by George Kerley
In a most moving speech to the 12th All Nigeria Editors Conference recently held in Port Harcourt, Governor Nyesom Wike accused the Nigerian media of deliberately turning a blind eye to the challenges of Rivers state and its people in the manner with which they report news items from Rivers State.
In what he called ‘a conspiratorial silence over the exclusion of Rivers people from the two legislative chambers of the National Assembly’, Governor Wike alerted the Nigerian media to the fact that for almost a year now, the people of Rivers State have not had any representation in the upper chamber, the Senate.
This was a most shocking exposure.
The entire hall with the more than 300 editors who had gathered for the conference went silent in disbelief!
Governor Wike went on to alert his audience that “the 8th National Assembly is well into the second year of its four (4) year tenure without a member of the Senate from Rivers State and only a minimal fraction in the House of Representatives”. More silence.
For more than 8 months, Rivers State, the highest oil producing state in the country and highest income earner for the Nigerian federation has not had a Senator in the upper chambers of the National Assembly!
Intriguingly, no media house has reported this great anomaly in the legislative orientation of the National Assembly. How a matter as grave escaped the prodding eyes of the Nigerian media continues to beat the minds of key stakeholders.
Another contending critical issue is the poser raised by Governor Nyesom Wike to the gathering of Editors.
“Can Rivers State be legitimately bound by legislation or resolutions from the 8th Assembly passed without our representation and input?”
In December 2015, the Appeal Court sacked all two Rivers Senators. The two senators were Senator Osinachukwu Ideozu (Rivers South West Senatorial District) and Senator John Olaka Wogu (Rivers South East Senatorial Zone).
Their elections were nullified on account of its failure to comply substantially with the provisions of the Electoral Act and other guidelines.
A 3-man panel, led by Justice Ibrahim Gumel unanimously ordered fresh elections to be conducted within 60 days for the two senatorial districts.
Ironically, the reasons given by the Appeal Court for the nullification of these two senators (as well as the 16 PDP members of the Rivers State House of Assembly) were the same reasons for which the Governorship election, which Nyesom Wike won, was also nullified.
However, unlike Governor Wike, the others could not enjoy the luxury of approaching the Supreme Court, which overturned the Appeal Court nullification ruling on Wike’s election. Their judicial petitions could only stop at the Appeal Court.
Re-run elections were held across Rivers State by INEC on March 19, 2016. Reports of irregularities caused elections to be cancelled in some parts of the state.
However, even in most of the areas where elections were smoothly conducted, INEC is yet to release results. More than four months after!
Such blatant disregard of electoral process has never been reported in Rivers State or any other part of Nigeria for that matter.
Even for the cancelled elections for which dates for re-run elections are supposed to have been established by now, INEC has not even showed the will to set these dates citing insecurity as though it is not the responsibility of the Federal Government to provide security for INEC and its staff!
One hopes that with Governor Wike’s clarion call to the Nigerian media, INEC will be put on its toes so that it can answer to its mandate to the Nigerian people, that of providing free and fair elections in other that the people may get fair and justiciable democratic representation.
George Kerley writes from Port Harcourt