• This is election of our lives, says Transport Minister
• State govt declares Ganduje persona non grata
• Illegal withdrawal of my CSO has put my life at risk, Wike tells IG
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The national leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) admitted yesterday that it came to Rivers State with the full complement of the federal might to ensure the success of the party in tomorrow’s federal and state legislative rerun elections in the state.
This came as the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, described the polls as “the election of our lives” and called on APC members and supporters to defend themselves if attacked on Election Day.
Addressing an APC mega campaign rally for the polls at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt yesterday, the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, declared that the party brought the federal might to Rivers State ahead of tomorrow’s polls.
No fewer than 10 state governors, ministers, members of the National Assembly and other party bigwigs attended the rally.
APC state governors that attended the rally included Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Simon Lalong (Plateau) and Mohammed Abubakar (Bauchi).
Also present were Governors Samuel Ortom (Benue), Godwin Obaseki (Edo) and Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), as well as Ondo State Governor-elect, Rotimi Akeredolu, and his deputy, Hon. Ajayi.
Odigie-Oyegun said: “As you can see, we came in full force; the whole federal might is here. We have the governors here today. Our senators and other members of the National Assembly are here today. Our women leaders are here today to pass one message.
“That is because we respect you, our members in Rivers State. We respect the courage of our members in Rivers State; we are behind you. We want to let you know that we have heard your cries; we have seen your anguish.
“The message is simple: enough is enough, enough is enough. This is the beginning of the rescue mission in Rivers State.”
He stated that the situation of things in Rivers State had degenerated under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led administration and said the APC would come to the rescue of the people.
“We now have a blood-thirsty regime in Rivers State. I am glad with what I am hearing: if they push you, push them. If they snatch a result sheet, snatch it back,” he said.
Also addressing the rally, Amaechi called on members of the APC not to allow members of the PDP to intimidate them during the rerun elections.
He said: “This is the election of our lives. Before, I used to tell you, please, don’t fight. What I will tell you today is do not kill anybody but do not get killed. My friend in the army says if you hear the sound of a gun, it is not meant for you. The implication therefore is that if you allow them to shoot, you will die.
“It is not only them that have the right to life, you also have a right to life. I don’t want to hear that they shot me and took away result sheets. If they take result sheets from you, collect it back from them. You know I have never said anything like this before.”
Also speaking, the Chairman of the National Legislative Rerun Election Campaign Committee of the APC and Kano Governor, Alhaji Abdullahi Ganduje, described Rivers State as the most corrupt in the country, adding that the APC was bent on changing the status.
“There is no peace in Rivers State. Peace is lacking, peace is dead. Rivers State is the centre, nucleus of corruption in Nigeria. That is why you have to vote APC candidates to apply the brakes to the drama that is taking place in the Rivers State Government House,” he said.
He also called on APC supporters to defend themselves during and after the elections.
But in a swift reaction, the Rivers State Government declared Ganduje persona non grata and called on the Inspector General of Police (IG) to remove him from the state.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communication, Dr. Austin Tam-George, condemned Ganduje for inciting violence in Rivers State, during his speech at the APC campaign rally in Port Harcourt.
He said Ganduje had charged APC supporters to resort to violence during the rerun elections in Rivers State tomorrow, quoting him as saying: “If they shoot you, take cover and shoot them.”
The commissioner added: “This is a shameful and egregious invitation to violence by the Kano State governor.”
He called on the IG to immediately remove the Kano governor from Rivers State in order to forestall the breakdown of law and order in the state.
He also blamed Amaechi for importing thugs and Boko Haram fighters disguised as APC supporters to cause mayhem in Rivers State.
The commissioner urged the people of Rivers State to resist any acts of electoral fraud by the police, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and APC before, during and after the elections tomorrow.
28,000 Police Deployed for Polls
Ahead of the elections, the IG, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, announced an increase in the number of policemen deployed in Rivers State for the exercise to 28,000.
Idris, who made the announcement in Port Harcourt while addressing security agencies in the state, said a total of 28 gunboats had also been deployed to secure the waterways in the state, while 20 police dogs, and 26 units of riot police had also been deployed.
He further said that a total of 350 patrol vehicles to be manned by riot policemen and the Rapid Response Team (RRT) were being deployed with a medical team in the event of emergency and checkpoints to check the movement of arms and fake officers during the election.
Emphasising that the deployment of personnel and logistics were meant to ensure peaceful polls, the police chief called for the collaboration of all sister agencies to ensure that the police succeed tomorrow.
While stressing the restriction of movement in the state from Friday midnight, Idris said: “We are coming out with a lot of enforcement to support the Rivers State Police Command. We are deploying over 28,000 police officers.
“On that day, we have to dominate the waterways by all means. We are reinforcing operations with 28 gunboats, we are deploying 18 extra Armoured Personnel Carriers which are going to be used to dominate the whole environment so that people can conduct elections in a peaceful manner.
