Feelers emanating from Maitama, Abuja have it that supporters of the minister of state for Education, Nyesom Wike, who is a gubernatorial aspirant in Rivers state on Thursday, October 9, 2014 attacked and manhandled supposed opponents and journalists alike at the second day of sitting of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) South South integration committee chaired by senator Iya Abubakar, held at Legacy House, the PDP presidential campaign office.
According to Vanguard, as soon as the minister got to the venue, his supporters barricaded the entrance to the hall, barring perceived opponents and journalists from gaining access. Some of the “opponents” like Kenneth Ibikani Dublin, Chief Larry Allison and Major Lanstort Annyayan had not submitted or defended their submitted memoranda. Journalists affected in the ensuing melee included cameramen with Channels and Silverbird televisions as well as a correspondent with Vanguard newspaper, who were harassed and beaten with the fierce-looking supporters threatening to destroy equipment belonging to the various media houses.
Lolo Ibienye, a former commissioner for water resources in Rivers state and Rivers state campaign coordinator for the 2007 late president Yar’Adua/Jonathan election bid expressed dissatisfaction over the incident. He had the following to say:
“I am Hon. Lolo Ibienye, Commissioner for Water Resources during former governor Peter Odili’s tenure and Rivers Coordinator, Yar’Adua/ Jonathan Campaign Organisation in 2007. What happened there was that the group led by the Honourable Minister of State, Education, Nyesom Wike brought people intended to stop petitioners from going to defend their petitions. Only a few people were allowed into the hall. 22 petitions were received from Rivers State and only four out of the 22 persons who petitioned were allowed to defend their petitions. Professor Israel Owate presented his, Chief Paworiso Samuel Horsfall presented his report, while Barrister Alalivo Frederick and Elechukwu Ogbowu presented theirs as well.
“In an attempt to stop the molestation and harassment of party stakeholders and preventing them from entering the hall to defend their petitions, Wike then shoved me. That is not what we expect at the moment at all; the molestation of stakeholders and journalists should not have happened, it is not necessary at all. If it happened in Abuja with few of us in attendance, what would have happened if the meeting had taken place in Rivers State?
“The national leadership of the party must know that it is not well with Rivers PDP, it is a clear indication that PDP in the state is sitting on a keg of gun powder.”
On the violence with ensued at the venue, he said: “It happened, go ahead and use it that way, what happened there was not necessary at all.“
Following the development, legal adviser to Network for Defence of Democracy and Good Governance (NDDGG) Barrister Tubotamuno Dick led a reprisal, supported by boys armed with bottles forced themselves into the premises, leading to a free-for-all which was eventually quelled by the police.
Dick said: “They were stopping people but I said we came to defend our petition. They molested our people, pushing them down. I went there and presented myself as a lawyer. Can you imagine a Nigerian Policeman hitting me in the eye? This means that the committee set up by the federal government has already been compromised.
“In Rivers PDP, we have only chairman and secretary and we have written to the national secretariat that if we allow a two-man exco as constituted to go for elections, we will have so many legal issues. As we speak, 70 per cent of PDP exco members decamped with Amaechi to APC.”
A governorship aspirant, Dublin, who was barred from gaining access to the hall said: “ I was not even allowed in; I expect that PDP National Secretariat will look at the issue. Iam going back to my people, inform them of what happened, then we will come up with a communique.”
Wike finally left the premises at about 12:30 pm, paving way for other aspirants to go in. He however refused to comment on the incident when contacted, saying he was in a meeting.