There is tension in Rivers State ahead of Saturday’s rerun elections.
Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi has accused Governor Nyesom Wike of being behind killings in Rivers State.
He spoke with reporters on Tuesday night at the Port Harcourt International Airport.
But, Wike, through his Commissioner for Information and Communications, Dr. Austin Tam-George, described Amaechi’s statement as “a sewage of lies”.
The Transportation Minister and former governor, urged All Progressives Congress (APC) members and supporters of the main opposition party to massively attend the mega rally and vote en masse for all the candidates of the APC without fear of attack or molestation.
Amaechi also urged Rivers people to ignore what he described as threats from Wike and criminals, stressing that President Muhammadu Buhari had assured all of a level playing field. The security agencies, he said, are equal to the task of ensuring the safety of lives and property, thereby guaranteeing free, fair, credible and peaceful elections on Saturday.
Some indigenes, including stalwarts of the APC, were killed during the 2015 general elections and the March 19 rerun in the state.
Amaechi, a former Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), also stressed that the arms and ammunition the Rivers governor recently recovered from cultists during the first phase of the government’s amnesty programme were evidence to buttress his allegation.
He said: “ Even during the campaigns, our (APC) people were beaten, manhandled and others threatened, leaving many dead, but we will not continue to allow these things to happen like that. Members of the PDP were also responsible for the killings of APC members in Omoku (headquarters of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA of the state, where Rivers PDP Chairman, Chief Felix Obuah, hails from.”
When the minister was asked to respond to Wike’s and PDP’s allegation that the Police and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the state had connived to manipulate results of the elections in favour of the APC, he described it as “laughable” and “childish”.
Amaechi said: “If Wike and the PDP have justifiable evidence, let them present it to the general public and stop blackmailing me or INEC and police. The allegation is immaterial, null and void. Why is Wike and PDP making so much noise and fruitless allegations?”
The former governor maintained that he was more popular than all the members of the PDP, because when he left office in 2015, he had over 75 per cent support from Rivers people and other Nigerians resident in the state.
He said: “This is so, because as governor then, l overhauled the health and education sectors by promoting free health care and free education. Over 10,000 teachers were employed, including the building of critical infrastructure, roads and youth empowerment, making Rivers people and other Nigerians to experience change. So, l am very sure l had more popularity than any PDP stakeholder, including governors across the country.”
Amaechi stated that APC members, especially the candidates for the rerun, had been campaigning, mostly in remote parts of the state, disclosing that his current trip to Port Harcourt was his third in two weeks, to join stakeholders of the party for campaigns round the state.
He urged Rivers people to disabuse their minds against comments by the PDP and Wike, which he said were calculated to rubbish him in the eyes of right-thinking people to score cheap popularity and further whip up public sentiments to heat up the polity.
Amaechi said: “On Thursday, there will be national campaign for the party in the state, to indicate our readiness and preparedness for the rerun elections.”
Amaechi also called on Rivers people and other Nigerians resident in the state, including supporters and stalwarts of the APC, to turn out en masse to vote on Saturday, advising them to always protect their votes at election venues.
He said: “Before now, l used to tell my party members to vote and protect their votes, but there have been complaints of indecent attacks from the PDP. So, l have asked the APC members to protect their votes and their lives as well, because the PDP cannot be bigger than everybody everywhere.”
The minister also expressed displeasure on what he described as “irresponsible comments” by his former Chief of Staff (Wike), stating that on many occasions, the Rivers governor had abused the office and privileges of the governor, especially his sudden interception of security operatives who were detailed by law to arrest corrupt judges in some states across the country.
He said: “During my tenure as governor, l never abused the office of the governor, because it is sacred and should be respected in all ramifications.”
In a broadcast to Rivers people yesterday, being aired on most radio stations in Port Harcourt, Amaechi called on them to take advantage of the December 10 rerun and vote the right persons to represent them and end what he described as the terror they had been made to go through so far by the Wike and PDP administration.
He said: “This is another opportunity for us to exercise our right to vote for candidates of our choice. You will recall that the last time the elections were held, members of the APC were brazenly, crudely and violently prevented from exercising their inalienable rights to elect those they wanted. Those same characters and forces that stole our votes by violently denying us the right to vote the last time are at it again.
“In the months and weeks leading to this Saturday’s election, they have employed the use of violence and intimidation and harassment, all aimed at preventing us from coming out to vote. They have turned our hitherto peaceful state into a haven of brazen criminality, culminating in killings and maiming of innocent citizens.
“It is gratifying to know that the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, has assured of the security of lives and property in the state before, during and after the elections.
“Mr. President has graciously provided adequate security through the length and breadth of the state. I therefore enjoin you all to come out en masse and exercise your civic right on Saturday. To this end, the reign of terror in some of our local government areas, leading to senseless killings will not be tolerated, as the security agencies have been directed to ensure the safety of all, before, during and after the elections. I therefore, implore you all to come out and exercise your rights to vote ,now that you have a chance to vote and your vote will count. Choose wisely, vote APC.”
The minister also assured Rivers people not to submit to any form of intimidation or threats while exercising their civic rights, insisting that their security and safety would be guaranteed.
But Wike maintained that he did not need arms to defeat the APC in the state, claiming his impressive record of service delivery had won the hearts of the Rivers people.
Wike alleged that APC members in Rivers State were suffocating under the weight of Amaechi’s disastrous legacy as governor for eight years.
The governor said: “Rotimi Amaechi is propably the most toxic political personality in Rivers State, because of his history of financial recklessness and visionless leadership during his time as governor of Rivers State.
“Funds meant for the payment of salaries of workers and pensioners were diverted by Mr. Amaechi to sponsor the political activities of the APC, thereby plunging millions of families into abject poverty and misery.
“Mr. Amaechi was indicted by a court-approved Judicial Panel of Inquiry for stealing public funds. While the APC-led Federal Government may have granted Amaechi unofficial amnesty, the Rivers people have a long memory, and would continue to reject Rotimi Amaechi and the APC in Rivers State. Mr. Amaechi’s attempt to steal the mandate of the people on Saturday, through the force of arms, would be resisted and defeated once again.”
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; APC National Chairman Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; governors elected on the party’s platform and other leaders of the APC will today storm Port Harcourt for the party’s mega rally for the December 10 legislative rerun.
The rally will hold at the state governmet-owned Yakubu Gowon (formerly Liberation) Stadium, Elekahia in the state capital, which Wike released to the APC free of charge.
The Chairman of the APC Campaign Council, Alhaji Abdullahi Ganduje, who is the Governor of Kano State, said candidates of the party would emerge victorious during the crucial elections, taking place in the 23 local government areas, spread across the three senatorial districts. The campaign council was inaugurated in Abuja on November 30 by Odigie-Oyegun.
Police Commissioner Francis Odesanya, also assured of safety of lives and property of the people of the state before, during and after the rerun.
Odesanya said after due consultation with stakeholders superintending over the rerun, there would be total restriction of movement of persons and vehicles between 12 midnight on Friday and 8 p.m. on Saturday, both on land and waterways.
The commissioner said: “The command 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.”
Odesanya also pleaded with Rivers people for continued support and cooperation, assuring that there would be a conducive atmosphere to conduct free, fair and violence-free elections that would stand the test of time.