By Uche Igwe
I first met Senator Magnus Abe in person in November 2009 in Yenagoa Bayelsa State. He was then serving as Secretary to Government and came to represent the then Rivers State Governor at a roadshow organised by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative(NEITI).
Before then I had heard a lot about him on one occasion. A friend of mine who was working for a Port Harcourt based NGO had approached me to seek my assistance to reach out to the then Rivers State government about an important budgetary inquiry. I knew no one in government at that time but decided to look for Mr. Magnus Abe’s number as he was called at that time. When I called the number, Mr. Abe picked immediately and listened to me patiently. At the end of our conversation, he took my friend’s number from me and promised to contact him. Exactly forty-five minutes later, my friend Ken Henshaw contacted me back to say that the SSG called him and resolved his issue. Both of us were surprised at the speed of the response but we dismissed the unusually efficiency as a mere coincidence.
A few years later I met him in person again when I visited Port Harcourt with the former President of Botswana, Mr. Festus Moghae. The former President was a guest speaker at the first Claude Ake memorial lecture instituted by the Amaechi administration in 2011. It was during that short visit that Senator Abe made a lasting impression on me. I had a minor disagreement with the Chairman of the committee and had a cause to report him to the Secretary. Both individuals were then serving as commissioners. Unknown to me, the Secretary of the Committee whispered my complaints to the Secretary to Government, Abe. Again the SSG intervened immediately, called me to apologize, instructed the Chairman of the Committee to come personally to apologise to me and directed an increment to my allowance. It was after that encounter that I now concluded that whatever the SSG did to my friend was not a coincidence, it was his style, it was his person. When a man does not know you and extends fairness to you then it is his second nature. From then I began to watch him closely and in the course of my regular visits, we discussed a lot and later became friends.
Let me make myself clearer, I have tremendous respect for Senator Magnus Abe. He earned my respect due to his firm, fair and impartial discharge of his duties as a public servant. Sometimes I think it is an addiction. He is a simple and straightforward man. He shares a lot of traits with my friend the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi. If you do not want to hear it as it is, please do not go to these two men. Senator Abe is a cerebral politician and committed family man. When I came closer to him I discovered to my surprise that even with the pressures of public office, this man manages to still spent quality time with his family. I learnt from that discovery to put my family first. Till date there are very few politicians in Rivers State who can be said to be as eloquent and tactical as Senator Abe. If you doubt me, listen to him for five minutes. Whenever I am in Abuja I make it a point of duty to visit him regularly. Each visit is always an opportunity to learn from his reservoir of knowledge and experience.
I learnt that Senator Abe will be contesting again for his position as the Member of Parliament representing Rivers South East in the Nigerian Senate. I really consider his election an important opportunity for people from Rivers State and South-South region to get a quality voice in the Senate. I say this because Abe’s experience makes him stand out as a bi-partisan choice. He is a treasured representative any time, anyway who will add value to his constituents and whose worldview transcends divisive political party affiliations – that is to say regardless of what party you belong to in Rivers South East zone – whether APC or PDP, you must now be aware that sending Senator Abe to the Senate is in the best interest of the state and entire region. His level of experience and political profile has become necessary especially now. He needs to go to Abuja to support Minister Amaechi to represent the interest of Rivers people and the Niger Delta. There is no better time than now when alignments and realignments are already going on.
As Abe’s grassroots popularity continues to grow in leaps and bounds, there is a vocal minority who think otherwise. They are led and enabled by the incumbent Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Nyesom Wike. Wike’s fixation about the forthcoming re-run election is not surprising. His agenda is clear- he wants to stop Abe at all costs and impose a puppet on the people of Rivers South East. The Governor reportedly visits Senator Abe’s local government every week to go and spread lies about Abe. The Ikwerre born politician has become so jittery with the thought of an imminent victory of Abe that he has become restless. Rivers people have started wondering that there are more to his visible discomfort. There are mounting concerns that frustrated politicians loyal to the governor may decide to fan the embers of violence in Abe’s constituency this Saturday in order to frustrate peaceful elections. I am sure that their clear body language will make security agencies to remain on alert to clear their doubts. It is my wish and I am sure that of the majority of his admirers that the Gokana born politician goes back to the Senate. Abe has the visibility, voice, vitality, the exposure as well as the vertical and horizontal networks to lead a legislative agenda that will benefit his constituents. If his people in Rivers South East zone give him a chance this Saturday to return to the red chambers, they will be glad they did.