In what appears to be a sharp departure from the past, the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, has heaped praises on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the state for “standing firm to do the right thing” during the just concluded governorship and House of Assembly election in the state.
He also dedicated his victory to all those slain during the elections in Rivers State. About a dozen people were confirmed killed during the federal and state elections in Rivers.
Mr Wike was speaking at the INEC head office in Port Harcourt on Tuesday when he and 32 lawmakers-elect were presented with their certificate of return by INEC.
Mr Wike has been a known critic of INEC and other federal agencies like the police, the army, and the nation’s secret police, the State Security Service (SSS), in the past.
The governor himself acknowledged this much in his speech at the ceremony.
“I am one of the critics of INEC, and I will continue to be a critic. But when they do the right thing, we praise them. When they do the wrong thing, we criticise them. That is the only way the society can move forward,” he said.
Governor Wike said to the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Obo Effanga. “I want to commend you for being resolute.
“Continue to be firm. Don’t be afraid of death; death will come when it will come.
“Your running away would not protect you. Be firm and do your work. If you died in the course of doing your work, God has a place for you.”
Mr Wike said if death were to kill people that easily, people like him would have died long ago.
“So don’t be afraid, be firm and continue to do the right thing,” he added.
Mr Effanga, seated at the podium with other INEC officials, appeared unmoved by the governor’s remarks.
With his finger resting upon his chin, he smiled momentarily as the governor continued to praise him.
The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Uche Secondus, and a former governor of Rivers state, Celestine Omehia, were among the dignitaries present at the brief ceremony.
May Agbamuche-Mbu, INEC national commissioner supervising Edo, Rivers, and Bayelsa states, was also present.
Mr Wike also praised Mrs Agbamuche-Mbu whom he referred to as “our daughter from the Niger Delta”.
“If we have people like this in this country to be at the helms of the affair, nobody would have a problem,” the governor said of Mrs Agbamuche-Mbu.
“You have done well for your zone, we hope you will keep the flag flying; don’t allow intimidation, don’t allow pressure to change your belief,” he added.
Mr Wike, who acknowledged that some election officials were killed in the state during the general elections, commended INEC staff in the state for “standing firm to make sure the right thing must be done”.
He said, “I am sure this may be their last time here.
“Like I told the REC when he came to pay a courtesy call on me, I said look if you stay firm and do the right thing, you’ll not be here again.
“So, having done that, I say to you, bye-bye.
“I know, and I am sure all of you will be transferred soon from the state for doing the right thing.
“Know it, that wherever you go, Rivers State will continue to remember you; that you make peace to come to be in Rivers State.”
He said the Rivers government would want to compensate the families of INEC officials who lost their lives during elections in the state.
The governor dedicated his victory and that of the 30 PDP lawmakers-elect to the people who lost their lives during the elections in the state.
“But for them, we may not have been here, because they died in order to secure our votes. They died in order to defend democracy,” he said.