The way forward for the Rivers State wing of All Progressives Congress (APC) which has been immersed in a protracted factional crisis will depend on the verdict of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the recent violence at the party’s secretariat.
APC State Publicity Secretary, Chris Finebone, confirmed to Naija News that the matter has been presented to INEC headquarters in Abuja and ‘’we are awaiting their directives on what to do next.’’
After the party’s last National Convention, and the disposal of the very last court case against it, Finebone said APC in Rivers has been on ‘’fresh ascendancy and momentum.
‘’We have demonstrated the readiness and willingness to actively participate in the electioneering process which has kicked off with the conduct of delegate congresses.’’
Due to what he described as ‘’the compact calendar’’ of INEC, occasioned by the Electoral Act 2022, ‘’our party shifted its Delegate Congresses twice. Eventually, sale of forms for the delegate congresses was widely advertised and sold between Monday, May 9, and 11:00pm on May 11, 2022 at the state party secretariat along Woji Road, Port Harcourt.
‘’Subsequently, the collated names of delegates, aspirants was forwarded to the 319 wards in readiness for the congresses. And in line with the directive of our National Headquarters, a Vetting Committee, headed by the State Legal Adviser, was set up to vet the documentations of state Assembly aspirants between May 11 and 12, 2022.
‘’This was given wide publicity in the media prior to and during the exercise. On May 17, 2022 the APC State Congress and Screening Committee led by the Chairman, Dr. Adoyi Omale, arrived the state. The team’s arrival and its schedule for screening State Assembly Aspirants on Wednesday, 18th May, 2022 were widely publicized in the media.’’
Continuing during a press conference on Sunday, 22nd May, the APC spokesman said, ‘’on the first day, 61 aspirants presented themselves for screening while on the second day 28 aspirants were screened putting the total number of aspirants screened at 89.
‘’The Delegate Congresses were done and concluded on Wednesday, May 18 across the state. The exercise was peaceful and credible as it was witnessed by INEC and security officials in all the wards.
‘’However, on the morning of Wednesday, May 18, 2022 a group of individuals assembled at the main gate of our party secretariat. Their motive was not clear to anyone. With every passing minute their number was growing just as they started becoming violent.
‘’By 9am the situation had gone out of control. They had no leader to engage with and the messages on the few placards they carried were incoherent. Their extremely violent behaviour compelled the policemen at the party secretariat to lock up the gate. Not long after, they started pushing the gate and later started throwing stones violently into the secretariat premises with a view to hitting people inside and destroying property.
‘’Everything they did had the trappings of what happened in 2018 when a group of Senator Magnus Abe’s followers besieged, broke in, looted and later destroyed the former party secretariat at Forces Avenue, Old GRA, Port Harcourt. Before our eyes, history was about repeating itself perhaps because when the 2018 incident happened, the perpetrators went scot free with no consequences.
‘’This time, the total breakdown of law and order necessitated calls for police reinforcement to avert danger and a repeat of the destruction of 2018 from recurring. It took a long while before police personnel arrived and started to task of persuading the mob to disperse to no avail.
‘’They appeared hell bent on accomplishing their objective. However, after over an hour of engagement, the police were compelled to apply minimum force and successfully dispersed them.’’
Though reports said one person was allegedly killed, but Finebone is saying the party believes the police account that no one died despite that the patience of the police was stretched to its elastic limit by the violent conduct of the mob.
This is even as another faction of the party is insisting that congresses did not take place in the state. That is the position of the Magnus Abe faction.
The Chibuike Amaechi faction is saying that they have come to the conclusion that the violence at the party’s secretariat deliberately engineered to block the party gate as early as 6am to ensure that materials for the congresses were not sent to the 319 wards for the congresses.
Despite the unfortunate incident, some of the party faithful still believe that their march towards participating in the next stage of the electioneering calendar, which is the primaries, will proceed apace without let.
They are hoping to ultimately build on the momentum to achieve their overall objective of winning the 2023 elections as Returning Officers and Electoral Officers of 22 local government areas allegedly completed and submitted the results of congresses they conducted.
Asari Toru Local Government Area is alleged to be the only one that didn’t present any result since the electoral officer was allegedly hijacked at gunpoint and forced to declare that no congress held there.