Home Political Mirror 2019: Will ‘Rivers of blood’ know peace?

2019: Will ‘Rivers of blood’ know peace?

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By: Bisi Olaniyi

Rivers State in the Niger Delta, hitherto the hotbed of militancy, is now gaining notoriety for violence and thuggery. Our Southsouth Bureau Chief, Bisi Olaniyi, writes that all stakeholders must unite, cooperate and re-strategise to ensure peaceful general elections next year

THE general elections between 1999 and 2003 were not so bloody in the three core states of the Niger Delta, namely: Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta, since Nigerians were just recovering from military rule, tyranny and dictatorship, with many politicians not sure that the transition to civilian rule would work, thereby making many competent and qualified persons to stay away from politics.

The polls in 2003 were quite different, as the well-educated and decent persons, who earlier stayed away from politics, decided to throw their hats in the ring, with the then incumbent elective office holders, especially the governors, desperate to be re-elected, thereby allegedly purchasing arms and ammunition for mostly educated, but jobless youths, to work for them as thugs with the singular bid of rigging elections.

With the pay reportedly irresistible, the “boys” took up arms against political opponents of their masters and their supporters, thereby “winning” the elections at all costs, but with some of the thugs also losing their lives in the process.

Insiders confided that with the elections won and lost, the politicians who emerged “victorious” through thuggery did not bother about retrieving the guns. This paper gathered, was the genesis of militancy in the Niger Delta, although disguised as a movement for the emancipation of the crude oil and gas-rich region.

The supremacy war among the militants heightened in 2005, leading to the emergence of many “Generals.” While Chief Government Ekpemupolo, aka Tompolo, was in charge in Delta State, Ebikabowei Victor Ben, aka General Boyloaf, was controlling the “boys” in the creeks of Bayelsa State. Rivers State had a former President of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, the leader of Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF) and Ateke Tom, who led Niger Delta Vigilance Movement, among others as leaders of the militant groups.

Dokubo-Asari, an indigene of Buguma, the headquarters of Asari-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, was almost in charge of the major militant camps in Rivers, but top Rivers State Government officials sponsored Ateke against him, for support during the 2007 elections.

The former IYC President (Dokubo-Asari) was later arrested by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS), moved to Abuja and was put in an underground cell for many months before he was eventually released, in view of agitations and protests by prominent Niger Deltans and friends of the region.

Dokubo-Asari also refused to accept the 2009 amnesty offer to repentant Niger Delta militants by the administration of the then President Umaru Yar’Adua, insisting that he and his teeming freedom fighters were not criminals. Shortly after his release from detention, the former President of IYC relocated to Benin Republic, where he established a university.

Ateke’s base in Okrika was later destroyed by the military, when Rotimi Amaechi, now Transportation Minister, was governor of Rivers State, because the Ubima, Ikwerre LGA-born politicians declared that he would not have anything to do with criminals and militants, thereby chasing them out of town, with the leader of Niger Delta Vigilance Movement (Ateke) relocating to Lekki, Lagos.

Ateke and his numerous militants eventually embraced the Federal Government’s amnesty offer and they surrendered their arms and ammunition at a colourful ceremony in Port-Harcourt.

In 2014, Amaechi joined other progressive Nigerians to form the All Progressives Congress (APC), but his former Chief of Staff, Government House, Port-Harcourt (2007-2011), Nyesom Wike, who was the Director-General of Amaechi Governorship Re-election Campaign Organisation in 2011, and recommended by Amaechi after the 2011 polls to the then President Goodluck Jonathan, to be made the Minister of State for Education, showed interest in succeeding his boss (Amaechi).

With federal might, sudden return of the chased-away militants, thuggery, violence, beheading and killing of no fewer than one thousand members of the APC, Wike, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was declared winner of the election, reportedly rigged massively but the governorship candidate of the APC, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, now the Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), approached the tribunal to contest the result. Wike eventually got victory at the Supreme Court on technical grounds.

