OPINIONS AND CHOICES IN THE NEW RIVERS: AT WHAT COST? by Mercy Ugo

Rivers, my Rivers!

I call you with tears flowing freely from the belly of the geysers I call eyes. Your name chokes me like poisonous gas. I cringe at the desecration of your essence, Rivers, the land of my birth.
In the land we were all born free, it has become a taboo to express personal choices and opinions.

Since the advent of democracy after jettisoning military interruptions at the helm of governance, the People’s Democratic Party has maintained a monopoly on elective positions in Rivers State. This tempo they have been able to sustain over the years through political intimidation, brazen electoral malpractices and terrifying violence. Between 1999 and 2007, under Sir (Dr) Peter Otunaya Odili, the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF) and Niger Delta Vigilante led by High Chiefs Muhajjid Dokubo-Asari and Ateke Tom respectively in collusion with other groups like Dey Bam, Dey Well etc unleashed terror on the residents of the state. It is interesting to note that these groups were recruited and sponsored to ensure electoral victories for the government of the day. Having ridden to power successfully, Governor Odili and his political allies saw no need to fulfil the rest of their bargains with these elements; and so, the hapless public bore the brunt of the breached agreements. The disgruntled mercenaries took their angst out on the public. Fathers, mothers, grannies, sons, daughters and good friends were lost along the way.

Rivers citizens would heave sighs of relief when after witnessing chaos and violence on the streets and other public places, the Nigerian Military Joint Task Force intervened to quell the battle for supremacy among the cult groups and secure the lives and property of residents in the state. From the third quarter of 2007 until 2012, Rivers people learnt to sleep with their two eyes closed again.

But unfortunately, since 2013 when Nyesom Eze(bu)nwo Wike broke ranks and parted ways with Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi under whose government he served as Chief of Staff, politically motivated violence has returned to the State. It got even worse when Gov. Amaechi who was bullied out of the PDP, along with his teeming supporters decided to pitch his political tent in the camp of the All Progressives Congress.
It is in the public domain the spate of chaos, murder and terror unleashed on members of the APC in the state. Families have been closed down, people have been roasted or buried alive, beheaded, cut with machetes, axes, stabbed or shot to death. Those who so far have only received beatings or like me, fled from their assailants would count themselves lucky.

More recently, on the night of Sunday, 28 August, 2016, Barr Ken Atsuwete, a renowned lawyer well known for his stance on the rights of people was abducted in Aluu where he lived, shot multiple times, and dumped by the roadside where he bled to death the next day, Monday, 29 August. The media was awash with public outcry condemning the death of that young man whose crime was having the audacity to express divergent views and unequivocally too, under the NEW government.

Yesterday, I spent my day sharing jokes and laughing with my friends on Facebook. I had hoped that my day which began with laughter would end the same but the spawns of Belial and Molech who thrive on the sorrow, tears and blood of perceived political enemies would not have it so. They struck in Bua/Yeghe community of the Gokhana Local Government of the state. One of the people slain was Hon. Boris Neenwi, a former Deputy Leader of the Gokhana Local Government legislative Assembly. Like other victims before them, they were guilty of being politically affiliated with the All Progressives Congress.
No honest man or woman can deny that these acts of evil are not politically motivated.

The questions I would advise the killers, their sponsors and hailers to ask themselves in their sober moments are:
1: When has it become a crime, morally or constitutionally, to belong to other political parties aside from the PDP?
2: When has the wages for expressing divergent opinions become death?
3: If the tables were turned, and I left the PDP or the PDP is ousted from Brick House as they were booted from Aso Rock, would I appreciate being victimised, maimed or killed because of my choice/interest?

You belong to the one political party; I belong to the other. Though our differences may be worlds apart just like guns and roses, we have to learn to take control of the situation. Otherwise, we’ll be trapped in this ya commotion.

Our land has been desecrated enough. It is time to sheath your sword oh death and the king’s horsemen.

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