George Santayana, the famous Spanish philosopher and poet, writing on
the lessons of history in Madrid in 1863, noted that “those who cannot
remember the past are doomed to repeat it”.
Evidently, there is a sturdy correlation between those immortal lines
and political developments in Rivers State today. To every student of
history, Rivers State and the gale of defections and revelations at
the moment capture the real meaning of Santayana’s well known and
For me, the real tragedy for Chief Nyesom Wike and his motley crowd of
receding supporters is that they have learnt and remembered nothing,
despite their long years in politics. Again, like most philosophers,
Santayana shows us how fickle and forgetful the human memory can be in
moments of great crisis. Are we not once again travelling a familiar
but absolutely avoidable road?
But there is an interesting twist to the goings-on in our dear state.
For some of us who have followed Rivers State politics over the years,
we knew Wike’s cookie would surely crumble. The only novelty however
is the unfolding speed with which former members of the PDP are
defecting to the APC.
Unlike the past, these PDP defectors are now filling the gaps for us
and re-enforcing with their horrible tales, the violent and
dishonourable activities of the former ruling party in Rivers State
before, during and after last year’s general elections.
Part of the revelations of these APC returnees centre on
high-handedness, intimidation, threats and even death sentence, just
like Wike’s death wish late last year to officials of the Independent
National Electoral Commission, INEC and people of Rivers State.
Resorting to threats, not only to election umpires but also to his
people in a democracy showed how decrepit our society had become. In
an age when reason and compromise guide political process, I am
horrified with the embarrassing absence of civility and moderation in
the words of the occupier of an exalted office like that of a
governor. Sadly Wike, in his characteristic manner chose to live below
the expectation of his high office.
Unfortunately, this death threat from a governor already has
consequences. It appears to be giving rise to objectionable conducts
by some people who are emboldened by such pronouncement. Today, armed
robbery, kidnapping and other forms of criminality have continued
unabated in our state. But this death threat, I must emphasize, is a
national security matter and I hope those saddled with the
responsibility of securing Nigeria are watching.
Lately, I have also been reviewing comments by our brothers and
sisters who are rejoining us in APC after many months of fierce
political disagreement and acrimony. Some of them were Wike’s former
aides and close associates but there is a common thread that runs
through their stories. Their complaints are essentially that of
exclusion, intimidation and threats.
But I am not surprised. A leopard can never change its spots. The good
news however is that the stories of the returnees, horrible as they
are, inspire. Their awful accounts and experiences have further
strengthened our resolve and determination to change our state for
good by electing those who are prepared for leadership. Critical also
is the fact that these defections are helping to deflate PDP’s
contrived popularity and bloated ego.
I know Rivers State will rebound, just like Nigeria and we can see
the signs. It is heart-warming that members of other political parties
across our state can now gather without fear of PDP’s harassment and
intimidation. A few days ago, I read the touching story of how APC
members in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area celebrated their
first meeting that did record any form of attack in many years.
As a party, what the APC wants is freedom. There can never be a fair
political contest in an atmosphere of fear. In the last couple of
years, we bore the brunt of state sponsored violence and terrorism, a
situation that came to an unparalleled crescendo during the March and
April elections. But today, we are better, bigger and ready to effect
the needed change. I congratulate the returnees for their heroism and
patriotism. I also commend our leaders for their magnanimity in
keeping the gate of our great party wide open.
Jumbo, a public affairs analyst, is also a member of the APC.