Rivers State has continued to attract attention and voting permutations on how people may vote in both the presidential and governorship elections.
For the presidential, what may decide the winner might be the outcome of a strange formula thus:
PDP 1 to vote for Atiku (PDP). This means that the mainstream Peoples Democratic Party is rooting for the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
PDP 2 to vote for BAT (APC). This means that the Gov Nyesom Wike faction of the PDP has resolved to remain in the party but vote Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
APC 1 to vote for Atiku (PDP): This indicates that the main APC faction led by former governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, seeing that Wike’s PDP is voting for Tinubu, would counter-vote by voting PDP’s Atiku.
APC 2 to vote for BAT (APC): This indicates that the new faction in the APC where Gov Wike is said to be working underground through his kinsman Tony Okocha is voting for Tinubu.
SDP for BAT (APC): This means that the Social Democratic Party (SDP) led in the state by its governorship candidate who was former strong Amaechi ally in the APC, Magnus Abe, is totally supportive of Tinubu.
Other signals are that Labour Party (LP) will do straight voting by voting Peter Obi all the way. Also, the Action Alliance (AA) has endorsed Peter Obi’s LP as well as African Democratic Party (ADP) and most other unattached groups in the state have been rooting for Obi.
Why the fragmentation
Since 1999, Rivers people had developed clear blocs and voting patterns which experts easily identified before voting day. It was always clear where the majority of the people stood.
Another clear indicator was that the minority state always wanted to be on the side of the national ruling party. This was how the state voted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in all the elections that took place up to 2019.
This election year, political crisis that began in 2012 has so squeezed Rivers State to the point of the collapse of party supremacy. In that case, the two major political parties in the state, PDP and APC have so broken into camps that some are bent on voting its presidential candidate for one reason or the other.
Wike is known for his wars against Atiku and Iorchia Ayu, the national chairman, whereas Amaechi and Tinubu are said to be far from best of friends. Amaechi camp believes that Tinubu had aided Wike all the years suppress his hold on Rivers APC so that Amaechi would not be strong in 2023.
Abe was a strong Amaechi ally until 2015 when he failed to get the nod to be governor. It has not been the same anymore until he left the party last May to join the SDP, without severing his deep links with Tinubu.
So, Amaechi seems to realise that every single political enemy around him has deep and secret links with Tinubu. He too, according to his close aides, began to distance himself from Tinubu. What played out at the APC primaries in Abuja in May 2022 and what happened when Tinubu flagged off his rally in Port Harcourt few weeks back seemed to seal all speculations and fears.
So, for political survival, he seems to lead his loyalists toward Atiku so Wike can have all of Tinubu.
The rest of Rivers people and those not attached to party seem eager to vote Peter Obi.
On this score, many see a close call amongst the three gladiators: Tinubu, Atiku, Obi. The enmity is so fierce that each person thinks if the other wins, he would wipe off the face of political relevance.
That could be why Rivers State election these days looks like war and the war seems to have started with bombings, assassination attempts, shooting, frame-ups, etc. This may also be why Rivers State and the South East seem to be the most volatile areas in the elections, and all eyes seem to focus on these two areas.