From Paul Obiajunwon Port Harcourt
The people of Rivers State go to the governorship election this Saturday with the supporters of People Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressive Congress (APC) locked in a deadly battle for the soul of the state.
Many fear the contest would be a bloody one considering that from the period of consultation to proper campaigns by the two political parties to various local government and wards it has been bloody.
Many observers base their fear for the governorship election on the fact that some areas have witnessed electoral violence in the recent past.
For instance, in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local government alone, more than 50 persons are believed to have been killed as a result of political violence.
Just a few days ago, unknown gunmen shot and killed nine APC leaders and supporters in the area including the former Caretaker Committee Chairman and his two children.
With the emergence of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari as the President-elect, observers had thought the tension should would die down but the reverse has been the case.
Mr. Chigozie Orlu-Orlu, a legal practitioner who had petitioned National Human Right Commission (NHRC) over killings of Rivers citizens expects more people would be killed at the eve, during and after governorship and State House of Assembly elections in Rivers State.
He noted that both political actors in PDP and APC have not done much to caution it followers on the need to shun violence but were been interested on how to grab power.
He said: “Just few days to the governorship election you can see how many people that were killed, that shows a clear picture of what is going to happen on Election Day.
“Don’t forget, this is Wike’s last fight, Jonathan is not there again to reappoint him if he lose the game. So, for him, this is not a fight to joke with.
“He will fight with his last blood to see if he can succeed, he wouldn’t mind if one million souls died but Rivers must be rule by PDP.
“With what happened on the Presidential election where some APC leaders were intimidated and kept in a house arrest will no longer be possible, so, there will be an eyebrow to eyebrow contest in Rivers State,” he said.
The Rivers State chapter of the PDP still smarting from the loss of the Presidency has also promised to battle it out to ensure a clean victory of the governorship and State House of Assembly elections.
In a statement issued few days ago by the Chairman of Media and Publicity Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Rivers State chapter, Emma Okah, the charged warned PDP supporters not to be deterred by the outcome of the presidential poll but to put it behind them and think of the governorship and State House Assembly elections.
The PDP statement read in part: “I want to advice all PDP members in the state to put the result of the Presidential election behind them and prepare to win the Governorship and State Assembly elections in the State.
“Every election is a contest and somebody must win or lose. Whatever our expectations may be, the most important thing is that PDP has shown that the party is on ground in Rivers State and will continue to dominate political activities in the State.
“Last Saturday we won in Rivers State and on the 11th of April, we will prove our strength further. We must redouble our efforts in mobilizing our people again and encouraging them to remain focused so that we can massively deliver our units, wards, LGAs and State to the PDP in the forthcoming Governorship and State Assembly elections to the glory God,” the party said.
As a sign of its intention, on the 4th of April 2015, PDP supporters in Obio/Akpor Local government area staged a peaceful protest warning voters to stay at home if they don’t want trouble.
They also said that Rivers State is a PDP state and those who want to vote for governor and State House of Assembly candidates should prepared their minds because only those who want to cast their vote for the PDP would be allow to vote.
But members of All Progressive Congress (APC) in the state who are rejoicing over Buhari’s victory and in the other hand unhappy over the fraudulent Presidential and National House of Assembly elections which was swept by PDP said the time to tolerate PDP is over.
The APC leadership, which has rejected the state Presidential result, on its part has said the party will not allow their opponent to use the police and other security agency to manipulate result the way they did in the last election.
During a protest by APC Chieftains and its supporters in Rivers which led to a heavy traffic jam at Aba-Road Expressway opposite Rivers State branch of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The party had while registering its grievance over the Presidential election vowed to resist any attempt to rig April 11 governorship and House of Assembly elections.
The Caretaker Committee Chairman of Ogu/Bolo Local government Hon. Mina Tende, who led his supporters to the INEC office after REC declared the Presidential poll results, said INEC and security personnel conspired to rig Rivers election.
He said as the Local government chairman he went to INEC office by 2pm on the last elections to complain about the situation but nobody listen to him.
Tende Said: “We are here to tell the world that there was no election in Rivers State, our people boycotted the election and such election cannot be called election. There were two observers at the INEC office in Ogu/Bolo and I told them that I have never seen it this way. I also told the Resident Electoral Commissioner that I expected her to go round and see things for herself. In other way, there is connivance and a plan to do what they did.
“As I am talking to now, it has been confirmed that INEC were paid 15 million each in all the LGA and that is what they used in buying the result sheets,” he alleged.
Another APC chieftain, Hon Welendu Amadi, a former Local government chairman in Ikwerre LGA, said the party is ready for today’s election.
“It is clear that PDP with their agent rigged the Presidential election but we will not give them such opportunity again. If you have been following event you will discovered that there has been intimidation and attack using the police to carry out their act.
“With the emergence of Buhari as the President-elect, there would be a limit to which police will obey their order,” he added.
But Dike Iheanyichukwu, a legal practitioner and the Chairman Rivers State Lawyers for Change said there is no need to kill one another on tomorrow’s election because power has changed hand. He said with the situation on ground the APC candidate Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside will win the April 11 election.
He argued further that if Rivers State will witness free and fair election, Prof. Jaga must remove the Resident Electoral Commissioner before tomorrow.
“For us to have free and fair election on April 11the Prof Jaga and his team must act fast to remove the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Rivers State,” he said.
He added: “Without missing words, it appeared that the woman is partisan, a woman who conducted election without result sheets, a woman who gave result sheet to a particular political party. It is obvious that she cannot instill free and fair election in the state.
“We are very much aware of the role of the security agents in this state, I want to urge every citizen to shun violence and resist any anything capable of truncating the democratic progress especially during and after governorship election. They should be aware that we have a new President –elect, power has shifted ground they should be neutral.
“I am not saying they should support APC or any political party in the state. But to play their constitutional role, at the same time, I want Rivers people not to waste their vote. They should vote for progress and development of Rivers State by casting their vote for Dakuku Peterside,” he stated.