Wike, Ijaws and 2023

By Chris Ezeonoh, Port Harcourt

The political conundrum in the Niger Delta, nay Rivers State, is taking a different dimension ahead of 2023 general election.

The riverine extraction in Rivers State populated by the Ijaw speaking people appears to be taking their agitation for power balancing in the power equation in the state to another level The Trumpet gathered.

This time, the agitation is being amplified by the mainstream leaderships of Ijaw ethnic nationality, the Ijaw National Congress, (INC) and the Ijaw Youths Council, (IYC).

Some analysts say that since Wike assumed the mantle of leadership as the governor, the riverine Ijaws have not been very comfortable with the administration, even though they are eminently represented in the cabinet.

The deputy governor is from the riverine, so is the Secretary to Government, the State Accountant General and other commissioners and appointees.

In 2015, Wike contested against an Ijaw man, Dr Adol. Dakuku Peterside. In 2019, another Ijaw man squared up against him, Arch. Tonye Cole, even though he was eventually disqualified before the election following Supreme Court judgment.

But Awara of AAC who got the backing of All Progressives Congress (APC) supporters to confront Wike following Cole’s disqualification is also an Ijaw man. He almost became an albatross to Wike.

These are all lost opportunities by the riverine people or Ijaws to taste power domiciled in Brick House, Rivers Government House. They are still fighting to realize this somewhat life aspiration.

This may explain why more than 70 percent of the governorship aspirants for the 2023 election in the state across all parties are from the riverine Ijaws. They appear to be battle-ready this time and the state chapter of APC (Amaechi faction) is dancing to the ‘melodious makosa’ of the riverine Ijaws by zoning its governorship ticket to that part of the state.

Wike and the leadership of PDP on the other hand are still holding the state in suspense. But the riverine Ijaws are agitating that right of first refusal should be accorded them in finally deciding where the pendulum should be headed. Even so, they do not completely trust Wike.

Among the Ijaw sons in PDP who took up the gauntlet and purchased the Expression of Interest and Nomination forms for the position of governor is Dr Farah Dagogo who represents Degema/Bonny Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.

Along the line, however, Farah’s exuberance clashed with Wike’s overbearing attitude.

While the screening of aspirants for the state and national assembly elections were ongoing at the state headquarters of PDP along Aba Road in Port Harcourt, Dagogo apparently feeling that those in charge might not be doing the right thing, led some young men, the state government called hoodlums and cultists, to disrupt the exercise. The action drew the ire of Wike who bared his fangs and declared Dagogo wanted. He further directed the police authorities in the state to arrest Dagogo.

Dagogo was subsequently arrested by the police and charged to court on two counts charges of felony and cultism at a magistrate court.

He has remained in incarceration for more than two weeks, prompting a clamour for his release by mostly people from the riverine extraction and members of the vocal opposition in the state.

The leadership of the Ijaw National Congress, (INC) had joined their voices to the clamour for Dagogo’s unconditional release and issued a 48-hour ultimatum to Wike to effect the release of their ‘son’. But it appeared they just touched the tail of a lion!

Wike waited for them till last Sunday at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Diobu in Port Harcourt, at the Thanksgiving service to mark the victory of Rivers State in the disputed 17 oil wells between the state and Imo State.

There Wike lashed at the leadership of INC for daring to give him a 48-hour ultimatum to release Dagogo. The governor’s choice of words against the leaders of Ijaw nation was considered too caustic by some observers who condemned the governor’s outbursts.

As would be expected, the two umbrella leadership bodies of the Ijaw nation, the IYC and the INC were very vociferous in their condemnation of Wike’s vituperations against the leadership of INC. The governor was quoted to have used the expression; “Thunder fire you” while reacting to the ultimatum by INC to release Dagogo.

Rising in defence of the Ijaw course, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) in a statement said the derogatory use of “Thunder Fire You” by the Rivers Governor on the Ijaw people is “disturbing, inciting and denigrating” of the high office he occupies.

The National Spokesman of IYC who signed the statement, Comrade Ebilade Ekerefe, noted that such “tactless and disrespectful” comment by Governor Wike was the height of his prolonged disdain for the Ijaw nation as a whole and Rivers Ijaw people in particular since he became governor of the state.

“It is even more shocking that the Rivers Governor took his unrestrained verbiage to the hallowed pulpit of a church and desecrated the altar of God.

“The IYC restates that its only ‘sin’ that attracted Wike’s ire was its demand alongside its parent organ, the Ijaw National Congress (INC), for the release of an Ijaw son, Hon. Farah Dagogo that was arrested and remanded in prison on the orders of the Rivers governor.”

The IYC pointed out that “despite being the fourth largest ethnic nationality in Nigeria and the largest in the Niger Delta, the Ijaws have consistently promoted peaceful and harmonious relationships with other ethnic groups, including Wike’s Ikwerre nationality in Rivers State.

