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A few diehards of Governor Nyesom Wike insist that in the event of a free, fair and credible re-run, their embattled benefactor would sweep the polls.
This is despite the increasing frustration and sense of resignation which now colour the private pronouncements of the governor and releases of some of his intimates since the nullification of his election by the Rivers State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, including their interesting alluding to Nigerian judges as gangsters and terrorists.

The reason the supporters gave for their belief is a supposed widespread and inviolable acceptance of Wike and his People’s Democratic Party in Rivers State.
Is Wike truly loved by the Rivers voter and his party invincible in the state? We’ll examine the supposition in the light of three key determinants: the immediate experience of the now-nullified April 11 gubernatorial election, the political history of Rivers State, and the balance of personal character, preparedness for effective leadership and commitment to state development between Wike and his nemesis and candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Dr Dakuku Adol Peterside.

On the role the popularity factor played in the election, the first check on the list, the Tribunal, which was set up under Wike’s party’s watch to hear complaint arising from the conduct of the election, as if in a response to this subject, handed a clear verdict which needs no explanatory footnotes. Inferable from the judgment are the obvious: The state’s Independent National Electoral Commission didn’t and never intended to play fair, and Wike and PDP were announced winners, not on the strength of their popularity, in person or party, but on the outcome of a skewed exercise, which from the contradictory statements and actions of the witnesses of the respondents (those of INEC and Wike, PDP failing to field any) was clear for whose interest the process was violated.

Neither Wike nor his party was sufficiently confident when it mattered most to test the proof of the love their supporters claimed the voters had for them. No less interesting for a party alleged to have widespread acceptance is its curious inability to produce any witness at the Tribunal out of the recorded more than one million adults claimed by INEC to have voted for it. If anything, this observation further highlights the emptiness in the claim of Rivers State being a PDP state.

It isn’t difficult to recognise from when the storied popularity began. Wike in concert with a group of desperadoes rumped from the old PDP pushed the self-interest agenda from the back of a once powerful Rivers-born First Lady, Mrs Patience Faka Jonathan, in a manner most uncivil. With her letting loose on the state of young persons with recent history of bullets and blood, it wasn’t particularly difficult to substitute political popularity for violent intimidation.

The flood of reality, flowing from the 180-degree change in the political circumstance of Mrs Jonathan, has surged home. Rivers people are ready and free to cast their ballots but the loved Wike appears not willing to test his popularity. Rather, he is fixated on riding the reach of the hierarchy of the judiciary to challenge the judgment that had opened the door for the question of his popularity to be settled. From his two-stage appeals on territorial jurisdiction to one further appeal if the situation so warrants (as the state PDP chairman has said), Wike would be the record Nigerian politician to be heard on one election matter by the most number of judges (24 in all) in just one election cycle.

This is why to a number of his intimates, it’s time to jump ship. If their party which, while in control of the state executive and legislative arms, couldn’t persuade any of its supporters to stand witness in court just a few months after being declared winner, how would it reasonably galvanize voters to a resurgence of interest for its affairs or empathy for Wike in a re-run, at a time when, going by the judgments at the State Assembly Petition Tribunals, it may have relinquished control of even the state legislature, and against an uphill task of reversing the political convention that has defined Rivers State in its near-half a century of existence?

To understand their doubts better and explain the meaning of political convention as used here, we must be guided by the political history of Rivers people and of a democratic Rivers State. And here, we go to the second check:

Would Rivers State chose a now-national-minority PDP in an eventual re-run?
Read slowly: Before Rivers State was created in 1967, three political parties held sway, namely, the Northern Peoples’ Congress, the Action Group and the National Council of Nigerian Citizens. Harold Dappa Biriye (along with some other leading spirits behind the creation of Rivers State) in pre-Independence Nigeria, hatched a strategy. Inspired by the impulse for identity and value of assertiveness and presence, he chose not to identify with the geopolitically closer NCNC and AG, reading rightly that those would be minority parties at the federal level, but formed the United Niger Delta Congress and aligned with the ruling party, NPC. He understood strategy, whose essence is trade-off, and opted to be a minority, have a say, however small, at the House of Assembly of the Eastern Region where what would be Rivers State then belonged in but aligned with the majority, to have his way at the government at the centre.

Since then, through the first executive governor, Chief Melford Okilo, who was voted for and returned on the platform of the majority party of his day, National Party of Nigeria, to the immediate past governor, Rt Honourable Chubuike Amaechi, the validity of this reasoning has become sacrosanct, such that Dr Peter Odili, an original leading member of All Peoples Party in 1998, had to leave for PDP, from a reading of the political dynamics of 1998 Nigeria, to rout Sergeant Awuse, the initial PDP’s all-eyes-on, for the governorship ticket of PDP in 1999. In the immediate democratic window, Chief Rufus Ada George had won the governorship with the National Republic Convention, which was the majority party at the time, counting the numerical strength of the party at the senate and Federal House of Representatives, the number of its elected governors, and those of registered party members. (Moshood Abiola, of the rival Social Democratic Party, would win the presidential election but purely on the national acceptance of his personal appeal).

