Redefining Rivers Politics: The Dawari George Example

By Gospel L. Badom

Wearing his signature smile and holding his head high among family members and well-wishers, Dr. Dawari George [immediate past representative of Akuku-Toru and Asari-Toru Federal Constituency in the National Assembly] was on Sunday December 24th 2017 at the First Baptist Church in Port Harcourt to thank God for failing an election in 2015. The roll call of guests on that fateful day was unprecedented. In attendance at the thanksgiving service were the top echelon of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State and friends of the celebrant in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) including his rival in the 2015 Federal Legislative election, Honourable Boma Goodhead. In a convivial atmosphere, brethren who hitherto were perceived strange-bird fellows had cause to sink their political differences and appreciate the all-powerful and most high God, the sole owner of the universe whose decisions mere mortals cannot question. While one could see a people uplifted in spirit before God, it was easy to notice an expression of curiosity written on the faces of a handful of worshipers at the special thanksgiving service on Christmas eve. Perhaps they were at a loss to imagine how an individual could be thanking God for what is in our political culture considered a huge misfortune-losing an election!

President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Baptist Convention of Nigeria, His Eminence Rev Dr Supo Ayokunle was on hand to provide spiritual insights into the day’s event. Opening his homily with reference to the popular hymn, “It is well with my soul”, the officiating priest had reminded the congregation that the author of the soul-searching song, Horatio Spafford, despite having lost his vast estate and all his children in a mysterious misfortune, did not fail to acknowledge the divine will of God in his life. “Our brother and colleague, Dawari George has pleased God with his action and is ripe for elevation”, the Baptist Clergyman had concluded.

As the CAN President rightly pointed out, our leaders must learn to submit to the will of God. The bountiful harvests that accompany any sincere demonstration of gratitude to God are not far-fetched in a man’s life. All nations (great and small), all men (strong and weak) are God’s creation. The creator’s wisdom is infinite, and His favours will continue to be the exclusive preserve of those He chooses to bless. As Dr. George himself acknowledges, God remains the author of all times and seasons, both the sweet and bitter experiences of life. Interestingly, however, the significance of the end-of-year thanksgiving act captures all these and more.

In recent times, politics in Rivers State has spawned terrible experiences with democracy, elections and governance, a development that is completely at variance with what was obtainable in time past. Last year when the state turned 50, the government of the day had rolled out the drums to mark its golden jubilee anniversary. But for the more circumspect Rivers people, it was a period of sober reflection. At the under-pining stage of its existence, Rivers State was blessed with many iconic figures who blazed the trail in politics, governance and culture. The likes of Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye, Chief Oriji et al fought relentlessly for the creation of Rivers State, and championed its cause throughout their active days on earth. At the time of their departure, they had bequeathed on the political scene solid alluvial on which more ideas could sprout and flourish anew. Then, it was inconceivable to find miscreants recruit armies of thugs to cause political mayhem in the state. In those good old days, politics was almost the sole province of gentlemen and cultured women who were willing and able to build bridges of friendship and unity across the Nation’s Treasure Base. Above all, they provided selfless service and made Rivers State visible on the map of Nigeria.

How and when the political culture in Rivers State degenerated to the current abysmal level is a vast research terrain that should be reserved for another day, but one cannot afford to gloss over the present symptoms of political decay in my own state of origin. Recall that during the 2015 general elections, the state became a theatre of political violence in which lives were lost to the evil machinations of desperate politicians. The battle for the soul of the state had culminated in the near inconclusive re-run legislative elections that contributed in no small measure to give away the state as a melting pot of primitive politics in the comity of states. In the present theatre of many political absurdities, we can find blood brothers and sisters at each other’s jugular in the name of partisan politics. Only recently, the media was awash with a ludicrous story of father and son disowning each other on account of their political differences. Such is the depth of decadence in Rivers politics. And it is from all indications a bad omen for 2019.

It is no gainsaying the fact that there’s an urgent need for a political renaissance in Rivers State. That is to say, it is now incumbent on the politicians to pause and have a rethink about their political mind-set and its dangerous consequences for the corporate existence of the state and the well-being of its people. More to the point, every well-meaning politician desirous of moving the state forward should necessarily borrow a leaf from Dr. DawariGeorge.

Without mincing words, the import of Dr. George’s thanksgiving service on Christmas eve offers the road-map to the envisaged political rebirth in Rivers State. It is indeed gratifying to note that in a political setting sharply divided along party lines, a young man who holds no political appointment could pull a mammoth crowd of the crème de la cream in politics, notable Christian clerics such as the CAN President, accomplished academics, market women, students and even area boys. This speaks volumes of the personality of the former Youth leader who rose to become commissioner for energy and natural resources in Rivers State, before his election into the House of Representatives in 2011. One recalls vividly that in the electoral peregrination of 2015, Dr. George’s captivating slogan was “Digging Deep”. To the laity, it probably came as one of the usual mantra coined to lure and hoodwink the electorate. For discerning observers like yours sincerely, however, it was a powerful message emanating from the alter of grace, and suggesting a new beginning for the Akuku-Toru and Asari-Toru Federal Constituency in Rivers State. A painful experience it must have been for the principal character in my story, but his ability to have surrendered to the will of God is the reason I have taken great pains to celebrate him.

Son of the iconic Baptist Clergyman, the late Reverend Clifford Talbot Tokin George, Dr. George embodies true leadership not only in secular circles, but also in the Lord’s vineyard. He is President of the Men’s Missionary Union of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, Leader of the All Africa Baptist Men’s Fellowship as well as the Men’s Department of the Baptist World Alliance. Endowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Kalabari – born politician displays uncommon humility and compassion for the weak and vulnerable members of society. Whilst still in office, he had pulled out many young men and women from the streets and offered them a new lease of life. Till date, he serves as a role model for Rivers Youths whom he always enjoins to work for the peace and unity of their state.

By extending the olive branch to his political rival in the 2015 election at his thanksgiving service, Dr. George has proved that politics is not a do-or-die affair. No doubt, his demonstration of political tolerance and accommodation that has become almost alien to our political culture is the way to go in the search for our true identity as a people. Suffice it to say that it is also a clarion call on like minds to join in the crusade to liberate Rivers State from the shackles of political rascality and brigandage. For as Plato once wrote, “the price good people pay for not getting involved in public affairs is to be ruled by evil people”.

In the final analysis, Dr. George’s action is a strong message of hope that our brand of politics can be re-invented to become more relevant to the needs of the people in Rivers State. It tells of a day when political office seekers would-to borrow the popular phrase of Reverend Martin Luther-King (jnr) – no longer be judged by the depth of their pockets and the size of their “political armies”, but by the content of their character.

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