Divisions within the ranks of the groups helping the security agencies in the war against terrorism in Adamawa State are causing another security menace, writes Daji Sani, in Yola
The stakes were high in the controversial Rivers State rerun election last week and the major actors were largely aware of the main factors that would determine the winners: effective deployment of violence and vote rigging. But underneath all that was a well-oiled propaganda machine, apparently, designed to manipulate public opinion. The leaderships of the two fiercely contesting parties, the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party were aware of the situation and they seemed prepared for it.
For instance, in the build up to the elections, former governor of the state and incumbent Minister of Transport, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, who is also the APC leader in the state, pointedly accused Governor Nyesom Wike of being the brain behind the ruthless killings in the state lately. Wike and his camp, on their part, blamed the killings on cultists.
Though findings by THISDAY investigation revealed that the killings were, indeed, perpetrated by cult groups, the factors underlying the killings were basically political. The cultists, just as practically every segment of the state, have been divided along political lines.
Just as football teams may not necessarily commission their fans to start a fight – which they often do – the cult groups in Rivers State, in a show of political supremacy, have been on a killing spree.
“Today (Friday, March 18), they killed a security official in Etche. They just attacked a place in Ahoada East. We hope that tomorrow (Election Day) there will be enough security forces to prevent these PDP people from disrupting the election. They are doing that because they are afraid of defeat,” Amaechi told THISDAY a few hours before the election. He heaped the blame on Wike and his PDP.
The former governor disagreed that cultists in the state were divided along the PDP-APC lines, stating, “It is not possible! Are you saying that the cultists in APC are so weak that they are being killed every day? The pregnant women that are being killed, are they also cultists? The ward chairman of APC that was killed in Ward 4, an old man, are you saying he is also a cultist?”
Some have wondered if APC was so confident that the military and other security agencies would provide adequate security during the rerun poll that they did not make any contingency security arrangements.
Wike alleged that the invitation of the military during the election was an orchestrated plan by the APC to rig the election, and not for purposes of stopping the killings in the state. What he did not say was whether it was better for the cultists to have been allowed to continue taking innocent lives than for the military to intervene to complement the police and other security agencies to provide security during the election.
The police in Rivers State seemed overwhelmed by the web of lies by the politicians and were unable to promptly appreciate the truth about the issues. Or how else can anyone explain the controversy over the Ward 10 Collation Officer, Ekwi Adebisa, who PDP alleged to have been abducted by Amaechi with soldiers, but who was later found at the Mile 1 Police Station, Port Harcourt?
The provocative news filtered in March 20 afternoon, at a time that emotions were very high among the party supporters over the delay in the declaration of results. Any news could spark bloodletting and yet, it was said by the PDP that Adebisa was taken to Novotel Hotel where Amaechi, the APC governorship candidate, Mr. Dakuku Peterside, and the acting Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, had lodged.
There was also a rumour that PDP leaders, including Wike, visited the police station for explanation and when they stormed the station, a standoff ensued and the former governor, Peterside, Semenitari, and the AIG, Adisa Bolanta, eventually left with Adebisa.
Reacting to the Adebisa issue, the special adviser (media) to Semenitari, Bekee Anyalewechi, said there was no truth in the story peddled by the PDP-led Rivers State Government. He said it was Wike, with a retinue of aides, that invaded the police station and held Adebisa hostage.
Anyalewechi stated, “Mrs. Ekwi Adebisa, the Port Harcourt city ward 10 collation officer, for the March 19 rerun legislative election in Rivers State, was moved by force to the police station. The result she had collated was separated from her. While at the police station, agents of the Rivers State Government brought her under duress to write a statement that she had been abducted and made to falsify the ward result by agents of All Progressives Congress.”
It is still unclear which side of the story is the truth. Despite the fact that it was an issue that had to do with the police, the police authorities were yet to come clear on who was telling the truth. So the public can pick any side of the story to believe.
As the tension continued in Rivers State after the election, Peterside alleged that he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on his life Monday. His special assistant (media), Sylvester Asoya, said his boss narrowly escaped death when his vehicle was attacked by gunmen in two utility vehicles on his way from the Port Harcourt International Airport.
He was said to be in his car with the Rivers State APC chairman, Dr. Ibiamu, and the deputy governorship candidate of the APC in the April 2015 election, Hon. H.O. Asita, when he escaped the assassins’ bullets narrowly. He also alleged that the two jeeps belonged to Emeka Woke, Wike’s Chief of Staff, and they were carrying the two unknown gunmen who trailed Peterside to UTC Junction and opened fire on his car.
But a different version of the story by Wike’s media aide, Simeon Nwaka, alleged that it was Peterside’s security aides that shot the aide to the governor’s chief of staff at UTC Junction in Port Harcourt.
Looking closely at the picture presented to the media by Nwaka and published by some national dailies, the vehicle in which the chief of staff’s aide was lying did not look as a vehicle that was assailed with bullets, as he claimed. Aside lying in the vehicle, there was no evidence of gunshot wounds on him, neither was his face shown in the celebrated picture.
This is similar to the case of one Lucky Igweh, who was allegedly shot by soldiers at Rumuokwuta in Obio/Akpor local government, home council of Wike. Rather than being taken to the hospital for emergency treatment, he was brought to the governor’s polling unit from where he was rushed to the hospital by policemen deployed to the area. Though the picture was published in some national dailies, when THISDAY, which was at the polling unit, closely observed Igweh, who was purportedly shot at almost the middle of his chest, it was obvious that had the boy been hit by military bullet, as claimed, he would have died instantly.
More so, he was practically unruffled. Even if he was shot, it must have been from pellets of locally made guns and not a high calibre firearm, as alleged.
Till this moment, no one can say for sure how many people lost their lives in the rerun election because there have been conflicting figures. The truth is that many people died but it is until the police authorities unravel those behind the act that the perpetrators can really be identified. To this extent, the truth about who killed who, who perpetrated the violence seen before, during and after the elections will remain in the minds of the masterminds, and what the general public knows will remain in the realm of propaganda.
Fact is, however, that Rivers is a predominantly PDP state, but with Amaechi, a former governor who has warmed his way into the hearts of many people of the state, the APC carved a space for itself in the political atmosphere of the state. So, even if his party may not win majority of the positions up for grabs, it won’t be expected that the APC would perform woefully. But current the trend in the election is not reflecting that – going by the results released so far.
The PDP is already winning the elections with a wide margin. Yet, as in the case of Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State during the governorship election that brought him to power for a second term, the PDP is crying loudest. Though the APC is not agreeing with the results and is calling for the cancellation of the entire process.
So, as things stand today, it seems PDP is beating APC to the use of the attack media tactics. APC used this tactic while in the opposition at the federal level.