By Akanimo Sampson
United States Consul-General to Nigeria, John Bray and the Political Officer of the British High Commission in the country, Louis Edwards, on Friday stormed Port Harcourt, the Rivers State, following disturbing reports of assault on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftains by soldiers.
They met with Governor Nyesom Wike, PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus, Deputy Governor Ipalibo Harry Banigo, the state’s PDP Chairman, Felix Obuah and Senator Lee Maeba.
The state government and the PDP have been issuing statements alerting the world on the alleged partisan activities of armed security forces in the state before this Saturday’s Governorship and state House of Assembly elections.
Wike however, used the occasion to table concerns of the government and peoples of the state before the diplomats, and stoutly condemned what he described as ‘’the stage-managed’’ unlawful arrests of PDP members by the security forces.
Before now, Governor Wike has been urging security agencies to be professional and unbiased in the discharge of their duties for the peaceful conduct of credible polls in the state.
‘’We therefore condemn the stage-managed, unjustified and continuing arrests and unlawful detention of leaders of the PDP across the state by security operatives since Wednesday. We want to warn that such biased, politically-induced arrests and malicious jailing of PDP leaders only serve to heat up the already volatile political atmosphere with heightened tensions and dissensions, which could cause serious problems to the peaceful conduct of elections in the state.
‘’This is more so when the state security agencies are seen to be protecting and supporting leaders of the rival APC who have not relented to undermine public peace, safety security with their criminally pernicious, incendiary and inciting utterances. This being so, all that we require and demand from the security operatives is to create the enabling peaceful electoral environment for our electorates to come out and orderly cast and have their votes counted in the elections.
‘’Accordingly, we once again request the security agencies to be responsive and responsible in the performance of their legal duties and ensure that no person, political party or thug is allowed to undermine the order, peace and tranquility of the state in their desperation to foist their will on the state during the election’’, the governor said.
Continuing, Wike said, ‘’in a democracy our vote is our power and no situation or circumstance should be potent enough to scare or prevent us from coming out to vote for the candidates and party of our choice.
‘’When they tried in 2016 we successfully resisted and overcame them with our courage. We can do it again in 2019 as nothing can stop our God’s ordained match to resounding victories.
‘’For us in Rivers, this election is about electing those who will preside over the affairs of our state as the governor and legislators for the next four years from among the political parties and candidates already cleared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to contest.
‘’As important as these elections are because they are about our progress and our future as a State and as a people; still they do not call for violence, disruptions, snatching of election materials, harassment of electoral officers or rigging of any sort by any person, authority or agency.
‘’As democrats, we sincerely sympathize with the APC and its supporters for this political misadventure. Yet, this circumstance neither warrants nor justifies the continuing threat by that party to violate the peace of the State and scuttle next Saturday’s Governorship and State House of Assembly elections.
‘’That is why we commend the move by a faction of the APC led by the Minister of Transportation to stake its political fortunes in next Saturday’s elections with the candidates of the African Action Congress as the right thing to do instead of threatening mayhem on the State.”
‘’As I repeatedly said, we all have no other State as beautiful and accommodating to call and cherish, as our home than Rivers. It therefore remains our collective responsibility to promote and preserve its peace, advance its progress and secure the present and future wellbeing of our people.
‘No one is exempted in this enterprise of state building. Accordingly, we recognize and appreciate the APC and all the other political parties as major stakeholders that are committed in principle to the unity, peace and progress of our State as envisaged and enjoined by our founding fathers.
‘’At this crucial time of our political history therefore, the minimum service the APC and other political parties can render to move our State forward is to encourage all their supporters of voting age to come out to peacefully and orderly exercise their franchise in this election devoid of any violence, acrimony or hostility.’’
Meanwhile, at the end of the meeting, the visiting diplomats declined comments though still in the strategic oil and gas state to monitor the elections.