More squabbles in Rivers over 2019 guber elections
With the 2019 election year drawing nearer, the two political divides of Rivers State have increased their verbal war preparatory to the contest for the state’s top seat.
As the clock ticks towards the 2019 general elections, tension is beginning to rise in Nigeria’s politics especially in states like Rivers, which are already known for their political volatility.
Since the change of baton of authority at the Abuja seat of federal power in 2015, Rivers State has taken the route of opposition politics, which in many instances has made it to confront Abuja, especially during the many elections that were held in the state.
In these unending confrontations, Rivers governor, Nyesom Wike and the All Progressives Congress (APC), the ruling party in Abuja, continued to level allegations of electoral impropriety against each other.
The squabbles have however taken a new dimension as the two feuding parties, the APC and Wike’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are accusing each other of plans to rig the 2019 elections.
The governor, while raising alarm that the country’s democracy is under siege, came out with allegations that the APC Federal Government plans to resort to intimidation of the judiciary and the use of the police to rig the elections in the state.
But the former Labour Party (LP) governorship candidate in the 2015 polls and now an APC chieftain, Tonye Princewill dismissed the governor’s claim of a siege on democracy as baseless, stressing that the APC is poised to ensure a free, fair and credible elections in 2019.
Wike at a State Banquet for members of the African Bar Association that was also attended by the former Tanzania President, Jakaya Kikwete, at the Government House Port Harcourt, alleged that the APC has made it a policy to intimidate the judiciary, “so that they can consolidate on their reign of impunity and disregard for the rule of law.”
He urged African lawyers to work towards reviving democracy in Nigeria, “because the APC was already laying the structures to rig the 2019 general elections through the promotion of police officers who were accused by the Rivers State government of aiding and abetting electoral fraud during the December 2016 legislative rerun polls.
“They promised Nigerians change, but we are seeing nothing. The Former President of Tanzania by his visit has done us much good by his presence in Nigeria. Through him, we will send a message to the world. Democracy in Nigeria is gone. By 2019, nobody should talk about democracy.”
The governor alleged that two police officers including one who was caught on video at a collation centre rigging election and beating officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the course of rigging election in the state, have been promoted by the Police High Command. Both of them, according to him, have been positioned in Rivers State for 2019 to help the APC rig elections.
He regretted that the situation has degenerated to the level that Police has now taken over the duty of INEC by certifying election results for APC to use at tribunals.
The governor also claimed that the police, under the present dispensation, have become a major stumbling block to the investment drive of the country as they deliberately generate insecurity.
According to him, “The police is the one promoting crimes in Nigeria. The police do most of the kidnapping in the country. We cannot continue like this, enough is enough.”
But Princewill accused the governor of wiping up sentiment in a bid to discredit the APC for him to retain power in the state beyond 2019.
He further accused Wike of continually playing on the psyche of the people of Rivers State through the demonization of the APC as a party that ousted former President Goodluck Jonathan from office in 2015 through the helps of the likes of the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, former governor and Wike’s predecessor.
He explained that the governor believes that so long as he can demonstrate that Amaechi wants to use the APC to impose the next governor on the state, he will be able to garner the sympathy of the citizenry to remain in power.
Princewill stated that all the hullaballoo about rigging election was a deliberate ploy by the governor to divert attention from the agitation for power shift from his Ikwerre ethnic group to other nationalities in the state come 2019.
He said with the doggedness of Amaechi and grassroots supports that he enjoys, the APC will ensure that the governor is defeated in a free and fair elections.
Similarly, APC spokesperson, Chris Finebone has said that the allegation by Wike that APC is baseless, unfounded and “actually typical of him.” According to him, “The APC has no reason to resort to the path of infamy beaten by PDP in the past and condemned by APC.
“In any case, it is the 8th wonder of the world that people still have time for allegations coming from Governor Wike after many unsubstantiated allegations in the past. He once claimed he had a tape recording of police IG plotting to kill him.
“Again he said he had a recording of a meeting of the Police High Command and leadership of APC plotting to rig the last rerun elections in Rivers State. In each case he promised to make public the contents of his tapes but to this day, he has not. He has not because he does not have any recordings or evidence. He thrives and regales in such mediocre melodrama.
“Remember he claimed that the Osborne Road, Ikoyi 43 million US Dollars belonged to Rivers State and he had all the evidence. He even threatened to sue the Buhari government if the money was not returned to the State within 7 days. But when the EFCC, through the court, gave a month-long window for anyone to come and present evidence of ownership and collect the money, Wike did not turn up because he had no proof of ownership as he earlier boasted.
“What are we in APC saying? Just ignore Governor Nyesom Wike and do important things if you have value for time. He is simply a jester.”
On his part, the 2015 governorship candidate of the APC in the state, Dr Dakuku Peterside described Wike as one who is afraid of his own shadow.
According to him, “It is already clear to Rivers people that they made a mistake in 2015. 2019 presents an opportunity to put an end to a deceitful government.”
He said the APC is set to restore dignity and hope to Rivers people in the face of the breakdown of governance in the state as the party remains the only credible choice for Rivers people come 2019 elections.
But the Rivers State PDP chairman, Felix Obuah said he was not surprised at Princewill’s vituperations against Wike and his party.
“Princewill was only speaking from a stand-point of anger and trauma for losing the governorship election to Governor Wike in 2015. Princewill is a perpetual loser and has no place in the electoral process,” said Obuah.
He challenged Princewill to even vie for a councilor’s election in his ward, adding that the party would disgrace him if he does so.
“Rivers people can now see the difference between noise-makers and a people with purpose and focus. They can now see the difference between a party determined to serve and provide good governance to Rivers people and a group of self-seeking individuals desperate to hijack the State machinery to further their personal aggrandizement,” he added.
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