As we wind down today on what has been a challenging albeit exciting and reassuring campaign season, the attention of the All Progressives Congress 2023 Campaign Council has been drawn to series of clandestine meetings holding at the Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Council Secretariat over the last couple of days as we approach the Saturday, March 18, 2023 governorship and State House of Assembly elections. Similar meetings are ongoing elsewhere in the State by politicians whose understanding of democracy and its practice is skewed, anachronistic, archaic and utterly reprehensible.
We have no problems with people exercising their citizen’s rights to free assembly. However, we are perturbed by the character of meetings with plots to infringe on the rights of other citizens of the Federal Republic because they profess interest in other candidates, hold divergent political views or belong to different parties.
We are concerned because at the latest of these meetings in Opobo Town which held on Monday, March 13, 2023, Council Staff were forcefully locked out of the Secretariat to make room for smuggling very dangerous arms and ammunition into the Council Secretariat.
The logical response of everyone privy to that operation is to wonder when Opobo or any or Local Government Council Secretariat became a military armoury or depot. Secondly, what is happening in Opobo or any other section of Rivers State to warrant the arms build-up when the President and Commander-in-Chief has made no declaration of war in the State or any part of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as prescribed by the Constitution? Next, what is the basis for restriction of Council Staff in their work station when neither the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) nor the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) is in an industrial dispute with the Council management? Clearly, the motive for converting the Council Secretariat to a warehouse for arms and ammunition is not far from being clandestine and should be condemned by all well-meaning sons and daughters of Opobo Town.
As a party’s Campaign Council, the motive for stockpiling dangerous weapons at a Council Secretariat controlled by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Opobo Town where her governorship candidate hails from on the eve of a governorship and State House of Assembly is very clear. The PDP is preparing an attack on political opponents supporting candidates of their own parties. The objects of their planned attacks have committed no crime other than pursuing interests that are not congruent with the election of Siminalayi Fubara.
Our conclusion is not without basis. A climate of political intolerance hitherto unknown to Opobo traditions, culture and political history has been introduced to exterminate the political opposition since Sim Fubara was imposed by Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State, as governorship candidate of the PDP. It is a matter of common knowledge that the gubernatorial campaign train of our candidate, Arc. Tonye Cole, Mni, was violently attacked and stopped from delivering his message to the good people of that historic Kingdom by armed thugs unleashed by the Opobo/Nkoro Council Chairman, Mr. Enyiada Clifford Cookey-Gam. Ahead of that episode, they had destroyed canopies and campaign items set up at the campaign grounds in Opobo Town and forcefully abducted Boma Brown, the APC Opobo/Nkoro LGA Campaign Coordinator who joined the party from the PDP not too long ago.
We are also aware that several meetings are holding in Opobo where young persons who should be gainfully employed are exposed to hard drugs having been contracted to bear arms and dangerous weapons against members of other political parties known, or perceived, as not likely to vote for Sim Fubara. This is clearly unacceptable in a 21st century democracy.
The tragedy of this strange introduction of mindless, primitive violence to Opobo politics is the apparent endorsement of same by the once revered traditional institutions in that Local Government Area. It is unacceptable that institutions that have nurtured time-tested values are now wilfully desecrated by desperate political rascals. The situation has degenerated to the level of royal fathers maintaining graveyard silence whilst a climate of siege on peaceful politics and elections has enveloped Opobo Town. Sadly, even titled citizens appear not concerned about the spillover consequences on the rest of that ordinarily peaceful LGA of these acts of brigandage.
We are bothered that besides being aloof to the manifest threats to political opponents, some traditional stool holders now issue threats to APC members of their war canoe Houses to promote the candidature of Sim Fubara. This is absurd by every stretch of imagination in a community where the APC fielded her first candidate in history for office of Governor of Rivers State in 2015!!Consequently, our position on these regrettable developments are as follows.
To the agents of the intended bloodletting at the governorship elections, better sheath your swords. We are in a democracy; not a war. Every citizen in a constitutional democracy is entitled to inalienable rights under the Constitution. Those rights, we hereby remind the aggressive party, includes the freedom of choice and same must be exercised between candidates at elections. The contest of an election by a candidate who is an indigene of one’s community does not suspend, detract or truncate the constitutional rights of compatriots belonging to other parties. Holding and canvassing support for alternatives in a multiparty system is not an offence and cannot be criminalized.
Our members in Opobo Town and the rest of Opobo/Nkoro Local Government are Nigerian citizens whose democratic rights as guaranteed by the Constitution are being confiscated by agents of darkness in Opobo Kingdom. This is unacceptable against the background of the uncontested history of the Kingdom being one of the pillars of Niger Delta civilization. We therefore call for restraint by those calling meetings of their war canoe Houses to issue Fatwa against the subjects they are bound by cultural obligations to protect.
Membership of political parties is an exercise of personal liberty. Decisions on where to express choice in a contest on the ballot is also very personal. We expect Traditional rulers as custodians of our culture and traditions in Opobo/Nkoro LGA to avoid delving into the murky waters of politics. Then and only then can they compel politicians to play the game by the rules. Our royal fathers have a duty to insulate our ancient Thrones from partisan politics and we ask for no more.
Furthermore, we have a message to the masterminds of abominable politics in Opobo/Nkoro. To those who have mass purchased PVCs from INEC at Opobo Town and are plotting to bypass the BVAS machines deployed at the forthcoming elections for accreditation and uploading of results realtime, your game is up. Your intention to manipulate the system in connivance with corrupt electoral officials at the various units may spell doom. We hereby warn that the APC, will vehemently resist any act of intimidation or corruption of the ballot on Saturday, March 18, 2023. We shall go toe to toe with all troublemakers who, apparently, have learnt absolutely nothing from the Kalabari allowing Sim Fubara free course to campaign in the three LGAs of Degema, Asari Toru and Akuku Toru. The Kalabari exercised maximum restraint in the face of provocation even though the Kingdom has the capacity to respond decisively to the primitive attack on their son; our governorship candidate. They have passed a subtle reminder to the brigands on how the Ijaw receive visitors to their own communities and we hope lessons are learnt.
To the teeming members of the APC in Opobo Town and the communities constituting “Ibani Se” in Opobo/Nkoro LGA, we salute your resilience. The introduction of this climate of seige in your own home by the PDP is a test of your courage and fidelity to the cause you believe in. Your unimpeachable sacrifices are not lost on our great party and we urge that you continue to keep the faith.
Our party agents have been directed to inspect every PVC before it is inserted in the BVAS machine. We also call on security agencies to beam their searchlight on Opobo/Nkoro in particular, and Rivers State in general, to nip the satanic plots by rejected politicians to unleash mayhem in the bud. Our State cannot continue to feed the uncontrollable political desperation of anyone or group.
The wave of destruction the State Governor has promised by charging his supporters to toe unlawful paths to impose his political lackey on Rivers people shall be put to shame by the expression of the legitimate will of Rivers people on Saturday. The electorate have never been more determined to terminate the nepotism, disrespect for traditional institutions, impunity and terrorising of divergent opinion, abandonment of the core values of Rivers people, mediocrity and institutional corruption of the last eight years. Only the people can stop themselves now in the resolve to bring the reign of the unjust and godless over our State to a just end. Tonye Cole has presented himself and is well received by majority of Rivers people and the voting public as the harbinger of hope in the Fresh Start they crave. The will of the people shall stand.
Sogbeye C. Eli
Spokesman, Rivers APC 2023 Campaign Council
March 16, 2023.