In the run up to the 2015 general elections, there was politically-related violence across Rivers State leading to the killing and maiming of several people, including security agents and journalists. Recent development in the state suggests a seeming a reoccurrence of same situation. ANAYO ONUKWUGHA (Port Harcourt) reports
In Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government area of Rivers State, no fewer than 200 people had either been killed or maimed. Several of the victims were beheaded while in some cases, families were wiped out.
The campaign rally of the All Progressives Congress (APC), at National School field, Okrika, which had in attendance, the party’s governorship candidate then, Dr Dakuku Adol Peterside, and several other chieftains of the party, was attacked leading to the death of a policeman, Sergeant Ifeanyi Okoro.
The ugly development led to voter apathy as majority of the electorate chose to stay indoors rather than going to their respective polling units for the fear of being attacked. That was in 2015.
From the look of things, the violent scenarios that played out in 2015 are gradually resurfacing across the state following the lifting of the ban on campaigns by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Few days ago, unknown gunmen attacked a team of PDP members and supporters who were on a sensitisation drive at Ipo community in Ikwerre local government area of Rivers State, injuring several persons.
To the Rivers State government, the attack on the PDP team, which included chairman of Ikwerre LGA, Samuel Nwanosike, and former member of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Anselm Oguguo, was masterminded by the opposition APC.
According to the state commissioner for Information and Communication, Emma Okah, gunmen suspected to be APC supporters opened fire on PDP members who were holding a meeting, critically wounding about six of them while one person was feared dead.
Okah, who said the unprovoked attack on the innocent persons would not be accepted by the state, called on the police and other security agencies to fish out the perpetrators and bring them to book.
On his part, Nwanosike, in a statement issued immediately after the incident, said the party was on a ward to ward sensitisation and Operation Show Your PVC project before the heavily armed men came out from the bushes and started shooting at the crowd where the event was taking place.
The council chairman said he had previously raised the alarm over the plot allegedly sponsored by the APC members in Ikwerre and their cohorts.
The statement, which was signed by his media aide, Chris Omodu reads in part: “Those behind the attack and their sponsors should know that PDP members can never be intimidated or cowed.
“The antics of the sponsors will never in any way restrain our determination to deliver Governor Wike and all the PDP candidates in Ikwerre local government 2019.
“The matter has been reported to the Nigeria Police, and the numbers of person that had gun shots are currently receiving treatments in an undisclosed hospital in Port Harcourt.”
But to the APC, it was not in the nature of its members to engage on violence in order to get into office.
The director general of Tonye Cole Campaign Organisation, Dr Chidi Lloyd, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt, said the APC governorship candidate, Pastor Tonye Cole, and the APC were not planning attacks on PDP members and advised PDP chieftains in Ikwerre LGA to look inwards and find out who they had offended.
The APC Campaign Organisation in Ikwerre LGA condemned the allegations levelled against leaders of the party in the state, in relation to the shooting at Ipo community.
The organisation, in a statement signed by Bouchi Nisirim and Ikenda Clinton Elechi, director and secretary, respectively, said, “We condemn in strongest terms, any and every act of electoral violence, calling on people of Ikwerre LGA to guard against a repeat of the ugly experiences in 2015 when politicians used violence to get themselves into offices in the state.
“We however deny this accusation and request the PDP and its leaders to search internally within the party for failed promises and betrayals while working closely with these boys in the recent past.
“Ikwerre and Rivers people know the party that has a reputation for violence, which appointed persons of questionable integrity into government offices without security vetting and which maintains ‘Generals’ on its payroll.
“The accusation is a calculated attempt at diverting attention from disagreement within the party. Finally, we call on the PDP not to constitute itself into emergency security agency, it should rather allow the authorised security agencies carry out investigation into the matter instead of jumping into conclusions.”
Barely 24 hours after the incident, another set of unknown gunmen opened fire at a pub in Aluu community, also in Ikwerre local government area, killing four persons, including a girl.
Only 24 hours later, news spread about the attack on the campaign team of the APC governorship candidate in the state, Pastor Tonye Cole, at Ogurama community in Degema LGA of the state.
Lloyd, who confirmed the attack in a statement issued in Port Harcourt, stated that the incident did not stop the consultation exercise as Cole insisted the exercise must go on after security agents attached to the governorship candidate repelled the gunmen.
He said, “On arrival at the community and as is usual with the team, Tonye Cole and other leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC), on the delegation had gone to pay a courtesy call on the traditional head of the community prior to commencement of the exercise when heavy gunfire erupted from all directions of the community.
“Pastor Tonye Cole immediately showed courage and leadership by ordering his team members to remain calm indoors while the security detachment attached to the team were allowed to repel the advancing armed attackers.
“It took a while before the marauding gunmen were repelled by the security men and the area secured. Subsequently, Pastor Cole directed that the exercise must go on at the designated arena after which the team departed to Bakana Town to continue with the exercise.
