APC makes inroad in PDP’s Rivers East stronghold
Ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in Rivers State has suffered its worst election setback in history, with the lost of Rivers East senatorial district seat to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Rivers State Elections Petition Tribunal for National and State Assembly’s declaration of Andrew Uchendu, as the winner of Rivers’ most populous and politically significant senatorial district, has come as a dampener to the PDP, which had won the three senatorial districts election in 2015.
It will be recalled that the PDP candidate senator George Sekibo scored 93,098 votes to defeat Uchendu, who scored 34,193 votes during the rerun legislative polls held in December 2016. And piqued by the outcome of the polls, Uchendu had approached the tribunal, which reversed the result in his favour.
The tribunal panel had ruled that Uchendu won the lawful majority vote cast after it accepted the responsibility of collating the results of the Emohua and Ikwerre Local Government Areas, thus, arriving at the total score of 126,160 for Uchendu and 84,000 for Sekibo.
It is worthy to note that this was the first time since 1999 that a ruling party in the state has suffered a stinging election setback in this crucial Rivers East senatorial district.
This verdict could substantially alter the dynamics of Rivers State politics in 2019, in terms of the National and State legislative elections. Between December 2016 and now, the PDP, which won all the three senatorial districts in 2015 has lost both Rivers East and Rivers South East, which cumulatively have the highest number of registered voters in the State.
Out the 2,537,590 registered voters in Rivers State for the 2015 general elections, Rivers East senatorial district where Governor Nyesom Wike and his predecessor and Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, hail from has over 1.3 million registered voters, making it the most strategic in Rivers State.
Eight out twenty three Local Government Areas namely; Emohua, Etche, Ikwerre, Obio-Akpor, Ogu–Bolo, Okrika, Omuma and Port Harcourt, 11 out 32 State House of Assembly constituencies seats; six out of 13 Federal Constituencies are all in Rivers East senatorial district.
While securing the two senatorial district seats may bolster APC’s prospects as a major contender for power in 2019, its seeming significant inroads into the PDP territories might be reversed because of Governor Wike’s PDP strong communal credentials in the State.
The APC’s contentious victory and encroachment into PDP’s stronghold has further heightened the general sense of growing intolerance between the two parties.
Governor Wike had accused the police and the APC of using concocted results to sack Senator Sekibo. “Remember, last year, I raised an alarm that INEC and Police were planning to rig the rerun elections. We caught people printing INEC result sheets and reported the matter. Somebody was arrested. They sent the person to Zone 6 Calabar, and granted him bail. Till now, they are yet to complete investigations into that critical matter.
“INEC declared results. All of us know that if elections are held twenty times, Senator George Thompson Sekibo will win. INEC printed their own result sheets, same serial numbers; these people printed their own result sheets with same INEC serial numbers. You ask yourself, how did they get to know INEC serial numbers. Because they could not smuggle in their own result sheets, INEC declared the authentic results.
“Unknown to us, they had gone to connive with the police. That tells you what they want to do in 2019. Thank God, they have alerted us. Instead of them to write INEC to give them the certified true copies of the result sheets, they went to the police. Police are now in custody of INEC results. Police certified their own and gave them,” said Wike.
Similarly, the PDP chairman in the state, Felix Obuah, has described as shocking and unfortunate the upturning of the Rivers East senatorial district polls in favour of the APC.
Obuah said Rivers people through their votes had chosen their real representatives and still stand by their decision not to have anything to do with those security agency and military-aided impostors who are now celebrating their Appeal Court victory, stressing that their celebration will be short-lived.
“If not for their self-seeking motive, why would they not accept the verdict of the people. Why would they go extra miles to bring in soldiers and all sort of bullies to maim, destroy and kill their kith and kin to secure an undeserved victory with the full backing of their allies at the centre,” he said.
Obuah regretted that, under the APC administration in Nigeria a lot of wicked and unthinkable things take place that are capable of scuttling Nigeria’s democracy. According to him: “The shortcut to acrid and undeserved victory by the APC in Rivers State is anti-democratic, destructive, and capable of promoting violence.”
But APC publicity secretary, Chris Finebone, said Uchendu was robbed of victory during the December 2016 rerun legislative polls. According to him, by the victories in Rivers East and Rivers South East senatorial districts, the APC has served notice to the PDP ahead of the 2019 polls.
“The APC makes bold to tell Gov. Nyesom Wike that, God willing, the APC will win Rivers State resoundingly come 2019 and the governor will remain alive to experience what is called governance and not the tokenism he is offering Rivers people now. The governor will live to witness a government that will undertake visionary projects,” said Finebone.
Senator Sekibo in reaction to his sack by the tribunal said: “I have been sacrificed and buried, but PDP will come back stronger and better. We shall stand with Governor Wike.”