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Intrigues as Rivers conducts council polls tomorrow

By Ann Godwin (Port Harcourt)
16 April 2021   |   3:06 am
With the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State boycotting the local government elections holding in Rivers State tomorrow, April 17, 2020, it is likely that what played out in June 2018 council polls

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Leader in Etche, Prince Emma Anyanwu (left); Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and Commissioner for Urban Development and Physical Planning, Austin Ben Chioma during the grand finale of the Local Government Election Campaign in Ulakwo, Etche Council…yesterday<br />

With the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State boycotting the local government elections holding in Rivers State tomorrow, April 17, 2020, it is likely that what played out in June 2018 council polls where the chairmanship and councillorship candidates of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) emerged winners with ease, could repeat itself.

The APC had in 2018 refused to participate in the elections following a court case it instituted against Governor Nyesom Wike over the dissolution of local government councils three years after he (Wike) assumed office.

Political observers traced Wike’s action to have been spurred by the deeds of his predecessor, Chibuike Amaechi, who swiftly conducted council elections in 22 of the 23 LGAs, on May 23, 2015, precisely six days to his exit from office. The then ruling APC candidates won all the chairmanship and councillorship positions and were inaugurated two days after.

Governor Wike, in what appears to be a payback immediately after his inauguration dissolved the councils on June 8, 2015, following a resolution by the State House of Assembly, which was dominated by PDP lawmakers on grounds that the election was wrongly conducted and hence violated the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission’s (RSEIC) guidelines.

Grieved by the development, however, the affected chairmen dragged Wike to court challenging what they described as an unjust removal from office. The case lingered in court till the three years tenure of the PDP chairmen and councilors expired.

With a fresh election holding tomorrow, a faction of the APC loyal to Senator Magnus Abe, had on January this year conducted primaries and fielded candidates for the election.

The Abe-led faction lamented that APC has suffered serious ‘political setbacks’ in the state, recalling that the party (APC) was also excluded from the ballot papers during the 2019 general elections following the internal party crisis.

The Abe faction led by Igo Aguma, as the Caretaker Committee chairman, vowed that its camp would not fold its hands again and watch opportunities waste away. He warned that opting out of the council polls would completely sweep out APC in Rivers politics.

Regrettably, the faction lost out at the Supreme Court on March 5 2021 as the court sacked Aguma and recognises Isaac Abbot Ogbobula, as the authentic chairman of the party. Ogbobula’s camp is loyal to the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi.

Ogbobula, the Caretaker Committee chairman was said to have written to RSEIC informing it of the party’s decision to boycott tomorrow’s council polls.

Apparently, following APC’s decision, RSIEC on Monday displayed the list of 16 political parties that will contest elections excluding APC.

The list of the parties, which was displayed at the commission’s head office along Aba Road in Port Harcourt include; African Action Congress (AAC), Action Democratic Party (ADP) Accord Party (AC), Social Democratic Party (SDP), National Rescue Movement (NRM), Action Alliance (AA), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP), Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Young Progressive Party (YPP), Allied Peoples Movement (APM), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), African Democratic Congress (ADC), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Boot Party (BP), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and the Action Peoples Party (APP).

APC is the major opposition party in the state and with it opting out of the election; there might be less battle for the PDP since the other parties are not strong enough. Observations show that no serious campaigns are going on among them. Only PDP has been moving around the councils, wards to the campaign.

RSIEC had on December 2, 2020, while briefing on the local government elections promised to conduct free and fair elections and give political parties equal opportunity in the poll.

Chairman of RSIEC, Justice George Omereji gave the assurance during a sensitization for political stakeholders.

Some of the listed political parties under the aegis of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), had in January expressed displeasure and threatened to boycott the election over the failure of RSIEC to carry them along on their activities.

Spokesman for the group and Chairman of the African Action Congress, Progress Ogbokuma, had accused RSIEC of playing games with PDP while delaying other parties from getting information on the polls. The Guardian, however, gathered that the commission had invited the parties and briefed them on the election.

MEANWHILE, Wike said APC’s decision to boycott the polls was to avoid the disgrace of another electoral defeat that will expose its political irrelevance in Rivers.

But a chieftain of APC, Chris Finebone, explained that his party opted out of the election because it is a matter already in court.

Finebone said, “Wike’s assertion is far from the truth, we cannot act in a manner that will contradict our position and the position is that we are still in court over the earlier local government elections.

“It will be silly for us to subject ourselves to any council elections when we are contesting the one that we did before and won and was unjustly removed when the governor took over office.”

Finebone explained that the said matter, which the court struck out last month, still stands, adding that the missing documents, which led to the pronouncement, have been found and the matter relisted in court.

Also speaking ahead of the elections, the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Emeka Woke charged PDP supporters to be vigilant on Election Day.

Woke gave the charge during the grand finale of the PDP campaign in Emuohua, saying, “despite all the time given to all the political parties to campaign, only PDP went round and was campaigning for votes from the electorate.

He urged the party supporters to come out and ensure victory for PDP.

MEANWHILE, the Rivers State Police Command has deployed 17, 500 police officers across the 23 local governments and other strategic places to ensure hitch-free exercise tomorrow.

The State Commissioner of Police (CP), Eboka Friday, disclosed this in a statement signed by the Police Spokesman, Nnamdi Omoni.

The Police Commissioner said: “The state Police Command wishes to inform residents of the state that in view of the forthcoming Saturday, April 17, 2021, local government council elections across the state, adequate security has been emplaced to ensure that the exercise is conducted in a peaceful atmosphere.”