Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State
- I Was Rescued By PDP Chieftains, Not Kidnapped, APC Lawyer Clarifies
- No Petition Received Yet On Governorship Election –Tribunal
- The mission has been accomplished, Says PDP
The crisis rocking the political space in Rivers State is deepening as aggrieved parties continued to find it difficult to access the Certified True Copies (CTC) of the electoral materials used in the March 18, 2023, governorship election for inspection and consequently cannot file their petitions at the tribunal.
The 21 days deadline stipulated by the election tribunal for all parties to file their petitions was supposed to elapse yesterday (Friday).
Secretary of the election tribunal, Abubakar Umar, confirmed that it has not received any petition from any political party or governorship candidate.
The Guardian learnt that APC had almost succeeded in getting the documents on Thursday but because the party’s lawyer, Godwill Dike was whisked away by two chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Samuel Nwanosike, the Ikwere Local Government Chairman and Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, Edison Ehie stalled the processes.
The PDP supporters had laid siege to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office along Aba Road, preventing the APC lawyer, his colleague for the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and INEC staff from accessing the exit gate, as they protested and insisted that all the political parties interested in filing petitions against the election in the state must only be allowed to inspect the electoral materials they need jointly.
When the protesters got a hint that the APC lawyer had signed the documents at INEC office on Thursday, the angry mob who erected canopies and occupied spaces near INEC office since Monday April 3, 2023, swiftly moved into the front of the office, barricaded the entrance gate and were eager to throng at the lawyer and any other target.
It was gathered that the security personnel stationed within and around INEC office watched the drama with no effort to q uell the situation.
The APC lawyer, Godwill Dike, who confirmed the developments to The Guardian, yesterday, said when he came out from INEC office and saw what was happening, he became apprehensive.
Realising that he had no security details to help him out from the danger, he pleaded with Nwanosike and Ehie to help him out because they had security men, and they whisked him away from the protesters.
He explained: “At the point, I signed for the acknowledgement copy of the CTC of the INEC documents, we discovered that the hoodlums had blocked the entrance gate to the INEC office, so the tension was high. I was only looking for safety that moment, I had the documents but my party also sent someone and instructed that I hand over the signed documents to the person.
“As I handed over the signed documents to the person sent by my party, we all had difficulty going out of the premises of INEC and one thing I observed, the security personnel were just watching the scene and doing nothing. I tried to hide but the INEC officials encouraged me to go, saying nothing would happen.
“So when I approached the gate, the tensed situation increased, I knew it was about my life, so I reached out to the APC legal adviser and a colleague, they assured me that they had contacted Cole who is making efforts to send military officers to see how they can rescue us. All that proved abortive.
“While the siege continued at INEC office, I saw the Ikwere Local Government Chairman, Nwanosike and the Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly Edison Ehie. I approached them and they said, Oh, Dike you should not have come here, they explained that they were also having challenges.
“I told them I did not have any security and since they have security, they should try and see what they can do. Nwanosike said, ‘You are from my LGA, I won’t allow these people harm you.’ It was at that point that their security came, Ehie held my hand, and Nwanosike held my colleague’s hand and in the midst of the crowd, we were rescued. Else we would have been mobbed. That was exactly the scene that looks like abduction. I want to state it on record that it wasn’t a case of abduction.”
This testimony contradicted the statement by the APC spokesman, Darlynton Nwauju and the spokesman of the Campaign Council Sogbehi Eli, that the party’s lawyer Dike had been kidnapped by the PDP chieftains, though the APC lawyer said the CTC documents he signed for, collected and handed over to the person directed to him by his party could not be traced at the time this report was filed yesterday.
“When I handed over the documents to the person, he was also scampering for his safety and I cannot ascertain if he was able to move out with the documents.
“To be fair, Edison held my hands, Nwanosike held my friend’s hand, I didn’t see them with any documents. I have contacted the person I gave the documents and he said he could not move out with the documents. The thugs laid siege there and it would have been very risky to attempt going out with the documents,” the APC lawyer explained.
However, The Guardian gathered that the APC, irrespective of the challenges, still has opportunities to file its petition.
Though under the Freedom of Information Act, the public and non-governmental organisations can request INEC to give them the documents, but it was gathered that before the party got the order of the tribunal for the CTC materials to be released to them, it put the tribunal on notice.
The Guardian learnt that when such is done, it is assumed that the party is ready to take up the matter at the tribunal.
“Once, you have done that, you will be listed as one of the petitioners. So the process of going to INEC to get the CTC is part of the process required to get all the materials required for evidences in court” the APC spokesman, Nwauju explained.
He added: “The proper filling of our case is yet to be done but the tribunal has been served official notice that the APC is ready to challenge the 2023 elections in court.
