“The whole federal might is here; the whole federal executive is here. The entire federal might has heard your cry. There is only one thing; we respect Rivers people. Enough is enough! If they push you, push them. We are on a rescue mission. This state will be rescued,” he declared.
Present at the rally were 12 APC state governors, ministers, members of the National Assembly and other party chieftains.The Kano State governor, Mohammed Ganduje urged APC members not to fail to retaliate if they were attacked by members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the elections.
Minister of Transportation and former governor of the state, Chibuike Amaechi, said: “This is what is called election of our lives. You know I have never spoken like this before. Do not kill anybody, but don’t allow yourselves to be killed. We also have to protect ourselves. I don’t want to hear that they took over the ballot sheet from you. If they snatch it, collect it back from them. My phone will be switched off. Nobody should call me. The only time you will call me is from 6pm when you would have won the election.”
The state government condemned the leadership of the APC for allegedly inciting people into violence. The Commissioner for information and Communication, Dr Austin Tam-George lamented what he described as the manifest act of incitement by Governor Ganduje and others.
He alleged that Ganduje had charged APC supporters to resort to violence by saying “If they shoot you, take cover and shoot them. This is a shameful and egregious invitation to violence by the Kano State governor.” He therefore called on the Inspector General of Police to immediately ensure the governor departs Rivers State to forestall breakdown of law and order.
Also, a coalition of over 70 civil society groups to monitor the elections said they were gravely concerned that the major political parties had repeated the practice of making incendiary allegations as well as direct and indirect threats ahead of the poll.
A preliminary statement by the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room on the elections, that was made available to The Guardian said that the inflammatory statements had raised expectations of violence and abuse of the process, and would reduce public participation and confidence in the exercise.
Meanwhile, different stakeholders have continued to sue for peace.
The Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural group, former governor of Kaduna State and National Chairman of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), Alhaji Balarabe Musa, among others, have emphasised the need to ensure free, fair and credible election devoid of commercialisation of votes.
CNPP National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Wale Okuniyi said the group wanted peaceful atmosphere, stressing that threats and incitement of violence would impede delivery of free and fair poll. The group called on the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Muhammed Idris to replace Governor Nyesom Wike’s chief security officer and provide him security details commensurate to his exalted office.
In a phone interview with The Guardian, President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof. Gary Enwo-Igariwey said inducement during election was a common problem in Nigerian electoral process and that until it totally stopped, it would be difficult to get credible people to lead the country.
The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin charged the residents of Rivers State to shun cash and ensure the success of the electoral process. “Unless and until we have a leadership that will be committed to the integrity of the electoral system, there is nothing we can do,” he said. According to him, the development across the country have again brought to the fore the need to restructure the country to achieve true federalism.
The presidential candidate of the Hope Democratic Party, Ambrose Owuru, told The Guardian in Port Harcourt that due to the inconclusiveness of the previous elections, the state had lost effective representation in the Senate and the House of Representatives.“As a people, we have lost the right for effective representation in the National Assembly. We have been shut out of key national issues because of these pending elections. We cannot afford not to get it right this time around. Everything humanly possible must be done to achieve peaceful
elections,” he said, adding that the threats by political gladiators from the two leading political parties would do no one any good.
This will be the third time elections will be held to fill the three senatorial seats, eight House of Representatives seats and 10 House of Assembly seats in Rivers. The first was during the 2015 general elections. The second attempt was in March 2016, but the exercise was postponed due to violence.