The apex court admitted that 2015 governorship election in Rivers State witnessed unprecedented violence and massive rigging, but posited that APC and Peterside could not call a witness from each of the polling units across the state, where the rigging took place, which was a Herculean task.

Quite unforgettable during the governorship campaigns in early 2015 was the attack by fully-armed militants and thugs in Okrika, the headquarters of Okrika LGA of Rivers State, the hometown of the then First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, and Ateke, both of PDP, with Peterside and other APC leaders escaping death by a whisker, as the campaign was about to kick off, but the “boys” took over, shooting sporadically, while a policeman was killed in the process, with many journalists and others injured and their personal cars, other vehicles and other valuable property were either vandalised or burnt.

The then Chairman of APC in Rivers State, Chief Davies Ikanya, stated that the Supreme Court had set a precedent with its judgment on the 2015 governorship election in Rivers State, with most politicians to prefer to win through massive rigging and violence, while the opponents could go to the tribunal or court, where it would be extremely difficult to get justice.

After the 2015 elections, the Rivers of blood continued during the legislative reruns, with many innocent persons killed/beheaded, maimed or injured, while the electorate became scared of getting close to their polling units to exercise their franchise.

Shortly after settling down as Rivers State Governor and as a way of expressing gratitude for the support during the campaigns and elections, Wike approved the appointment of Ateke as the King of Okochiri-Okrika.

Some of the ex-militant “Generals” are currently members of the Rivers State House of Assembly (names withheld), while many of them are top officials of the Rivers State Government.

In spite of having ex-militants in Rivers State Government, APC leaders vowed to unseat Wike in 2019, while the Rivers State Governor is to either seek reelection or become a running mate to one of the presidential candidates of PDP from the North, especially Aminu Tambuwal, since he reportedly sponsored the election of Prince Uche Secondus, an indigene of Andoni LGA of Rivers State, as the National Chairman of the main opposition party.

The by-election controversy

To confirm that the political rivalry may not stop in the near future is the intrigues that have trailed by-election for Port-Harcourt Constituency 3 in the Rivers House of Assembly. It would be recalled that recently, the representative of Port-Harcourt Constituency 3 in the Rivers House of Assembly, Victor Ihunwo, of the PDP, resigned in June this year to contest as Chairman of Port-Harcourt City Local Government Council, which he won.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Rivers State, Mr. Obo Effanga, an indigene Cross River State, therefore announced that the vacant

Port-Harcourt Constituency 3 seat would be filled on August 18, through a by-election.

But as leaders and members of APC were preparing for the by-election, the lawmaker representing Rivers Southeast Senatorial District, Senator Magnus Abe, a governorship aspirant on APC’s platform, decided on August 17 to inaugurate a parallel secretariat of the party at Waterlines Bus Stop on Aba Road, Port-Harcourt, which was earlier vandalised by hoodlums.

The duly-elected Chairman of APC in Rivers State, Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, however, insisted that there was no faction in the state’s chapter of the party.

Flag-Amachree stated that the activities of Abe were nothing to worry about, while admonishing loyal and committed members of APC to remain focused, while ignoring the distractions.

The Director-General of the Free Rivers Development Initiative, Sampson Ngerebara, an engineer, who is a chieftain of APC and an ally of Amaechi, also disclosed that the only senator of the PDP in Rivers State, Osinakachukwu Ideozu, who was “elected” for the first time in 2015, is set to defect to the APC.

Ngerebara, while speaking on a local radio station in Port-Harcourt, disclosed that in the next few days, Ideozu, the representative of Rivers West Senatorial District, would be joining in the APC, Senators Andrew Uchendu (Rivers East) and Abe, with Wike no longer having any senator, while more lawmakers and many top officials of Rivers State Government are also concluding arrangements to move to the APC.

Rivers APC chairman said: “All through last week, there were heightened enquiries from the media, concerning the inauguration of what the journalists referred to as ‘parallel office’ of the APC in Rivers State. I want to use this opportunity to discountenance that suspicion and to clearly state that it is far from the truth.

