the mind of his principal. It the decision of who should be governor is solely to be made by the incumbent, then Tammy Danagogo may just be the one.

Chief Dumo Lulu Briggs: Also a lawyer from Abonnema, Chief DLB as he is fondly called is a flamboyant and charismatic politician. An outstanding philanthropist and a role model to youths. DLB is very successful business man with vast interest in oil and gas, real estate, marine and banking.

Son of the late High Chief O. B. Lulu-Briggs, DLB continues to draw from the goodwill of his father even as he establishes himself as a worthy heir of a major dynasty. DLB has attempted run for the governorship of Rivers State a number of times, but hasn’t been that lucky. Would 2023 be his time? Rivers people would decide.

Senator (Chief) George T. Sekibo: An architect by training, George Sekibo is a seasoned politician from Ogu. He is currently a senator of the federal republic, representing the Rivers East. He had been council chairman in the old Rivers State, Special Adviser, Member of the House of Representatives, and a ranking senator. It experience is the factor, then George Sekibo is the man.

Senator Magnus Ngei Abe: A lawyer from Ogoni, who was elected to the House of Assembly in 1999 on the platform of the APP. He crossed to the PDP and was appointed a Commissioner. In 2007, he was appointed, Secretary to the State Government by Governor Amaechi. By 2011 he was elected a senator of the federal republic.

After he lost the APC governorship ticket in 2015, he ran for the senate again and was elected after two re-run elections. Magnus Abe displayed sufficient capacity, when he pulled majority of Amaechi’s senior associates away. Clearly, the biggest pain in Amaechi’s neck politically, Magnus may be smart, but will find a major obstacle in his former friend and boss.

Mr. Felix Obuah: a business man from Omoku, Felix is the man whose controversial election as the State Chairman of the PDP led to the ultimate divide in the Rivers chapter that led to Rotimi Amaechi’s exit from the party.

Fondly called ‘go-round’ for his generosity, the former council chairman, football enthusiast and hotelier, Mr. Obuah is the Sole Administrator of the State Sanitation Authority, which is totted to spend half a billion naira monthly in cleaning the state capital. His ambition is largely seen as a product of agreements in the run off to the 2015 elections.

Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside: Opobo-born Dakuku was the APC flagbearer in 2015, who went on to become the Director General for the NIMASA. He had been a council chairman, commissioner and member of the House of Representatives.
He easily would have passed for Amaechi’s closest riverine associate, but Amaechi’s rejection of him in 2019 and the refusal to renew his appointment at NIMASA after his first term speaks volumes.

Dr. Dawari George: Another Amaechi loyalist from Buguma. Dawari a highly respected former youth leader is regarded as a politician with a high moral standing. He had risen to the peak of youth leadership nationally and Baptist men globally. Son of a Baptist clergy and educationist, he comes across as different. A former Commissioner and former member of the House of Representatives, Dr. George may only run if he gets his leader’s endorsement.

Hon. Austin Opara: The Diobu born former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives caused a major stirred between 2019 and 2020. However, his inability to hijack the party’s structure in his constituency sent a wrong signal. Today, he would need a miracle to resurrect his governorship ambition.

Dr. Sokonte Davies: A Russian trained medical doctor, Sokonte is from Degema. Regarded as humble and soft-spoken, he was a key administrative staff at the PDP state office before he was elected to the House of Representatives. After his term at the federal house, he was appointed Director of Operations at the Nigerian Ports Authority.

Hon. Kingsley Chinda: A Port Harcourt born Ikwerre lawyer, he was appointed a commissioner under Amaechi, but has always been loyal to Nyesom Wike. He is a member of the House of Representatives. Who is regarded as Governor Wike’s most trusted representative at the National Assembly. He has done a lot to show loyalty and Governor Wike will happily endorse him but for his roots.

Dr. Gabriel Pidomson: A young and dynamic politician from Ogoni. He had served as an Assembly man, then he was appointed Secretary to the State Government, in the short-lived Celestine Omehia administration.
The politician who runs a pro-Wike NGO is had since improved himself academically, and is set to throw his hat into the ring for the governorship in 2023.

Prince Tonye Princewill: Eloquent and charismatic Prince of the Kalabari Kingdom, Tonye had run for the governorship of the state in 2007 on the platform of the ACN. A member of the APC and regarded as close to Amaechi.

Chief Emeka Woke: The Chief of Staff, Government House is another Ikwerre from Emouha. Emeka is a former council chairman, whose biggest claim to the throne is his loyalty to Governor Wike.

Chief Victor Tombari Giadom: Victor is an Ogoni regarded as an Amaechi loyalist. He was a council chairman, and Commissioner, he combined with the APC governorship candidate, Mr. Tonye Cole in the 2919 elections, before they were barred by judicial pronouncements. Chief Giadom was the Assistant National Secretary of the party. Who acted briefly as National Chairman after the infamous ouster the former National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshomole.

Engr. Bekinbo Dagogo-Jack: Another Abonnema politician, an Electrical Engineer and astute business man. Beks as he is fondly called had served as a commissioner in the state during the military era. He served the Jonathan admission as a Special Adviser in charge of power. And was instrumental to the increased power generation of that era.
Regarded as a brilliant technocrat, he can bring much to the table if he gets the nod.

Hon. Ojukaye Flag Amachree: He too is from Buguma. A former council chairman, who served as factional chairman of the APC in the state during its stormy days. He is regarded as one with strong followership from the ‘informal sector’. Ojukaye even as a factional chairman led the party to an Assembly by-election and was a torn in the PDP’s flesh.

Hon. Boma Iyaye: A former Assembly man from Ogu/Bolo, he served as commissioner under Amaechi and returned under Governor Wike. Those who should know insist that he is clearly the most influential commissioner under Wike. Those who fancy his chances say, if Wike wants a riverine governor outside Kalabari Kingdom, then Boma is the man to beat.

Hon. Michael West: Another Kalabari born, Hon Michael West was in the State Assembly during Odili’s administration. He was surprisingly aspired for the governorship ticket under the PDP in 2019. However, he was appointed a Commissioner by Governor Wike. But fell out with the Governor months ago. He crossed to the APC and has revived his governorship dream.

However, some analysts would want to dismiss him because, he was either close to the Governor or the Minister. Governor Wike had explained that their problems started, when Hon. Michael took several State own vehicles to Calabar without approval. It was alleged that he had gone for spiritual consultation.

With the persist calls for riverine governorship after over twenty years of unbroken upland governorship, the chances of the riverine on the list are enhanced, while strong upland hopefuls would struggle to turn the tide.

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