Sunday, January 7, 2018

Political Killings In Rivers State

By Peter Ovie Akus 
Rivers of blood flowed in Omoku,  Rivers State, on New Year day when over 20 people were killed and 12 more injured after they were attacked by unknown gunmen as they journeyed home after their participation in New Year’s Eve services in various churches.

This bloodletting, which was carried out on a day that was meant to be a day of celebration for all, has been trailed by condemnation from all and sundry with many calling for the investigation, arrest and prosecution of all those involved in this dastardly act.
It also opened a new chapter in the battle for supremacy in Rivers State politics with the immediate past governor and current Minister of Transportation, Rt. Honourable Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, calling on the governor to resign from office due to his failure to secure lives and property in the state, while the governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, speaking through his Commissioner for Information, Mr Simeon Okah, accused the former governor of seeking cheap political mileage.
Like many states in Nigeria, Rivers State has had a sad history of political violence since the 2003 general elections. Nevertheless, what we are witnessing today is a dimension taken too far. I lived in Rivers state for ten years, and I can testify that Rivers State enjoyed relative peace and stability during the period.
Despite “federal heat” which was turned on him in the last two years of his administration, there was no upsurge in violence in Rivers State until a few weeks to the 2015 general elections when several APC chieftains were attacked and killed by armed gangs. Notable among those killed are late Chief Christopher Adube and late Mr Franklin Obi who are both indigenes of Omoku. It was the federal invasion that was responsible for the murderous impunity that turned the 2015 polls in Rivers state into an orgy of violence and slaughter which eventually rendered most of the results of that election nugatory.
The March 19th and December 10th, 2016 legislative rerun elections brought an unimaginable harvest of death to Rivers State due to the selfish desire of some politicians to attain power at all costs. In the build up to the elections, there were several beheadings, some were buried alive while others were immolated in various parts of the states.
At least 24 persons were killed in Omoku in one day and in February 2016 alone, 20 people were killed in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government area of the state. A Deputy Superintendent of Police, Alkali Mohammed, was among the notable casualties whose death sparked national outrage. Barrister Ken Astuwete, a lawyer to the former Chairman of Asari-Toru local government area, Chief Ojukaye Flag Amachree, who is an APC chieftain, was murdered in cold-blood by unknown gunmen in 2016.
Violence in Rivers state has been provoked mainly by the quest for power. Most politicians in the state see power as the only means of livelihood through access to the commonwealth. It is regrettable but true that in many communities in Rivers state, cult gangs hold sway. They control the social and economic souls of the people, including the traditional structures which have been rendered impotent.
Most of these cult gangs were armed by politicians in the build up to the 2015 general elections. The physical landscape of many communities in Rivers state is painted with boys armed to the teeth and walking about freely to the discomfort of citizens.
Governor Nyesom Wike speaking through the then Commissioner for Information, Austin-Tam George, in a report which was published in an online news medium, Premium Times on the 13th of March, 2016, blamed the upsurge in violence on a supremacy battle among rival cult gangs in the state.
He set up a Judicial Commission of Enquiry to probe the violence in the March Legislative Election Rerun, he has allegedly increased funding to the police and other security agencies in the state, he initiated an amnesty programme for all militants, kidnappers and all those engaged in one form of criminal activity or the other in the state, yet all these measures have failed to achieve the desired result. 
The allegation that the killings are linked to the 2019 gubernatorial election in the state might turn out to be true. Or, how else do you explain the inability to rein in these murderous gangs despite the gargantuan resources, the sophistry of security apparati coupled with federal support available to the state?
*Akus writes from Ifo, Ogun State.

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