“Let me state for the umpteenth time that APC in Rivers State is not in factions and there is no basis to even conjecture that we will ever get to that situation. There were no parallel congresses of the APC in Rivers State, from the 319 wards, 23 Local Government Area congresses to the state congress.

“Indeed, we believe that with party primaries drawing near, many aspirants to various offices under our party are already erecting campaign offices, in pursuance of their aspirations and no one can possibly fault that.

“However, it must be stated that, given the possibility that some human beings may sometimes decide to act in unconscionable manner, should any attempt be made by anyone or group of persons to cause mischief, by deliberately naming campaign office as Rivers State APC secretariat, the leadership of the party will take deliberate steps, within the ambit of the law, to ensure that such malfeasance does not succeed.”

Flag-Amachree also assured members of the public that Rivers APC is one, under the able leadership of the Minister for Transportation and himself, as the authentic state chairman.

The face-off between Amaechi and Abe, an ex-Secretary to the Rivers State Government (SSG) in Amaechi’s administration, took a dangerous dimension on August 11, as yet-to-be-identified hoodlums, suspected to be political thugs, vandalised the senator’s parallel state secretariat.

The parallel APC’s secretariat of Abe’s faction has a former Deputy Chairman of the party, Prince Peter Odike, as the Acting Chairman, while the duly-elected Rivers Chairman of APC (Flag-Amachree), is loyal to Amaechi, the leader of the party in the state and the Southsouth zone.

Amaechi, the Director-General of Buhari/Osinbajo Re-election Campaign Organisation, recently declared that the governorship candidate of APC in the state for the 2019 election must come from the riverine part of the multi-ethnic state, to ensure even development, equity, justice and fairness, since Rivers governors since 1999 had been from the upland part of the state.

Abe, an indigene of Bera-Ogoni in the upland part of the state, claimed that Rivers APC’s governorship ticket was zoned in 2015 to his senatorial district and yet to be changed, but it was immediately dismissed as a lie, by the party’s Deputy National Secretary, Chief Victor Giadom, from the same Bera-Ogoni as Abe.

Besides Abe, who was a governorship aspirant of APC in 2015, there are other governorship aspirants in Rivers chapter of the party, namely: Dr. Dakuku Peterside, the party’s governorship candidate in 2015, Tonye Cole, the Chief Executive of Sahara Energy, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, an oil magnate, and AkpoBari Celestine, a renowned human and environmental rights activist.

Wike’s allegations

On August 17, Rivers governor, in a statewide broadcast, called on all eligible voters in the affected communities to come out en-masse, not only to vote for the party and candidate of their choice, but also to defend their votes and ensure their votes count.

Wike said: “We have it on good authority that some failed politicians are planning to use cultists and political thugs to intimidate voters and attempt to disrupt the voting process.

“I wish to reiterate that the Rivers State Government will not close its eyes to such thoughtless acts by any person or group of persons to deny our people their God-given right to freely and fairly elect their leaders. We shall not hesitate to apply the full weight and force of government and the law on any delinquent.

“This election, important as it is, must not be taken as a do-or-die affair. I urge leaders of political parties and their candidates to advise their supporters to peacefully conduct themselves during and after the by-election.”

Rivers governor also admonished all the persons who had no business with the election process to, in their own interest; keep their distance from the constituency during the duration of the by-election.

Heavy gunshots, thuggery, violence and snatching of electoral materials, however, marred the by-election, with soldiers, policemen and other security personnel forcing residents to raise their hands on the streets of Port-Harcourt, the state capital, where the election took place.

In spite of Rivers Commissioner of Police, Zaki Ahmed’s announcement on August 17, during a news conference in Port-Harcourt that 1,500 policemen would be deployed for the poll, with the Nigerian Army, Department of State Services (DSS) and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCSC) also providing more personnel, the thugs were undeterred, as they unleashed mayhem, with many innocent persons critically injured.