“It was on the strength of that the court gave order that the documents be released to our party. Today (Friday) is public holiday, so we will go back on Tuesday. In the Electoral Act, there is nowhere INEC is directed to ensure that materials are jointly inspected. All they need to do is to photocopy the materials and give to the parties that have applied for them
“It is the same document they will give to PDP that they will still give to APC, SDP, Accord and others. So, I see this as simple matter, it is just to photocopy the materials into the number of applicants and distribute to save the state the traumatic situation to which it has been subjected.”
The Spokesman of the PDP Campaign Council, Ogbonna Nwuke, described as false the claim by APC that PDP chieftains abducted their lawyer.
“Most of the stories APC tell were to woo public sympathy, they are unsubstantiated and full of lies. There was no truth in the kidnap story, It is an attempt to call a dog a bad name so it can be hanged.”
He confirmed that the PDP supporters have suspended the protest at INEC office. “Everything works within the framework of time. The mission has been accomplished. We intended to stop people from smuggling materials through the back door. We have sent the appropriate signals and messages, we were able to keep eyes to what was going in and coming out. Some people were bent on tampering with the documents from INEC and we didn’t want that to happen”.
Other political parties in the state, including SDP, Labour and Accord expressed sadness that the PDP was frustrating their efforts to file their cases at the tribunal.
The governorship candidate of SDP, Senator Magnus Abe, decried deliberate plots to frustrate opposition political parties from challenging the outcome of the election in the state.
Abe was responding to comments made by Governor Nyesom Wike at an event in Gokana Local Government area when he claimed that other political parties could not win elections in Rivers.
The SDP governorship candidate said: “I think the only way to find out who the people accept or reject is by allowing an election where every single person is free to vote and every vote is counted.
“When we have that kind of election, I think the governor will have more respect among his people in Obio-Akpor because he will find out that there are people whose opinion are different from his.”
Insisting that the clash between supporters and members of the PDP and APC was uncalled for, Abe wondered why a group of people who claim to have won election and were declared winners, wiould be preventing others from getting materials that will aid them in challenging the outcome of the polls.
REACTING to the crisis rocking Rivers State, where the mission to obtain the CTC of the released results of the last gubernatorial election by Cole turned bloody, some stakeholders alleged that Governor Nyesom Wike is playing a hatchet job.
According to the Principal Partner of Emerson & Co., Barrister Emenike Azubike, if Wike were to be the one seeking to inspect the election materials, nothing would go wrong because he would use his strong men to ensure that the process is successful.
“If Wike were to be in the picture, there will not be problem because he would have used his the boys around him to inspect the INEC materials and ensure everything goes on fine. I believe he knows something about what is playing out in Rivers today, which is not supposed to be so in our democracy,” he said.
He wondered the wrong in an aggrieved contestant seeking to inspect election materials that he or she is not satisfied with.
“This could be akin to what happened at Obingwa in Abia State when All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) wanted to inspect the election materials but the next day, they went and burnt down the INEC office in Obingwa to make sure that they do not make any inspection. What is happening in Rivers is a repeated version in another dimension.
“I don’t think this is good for our democracy. I don’t know what Nigeria is turning into, whether we are in a dictatorial state, where civilians are ruling but the principals are using the principles of the military to intimidate others. Where there is a problem like this, the government in power would use its powers to protect its selfish and parochial interest and that is not supposed to be so.
“We are praying for a situation where Nigeria would develop strong institutions. If we have strong institutions and they are functioning, this kind of thing will not happen. And that is the way I see it; people of goodwill, especially the international community, should try to help us and call this government to order. Except they are not interested in ensuring that the human rights of people on earth are not tampered with.
“A state like America will always tell you that they are here for the whole world. I don’t know where they are and things like these are happening. They should brace up. People should advise the out-going government of Rivers State to maintain the tenents of democracy. It’s not a do or die affair. Whether hook or crook.
“However, these elections should have been all about electronic transmission of results according to the amended electoral law. If they have done the right thing, there shouldn’t be need for this. That is my sincere opinion. Election is not do or die.”
A lawyer, who said Wike was his schoolmate, said he has criticised the Rivers State governor enough.
“I really do not want to comment on the Rivers issues. I don’t want to join issues with him now because I don’t understand him anymore. Wike is my schoolmate, but I don’t know why he behaves the way he does. How do you go and arrest lawyers anyhow in the state? The security operatives claimed that they do not know that they were lawyers, but does it mean that they don’t ask questions before they arrest people or they don’t listen to the people they are arresting?” the attorney asked.
Source: The Guardian Newspaper of April 8, 2023
Godwin Etakibuebu; a veteran Journalist, wrote from Lagos.
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