Barely 24 hours to the conduct of the Rivers State legislative rerun election, the state may be turned into a theatre of war, if the utterances by many of its political gladiators are anything to reckon with.
While the Minister of Transportation and the leader of the All Progressives Congress in the state Mr Rotimi Amaechi, on Thursday, said the legislative rerun would be an election of the lives of APC members, the party’s national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, declared that the Federal Government was on a mission to rescue the state from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
They both spoke at the APC mega-rally held in Port Harcourt to conclude the party’s campaign for the rerun exercise, even as the state chapter of the PDP cautioned the APC leadership, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the police against any attempt to scuttle the conduct of a free and fair exercise.
Oyegun said, “The December 10 legislative re-run symbolises our mission to rescue the people of Rivers State from an oppressive regime. The entire national leadership of the party is here. President Mohammadu Buhari is with the people of Rivers State.
“We have heard your cry. We feel your pain; we are pained by your anguish. Enough is enough. All we ask of you is to come out on Saturday, December 10, and vote for all APC candidates. The APC-led Federal Government is poised on rescuing Rivers State.
“And Rivers State will be rescued. I am happy with what I have heard you say, today. If they push you, push them. If they slap you, slap them. Don’t be afraid. Don’t let anyone intimidate you. The Federal Government has provided enough security to ensure a peaceful election”.
Also speaking, Amaechi, the immediate past governor of the state, called on APC supporters not to be afraid and ensure that their votes were protected, adding that he would not entertain any excuse on result sheet snatching, and that party faithful to retrieve any election materials taken away during the exercise.
“This is what is called election of our lives. You know I have never spoken like this before. Do not kill anybody, but don’t allow yourself to be killed. We also have to protect ourselves.’’
“I don’t want to hear that they snatched the result sheet from you. If they snatch it, collect it back from them. My phone will be switched off; nobody should call me. The only time you will call me is from 6pm when you have won the election,” he said.
Also, the chairman of APC Election Campaign Committee and the Kano State governor, Alhaji Mohammed Ganduje, urged APC supporters in the state not to take cover whenever they were shot at, adding that the should not hesitate to shoot back at their attackers during the election.
Reacting to the statements by the APC leaders, however, Rivers PDP chairman, Bro Felix Obuah, alleged that an agreement was signed by the state leadership of APC, security agents and INEC to scuttle the electoral process on Saturday by subsisting results sheets at the election.
Obuah, in a statement by his media aide, Jerry Needam, said certain persons, allegedly hired and equipped for the assignment, would cause crisis in each of the collation centres to enable the security agents come in under the pretext to calm the situation and while the melee lasts, the fake INEC result sheets will be substituted for the genuine ones.
He, however, warned against any attempt by the APC, INEC officials and security personnel to scuttle the election issues in Rivers by taking sides in the election and, or indulging in any act(s) that would cause crisis in the state.
“Let me restate that we are ready for this election, having campaigned adequately, demonstrated that we have all it takes to give our people quality leadership through Governor Nyesom Wike’s landmark achievements in one and half years which our good people of Rivers State have seen and acknowledged and are willing to reciprocate by filing out in their numbers on Saturday to confirm.’’
Abe expresses reservations over INEC
In the same vein, the APC candidate in Rivers South East Senatorial District in the election, Senator Magnus Abe, has expressed reservation on the ability of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) in Rivers State to conduct a free and fair election.
Abe, in a statement issued on Thursday by his media aide, Saroh Benson, alleged that INEC had been conducting its activities to the knowledge of Governor Nyesom Wike and PDP.
According to him, the collation and returning officers for the election were being trained at an obscure hotel in Umuahia, Abia State.
“We are becoming very concerned about the activities and linkages that we are seeing between PDP and INEC. We just received a report this evening that the INEC collation and returning officers were being trained at the Dangreet Hotel in Umuahia in Abia State.
“From our knowledge of the operations of INEC, no training of officers has ever been conducted in any obscure hotel in this country. Training of officers is always done in the universities where the officers are being picked from and from that university they are taken straight to the state where they are to do their job.
“But to hear now that collation and returning officers were being trained at the Dangreet Hotel, Umuahia in the presence of PDP agents when our own agents were not informed or aware of it, it certainly calls for concern and we believe that in this exercise INEC should not only be fair but be seen by all Nigerians to be fair,” he said.
Meanwhile, a non-governmental organisation in the state, the Ogoni Ethnic Nationality (OEN), has said it had uncovered series of plots by allegedly by some chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to unleash terror during the rerun election.
This was as it warned that the plan, if not averted by security agencies and other well-meaning elite, was capable of throwing Ogoniland into theatre of war, if not averted by security agencies and well-meaning Ogoni elite and concerned groups.
The group, in a statement by its national coordinator, Elder Batombari Ledogho, also appealed to the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) to urgently set in motion actions aimed at stopping this evil trend by these elements in the area and convene an Ogoni Congress to discuss and condemn these actions, as they say, ‘a stitch in time saves nine’.
Rivers rerun: CP bans movement of politicians, VIP
Twenty-four hours to the conclusion of the court-ordered legislative rerun election in Rivers State, the state Commissioner of Police, Mrs Francis Odesanya, has announced total restriction of human and vehicular movement on both land and waterways across the state.
The Rvers police boss, in a statement issued on Thursday, said after due consultation with relevant stakeholders superintending over the election, said the restriction would take place between 12 midnight tomorrow and 8 PM on Saturday.
He also advised important personalities and politicians from going to any voting centre with their security details, adding that the restriction was strictly in respect of movement from their places of abode to the voting centers.
Odesanya, in the statement said, “The Rivers Police Command further wishes to emphasise that important personalities and politicians are barred from going to any voting centre with their security details.
”They are also warned to desist from moving from one place to another on the election day, as provided under the Electoral Act. Movement is strictly restricted from place of abode to voting centres and back.
”The police and other security agencies will be moving to ensure strict compliance”, adding that the directive was “intended to provide a conducive atmosphere to conduct free, fair, and violence free election that would stand the test of time”.