· Two venues in view for APC, two organizing teams
· Atiku group rejects Wike’s approved venue, but violence greets new venue
By Ignatius Chukwu
Approval convulsion hit hard on the exected visits of the APC and PDP presidential candidates. It led to the cancellation of Atiku Abubakar’s visit but almost marred that of the APC.
Confusion, getting to the point of crisis, has continued to envelope the campaign visits of both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidates to Rivers State. It has led to the cancellation of that of the PDP flag bearer.
The venue for each of them has caused uproar in the state with approval processes in the state. The state governor, Nyesom Wike, who has been striving against his presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, is at the centre of the crisis in both parties.
Atiku was billed to storm the state on February 11, 2023, but confusion over venue surrounded the visit to infinity. It was eventually cancelled by his men, saying it was to save bloodshed.
Now, the same confusion later erupted in the visit of APC candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is billed for February 15, 2023. It was heading to violence until the founder of Belemaoil, Jack-Rich Tein Jnr intervened.
For Atiku, the state governor said he approved the new stadium at Omagwa but later cancelled it alleging interference by the Atiku supporters in the state led by the likes of Abiye Sekibo, his former ally from Okrika in fighting against Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi.
The governor later re-approved the stadium, but the Atiku group rejected this. Later, troubles erupted at Trans-Amadi where Wike said he caught Abiye and group trying to clear a place he called public facility to host the rally.
Abiye on his own cried out that Wike sent assassins against him. The governor denied this, saying the matter was by youths who went to stop Abiye.
As the matter of venue for Atiku’s visit was festering, the APC as erupted too. The party said they requested for the new stadium (Amasiemaka Stadium in Omagwa) but that they heard announcements awarding the Yakubu Gowon (Liberation Stadium) as venue.
A bigger uproar however is about who is hosting Tinubu. The APC in the state said they with the party’s governorship candidate, Tonye Cole and party boss, Emeka Beke, were the rightful persons heading the presidential campaign council (PCC) in the state. However, the party said it was worried that Wike, who is known at last to work for Tinubu, has been collaborating with Tony Okocha, a man who the party claimed was no longer a member.
A source in the party said it was in touch with both the national secretariat and the PCC of the APC and that they can confirm that none of these strata of the party hierarchy is in the picture of the use of the Yakubu Gowon Stadium as venue of their presidential rally in Port Harcourt.
The source said the party was aware that the group in the state government had gone ahead to fund some fifth columnists who claim to be members of their party to make hotel reservations and all manner of arrangements just to paint a picture of supporting.
The source went on: “This of course confirms our earlier statement that the PDP in Rivers State and Gov Wike are working tirelessly to join the APC through the backdoor.”
The source said Rivers APC is yet to communicate any venue to the national leadership because what has been approved by the Rivers State Government cannot meet any political purpose and will expose their teeming supporters to the elements as the roof of that stadium is the exact opposite of the Adokiye Amiesimaka stadium which is enclosed and has more security features.
The Rivers APC seems thus to fight off the governor and those trying to organize the rally for Tinubu on one hand, and is also fighting to take possession of the stadium of their choice.
They seem to wonder how they would apply for one venue and hear of approval for another venue. They think it’s the handiwork of those they accused of being fifth columnists.
The source said: “We are aware of the script targeted at painting a picture of disunity between the National Secretariat/Presidential Campaign Council on one hand and APC in Rivers State on another hand.
The major confusion seems to be that the APC in Rivers State is unaware of powerful campaigns for their presidential candidate behind their back.
The party is thus understood to appeal to the general public and especially the media to take notice that the APC only requested or applied for the Adokiye Amiesimaka Sports Complex and not the Yakubu Gowon stadium, Elekahia for their Presidential rally in Port Harcourt and there is no way an event as serious as a Presidential rally can hold at a venue unknown to party apparatchiks.
They are understood to have sent messages to Gov Wike to approve the use of the Adokiye Amiesimaka stadium for the rally because of capacity and safety.
The APC was said to suspect many motives for the state government to dabble into the Tinubu campaign one of which could be to show to Tinubu that the original APC group in the state was not much on ground.
Political observers in the state say the situation on ground has created much confusion, such that nobody is sure when or if Atiku and Tinubu would carry out rallies in Rivers State, where it would be, and how safe the rallies would be.
They pointed to the situation where both presidential candidates have two factions each working for each of them, but at cross purposes.
When contacted on the seeing confusion about the Tinubu rally, the Rivers APC publicity secretary, Darlington Nwauju, said the party was going to issue an official position soon.