Rivers State went to the polls saturday to elect officials at the third tier of government amid conflicting claims about the success of the election by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in the state and the main opposition All Progressives Congress. While PDP praised the election, which went on peacefully in the 23 local government areas of the state, as a success, APC dismissed the poll as a failure and an indication of Governor Nyesom Wike’s rejection by the people.
Wike was, however, absent at Unit 7, Ward 9, Rumueprikom, in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, where he was registered to vote. He drove past his polling unit about 12:30pm, and about two hours later, news came that the governor had returned to Government House, Port Harcourt, and would not come to the polling Unit.
But the lawmaker representing Tai/Eleme/Oyigbo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives on the APC platform, Dr. Barry Mpigi, shunned the directive of his party and voted in the council election.
The election organised by the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission was generally devoid of untoward occurrences in most of the units visited by THISDAY.
However, Deputy Leader of APC in Rivers State, Dr Dakuku Peterside, alleged a low turnout of voters at the controversial local government election, saying it is an indication that the people have rejected Wike and are only waiting for 2019 to vote him out. Peterside stated this in a statement yesterday by his media team. He said several members of PDP had called him to express their frustration with the governor’s manipulative inclinations during the poll, including substitution of candidates’ names at RSIEC.
PDP was the only major party that participated in yesterday’s local government election, as the exercise was marred by massive voter apathy and boycotts.
Dakuku Peterside Media Team stated, “Nyesom Wike’s one party ‘election’ witnessed the lowest turnout of voters in the annals of Rivers State elections, just as a heavy downpour disrupted the selection across the wide spectrum of the state.”
When contacted, Special Assistant to the Governor on Electronic Media, Simeon Nwakaudu, said the governor could not vote because he was monitoring the election to ensure that people had free access to exercise their franchise.
Nwakaudu stated, “Inasmuch as the governor would have wished to vote, he was more interested that people had free access to polling units to exercise their franchise and that there was enough security to protect the people. The governor was more interested in the peaceful and credible conduct of the elections than anything else.”
Meanwhile, Wike commended RSIEC and the security agencies for conducting a credible local government election and ensuring a peaceful atmosphere for the exercise. Addressing journalists after monitoring the elections in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor local government areas, the governor said the non-participation of the APC in the elections turned out to be one of the reasons why the process was peaceful.
According to him, “Sixty-six out of 68 political parties participated, but no violence. That means that if APC had participated, probably we would have seen violence. Sixty-six political parties, no violence, no shooting, nobody has died. But if the APC had participated, they would want to coerce security agencies, they would do all manners of negative things, like bringing cultists to shoot. You can see that nobody hijacked materials. Everything has been peaceful.”
But Dakuku Peterside Media Team quoted the APC governorship aspirant as saying, “This is the first time a sitting governor has conducted local government election and his own party members are disenchanted with the process. Very many of his party members were, reportedly, angry at the way and manner the governor has held everybody hostage.
“The governor himself was so disappointed that he was seen driving round Obio/Akpor local government, urging people to come and vote for his party, just to prove he has support. Why will a governor be driving around during Election Day? What does the law say about that?
“Even several radio stations that ran live programmes all reported low turnouts in many local government areas, while others never saw materials before the close of time. How better can a people reject the governor? His party members did not even care much, much more other discerning Rivers people.”