Largely because of fear of violence or so as they claimed, INEC delayed the second rerun and perhaps was considering leaving it completely till 2019 until the Senate issued an ultimatum forcing them to announce a date for the second re-run. In the view of some political grandmasters of Rivers State, they would feel better and much more relevant, if Rivers State had no representatives in the National Assembly than having another party win the seats. But somehow, they were compelled to come down from their high horses by the ultimatum of the Legislators.
And then the sambre beating started. Accusations and counter accusations filled the airwaves. The embattled and combative Governor Wike raised serious alarms and several red flags of how the APC had planned to undermine the elections. INEC was under fire and the security forces, especially the Police were alleged to be mustering to work in favour of the APC. Of course the APC leader in Rivers State, former Governor Amaechi fired back and accused Wike of stock-piling arms to rig the elections. The atmosphere was hot and you did not know whom to believe as it is usual for politicians to accuse each other, with or without any iota of substance. So we began to pray that none of these will come to be.
Suddenly and unexpectedly, the 77- year old Chairman of APC, Chief Odigie Oyegun declared his doctrine: "If they push you, push them, if they slap you, slap them back, the whole Federal might is here"I was shocked beyond measure. Encouraged by this violence-inspiring doctrine by a former state Governor and elder statesman, Amaechi declared that "this is an election for our lives". For their lives? That was like saying it was a do or die election. I cringed in my bones. Then the governor of Kano State, Mohammed Ganduje who was leading the campaigns drove the doctrine home, shorn of all pretences: "If they shoot you, shoot them back" and since Amaechi had earlier indicated what his army friend told him, that if you hear the sound of a bullet, then it means that the bullet is not for you, then every one should go into the fight without fear!
A serving state governor directing civilian supporters of a Democratic Party to fire back if fired at. Now may I ask, with which weapon ? and who would provide the weapon? Have weapons been stockpiled or were they part of the federal might? I was completely dumb-founded that senior Party and Government officials were preaching war and hate and urging citizens to embark on violence! What a real shame! Just because they must win the elections?
Even if it was true that the opposition Party PDP and its combative Governor Nyesom Wike had made plans to push, slap and shoot the APC supporters, it could never justify this Brazen invitation to chaos and violence by otherwise respectable political leaders. What then was the point in the IG sending thousands of police men to Rivers State? Why then did the military move hundreds of their combat ready soldiers, some from operation 'crocodile smile' and some from 'operation Python dance' to Rivers State? Was it just to smile and dance? If their supporters were already armed to defend themselves or to fight back, we did not need those security agents except they were there to replenish supply.
It is my considered opinion that these men should rather have advised their supporters to be vigilant and to report any malfeasance to the horde of security officers that came as part of the Federal might. Asking the supporters to take the laws into their hands and practice " teet for tart" showed a loss of confidence in the ability of the Security forces to maintain peace and deal with law breakers. If the party of the government in power and who amassed the legion in Rivers had no confidence in the capacity and ability of the forces to perform, then how would anybody expect the same security forces to enjoy the confidence of the opposition, an opposition that raised so much alert and alarm concerning the partiality of the Security agencies, especially the Police.
The Rivers legislative elections re-run happened against all odds and as primed, the worst happened. Blood flowed. Governor Wike last week personally led a protest march of PDP supporters against the Police after calling for a thorough review of the conduct of the elections and insisting that the Police was used to compromise the elections, including killing their supporters. Thereafter, the APC also undertook a protest march around the streets of PortHarcourt in support of the Police, saying that the Police did very well. What a shame as the police now seems to be again caught up in Rivers State Politics, just as it was in the days of officer Mbu!
Actually nothing has changed. The prospects are that future elections will be more violent as many Politicians buy into Chief Odigie Oyegun's doctrine. If Gold will rust, what will iron do?As it stands, only God can help us!
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR