•New PDP secretariat in Rivers sealed
•Faction asks court to throw out PDP’s suit
•Tukur appeals to aggrieved govs to end party’s crisis
Following the closure of the premises of Rivers State chapter of the New PDP, a faction of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, was Thursday barred from accessing the Government House, Port Harcourt.
The governor was returning from an inspection tour of some projects and had wanted to access the Government House through his private gate at Forces Avenue at 7.05 pm.
But on getting to the Port Harcourt Club end of the road, about six police patrol vans had barricaded the road, and even when his security detail approached the policemen to tell them that it was the governor of the state that wanted to gain access to his house, they refused.
Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. David Iyofor, told THISDAY that after waiting for about 30 minutes, Amaechi came down from his car and approached the policemen to allow him access to the Government House but they still refused,
insisting that they had orders from above not to allow anyone access through the road.
According to Iyofor, “The governor was patient to allow them time to call the persons above. After waiting for several more minutes, the governor was forced to take an alternative route, the Azikiwe Road approach to get to the Government House.”
Asked if the governor called the state Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mbu, to know why he was not allowed to gain access to his official residence, Iyofor said he did not.
“The policemen we met at the barricade were making calls and we believe they were calling those who gave them the order. But they did not budge. The governor had to take another route,” he said.
When THISDAY tried to drive through the road, there were police patrol vans with stern-looking riot policemen at all entry points to Forces Avenue and people were not allowed access to the road. This created some traffic problems in the area as commuters were forced to take alternative routes.
When contacted on the matter, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mrs. Angela Angela Agabe (DSP), said she had heard of the incident.
She explained that the police had to barricade Forces Avenue for security reasons because of the secretariat of the New PDP that was opened there today by the Abubakar Baraje faction of the PDP in the state.
She said the police had to seal off the road to ensure there was no breakdown of law and order.
“The governor has other routes to get to the Government House. So I don’t see how this should be an issue,” Agabe said.
Amaechi, who had earlier in the day received President Goodluck Jonathan, who landed in Port Harcourt en route to Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, was ostensibly barred from using Forces Avenue because of the New PDP secretariat, which was opened by his chief of staff yesterday. The new secretariat is located on the same road.
The governor’s Chief of Staff, Chief Tony Okocha, had led members of the Chief Godspower Ake-led executive of PDP and journalists to unveil the secretariat at 38, Forces Avenue, Old GRA, Port Harcourt.
However, a mild drama ensued when police sealed off the secretariat of the New PDP minutes after it was unveiled.
Inaugurating the secretariat, Okocha said it was in compliance with the directives of the Baraje-led national leadership of the PDP.
He said: “In strict obedience to the directive of the national leadership of the New PDP, I hereby open the office of the Rivers State chapter.
“As I open this new secretariat of our great party, the PDP, I hope that this will usher in fresh air and democratic renewal in our state and nation.
“The New PDP is a national response to the impunity, recklessness and dictatorial tendencies typical of the former leadership of our party. I therefore urge the party executive in the state to immediately commence the mobilisation of party men and women to deliver the party from the stranglehold of tyrants.
“I commend the Governors of Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto, Adamawa, Kwara, Niger, our indefatigable Governor of Rivers State and Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and other adherents for this uncommon display of courage. They are indeed heroes of democracy.”
Immediately after taking journalists round the secretariat, Okocha went outside to supervise the hoisting of the Nigerian and PDP flags in front of the secretariat.
However, the police swooped on the secretariat and ordered the chief of staff and other politicians out of the building.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police (CID), who led the police team, Mr. Sam Ogaora, screamed at the chief of staff: “You can’t do this. Not here. We will not allow it.”
As more police patrol vans arrived the scene with stern-looking and gun-toting riot policemen, the politicians vanished from the secretariat.
The police pulled down the flags and poles on which they were mounted and took them to the Old GRA Divisional police headquarters situated directly opposite the secretariat.
In the rush to seal off the place, the police manhandled some journalists at the scene, while The Sun photographer had his camera damaged.
Addressing journalists later at the scene, Ogaora said the police in the state would not accept any illegality.
“We will go all out to ensure that we maintain law and order in this state. Anybody that takes the law into his hands will be dealt with accordingly. That is exactly what we have done here. We don’t have any secretariat here and anybody who has come here to hoist any flag will be dealt with. Nothing more than that,” he said.
