Rivers State, the obvious capital of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry could easily cycle into violence during the elections as one of the top aides of President Muhammadu Buhari, is widely alleged to be laying the foundation for that.
The over five million people of the state, going by the 2006 census data, are currently waiting with bated breath on how Abuja will allay their fears of avoidable bloodletting during the elections.
Rivers is home to many ethnic groups: Ikwerre, Ogoni, Abua, Ekpeye, Ibani, Opobo, Eleme, Okrika, Kalabari, Etche, Ogba, Engenni, Egbema, Obolo and others.
Transportation Minister, Chibuike Amaechi said, whatever the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) wants in Rivers State, we are equal to the task. It’s as simple as that. It gets to a stage where a man must be a man. Your Excellency, I’m not going to Abuja anymore. I am here from today till (Election Day).
In 2015, the army tried to arrest me as a sitting governor. You have a governor who is busy lobbying us, trying to negotiate with us, ‘Let us give you presidency, you give me governor.’ He is afraid. We will battle him to the last. On Saturday, they should get ready.
The support we want is that the President should just thank us when we finish. We are ready for them. They used federal and state institutions against us. They kill our people, APC people, every day; cut off their necks every day. The right to choose our leaders to stop the killings — they got a state high court judge to give judgment.
Governor Nyesom Wike has already told President Buhari that Rivers people will never support violence as being orchestrated by leaders of APC in the state. The state government is therefore, calling on Nigerians and the international community to hold Amaechi and the APC responsible for any outbreak of violence during the elections.
The call was made in a statement by the state Information and Communications Commissioner, Emma Okah, in reaction to the threats of violence issued by Amaechi in the presence of President Buhari at the APC presidential campaign rally in Port Harcourt, the state capital, on Tuesday.
Amaechi who also doubles as the Director General of the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation, openly threatened fire and brimstone against the PDP and peoples of Rivers in the coming elections, promising that he will visit the people with violence of any magnitude no matter what it takes, to secure votes for his party.
For the state government, ‘’this threat is deeply frightening and all well meaning Nigerians and indeed members of the International community should take note of this threat from high quarters which the world heard directly or live on Channels Television, right before President Buhari and yet nobody reprimanded him. Unless the Federal Government takes preventive action, the minister will carry out his threat using some conscripted security agencies and innocent people may die in the process.’’
Continuing, Okah said, ‘’it is indeed more frightening that while the President has repeatedly assured Nigerians and the international community of free, fair and peaceful elections in 2019, an appointee of the President would brazenly threaten bloodshed in the presence of the President and other APC chieftains and yet nobody cautioned him. This threat is a confirmation of earlier accusation that the Transport Minister is promoting procurement of arms and ammunition and handing same over to criminals while enlisted security agents would supervise and give covering fire to their violence during the elections.’’
The state government has therefore demanded that the Federal Government calls Amaechi and the APC to order and spare Rivers of another orgy of violence like the state witnessed in the legislative rerun houses election in 2015 and 2016.
In the mean time, the PDP has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to immediately list Amaechi, for inciting violence with war songs at the APC Presidential Campaign rally in Port Harcourt.The party notes that the threat of violence by Amaechi which came few days after President Buhari called on his supporters to get ready to fight; as well as the threat by Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna state, who declared that members of the global democratic institutions working for peaceful elections will return to their countries in body bags, have all exposed APC’s plot against peaceful elections in Nigeria.
PDP Spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, said: ‘’It is completely reprehensible that Amaechi, who had the privilege of governing Rivers state for eight years, will resort to importation of thugs into the state and inciting violence, just because the people have rejected President Buhari and his party has no candidate in the state for the general elections.
‘’Nigerians understand Amaechi frustration as a salesman of a failed product, in President Buhari, which he also attested to in his leaked audio recording, but seeking to vent this frustration on the peace-loving people of Rivers state is totally unacceptable.
‘’Amaechi should have understood that Nigerians, across the board, have rejected President Buhari and reached a consensus to elect the people’s candidate, Atiku Abubakar, as the next President of our country. He should know that no form of intimidation, enticement or blackmail can change that reality.
‘’The PDP therefore urges Nigerians to hold Amaechi and the APC responsible should there be any breakdown of law and order in River or any other part of our country, before, during and after the elections.’’
During an interactive session between President Buhari and traditional rulers of the state in Port Harcourt, Governor Wike said leaders who have imported war songs will not succeed. Amaechi at the APC Presidential Campaign Rally, sang a war song in Igbo language, threatening to unleash violence on Rivers during the elections.
‘’Rivers does not believe in violence and we will not support any dance for violence. Those who sing other people’s song for violence, they know what they achieve. They know what they gain’’, Wike said as he assured Nigerians that evil plots to fuel violence by the APC will fail. ‘’I want to assure the President that Rivers is a peaceful state. It will never be a violent state. I will not support violence and Rivers people will not support violence.’’
Chairman of the state Council of Traditional Rulers, Dandeson Douglas Jaja, urged President Buhari to ensure that security agencies act professionally during the elections. He said that security agencies should not join the fray and complicate the issues of electoral violence.
While lamenting the closure of the seaports in the state which have negatively affected their economy, the monarch called for restructuring of the country so that all parts of the federation will grow at their own pace and control their resources as well as called for free, fair and credible polls in the state even as he appealed to the President to check the tide of violence in the country.
Buhari stated that law enforcement agencies will be asked to respect Nigerians and that elections will be free and fair, adding that nobody will be allowed to intimidate people. He added that the snatching of ballot boxes will be discouraged.
Buhari claimed that his administration has achieved the three cardinal points of his 2015 campaign. He said that security, economy and fight against corruption have witnessed improvements.