By Stephen Ubanna
Barely one week after the conduct of the governorship and states Assembly election, the Army High Command has moved to save its image over the alleged assassination attempt on Nyesom Wike , governor of Rivers state last February.
Wike has raised
The governor disclosed that he could not have escaped the assassination plot but for the alarm raised by his police orderly when he noticed the unusual movement , forcing the him to divert his movement to another street along the busy Aba road in the state Capital. But the suspected soldiers were said to have still trailed him to the street, fueling speculation that that they were” hired killers”.
The alleged assassination attempt on the Rivers state governor by soldiers may have rattled the military High Command who had earlier believed the report of the Commander of the 6th Division who had described the governor’s claim as a cheap blackmail to have a rethink. They may have realised that they could no longer put the matter under cover because of the reports in foreign Newspapers about it which had exposed the security agencies personnel, particular the soldiers and the Policemen to be supportive of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, to take a decision to investigate the governor’s assassination claim.
As a prelude to getting to the root of the matter as well as allegations of misconduct against the soldiers deployed to the state during the conduct of the general elections, the Army may have decided to set up a high powered Investigation Committee to look into the matter.
Sagir Musa, a Colonel and Army Public Relations Officer, said the setting up of the Committee was at the instance of Tukur Buratai, a Lt. General and Chief of Army Staff, CAS. While inaugurating the Committee, Kay Isiyaku, a Major General and the Army Chief of Administration confirmed that Buratai, the CAS , had already started the Investigation to ensure that soldiers deployed for the election security duties in the state, conducted themselves within laid down Rules of Engagement and the Code of Conduct.
The Committee , which is headed by T.A. Gariga, a Major General, has promised to be ”objective , fair and transparent ” in line with their terms of reference. Given an insider information, Sagir , the Army Spokesperson said the Committee members were directed to collate and thoroughly analyse all reports to ”determine the veracity of the allegations including the assassination attempt on Wike , the Rivers state governor” .
The Committee was also said to have been mandated to look into the circumstances that may have led to the killing of Lt. Luka Kurmi and the serious injuries sustained by another senior officer and other soldiers in the state, particular at Abonnema, Akuku Toru, Local government Area , during the conduct of the February 23, 2019, Presidential and National Assembly election.
Residents of Abonnema, had said that the town was a theatre of war as the Army laid siege on the Akuku Toru local government Area as they abandoned their mission of providing security to ensure a smooth conduct of the election but allied themselves with the APC, leaders in the state and their supporters in the Area to rig the election.
Recall that before giving his approval for the soldiers to be deployed to the state and other states of the Federation on election duties, Buratai , the Army Chief , had enjoined them to be apolitical . It was therefore not very surprising that when he started getting negative reports about the conduct of the officers, particular in the oil Rich Rivers state, he felt there must be something wrong .
A security source to The Value News that he became very worried when information filtered out that the soldiers have sacked the policemen guarding the Result Collation centre at Port Harcourt to prevent the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Returning officer, from proceeding with the announcement of the governorship election result in the state.
The police men may have known the intention of the soldiers to hijack the result sheet and other electoral materials used for the governorship election that they quickly called for reinforcement to engage the soldiers in the war of supremacy to take over the security of the collation centre.
Many believe that Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of the state and minister of Transportation and who is incidentally the PC, leader in the state, had mobilised the security agencies personnel to invade the Result Collation centre in PortHarcourt to disrupt the electoral process in order to declare the election inconclusive.
In the midst of the confusion, the Commission officials were forced to disappear with the electoral materials to avoid destruction by the warring security agencies personnel. The disruption of the electoral process in the state may have given Mahmood Yakubu, a Professor and Chairman, INEC to suspend the electoral process in the state against the promise of the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, in the state to continue the announcement of the governorship election result on Monday, March 11, 2019 .
Note that at many fora, both in words and action. the Borno state born CAS, had consistently made it clear that under his watch ”soldiers must remain neutral, respect Human Rights and abide by the Rule of Law during the conduct of the Presidential and National Assembly as well as the governorship and states Assembly elections.
The soldiers , according to the CAS, were deployed to the states, for the general elections under ”Operation Safe Conduct that was set up to compliment the efforts of the police and other security agencies to ensure a hitch-free and successful elections in the country”.
He may have been shocked that the troops abandoned their role to disrupt the electoral process in Rivers state leading to the killing of a serving Army Lieutenant and injuring of another senior officer and other soldiers in the state. Political watchers see the Army Investigation on the conduct of its personnel as an afterthought. This is because the damage had already been done to the image of the Army.
Wike, who had alleged that the target of a powerful political force in the state and at the Federal level led by Amaechi, was to frustrate his re-election bid, in several tweets on Friday, March 15, 2019, said that he is confident of victory in the governorship election despite the suspension of the electoral process in the state by INEC. He noted that the PDP , would win the election squarely”, stressing that the electoral umpire wants to follow the due process to avoid making mistakes . The governor who described what is happening in the state as” sad and a drama”, insists that the will of the t people must prevail.
In a solidarity visit by the newly elected members of the House of Representatives from the state to the governor in Brick Houuse, popular, government Hose, he had assured them that there was no cause to worry as the party would record a landslide victory in the general elections in the state. He had told the elected lawmakers from the thirteen Federal Constituencies in the state that his ”re-election was not negotiable because he knew he had won the election. He has reason to think so. ” We have 13 House of Representatives Seats and the PDP clinched all of them, We have three Senate Seats, one has been declared and PDP won. He maintained that that when the remaining two Seats would be declared , the PDP , would still win .
In spite of the fact that that the Army has not concluded its investigations on the alleged misconduct of troops deployed to Rivers state during the general elections, INEC, has given hope of the final release of the governorship and state Assembly election in the state which was suspended on Sunday, March 10, 2019, on the allegations of disruption of the electoral process in some local government Areas in the state.
The Commission which were initially sitting on the fence over the Rivers state election matter as though they were under instruction to ensure that Wike was kicked out of Brick House, the state government House, may have shot itself on the leg when it described as ”unlawful soldiers invasion of the state Collation centre and arrest of elections officials” .
Describing it as an act of intimidation by the armed gang , the Commission was said to have expressed its displeasure at the disruption of the electoral process by the soldiers to ”avert the will of the people”, insisting on expeditious completion of the collation process where results of the election have been announced
An aggrieved Yakubu, the INEC boss, has promised to engage the Heads of the various security agencies at the national level and the Inter-Agency Security Consultative Committee at the state levels to demand neutrality and professionalism of security personnel in order to secure a peaceful environment for the completion of the elections even in states like Adamawa, home state of Atiku Abubakar, Presidential Candidate of PDP, Benue, Bauchi, Kano, Sokoto an Plateau and where the governorship and states Assembly election had been declared inconclusive.
Already, the electoral umpire has set Wednesday, March 20, 2019, for completion of the electoral process throughout the country, an indication that the people of the oil rich Rivers state would know the next occupant of the Brick House, popular government House on March 20th, 2019 , between Wike , ,Lulu Briggs, Candidate of the Social Democratic Party, SPC and the Labour PartyCandidate.
As at Sunday, March 10, 2019,indications were rife that Wike, the incumbent governor of the state , on the platform of the PDP, who had already won the 17 local government Areas that had been announced in the state before the armed gang intervention and suspension of the electoral process which clearly put him the lead will win the election.