The Imperatives Of Rivers Elders’ Conference
The victory of Governor Nyesom Wike in the governorship election in Rivers State may have come and gone, however the drama and the shenanigans that characterized the exercise will linger for long. There are indeed fundamental lessons to imbibe from the entire episodes of the tragic comedy.
For one the elections and outcome after weeks of suspense and gerrymandering go to buttress the salient point that the will and power of the people will always triumph over the narrow interests of the few who believed that violence, bloodshed and intimidations have the capacity to cow the people to submission in a democracy.
Also the scenario that ensued all through the election debacle in the state seemed to have brought to the fore the realities and critical facts that Rivers State is in dire need of true elders and statesmen who can hold their voices up, without dancing to the wind, when critical occasions demand. We need to face the facts that “Rivers today, lacks elders with the courage and wisdom of its founding fathers. The creation of Rivers State in 1966, was the result of hard work, commitments and sacrifices of great elders and statesmen such as the sagacious Chief Harold Dappa Biriye, Chief G. K. Amakiri, Senator Obi Wali, Justice Nabo Graham Douglas, Chief Nwobidike Nwanodi, Senator Francis Ella, Chief E. J. Oriji, Professor Isaac Dema, Chief Paul Birabi, G. B. Leton, Chief E. N. Opurun and Ken Saro Wiwa among other personalities of that era.
To painstakingly list these persons is to elucidate the high quality of individuals who staked their lives for the state. Unfortunately, those to whom these great men handed over the baton seemed to ignore the wisdom, tact and courage to lead the new generation in a manner devoid of parochial interest and political bias.
Since 1999, when politics and elections took the centre stage of Nigerian democratic process, the state has watched in dismay the actions and body language of elders and statesmen who rather than build cohesiveness among the numerous and diverse ethnic constituents in the state, choose to engage in fanning the embers of social divisiveness. Thus the adage that elders do not sit at home while the female goat delivers while tied explains the role of some elders while the election face-off in the state lasted.
The fact of the matter was that elders of the state who as statesmen should have passionately tackled the crises that arose from the election bearing in mind the interests of the state, decided rather to remain ominously silent or play to the gallery
So worrisome, it is in Rivers of today that notable and respected elders have unwittingly fallen into the odious conspiracies of the political class, taking sides on political issues in a bid to feather their nepotic interest to remain relevant to the source of what firmer governor Ayo Fayose described as stomach infrastructure. In African tradition and culture, it is infidelity of the mind and debasing for elders in the community to abandon their crises-ridden homefront, and go abroad in frantic search for strange solutions to critical family and community issues confronting the people.
Men of wisdom and courage do not run away from troubling issues of the community but would rather consciously galvanize the people, building and confidence in the people towards charting pathways out of seeming intractable situations. This is done so that the society can move forward peacefully into the next level development.
The critical political and social situation confronting Rivers State have risen to the crescendo due largely because elders abandoned their esteemed responsibility while the younger generation of men and women who forcefully took over the mantle of leadership seem to lack the requite knowledge to sustain the values that brought the state to its enviable height.
Today, our highly revered treasure base of the nation is obviously riding in the crest of socio- political mess it has found itself because those to whom the people looked for direction and guidance have somehow surrendered their roles as social stabilizers and are now chasing shadows and rats.
It is on this note that one could opine that those men and women in the name of Rivers Elders who took the flight to Abuja to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in the political standoff following the March 9, governorship and state Assembly elections cannot be said to have acted as true elders of the state. Preposterous as it was, the whole episode was a drama taken too far. For the elders to leave the crises at home and embark on such expedition, amounts to a man who ignited fire on his clothes and goes about calling on the bystander to rescue him from the flame.
Inviting the president of Nigeria to intervene in the political situations occasioned by the March 9 elections in the state exposed the elders and their promoters as a group lacking the wisdom of Solomon and proper political calculation.
President Buhari himself from all ramifications would have known that he would be committing illegal and unconstitutional acts if he had yielded to the biddings of such promptings. It is common knowledge that the contradictions that attended the March 9, election were precipitated by desperate politicians from the state who believed that force and brutality were the instruments needed to wrest power from an incumbent to prove that the touted political strength already portrayed was no fluke. This is the truth and these elders know it. Rivers people had expected that rather than go to Aso Rock, these Elders should have sought home-grown solution to the issues. The point is that, we must wake up from this self-pity that we have invariably imposed on ourselves as Rivers people, selling out our incapacitations instead of making use of the roundtable in solving problems.
By implications the elders were calling on the president to declare a state of emergency on the state; as a way to ease out the incumbent from being reelected. Quite unfortunate. How this will benefit anybody is open to conjectures
Significantly, the two antagonists in the political battles in the state, the incumbent Governor Nyesom Wike and former Governor Chibuike Amaechi were offshoots and props of these elders of yester-years politics. When these two men prior to the 2015 election fell apart and began to build fortresses of loyalties, none of these elders stood boldly to seek for a truce or a compromise at least in the interest of the state.
In the words of Chief A. K. Horsfall, the attempts of some Rivers elders to bring the warring politicians to a roundtable prior in the just-concluded elections in the state did not materialize. According to him while Governor Nyesom Wike positively responded to their overtures, the Minister of Transportation failed to respond. Chief Horsfall, while berating the two men for causing so much pain to the state, as a result of their acrimonious political activities, also warned that both of them cannot continue to behave as if they were too big to answer to the calls of the Elders of the State.
The point to be situated here is that elders in Rivers state are obviously in confusion and disarray on how to handle matters of the state. President Muhammadu Buhari, it must be noted, despite his position as the leader of Nigeria is a total stranger in solving certain socio-political issues in the state. The Amaechi-Wike political onslaught can only be resolved by genuine Rivers people who actually know the genesis of the problems. No stranger can be more Rivers than the Rivers people.
What is required of the Governor, Nyesom Wike is to remain magnanimous in victory and ensure that the olive branch he has raised to his opponents, stands unwavering. The time of reconciliation should begin in earnest. The government should during this period constitute a truly elders council that will comprise all senior and elder citizens of the state irrespective of political, religious or social affiliation.
Governor Wike should also as a matter of urgency convene an all Rivers Conference of ethnic nationalities to discuss all issues confronting the state, including the issue of political power rotation and succession among the divides of upland and riverine areas of the state. These are issues that true statesmen can deliberate upon and bring the needed enduring peace and political conviviality to Rivers State because peace is an indispensable necessity to move Rivers State to the next level of growth and prosperity.