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Rivers politicians turn to God after tribunal verdict

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The recent ruling on the governorship election by the Rivers State Election Petitions Tribunal has surprisingly drawn the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress in the state closer to God, writes CHUKWUDI AKASIKE

Amaechi (second right) with his supporters at the thanksgiving in Port Harcourt
Amaechi (second right) with his supporters at the thanksgiving in Port Harcourt

There is no doubt that people view court rulings from various perspectives. This explains why the people do not react the same way after the delivery of judgements by a court. While some persons would accept a court ruling with glee, others would feel sad over the same decision.

In Rivers State, the situation was different when the state Election Petitions Tribunal delivered judgement in favour of the All Progressives Congress. The tribunal had specifically declared that the election of Governor Nyesom Wike did not substantially comply with the dictates of the Electoral Act, especially in the area of the non-usage of the card reader.

Ordinarily, this particular court verdict should put those at the receiving end off and possibly make them to keep quiet for some time while they re-strategise and look for a way to see that the ruling is upturned. Surprisingly, the victorious and the defeated were in a jubilant mood about 24 hours after the ruling of the court on the governorship election.

Last Saturday, the mammoth crowd that gathered at the Port Harcourt International Airport to receive Wike, who came from Abuja after the ruling on the state governorship election, gave the impression that all was well. It was like a triumphant entry. Some youths in the state danced for several hours while waiting for the governor.

The following day, Sunday, was set aside for thanksgiving and solidarity rally organised by the state Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Felix Obuah. On the same day, the immediate past governor of the state, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, was in Port Harcourt to commemorate the anniversary of his victory at the Supreme Court on October 25, 2015. The programme, which was tagged “Special Thanksgiving,” immediately became a platform to express delight over the victory of the APC at the election tribunal.

In all these, nobody was in doubt that both parties went to different places to simultaneously thank God for the unfolding political development in the state. Wike had implied that the thanksgiving was necessary because he and his supporters were sure that victory would be theirs at last.

“We will win and I will complete my four years tenure as the governor of Rivers State. The thanksgiving service today is very significant because if what enemies planned had work, I wouldn’t have been governor today. The nullification of my election by tribunal sitting in Abuja shows that justice is ours. I am surprised that some people are celebrating over the judgement when they described the judgement against their candidates at the National Assembly as judicial fraud.

“It is now that they have confidence in judiciary. In spite of the judgement, we will still have hope in judiciary. I want to beg you, don’t be provoked; I know what happened at the weekend was provoking. But I know what their plans are; that was why I am begging you to be calm,” Wike had told a very prayerful crowd at the Obi Wali International Conference Centre in Port Harcourt.

Elsewhere in Port Harcourt, Amaechi said, “Those who know me very well know that this (court issue) is not a new path. The only problem is that we must put our knees on the ground because we have no power. The battle is of the Lord. Who can battle with the Lord, I say nobody. If you thought we won by our own strength, then you are not godly. Imagine the kind of money they (PDP politicians) were willing to pay. You can pay all the money you want to pay, if Christ says it is not your turn, it will not be your turn.

“I tell people that my greatest help in every battle I undertake is that it is not man. The greatest help is God. I always say God should not back me; he should face me and tell say my son, I am with you. Once I hear that, I will relax. It is not yet time for celebration. Even if you win at the Supreme Court, it is not yet time for celebration.”

Prof. Steve Okodudu of the Department of Sociology, University of Port Harcourt, explained that though nothing was wrong in organising a thanksgiving, even when one was on the losing side. He pointed out that for very religious person, the belief remained that in every situation, it was necessary to always honour God with praises and thanksgiving.

On the other hand, the university don noted that some Nigerians were very religion, but very ungodly in their attitude. According to him, those making fanfare out of an election victory should realise that some people were killed before and during the last general elections in the state and should not make it a fanfare.

He said, “If you are a very religious person, you also feel that in every situation, you should give thanks to God. But when people lost their lives in an election and pastors open their churches to celebrate election victory, to that extent, it is morally wrong. That also suggests that most Nigerians are very religious, but very ungodly people. If not, there are several ways you can thank God without making it a fanfare. People died before and during the election and it is morally wrong to celebrate without those that lost their lives during the election.”

In his remark, a human right activist and the Chancellor of the International Society for Social Justice and Human Rights, Dr. Omenazu Jackson, described as unfortunate a situation where those who were maimed or killed during the elections in Rivers State had yet to get justice. Omenazu expressed surprise that the Federal Government had not begun investigation to unmask those behind the killings.

While explaining that it was not enough for politicians to celebrate election victories, he said those who were affected by the violence before and during the elections should be compensated by ensuring that they get justice.

Jackson said, “We in the International Society for Social Justice and Human Rights are saying that it is unfortunate that nobody is pushing harder to ensure that those responsible for the violence that caused the death of many people in Rivers State during the last general elections are unmasked for prosecution. Apart from that, we are calling for the total ban from active politics of politicians who sponsored violence in the state.

“I can remember that I took a victim of political violence in Rivers State during the election to the hospital then. The man’s knee was almost cut off by cutlass-wielding political thugs. I am surprised that even President (Muhammadu) Buhari has not done anything to bring those behind the politically-motivated violence to book.

“Those behind the violence are still around and nothing is done to bring them to book. The truth is that when today’s unscrupulous politicians are using guns to win elections and nothing is done to correct the anomaly, the upcoming politicians would buy armoured personnel carriers to kill, maim and win elections with the belief that nothing would be done to investigate and bring them to book. That is not what we want in Rivers State and Nigeria as a whole.”

On the thanksgiving and solidarity rallies organised simultaneously by the APC and the PDP in the state, the human right activist explained that the immediate past governor did not set out to celebrate the election petitions tribunal’s ruling on the governorship election, but was only celebrating his October 25, 2007 Supreme Court judgement that eventually made him the governor of the state for eight years.

Omenazu, however, added that the thanksgiving ceremony organised by the PDP in the state on Sunday October 25, 2015, had been fixed before the court ruling on the governorship election with the belief that the Wike’s election would be upheld by the tribunal.

He said, “You can see what happened on Sunday after the judgement as a gathering for political outing for restitution of both parties. The APC’s meeting in Port Harcourt was already scheduled to mark the Supreme Court ruling anniversary that brought the former governor, Rotimi Amaechi, to power.

“What happened was that the marking of the anniversary coincided with the Saturday’s ruling of the tribunal on the 2015 governorship election in the state. But for the PDP, the party leaders had scheduled the thanksgiving and victory rally for Sunday, believing that the ruling of the tribunal would favour them.”

But a Port Harcourt-based public affairs analyst, Mr. Lekian James, viewed the court victory from a different perspective. He said that the PDP chieftains who decided to organise thanksgiving should not be blamed because they were expectant and believed that they would get victory in the Appeal or Supreme Court. Notwithstanding, James pointed out that the violence sponsored by politicians would one day be addressed.

“People see things from different angles. So, if the PDP decided to organise a thanksgiving rally or service, it should not be misconstrued. They may be thanking God for giving them the grace to appeal for an opportunity to upturn the tribunal’s judgement that is current against them,” James said.

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