South-South (Niger Delta) Pre-Election Assessment Report by The Election Project of the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (cehrd), Ogale-Nchia, Eleme, Rivers State, Nigeria. Monday, September 6, 2010. Preamble

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South-South (Niger Delta) Pre-Election Assessment Report by The Election Project of the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD), Ogale-Nchia, Eleme, Rivers State, Nigeria. Monday, September 6, 2010.


Preamble:

There are six States that make up the South-South geo-political zone, sometimes known as the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The States are Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Cross River, Edo and Rivers. Each State has its peculiar political situation though the events building up to the 2011 elections look similar to one another across the states in the region.

In this report, we analyze critically the tragic happenings of each of the state relating to the struggle for power by the power elites and others, and make some predictions about the threats, and dangers to achieving a free, fair and credible election in 2011. This analysis is based on several field trips undertaken by officials of CEHRD recently to the various areas (mostly flashpoints] in the respective States. It is informative and forecasting. The analysis is not a scholarly or intellectual one, but a “mere” NGO type dissection of happenings in the States. Below are the State by State analyses.

1. Akwa Ibom State (Land of Promise)

According to the recent census in Nigeria, the State has a total population of 3, 168, 101, though majority of those figures do not represent the actual one. The State has 31 local government areas which constitute the highest in the region.

The State has three major recognizable dialectal grouping – Ibibio, Anang and Oron. There are also less distinguishable groups like Eastern Obolo who are of the Ijaw stock and Ibeno people who speak a dialect close to that of Oron, were originally in Oron, while Eastern Obolo was in Ikot Abasi which was within the Opobo district in Rivers State.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) through its criminal manipulative politics controls the entire State. All local government council chairmen, members of the State House of Assembly, House of Representatives, and Senate are PDP, except a House of Representative candidate representing the Ini Local Government, a member of the Action Congress (AC) now Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).

The crisis in the State is intra PDP conflict. It is between Godswill Akpabio, the incumbent governor of the State and Victor Attah, the ex-governor and member of the board of the trustees of the PDP. While, Akpabio is of Annang group, Attah hails from the dominant Ibibio group. Tribalism plays a major role in Akwa Ibom state politics, and to a very ridiculous height. In the state, the PDP has two factions, there is the Akpabio faction headed by Mr. Owen Ita, son of Ita, the old Cross Rivers State secretary of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Attempts by Attah to constitute his state executive council have always ended up in bloodletting. Investigations revealed that two persons who had attempted to constitute the Attah PDP have been assassinated.

In February 2010, Udonwa, a lawyer and ex-member of the State House of Assembly from 1999 – 2003, was shot dead while driving out of a gas station in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom. Also, Paul Inyang, a former member of the South-South caucus of the PDP was shot dead in a church around July, 2010. Accusing fingers are allegedly pointed at the state government for masterminding the murders. Though, there was a peace meeting between Akpabio and Attah last year in Abuja, the atmosphere of intolerance, acrimony has continued.

There is no visible opposition in the State. The opposition is intra (within) the PDP. Akpabio wants to run for a second term, and is highly intolerant of any form of opposition whether intra or inter party. Some of his supporters interviewed reinforced the lack of tolerance for any form of opposition in the State. Senator Akpan Udo Udoedeghe, one-time senator, one time junior minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory under the Obasanjo administration wants to be governor on the PDP platform. He is the endorsed candidate of Attah. The stage is set, but we can not rule out the fact that dissatisfied members of the PDP after the congress will jump into any available party, and contest against PDP. This may further deepen the crisis. In Akwa Ibom State all sort of kidnapping gangs and cults/confraternities, dominate the scene. The violent situation there calls for concern. In spite of the intensity of the crisis in the state, it does not get the kind of attention other deltaic states like Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta get.

This is also because the media is muzzled by the State government. There has been cases of torture and harassment of journalists and media workers too. Akwa Ibom ranks among the flashpoints of electoral and non-electoral violence in the South-South region.



2) Bayelsa State (The Pride of the Nation)

Bayelsa State located in the central Niger Delta region of Nigeria was among the six new states, the bloody dictator, late General Sani Abacha (1943 - 1998), created on Thursday, December 5, 1996. The State was carved out of the old Rivers State. Bayelsa is one State in the Niger Delta region whose party politics has always been poignant and extreme right from the January 9, 1999 governorship/State House of Assembly elections in the State that brought Chief Diepreye Solomon Alamieyeseigha as the first “elected” governor of the State. In Bayelsa State, like Akwa Ibom State, the PDP is factionalized between the State group and the Abuja group. The State group is led by Chief Timipre Sylva, the incumbent governor while the Abuja group is led by Chief Fred Agbedi, “chairman” of the PDP. The current intra PDP bloody crisis started when after the election, the newly “elected” Timipre Slyva dissolved the Agbedi’s executive council of the PDP in the State, and constituted a new one.

