With Uche Nnadozie
I recall that during the 2015 general elections, I wrote an opinion piece entitled “Rivers of blood”. The election in that state was a complete gang war between different layers of madness. A madness controlled by men and some women. It was so bad that the metaphor of “Rivers of blood” became real. A lot of killings literarily made blood flow on the streets of Port Harcourt and other cities, towns and villages of the state. in 2015, the election petition tribunals could not confer legitimacy on the election in the state because the tribunal went ahead to annul all the House of Assembly and the governorship seat. The judges equally annulled the National Assembly seats, leaving the presidential numbers, never mind that the returning officer displayed his character flaw on live television.
But we are not even talking about how flawed the election was at the time, but what gang wars can bring to a state whose capital was once known as the “Garden city”. Garden is peaceful, alluring, inviting and beautiful. That is the ambience that one mentally pictures whenever a garden is mentioned. However, things are not the same again. Even the most proud resident of the capital cannot claim that the city is still the “garden city”. Things have so changed that it will sound sacrilegious to make such claim. Although there appears to have been some decency in the presidential election with the state accounting for 90 % of deaths recorded during the February 23 elections, the build up to the governorship election has been scary.
Between the presidential and National Assembly poll and now, at least four military personnel have been killed, one of the m an officer.
Arrests have been made, diverted ballot boxes, compromised election officials arrested. Yet, the governorship and state assembly elections have provided times of real anxiety. Let us accept the fact; lessons have not been learnt, though brutality as was witnessed years ago has reduced. However, we can no longer allow or encourage the sort of brigandage that Rivers and her people give us. If they do not want election, they should come together and say so, so that the president can go ahead and appoint military administrators to govern the state.
The state of the state has become a shame and an embarrassment to every person of conscience around the country.
There is no way you organise security that can tame a system that works to sabotage every plan without let or hindrance. As at today, the two individuals that are at the centre of the election carnage in that state are the Governor Nyesom Wike and Transportation Minister, Chibuike Amaechi. I do not want to go back to the carnage of the past or how militants, cultists and kidnappers work for the politicians in the state, the point is that the blood and brigandage is enough. Rivers is one of those states that should confer pride to every Nigerian. But those fortunate enough to become her leaders have conspired to betray her in the last 20 years. They have succeeded in turning a once peaceful land into an orgy of violent bloodletting without care for posterity or future of the children of the state. The state appears not to have elders as everyone is compromised. Church leaders, community leaders and political leaders are neck deep in the division and blood letting.
Mere disagreements between political opponents are met with instant death. But unfortunately, the major contenders don’t die. The elders don’t die and the community and church leaders always find a way to escape from the bullets of their own conspiracy. There is no kind of official that has not been compromised. From Independent Electoral Commission, INEC officials to different sets of security agents, it seems money and sundry gifts are always available to compromise them rather than doing the work of governance. A former Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state has been convicted together with some of her staff for collecting bribes during the 2015 elections. They have forfeited monies and serving time in prison yet those deterrents haven’t stopped folks this time around from messing up their integrity. A major in the Nigerian Army is in detention presently for collecting bribes so as to work for politicians in a bid to mess the system up.
There is no way of getting a full proof system. Security is even worse when it is abused from within. With these compromises here and there, it is no surprise that the gangs of Rivers resort to war on the streets. They have no confidence on anybody because they think the other gang must have influenced any state actor that is there on official assignment. But we can’t continue in this circle of doom.
There has to be sanctions. Our electoral laws have not been insistent on punishment. After election, it is only electoral issues that are pursued at the tribunal. Killers who win elections are allowed to benefit from their crime. It is wrong. We do not put our feet down to ensure that violence merchants and their sponsors are made to lose their crown. Every thief loses the booty, but those who steal the peoples’ votes or kill to win or lose move around freely. That must stop if we should be taken seriously.
The next National Assembly must make laws that will ensure that violence merchants are paid in the same coin. Enough of the circle of gang wars, we must tame them to modernise Rivers. Our laws against violence during elections must punish indicted parties. You lose votes and individuals must do time, even if you are elected into an executive office, you must step down. Let us shame gangsters of Rivers so that they don’t contaminate the rest of the country. In the end, the war in Rivers, which is among brothers is about the petrodollars and over-bloated egos.