At the last count, there were 16 police patrol vans stationed in front of the secretariat.
Reacting to the opening of the New PDP secretariat in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State Chapter of the party described the attempt by the faction to open a parallel office as “criminal, provocative and an affront with no other aim than to cause chaos, and breakdown of law and order in the state.”
In a statement signed by the Special Adviser on Media to the state chairman, Jerry Needam, PDP warned that the attempt to open a new office by Amaechi not only amounted to an outright disregard for the rule of law, but was also aimed at truncating the nation’s democracy.
He said there was a subsisting Federal High Court order barring any attempt to impersonate and/or float any other political party in the name of the PDP, which must not be abused.
As the New PDP secretariat was being sealed in Port Harcount, the Baraje faction of the party yesterday asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to strike out a suit in which the Tukur group asked the court to restrain them from parading themselves as the national executive of the party.
Tukur and 11 national officers of the PDP had in an ex parte motion asked the court to stop Baraje, Dr. Sam Jaja, Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar from parading themselves as executives of the party.
At the first hearing held last week, Justice Elvis Chukwu ordered the Tukur faction to put the Baraje group on notice, and had fixed yesterday to hear the suit. He also urged the warring parties to maintain the status quo.
At the resumption of the matter, the counsel to the Baraje group, Ahmed Raji (SAN), informed the court that they he had filed a preliminary objection challenging the court’s jurisdiction to hear the suit.
In the preliminary objection, the Baraje group maintained that the subject matter of the suit had to do with the domestic affairs of the PDP and that the suit should have been brought before a state or Federal Capital Territory high court, instead of the FHC.
He also asked the court for an order striking out the suit in its entirety for lack of jurisdiction, and for any other orders it may deem fit to make in the circumstances of the case.
But counsel to the Tukur group, Tochukwu Onwugbufor (SAN), asked the court to grant an interim order directing the two parties to maintain the status quo.
However, Raji opposed the application for an interim order for status quo.
Instead he urged the court to decline what he described as “the very dangerous invitation to grant an interim order when there is a subsisting order for status quo.”
Justice Chukwu adjourned the matter till today to rule on the Tukur faction’s application for an interim order for status quo.
But as the counsel to both factions of the PDP argued their cases in court, the National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, stated yesterday that the festering crisis in the party could become a thing of the past if all the governors elected on its platform, including stalwarts, closed ranks by putting party interests above clique cleavages.
Adopting a conciliatory mode after days of antagonism, he appealed to all, especially aggrieved governors, to see the task of strengthening the party and consolidating on its leadership of the country as the responsibility of all stakeholders and not that of the national leaders of the party alone.
Tukur, who spoke in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, at the presentation of the party’s flags to PDP candidates scheduled to contest the September 21 local government elections in the state, said whatever the grievances of the Group of 7 Governors (G7 governors) and their supporters should be tabled and resolved through dialogue, rather than a splinter group emerging and going into mudslinging all in the name of politics.
He advised that the time had come to put an end to whatever misunderstanding, as it was not good for a ruling party to be involved in crisis.
He urged the electorate and party stakeholders to conduct themselves in a peaceful manner that will promote the conduct of free and fair elections and advised that they should not be deterred or distracted by rumours being peddled by mischief-makers that a big crack had developed in the party’s fold.
The PDP boss sued for peace, unity and oneness so that the party could remain as one indivisible entity, noting that if the PDP surrendered the leadership of the country to the opposition, every member would be affected and described the state’s governor, Liyel Imoke, as “an exemplary party faithful who is not like those rascals parading themselves in other states as leaders of the New PDP.”
He commended Imoke for conducting free and fair primaries, instead of selecting candidates and urged other PDP governors to take a cue from Imoke, even as he advised stalwarts to work for the victory of the party on September 21.
In his speech, Imoke said his administration was not interested in inaugurating caretaker committees for the 18 local government areas of the state as it was interested in conducting elections in line with democratic norms and also in accordance with the 90 days stipulated by the Cross River Local Government Law prior to the terminal date of the incumbents and Electoral Act.
He said the PDP in Cross River decided to give opportunity to 75 women to contest the local government elections because women have over the years been marginalised by the men, noting that the baton of leadership has to change hands if good governance is to prevail,
He said: “If you empower a woman, you empower a nation.”