Ahead of the Saturday’s legislative re-run elections in Rivers State, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has gone for broke, in a bid to capture the three senatorial districts, eight federal constituencies, and 10 state constituencies up for grabs in the state.
While the ruling party at the centre knows that it will not win enough state constituency seats to give the Rivers State governor, Chief Ezenwo Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) much of a problem in the state, the APC, however, is hell bent on winning most, if not all the federal legislatives seats in the state that will give it formidable control in the National Assembly.
In this regard, the party is banking on its winning formula used in the Edo and Ondo governorship elections, and has deployed all the resources of the state to thwart Wike, including the withdrawal of his chief security officer (CSO) and the security aides of other politicians in the state.
The aim is to checkmate Wike, who the APC has identified alongside the Ekiti State governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, of being behind the formation of the new mega party that could give the APC a serious run for its money in the 2019 general election.
Preparatory to the re-run polls in Rivers State, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has deployed a record 10,294 personnel in the state for the elections.
In the interim, the PDP and APC yesterday rained accusations against each other, ranging from security threats to rigging plots.
While the leadership of the PDP condemned last Monday’s withdrawal of the CSO to the governor, describing it as a deliberate attempt to endanger his life, the APC alleged PDP was raising a false alarm and merely covering up for its arms build-up.
Specifically, PDP accused APC and the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, of plotting to use the security agencies to intimidate Wike and render him vulnerable to attacks.
In a statement issued by the spokesman of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led PDP yesterday, Mr. Dapo Adeyeye, the party called on the Inspector General of Police, (IG), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, and the Director General of Department State Services (DSS), Mr. Lawal Daura, to as a matter of urgency restore all the security aides to Wike and secure the Government House, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
It said the APC and its leaders should be held responsible should anything happen to Wike or supporters of the party.
PDP further alleged that the new methods being applied by the APC for the Rivers re-run elections is the withdrawal of the security detail of the governor in order to endanger his life and possibly intimidate him to succumb to their rigging plans.
“This is not acceptable and if anything happens to the governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, his family or any of our party member or supporter in Rivers State, Rivers people and indeed all Nigerians should hold Chibuike Amaechi and his party leaders responsible.
“The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is very clear on the grounds by which the security of a sitting governor can be withdrawn. This is a big slap on our constitution and must be condemned by all well-meaning Nigerians before the APC reverses all the gains of democracy we have nurtured since 1999.”
In its riposte, APC dismissed the allegation of threat to life of the state governor by the PDP, describing it as a cover up for the massive arms build-up by the governor in readiness for the elections.
A statement issued by APC’s National Secretary, Hon. Mai Mala Buni, denied being involved in any plot to assassinate the governor or use security agents to intimidate PDP supporters, adding that Wike and his party were being haunted by their horrible past misdeeds.
“The report by the Rivers State Government and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) alleging the withdrawal of Wike’s security aides and an assassination threat on the governor is a hoax meant to deflect attention from the reports of an arms build-up and other sinister plots the Wike-led PDP administration plans to execute on election day,” it said.
APC called on the security agencies to investigate the report of the arms build-up and to be on high alert on the security situation in Rivers State.
“Nobody is after Wike. The governor and the PDP’s diversionary and false alarm are hinged on the reality that they will lose the legislative re-run elections once security is tightened in Rivers State.
“Again, the PDP and the Rivers State governor are haunted by their horrible past misdeeds. Nigerians recall how Wike, then a PDP minister used federal institutions to harass, intimidate and threaten the lives of perceived political enemies particularly Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who was then governor of Rivers State.
“Under Wike’s watch, political thugs and criminal gangs have continued to kill and maim APC members and innocent citizens in Rivers State.
“The President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration has successively demonstrated the will to ensure that all elections are free, transparent and credible. Saturday’s legislative re-run elections in Rivers will not be different. The administration does not subscribe to such evil machinations where government institutions are used to achieve political ends.
“The APC hereby calls on the security agencies to investigate the report of an arms build-up and be on high alert on the security situation in Rivers State under Wike’s watch and by extension the PDP in the lead-up to the Rivers legislative re-run elections.
“Wike’s criminal gangs and PDP thugs must not be allowed to steal the votes of the Rivers electorate on Saturday,” APC stated.
On Saturday’s re-run polls, INEC stated yesterday that it would deploy a record 10,294 staff to conclude the National and State Assembly elections in the state.
The commission said in a statement that fourteen categories of staff would be deployed for the Rivers poll – three Returning Officers for the three Senatorial Districts; eight Returning Officers for the Federal Constituencies; 10 Returning Officers for the Federal Constituencies; 23 Local Government Collation Officers; and 221 Registration Area Collation Officers.
