The defection of the former Spokesperson to the Rivers State wing of President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC), Ogbonna Nwuke, has some significance for the people of Etche though it has further depleted the size of the political army of Transportation Minister, Chibuike Amaechi, in the big oil and gas state.
For whatever reason, Etche like Oyigbo, are arguably the least developed power blocs of Rivers since the Peter Odili administration (1999-2007). Amaechi continued with the unwholesome culture of neglect till the emergence of Governor Nyesom Wike in 2015 when Etche started seeing a flicker of light in terms of the Wike developmentsaid efforts.
Though some elements will not like to admit it, Etche is one of the Igbo speaking groups in Rivers just like the Ikwerre people. Etche/Omuma is one of the 23 Local Government Areas of the state, and among the 13 Federal Constituencies representing Rivers in the National Assembly. It is part of Rivers East Senatorial District.
Ogbonna Nwuke was born September 16, 1959 to the Nwuke family. In the First Republic, his father J.H.E. was Parliamentary Secretary of Internal Affairs under the Nnamdi Azikiwe administration in Eastern Nigeria, and later Provincial Commissioner of Port Harcourt Province and Minister of State for Works under the M.I. Okpara administration.
Besides being a politician, this scion of the Nwuke family who has rejoined Governor Wike in the PDP, is the publisher of The Port Harcourt Telegraph, an influential regional newspaper. When the Supreme Court in 2007 declared Amaechi as the governor of Rivers, Amaechi made him his Director of Press Affairs, and later Commissioner of Information and Communications (2008–2009) as well as Commerce and Industry (2009–2010). In 2011, he contested and won election into the House of Representatives for Etche–Omuma constituency (2011–2015) on the platform of PDP.
In the same Amaechi administration he served, Wike held sway as the Chief of Staff. As a publisher, he has been mirroring the activities of Wike as Obio.Akpor Local Government Chairman on the pages of The Port Harcourt Telegraph. And, for whatever reason best known to Amaechi at the time, Wike was on his way to representing Rivers East in the Senate, when he was prevailed upon to halt his political mechine. As a loyal party man, he yielded.
Now, with the return of Ogbonna Nwuke to PDP, Etche is likely to be blessed with one or two development projects before the expiration of the Wike administration. Like the returnee Nwuke rightly said, in the last six years the rest of them who dumped Amaechi’s APC have been in the wilderness
According to him, ‘’we were promised change, but I will say we did not find change in Etche. All politics is local and I couldn’t stand by, do the fighting and watch those who superintended over the affairs of APC act in a manner that appeared callous. Accordingly, we have found our way out of wilderness. We have stumbled into light and we have found development partner and that development partner is PDP.
“We have seen the good road that you built. First, you gave us the Igwuruta-Chokocho dual carriage road. Then you gave us the Udofor-Akpoku-Umuoye Road. And the other day you returned and then you gave us the announcement of the Chokocho-Igbodo Road. Your Excellency, there is jubilation in Etche. I am jubilant myself.
“I am excited. And to tell you the candid truth, there could have been no better news. Today your Excellency, I have come back home . Honestly, there can be nothing better than home. Etche has 205 oil wells, Etche has over 80 percent of gas deposit south of River Niger and Your Excellency, you have already identified our need. the Etche need is access.”
Apparently glad to reunite with his political brother, Governor Wike while formally receiving the returnees claimed that PDP elected governors are working in unison to ensure that the party wins the presidential election in 2023, adding that contrary to the expectation of those who do not wish the party well, all PDP governors are working hard to ensure the party regains the realm of power in 2023.
He gave this assurance at a reception for Nwuke; all the 23 Local Government Chairmen of African Action Congress (AAC) who dumped their parties to join PDP at the Isaac Boro Park, Port Harcourt on Thursday, saying ‘’we are fighting hard and God willing, PDP will takeover Nigeria in 2023. It is not a question of wishful thinking. It is a question of being committed and we are going to do it. All the governors of (PDP) have agreed, we will do it. PDP will never be divided. All the people who are thinking that PDP will be divided, they have all failed. All those who were trying to sabotage Rivers state, they have all been knocked out.”
The Rivers governor explained that he was not surprised that Nwuke and others have decided to dump APC. According to him, those who decamped have merely come to the realisation that cannot continue to be misguided and listen to illusive stories, particularly of the APC, adding that the people of Rivers have seen that PDP means well for them, hence, they have decided to put their fate in the hands of Almighty God first, and then the PDP.
Continuing, he said PDP in Rivers has never been owned by an individual as is the case with APC, and accordingly assured those who just decamped to the party and others who will join them in the future, that when decision to pick his successor will be made, they will not be excluded.
“Everybody must participate, and then we will take decision. It can be those who are coming now, you never can tell. Nobody can say because you came in yesterday, or because you came in today, you are not entitled. Everybody is entitled as far as PDP is concern.”
He, however, reiterated that Nigerians have since realised that APC led government has failed in all sectors, and challenged the remnants of APC to mention what the Federal Government has done for Rivers in the last six years. He also expressed optimism that the sterling performance of his administration, particularly as it concerns infrastructural and human capacity development, has continued to endear the party to voters in the state.
“No one project awarded by this administration will remain abandoned before we leave on the 29 May 2023. And then, another PDP government will come and take over from us. Let me assure you, God has already sealed it. Let nobody bother himself, PDP will take over Rivers State again because it is very obvious. Why will PDP take over? We will take over because we have made promises to you and we have fulfilled the promises”, Wike said.
While Governor Wike further charged all PDP local government chairmen to ensure that those who just decamped to the party are not alienated, a former member of the House of Representatives, Emma Deeyah, who also dumped APC, said they were endeared to Wike because of his bold and courageous leadership in the state.
PDP State Chairman, Ambassador Desmond Akawor, said all former APC chieftains and AAC members that defected to his party were allegedly lured to join the opposition by Amaechi, pointing out that having realised that APC has nothing to offer the people of the state and Nigerians, they decided to dump the party and all that it represents to join PDP.
Some of the APC chiefs who defected are former member of House of Representatives, Daemi Akpanah; former member of House of Assembly, Ibiso Nwuche; former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Stephen Ezekwem; former Commissioner of Works, Levy Braide; former member of House of Assembly, Emmanuel Okata; former Chairman of the state Civil Service Commission, Ngo Martins-Yellowe; Goodlife Nmekini, former Special Adviser to Governor Amaechi; Dr. Barinedum Nwibere, former Director General, Cole/Giadom Campaign Organisation among others.