Rivers of Blood: A Clash of Egos

Somewhere, right now, a mother is weeping for her slain child, siblings are crying for their brother, a father is feigning composure over the headless corpse of his son. The mourners’ crime is very grievous. They had the effrontery to be either present, or have a relative present in Rivers State in an election season. Accordingly, the megalomaniac politicians have executed their punishment—the rivers flow with blood, not water.

In biblical times, as recounted in Exodus, the Egyptians awoke one morning to meet a bloody Nile. The River Nile had been elaborately bloodied as punishment for political disobedience. One interesting thing is that the bloody Nile was the result of an egotistical contest between the Egyptian Pharaoh and the God of Israel, both duly represented by their vassals. Looking at the events surrounding the rerun elections in Rivers State, a parallel exists with the biblical Egypt. This time, the clash of egos is championed by two political gladiators, with their vassals using assault rifles and machetes in place of spiritual power. To understand the present crisis, we need to go back a bit in time.

In 2013, while then Gov. Rotimi Amaechi was feuding with then President Goodluck Jonathan, the then Minister of State for Education, Barr. Nyesom Wike, emerged as the president’s local champion, his boot on the ground. As Amaechi gradually increased his affinity for the then opposition, Wike set a machinery in motion to capture control of the state’s PDP chapter. When Amaechi finally decamped to the APC, Wike’s efforts paid off, putting him as the PDP’s point man. The state began to witness a vitriolic feud between Amaechi’s camp and Wike’s camp.

The above paragraph does not seem to explain how Amaechi and Wike became archenemies. Let’s try going back further. With the return to democratic rule, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi became Rt. Hon. (Right Honourable!) Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, based in Port Harcourt. Some kilometres away, in Obio Akpor LGA, Barr. Wike became the LGA’s Executive Chairman. Both kinsmen would go on to hold their respective posts for two tenures.

In 2007, as Amaechi campaigned for the state’s governorship post, he turned to his kinsman as his right-hand man. With the abracadabra that led to Amaechi’s substitution with his cousin, Celestine Omehia, Amaechi had a big fight to prosecute. Trusted sources say that Wike stood by Amaechi, and helped him with the resultant litigations, even in times when Amaechi had to rove between Ghana and Nigeria. Hence, with Amaechi’s victory at the Supreme Court, he appointed Wike as his Chief of Staff. From this role, Amaechi would later nominate him to the president for a ministerial appointment.

The painting above depicts two brothers in arms, comrades related not just by political interest, but also by tribe. Nobody has publicly said if both men had any agreement during Amaechi’s legal fight, or before Wike’s elevation to the federal level. A trusted but unconfirmed source once claimed that Amaechi’s nomination of Wike for minister was a Trojan horse as he subtly worked to prevent his confirmation. This theory is unproven. If it should somehow be true, it would imply that whatever caused their rift occurred before July 2011. Whatever the root cause, their egos have not helped matters.

The 2015 elections in Rivers State were largely a contest between Amaechi and Wike for political supremacy. All the contenders in the two main parties knew that the real election was Amaechi vs Wike. Even the water seller on the street was privy to this information. After months of grandiloquence by both men, the elections came, and were duly characterized by violence. As a Rivers boy, I can attest without fear that no side can claim sainthood as regards the electoral violence.

It is easy to see why elections in Rivers State are characterized by violence. With thousands of uneducated or barely educated youths sitting idly, the political cannon has abundant fodder available. Alcoholism, drug addiction and every other possible social vice have produced youths with dead consciences, to whom human life has no value. Rampant street-level cultism has worsened the problem, with widespread availability of guns joining the steaming pot. Politicians merely feed into the existing dysfunction to recruit willing tools for their horrendous missions.

Last weekend’s rerun elections reiterated something that was screamed last year—guns, money and egos are a combustible mix for politics. Reports suggest that at least ten persons, including a serving youth corps member, were killed. Knowing Nigeria’s police report culture, one can safely take it that more than ten persons have lost their lives. All for what end? So that two men can beat their chests in victory over the other?

This is a sad chapter in Rivers’ politics. Gov Wike may say he has the people’s backing against “federal aggression”. The rightness or wrongness of his claim does not justify the violence unleashed in the state. Amaechi may feel the vengeful right to repay Wike for the misuse of federal might during his time. This vengefulness does not explain why others are killed while his children are safely insulated from the brouhaha. Both men may claim innocence, but only a deluded person would believe that Amaechi and Wike don’t have influence over the violent rascals on the streets. These two egos are destroying our state, engendering discord among brothers.

While this clash of egos traps the state in a pressure cooker, statesmen inside and outside the state continue to look on with folded arms. Maybe when the state becomes too hot to handle, people with sense will sit the clashing egos and preach peace. For those wishing for a state of emergency, know that it would only exacerbate matters. The rivers of blood will continue to flow until the warring parties give peace a chance. My condolences to the already bereaved, and those whose relative’s blood the river still awaits. May peace reign!

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9 thoughts on “Rivers of Blood: A Clash of Egos

  1. Jonah, this isn’t just a write up but an exposition. One really wonders how it got this worse…we hope to see this river of blood flow no more.
    #keepTheInkFlowing

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  2. In your write up, you said…

    “With thousands of uneducated or barely educated youths sitting idly, the political cannon has abundant fodder available.
    Alcoholism, drug addiction and every other possible social vice have produced youths with dead consciences, to whom human life has no value.”

