Battle for Olympus(Crises in Rivers State People’s Democratic Party, Nigeria)

Olympus was not shaken by winds nor ever wet with rain, nor did snow fall upon it but the air is outspread clear and clouds and over it hovered a radiant whiteness” With these words, Homer described the overwhelming nature of the mount Olympus. It was the dwelling place of victors and champions, a home for the Olympians. A place for the most powerful. In Rivers politics, there is no inkling of a doubt as to where the most powerful converge. The People’s Democratic Party has been the seat of power and virtually every significant political process in the state.

The PDP has been our “Olympus” in Rivers State. Just like Olympus in Greek mythology, many have tried to wrest power from it, attacking with every means but the party has remained strong and domineering. But now, Olympus faces a “rift” that if not quelled will shake it very foundations. The beginning of this rift is known only by the actors themselves yet its flames are seen even as far as Abuja. The ‘rift’ is that between RT Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi (Governor, Rivers State and Chairman NGF) and Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike (Minister of State for Education FGN).

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Though it is widely acclaimed that the minister is no match for the Governor (no match ‘yet’ I will add), it is important to see how they came to where they are and the stuff that makes them who they are. SIMILARITIES COURTS – The Federal High Court verdict of April 15,2013 delivered by Justice Ishaq Bello is not the first court case to be connected with the two. As a matter of fact, their first encounters in this present democratic structure were decided by courts.

It is acclaimed that Nyesom Wike lost in the PDP primaries for Obio/Akpor LGA Chairmanship in 1999, went to court and was adjudged the rightful winner. While his court victory played out, a certain Rotimi Amaechi scored a career defining court victory over his rival Uche Okuku for the Ikwerre LGA seat in the Rivers State House of Assembly. They were both allies in Amaechi ascendancy to the Brick House as Amaechi faced the battle which earned him the acclaim “cat with nine lives”. This battle of course was won in court.

ODILI – it is hard to remember that name these days but yes, he was a major part of the political beginnings of the Governor and Minister. Put succinctly, they were his ”boys”. After the respective court victories, Amaechi went on to be an integral part of the Odili machinery as speaker of the RSHA for eight years. Wike on the other hand also enjoyed a second term as Chairman of the second richest local government in Nigeria. A second term fit that saw Amaechi stand firmly behind him. As ANDYBRIGGS REPORT put it; …as a speaker, Amaechi depended on Governor Odili for his political influence influence and Nyesom Wike also enjoyed a very close relationship with members of Governor Odili’s family”. They both enjoyed political influence due to their intimacy with the Odili’s family. But likely many political relationships, their ties to Odili broke when Wike became a strong point in Amaechi’s gubernatorial yearning; a yearning that was Odili’s “irritation”. IKWERRE – Both men are of Ikwerre extraction though from different local governments. The Ikwerre are a predominant ethnic enclave in Rivers State.

Even though some may not readily accept this postulation, it is a glaring truth. The two local governments with the highest voters in Rivers State are Ikwerre populated (Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt), the centre of the wealth of Rivers State is located in Ikwerre (Obio/Akpor), the chief executive of the state is an Ikwerre man (Rotimi Amaechi) and the biggest ethnic group in Rivers State is Ikwerre. Much said about Ikwerre, now back to the matter of discourse. These men have ridden on the Ikwerre strength and have become political behemoths of some sorts.

Their “Elephantic” wrangling however goes beyond just their Ikwerre roots. It is spreading by the day. DISSIMILARITIES The very things that made these men (Amaechi, Wike) alike are the same things that have led them to have same interests and aspirations culminating in their present clash. Though their disagreements and battles can be viewed from different trajectories and dissected from varying dimensions, it is seen now that the battle is for control of Olympus (Rivers State PDP). Let’s take a look at what sets each apart from the other.

SENATORIAL SEAT – before the 2011 elections, it was no news that Amaechi’s generals were being sent to Abuja to pursue an unspoken ambition. While Dawari George and Dakuku Peterside were slated for the House of Representatives, Magnus Abe and Nyesom Wike were for the senate. Surprisingly, all went well except for Nyesom Wike who was disqualified in the primaries to make room for sitting Senator George Sekibo (Rivers South- East). Nyesom was not only disqualified but he was also not given the support he craved from Amaechi.

Stories filtered that the Governor had one eyes on the Senate Presidency in 2019 and had to get into the senate by 2015. If he had supported Wike, he (Amaechi) would be faced with a herculean task of preventing him from going for a second tenure in the senate so he chose to support Sekibo (An Okrikan) for a third term in the senate. Some even opined that Amaechi had betrayed the Ikwerres. Wike also cried foul. Bad blood had begun to flow openly. As a way of compensation, Wike was tipped for a ministerial appointment but more drama unfolded.

MINISTERIAL APPOINTMENT – Sources close to Wike have if that the Minister of State (Education) repeatedly says that Amaechi had no intention to nominate him as minister. A look at the happenings at the time lends some credence to it. From that source, Amaechi initially nominated businessmen as son of Ambassador Dele Cole, Tonye Cole, for Rivers State ministerial slot. But for the consultation with and intervention of some PDP chieftains, Wike would not have been nominated at all. E. P. Clarke played a significant role in the process.

Some accounts even have it that Clarke insisted on having the Ijaw elders nominated after Wike was brought to him by the erstwhile “Godfather”, Alabo Graham Douglas who took interest in the matter when Uche Secondus introduced Wike to him. By and by, Tonye Cole was withdrawn and Nyesom Wike’s name was submitted. Wike’s boys even spoke in muffled tones of their “Oga’s” disappointment that he wasn’t sent to the Ministry of Petroleum. An exciting twist of events it was but Wike emerged Minister even though Amaechi never had him as plan A. ccounts differ on this particular issue though. As a way of wrapping up this first part of this exegesis, a cursory glance is given to the likely role of the Presidency in all of the happening in the State PDP which has culminated in the sacking of G. U Ake led EXCO. An EXCO loyal to Amaechi it must be said. The Presidency is silent on this matter even though the NGF battle rages on and Amaechi’s rising status continues to threaten the party hierarchy at the national level but it is clear that the silence is loud enough for all to hear.

The relationship between the president and Wike is a classic one of my enemy’s enemy has become my ally and we watch in anticipation as if all unfolds. The sequel to this article would be a series of permutations as to who gets what during and after this battle as well as the different directions the story can take. Will Olympus be divided, will it be utterly defeated or will it stand yet another battle… to be continued.


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