By Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Coalition of Governorship Candidates in Rivers State has accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of plotting to sabotage the next week’s Governorship and State Assembly elections in Rivers State.
The coalition also reaffirmed its endorsement of the re-election of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, declaring that they would work for his success during the governorship election on 9 March.
This is as the candidates also condemned what they described as the militarisation of the just-concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections in the state, which led to the killing of innocent people as well as the snatching of ballot boxes and harassment of electoral officers in no fewer than nine local government areas in the state.
Addressing journalists in Port Harcourt yesterday, Chairman of the group, Samuel Ihunwo, said credible intelligence at their disposal indicated that the APC had compromised INEC to deliberately exclude the name and logo of one of the political parties from the ballot papers for the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections in Rivers State.
Ihunwo further said based on the intelligence, the affected political party would proceed to the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal to inevitably nullify the outcomes of the March 9 Governorship and House of Assembly elections in Rivers State.
He said: “While the people of Rivers State are yet to recover from the pains and trauma of awful violence and bloodletting that characterised last week’s general elections, we have intercepted yet another heinous plan to deliberately sabotage the March 9th 2019 Governorship and House of Assembly elections in Rivers State in order to advance the partisan interest of the All Progressives Congress (APC), a party that is not on the ballot for the said elections.
“According to credible intelligence, the APC has successfully compromised the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to exclude the name and logo of one of the political parties from the ballot papers for the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections in Rivers State.
“Afterwards, the supposedly excluded political party would proceed to the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal to inevitably nullify the outcomes of the March 9th Governorship and House of Assembly elections in Rivers State.
“We are astonished at INEC motivations for becoming an accessory to such treacherous acts, which offer the most simple but lethal legal ground and weapon to any mischievous person or political party to nullify the said elections and terminate the rights of Rivers people to enjoy the fruits of their votes in the Governorship and Houses of Assembly elections.
“Equally worrisome is the report that where INEC fails to effect the exclusion of the designated political party from the ballot papers by Wednesday 6th March 2019, the alternative plan is to resort again, to the use of the army to disrupt, disorganise and scuttle the distribution of election materials from the State Registration Area Centres to the various wards and units across the entire State.
“Furthermore, in the event that the elections manage to hold, the plan also includes using operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to harass and force electoral and collation officers to cooperate and comply with the rigging template and directives of the APC.
“Of course, the partisan involvement and subversive activities of the army, especially the General Officer Commanding the 6 Division of the Nigeria Army, Major General Jamil Sarham and his unpatriotic band of soldiers in last week’s Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections are well known to the entire world.
“Indeed, it is on record that the disruption and snatching of elections materials at Okrika was led by one Captain Inuwa, the Aide De Camp to the GOC 6 Division of the Nigeria Army, Major General Sarham.”
Also speaking during a solidarity visit to Wike, the 58 candidates, through their chairman, Ihunwo, condemned the killings during the Presidential and National Assembly elections, stating that immediate steps must be taken to avert using the military against Rivers people during the next elections.
He said: “We observed that our people were killed by the military. We have come for a solidarity visit because as the father of the State, you are pained on what is happening. We condemn in totality the unwarranted killings by the military.
“We are not in support of the evil that INEC is conniving with APC to disrupt the Governorship/ State Assembly elections on March 9. The APC knowing they are not on the ballot, plan to perpetrate evil and ensure that elections don’t hold”.
They stated that they would remain resolute to ensure the elections hold and Wike duly elected.
“The 58 Governorship Candidates maintain their endorsement of Governor Wike. What we have said still remains. We will give all necessary support for the Governor to be re-elected”, he said.
Responding, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, stated that no one man born of woman can determine the political destiny of Rivers State.
He said: “No one man born of a woman can say that he must be in charge of the state. That is unacceptable to the people of the State.
“If we rely on the security agencies, by now we will not be here. Only God protects us in Rivers State. If you see the connivance between the APC and the security agencies, you will marvel how we have gone so low. The security agencies aiding individuals to perpetrate crime. It is unfortunate”.