Senator Magnus Abe, the Governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers state, yesterday, Monday 14th November, accused Rivers Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman, Amb. Desmond Akawor of deploying armed thugs to prevent his campaign team entry into Obigbo for a meeting.
In response, Akawor said the claim by the SDP candidate, who he recognized as a friend was false because he could not have imagined doing such a thing. He also emphasized that at the time the incident occurred, he was with Governor Nyesom Wike in Port Harcourt commissioning projects.
Abe said he, Rivers SDP leaders, and supporters of his governorship bid were on a convoy to a meeting in Egberu, Obigbo Local Government Area (LGA) home base of PDP state leaders when thugs barricaded the road, forcing them to a retreat in presence of police escorts after earlier stopping them from meeting in a community hall he (Abe) built during the time in the Senate.
The governorship hopeful said he and his party have faced ugly experiences, including injuries to supporters, over a series of recent repressive attacks on political parties in Rivers, but he and his party refrained from sharing the concerns in public out of a sense of responsibility, loyalty to Rivers state and maturity.
Abe said, “But over the past weeks, these series of events have continued to escalate. The other day one of our supporters in Tai was beaten and handcuffed. Several times SDP had planned to hold meetings, thugs will come, scatter.”
“I held my peace and said nobody should say anything and I continued to treat these issues quietly. Today, however, the matter has gotten to a level we can no longer keep quiet, the country must become aware of what is happening in Rivers state.”
Narrating yesterday’s experience, he said, “SDP in Oyibo LGA, this morning, was to hold a stakeholders meeting. The meeting has been on air, just a normal meeting, not a rally. I indicated an intention to attend in other to encourage our supporters there, pay a condolence visit to one of the Kings, see Chiefs of Oyibo and see one or two prominent people in the area.”
“The meeting was to hold in a hall in Ayama, built and furnished by me and donated to the community as my constituency project as a Senator of Rivers South-East Senatorial District.”
“When it was heard on the radio that I was to hold a meeting there, early this morning, thugs led by the Personal Assistant of the state chairman of PDP, Amb. Desmond Akawo, broke into the place, scattered everything, and said we will not hold the meeting there, even though prior approval had been granted by the Chiefs and Elders of the community to us to hold the meeting.”
“When the information was given to me, I quickly informed the police and called my supporters to withdraw, as our principle has been, no provocation, no violence. So the meeting was moved to a private compound of one of our supporters, I left there to go and attend the meeting, having been moved from the hall to a private residence.”
“When we got to Egberu, the border to Oyibo, the road was blocked by thugs, armed with all kinds of dangerous weapons, guns, machetes, knives. They said this is home of Desmond Akawor, and that we cannot enter Oyibo and there can be no SDP in Oyibo LGA.”
“Security operatives attached to me tried to intervene, but against security advice, I came out from the vehicle in an attempt to speak to the thugs. I said to them, Desmond’s children are not here, but you are here. We have come here to share a message of hope, progress, and prosperity.”
“When we finish talking to you if you like our message, you join, if not you follow your mind, but I also have a village and other people have been going to my village campaign, I never stopped anybody. When the then Governor was to bring GDI to this state, the former Governor said they should be attacked, just like they are doing now.”
“I was the only one who insisted that nobody can be attacked in Gokana while I was a leader. I insisted that he will not be attacked, and he was able to come to Gokana peacefully and campaign because I disobeyed the Governor (Amaechi) at that time.”
Abe added, “The video of what happened to us this morning is very clear, the people did not cover their faces, nor hide their guns, machetes, and other weapons they had. And Desmond Akawor (Rivers PDP Chairman) who sponsored this attack on me and peaceful members of my entourage is somebody I met just two days ago at a hotel here in GRA (Port Harcourt).”
“We embraced and were hugging each other as friends, yet he had the mind to send children with guns and knives to go and wait for me on the road. If I had died there he would have sent a condolence message to my wife pretending to be my friend. This kind of friends are not good in our society. Leaders of this nature are dangerous to our democracy.”
“I will go back to Egberu, and will campaign everywhere in Rivers state, constitutionally permitted to do. It is time Nigerians knew what is going on here in Rivers and attempts that are being made to forcefully and violently stop other political parties from exercising their democratic rights in this state. It will not be allowed. We will not agree to it and will not accept it.”
“I’ve gone to the Commissioner of Police, and I thank him because, in the few days he has been here, he has done a lot including holding a meeting with all the political parties to reiterate that peace must be made available for all political parties to go about their campaigns.”
“We all know what happened in Rivers before and how many people lost lives needlessly because of the lust for power on the part of those who will not respect the rules of the game. Once more we are threading the same dangerous pact.”
“I appeal to the governor (Wike), appeal to all leaders of the PDP, particularly Desmond Akawor himself that this kind of behaviour is not tolerable. And if all of us behave like this, the state will be ungovernable because everybody has a village and a road passed through our entire village.”
“We also have supporters and boys at home. So let us change the way we do things. Let’s do things differently, and allow democracy to take root in our time. After twenty-something years of practicing democracy, we have reached a point where we should”
Akawor while responding to the allegation, said to Vanguard, “Abe has enough problems with APC and his people. He should not ascribe it to me, he is my friend, we met and hugged each other at a function recently.”
“Ok let’s assume, not conceding, that he was going to my place for a campaign, is it not courtesy that he tells me that he was going to my village? So what’s my concern with the village boys? I’m not part of whatever happened there.”
“Me, I am very busy this week with the commissioning of projects and others. He (Abe) should not mention my name in things I am not associated with.”
“They are politicians, they are only abreast with politics, I have built enough career for my life that I won’t take thuggery as part of me.”
Joy Oyaghiri-Fagbemi, Press Officer to Rivers PDP stated, “Aside from the fact that Amb Akawor is a man of peace, he has on many occasions preached peace and advised that the votes will do the talking, a man famous for the quote, ‘In PDP we don’t have guns, we have God, how then can he remotely be attached to an unholy act such as violence?”
“This is nothing but a calculated attempt to whip up sympathy, by enemies, whose outing was abysmal and are, therefore, looking for an excuse to attach to their unpopularity. It goes without saying that in this time and age, people will resort to slandering than galvanize support for their political party and candidate.”