Chief Barr. Dumo Lulu-Briggs was already a man of means and benevolence when he took his first shot at the Brick House in 2002. It was an outing that coincided with the era when the debate on who should supplant Dr. Peter Odili was largely premised on the upland/riverine dichotomy. Odili, the incumbent governor, had already indicated interest to continue for a second term in office. But there were rumblings in his party. He had fallen out of favour, and was at daggers drawn with some power brokers who were bent to have him replaced.
And since Odili hails from the upland, it was only logical as it were that his replacement or successor came from the riverine. And Dumo is Riverine. While there were other contestants in the race, especially in the governor’s own party, Dumo’s entrance instantly turned the game changer for obvious reasons.
First, Dumo hails from Kalabari, the largest riverine ethnic group in the state. Second, Dumo was already a successful manager of men and resources before joining the fray. Third, Dumo came into the race with unblemished credentials. And to cap it all, Dumo is young, gregarious, vibrant and positively disposed to the people; all thanks to his philanthropy; a trait he took after his father. Dumo was indeed the man to beat in that race.
With a deep pocket garnished with an excellent elocution, the fear of Dumo extended beyond just the other contestants, but got to the sitting governor. And with all the variables going for him, Dumo was more than ready to slug it out with anyone.
Mind you the polity at the time was still grappling with obvious teething problems. And the cry for a paradigm shift rented the air. On the other hand, the youths were evidently inclined to identify with one of their own. But just as the state went agog for Dumo; he dropped the bombshell! He announced his withdrawal from the race.
The news of Dumo’s withdrawal immediately wrecked and dampened the enthusiasm and the people’s hope of a new wine in a new wineskin.
Dumo’s voluntary disengagement from a race he had been tipped to win took everyone by surprise. But rather than conjure up a soothing sophistry around his withdrawal, by way of damage control, and as it is wont with the average politician, Dumo, in his uprightness, informed Rivers People that his father, the quintessential High Chief O.B Lulu-Briggs of blessed memory, had prevailed on him to step down and allow then incumbent governor, Dr. Peter Odili to do his second term.
It was unprecedented. And although such patriotic and selfless advice could come only from a statesman of Opuda’s standing, it nonetheless sparked off an outrage borne of disappointment by Dumo’s teeming supporters.
Eventually, Dumo did not only drop his ambition, he also worked with the governor to win his second term bid to Brick House. He equally took the snide remarks in his stride.
Today, that ‘unpopular’ decision as it were stands him out as one who seeks power not as a means to enrich himself, but for altruism. Come to think of it, had Dumo turned down the advice, he probably won’t be the untarnished colossus that he stands today.
Again, had he fell for the vibe of that moment, he also would’ve been stained with the hostilities and violence that rocked the state to its very foundation at the time.
Much as his style is being misconstrued by some, Dumo’s consistency begs to be evaluated through the prism of a politician on a rescue mission. The only reason he has distanced himself from the norm of vile language, thuggery and extremism that characterizes Rivers politics in recent times.
Amid betrayals and the other shenanigans that have made our politics murky and unattractive to decent minds, Dumo has continued to maintain the highest degree of decorum. He has consistently campaigned in a manner that is devoid of rancour and bad blood.
Some have had to erroneously describe him as ‘unserious’ because of his genteel and friendly approach to a power play that is typified by dog eat dog syndrome.
Even with several unsuccessful attempts, the man who is on a rescue mission has remained suave in his appeal for a chance to unlock the state’s potentials for the common good.
As a people, we have argued that the office of governor be rotated between the upland and riverine. We have also rationalized that the office oscillates among the three senatorial districts of the state, and more. But those who seek power for what it confers have continued to have their way in defiance of these parameters; leaving the people helpless and distraught.
Today, the consensus is that our state is broken and in dire need of a mender. Rivers State as it stands today, cannot be said to have met the dreams of our founding fathers, nor attended to our collective aspiration, nor does it hold the promise of a future we can proudly bequeath generations to come.
It is also not lost on us that we are at a dangerous crossroads and as such need a pathfinder to navigate the labyrinth; unite and pull the state out of her present state of ennui.
It against this backdrop, that Tuesday, May 31, 2022 will be remembered as a date with history; a day Chief Barr. Dumo Lulu-Briggs was unanimously elected as the gubernatorial candidate of the Accord Party. Interestingly, the man whose love for the less privilege knows no bound, and whose desire for an egalitarian society is unprecedented, has signed up to do battle. The onus now rests on us as a people, to give him our support to turn our fortune around.
We must in one accord join Dumo to liberate the mass majority of our people from the shackles of extreme poverty and unemployment. Already, his brainchild, the “We Agenda”, has left no stone unturned in her crusade for the Rivers rebirth.
Thus far, a staggering fortune has been expended on radio and television announcements, jingles, news items, flyers, online media and even door to door engagements in sensitizing the people on the need to drop the toga of indifference. The “We Agenda” insists that the people must register and secure their PVCs which is their voting power.
And by urging the people to do the needful, Dumo reinforces his unwavering belief that power truly belongs to the people. He brings to the fore the enormous powers which they possessed in a democracy, and by extension seeks to deepen our democracy.
Finally, as a people, we have interfaced and experimented with the everyday politicians. Now is the time to rally round the man whom no one can accuse of seeking power for the material comfort it confers. Let us think.
(C) Caleb Fubara 2022.
Comrade Fubara, a Social/Political analyst, resides in Port Harcourt