Candidates of four political parties took part in the by-election, but the real contest was between PDP’s Chiemeka Merukini and APC’s Mr. Dickens Worlu.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Rivers State, Mr. Obo Effanga, an indigene Cross River State, who earlier assured that the election would be free, fair and credible, stated in the morning of August 18 that the electoral materials were sent to all the polling units on time, stressing that he had assurances from the heads of security agencies in Rivers State that the poll would be peaceful.

The polls took place in Rumuokowu, Ihuwo-Orogbu, Rumuokara-mati, Rumuelechi, Oro-obaziolu, Rumu-enyika, Rumuopareli, Rumuobiekwe, Rumukpalukwuozu, Rumuogbarawehu and Rumuwoji communities, all in Port-Harcourt, with Rivers Police Commissioner announcing restriction of human and vehicular movements from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., which was enforced by security personnel.

Effanga, in the evening of August 18, announced the suspension of the by-election due to violence and irregularities.

Rivers Publicity Secretary of APC, Chief Chris Finebone, however, insisted that members of the main opposition party (APC) were not involved in the violence and thuggery.

He said: “The Rivers chapter of APC notes with sadness how the PDP resorted to large-scale violence across the units and wards of Port- Harcourt Constituency 3, State House of Assembly, during the by-election.

“It is unfortunate that what should be a mere state constituency by-election witnessed unprecedented voter intimidation, harassment, vote-buying and shooting activated by PDP members, in line with their usual character of rigging elections through killing and maiming of APC members.

“It is encouraging that the people of Port-Harcourt Constituency 3 stood their ground and resisted the intimidation by PDP leaders in the area. It signifies that PDP will no more have its way, as was the case in the past years.

“The talk that the Rivers State Chairman of APC, Hon. Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, was engaged in any form of activity in the constituency during the election is mere façade created to mask the evil machinations of the PDP during the by-election.”

The Chairman of the Rivers chapter of the PDP, Chief Felix Obuah, however, lauded INEC and its REC in Rivers State, for suspending the by-election.

Obuah said: “I commend INEC for the suspension of the entire exercise (by-election), following the large-scale violence visited on the constituency by APC hoodlums and anti-democratic forces, with their collaborators in security agencies.”

Rivers Chairman of APC urged INEC to lift the suspension and announce the results of the poll, won by APC.

Flag-Amachree stated that the hasty decision of REC of INEC in Rivers State to suspend the by-election was disappointing, considering the fact that collation of the results had gone far at St. Andrew’s Primary School, Emenike Junction, Mile One, Diobu, Port-Harcourt.

Chairman of the main opposition APC in Rivers said: “It is unfortunate that what should be a mere state constituency by-election witnessed pockets of voter intimidation, harassment, vote-buying and shooting, activated by the PDP, in line with the party’s members’ usual character of rigging elections through killing and maiming of APC members.

“It is worthy of note that security agents gallantly rose to the occasion and effectively quelled the pockets of violence that threatened the by-election in some wards in Port-Harcourt Constituency 3, leading to the eventual collation of the results.

“Members of APC in Rivers State want to believe that the suspension is to allow INEC’s officials to sort itself out and conclude the process accordingly. As a political party, APC is not questioning the judgment or discretionary powers of INEC to make decisions about the by-election. However, such decisions must strictly conform to relevant laws guiding the system and specifically do not include cancellation of a process that has commenced.

“It is pertinent to remind INEC and reassure APC members and the public that, when it comes to any election process that has commenced, the powers of INEC end at suspension of the process for evaluation and eventual conclusion. Such powers do not include cancellation, as widely and erroneously peddled. It is only the tribunal or court that can decide on the cancellation of such a process, on approach by relevant stakeholders.

“In view of the need to timeously conclude the by-election process and douse the anxiety of voters in the constituency, APC calls on INEC to swiftly and fairly do the needful and subsequently conclude the process and declare the result accordingly. It must be emphasised that INEC has no luxury of options over the matter, but to audit the process up to the collation stage, when the process was suspended and direct action towards bringing the process to a conclusion.”

