By Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has called on the international community to continue to mount pressure on the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct credible and peaceful elections across the country, including Rivers State.
In a statement he personally issued on Saturday night, Wike said the original plan of the federal government was to isolate Rivers State and truncate the elections in the state.
He said: “We very much appreciate the international community and the various country missions, whose spontaneous outrage truncated their original plan to isolate and prevent Rivers State from participating in the general election with all the other States of the country.
“In the circumstance, I wish to call on the international community and especially our partners in the free democratic world, including the United States, the European Union, France and the United Kingdom, not to abandon the people of Nigeria and to continue to put effective pressure on the federal government to allow the rescheduled general election to peacefully hold in Rivers State on the new dates they have fixed”.
Wike said the APC-led federal government pressured INEC to stagger elections across the country, targeting specific states for postponement.
“Contrary to the excuses being fed on the public, we heard on good authority that the chairman of INEC was unduly pressured by the APC-led federal government to postpone the general election.
“Sensing correctly that it was going to lose the general election if held on February 16, 2019, the APC-led federal government ordered INEC to set in motion the process to stagger the general elections by withholding elections in Rivers and other strategic States like Akwa Ibom, Lagos and Kwara States to some other dates,” he said.
Wike added: “The resistance by the chairman of INEC and the international observers to that evil directive and the ensuing confusion effectively clogged INEC’s preparations, especially in the timely distribution of election materials to local government areas across the country.
“For instance, here in Rivers State, the APC-led federal government deliberately refused to allow the election materials already in the custody of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to be distributed to any of the 23 Local Government Areas (LGAs) on the blind excuse that some misguided APC members were demonstrating at the state’s INEC office.
“It is relevant to mention that there was no rational connection between the demonstrations by the APC- hired thugs and the overarching national interest to deploy election materials to the LGAs in preparation for the Saturday elections”.
Wike stated that despite the arrival of sensitive electoral materials in the state, certain security agencies frustrated distribution before the postponement.
He said: “Yet, some security personnel, including serving military officers were sent into the CBN’s premise by the APC-led federal government to prevent INEC from distributing the elections materials to the 23 LGAs of the state.
“Furthermore, even when the elections was yet to take place, the security agencies, especially the police went about indiscriminately arresting supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Khana, Gokana and some other LGAs of the state in spite of the repeated assurance of neutrality by the Acting Inspector General of Police”.
While declaring that his administration has performed credibly across all spheres, he regretted that some unpatriotic Rivers people are collaborating with anti-democratic forces to thwart the will of Rivers people.
He said: “In the same vein I wish to appreciate the people of Rivers State for the pains you’ve had to endure in the rational and just cause to terminate the APC-led federal government and usher in a new era of peace, hope and progress for our country.
“I urge you to remain calm and steadfast in your belief that though the dark night might seem long, the waiting is almost over as daylight is just by the corner and shall surely manifest in our State and the nation in a couple of days”.
The governor added: “At this critical point of the struggle no sacrifice would be too much to demand of every one of us in our collective quest to liberate our country from the destructive path; otherwise we may have to live with the unpleasant consequences of our inability to effect the change that we all need in our country for another four horrific years”.