Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, yesterday dealt the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate,Alhaji Atiku Abubakar,a fresh blow in their face off ahead of the February election.
The governor sealed off the Atiku/Okowa campaign office located in the Port Harcourt Government Reservation Area (GRA),after turning down a request by the Campaign Management Committee in the state to use the residential building for political reason.
Atiku supporters in the state yesterday protested the government action as a violation of right of free expression.
Human rights activist, Shehu Sani, branded the sealing of the campaign office as unfortunate and wrong.
“The report of the sealing of the Atiku Abubakar PDP Presidential campaign office in PH is unfortunate and wrong,” he said on Twitter.
The Director General of the Atiku Campaign Management Committee in the state had,in a November 28,2022 letter to the Commissioner for Physical Planning ,applied to change the use of house No.32 Onne Road,GRA Phase 11.
But in its response of December 19,2022,the ministry said the purpose for which the application was made was “contracting to the designated use.”
It said: “We write in reference to your application for Change in Use/Purpose dated 28th November 2022 for your campaign office at No.32 Onne Road,GRA PHASE 11,Port Harcourt.
“In your response to our Notice served,no Title documents was attached.Also your contact phone number cannot be reached.We have sent text messages to this effect to you on the subject matter for you to furnish this office with your Title documents.
However,we are aware that the area GRA 1 & 11 is designated for residential purpose,therefore the use of the property as a campaign office (semi-public) is contracting to the designated use.
“In the light of the above,your application for Change in Use/Purpose cannot be approved.”
The letter was signed by Stella N.Enyadike,Director,Physical Planning and Transport for the commissioner.
The property was subsequently sealed off.
The Atiku Campaign Committee did not take kindly to the action of the state government which it called a violation of free expression.
It said:”The public is hereby informed that the sealed premises had no bill board or poster, since the approval had not been given, yet it was sealed off, a sign that the delay in the approval is premeditated and computed to cause this sort of unlawfulness.
“We urge our dear leaders in the state to challenge this illegality in a court of competent jurisdiction so that friction can disappear from our political space.
“The right to campaign for preferred candidate is enshrined in the Constitution of Nigeria, which is the grand norm from which every other law derives its power.”
Wike:Some PDP leaders are deliberately provoking violence
Wike who,along with four of his fellow governors in the PDP,are opposed to Atiku as the party’s flag bearer,justified the sealing off of the property saying some PDP leaders in the state were out to instigate violence.
The governor said that Senator Lee Maeba and Dr. Abiye Sekibo were making efforts to foist violence on the state by deliberately violating a state law prohibiting the location of political offices in residential areas of the state.
Maeba used to represent Rivers South in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly.
He recently alleged that agents of the state government invaded his Port Harcourt residence ,attacked his brother and damaged some of the cars parked on the premises.
Wike at the commissioning of the Bori-Kono road in the state yesterday claimed that Maeba had contributed nothing much to Ogoniland despite his acclaimed closeness to the PDP presidential candidate.
Said the governor:”You (Maeba) were made a senator. Mention one project you brought to the people of Ogoniland as a distinguished senator.
“When you were the senator, the presidential candidate of PDP was the Vice President and you said you are close to him. What project did you bring to Ogoniland?
“No, Ogoni, you people are here. Senator Lee Maeba claimed that he was one of the few senators that were close to the Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who is now the presidential candidate of the PDP.
“Senator Ledogo Maeba, with your closeness then, with your opportunity and privileges, what did you bring to the people of Ogoniland? Mention one project. I went to your community the other day. I saw the school you attended. I cried. How could a senator have attended this kind of school and yet, look at the shape that school is in? Go and see what that school looks like.
“East-West Road, I gave it to you, Lee Maeba, to do. The only thing you got in the Senate was an oil block, which you sold at $15 million. Who has a calculator there? Convert it; it comes down to 700. Seven hundred (times) 10 is 7 billion, is it not? Seven hundred (times) five will be how many? 3.5! That is, 13.5 billion (naira) was what you got (and) was paid to you.
As a minister, my community never had a school. I brought a school to my community. As a chief of staff, I brought roads to my community. You were doing constituency projects. Where is your own in Ogoniland? Stop using Ogoni people. Stop telling lies.
“No amount of lies you concoct can change the minds of the people because they know all you are doing is for your selfish interests. You said I promised you governor. I never (did). You said they were calling you here to the throne. Which throne? I don’t have a throne to give anybody. You are telling people all kinds of lies. We are not people of violence.”
Further splits in states
Apart from the latest onslaught from Wike, further assault on Atiku’s presidential aspiration seems to be increasing especially from PDP chapters in Katsina, Gombe, Oyo, Delta and Ebonyi States among others.
In Delta State, a faction loyal to former Governor James Ibori is at war with Governor Ifeanyi Okowa over the outcome of the PDP primary elections held last May across the state. Sources within the party told our correspondent that all efforts by party leaders and stakeholders so far to reconcile the two factions have failed.
One of the sources said:”As things stand, it is uncertain that the Ibori group will work with Okowa, who incidentally is the Vice Presidential candidate of the party in the 2023 elections. “The PDP in Delta state, for the first time since 1999, is going into a general election divided and weakened. Ibori is the heart of the PDP in Delta State and that is a well-known fact.
“His group is not moving yet and the leaders of the party within and outside Delta know what that means. With the failure of all reconciliation efforts, I wonder what will become of PDP in the state next year. Don’t also forget that Omo-Agege, the APC candidate for governorship, was a member of the Ibori camp before he dumped PDP.”
Ibori and Okowa fell out over who should be the governorship candidate of the PDP in the state. While the governor supported current House of Assembly Speaker, Sheriff Oborevwori for the ticket, Ibori backed David Edevbie. Oborevwori eventually won the primary election leading to a series of litigations. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has recognised the Speaker, citing court orders as its reason.
But the Ibori camp has refused to accept the verdict. Party sources said the leadership of the group had severally refused entreaties from PDP leaders to work with Okowa to deliver Delta State to the party next year.
In Katsina, a long standing feud between former Governor Ibrahim Shehu Shema, and the party’s gubernatorial candidate, Senator Yakubu Lado Danmarke, is threatening the chances of the PDP in next year’s elections.
The Nation learnt that the decision of Atiku to recognize Lado as the arrow head of his campaign in the state has pitted Shema and majority of the leaders of the party in the state against his presidential ambition. Last Tuesday, Shema, and 10 out of the 14-member working committee of the party, boycotted Atiku’s mega rally held in the state.