INEC explains

INEC, however, described the violent disruption of the by-election as shameful, but lauded the Rivers Police Command for preventing a slip into chaos in Port-Harcourt Constituency 3, while Wike blamed the police for allegedly declaring war on Rivers State, but the governor hailed the electoral commission for its good organisation.

The three RECs of INEC: Rivers (Effanga), Mike Igini (Akwa Ibom) and Cyril Omoregbe (Bayelsa), who conducted the by-election, at a news conference in Port-Harcourt on August 19, expressed “gross” disappointment at the display of shamelessness by politicians and their supporters.

Effanga accused political heavyweights of openly storming polling units with thugs and armed security personnel to disrupt the well-arranged and peaceful process.

REC of INEC in Rivers said: “The commission, in full readiness for the by-election, deployed personnel and materials in the 142 polling units involved. However, midway, miscreants and hoodlums accompanied by heavily-armed security personnel in uniform stormed the various polling units and registration areas, disrupting voting activities, destroying and carting away election materials, including smart card readers and ballot boxes. In addition, many electoral officials were manhandled, injured and held hostage.”

Igini, who represented INEC’s National Commissioner for Southsouth, disclosed that an official of the commission was stabbed, others beaten up and held hostage, while a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member’s leg was broken.

Akwa Ibom State’s REC of INEC stated that reporters were also attacked and voters injured by thugs in some of the polling units, while commending Rivers Police Commissioner, Zaki Ahmed, for providing experienced personnel for the by-election, but wondered where the heavily-armed personnel were brought from by their sponsors.

Igini said: “What happened on August 18 was a tragedy. It was shameful. It represented a higher level of electoral discredit, falling below the minimum expected standards. Elections must be conducted in a peaceful atmosphere, which will allow voters to vote and leave the centre without grumbling.

“While election was going on, there was violence in significant areas of the polling centres. Some journalists, INEC staff, including NYSC members, were attacked and held hostage during the by-election. An official of the commission was stabbed, others beaten up. Also, a youth corps member’s leg was broken, individuals beaten and injured.

“Thanks to the security personnel who worked with us (INEC); they were not part of those who disrupted the election, as they were not armed, according to the law.”

Wike, in a statewide broadcast in the afternoon of August 19, alleged that the consistent sabotage of the electoral process by the police amounted to a declaration of war against the people of Rivers State and their solemn rights to freely and fairly choose their leaders and representatives.

Rivers governor said: “Clearly, there are dangerous times ahead, but we must not give in to intimidation, lest we lose our liberties and become slaves in our own land.

“As we had feared, the police failed us completely once again and negated all that they promised. Instead of providing security for voters and INEC officials, the police brazenly colluded with political thugs of the APC to subvert the democratic process and deny the people of Port- Harcourt Constituency 3 their rights to free, fair and credible elections.

“Confirmed reports from the field indicated that INEC promptly and rightly distributed election materials to all the polling units within a record time. However, while voting was underway, armed thugs from the APC moved freely from one polling unit to another, violently assaulted the voters and INEC officials and carted away election materials, including smart card readers and ballot boxes.”

Wike also claimed that the police aided and shielded the leader of the thugs from arrest and prosecution.

APC states case

The Acting National Publicity Secretary of APC, Yekini Nabena, however, hailed Rivers people for standing up and bravely defending their votes, in spite of the violence and snatching of electoral materials, which he insisted were perpetrated by the members and leaders of PDP.

Nabena said: “Nigerians will recall how the PDP, speaking through its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, had earlier vowed to deploy all means, schemes, shenanigans in all ramifications and magnitude, to rig all coming elections in Nigeria.

“While we condemn the PDP-sponsored violence and failed attempt to rig the by-election in Port-Harcourt Constituency 3, the APC calls on the Rivers State electorate and indeed all Nigerians to continue to stand their ground and resist any attempt to rig elections. Votes must count. The people’s will must prevail in all elections.

“The PDP’s rigging plan is a red flag that requires urgent attention by INEC and relevant security agencies.”