Others include 57 Collation Officers (for collation only at Registration Areas RAs); 231 Supervisory Presiding Officers; 1,840 Presiding Officers; 6,609 Assistant Presiding Officers (I, II and III); 661 Assistant Presiding Officers (VP); 363 Reserve APOs (5%) of APOs; 21 Constituency Supervisors (3 SDs, 8 FCs and 10 SCs); 24 LGA Supervisors; and 223 RA Supervisors.
The elections will take place across three senatorial districts, eight federal constituencies, and 10 state constituencies.
Following court orders, in the aftermath of the 2015 general election, the commission had earlier scheduled to re-run the elections in Rivers State on Saturday, 19th March 2016. The elections were however disrupted by violence as a result of which they were suspended.
It explained that at the time of the suspension of the elections, the exercise was at different stages.
The 21 constituencies where the elections will hold on Saturday in Rivers State are: (1) Rivers East (SD), (2) Rivers West (SD), (3) Rivers South East (SD), (4) Akuku-Toru/Asari Toru (FC), (5) Degema/Bonny (FC), (6) Okrika/Ogu-Bolo (FC), (7) Etche/Omuma (FC), (8) Ikwere/Emohua (FC), (9) Khana Gokana (FC), (10) Eleme/Tai/Oyigbo (FC), (11) Opobo/Nkoro/Andoni (FC), (12) Eleme (SC), (13) Gokana (SC), (14) Asari-Toru I (SC), (15) Asari-Toru II (SC), (16) Andoni (SC), (17) Khana II (SC), (18) Etche II (SC), (19) Ikwere (SC), (20) Bonny (SC), and (21) Degema (SC).
Also, the police IG said yesterday that the police force had begun the deployment of personnel in Rivers State for peaceful and fair elections.
He said there was need for collaboration between the police and sister security agencies for the polls.
Idris, who declined to comment on the alleged withdrawal of the CSO to Wike, said the police have a good working relationship with all the 36 state governors.
He advised state Commissioners of Police to ensure that Nigerians were not subjected to hardships on the roads during the Yuletide season.
“You should ensure that no hardship is created for citizens of Nigeria, try and ease movements on the roads,” he said.
The police in Rivers State also issued a notice restricting the movement of persons in the state from midnight on Saturday.
A statement issued by the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Nnamdi Omoni (DSP), said: “There will be total restriction of movement of persons and vehicles. Between the hours of 12 midnight on Friday, December 9, 2016 and 8 p.m. on Saturday, December 10, 2016, both on land and waterways.
“The command further wishes to emphasise that important personalities and politicians are barred from going to any voting centre with their security detail.
“They are also warned to desist from moving from one place to another on Election Day, as provided under the Electoral Act. Movement is strictly restricted from places of abode to voting centres and back.
“The police and other security agencies will be moving to ensure strict compliance.”
He said the restriction was “intended to provide a conducive atmosphere for the conduct of free, fair, and violence-free elections that will stand the test of time”.
Wike Berates INEC
Meanwhile, the Rivers State governor yesterday condemned the INEC for refusing to be transparent with the list of collation officers that would be used for Saturday’s elections.
The governor also called on the electorate not to be intimidated by the plot by the police, INEC and APC to use state violence to intimidate voters and cart away election materials.
Speaking in Andoni and Opobo-Nkoro Local Government Areas yesterday while flagging off the rehabilitation of General Hospitals in Opobo and Ngo and the completion of the Ogoni Andoni-Opobo-Nkoro Unity Road, Wike said that INEC was keeping the list of collation officers secret, so that it will use APC members for this strategic role.
He noted that some constituencies were declared inconclusive during the March 19 re-run elections because APC members appointed as collation officers by INEC fled when they realised that PDP was winning.
The governor asked INEC to release the list of collation officers for public scrutiny and for transparency and accountability.
He said: “INEC must make the list of collation officers public. No matter what INEC does, the list of collation officers must be known.
“We must remain vigilant. After voting, women should go home, while youths should remain to protect votes at the polling units to the collation centres.
“Youths must wait until the results are announced and party agents in possession of declared results.
“Nobody should intimidate you with security agents. How many persons can they kill? How many people can they beat up? We must defend our votes.”
The governor added that on Saturday the people of Rivers State shall “drive Satan, the Lucifer and his devilish agents from Rivers State”.
“These are the people who embezzled Rivers money, used the funds to sponsor national politics. Saturday, December 10 is their day of reckoning.
“Satan will disappear from Rivers on Saturday. Why would someone hate his people so much that he teams up with outsiders to cause them pain?” he asked in apparent reference to his political foe, Amaechi
Wike said that he remained committed to peace, pointing out that he had been making public statements on the elections and the negative plots of APC, because he believes that by alerting the world, the APC leaders, police and INEC plotting to rig would be called to order.
He called on the international community to assist in stopping APC from using the security agencies to rig the re-run elections alongside INEC.