In 48 years as a state and far more longer as a group of peoples, it is evident that the Rivers community has accepted the practical logic and political advantage of this path, which is derived from a simple mathematical reasoning which is: The surest way for the lowest figure or smallest entity, in a competing multifarious community, to survive and thrive, is to align with the supreme, the supreme in this case being the government at the centre.
For the thinking Rivers person, conscious of the fact that politics in its most practical definition is the confrontational business of appropriating power, this political equation of aligning with the majority isn’t a problem demanding a solution; it is the solution asking for no problem. Under Nigeria-type federalism, a minority party confers no advantages in domestic development, national cake-sharing and discretional political consideration on a minority state. Unlike other majority-people-states, like Lagos, Anambra and Kano which could play opposition politics, for reasons of ideology or identity, at different republics, Rivers State, a minority-people-state, could not and cannot afford such. The consequences are far too unsavoury.
In all fairness, the argument of voting minority is founded on nothing but pride. And however virtues on some personal circumstances, the sentiment may be, in the strong-centre politics of Nigeria, it results in the loss or cruel short-changing of whatever is actually due the minority people who make it their political choice.

This is the open secret we Rivers people hold in trust. And Wike knows this so well, if anybody does, that he never missed the opportunity during the electioneering before the presidential election to shout at his listeners that Rivers State could not afford to vote a minority party – of course, with the personal certainty of President Jonathan’s re-election.

A time will come, as history holds, when this arrangement out of political necessity will change. But this isn’t the time and when it comes, it won’t be led by a man consumed in blind personal ambition.
And finally, we contrast Wike’s personal and political antecedents against Dakuku’s, which is our third check.

The character pattern of Wike as a politician, intensified in the last two years, can easily be drawn. Beginning with the manner in which other governorship rival-aspirants within his own party were unfairly excluded from the party’s governorship primaries to confer an undue advantage on him, to the present definition of his governance style, a non-integrated sense of development and the now-entrenched nepotic practices (of using only his Ikwerre kin and one or two of his Ekepeye in-laws as his go-between and the latent heads of all offices), it is easy to discern a willingness on his part not to play fair, to jam through on personal guts, and to resort to Machiavellian practices.

Wike hardly brings any peculiar distinctiveness in public service performance, remarkableness in character, exceptionality in a commitment to state development or uniqueness of insight into the challenges of the Rivers people to warrant their trust in his leadership.
On the other hand, Dakuku’s political career has been defined by and standing on tangible verifiable virtues. As Commissioner for Works, Dakuku built more roads than any commissioner for works in Rivers State at any period of their service. As a federal lawmaker between 2011 and 2015, he sponsored and co-sponsored more bills than any of his other Rivers federal-lawmaker contemporaries. With his running for the governorship, he demonstrated convincingly a sense of preparedness by documenting for the public his feasible economic development agenda, aptly titled Our Roadmap to Prosperity. These public service signatures, in fairness, are definitive of a leader who knows where he and his people are headed.
In personal development and formal education, while Dakuku, a doctor of Organizational Behaviour, had coursed four continents for studies including at ranking US’s Harvard Kennedy School (of Public Policy and Government) and Stanford Business School, Germany’s Kellog School of Management, Israel’s Galilee College, amongst others, Wike acquired all his formal education, from primary to tertiary, within a shouting distance of his birthplace.

Barack Obama at his Ghana-stop of his first official visit to Africa emphasized what has been identified as the key to Africa’s development -- institution building and strengthening against the age-old disaster strong-man-politics that has underscored the African tragedy.

Dakuku’s belief in and commitment to institutions is common knowledge, as readily captured in a slew of bills he sponsored or co-sponsored at the Federal House of Representatives, from Firearms Regulation to the Establishment of Post Graduate College of Medical Laboratory Science to the use of ICT in Criminal Investigations to Legal Framework for Petroleum operations to the Establishment of Civilian Honours Award, and so on.
On the contrast, Wike has exemplified the contra.

He launched his governorship tearing down institutions established by law, including, but hardly limited to, the agency for traffic regulation and control, TIMARIV, the leaderships of the department for city order and urbanization, Greater Port Harcourt Development Authority, and of the umpire for local elections, the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission.
With the unimpeachable public service career with which Dakuku enters the ring, with the knowledge that Rivers State wouldn’t play the victim to vote a minority party, and with the sharp antithesis in the political affairs of the former First Lady, the diehards we began this write-up with may be the only left shadow boxing.