“Twenty police dogs, most of these dogs will be stationed at the collation centres, both at the local government and state levels, to ensure that we protect INEC offices in each of the areas.”
He further stated that the three senatorial zones would be manned by a Police Commissioner each, while the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) in charge of Operations would be in charge of the whole operations in the state.
Idris, who warned police officers not to move out of their areas of operations, said to check abuse of the police force, all officers attached to politicians would be withdrawn and kept as reserves.
He said: “No politician will go to the polling units with any police officer. Nobody should be allowed to carry money in his car, nobody should be allowed to move with arms.”
He also expressed regrets that politicians had brought the image of the police to disrepute.
He called on the people of Rivers State and all security agencies to ensure that the elections are concluded.
Speaking earlier, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Francis Odesanya, stated that Rivers State has a history of electoral crises, but quickly added that the police was doing all within its powers to ensure successful elections tomorrow.
Odesanya thanked Idris for the visit and the provision of massive logistics for the command to aid its operations on Election Day.
Speaking on behalf of other security agencies, the Commander, 2 Brigade, Port Harcourt, Brigadier General Hamisu Hassan, assured the people of the preparedness of the security agencies towards a successful electoral exercise.
PDP Levels More Accusations
However, the state chapter of the PDP again said it had uncovered plans by the APC and INEC, with the connivance of security agencies, to hijack and swap the original result sheets for fake ones during the elections.
The PDP, in a statement by its Chairman, Felix Obuah, and signed by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Jerry Needam, said the agreement was sealed in a secret meeting between the state leadership of the APC, security agents, and the electoral body at the residence of unnamed APC chieftains in Port Harcourt.
The statement claimed that no decision was reached at their first meeting owing to INEC’s insistence on the involvement of security agents to perfect the deal.
Elaborating on the alleged plot, the statement further said that certain persons hired and equipped for the assignment would cause a crisis in each of the collation centres to enable the security agents to come in under the pretext of calming the situation and while the melee lasts, the fake INEC result sheets would be substituted for the genuine ones.
Based on the allegations, Obuah warned against any attempts by the APC, INEC officials and security personnel to scuttle this last opportunity to settle outstanding election issues in the state by taking sides and, or indulging in any act(s) that would cause a crisis in the state.
According to him, all PDP agents had been asked to be peaceful, law-abiding, but must insist that the right thing is done and never to be intimidated by anybody.
“Let me restate that we are ready for the elections having campaigned adequately, and demonstrated that we have all that it takes to give our people quality leadership through Governor Nyesom Wike’s landmark achievements in one and a half years which our good people of Rivers State have seen and acknowledged and are willing to reciprocate by filing out in their numbers on Saturday to confirm.
“We will not therefore take it kindly with any act, overtly or covertly, aimed at ridiculing Saturday’s exercise,” he said.
He enjoined INEC and the security agencies to caution their personnel to allow peace reign in Rivers State by being fair and unbiased during the elections.
Wike Slams IG
Meanwhile, the Rivers State governor has told the IG that the surreptitious withdrawal of his chief security office (CSO) has exposed his life to danger.
He also asked the IG to transfer the Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, Steven Hasso, and the Commander of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Akin Fakorede, for deliberately compromising the security of Rivers State for partisan reasons.
Speaking when he granted Idris audience yesterday at the Government House, Port Harcourt, Wike expressed regret that without consultation, the IG took sides with an overtly partisan Assistant Commissioner of Police, who attempted to invade Government House with APC supporters.
The governor said he was shocked by the inaccurate statement released by the office of the IG that his CSO was withdrawn for misconduct.
He informed the IG that contrary to his claim that his CSO was withdrawn for misconduct, his police aide had only stopped Hasso and an APC hired crowd from invading Government House, Port Harcourt.
“The moment you touch my CSO, you are telling me that you are ready for me. As I sit, I am left bare, I have no protection.
“When people start to embarrass the governor, take his CSO without information, it is completely wrong. What you have done is the highest disrespect to the office of the governor.
“I am pleading with you, my life is very important. I will take any CSO you bring to me that I don’t know? This is a matter of security and protection, it is not what you do with levity,” he said.
The governor advised the IG against politicising the security of the rerun elections, because after the polls there would still be governance.
He told the Police High Command that the people of Rivers State would support an unbiased police force, but warned that the people would resist any attempt to use the security agencies for untoward electoral acts.
He said: “If the police want free and fair elections, the police will get free and fair elections.”
Wike also berated the police for declaring a statewide curfew without consultation with the Rivers State Security Council.
He reminded the IG that he had written several letters to his office without getting a response. He informed him that the state SARS Commander, Mr. Akin Fakorede, should be redeployed for distributing SARS uniforms to APC thugs.
Earlier, the IG said that he was in the state to ensure that the elections are peaceful.
He urged the people of Rivers State to support the security agencies to deliver peaceful polls.