“The Tonye Cole Campaign Organisation and APC vehemently condemn the dastardly act of today reminiscent of what was carried out in 2015 against the APC and its governorship candidate in Okrika and other similar incidents carried out by PDP and their gunmen across Rivers State.
“We recall that just yesterday, instead of the PDP to tackle its internal crisis that has snowballed into open confrontation between them in Ikwerre local government, found it convenient to blame APC members.
“We alerted the world that the PDP leaders were merely pointing at the APC to cover up their internal turmoil. We also emphasised the fact that it was a ploy to prepare the grounds for them to commence another round of bloody attacks on APC members in the State. In just about 24 hours our fears have been confirmed.
“We would like to reiterate that the governorship candidate of our party, Pastor Tonye Cole, is a God fearing gentleman who’s only driving force to lead Rivers State is hinged on his conviction that every aspect of Rivers society is broken and needs urgent mending.
“We call on the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, director of State Security Service and other security agencies to thoroughly and diligently investigate the incident of today and all such incidents with a view to bringing to justice those directly and indirectly behind them.”
Just last Saturday, 17 November, 2018, the decomposing bullet-ridden corpse of the organising secretary of APC in Ikwerre LGA, Samuel Wanjoku, was recovered by men of the Nigerian Police at a forest between Ubima and Omuanwa communities in the local government area.
Wanjoku, who was the younger brother of a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Azubuike Wanjoku, was kidnapped the previous week along with one Moses Ogu, along the Ubima -Omuanwa Road by unknown gunmen.
Reacting to the kidnap and subsequent murder of its organising secretary, the APC in Ikwerre LGA, called for the arrest and investigation of top PDP chieftains in the state.
APC, in a statement by the director and secretary of its Campaign Committee in Ikwerre LGA, Bouchi Nsirim and Ikenda Clinton Elechi, respectively, called on the Inspector General of Police to set up a fact finding team to look into the murder.
The statement reads: “Recall that last week Sunday 11 November, 2018, the duo of Hon. Samuel Wanjoku, organizing secretary of our party in Ikwerre LGA and Moses Ogu, a party chieftain honoured the invitation of the Anglican Church in their community, Apani, Ikwerre LGA.
“On their way back to Port Harcourt, at about 15:00hrs, they were attacked and abducted by unknown gun men along the Omuanwa-Ubima axis of the expressway. Ever since, all efforts to establish contacts with them proved abortive
“Sadly, the attention of the APC Campaign Organisation was earlier today (Saturday) drawn to the bullet ridden decomposing corpse of Hon. Samuel Wanjoku deep inside the forest between Omuanwa and Ubima in the LGA. Till this moment, the whereabouts of Hon. Moses Ogu remains unknown.
“As already known, those who kidnap for ransom have the habits of calling friends and families of their victims, quite unusual, in this case, no call for ransom was made. For us therefore, it is clearly a case of assassination.
“You would recall that this is the same pattern of killings adopted by the PDP in 2015 when many citizens were mindlessly slaughtered by agents of the PDP. “We would like to notify Nigerians particularly security agencies that the PDP and its leaders have begun their usual killings intended at intimidating supporters of the APC.
“More importantly, we would like to warn that the APC would not sit back and watch their supporters slaughtered by the PDP and their leaders.
“While we ask our supporters to remain calm, we call on the President of Nigeria, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, to as a matter of urgency, declare State of Emergency in the state in order to tackle frequent cases of abduction, kidnapping and killings in the state.
“We also call on the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris and the Commissioner of Police, Rivers State, CP Zaki Ahmed to urgently constitute a fact finding panel to investigate and unravel the circumstances under which our members were abducted and murdered.
Reacting to the return of violence to the state ahead of the 2019 general election, the senator representing Rivers South-East senatorial district at the National Assembly, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, called on all right thinking sons and daughters of Rivers State to support security agencies and insists that perpetrators of violence must be brought to justice.
Abe, who condemned the spate of violence that has continued at an alarming rate in the state, said, “The news of the brutal murder of a frontline politician in Ikwerre local government area, Mr Samuel Wanjoku has come to me as a shock and very painful.”
Describing the death of the APC chieftain as one too many, the senator said, “It is unfortunate that violence has continued to escalate in Rivers State despite attempts to curb it.
“I call on all right thinking Rivers sons and daughters to join hands to support the security agencies and insists that perpetrators of this dastardly act must be named, shamed and dealt with according to law.”
He also condemned in its entirety the recent attack on Pastor Tonye Cole and his team in Ogurama, Degema LGA in the state, describing it as barbaric, cowardly and childish, capable of plunging the state into an undeserved chaos.
Abe said, “I want to call on all political leaders in the state not just to condemn this kind of behavior, but create a forum where all of us can work together to see that not only are these kind of actions condemned but should not be allowed to repeat themselves and whoever the perpetrators are, must be brought to justice.”