By Stephen Ubanna
There is palpable tension in Rivers state over today’s governorship and States Assembly election. This is because of the militarisation of the state ostensibly to scare the ruling People’s Democratic Party , PDP, supporters from coming to vote.
Many believe that the large presence of security operatives in the state including the Department of State Security, DSS, was at the instance of Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of the state and minister of Transportation and close political ally of President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC. The people’s remarks on Amaechi over his connivance with the APC leadership to militarise the state because of his determination to take over control of the state speaks volume. ”Is this how you would pay back the state that had made you”, they were said to have told the minister.
The tension appears to have been heightened on Thursday, March 8, 2019, with the alleged invasion of Tokom Ateke’,a former Niger Delta militant , who was now the Amanyanabo of Okochiri Kingdom in Okirika local government Area, regarded as a stronghold of the PDP. It is the home base of Patience Jonathan, wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan and arch supporter of Nyesom Wike , the state governor.
The soldiers that had attacked the Okochiri’s Monarch Palace may have come with a standing order to ramsack the Palace to ensure that there are no hidden guns that could be used to resist any attack of disrupting the election the area. They were said to have rained bullets on the walls when they gained entry into the Palace to scare people away that the Army of invasion has come.
Eyewitness account disclosed that one person was killed, forcing the people to march out to the streets to protest the killing, an indication that today’s election in the are amay
Note that soldiers from the 6th Division were said to have earlier invaded and ransacked the residence of Inunosisi Gogo Jaja, the state Commissioner of Education and Benjamin Diri, Co-co ordinator of Arise Nigeria to force the PDP supporters from coming out to vote for the Candidates of their choice. The invasions, according to security experts was against the directive handed down to the Army Staff Officers, GOCs and Commanders, by Tukur Buratai, a Lt.Gen. and Chief of Army Staff, CAS, that soldiers deployed to monitor the election must conduct themselves asProfessionals and remain apolitical in dealing with the politicians.
Recall that Wike, the PDP ,governor of the state, who is seeking re-election , had earlier raised alarm of plans by the APC with their thugs and political mercenaries to kidnap the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, ostensibly to create the impression that there is confussion in the state in order to encourage Mahmood Yakubu, a Professor and Chairman , Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to postpone the election in the south-south state. He had alleged that those behind the plot were working in connivance with the security operatives, including the Army.
Onyema Nwachuku, a Colonel and acting Director of Defense Information may have known that there is trouble ahead if people of the state and other states of the Federation were not assured of their safety to vote, they may not come out . He was said to reassured Nigerians that they have no cause to worry, insisting that the soldiers were deployed to the states to compliment the effort of the police men in ensuring that ”Nigerians perform their Civic Obligation s in peaceful and secure atmosphere”. That was how far he could go.
What is happening in Rivers state may not be different from what is happening in Akwa Ibom, another oil rich state in the south-south geo-political region. Only recently a combined team of the police and the Army had intercepted 10 buses heading to Akwa Ibom state from Benin, the Edo state capital , and incidentally, the home state of Adams Oshiomhole and National Chairman of APC.
The buses , which have the full compliments of Passengers: party thugs and mercenaries, were said to have been hired by Oshiomhole, the APC , Chairman , working in concert with Godswell Akpabio, a former governor of the state and Senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria ostensibly to disrupt the election in the state in order to sway victory in favour of Nsima Ekere, the APC, governorship Candidate ,against Udom Emmanuel, the PDP governorship Candidate in the state.
The cat may have been let out of the bag by the hoodlums in their Confessional Statement while being interrogated. They were said to have been taken to a location where they were forced to lie ,facing the ground.
The worry of the security operatives who intercepted the buses was that five of the buses which were not in the
Indeed, a few days after the interception of the bus ahead of the March 9, 2019, governorship and states Assembly election, the INEC office in Ibesikpo Asutan local government was set ablaze by hoodlums alleged to be APC hired hoodlum. Ibesikpo Asutan. APC officials claimed that it was the PDP thugs that set the Commission’s office on fire to give the police room to go after the party officials to weaken them.
Mike Igini, the state REC, who was at the scene of the fire incident, confirmed that several card readers and other important electoral materials that could have been used for the election including generator sets were destroyed. Recall that the ballot papers for the election which were said to have been in the area could have been destroyed as well both for the quick intervention of the police.
It was learnt that the DPO, Of the local government, had mobilised his officers who moved in to the scene to evacuate the entire ballot papers which were said to have been put under tight security . The fire incident may have forced INEC, to look out for states , including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, which have excess card readers to support.
It was gathered that the Commission’s office in Abuja had agreed to support the Akwa Ibom state local government with new card readers, which an INEC , official confirmed had been configured for the election.
In spite of the fact that the police assisted in evacuating the ballot papers from the burnt INEC office, Ibahim Kaoje, the state Commissioner of police , CP, may not have given the people a satisfactory answer as to the cause of the arson. The only information , the CP, was said to have volunteered so far was that ”investigations are still ongoing and when completed the people would be informed”. Perhaps, to avoid a future occurrence, security may have been tightened up around the INEC offices and centres across the state.
It is instructive to not that notwithstanding the tension in Rivers and Akwa Ibom states, the electorates still trouped out in their thousands to vote during the election. The governorship and states Assembly election, was said to have held in 29 states of the Federation excluding Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, Bayela and Kogi states.