“However, Wike should be reminded that such unguarded and incendiary comments are capable of rupturing the existing good relationship with the Ikwerres, and his kinsmen are advised to call him to order.

“The IYC also reminds Governor Wike that power is transient and that by May 29, 2023, he will vacate the exalted governorship seat, which he has equally ridiculed, to become an ordinary citizen like others in Rivers State and Nigeria.”

The statement further said that Wike had forgotten that by calling fire and thunder on the Ijaw nation, his benefactor and the revered leader, former President Goodluck Jonathan, is also an illustrious Ijaw son.

“This ‘thunder’ did not fire the former president when, despite all odds, he made him the choice of the Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers State against the wishes of other competent Ijaw aspirants in the state.

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“Now, Jonathan as an Ijaw man is also under fire from Governor Wike. For him, all those that made him, including the people of Rivers State, are in his pocket and can be insulted at will.

“We, therefore, call on our people as a whole to see Governor Wike as an enemy of the Ijaw Nation. We urge Ijaws all over the world to speak against this tyrannical behaviour of Wike,” IYC demanded.

The group called on all their Ijaw brothers that are delegates in the PDP not to cast their votes for Governor Wike during the presidential primaries.

“Suffice it to say that if a governor can cast aspersion on an entire ethnic nationality, what would become of him as president of the most populous black nation on the planet?” the youth body reasoned.

Shortly after the IYC reaction, the INC marshalled its own arsenal against Wike, announcing the withdrawal of their guaranteed support for Wike’s presidential aspiration in 2023.

The INC, in a statement issued by the member of its National Representative Council (NRC), Elder Christopher Abarowei, called on politicians who had declared support for Governor Wike’s Presidential ambition to withdraw their support until he tenders an unreserved apology to the leadership of INC and IYC and the entire Ijaw nation.

According to Abarowei, the office of the Governor of a state and President is supposed to be occupied by persons who are considered by those who voted them into office in the first place as being among the best in terms of their ability to manage success.

He said “There is a popular saying that you know a person better when you give him power. Governor Nyesom Wike has disappointed those who helped him to be Governor as he has turned himself into a complete public nuisance with the way and manner he quickly insults people at the least provocation.

“This drift into uncivilized and uncouth adventure by a state Governor is in our opinion unacceptable, undeserving and out rightly condemnable. The recent outburst in a church of all places by Governor Wike against the Ijaw National Congress (INC) and the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) is a clear case of a man whose mental state has to be interrogated.

“It is highly unacceptable for a man occupying the most exalted position of Governor of Rivers State to use derogatory words like ‘THUNDER FIRE YOU’ in a church that is supposed to be inhabited by decent people and respected workers in the Lord’s vineyard. This is a clear indication that the Governor lacks the moral compass to manage a state not to talk of his delusional attempt to occupy the most exalted position in Nigeria.”

Abarowei wondered how Wike will feel to ask for the votes of delegates of Ijaw extraction from Edo, Rivers and Delta States who according to him, Wike wants thunder to fire.

“Governor Wike should better still allow his aides to do what he is shamelessly doing now as the job of an attack dog does not in any way fit into the job description of a state Governor.

“We wonder how comfortable this Governor is with him having issues with almost everything around him except his over-bloated ego. There is a popular rule in boxing that requires a boxer with the longer reach and height to come down to the level of a shorter opponent to hit his target. In the process, the shorter man has an advantage to hit the face of the taller opponent with ease. Wike should be knowledgeable enough to know that using gutter languages will force weaker opponents to dive into the gutters with him. “

Abarowei insisted that “No Governor of Ijaw extraction has ever insulted the Ikwerres the way Wike has thrown caution to the wind and insult Ijaws at random and we want him to come down from his high horse and build some moral decency and desist forthwith from insulting Ijaw people as his becoming a Governor today is a function of some Ijaw persons lifting his head, legs and hands. His fellow Ikwerre brother, Rotimi Amaechi, would have crushed him without the support of the Ijaws.

“It will be insulting to ask Wike to render an apology to the leadership of INC and IYC as we see moral bankruptcy written all over Wike but he should know his stay as Governor with all the advantages working for him has a term which is eight years at most which come to an end just a year away while the Ijaw Nation is termless.”

It remains to be seen what would happen in the days ahead. Would Wike call the bluff of the Ijaws and stick to his gun? The governor has one respected Ijaw man who has been supporting his administration all the way, Chief Ferdinand Alabraba. Wike holds this man in great esteem, just as the man is highly respected among his people.

Would Alabraba wade into the anti-Wike sentiment spreading fast among his people and swing a ceasefire? Or has he also been caught off-guard by the Wike ‘Thunder’? Analysts believe Alabraba is unlikely to abandon Wike at this “critical” time.

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