Rivers State: Post 2019 Elections and the options for dictator
By Oraye St. Franklyn
What possibly passes for the most combative and determined dictatorial effort in any election in the history of Rivers State, aimed at scuttling the will of Rivers people, has effectively come to an end. As expected, it was not one without avoidable and predictable grave human losses. Thankfully, irrespective of the losses, sad and regrettable as they sorely are, it was one in which the Rivers woman and man managed to survive a collateral damage. In the sense that the eventual outcome of the election was a reflection of the direction of the overwhelming majority of Rivers people in spite of the suppressive efforts of the Federal Government-backed military opposition to the free expression of the franchise of Rivers people as should be expected in a democracy.
Lessons, of course need to be learnt from the unfortunate episode in Rivers State. An important lesson that stands out is that, although drifting out of line, our democracy is not likely to descend to a stage where the people, we the people, would be numbed from asserting our will and way at the direst moments. This was mostly seen in the nonviolent resistance posed by Rivers people especially women and girls against the dictatorial military forces of the All Progressives Congress (APC) backed Federal Government against us when it mattered most. Whether the lessons would be appreciated or not depends on whether the aggressors can pick a thing or two from their recurring defeats by Rivers people.
Fortunately, from the very first moments following his resounding victory at the polls, Governor Nyesom Wike has defined the way forward for the State. Amidst tears, following the needless deaths, he courageously declared that his second term would be for all Rivers People regardless of political affiliations. This to my mind, is ennobling. It’s the kind of signal that deactivates and demobilizes aggression, even though those are mostly spent forces in the State. But all the same, it is welcoming.
One would expect that this is the time true lovers of Rivers State should put the well-being of the State first in their dealings with its politics or with their stakes in it. This is because one cannot truly speak of loving Rivers State and in the same breath chocking her existence. Love promotes life. Those who profess to love show it by their actions in promoting the wellbeing of the objects of their fancy. To speak of love for the State and work to unlawfully hinder its government from making progress in the interest of our people cannot amount to acting in love. The angst against the person of the Governor also does little to him or his constitutionally guaranteed term in office. But it damages the survival of the Rivers person, whose interest the politics of politics should ultimately be about.
It is for this reason the conciliatory rhetoric of the Governor of Rivers State, in spite of his being at the receiving end of the FG backed attacks on Rivers State, should be embraced by war-mongering politicians. Perhaps, one should have used a better phrase than war-mongering but may be not. The point must be made that there must be an end to fruitless and purposeless ego-tripping political wars in Rivers State. The olive branch extended by the Governor should not be seen as a sign of weakness but of true strength and courage. It is purified statesmanship and springs from tremendous sacrifice on his part and is commendable to say the least.
The future of Rivers State and her wellbeing must not be sacrificed on the altar of personal battles for political survival. Rivers State, as has been seen by the 2019 General Elections, is bigger than any single politician or a collection of them. It cannot be pocketed by self-serving political leaders. The point has been effectively made that we the people still hold the ace to determine the ultimate direction of the State. That is the fundamental lesson of the 2019 General Elections in Rivers State. The Nigerian story might be different. But in Rivers State, it is clear what the practice is: people power reigns supreme.
In truth, while one does not expect dictators to beat a retreat giving their entrenched arrogance after suffering the bloody-nose defeat in Rivers State, it would amount to ignorance to think that a re-energized populace, following their victory at the polls, will lay low to willfully consent to the compromise of their survival. Things cannot continue like that. An energized populace will also stretch their energies to try out new methods of sustaining their liberties and survival against entrenched conspirators. One does not really see what options are available to dictators besides taking due advantage of the barest modicum of common sense. The 2019 era cannot be the same as the 2015 era. The people are wiser and have gotten stronger.