Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the press, the people, citizens and friends of Rivers State, Nigerians home and abroad, our expatriate community, electoral observers, party faithful’s, ladies and gentlemen. You are all welcome.
Over the past few days, Rivers State has once again been in the headlines globally for all the wrong reasons. In a nationwide election that sought to elect a President for the Federal Republic of Nigeria and members of the National Assembly, our dear state was characterized with armed conflict which unfortunately led to the death of innocent Nigerians that had simply sought to exercise their civic duty of participating in an electoral process.
At this juncture allow me to express my most profound and sincere condolences to the families who lost loved ones last weekend. In particular, we reach out to the family of Miss Ibisaki Amachree who was shot while on duty. One death is one too many and no one has the right to kill in the name of power and politics. May the souls of all those who died this weekend Rest in Peace and the families be rest assured that the Federal Government will seek justice for them, no matter how long it takes.
It has been my personal plea and mantra as well as that of the APC that the violence meted out on our members and citizens of the State in 2015 and immediately thereafter has no place in any modern society, especially one that desperately needs to grow economically and develop for the betterment of her people. We have called for peace and peaceful elections at every stage, but it is unfortunate that there are people hellbent to cling on to power at any cost, even to the taking of human lives.
I have been shocked and saddened by statements and comments attributed to the Rivers State Governor that Prof. Charles Dokubo-Quakers, Prince Tonye Princewill and I are responsible for the carnage and deaths in Abonnema last weekend. These malicious and unfounded allegations are being investigated and our lawyers will advise on possible libel suits to take against those who have peddled these wicked falsehoods.
For anyone willing to expose the truth, the task is relatively easy and the motive particularly clear. Nigerians in their vast numbers were shocked to learn of militant kingpins that were rewarded for their role in the 2015 elections with positions in the State House of Assembly, Local Government Councils and State Government appointments by the Rivers State Government. This is common knowledge and the names of these individuals are known to many.
In Akuku Toru in particular, Hon. Rowland Sekibo, currently at large, is the Chairman of the LGA and under his watch, Abonnema was brazenly under the control of several deadly cult groups. Like in several LGA’s across the state and operating under the cover of the Local Government Authority, militarized cult groups have held Akuku Toru hostage over the past few years and in the run-up to this election, intelligence reaching us was that strict directives had been issued to the Chairman not to permit APC from delivering the Local Government of its gubernatorial candidate and in particular, his polling unit and Ward 12.
We witnessed this playing out in the postponed presidential election on February 16 and again on the 23rd. The amateur videos of what the town looked like on Election Day has gone viral and it is clear that no one who loves life would venture onto the streets under such intense firepower. Of greater importance, I wish to congratulate HE President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR for his re-election as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and to address the impressive achievements by Rivers APC at the polls in spite of the many forces that have conspired to hamstring the party from the days of wanton killings and beheadings of APC supporters to the internal battles and court cases of recent times.
The result of the just concluded Presidential elections is an indication of a new beginning and trajectory with respect to elections in Rivers State. Gone are the days when political thugs would hijack electoral materials and allocate hundreds of thousands of imaginary votes to their party. The results from the various units, wards and Local Government Areas confirms this and further highlights the depth of rigging and manipulation of the 2015 elections that APC as a party had complained about.
All that is required of anyone desirous of the truth is to compare the 2015 electoral figures where total votes cast was 1,584,768 with APC getting 69,238 while PDP got 1,487,075; to that of 2019 where total votes cast was 666,585 with APC getting 150,710 (even after 72,000 votes in Emohua was unconstitutionally removed) and PDP getting 473,971 and the story would clearly unfold.
APC has withstood a judicial lynching that has long since baffled legal luminaries of how the Justices Nworgu, Yahaya and Omotosho’s judgements came about. That PDP would interfere with another party’s internal process in a court of law and secure a judgement that prevents their major competitor from campaigning in any form or manner, barring any of their candidates from being on the ballot is mind-boggling, especially against clear Supreme Court judgements that prevents one political party from interfering with the affairs of another as in the case of Alhassan v Ishaku, PDP v Sylva, PDP v Angodi etc.
Our party also had to contend with numerous court battles, a brutal internal conflict with Senator Magnus Abe that disenfranchised members of the party, many of whom have now openly decamped to the PDP, multiple attacks on the party at campaign rallies of the opposition and severe attempts to break the spirit of the party faithful. It was indeed a resounding success to see the turnout of APC voters across the state.
This was in spite of an INEC body that was swift to obeying the PDP sponsored judgement but resolute in its decision not to obey an order of Stay of Execution. Our concerns were further affirmed by Rivers State’s INEC’s refusal to include the over 72,000 votes in favour of the APC from Emohua LGA after being duly collated and announced by the LGA collation officer whose duty it is to so do in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act. It therefore means that the Rivers State office of INEC cannot be said to be truly independent as it had no hesitation in allowing the result of Khana, Andoni and other Local Government Areas in favour of the PDP.
In the wake of INEC not affirming the relisting of our candidates, we had promised the people of Rivers State that APC will closely follow every ballot box, every vote cast and every result declared to its final conclusion. We affirmed not to allow the votes of the citizens to be stolen and to ensure the results will be as close to reality as is humanly possible. That was the mandate we gave to our people and that is the mandate we delivered.
That in the midst of such heavy intimidation and array of forces squarely aimed at destroying the Rivers APC, in an election where we had no candidates, APC faithful still turned out with well over 200,000 votes, while the PDP unencumbered by money, full array of candidates, robust campaigns and incumbency power was strictly restricted to the unpleasant reality of recording just over 450,000 votes, the lowest tally of votes they have ever recorded.
This is the true victory and a loud statement of intent that the people of Rivers State are sick and tired of governments that promote fear and intimidation, extol violence as a virtue and only come around during election times to make promises they have no intention of keeping while spreading falsehoods aimed at hoodwinking an electorate with the hope they can steal another election before the people wake up to the truth.
Unfortunately for them, the people are now awake.
Finally, as we head towards the next set of elections, we urge our party members, supporters and Rivers people to remain calm and peaceful. We are confident that INEC would now do the right and proper thing by restoring all our candidates, including those for the National Assembly, back on the ballot and the people will have the choice to come out without fear of further violence and vote for the change they truly desire but up until now have been afraid to express.
Thank You and God bless you.
Arc. Tonye Cole
Co-ordinator, APC Presidential Campaign Council, Rivers State & APC Rivers State Governorship Candidate.