Rivers State: matters arising
With a large portion of the results still being awaited weeks after, the eruption of widespread violence that characterised the re-run of the election of persons in Rivers State into the House of Assembly, House of Representatives and the Senate must be remarked as another disgraceful descent into abysmal lawlessness and wanton impunity by immature democrats.
With its trail of carnage and destruction, in which many people were killed, youths brandished guns and exploded dynamites, and soldiers with electoral officials allegedly colluded on irregularities, the election violence has taken Nigeria’s slow but steady democratic progress into a shameful backslide. At a time Nigerians thought there had been an improvement in the management of elections, the country witnessed a most embarrassing retrogression.
That Rivers State has gained notoriety for election violence is a fact which recent experience has shown. Shortly before the Supreme Court ruled against the judgment of the Appeal Court and declared Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate, Nyesom Wike, the governor of the state, there had been a chain of violent upheavals. Preparatory to that election, gunmen had stormed a rally of another party, assaulting people and destroying property.
Before that event, a bloody and violent clash between factions of the Rivers State House of Assembly turned the hallowed chambers of the Rivers State House of Assembly into an arena of battery, free-for-all fight and violent assault.
The desperation and violence in Rivers certainly compel reflections on how these politicians would lead the people! Besides, from a more extensive social angle, what kind of leaders are these warring politicians? What impression are they passing to well-meaning Nigerians, who hold the civil government very dearly, and are convinced that socio-economic and political development is hinged on the continuous refinement of man’s capacity to adopt democratic values?
Moreover, it seems the elite in the state have lost the verve to do anything. Either they are overwhelmed by the fact that a civil process that should usher in a government of law and order is controlled by the laws of the jungle, or they are complicit in this seeming reign of anarchy.
In this regard, two political figures of the state, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and Governor Wike would have to make sacrifices for Rivers State to have peace and make progress. Their actions and inactions over the matter smack of irresponsibility. Nigerians don’t expect people like them to carry on the way they have done so far. They should be mindful of the positions they occupy and the animosity between them should be jettisoned for growth and development of the state.
Rivers State is fast losing its cosmopolitan glory because of incessant violence and the attendant toll on infrastructure. Many social amenities are becoming derelict with no hope of revamping them, even as operational headquarters of oil companies, mining companies, regional offices of big firms relocate in part, because of violence.
In line with the ethics of justice and fiscal federalism, this newspaper is avowed to the truism that the wealth of a nation belongs to the locality where it is found. In this regard, it understands the plight of the Rivers people. However, it counsels against acts of lawlessness, through the abuse of office or privileges or election violence to express grievances. This is unacceptable.
Although the problem with Rivers State seems a complex one, they are not insurmountable, if addressed properly. The people of Rivers State should wake up and refuse to be used by whichever section of the elite to cause further instability.
Meanwhile, if there is any remote systemic factor fanning election crisis, it is the aloofness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). So far, the indecisiveness and shoddiness of INEC suggest that the commission has not got its bearing with the new helmsman . INEC cannot go on concluding what it calls an “inconclusive election” under the guise of peace-making, for it is not equipped with the faculty to discuss peace. The excuse that elections are inconclusive is becoming too frequent and is unacceptable.
While the political leaders as well as the people of Rivers State are enjoined to be true democrats, INEC’s duty is to release the result of the elections it has conducted and to expedite action on the outstanding polls.