He appointed Rufus Abadi to lead it. While Rufus Abadi has a functional office in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, Agbedi escaped to Abuja, to organize from there. The crisis in the party has assumed a frightful dimension that sometime ago Agbedi and Slyva like Mike Tyson; the legendry boxer exchanged hot blows in a popular hotel in Abuja. The PDP office in Yenagoa has been severally attacked with explosives suspected to be dynamite. The Abuja group has the support of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the current president of Nigeria, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri now representing Ekeremor Federal constituency and former speaker of Bayelsa State House of Assembly who fought several deadly battles with Alamieyeseigha before he was impeached by pro-Alamieyeseigha lawmakers. Others in the Abuja group are Chief A.J. Turner, Chief Timi Alaibi, Senator Nimi Barigha Amange, and Chief Dieprieye Alamieseigha.

Bayelsa State, like Rivers State, parades a lot of violent and armed cults/confraternities and militias. There are a lot of guns on the streets of Bayelsa State in spite of the heavy presence of the Joint Task Force (JTF). The headquarters of the JTF is in Yenagoa. Majority of the ex-militants like Joshua Mchiver, General Africa Owei, Boyloaf etc are allegedly on the payroll of the State government and will be ready to protect their source of income at any cost. Sadly, the Federal Government Amnesty program has not achieved much because substantial quantity of guns is still in the hands of the groups. For example, when in June, 2010, a bunch of non-violent pro-democracy activists under the aegis of Save Nigeria Group (SNG) staged a peaceful protest in the state, ex-militants like General Africa, Owei, and others, cordoned off the venue and were threatening the protesters. Comrade Gbasi, a courageous activist, non-partisan campaigner for good governance was attacked personally by Owei in the presence of heavily armed soldiers and Police who accompanied him. In April, Nengi James, a community activist appeared on a program on the Africa Independent Television (AIT) called “focus Bayelsa”, James criticized the bad governance and looting that characterized the government of Sylva. Somebody called the “manager” of the State threatened to bomb the station if the program was not stopped. The program was stopped for the sake of peace and the station was not bombed.

Apart from the State government embedded ex-militants, the Icelanders, a cult group which owe its origin and initial funding to Rivers State under Dr. Peter Odili and Tom Ateke is alleged to be loyal too, to Slyva. However, the Greenlanders, a splinter group from Icelander at the time of this report is on its own, but looking for who will hire it for the 2011 elections. CEHRD spoke with some of its leaders. They are heavily armed and organized. Another dimension to the Bayelsa State puzzle is the Hon. Peremobowei Ebebi, the allegedly impeached deputy governor to Sylva and former Speaker of the Bayelsa State Assembly who spearheaded the impeachment of Alamieyeseigha, and later became deputy governor to Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Ebebi is on his own. The Abuja group doesn’t trust him. A member of the Abuja group who spoke to CEHRD described him as a “greedy traitor” and narrated that as deputy to Jonathan, now president of Nigeria, he frustrated Francis Doupalagha from becoming governor of the State and thus allowing Sylva to take over as the State Governor, and Ebebi became his deputy, who impeached him recently. Ebebi is also capable of increasing the political temperature of Bayelsa State.

One of the alleged killers of Soboma George, the leader of the Outlaws, a notorious gang in Rivers State confessed to have been sent by the late George to assassinate Ebebi though the person who sent George is still unknown. Violent organized crime and reprisal killings had increased. In mid July, 2010, an unknown gang broke into a septic tank in the compound of Mr. Regenald Dede, the chairman of the Bayelsa State Environmental Sanitation Authority (BSEA) in Akassa in the Brass Local Government Area and stole a whooping N300, 000 million (about $2 million) stashed there. The money is suspected to be owned by the government meant for his re-election project in 2011. Such cases abound. The media in Bayelsa State is fearless and freer than a lot of other places like Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Cross River States.

In Bayelsa, the opposition is going to be intra party. The Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), supposedly, an umbrella of opposition parties is factionalized into two. A faction is led by Mr. Sunday Frank Oputa, a pro-establishment person who sometime defends the policies and programs of Sylva. The ACN is very vocal but does not have many roots at the various communities in the State. During the election in Bayelsa State there will be violence. In terms of ranking, Bayelsa will come first followed by Akwa Ibom State. The population of Bayelsa State is said to be 1, 703, 358.

3) Cross River State (The People Paradise)

Cross River State has a population of about 2, 888, 966 population. Its politics would be as vehement as those of Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa etc where revenue from oil and gas is a major motivator for those seeking political office. There will be minimal violent incidents, compared to the scale in the other states above. There are indications that Liyel Imoke, the governor would want to run for a second term. Cross River State is of three political blocks politically speaking. They are the North with 5 Local Governments, the South with 8 Local Government Areas, where Hon. Donald Duke, former Commissioner of Finance of from 1992 – 1993 and former governor of the State hails from, and the central with six local governments where Governor Imoke hails from. Cross River State used to be controlled by the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP), but for the mistake of 1998, during the congress of the PDP, where Donald Duke defeated Kanu Agabi and emerged as the PDP candidate from Southern Cross River State.

