Mr. Tonye Cole, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC in Rivers State, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency in the state over raging political violence.
In a statement signed by the spokesman of the Rivers APC 2023 Campaign Council, Sogbeye Eli, Cole blamed the signing of Executive Orders 21 and 22 by Governor Nyesom Wike for the violence that has recently bedevilled the state.
Cole said the opposition political parties in Rivers State were presently under siege with an unrelenting spate of violent attacks by thugs and hoodlums allegedly working for Wike’s faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He stated that the deadly attacks began with a road blockade mounted by thugs en route Egberu community, the hometown of Rivers State PDP Chairman Desmond Akawor, in Ward 3 of Oyigbo Local Government Area to deny Senator Magnus Abe access to the community for a party meeting.
According to him, the attacks had since spread to other parts of the state and become more audacious, targeting campaigns by the opposition parties and their candidates.
Cole pointed out that his party and Accord Party had the governorship campaigns of their respective candidates disrupted last week.
He stressed that during the Port Harcourt City Local Government Area rally of the APC, which was held at the Rumuwoji traditional grounds in the Mile 1 Diobu area on Thursday, January 19, 2023, the venue came under attack with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
He said: “This dastardly attack left five members of the APC injured with shrapnel extracted from their bodies while receiving emergency medical attention.
“Those injured were a male and four females: Hope Isaac, Paul Oghonomu, Felicia Gogo, Amba Lizzy Frank and Angela Gift-Koko of Wards 6 and 20 of Port Harcourt City Local Government Area.”
Cole revealed that the campaign convoy of Dumo Lulu-Briggs, governorship candidate of Accord Party, on Saturday came under yet another attack by alleged PDP thugs wielding guns and other dangerous weapons.
“Observers of Rivers politics trace the foundation of the unprovoked attacks by anti-democratic forces to the enactment of Executive Orders 21 and 22 by Governor Nyesom Wike prohibiting political campaigns in public places, particularly government-owned schools.
“The Executive Orders also imposed a non-refundable cautionary deposit of N5 million on political parties for the use of the facilities in each local government area, in contravention of limitations imposed on campaign financing by political parties and politicians in the Electoral Act 2022.”
The APC gubernatorial candidate said Wike had taken further steps which point squarely at him as the architect of the climate of political violence that has besieged the state.
He quoted Wike as directing his loyalists to approach the 2023 general election with a belligerent mentality. “It is a fight to finish, and do not be afraid,” Wike was quoted to have told his supporters.
“Emboldened by the governor’s reckless instigation, the factional PDP thugs have charged at the opposition parties campaigns and the splinter group supporting the presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, with renewed vigour. Campaign materials, such as billboards are destroyed with relish while opposition rallies are disrupted to the delight of the state government.
“As tense as the political environment has become in Rivers State, evoking memories of the mindless violence, bloodshed and killings of APC members that attended Wike’s approach to the 2015 general elections, Rivers people are concerned that the Commissioner of Police, Rivers State Command, Okon Effiong Okon, is lending impetus to the ongoing thuggery of the PDP.
“When Wike painted the attack on the APC rally as a product of an internal crisis within the Rumuwoji community to whittle down the burden of guilt on his conscience, he only re-echoed the Commissioner of Police who declared that no IED was used in the attack prior to directing the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Operations, and the bomb disposal unit to investigate the incident.
“Regardless of the prejudicial position of the police commissioner who has clearly reneged on his pledge at the assumption of office in October last year to uphold the rights of Nigerians and guarantee freedom to all political parties in the build-up to the 2023 elections to operate, we reiterate that the APC rally was attacked and same was an attempt by the ruling party to intimidate and chase away APC supporters.”
According to him, the police cannot afford not to be neutral in Rivers State if the mission of the Commissioner of Police was peacekeeping, recalling that the same commissioner had turned down his party’s request for police security to march on a peaceful protest against the Wike’s executive orders.
He noted that the governing party in the state had never hidden its intentions to refuse opposition political parties campaign freedom or participation in a free and fair electoral process.
Cole said, “We reiterate our earlier call on security agencies, particularly the Commissioner of Police, Rivers State Command and Director of Department of State Services (DSS) to call the governor to order.
“Let Wike call off the urge to use his supporters to fight in the state, disrupting a peaceful power transition after the general election.
“Rivers people deserve a right to elect a government of their own choice, and no one should be seen abusing his office to thwart the people’s rights which the constitution guarantees, because he has a selfish agenda to impose his successor on the state.”