‘You can’t lock up Rivers with violence in name of election’, Abe replies Wike

Amaechi Okonkwo

The Governorship Candidate of the Social Democratic Party SDP, Sen Magnus Abe, has accused the Rivers State Nyesom Wike of locking up the state with violence and harassment of the people during the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections of March 18, 2023.

Abe was responding to Governor Wike. In a broadcast after the election that saw the Siminilayi Fubara of PDP declared winner, he mocked Abe for losing in 15 out of 17 wards in his (Abe’s) native Gokana Local Government Area.

“Magnus’s vaunting ambition was to have a chance to be named on the ballot as a gubernatorial candidate of any party, having twice been denied the APC ticket by his former friend, political leader, and associate, Rotimi Amaechi. He achieved this limited and useless ambition when he hurriedly decamped from the APC to the SDP”, Wike had said. 

But speaking with newsmen on Wednesday at his Freedom House campaign office, Abe retorted that the elections were marred by widespread state-sponsored violence, harassment, intimidation, arrest, and even killings which gravely affected the outcome.

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Abe scored the election process very low, saying, “Across the state, people were unfortunately and disenfranchised.

“We did not expect a perfect election in Rivers state, however, we expected an election where everybody will be given an opportunity to participate and express their preference one way or the other, unfortunately, that did not happen”.

He observed that there were palpable signs before the election that there would be no democratic process, or practice in the state, “but we continued to trust that the government of Nigeria would look at the events happening in Rivers State and make some efforts to provide, not a level playing field, but just a playing field so that as citizens of our country and representatives of our different political parties we’ll be able to participate, that didn’t happen.

“At least we expected some measure of open participation in which Rivers people would be able to have an opportunity to express their preference one way or the other, unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

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“Intimidation, harassment, and state-sponsored violence continued throughout the campaign, culminating in the election. It got to the point where the entire traditional rulers in the council in Rivers State were compelled to adopt as their sole candidate the candidate of the PDP and this was done publicly. Beyond that, all the traditional rulers were further mandated to go to their domains and compel the people that those who do not want to vote the preferred candidate of the state government should not be allowed to come out to vote.

That created great voter apathy coupled with the fact that thugs and militants across the state were mobilised to come out to warn people who did not want to vote for the PDP not to come out”.

Abe added that due to the aforementioned issues, the voter turnout in several parts of the state where this was effectively communicated, particularly among the non-indigenous resident in Rivers State, was reduced to almost zero. 

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The former Senator representing the Rivers southeast senatorial district challenged Wike; “If you want to know if people are ready for the election, you should have allowed the election to hold. You can’t lock up the entire state by violence and expect something different”.

He counseled, “Those who have done what they have done should respect the peace in the state by ensuring that their comments are not inflaming those who are already offended. All the thousands of non-indigenes who came out to vote were beaten to a stupor, how was I to prepare for such an election,  hire my thugs, to get votes? The best way to express that was to have allowed people to vote freely”.

He stated that stakeholders of the party would meet to decide on the next line of action to take on the election’s outcome. 

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