BY AMOS ADETUNJI
Magnus Abe, senator representing Rivers South-East senatorial district is now the beautiful bride of Rivers politics
Senator Magnus Abe is generally seen by many people in Rivers State as a gentleman and a model politician. He is also easily the most articulate, civil and sophisticated politician in the entire oil rich state. But Abe and his people, the Ogoni, bear an unusual burden. Though the oil in Ogoniland was a source of huge revenue for the Nigerian state for many decades, a first time visitor to most Ogoni communities will be shocked at the level of underdevelopment, degradation and neglect.
The Ogoni are also inheritors of the violence and banditry usually associated with oil communities and oil exploration in the Niger Delta. The killings and deaths of Ogoni people on account of Nigeria’s federal government’s insolvent in oil activities however came to a climax on November 10, 1995, when nine sons of the oil bearing tribe, including Ken Saro-Wiwa, playwright and environmentalist were killed by hanging. The extrajudicial killing sparked off series of protests and more deaths by security operatives who were instructed to quell the demonstrations and silence the people.
At home, that is in Rivers State politics, the Ogoni also face another problem known in political circles these days as exclusion. Since the creation of Rivers State in 1967, no Ogoni son or daughter has been Governor, Deputy-Governor, Speaker or even the Chief Judge.
In 2014, they came close to producing a governor through Abe who was clearly more qualified and suitable for the governorship ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC. At the time, Abe was a sitting Senator, a former Minority Leader in Rivers State House of Assembly, a former Secretary to State Government and a former Commissioner for Information. This was in great contrast with the rambling profile of his major contender, Dakuku Peterside who did not have the privilege of a huge population like the Ogoni. That was Ogoni’s best attempt in nearly five decades of political exclusion and deliberate marginalisation by power wielders in the state.
Ironically, Abe lost the ticket to Peterside, Rt. Hon. Chinuike Ameachi’s preferred candidate, a relatively young and inexperienced politician who emerged only because he is widely known to be a protégé of Amaechi. Like a disaster waiting to happen, Peterside lost totally as he could not even win his unit in Opobo in the 2015 governorship election, the alleged irregularities notwithstanding.
Before the controversial emergence of Peterside as the standard bearer of APC, just like today, Abe was clearly the preferred and most qualified aspirant. The senator had also shown leadership and capacity in every respect.
“As an elected and serving Senator, I will fight to ensure that I use this privileged opportunity to represent our people to make sure that the provision and enjoyment of the basic necessities of life become a standard and not a privilege’, he once said.
He had also shared his dreams and aspirations with his teeming supporters. “My vision and dream are of a greater tomorrow for our men, women and children”
For his constituents, Abe is also keeping faith. “A vision and dream of an improved standard of living for the people living in the Rivers South East senatorial region”, he insists. According to him, “I honestly believe that we can have a future where the basic needs of human existence such as reliable infrastructure, social services, and improved quality of life would become facts of our everyday living.
My primary goal is to focus on the people who time has forgotten, the people who eras of mass exploitation of our resources by a privileged few have left behind. It is those of our brothers and sisters who don’t have a voice that I want to help have a voice”.
In 2015, he was adjudged the best and generally believed to be the only candidate that can actually make any impact against hurricane Nyesom Wike. So Amaechi projected him and gave a wrong lead for his own personal plan and agenda. Abe was also willing to sacrifice his comfort and even life for the good of APC. For Instance in 2014, before the general elections the following year, the senator was allegedly shot twice with rubber bullets by policemen. This was during a rally by Save Rivers Movement in Port Harcourt.
The Ogoni who pretend to be supporting the undemocratic processes and illegalities going on in Rivers APC today know that another Ogoni politician in Abe’s mould and stature will take a very long time coming. Abe’s towering political stature and sagacity may again be sacrificed by APC, a party that continually squanders goodwill at will.
With Abe, APC has a fighting chance in the coming elections even though the senator’s marginalisation and threat of expelling his supporters appear to have permanently fractured the party. The continuous persecution of Abe’s men and other sympathizers who were the foot soldiers in the last election is compounding the woes of APC. However, the senator has vowed to remain in the party no matter how much he is hounded by its leadership. But is that the best Abe can do at the moment given his popularity and rising profile in Rivers State politics?
Abe is not politically naive. He withstood the intimidation and violence engineered by the then federal government under former President Goodluck Jonathan during the 2015 general elections. He also fought courageously and reclaimed his stolen mandate at the tribunal. This Abe’s current fight which is essentially about liberty, equity, fairness and justice is believed to be honourable and worthy. How he wriggles out of his current condition will depend on a lot of factors. However, whatever happens, Abe will be remembered for standing up and challenging a one-man rule in a democracy.