* Army parades Rivers government officials
By Codratus Godson
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has recaptured federal power and the Rivers State chapter is now confident of making it back to the ballot in the coming elections. This adds more tension to the state’s volatile elctions where lives are often lost.
The APC thus seems to find fresh hopes that their candidates would return to the ballot on March 9, 2019, now that the greater huddle of winning the presidential election has been overcome.
This is as the Army has paraded top officials of the Rivers State government accused of moving about with huge sums of money and electoral materials on Saturday, February 23, 2019, and offering bribes to soldiers on duty. The Army also accused Gov Nyesom Wike of offering bribe to soldiers during a telephone conversation to free those arrested.
Addressing newsmen in Port Harcourt Wednesday, February 27, 2019, Tonye Cole,
Coordinator, APC Presidential Campaign Council, Rivers State, said: “As we head towards the next set of elections, we urge our party members, supporters and Rivers people to remain calm and peaceful. We are confident that INEC would now do the right and proper thing by restoring all our candidates, including those for the National Assembly, back on the ballot and the people will have the choice to come out without fear of further violence and vote for the change they truly desire but up until now have been afraid to express”.
The party said it was surprised that the same Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that was quick to delist the APC was delaying in relisting them despite stay of execution obtained in two federal appeal courts. The party also wondered how the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that was not a party to the internal case in the APC could go to any court and succeeded in getting an order debarring the APC from contesting the elections in the state.
Cole commended party members for putting up what he called brave showing in a state that posted over one million votes in 2015 but merely captured 666,585 this time around with all the power of incumbency in the volatile state. “All that is required of anyone desirous of the truth is to compare the 2015 electoral figures where total votes cast was 1,584,768 with APC getting 69,238 while PDP got 1,487,075; to that of 2019 where total votes cast was 666,585 with APC getting 150,710 (even after 72,000 votes in Emohua was unconstitutionally removed) and PDP getting 473,971 and the story would clearly unfold.” The position of the APC indicates more crisis ahead as the party said it is going to contest the elections. Many thought Wike has a free ticket back to Government House.
The Magnus Abe faction of the party has also congratulated President Buhari and rejected any form of violence and bloodshed. “Although the elections were in no way perfect, it is a clear expression of the wish of the Nigerian people for continuity and progress. We therefore call on the presidential candidate and members of the PDP to accept the verdict of the Nigerian.”
Meanwhile, no fewer than 13 persons have been detained by the Nigerian Army over alleged illegal possession of ballot papers and bribery issues during Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections. Among those arrested were the Rivers State former Commissioner for Urban Development, Reason Williams, and Opokri Wanaka, a serving member in the Rivers State House of Assembly.
Others include an army major and three police officers accused of collecting bribes to compromise election materials kept inside the premises of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Col. Aminu Iliyasu, spokesman of 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, spoke when he paraded the 13 suspects in Port Harcourt on Tuesday. Iliyasu said that Williams and Wanaka were arrested for attempting to induce troops stationed in Akinima Area of Rivers to rig the election in favour of an unnamed political party in the state.
The Army also played tapes said to be the governor trying to offer bribes to the soldiers. The governor vehemently denied the allegations. Before now, the governor had accused the Army of subverting the elections in the state. It has been back and forth between the state government and the 6 Divison of the Nigerian Army in the run up to the elections.