The ANPP picked Chief Mark Ukpo, the elder brother of Brig. General (rtd) Anthony Ukpo, a former military administrator of Rivers State. During the January 9, 1999 Governorship/State Assembly elections in the State, it was a contest between North (5 local government) – ANPP and south (8 local government) – PDP. The PDP won, though there were allegations of malpractices. Donald Duke is still seen by many as a force to reckon with in the politics of Cross River State. Therefore, any party he moves into he will increase the political activities there.

4) Delta State (The Big Heart)

Delta State of the Western Delta, with its 25 Local Government Areas is not different from other places. It is just the same story, pattern of guns, militias, violence, and madcap politicking. It has a population of 4, 098, 391. The pattern of the struggle is between James Ibori, ex-governor held in Dubai and his cousin, Emmanuel Uduaghan, the current governor on one hand versus Chief Edwin Clark, the former Federal Commissioner of Information under the General Gowon’s junta of the 1970s and Ijaw nationalist who represent the Abuja group. There are several armed gangs and militias, those who have accepted amnesty and those who have not. Kidnapping and violence still continue. Some of the gang leaders who have accepted amnesty will support any candidate that emerges on the PDP congress to produce the guber candidate and Assembly candidate. There will be violence and killings because of the presence of guns around. With a little amount of money one can be hired to flare violence.

5) Edo State (Heart Beat of the Nation)

Edo State whose capital is Benin City is said to have a total population of 3, 218, 332, and has 18 Local Government Areas. With the emergence of Adams Oshiomole of the AC, a whole lot of areas in the State that were formally controlled by the PDP have fallen to ACN. However, Edo State being one of the areas with a good number of criminal gangs, cult groups etc, there will be some level of violence. The violence will be witnessed in Esan-North-East and Esan-South-West Local Government Areas. These are places that still have some remnants of die-hard PDP loyalists because of Chief Tony Anenih, the PDP board of trustee member. In the ACN, there seems to be no intra party opposition candidate against Adams, but one may emerge. But, on the platform of the PDP three heavy weights have indicated their interest to contest for the party ticket, to contest against Oshiomole. They are Engr. Chris Ogiemewanyi, the current Minister of State for Works, Prof. Julius Ohonvre, former aide to Obasanjo and Barrister Kenneth Inasungbon. Edo and Rivers States governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections will come up later (Edo – July 2012 and Rivers June 2011).

6) Rivers State (Treasure Base of the Nation)

Rivers State is said to have a population of about 5, 185, 400 with 23 Local Government Areas. Port Harcourt is its capital. Rivers State is one of the havens of cult groups and gangs. Secret killings, kidnapping and other forms of violence continued on regular basis. The government is highly intolerant of opposition either inter or intra party and critical press too.

In spite of Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s claims that there is no faction in the PDP, there is a faction. There is the Abuja group and the State group. The Abuja group is made up of Dr. Abiye Sekibo, ex-secretary to Rivers State government under Dr. Peter Odili and ex-transport minister under Obasanjo, Dr. Odili, ex-governor and Amaechi’s estranged godfather, Chief Austin Opara, former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Barr. Celestine Omehia, Amaechi’s cousin and ex-governor of the State, Kenneth Bie Kobani, former Finance Commissioner under Odili, Gabriel Pidomson (Jnr.), former member of Rivers State House of Assembly under Odili and secretary to the short-lived Omehia’s government. They are also a lot of others in Rivers State, not Abuja who are loyal to the Abuja group.

Beyond the intra PDP struggle we shall witness Dokubo-Asari, leader of the armed Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF) and now one of the godfathers of ACN in the State. The politics of Rivers State will be quite interesting in few months to come. To Amaechi it is a do or die affair, same with the Abuja (Odili) group and the Asari’s ACN. Recently, in an attempt to start updating of the PDP membership register in the state, those perceived to be sympathetic to the Abuja group were deprived of registration outrightly, this resulted in bloody clashes across the State. For example, in the Andoni Local Government Area where Engr. Tele Ikuru, the Deputy Governor of Rivers State and Prince Uche Secondus, the national organizing secretary and cousin to Ikuru hail from. On July 6, 2010, some persons who travelled from Port Harcourt to register there were attacked by gun-wielding PDP thugs, 7 persons were killed and others wounded. In the Etche Local Government PDP register was allegedly hijacked by thugs loyal to Ogbonna Nwuke, a veteran journalist and current Commissioner of Commerce and Industry in the Rivers State government. The scenario was just the same throughout the state. This is the colour of what is to come in 2011 and beyond. The exercise was later suspended when the national executive council of the PDP suggested online registration, which the PDP governor’s forum objected to, and it (online registration) was suspended. Hopefully, the updating of PDP membership register will continue soon, and the bloodbath is expected amongst PDP members.




For more information, please contact

The Election Project,

Centre for Environment, Human Rights

and Development

(CEHRD)

No. 6, Obo Nwanke Street,



Post Office Building,

Ogale-Nchia,

Eleme,

Rivers State, Nigeria,



West Africa.

Telephone; +234 – 0 – 082557893, 082557885, 082557883

08191513711 (office mobile phone)



Email; nigerdeltaproject@yahoo.com

Website; www.cehrd.org


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