APC, PDP in battle for life in Rivers
There is palpable fear and mounting tension in Rivers state over the intense rivalry between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead this Saturday’s national and state legislative rerun elections.
The stakes are high for both the PDP and APC, as the polls will determine which of the parties will have control strategically at the State House of Assembly and the National Assembly.
Up for grabs in the rerun elections are: 22 House of Assembly seats, 12 House of Representatives and three Senate seats. PDP candidates won all the 37 elective positions in the contentious March and April 2015 polls. But a Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja had nullified the results following a petition filed by APC candidates.
The tense atmosphere was a fallout from the acrimonious 2015 elections and the recent Supreme Court verdict which validated Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike’s election.
While the PDP has continually accused the APC of a grand plot to rig this weekend’s polls, the APC in turn has accused the PDP of sending killers after its members
Ahead of the rerun, political leaders of both parties as epitomized by Governor Wike and his predecessor cum minister of Transport, Chibuike Amaechi, have been threatening brimstone and thunder. Even as their campaigns have been overshadowed by fierce mudslinging specifically intended to denigrate each other.
For Governor Wike, this weekend’s election, particularly the State House of Assembly is most crucial, if he is to continue to maintain its firm grip on power in the state. He is persuaded the APC wants to make an inroad back to power through the State House of Assembly perhaps with in a bid to effect his possible impeachment.
Having dismantled virtually all traces of the APC in the governance structure of the state, in keeping with Rivers’ political culture since 2003, whereby the ruling party does not allow the opposition a representation in government, Governor Wike, is determined to resist any attempt to manipulate the electoral process in order to tilt the pendulum of power.
Wike’s concern for his political survival has been heightened by the much-anticipated transfer of controversial former State Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) resident electoral commissioner (REC), Mrs. Gesila Khan to Cross River and redeployment of Mr. Aniedi Ikowak, to Rivers state. Ever since this move by INEC, Wike has repeatedly cautioned that any official of the commission that allowed himself to be used to rig the polls should first prepare his will ahead of the polls.
“If you are coming to conduct election freely, come and conduct election. But if you’re coming to say you want to rig election, you must have prepared your will. So when people say I threatened, I never threatened violence. No. All I said if you’re coming to rig, you’re like armed robber anything that happens to armed robber åwill happen to you” he said.
The governor had also alleged that a list induced by the APC with the aim of rigging the rerun elections through the imposition of politically compromised returning officers from the University of Port Harcourt, may have been submitted to INEC and warned that any teacher involved in rigging will face the wrath of the people.
It was claimed that the governor told the Vice Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt, Professor Ndowa Lale, that an APC Chieftain had connived with a teacher, Dr. Otu Ekpeyong, to draw up a list of returning officers who will help rig the polls. Due to this allegation, Ekpeyong and other teachers have declined to participate in the conduct of the polls for fear of their lives.
While the PDP has continually accused the APC of a grand plot to rig this weekend’s polls, the APC in turn has accused the PDP of sending killers after its members .
This weekend’s rerun polls appear to be the last possible chance for the APC to wrest power from the PDP at the legislative arm of government. There are presently nine PDP House of Assembly members and only one from the APC. All the 23 Local Government Area caretaker committee chairmen are PDP members. Hence, the poll is crucial for the APC to avert possible political obscurity for the next 3 years.
The importance importance attached to the polls, informed the Transport minister’s decision to temporarily relocate to the state to mobilise his party stalwarts for the election.
Amaechi who has being leading the APC campaign, has paid condolence visits to the faimilies of slain APC stalwart like Mr. Ofirite Amachree who was killed and burnt beyond recognition by unknown gunmen in Buguma; as well as families of late Frankline Obi and late Chukwuladi Adiela in Omoku, Rivers State.
The late Frankline Obi was the APC chairman of ward 4 and was killed and beheaded by unknown gunmen alongside his pregnant wife and son while late Chukwuladi Adiela was an APC stalwart of ward 14.
“The President is aware of the death of your son who was our party ward chairman. I personally gave him the photograph of the beheaded body. Everybody must learn to give account of their action or inaction in Omoku. We can’t have police and be experiencing this kind of thing. Internal security is the responsibility of the police so if we have police and keep experiencing this in Omoku it means the police in Rivers State has failed and the people that have been killed are mostly APC members”, he said.
Amaechi had disclosed in Port Harcourt that Mr. President might be compelled to bring the deteriorating security situation in the state under control following the alleged failure of Governor Wike’s administration to protect life and property. He assured that no person would die during election.
What he (Wike) is trying to do is to intimidate the population from coming out and we are saying, no come out, Nyesom Wike will do nothing. That day you will see security in Rivers and Nyesom Wike will be worried about the security. The security will police everywhere so that everybody can vote. We are not afraid about election. The governor is the one complaining about election. We are going to mobilise our base to come out to vote” he said.
He observed that the only way Governor Wike will effectively address the growing insecurity in the state was when the people come out enmass to elect members of the opposition APC into the state legislature to checkmate the governor who he accused of being behind the insecurity in the state.
He warned that more people might die ‘if a rubber stamp PDP-led assembly’.Ahead of Saturday’s polls, the Ogoni area has had its own fair share of politically motivated killings and unrest. Recently, the liaison office of the APC candidate in the Rivers South East senatorial district re-run election, Magnus Abe, was attacked by gunmen at Bori, headquarters of Khana Local Government Area.
The attack on Abe’s campaign office blamed on one Mr. Solomon Ndigbara, popularly called ‘Osama Bin Ladin’ who has been declared wanted by the army for gun running, had triggered a military offensive in Yeghe, Bori and Wiyakara Communities.
Abe, the only APC’s senatorial candidate with a chance to win at the polls, had come under attacks from the PDP. This may derive from the fear that if he wins, he stood a better chance to emerge his party’s governorship candidate in 2019.
In spite of the fears of violence, the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Zone 6, Calabar (DIG), Sotonye Wakama, has assured that the police was equal to the task was ready to enforce the needed security across the state, particularly in areas considered as flashpoints.
“We all know that rerun elections in Rivers state are likely to be competitive if not contentious. A lot has happened in the state that calls for concern to both the indigenes and residents in the state and beyond. It is for this reason that I have come down to the state to speak to all the stake holders involved in the election and to reassure INEC of safe polls; and to warn that if anything happen in this state, if we see anybody for any reason doing anything that is untoward, which will harm any individual or destroy any property, we will stretch the elasticity of the law in respect to that offence to fullest extent and deal with such persons” he said.
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