Benjamin Franklin said that only death and taxes are certain in this world. But on the contrary, another certain phenomenon is that it is almost impossible for any Nigerian national election to hold without a Rivers State Governor fighting unsuccessfully for the presidential seat and making a lot of enemies in the process.

This act was clearly displayed by erstwhile state governors Peter Odili and Rotimi Amaechi and right now, current governor Nyesom Wike is towing the same line. He has demonstrated this in his vocal support for the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu after he lost to Atiku Abubakar at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential primary.

Wike has gone as far as leading the G-5 governors from Enugu, Oyo, Abia and Benue states to reject Atiku’s candidacy on ethnic grounds and has thrown his weight behind Tinubu. This makes more than a few Nigerians wonder whether the PDP would partner with the APC on the presidential campaign and be hostile to each other in other races, or whether the PDP would take over APC’s local campaigns and sideline the party’s local chapter. Meanwhile, rumour has it that the national PDP body is responding to Wike’s attacks by partnering with the local APC chapter and its governorship candidate, Tonye Cole, which implies that the Rivers State chapters of both parties support the presidential candidates of their most bitter rivals.

Notably, the current PDP’s gubernatorial candidate is the former state accountant-general Siminialayi Fubara, whose win at the primaries was facilitated by the convenient arrest of Farah Dagogo, an ex-militant and House of Representatives member, who appeared to be his major opposition within the PDP. More to the point, a Fubara win would make him the first state governor of Ijaw descent since Melford Okilo’s reign in the 80s. The Muhammadu Buhari coup of 1983 ended that tenure prematurely, and since the reintroduction of democratic rule, no Ijaw has been governor, whereas the Ikwerre has produced the last two governors: Amaechi and Wike.

In 2019, the dispute between Amaechi and former Senator Magnus Abe led to the factionalisation of the APC, with each faction choosing its own candidate: A situation that eventually made the Supreme Court rule that no primaries were conducted validly in the state; therefore, the APC could not present any candidates for the elections, thus allowing the PDP to coast to victory. This did not protect the APC from disunity four years later; but this time, it ended with a split instead of an inability to contest, as Tonye Cole emerged as the APC’s candidate while Magnus Abe became Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate.

Given the extent of competition within and between the PDP and the APC in Rivers State, it’s going to be entertaining to see how this rivalry impacts both the presidential and down-ballot elections. This inability to close ranks is why Wike’s complicated demands on his supporters to vote across party lines may be insufficient to prevent a PDP win, as a split opposition is likely to divide the votes cast against the ruling PDP, thereby making them the winners.