IT is a three-horse race between major contenders in Rivers State ahead of the governorship and State House of Assembly elections, slated for Saturday, March 18.
With the current governor Nyesom Wike set to vacate office after completing two terms in government, residents are uncertain about who the next governor might be.
A key contender in the election is Siminalayi Fubara of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Often described as being handpicked by the sitting governor, Fubara is the current Accountant-General of the state and got 721 votes during the PDP primaries. He had defeated more popular and well-known politicians in the party, further fueling beliefs that Wike’s support influenced his emergence.
Although the governor had not campaigned for the PDP during the presidential elections, he had canvassed support for Fubara and his deputy, Ngozi Odu.
This is despite the fact that the PDP candidate is currently dealing with a corruption case brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), as he was declared wanted by the anti-graft agency over a N435 billion fraud.
Other major contenders include Senator Magnus Abe representing the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and Tonye Cole, a businessman who is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Residents are, however, unsure of who among these candidates will succeed the current governor and during an interview with The ICIR, a cab driver Kenneth Barry described the forthcoming election as unpredictable.
“It is difficult to predict. Personally, I don’t want Wike’s stooge to continue. Wike never did anything in Rivers state. Anything he does for the state, he has personal interest in it. You don’t manage people’s commonwealth to suit your personal interest,” he said.
Barry also noted that contrary to the situation with the presidential polls, the Labour Party was not a strong contender in the state governorship elections.
The party also recorded cases of in-fighting, which may have weakened the chances for its candidate, Beatrice Itubo.
A faction of the party had announced support for the PDP. Shortly after, the Labour Party’s National Chairman Julius Abure dissolved the State Executive Council in Rivers over alleged anti-party activities and corruption in managing the party’s funds.
For some young people who spoke with The ICIR, including a legal practitioner Tammy George, Tonye Cole of the APC is the preferred candidate regardless of the massive support shown by the youth in favour of the LP during the presidential elections.
“It is time for us to have a non-politician in our government, a person who is a businessman, who has actually worked for money in his life, who has created jobs and knows what it is to work. Our current governor, for instance. He was called to bar in 1997 or 1998 and did his youth service. From there, he went off in 1999 to go and become a local government chairman. In 2007, Chief of Staff. in 2011, a minister and in 2015, a governor.
“You cannot expect him to understand the plight of a business man on the road, it is not possible,” George said,
Another resident of the state Abigail Tonye told The ICIR that the ruling party, PDP, had lost the goodwill of the people.
“I think this election is based on who can influence the people. For now, Wike is not in the people’s good books anymore. He has hurt the people and I think they might want to get back at him by voting against his candidate. But I don’t know who will win, politicians always have their way at the end,” she said.
The uncertainty experienced by residents will, however, be resolved following the elections, which are only a few hours away.