While later speaking during a news conference in Port-Harcourt, the Rivers chairman of APC alleged that Wike reached out to him during the August 18 by-election for Port-Harcourt Constituency 3 of the Rivers House of Assembly, pleading to have his cooperation for PDP’s candidate, Chiemeka Merukini, to emerge victorious.

Flag-Amachree, a former chairman of Asari-Toru Local Government Council of Rivers State, revealed that as a loyal member of APC, he declined Wike’s advances and promptly reported the offer to the leadership of his political party, while continuing to work for the success of APC’s candidate in the election, Dickens Worlu.

He maintained that there are deliberate actions of Wike, Rivers Government officials, PDP members and officials of INEC, all aimed at scuttling the by-election.

Flag-Amachree said: “Some hours after the voting process commenced across the 142 polling units of the Port-Harcourt Constituency 3, words came out through the agents of both parties (APC and PDP) that the APC’s candidate was winning comfortably in most of the polling units.

“No sooner the information was given to Wike that he mobilised his Chief Security Officer (CSO), Mr. Promise Nwosu, who led fully-armed officers and men of the Nigeria Police attached to Government House, Port-Harcourt to invade various polling units to forcibly disrupt an otherwise peaceful exercise for the purpose of rigging the process in favour of the PDP’s candidate. In the course of the intervention, many shots were fired to intimidate both voters and electoral officials.

“It was encouraging to observe that despite the massive violence orchestrated by the team of policemen led by Wike’s CSO, most of the voters in the constituency stood their ground and resisted the spate of shootings, assault, battery and intimidation by the armed policemen from Government House, Port-Harcourt.

“In a failed mission to bribe me, Wike and his CSO became more determined to scuttle the by-election, by joining forces with their armed hoodlums to shoot sporadically around the polling units they visited, beating lawful voters and in some cases either destroying or carting away voting materials. From that moment, Wike decided to undertake a smear campaign against me, as demonstrated in his subsequent broadcast and interviews.”

Rivers chairman of APC also stated that the state governor lied against the Commander of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) in Rivers State, Akin Fakorede, an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), who was in Abuja with other F-SARS commanders in Nigeria for a conference with the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, when the Port-Harcourt by-election was ongoing, but he was accused by Wike of rigging the poll for APC.

Flag-Amachree asked the REC of INEC in the state to complete the electoral process by announcing the winner of the by-election, without further delay or meet the party in court.

The ex-Chairman of Asari-Toru Local Government Council also stated that members of APC were not surprised that Wike and Rivers REC of INEC were working hand in gloves to rig elections in the state, declaring that the recruitment and posting of Effanga, described as a confessed PDP apologist and virulent critic of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, was beyond mere accident, considering his earlier piece in a national newspaper, where he thoroughly abused Buhari’s government, before he was mysteriously employed and posted to Rivers State as REC of INEC.

Rivers chairman of APC declared that members of his party and other electorate in the state were determined to kick Wike out of Government House, Port-Harcourt on May 29 next year, thereby putting an end to his bad governance, without loss of life and property.

Rivers governor, who reacted through the state’s Commissioner for Information and Communications, Chief Emma Okah, described Flag-Amachree as a chronic liar.

Wike said: “He (Rivers Chairman of APC) should stop his cheap lies, meant to divert attention from the atrocities he committed during the by-election in Port-Harcourt Constituency 3. No matter how long he tries to run, the atrocities will continue to haunt him. Nobody offered him N200 million bribe.

“Port-Harcourt Constituency 3 is a stronghold of the PDP. Even if a goat is fielded as PDP’s candidate in the area, the goat will still win for the ruling PDP.”

The REC of INEC in Rivers also denied working for Wike and PDP, stressing that he remained unbiased and is committed to conducting free, fair, credible and peaceful elections in Rivers State, without taking sides.

Effanga said: “I am not working for PDP or Governor Wike. I am working for the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the people of Nigeria. My only interest is Nigeria.

“I cannot stop anybody or political party from going to court. People have the right under the laws of Nigeria to go to court.”

