President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State locked horns again on Saturday over the use of the Rivers State stadium for a Peoples Democratic Party rally. The two fell out with each other several months ago leading to the defection of
President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State locked horns again on Saturday over the use of the Rivers State stadium for a Peoples Democratic Party rally.
The two fell out with each other several months ago leading to the defection of Amaechi from the PDP to the opposition All Progressives Congress. The Rivers governor is also not in good terms with the First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, over claims that the President’s wife wanted to control him and the state. Mrs. Jonathan has repeatedly denied this allegation.
On Friday, in an apparent move to counter the refusal by Amaechi to grant the state PDP permission to use the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium for the PDP presidential rally armed soldiers took over the stadium.
Jonathan’s presidential rally is billed to hold on Wednesday, January 28.
Amaechi had cited an ongoing construction work on the sporting facility as the reason for turning down the request.
The governor had also maintained that since the stadium was one of the projects his administration was bent on completing before leaving office, it would be unnecessary to stop work on the 40,000 capacity sports complex located in Igwuruta-Ali, Ikwerre Local Government Area due to a political rally.
The soldiers moved into the stadium Friday night and were still within the facility when SUNDAY PUNCH visited the place on Saturday.
The soldiers mounted guard at the two main entrances to the stadium. More soldiers were seen alighting from a Hilux van while others were stationed at different points within the stadium complex.
One of our correspondents gathered that the governorship candidate of the PDP in the state, Mr. Nyesom Wike, was led to the stadium by a group of security agents, including men of the Department of State Security at about 12: 50pm on Saturday.
Sources said Wike, who is the former Minister of State for Education, was at the stadium to inspect the facility ahead of his party’s presidential rally on Wednesday.
The leadership of the PDP in the state had alerted the police and other security agencies of an alleged threat by Amaechi to mobilise his supporters against the party should it (PDP) insist on holding the President’s rally at the stadium.
Wike had also vowed that the facility would be available for the President’s rally.
Reacting to the occupation of the stadium by soldiers, Amaechi told SUNDAY PUNCH that Jonathan was not prepared for a free and fair election.
The governor, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja on Saturday, said it was unfortunate that the President was preaching one thing but doing another.
He said, “If the President wants free and fair election, why would he use armed soldiers to forcefully take over a state government facility when it has not be given to him or his party to campaign?
“Work is ongoing at the stadium and another one has been given to them to hold the rally. Why must he insist on using the stadium where workers are still working?”
The governor asked Nigerians and the international community to focus on the country and the state in particular, warning that the PDP and Jonathan must be held responsible for any breakdown of law and order during or after the elections.
He appealed to the people of the state and members of his political party, the APC, to remain calm in the face of the “underserved provocation from the President they laboured to put in power.”
Meanwhile, suspected political thugs on Saturday attacked the venue of an APC governorship rally in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The hoodlums reportedly threw explosives into the arena, which was prepared for the campaign of the APC governorship candidate in the state, Dr. Dakuku Peterside.
The equipment for the event was destroyed by persons, who were said to have stormed the National School Field in a white Hiace bus.
Okrika is the home of the wife of President Jonathan, Patience, who was at the governorship rally of the PDP at the same venue on Thursday, January 22, 2015.
Speaking on the attack, the APC Chairman in Okrika, Mr. Christian Asifamaka, said the armed youths began to shoot sporadically at the venue as early as 3:45am.
Asifamaka stated that the thugs later resorted to throwing explosives into the arena, destroying the podium and sound system in the process.
The armed youths, according to the Okrika APC chairman, came from Igbiri community, an area that shares a border with Mrs. Jonathan’s Oba Ama community.
“Those setting up the sound system and the podium were forced to flee for dear lives. At about 4am they started shooting explosives into the arena. The boys came in a white Hiace bus and they are allegedly from Igbiri, a community that shares borders with Mrs. Jonathan’s Oba Ama community,” Asifamaka said in his statement.
Confirming the incident, the state Commissioner for Police, Mr. Dan Bature, said a group of unidentified persons attacked the campaign ground with explosive device suspected to be dynamite.
Explaining that no life was lost during the attack, Bature, who spoke with reporters in Port Harcourt, said the Police Bomb Disposal Unit had begun investigation on the matter.
He noted that the attack in Okrika had increased tension in the state ahead of the February 2015 general election
He said, “While the command is determined to discharge its constitutional mandate of protection of lives and property, all political parties are hereby warned to adhere strictly to the Code of Conduct guiding political parties in the state, respect of law and order, and eschew violence in all its ramifications before, during and after the 2015 general elections.
“The command is determined to enforce law and order, provide adequate security for all political parties and ensure that the full wrath of the law is visited on any person or persons, who dare and wish to test our capability.”
The attack on the venue for the APC campaign forced the party to call off its rally slated for Saturday.
A statement signed by Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, the Director of Communication of Greater Together Campaign Organisation, the campaign team of the governorship candidate, stated that the cancellation became necessary as a result of the early Saturday violence against APC members and supporters.
“The APC in Rivers State has called off its governorship campaign rally scheduled for Saturday, in Okrika. Okrika is the birthplace of Mrs. Patience Jonathan, wife of President Goodluck Jonathan.
“The APC governorship candidate, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, was expected to unveil his Roadmap to Prosperity, a revolutionary economic blue-print for the massive development of Rivers State, to the Okrika electorate as well as highlight the choice space the area holds in the plan.
“Heavily armed thugs had in the wee hours of the morning besieged the National School Field, Okrika, venue of the APC governorship rally and opened fire,” she said.
By Edos News