    My question is, isn’t this true of almost every state in Nigeria? Aren’t there political gladiators battling for supremacy in almost every state of the federation? Why does Rivers state always come off worse? Don’t you think this is only a symptom of a bigger problem?

    Just seeking your opinion.

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    1. It’s true that many other states have the problems you highlighted. However, potential is ineffective without the means to activate it. What separates Rivers State from many others is the widespread availability of guns. Politicians have access to slush funds to buy guns, various warlords and even ordinary persons also have access to guns. In this particular case, we can even add hatred for the APC as a “northern party”. This hatred is mutual, returned by the APC’s supporters, thereby finalizing the conditions for chaos.

      Rivers State: Potential + Means = Chaos
      Others: Potential – Means = Mere Grumbling

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      1. Well said. But I think you’re getting something wrong here. People in other states have the means to foment this kind of evil. I don’t see why guns should be any less accessible in say Plateau or Borno or Oyo. The only difference is in the level of hatred which you also cited.
        My opinion is that the problem is with the innate behavior of the people of Rivers (and the entire South South by extension). I think that’s why the problem is more pronounced in that region. I may be wrong.

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      2. I think there are more guns in the south south than in other regions. However, I’ll go with your “hatred and innate behaviour” theory

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  3. Unco, insightful, unbiased article, Jonah. Absolutely commendable in a state where almost everybody is either a PDP or APC lackey.

    I agree that no side is innocent, especially now that the APC has the much-wanted “federal might” — but the PDP takes a slew of the blame. All of the political killings have been carried out by PDP-hired gutter snipes; the NHRC report on the 2015 elections proves that. The most the APC thugs do is snatch ballot boxes, and now, the army and police are on their side, so they are guilty of intimidation. But like you pointed out, it’s payback time for the APC.

    Though it’s been three days since news broke that Mr. President held a meeting and was likely to announce a state of emergency, but it still hasn’t been announced (prompting a pseudo commendation from the fiendish Wike), I steeply want it to be announced, even sans the two-thirds approval of the Senate. Wike and the Rivers PDP are too bellicose and should be removed from office to save lives. Now isn’t the time for political correctness and “it’s against the Constitution.”

    To be clear, I’m not an acolyte of either party. I’m what they call on Nigerian Twitter, a “fencist,” and it riles me when I see everyday people taking sides when these politicians are inept, vacuous, thieving kids of Beelzebub, especially those who turn a blind eye to the PDP-perpetrated killings in Rivers. But I’m a Port Harcourt bloke and I just want the peace. And the peace and this present crop of Rivers PDP top brass are steeply antithetical. Cheers, bro.

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    1. I would try to get the NHRC report to see its findings. As you said, both parties are guilty of the violence. I don’t believe that all the killings are done by PDP goons. Both the APC and the PDP have hired guns doing their bidding.
      About the rumoured state of emergency, do you think it’ll bring peace, considering that a section of the state will see it as “APC-led federal intrusion to remove a PDP government”? Perception is oftentimes different from reality, and in this case, can trigger more violence.

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  4. Here is a summary of the reeport: http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/183463-19-people-killed-monthly-in-rivers-election-violence.html

    There are different echelons of violence; APC thugs snatching a ballot box or soldiers invading polling units to go after PDP affiliates (very likely, PDP hooligans who were intimidating voters before the soldiers came) are in an inferior category juxtaposed with killing APC members, even guys who were Caretaker Committee Chairmen, their kids, in-laws, security guys, and visitors, and raping women are at the apogee of violence. There are no veracious, documented cases of APC goons killing people, what you’ll hear is unsophisticated propaganda from schmucks like Samuel Nwanosike, Kenneth Kobani, Simeon Nwankudu, etc. The PDP even said a jet brought in N5 billion for the election on Friday night, which is intellectually shallow and highly improbable.

    Will the state of emergency help Rivers in the long run? Yes. An initial 6-month SoE will have Wike removed, and a military administrator in power. The military will crackdown on the PDP thugs real hard like they did in ONELGA and Ogoni earlier this year, making extra sure to bring down guys like Ateke that tried to kill Dakuku and his colleagues last year in Okrika, and the Rivers PDP’s powers, whittled down, because they’ve lost power, their merchants of violence and intimidation are either dead, injured and lying low, or on the lam, and they will not receive revenue from the FAAC and IGR. Who cares if most Rivers people will see it as the Buhari Admin. grabbing a 13-percent derivation state? Well, I don’t, neither Buhari and the APC nor the military will, either. Nugatory emotions must not be pandered to. Brute force sometimes works just well. And let’s not forget: almost all of the people supporting Wike and the Rivers PDP aren’t doing so because they think he’s a better option; they were completely cool with Amaechi until his battle with Goodluck and Patience heated up and he moved to the APC and they are doing so because “the APC is a party of the north and southwest,” and because “Amaechi betrayed his brother and region.” These illiterate sentiments are so puissant, even people from riverine areas support Wike from the upland that did 8 years and is supposed to let the riverine do its own 8. Man, excuse my French, but fuck the feelings of these people. They are cutting their face to spite their nose.

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