Rivers Commissioner of Police, while later briefing reporters at the police headquarters on the by-election, insisted that officers and men of the command were not involved in the disruption of the poll.

Ahmed said: “Police did not at any time collude with any political party to discredit the political process, as alleged in some quarters. Information at the command’s disposal revealed the presence of political thugs at Miles 2 and 3 in Port-Harcourt, who were armed and were disrupting the voting process.

“The police, in the wake of the information, deployed more personnel and Armoured Personnel Carriers to safeguard the electoral process, lives and property. It must be emphasised that the timely action of the police in checkmating the political thugs prevented loss of lives and property.

“The INEC officials, who appeared to have been intimidated by the thugs, were reassured by our presence. Accordingly, our counter measures against the thugs and the thuggery they exhibited, calmed the situation and the INEC officials left with some of the electoral materials and subsequently suspended the entire process.”

Rivers Publicity Secretary of APC also raised the alarm on the ongoing efforts by Wike and officials of Rivers Government to enlist the services of a judge of the Rivers State judiciary to sit and grant an injunction stopping INEC from proceeding to conclude and announce the result of the by-election.

Finebone said: “So far, all the judges approached to execute the scheme have politely turned it down. The APC salutes the courage of these judges. We call on those yet to be contacted to emulate their colleagues and turn down an attempt by the Rivers State Government to abuse the judicial system.

“The APC believes that despite the threats being made against the judges who have refused to be dragged into the matter, the judges of the Rivers State Judiciary, as noble men and women, will continue to display this kind of uncommon bravery and strict adherence to the tenets of the hallowed profession of dispensing justice without fear or favour.

“We urge Wike and the PDP in Rivers State to abandon their evil agenda, meant to, once again, drag the judiciary into the murky political waters of the state.”

Coalition calls for end of game

The Coalition of Opposition Political Parties in Rivers State equally declared that the white lie of the REC of INEC in the state on the controversial by-election remained unacceptable and a disgrace to Nigeria’s democracy.

In a news conference on August 22 in Port-Harcourt, the coalition, through Sobrasua Johnbull of the Democratic Alliance, and Lucky Ekeji of Mass Movement of Nigeria, disclosed that members of the political parties and civil society might consider self-help and mass action.

It expressed surprise that Effanga, rather than admitting that he was working for Wike and PDP, gave flimsy excuse of suspending the by-election for Port-Harcourt Constituency 3 of the Rivers House of Assembly, already won by candidate of the APC, because of alleged violence and irregularities.

The coalition said: “We find the news of the suspension of the Port -Harcourt Constituency 3 by-election by Rivers REC of INEC as astonishing, unnecessary and against the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended.”

Members of the opposition political parties in Rivers also called on INEC to immediately make public the results, as declared in the polling units and wards that were collated.

The politicians declared that they would no longer fold their arms and see corrupt people steal the power of the electorate, which was described as the drama unfolding in the by-election of Port-Harcourt Constituency 3.

The coalition said: “It is our belief that Mr. Obo Effanga (REC of INEC) will never associate himself with such levels of lies and deceptions to rob the winner of the by-election of August 18, 2018.

“We align with the statement made by Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Zaki Ahmed, earlier in a news conference in Port-Harcourt, in which he attested to the fact that the pockets of violence noticed during the by-election were successfully quelled. We agree that this is the only election in Rivers State that saw the least of violence, as no single soul was lost or property burnt, as was rampant during previous polls in Rivers State.

Members of the coalition also strongly called on INEC to promptly conclude the collation process of the by-election and results released immediately, to avert possible self-help by affected stakeholders and civil society mass action.

The REC of INEC in Rivers State, however, insisted that his only interest is Nigeria, while denying supporting Wike and PDP.

For now, it cannot be guaranteed, if there will not be a repeat of the 2015/2016 Rivers of blood in 2019, considering the desperation being displayed by many political leaders and their supporters, who must be called to order, in order to avoid war, loss of lives of mostly innocent persons and valuable property worth billions of naira. A stitch in time saves nine.

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