From Tony John, Port Harcourt
The governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Rivers State, Magnus Abe, has expressed concern about a series of attack and attempt to stop the party from campaigning in the state.
Abe, who briefed journalists in Port Harcourt, on the latest development in Oyigbo Local Government Area on Monday, said if he had been killed by fully armed political thugs, perhaps, the chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Desmond Akawor, would send a condolence message to his wife.
He wondered how SDP would be “I want say about the experience we have this afternoon today to the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, so that the authorities as well as Nigerians will have an insight of what is happening in Rivers State.
“For sometime now, there have been series of repressive measures against functional democratic processes here in the state. But, out of the sense of responsibility, a sense of loyalty to Rivers State and a sense of maturity, we have refused over time to share some of these issues to the public.
“But, however, as times have gone on, events have continued to escalate. First, there was an incident in Khana local government area, when we went there to try to talk to some leaders. And every effort was made to sabotage that effort, including trying to hire boys to distrupt that gathering. We ignored it and didn’t say anything.
“Sometime after that, there was a church service in Gokana local government area, where I was invited. And as soon as they heard that I was coming, thugs invaded the church to away banners and other things for the occasion, which was an occasion to pray for candidates of Ogoni extraction.”
According to Abe, democracy is not an event, but an acceptance of basic human rights and privileges.
He said: “Today, however, the matter has gotten to a point where we can no longer keep quiet. The country must become aware of what is going on in Rivers State.
The SDP in Oyigbo Local Governmentnt Area this morning were to hold a stakeholders meeting, not a rally. And I indicated my intention to attend the meeting in order to encourage our supporters in Oyigbo. And, also, pay a condolence visit to one of the kings and then see the chiefs of Oyigbo as well as visit one or two prominent members of SDP in the area.
“The meeting was to hold in a hall in Ayama. This hall was built, finished and donated to the community when I was in the Senate, as one of my constituency projects.
“When they heard we were to hold a meeting, early this morning, thugs led by the Personal Assistant to State PDP Chairman, Amb. Desmond Akawor, broke into the place, scattered everything and locked up the place, and said we could not hold a meeting there even tough approval for the facility had been given by the chief and elders of the community.
“When that information was given to me, I duly informed the police and asked them to withdraw because our principle had been non-confrontation, no violence.
“And the meeting was taken to the private compound of one of our supporters. And I left here to go and attend the meeting.
When we got to Egberu, the border into Oyigbo, the road was blocked by thugs armed with guns, machetes, knives and all kinds of dangerous weapons. That, there can be no SDP in Oyigbo local government. And I was like, did we mistakenly stray into another country or is this part of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Because, this was happening in broad daylight.
“The security operatives that are attached to me tried to intervene and the boys were cocking gun and saying that everybody will die here and all that.
“And against security advice, I came out from my vehicle and attempted to talk to them. I said listen, Desmond children are not here, but you are here.
“We are coming here to share our message of hope, progress and prosperity with you. When we finish talking, if you like our message, you follow us, if you don’t like us, follow those that you value that you trust.”
In a swift reaction, Akawor has distanced himself from the allegation, saying Abe should not drag him into his problem with the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
Akawor, who spoke on phone to one of the journalists at the briefing, described Abe as a friend saying that it was wrong for the senator to associate him with the activities of the thugs.
He asked: “Why will people play politics like that? For me, he (Abe) has enough problem for himself and the APC he left. So, when he has problem with APC his people, he should not ascribe it to me. He is my friend. So, which one concerns me with village boys? So, I am not part of it.”