The controversy surrounding the use of the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Igwuruta-Ali, by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for its January 28 presidential rally in Rivers State took a new turn on Saturday as heavily armed soldiers led the party to take over the facility.
THISDAY gathered that the soldiers moved into the stadium early in the morning and prevented workers from entering the facility.
Also, barely two weeks after unknown persons razed the All Progressives Congress (APC) secretariat in Okrika, suspected thugs on Saturday morning again attacked the venue of a scheduled APC governorship rally in Okrika and the podium and other equipment meant for the campaign.
When THISDAY visited the stadium in the afternoon, there were about 11 fierce-looking, heavily armed soldiers stationed at the main entrance of the stadium, while more soldiers were spotted alighting from a Hilux patrol van. At the second gate, there were also about 20 soldiers while others were inside.
Later in the afternoon, PDP Governorship candidate, Wike, was escorted into the stadium by a combined team of armed security operatives, including Army, Navy, riot and regular policemen and operatives from the department of state security about 12:55pm.
Although Wike and his team did not speak to journalists, a member of the team told THISDAY on condition of anonymity disclosed that Wike was in the stadium to inspect facilities with the intention of keeping the stadium ready for Jonathan’s campaign rally.
The PDP and the Rivers state Government have been at daggers-drawn over the refusal of Governor Chibuike Amaechi to allow the party use the stadium for its presidential campaigns.
Amaechi, who is also the director general of the campaign organisation of the APC Presidential Candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, had said he would not grant approval to the PDP for the use of the stadium because the stadium was not yet completed and that work was on-going at the facility.
Speaking at an APC governorship rally at Etche recently, Amaechi said, “The Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium is still under construction and the contractors are currently on site to make sure that they complete it, so that we can handover the stadium to Rivers people before we leave office on May 29.
“The PDP is complaining that they applied and we didn’t give them approval to use the stadium. We have offered them the Liberation Stadium in Elekahia. They can hold as many rallies as they want in that stadium. Their (PDP’s) refusal to use that stadium means they have ulterior motive.
“I hear that they (PDP) is insisting they will use the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, but we (State Government) will not allow them to use that stadium, and they will not use it.”
But the PDP countered that it would be unfair for it to be denied use of the stadium that the APC had used twice for its activities, including the flag-off of Buhari’s presidential campaigns.
The PDP insisted that should Amaechi fail to grant it permission to use the stadium, it would forcibly enter the facility since it was built with tax payers’ money.
Speaking on the issue, Governorship candidate of the PDP, Chief Nyesom Wike, at a meeting with the Goodluck to Goodluck Political pressure group in Port Harcourt, recently insisted that the PDP would host Jonathan there.
Wike said, “The PDP Presidential Rally will hold at the Amasieamaka Stadium on Wednesday, January 28. The APC held its own presidential campaign rally on January 6, 2015 and an earlier rally on October 25, 2014 in the same stadium. Our presidential rally will hold at that stadium because it belongs to the people. It was built by tax payers’ money. We are working with all stakeholders to ensure that the right thing is done to move the nation forward. We are committed to the peaceful use of the stadium for our Presidential campaigns.”
The APC Governorship Candidate in Rivers State, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, and his campaign train was scheduled to hold their campaign rally at National Field, Okrika and the groundsmen were working to get the area ready when the hoodlums struck in the early hours of the day.
Giving an account of the incident, the APC Chairman in Okrika Local Government Area, Christian Afisamaka, said the suspected thugs came in a white Hiace bus, from Igbiri, a community that shares borders with Oba-Ama community, where the rally was billed to take place.
The Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Dan Bature, confirmed the attack, adding that the yet-to-be-identified assailants used explosive device suspected to be dynamite.
Addressing journalists in Port Harcourt over the incident, Bature said, “The Rivers State Police Command wishes to confirm that on 24/01/2015 at about 0430hrs, at National Field, Okrika, the supposed APC rally arena was attacked with an explosive device suspected to be dynamite by unidentified assailants. Podium and public address system were damaged. No loss of life. Area is now under police control while Police Bomb Disposal unit has commenced discreet investigation.”
He noted that the incident had raised tension in the area and advised the APC to reschedule its rally to another day.